The study of history, like the study of a landscape, should begin with the most conspicuous features. Not until these have been fixed in memory will the lesser features fall into their appropriate places and assume their right proportions.
The famous men of ancient and modern times are the mountain peaks of history. It is logical then that the study of history should begin with the biographies of these men.
Not only is it logical ; it is also pedagogical. Experience has proven that in order to attract and hold the child's attention each conspicuous feature of history presented to him should have an individual for its center. The child identifies himself with the personage presented. It is not Bomulus or Hercules or Caesar or Alexander that the child has in mind when he reads, but himself, acting under similar conditions.
Prominent educators, appreciating these truths, have long recognized the value of biography as a preparation for the study of history and have given it an important place in their scheme of studies.
The former practice in many elementary schools of beginning the detailed study of American history without any previous knowledge of general history limited the pupil’s range of vision, restricted his sympathies, and left him without material for comparisons. Moreover, it denied to him a knowledge of his inheritance from the Greek philosopher, the Roman lawgiver, the Teutonic lover of freedom. Hence the recommendation so strongly urged in the report of the Committee of Ten — and emphasized^ also, in the report of the Committee of Fifteen — that the study of Greek, Roman and modern European history in the form of biography should precede the study of detailed American history in our elementary schools. The Committee of Ten recommends an eight years' course in history, beginning with the fifth year in school and continuing to the end of the high school course The first two years of this course are given wholly to the study of biography and mythology. The Committee of Fifteen recommends that history be taught in all the grades of the elementary school and emphasizes the value of biography and of general history.