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of the rescue - the children of the avaricious and depraved, and the teeming thousands from foreign lands.
Finally, the expediency and present necessity for legislative interposition to shield the children of the state from the dangers and the wrong of ignorance may be urged with unanswerable force from the statistics of absenteeism, truancy and illiteracy in this country. It is an incontrovertible fact that the voluntary plan is but partially successful. The proof is as overwhelming as it is alarming. The evidence is comprehensive and cumulative.. It pours in from every state and territory, and from all the chief cities of the republic. The reports of state and city superintendents, and of the national Commissioner of Education, are burdened with the sad details. The number of absentees and truants in our chief commercial metropolis was reported, eight years ago, as a mighty army, 100,000 strong, and subsequent reports show little comparative improvement. Uncounted thousands of vagrant, lawless children prowl the streets, and roam through all the purlieus of all our great cities, becoming precocious in wickedness, and going down with frightful precipitation to the nethermost abysses of vice, pollution and shame. Taking all the states from which reports are at hand, and the number who are even enrolled in any given year averages less than half the total school-going population, while the average daily attendance is less than one-fifth of that population.
But the fact that has most to do with the present inquiry is, that a comparison of the statistics of the last decade shows but very slight improvement in the ratio of attendants to non-attendants, taking all the states and cities into the account; while in many the change has even been for the worse-disproving the view that the evil is steadily abating, and that, with better teachers, better methods and better schools, it will continue to decrease till the minimum is practically reached, without the intervention of law. For in no preceding ten years of our common-school history has the progress in the science and methods of teaching, and in whatsoever makes schools inviting and effective, been so marked and rapid.
No, we are not "doing well enough,” as some affirm and try to believe. We must do a great deal better, and make haste about it, too. With the best school systems, and the best schools, in the world, as I verily believe- certainly the best for us-yet lack we this one thing. And while we palter about infractions of personal liberty, and refuse to invoke the only arm that has power to save, the waves of ignorance, vice and crime are rising higher and higher, and, unless we do this thing, the years can almost be counted when, without a miracle, the Republic must go down into the furrows of the sea.
Summing up, then, I appeal to this national congress of teachers and educators to say to the people of the United States that the time has come to demand the interposition of law to stay these rising tides of ignorance and vice, by securing to all children, against every adverse claim and power, their absolute and inalienable right to the benefits and blessings of education.
I believe, with Mr. NORTHROP, that “to bring up children in ignorance is a crime, and should be treated as such”; that, “as the most prolific source of criminality, it should be under the ban of legal condemnation, and the restraint of legal punishment." I think it has been shown that the intervention of the law-making power would be no abuse of the prerogatives of a republican government, legislatures themselves being but the exponents and agents of the moral convictions and will of the people; and that such intervention is necessary and expedient. It is not inconsistent with reasonable liberty of conscience; it is no improper limitation of parental authority, since it merely enforces the performance of parental duty, and “the enforcement of duties is no invasion or rights”; it places the right of the child to be educated above the right of the parent to keep it in ignorance; it protects the great majority, who do educate their children, against the counteracting influence of the minority, who will not; it shelters the innocent from cruel wrong, for dwarfing and "starving the soul is worse than abusing the body”; it boldly proclaims that if it is right to tax all for the education of all, it is equally right to see that all are educated; it is in the line of “a general human right, and of a fundamental right of children, and is compulsory only as this right must be protected against any and all infringements”; it is required to utilize the vast resources already devoted to public education, and to prevent enormous and increasing waste of money and effort; it is demanded by the clearest principles of justice, by considerations of the highest political wisdom, and by the exigencies that exist to-day, in every commonwealth of the Republic.
I again ask this parliament of teachers to give to these principles the weight of its approval; for in the words, uttered just thirty years ago, before the authorities of Boston, not far from the spot where we are now assembled, by that clarion-voiced apostle of common schools whose statue stands in yonder capitol square: “In the name of the living God it must be proclaimed, that licentiousness shall be the liberty; violence and chicanery shall be the law; superstition and craft shall be the religion; and the self-destructive indulgence of all sensual and unhallowed passions shall be the only happiness of that people who neglect the education of their children."
Mr. F. H. UNDERWOOD, of the School Committee of the City of Boston, invited the Association to meet the committee in a collation to be given in Faneuil Hall to-morrow evening.
THIRD DAY'S PROCEEDINGS.
MORNING SESSION. —THURSDAY, AUG. 8.
Lists of officers of the different departments for the ensuing year were reported, as follows:
DEPARTMENT OF SUPERINTENDENCE.
DEPARTMENT OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.
President-N. A. CALKINS, New York.
DEPARTMENT OF NORMAL SCHOOLS.
President-A. G. BOYDEN, Massachusetts.
l'ice-President J. ESTABROOK, Michigan.
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER INSTRUCTION,
Secretary-W. D. HENKLE, Ohio.
A paper on the “ Examination of Teachers” was read by Hon. Joan Swett, Assistant-Superintendent of Schools, San Francisco, Cal., as follows:
✓ THE EXAMINATION OF TEACHERS. It may be reasonably expected, when a man accepts an invitation to prepare a paper for this Association, and travels three thousand miles to read it, that he will condense his thoughts in the best possible manner, into the fewest possible words.
I am not in the habit of making excuses, but the circumstances under which I appear here to-day require a few words of explanation.
During the last of June, just as I was beginning to turn my thoughts to the subject assigned me by President White, my youngest boy was taken suddenly and dangerously ill. For a long and weary month, every hour of the day that I could spare from the pressure of official duties, consequent upon the annual examination of schools at the end of the school year, and every hour that I could snatch from sleep, was passed in watching over him. For thirty days and thirty nights of alternating hope and despair, as the disease ebbed and flowed, I saw the little life, so dear to us, drifting slowly and helplessly away into the unknown future; and now a little grave in Lone Mountain Cemetery has consecrated the soil of my adopted state to me forevermore.
Two days before I left home, prostrated both physically and mentally, I felt that I must take, as a sad necessity, the trip to which I had looked forward with so many pleasant expectations. My noble-hearted wife, herself sick and broken-hearted, said: “Go, rather than break your appointment." If, in the shadow of a great grief, I fail to do justice to my subject, I venture to hope that your sympathy may veil the eyes of criticism.
On the long overland journey I jotted down a few rough outlines of my subject, without making an attempt to prepare an elaborate paper. The subject is one that I have had to deal with practically for many years, and one on which I entertain some very definite notions.
There are no flowers on the alkaline plains of the great plateau through which the railroad winds, like a huge black serpent, writhing under the scorching sun, in the hot sands of the barren desert, and any attempt of mine at rhetoric degenerated at once into the driest statements, made up of disjointed sentences, that break off as abruptly as a train fetches up at a way station. Should there be any thing caustic in my remarks, it may be attributed to alkaline dust; and if I fail to decipher my manuscript, you will bear in mind that it seemed to me, this morning when I run it over, as if it must have been struck by lightning in the terrible thunderstorm we experienced in the valley of the Platte.
By way of introducing my subject, and for the purpose of showing why I entertain radical views on the common methods of examining teachers and of granting them certificates, I am constrained to offer my own experience as an illustration.
Twenty years ago this very month, moved by the migratory instinct that seems to be hereditary in so many Yankee boys, impelling them to take flight in search of warmer climes and richer feeding-grounds, I sailed out of Boston harbor bound for California, “round the Horn."
My pocket-book was not plethoric with money, but carefully stowed away in its ample folds there were three certificates, every one of which bore the most positive evidence as to my good moral character, and certified to my " ability and fitness to teach a common school for the term of one year," One of these, like its holder, had its birth in the Old Granite State.
It bore the signature of a “Deestrict School Trustee," dear old Deacon Brown, who examined me in the vowel sounds, the consonant sounds, asked me to pronounce correctly g-e-w-g-a-w, and, by way of a clincher, required me to define the four parts of English Grammar according to LNIDLEY MURRAY, to wit: -- Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.
The two other certificates were dated in the town of Timbuctoo, in the old Bay State, almost in the shadow of Bunker Hill. I was examined in the dingy office of a cobwebbed old lawyer, who was quite as scientific in his style of doing things as was dear old Deacon Brown.
It is enough to say that every one of these examinations was as great a farce as it would be for VINCENT COLLIER to examine an Apache Indian in Mental and Moral Philosophy and Theology, or rather, as great an absurdity as it would be for a green-grocer to examine John Stuart Mill in Political Economy.
I would not rake up old events that happened so near the cradle of the common-school system, except that on returning, nearly a quarter of a century later, I find that good old way of examining teachers still going on in my native state, and in some other states that I do not now care to mention.
I find that the largest city in New England, famed for the excellence of her schools, has no system of professional examinations for teachers, that in Utopia the fitness of a man to teach is found out by “intuitive perception," and that men and women who want to teach get their places, not by rank in competitive examinations, but, like office-hunting politicians, by “ letters of recommendation,” by influential relatives, or by austere manners, or by the eminent respectability of dress.
When I reached California, I mined until I found myself dead-broke:
worked as a day-laborer on a ranch; sought in vain for permanent employment, save only the profession of blacking boots; and, at the end of a year, looked sadly at my certificates, and, as a last desperate resort, “looked round" for a school.
I heard of a school, but my old certificates were not current in California, and the flattering letters of Prof. Russell, who taught me how to teach, availed me nothing. I had to be "examined” before I could be patented to be “fit to teach a common school in the State of California, for one year," and a miserable little school of half-Spanish children at that.
The school trustee, a Yankee minister, a man of huge body and enormous pomposity, did his duty with an awful dignity which no body but a littleminded man, in a petty little office, can ever aspire to. It was the same old rigmarole of “readin', 'ritin' and 'rithentic," with never a question to test education, culture, or power to teach.
After a half-day's examination, he gave me a certificate, and the school to some body else.
Then I went to San Francisco. There was a vacancy in the school department. The old examination-mill was still kept running under Yankee management. Fifteen of us, all in a row, like good little boys in school, were questioned " once round" in Arithmetic, once round” in Grammar, "once round" in Geography, “once round" in Spelling, by the Superintendent and the Mayor,—the former a Vermont Yankee, and the latter like unto him, except he hailed from a city nigh unto Boston, where they gibbeted witches in stead of teachers.
I was told I ranked first of the batch; and of course some body else, who had “influence with the board,” got the place. The successful some body this time was a young doctor without patients. Pretty soon the big boys “thrashed” the doctor, and I was allowed the privilege, at $125 a month, of conquering a peace by subduing the young Hoodlums, or of meeting the fate of my predecessor.
This was how I became a schoolmaster, and how I won my way into the noblest profession - I think that is what they call it some times in educational conventions.
For eight successive years I taught the same school, and -- I am ashamed to own it, and would not tell it were it not necessary to illustrate what I intend to present -- I had the cowardice, like other teachers with me, to submit to eight annual examinations, in order to determine my fitness, at each annual revolution of the sun, to teach the same school each succeeding school year.
Nor was this the end of humiliation and insult. After getting a "bran new" certificate at the end of each year, before I could go on again, I had to be elected by the votes of twelve members of the Board of Education, because my term of office lasted only one year.
During all those memorable years, the talent that I displayed in “electioneering” would have raised me to eminence as a New-York ward politician, had the same amount of anxiety and hard work been turned in that direction.
This annual election system was handed down to us from the primitive NewEngland “town-meetings.” I believe that here in Boston, and in all NewEngland cities and villages, and, in fact, in most parts of the United States, it