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Not only is our average school year short and irregularly attended, but we lose our pupils long before they finish their course. In our own State, for every 1,000 pupils in the first grade we find only 464 in the eighth. In the country as a whole, the drop is far more serious; for 1,000 first graders, there are probably not more than 250 in the eighth grade. It is true that certain causes would naturally make the eighth grade smaller than the first, but even after making all due allowances it seems clear that only a small per centage of boys and girls ever complete their elementary school education, while probably more than half of them all do not get beyond the fifth or at most the sixth grade! We may well ask if the Republic can afford to have half its citizens so untrained and ignorant.
This enormous dropping out is partly caused by another wasteful condition. One-seventh of our whole school enrollment are dragging along a year, two years, three years, four years, or even more, behind those of their own age and maturity. These are the backwards and “repeaters.” Fifteen per cent of all the pupils in our schools are grinding through the work for the second time; they have failed of promotion, and must go all over it again. It is hard to conceive the waste of money and teachers' labor and, worst of all, the destruction of the child's interest and ambition. in this process of repeating. No less than $27,000.oOo a year is spent in teaching repeaters, and the money is the smallest part of the loss. Doubtless some repeating is unavoidable and justifiable; but not a tithe of what exists. Probably the chief cause of failure and consequent repeating is one that the general public can easily remove, irregular attendance and neglect of school duties.
Another great source of waste is the frequency of bodily defects and diseases in school children, to which educational workers and the public are just beginning to wake up. Statistics indicate that three-fourths of all school children suffer from some bodily defect, which though small in itself, may seriously hinder and damage the child's development and progress. Some of the commonest forms are adenoids, enlarged tonsils, defective sight and hearing, defective teeth, and mouth breathing. Authorities tell us that these defective children get over much less ground in a given time than sound children: adenoids and enlarged glands are the worst hinderances, reducing the speed of progress 15 per cent, and so dragging the unfortunate victim back behind his class, and often compelling him to repeat a grade. A single case may serve to illustrate the grave importance of small defects: A little girl of ten years began to have eye trouble and had to wear glasses, she became nervous and irritable, and lost her hold upon the school work. The parents noticed that she breathed through her mouth, and she was taken to a physician, who found and removed an adenoid, not larger in itself than a pea. Like magic, all bad symptoms disappeared,—mouth breathing was stopped, eyes recovered, nervousness and irritability vanished, and the child was well, happy, and easily able to deal with her studies. But in contrast to this one case, so promptly attended to, how many drag along for months or years under the burden of the hidden defect? Another great source of waste is the constant shifting of the teaching force, which makes high efficiency and professional expertness impossible. Statistics concerning nearly a thousand teachers in this State show that over 70 per cent were new in their places, and would be compelled to “find themselves” in their new situation, and get acquainted with local conditions, with their pupils and the community, before they could possibly rise to their highest efficiency, and, of course, we must expect that at the end of the year 70 per cent of the whole number will again be routed out to make room for new ones. Can anyone imagine a more wasteful and foolish game of “Pussy
wants a corner” Moreover, over 16 per cent, or one out
of every six, was not merely new to the place, but new to the profession, without any previous experience, and with nearly everything to learn. And yet school boards will let an old, tried, absolutely satisfactory teacher or even principal go, rather than pay him a paltry $100 a year more salary. Fortunately there are notable exceptions to this practice. Since women will in the great majority of cases soon marry and drop their teaching, this condition will never be greatly improved until we have more men teachers; and we cannot hope for more men so long as teaching salaries are utterly inadequate to support a family and provide for the future. We may well fear for the future of the profession when we consider the fact that the men in the teaching force of the United States has dropped from 41 per cent in 1871 to 21 per cent in 1907. Serious waste is caused by the neglect of civic and social character and practical intelligence. The common school loses the boy just when he begins to be capable of moral training, just when he is emerging from the heedless irresponsibility of childhood into the broader view and deeper social sense of early adolescence. The vast majority of the pupils, as we have already seen, leave the school forever about the age of fourteen and plunge into their work in the world; thus when they most need enlightenment and guidance, they are left to wander among the perplexities and errors of our complex social and industrial life. For these boys who leave the regular day school at so immature an age, European lands, especially Germany, are establishing great systems of continuation schools, held in the evenings or at hours when the young workers are excused from their regular duties to attend the schools. Our large cities and also the Y. M. C. A. are making laudable efforts to meet the needs. Germany has 4% times as many students in continuation schools as we have in the United States, in proportion to population; and this on top of the fact that the average German boy gets one or two years beyond the average American boy before leaving the day schools. Vastly more provision must be made to give our boys and young men not only thorough training in a useful calling, but also light and enthusiasm for their duties as citizens and as righteous and honorable members of society.
Higher education is greatly at fault in this respect in that it cultivates the intellect and almost ignores conscience and moral intelligence. The old college chapel has been practically discarded and no substitute worth mentioning has been erected for it. There are too many Ruef's furnished by the State, with all the intellectual training that high school, college, and professional school can give—then, turning traitor and attacking the general welfare with the very weapons so generously bestowed upon them. When the State trains the head and neglects to cultivate the heart and conscience, it is putting a sword in the hands of its future foes. To prevent this worse than waste of power new attention must be given to moral and civic education, especially in higher education.
Finally the morals (or immorals) of the street and of socalled business, the corrupting influence of the cheap theatre, the sensationalism of the yellow press, all conspire to tear down with ruthless claws the ideals of honor and purity that home and church and school have labored to build up. Happily the whole country is waking up to the folly of giving free rein to a host of the powers of darkness that relentlessly corrupt and destroy the best results of education in the youth of our land.
In conclusion, a few of the remedies: 1. Better salaries and more secure tenure of office for teachers, to attract and hold strong, well trained men as well as women. 2. Medical inspection of all school children. 3. Enforcement of compulsory attendance laws, and lengthening of school year. 4. Vocational training in high schools, and the establishment of continuation schools to teach trades and citizenship. 5. More attention to education for character. 6. The cleaning up of our general social and industrial life, and especially the extermination of foul and debasing literature and shows.
The Congress then adjourned until Saturday, August 28, at 9.30 A. M.