« AnteriorContinuar »
The teachers, realizing that their efforts for the concentration of energy upon a few requisito subjects do not meet with proper appreciation, are tempted to abandon the true path of thorougliness in elementary instruction by gratifying the unreflecting vanity of parents and loading their pupils with burdens botli grievous and useless. The children are taught to regard elementary studies as beneath their notice, and with the merest smattering of the most essential branches they are rushed into higher readers, geometry, algebra, and other stuilies. Far better for them that they sliould be taught to read, spell, write, and cipher well, than to be subjected to such a force-pump process in higher studies without having firm ground under them for such education as will be of most service to them in the ordinary occupations of life.
The result is apparent in many instances of pupils forced into the most ambitious studies, and yet woefully deficient in spelling, and fair, legible penmanship. Welave students in grammar schools in scientific branches who can not add up a simple column of figures without making inexcusable blunders, and who can not write a simple business letter without perpetrating gross ungrammatical solecisms. In attempting to do too much we accomplish but little. Bread-winning knowledge is ignoreil in the attempt to grasp everything. The promise of the common schools is to give a sound education in the most necessary branches.
There is not the slightest argument in favor of making them all-embracing colleges. The State should not, under any circumstances, hold ont any encouragement to the multiplication of unnecessary studies by offering a premium or money inducement to forsake tho safe, true course of instruction. Cramming for examinations which holil out such inducements is an ovil to be deplored, and it can not fail in the end to injure materially the prospects of the common schools.
The vast fiell of human knowledge can not be adequately gleaned in the few years in which a chile can attend school. When the pupil is hurried from one topic to another there can not be any thorough education. The mind, like the body, requires time to digest its food.
A methodless thinker, a pupil, a parrot repeating set lessons without understanding them, a reilector of indistinct impressions, can not be considered as goo:l a scholar as one who has been benefited by tho liberality of the State in public instruction. As an eminent educator has said, " The mind must be fed, judiciously fed, not gorged.” The first object of a teacher should be to develop the mental faculties of his or her pupils by making them think. The mind can not be awakened or developed otherwise. The number of books which a boy or girl carries to school is no criterion of advancement. The most ignorant person, endowed with wealth, can have a large library, which might as well be at the bookseller's as in his house. Fewer books and more knowledge of what they coutain may be relied upon to produce more practical educational effect.
A few clear thoughts, adaptable at any moment and fully presenting a subject, are preferable to a mass of mere words, even if they are supposed to represent higher education. To think well and intelligently on one question, by having acquired the habit of thoroughness in study, is of more use in practical life than to have committed to memory the ideas of others on a score of different things and not be able to apply them.
Tho thorough mastery of a single educational subject, no matter how liumble it may be, is the best of introductions to all other questions. It is the best training of the mind, for it develops the essential faculty of getting to the bottom facts in investigating things. The superficial thinker or observer is the one who does not succeed in life.
Education, so far as its effects upon the well-being of the State are concerned, should be practical and general. It should include the entire mass of the people, not solely or particularly a few favored by fortune. It should aim at the thorough instruction of the many, not the special aggrandizement of the few. The university and the college accommodate but a very small proportion of those who go to school much less than 1 per cent. They are separate and apart from any general practical system of public instruction. Public funds intended for general ellucational pur. poses shoulıl bo primarily devoter to the elementary schools. The peoplo require elementary elucation before that which is the province of what are known as the higher institutions. They want their children to read, write, spell, and cipher correctly beíore they seek diplomas and academic honors. They are moro interested in their children being well prepared for the duties of life by a solid ground work of public instruction than in wasting their time over a multitude of studies of an advanced kind, which can not, in a period allotted them for school, be learned with any degree of proficiency.
Potential knowleilge consists in knowing a few things well, and not a large number of subjects badly. It includes in its broad scopo self-reliance, without which education is of little practical utility.
Strength and vigor of mind are depreciated, if not nullified, by any system of public instruction which causes the pupil to rely entirely upon the arın of another, Such a system is that which looks only to the superstructure of public instruction, to the neglect of the foundation.
[From the report of State School Commissioner 0. T. Corson. 1893.]
GRADUATION FROM THE DISTRICT SCHOOLS. The number of examinatious nnder the “Boxwell” law, providing for graduation from the schools of the subdistricts and special districts, shows a marked increase over 1892, when the first examination under the law took place.
There can be no doubt that this law is having a great effect for good upon the subdistrict schools. A careful examination of the following table will furnish abundant evidence of its rapidly increasing usefulness and popularity:
UNIFORM EXAMINATION QUESTIONS--SOME OBJECTIONS STATED. The law providing for uniform questions for teachers' examinations could not be executed through failure of the legislature to make any appropriation to meet the necessary expense for printing, etc.
The chief reason given for the passage of this law is that in some instances the questions asked by county examiners are of such a narrow, technical character that they can not possibly determine, to any extent, the applicant's knowledge or fitness for teaching, and therefore the questions should be prepared by State authority, and thus made uniform.
To anyone who wilı give this subject of uniform examinations careful thonght somo serious ditliculties will present themselves. It is true that in several States uniform questions are used with a reasonable degree of satisfaction, but it is also true, as a rule, that in these States the laws have been such in the past as to cause more uniformity in the educational system of the State than is found in Ohio; at least it is true that in our State there is a vast difference in the educational standards of the difierent counties. In some counties the standard of examination is so high that only those who have thoroughly prepared themselves for the work of teaching can hope to receive certificates; many of these counties are, comparatively speak. ing, wealthy, and can well afford to pay first-class salaries to tirst-class teachers for a term of nine or ten months each year. As a result of this condition of attairs, it is very necessary that the questions used by the examiners in these counties shall be of such a nature as to insure the maintenance of this high educational standard,
In other counties, opposito conditions prevail; the educational standaril is low; the tax duplicate small; avd everything seems to favor low salaries, and as short terms of school as the law will permit. It will be readily seen that questions adapted to the conditions existing in tlie counties first mentionell will not be suitable at all for other counties with different existing conditions.
Then, all who have given any study to the examination problem will admit that the grailing of the answers to the questions is one of the most important elements entering into the success or failure of the examination. So far as this work is concerneal, uniformi questions furnish no relief. It is difficult to understand how examiners who are charged with being too incompetent and narrow-minded to ask reasonable questions, can be expected to grade intelligently and broadly answers to questions asked by someone else.
Although it will be readily admitteil by everyone that some very incompetent perBons can be found serving as county examiners, yet it is seriously doubted by many whether uniform questions will remedy to any extent this serious ovil.
[From the report of State Supt. N. C. Schaeffer, 1833.)
PERMANENT CERTIFICATES TO COLLEGE GRADUATES.
The law requiring the issue of permanent certificates to college gradnates brought to light a state of things truly astonishing. Under the corporation ibct of 1871 the county courts have been incorporating business colleges, schools of elocution, and other institutions of learning.
Some of these schools have, upon tie basis of such charters, been conferring degrees upon students and others of very limited attainments. A lady, for instauce, received the degree of B. A., who had reail but five books of Cæsar, four books of Virgil, and four orations of Cicero. Arithmetic and penmanship were reported as part of her four collegiato years of study. A letter sent to the department by the head of the institution abbreviates et cetera several times by the use of “ect." instead of etc., and has pedagogical spelled “pedagochical," not to mention other blemishes, iudicative of what Ben Johnson calls - small Latin and less Greek." Another institution was leased with its charter, and, although it is said to have less than a dozen students, and a faculty composed of the president and his wife, it has been conferring degrees from B. A. to LL. D. upon persons who are vain and weak enough to wear titles emanating from such sources. The institution even went so far as to confer a doctorate on its own president. Why should not the wife confer a degree upon her husband, and the husband upon his wife, when a state of things is threatened similar to that which was threatened in France, when a minister declared that he would create so many dukes that henceforth it should be no honor to be a duke, but a disgrace not to be a duke. At the present rate there is danger that literary degrees conferred in Pennsylvania shall become the laughing stock of the civilized world.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that superintendents and institutions of high grade, whose aim is to do lionest and thorough work, entered their protest against the issue of permanent certificates to the graduates of such institutions, under the act of May 10, 1893.
The act was, therefore, referred to the attorney-general for his construction and advice. In an official opinion, dated October 17, 1893, he says that the State superintendent is “not required to grant, without examination, permanent certiticates under the act of 1893, except to graduates of colleges ólegally empowered' to confer dlegrees, and that the general incorporation of a literary institution, under the act of 1874, does not legally empower' it with this right.”
The only course open to the department, therefore, is to require, as conditions for issuing tho permanent certificate, the following:
(1) The applicant must furnishi evidence of a good moral character.
(2) The applicant must be twenty-one years of age, and must have taught at least three full annual terms in the public schools of the Commonwealth, after graduation.
(3) The applicant must produce a certificate from the school board or boards, countersigned by the county superintendent of the same county where he or she last taught, showing that the said applicant has been successful as a teacher in the public schools during said term.
(4) His or her course of study, leading to the degree of bachelor of arts (B. A.), master of arts (M. A.), bachelor of science (B. S.), master of science (M. S.), bachelor of philosophy (Ph. B.), must have embraced four collegiate years of study, exclusive of the preparatory work required by our respectable colleges for admission into the freshman class.
(5) The college or university granting the diploma must havo been invested with power to confer degrees by an act of the legislature.
GRADIATION IN TIIE PUBLIC SCIIOOLS.
In close connection with the abuse of literary degrees, is the kindred tendency to graduate pupils upon the completion of all sorts of courses, and to give them diploinas in recognition thereof. Aburean has even been organized to furnislı questions to school officers, and to bestow certificates that look like diplomas upon those who are willing to pay the fees and to take the examination. The temptation for teachers and superintendents to a lopt expe:lients of this kind lies in the fact that a diploma has its chief value for thoudergraduate. It sets up a goal upon which he may fix his eye, toward which he may work with unflinching perseverance, and for the attainment of which he may be willing to remain at school a year or two longer. But, after it ceases to exert its incluence as a motive to sustained effort, it is apt to prove a snare and a curse, It often leads the so-called graduate and his parents to believe that his elucation is complete, and thus pits an end to all further growth and studly. Graduating exercises the graminar grado may cause a pupil to be satisfied with that course, who might, otherwise, aspire to go through the high school and the college. In like manner, the bigh school and the college may aspire to be finishing schools, instead of pointing the brightest minds to subsequent courses of study and reading. In fact, it may be laid down as a universal proposition, that any institution whose teaching fails to inspire a thirst for further educational advantages, is a dismal failure, and sadly needs a thorough reorganization, as well as the infusion of a different spirit.
In 1892 the number of schools in which text-books were supplied free of cost to the pupils was 2,181. The act of May 18, 1893, makes it obligatory upon school directors and controllers to purchase, out of the school fund of the district, the textbooks and other school supplies needed, in addition to those at present in use in the hands of the pupils, or owned by the district. No legislation bas, for years, so thoroughly shakeu up the entire school system. The competition between the book tirms proved a severe test for the integrity of their agents and the directors with whom they were dealing. To their praise, be it said, no scandals or crooked dealings have come to the notice of the department; but, after the orders were placeil, many of the publishers could not furnish the books rapidly enough, hence many of the schools were somewhat embarrassed at the opening of the current school year. The beveticent results of the free text-book act are visible in many of the larger towns and cities. So far as has been ascertained, at the present writing, the attendance las greatly increased, especially in the upper grades. The children will no longer be kept from studying certain branches through a lack of the necessary books; nor will the boys be kept out of school as they reach the advanced grados, because the parents are unable to purchase the text-books. The care of the books will inspire respect for public property, while the danger of infection, which some feared from soiled books, has been largely overcome by the use of paper covers, which can be cast aside and replaced by a fresh cover when a book passes into new hands. The system has not failed, except in schools whose teachers lack disciplinary power.
THE FIVE MILLIONS.
The effect of increasing the annual appropriation to five millions is seen in an increase of teachers' salaries, in the lengthening of the school terin, and in the erection of better schoolhouses. Marked progress has been made in the erection of school buildings, and in the purchase of libraries and apparatus. Every wliere the idea is gaining ground that the school should be made as pleasant and attractive as the home. The methoxls of lighting, heating, and ventilating are studied by experts, and the competition between rival companies stimulates men to put their talent and genius into this branch of the work. American school fnrniture has been vastly improved, and is now the admiration of the civilized world. Nevertheless, school diseases, such as myopia and the overwrought condition of the nervous system, sometimes named “ Americanitis,” are on the increase, and deserve careful study. This has leıl to the shortening of the school day to five hours in the graded schools of some cities. Nor can the increased appropriation be said to have produced the effects which ardent friends of the public schools had expected. Reference to the statistical tables shows that the resulting increase in the monthly salary of malo teachers was but $1.79, and in that of female teachers only $1.63. The average increase in the length of the school term was but one-third of a month. The total increase in the cost of tuition was $701,779.83, and the decrease in the amount of tax levied for school purposes was $321,795.95. Add to these amounts the increase in the cost of building, purchasing, and renting ($777,591.73), and tlio increase in the cost of fuel, contingencies, debts, and interest paid ($1,072,277.37), and there remains a balance unaccounted for in the three million increase of the annual appropriation amounting to $126,569.12, which must have accumulated in the treasuries of some of the districts instead of being expended upon the improvement of the schools. Unfortmately, the spirit of progress has not permeated all parts of tho Commonwealth. In too many districts the directors have yielded to the temptation to reduce the tax rate to less than a mill, and to run the schools on a cheap plan, by hiring cheap teachers. The statistics on this point arestartling, indeed. The total number of college graduates employed in tho public schools is 281. The graduates of State normal schools, academies, and seminaries, who teach in the public schools is 7,064. Hence, 17,991 teachers have never enjoyed the advantage of a full course of study beyond the public schools. Some of these, by private study and by partial courses at normal and other schools, have risen to the rank of those holding professional and permanent certificates; but the startling fact remains that over half of the teachers of Pennsylvania (12,975) hold the provisional certificate, and almost a myriad of them (8,979) never had any training outside of the common schools.
The provisional certificate carries on its face the evidence that the holder's qualifications are not up to the standard in all the branches to be taught, and especially not in the theory and practice of teaching: Nor can it be expected that poor human nature shall exemplify all the virtues of the educational «lecalogne at salaries rang, ing from $12 to $25 per month. Some future historian will record it as the marvel of the ages that, in the closing decade of the nineteenth century, inany parents were willing, in the rich Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to intrust the education of thicir children into the hands of persons whose services were not considered worth the wages of a common day laborer. Indeed, one is sometimes tempted to ask: Do the schools exist for the benefit of the children, or do children come into being that there may bo schools and school directors, and employment for teachers? If the later alternative be accepted, it may be right to appoint the daughter of a citizen for the reason that he is a taxpayer, or cripple because he has no other means of earning a livelihood, or a fellow who gets periodically intoxicated because, in this way, his relatives cau most easily help him and his to bread; but, if the school exists for the child, then teachers ought to be employed and retained solely upon the basis of merit; that is, upon the basis of fitness for, and skill in, the art of instracting and training the young; and all other interests should be subordi. nated to the interests of the children, for whose sake schools are established and maintained.
SECONDARY EDUCATION, The high school course in Pennsylvania is like the letter x in algebra-an unknown quantity, whose value must, in each case, be found in order to be known. Somo cities and boroughs strive, with commendable zeal, to realize the true ideal of a high school, viz: A tittiug school for those who wish to enter a higher institution, and a finishing school for those who must begin the struggle for bread. Some high schools neglect preparatory studies, but aim to teach branches which are better taught in the colleges, by reason of superior equipment and endowed professorships; and at the end of a three or four years' course their graduates are mortified to find that they can not enter a respectable college anywhere. Other high schools have courses that were evidently arranged by persons not familiar with all grailes of school work. Occasionally, one finds a curriculum so ill fitting and illogical, that it must have been shaped to meet the limit qualifications of some ambitious teacher, whose friends needed a pretext to give him the salary of a higli school principal. At no distant day, a conference of representatives of our best colleges and secondary schools should agree upon a minimum high school curriculum, leaving room, of course, for local needs and future developments. The legislature could then follow the example of other States in setting apart a share of the annual appropriation for the purpose of fostering and strengthening the high schools which come up to the proposed staudard.
The great majority of the pupils never reach the secondary schools, still less the colleges and the wiversities. The education which they receive should fit them to make the most of the life which is before them. It should conduce to their happiness, as well as to their material prosperity. The bearing of reading, writing, and ciphering upon business and social life is well known. The duty of the schools to increase the sources of happiness, by developing a taste for good literature is not to well understood. Teach a man to read, and you widen his horizon and his aspirations. He sees new phases of life, and longs to realize them for himself and his family. If his reading fixes his eye upon luxuries which can not be purchased with his earnings, he will grow dissatisfied, and the discontent may ripen into strikes and mob violence. The ability to read, instead of producing this result, should increase the sum of human happiness by multiplying the possible sources of enjoyment. The application of steam to the printing press has brought the great dailies within the rearh of everybody's purse, and has cheapened the works of standard authors to such an extent that a choice collection of classie authors is possible in every home. He who reads may associate with unen of wit and genius, when these are at their best, and may choose his company from the authors of every age and clime. Here the rich man has no vantago ground over the tiller of the soil or the toiler with the land. More expensive binding the former may have; of the real essence of the book, he can enjoy no more than any other intelligent reader. Indeed, in one respect, the man who eats his bread in the sweat of his brow has the advantage over those engaged in a protession. The lawyer, the physician, the clergyman exhaust their mental energy in professional duties; when evening comes they must seek rest and recreation in physical exertion, in a change of occupation. The laborer, on the other hand, can find rest and an agreeable change at the close of the day in literary pursuits, in the study of art or some branch of science, While our colleges are training a generation that grows wild with delight over football and other athletic sports--that too often talks and thinks of nothing except the heroes and the vicissitudes of the last game-the public schools, by their improved methods of teaching reading, are striving to educate a younger generation of boys and girls, whose taste for good literature and knowledge of good books will bring the future toilers of the lanel to the front in point of culture, and yield them sources of enjoyment more enduring than the luxuries by which the idle rich now seek to dispel their ennui.