« AnteriorContinuar »
[From the report of State School Commissioner 0. T. Corson. 1893.]
GRADUATION FROM THE DISTRICT SCHOOLS.
The number of examinations under 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 abuudant 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 askel 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 will give this subject of uniform examinations careful thought some serious difficulties 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 Olio; at least it is true that in our State there is a vast difference in the educational standards of the different 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 speaking, wealthy, and can well afford to pay first-class salaries to first-class teachers for a term of nine or ten months each year. As a result of this condition of affairs, 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, opposite conditions prevail; the educational staudard is low; the tax duplicate small; and everything seems to favor low salaries, and as short terms of sehool as the law will permit. It will lo readily seen that questions adapted to the conditions existing in the counties tirst mentioned 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 gradling of tlio 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 concernel, wuiform questions furnish no roliet. 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 grado intelligently and broadly answers to questions askel by someone else.
Although it will be readily admitted by everyone that some very incompetent persons can be found serving as county examiners, yet it is seriously doubted by many whether uniform questions will remedy to any extent this serious evil.
PERMANENT CERTIFICATES TO COLLEGE GRADU'ATES. The law requiring the issue of permanent certificates to college graduates brought to light a state of things truly astonishing. Under the corporation Act of 1874 tho county courts have been incorporating business colleges, schools of elocution, and other institutions of learning.
Some of these schools liave, upon the basis of sucb charters, been conferring degrees upon students and others of very limited attainments. A lady, for instance, received the degree of B. A., who had read 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, indicative 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 composeıl of the president and his wife, it has been couferring degrees from B. A. to LL. 1), 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 lie 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 circunstances, it is not surprising that superintendents and institutions of high grade, whose aim is to do honest 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 certificates under the act of 1893, oxcept to grailuates of colleges legally empowered' to conter degrees, 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 the permanent certificate, the following:
(1) The applicant must furnish 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 gradnation.
(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 have been invested with power to conter degrees by an act of the legislature.
GRADUATION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 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 diplomasin recognition thereof. Aburean has even been organized to furnish 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 expertients of this kind lies in the fact that a diploma has its chief' value for the undergraduate. It sets up a goal upon which he may fix his eye, towarı which he may work with minching 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 intuence as it motive to sustaineel effort, it is apt to prove a share and a curse. It often leads the so-called graduate and his parents to believe that his education is complete, and thus puts an end to all further growth and study. Graduating exercises in the grammar grade may cause a pupil to be satistied with that course, who might, otherwise, aspire to go through the high school and the college. In like manner, the high school and the college may aspire to be finishing schools, instrad 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 2,481. 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 has, for years, so thoroughly shaken 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 placed, 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 beueficent 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 has greatly increased, especially in the upper grades. The children will no longer be kept froin studying certain branches through a lack of the necessary books; nor will the boys be kept out of school as they reach the advanced grades, becanse the parents are unable to purchase the text-books. The care of the books will inspire l'espect 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 term, and in the erection of better schoolhouses. Markod progress has been made in the erection of school buildings, and in the purchase of libraries and apparatus. Every where the idea is gaining ground that the school should be made as pleasant and attractive as the home. The methods 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 improveil, 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 led to the shortening of the school day to tive 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 male 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 the increase in the cost of fuel, contingencies, debts, and interest paid ($1,072,277.37), and there remains a balance unaccouted 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 are startling, in eetl. The total number of college graduates employed in the public schools is 281. The graduates of State normal schools, academies, auıl 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 ranging 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 their children into the hands of persons whose services wero not considered worth the wages of a common day laborer. Indeeil, 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 be 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 can 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 instructing 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.
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. Some cities and boroughs strive, with commendable zeal, to realize the true ideal of a high school, viz: A fitting 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 brauches which are better taught in the colleges, by reasou of superior equipment and endowed professorships; and at the end of a three or four years' course their graduates are mortitied to find that they can not enter a respectable collego anywhere. Other high schools have courses that were evidently arranged by persons not familiar with all grades 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, wlose friends needed a pretext to give him the salary of a high 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 foilow the example of other States in setting a part a share of the annual appropriation for the purpose of fostering and strengthening the high schools which come up to the proposed standard.
The great majority of the pupils never reach the secondary schools, still less the colleges and the universities. 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 so well understood. Teach a man to read, and you widen liis 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 oro upon luxuries which can not be purchased with his earnings, he will grow dissatistied, 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 possibile sources of enjoyment. The application of steain to the privting press has brought the great dailies within the reach of everybody's purse, and has cleapened the works of standard authors to such an extent that a choice collection of classic authors is possible in every home. He who reads may associate with men 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 hand. 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 profession. 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. Whilo our colleges are training a generation that grows wild with delight over football anıl 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 gool literature and knowledge of good books will bring the future toilers of the land to the front in point of culture, and yield them sources of enjoyment moro enduring than the luxuries by which the idle rich now seek to dispel their eumui.
[From report of State board of elucation, 1892-93.)
MANUAL TRAINING AND DRAWING.
Two events have occurred during the year of special significance to the work of education in this State-the completion of the manual training high school by the city of Providence, and the erection of a building for the Rhode Island School of Design. These two institutions stand henceforth for a decided advance in the line of true industrial education and development. This State has been uuduly slow to move along these new lines of educational growth, and some of our sister Commonwealths bave obtained quite a start in the race for honors along this line.
But with these two institutions in Providence, another of similar character to the manual training school now in process of erection in the city of Newport, aad the prospect of similar facilities in other sections of the Stato, there seems to be no reason why we should not now enter upon a new career of progress. When art and skill join hands under tho guidance of a definite purpose, there is nothing unattain. able within the limits of human effort. Let the study of drawing be taught in overy grade of our schools, from the lowest primary up to the high school, so that every child shall always have at his command the two modes of expression for his ideas--words and pictures; let his eye and band be thus trained to work for each other; and also let the ordinary curriculum of the schools be supplemented by such means as shall suggest to the pupil that school life is but the preparation for, the open door to, the real life of the world, and a new atmosphere will be created in our schoolrooms, and an impulse will be given to every form of industrial entort in the State. Boys and girls will go out of school into the shop with definite purposes already forined, with both taste and capacity for original work.
At whatever stage in his cducation the child may leave school, he wul have acquired some skill with the hand, ideas of an entirely new nature will bave been made familiar to him, and they must influence his whole after lite, both his thoughts and his actions. But if he can stay on through the various grades, and finally complete his purely intellectual training in such a school as these new manual training schools, if he has any natural aptitude for these things, he must become thoroughly alive to their every detail and grow to a thorongh mastery of tbem. If to tius preparation he can add the benefits conferred by the school of design he can not help becoming a master workman-than whom there is no one more honorable. Here is, indeed, a field of labor most inviting, and as yet but little occupied. Shall we not euter in and possess it?
RIIODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN.
The annual report from the board of management of the school of design shows an increasing field of activity and usefulness, and commenls the school more and more to the fostering care of the State.
Within the year the school has been presented with a beautiful building on Waterman street, between North Main and Benefit streets, through the liberality of one of the citizens of Providence, a leading manufacturer of the State. Through the enlargement of its facilities the school will be able to do far better work than ever before, and also to accommodate much larger mumbers.
Already the funds provided for State scholarships have proved wholly ina legnate to meet the demand, and there is no doubt but that a much larger sum could be readily and wisely employed for this purpose. One hundred and twenty-three scholarships have been given ont-20 for the day classes, 5 for the Saturday class, and the remainder for the evening classes. The applicants for these scholarships, for the most part, come directly from the factories and shops of Providence and vicinity, and they realize their need of just such training that they may be successful in their several lines of labor. There can be no doubt but that every dollar invested by the state in this way will pay a large interest in the added skill and productive power of the pupils. Some addition should certainly be made to the fund for scholarships unless we propose to put a decided check upon a movement among the younger wage earners of our community, which we havo laboreil earnestly to arouse and which we believe is fraught witli great benefits to the State if properly trained aud developed.
FREE PUBLIC LIBRARIES. Forty-two libraries are now receiving State aid annually. As a whole there is not much change in the condition of affairs from that of last year. Slight luctuations in the circulation up aud down are to be noticed, but no marked chango which demands special attention.