Page images
PDF
EPUB

are very many more, as the statement with regard to attendance shows, who attend irregularly, and with little advantage to themselves and with positive injury to the school. There is, even where schools are attractive, continuous and efficient, the most astonishing indifference, developing into evasion, where gain can be made from the labor of children. These sixteen years of trial and work under a so-called compulsory law have not educated the people who need education to the necessity of every-day training in school. The principle has been lauded, but practice has been wanting.

In the very quarter in which, through vigorous persuasion and action of the efficient State agent, a measure of success has been secured, a serious drawback has developed. Most of those who desire to work attend school three months in order to be able to secure employment, and for no other reason.

The limit of three months has tended to diminish the average attendance by setting the limit about one-third the average school year. Children attend for three months and then are free to cast off the education and influences of school because the law has been satisfied. The high sanction of this Commonwealth, which has been famed far and wide for its educational zeal and progress, is given to three-months schooling for those who have most need—the children of the poor, the unfortunate, the lazy, the vicious, and the hard-hearted.

Such a grave weakness in our educational machinery may well fill every mind with alarm, for it points to the unhappy conclusion that the children are losing their rights, and the tax-payers wasting their money.

What are the causes of this failure?

1. A defense or excuse implied in some of the extracts above given and constantly reiterated has been rested upon the indifference and neglect of parents. This indifference is not the cause, but must itself be referred to division and interest in fractional and dislocated sections instead of in schools or children. This results in short, small and cheap schools, ill-equipped buildings, and poorly-paid teachers. Absence for a day or a week is not important, because nothing of value is lost.

The terms are so short, the course so ill-arranged, and the breaks so long, that the school-going habit is never formed. There is, under changing teachers and management, no outcome commensurate with the steady effort at home which the regular attendance of children requires.

2. Enforcement of existing enactments is not rigorous and steady.

(a) Towns are not compelled to push unwilling parents to performance of their duty, and the officers to whom the work is by law intrusted do little or nothing. Special officers have been appointed in a few towns.

(6) There is one State agent only. His special business is to see that children who desire to work attend for sixty days; ho cannot investigato one-tenth of the cases which ought to be investigated.

In considering remedies we must recognize: 1. That parents should be responsible for the attendance of their children. 2. That no undue inducement or favor should be held out to any class to diminish the educational advantages of the children.

3. That truancy, that is, absence which parents cannot prevent, should be dealt with by the town or State.

4. That local means will always be inefficient. The remedies would seem to be: 1. That all schools be maintained at least 8 months, or 160 days, in the year, 2. That all children under 13 attend all the time when schools are in session, and that parents be responsible for regular attendance.

3. I'hat agents, who shall visit every town and district and school, be appointed by the State to enforce this legislation.

4. That between 13 and 16 an educational test bo applied, and all who cannot read be required to attend.

5. The State has already wisely recognized that there is another basis of paymont than mere enumeration. In the case of evening schools the average attendance is made the ground of payment from the treasury. Such a principle applied in part to the whole

State would be an encouragement and an incentive, and a new force added to the influences which impel to regular attendance. (From report of Hon. A. S. Draper, superintendent of public instruction, New York, for the yenr end.

ing August 20, 1886.) From the data in our possession it seems that 59 per cent. of the school population attended the public schools at some time during the year; in 1880 it was 62 per cent., and in 1870 it was 69 per cent. The average attendance, taking the entire year together, was 36 per cent. of the children of school age; in 1880 it was 35 per cent., and in 1870 32 per cent. The average time each child attended school during the last year was 22.1 weeks; in 1880 it was 20.4 weeks, and in 1870 it was 17.6 weeks. From these figures it is apparent that while the children who do attend the schools come with

[ocr errors]

greater regularity than formerly, still the whole number who attend the schools for some period of the year in proportion to the whole number of school age, has been growing smaller since 1870, notwithstanding the “Compulsory Education Act," en. acted in 1874.

It is believed that these figures are reliable, with perhaps this exception. There has been no census since 1880, and the number of children of " school age" reported since that time has, undoubtedly, in some cases, been estimated. The estimates cannot, however, be far out of the way. Again, it would be strange if many of the private schools had not failed of being reported by local school officers. This suggests the propriety of a law requiring all such schools to report the facts in relation to their attendance to this Department, in order that the State may be in the possession of information essential to intelligent legislation in reference to popular education.

The fact that the aggregate attendance upon the common schools has not increased in proportion to the advance in population, is a startling one and claims the attention of the Legislature. It may as well be said, not only that the “Compulsory Education Act” has not been effectual, but that it is altogether doubtful if, in its present shape, it is capable of being made so. School trustees elected to supervise the schools, and serving without any compensation, naturally object to being turned into constables and police officers for the purpose of apprehending delinquent children or the children of delinquent parents. More-over, the schools are full." In most of the cities the accommodations are taxed to the utmost. Apy effectual execution of the law would at once create the necessity for additional buildings in every city of the State. But notwithstanding these considerations, the problem cannot be safely treated with indifference by the State.

There are two classes of children whom it is difficult to bring into or keep in the schools; the first consists of truants, such as are sent to schools by parents, but will not stay there. The other, and much larger class, is comprised of children of parents who have no care about their education. If we are to believe the word of other States which have preceded us in grappling with the problem here presented, a Stato reform school, to which the most flagrant cases might be sent, would have a wholesome moral influence upon the greater number of the first class above spokon of, and a system of free text-books would materially lessen the number of absentees consequent upon the indifference of parents. The Legislature once passed a bill proriding for a State reform school for truant children, which failed to become a law because of the objections of the Governor. There is apparently even more reason for the measure now than then. The experience of localities in our own State seems to show that the expense involved in a system of free text-books is not so great as would be supposed. There is reason to believe that it may be made an important agent for bringing into the schools a class of children whose only education is now obtained in the school of the street. From report of Hon. John L. Buchanan, superintendent of public instruction, Virginia, for year end

ing July 31, 1886.] The difference between total enrolment and average daily attendance is 135,945. This is rather a startling figure. Divided by the number of schools, it gives an average absence of about twenty to each school. There are many unavoidable causes which operate to stop pupils from school. But there can be no satisfactory reason why the number of absentees should be so large. A vigorous effort ought to be made to reduce it. Again, the difference between the average monthly enrolment and average daily attendance is much larger than it should be. This is the exact measure of the irregularity of attendance, than which there is no greater source of damage to school work. It harasses the teacher, retards the progress of classes, and renders proficiency on the part of tho irregular attendants themselves well-nigh hopeless. Earnest, intelligent teachors fully comprehend the magnitude of this evil. But it is exceedingly difficult even to suggest, much less to provide, an effectual remedy. The State has assumed the immense responsibility of educating its youth. It has assumed a heavy burden of taxation to provide means to that end. School advantages have been provided to the extent of the means at command. And of these advantages a majority of the people gladly avail themselves. But some indifference and negligence still exist, and of course are among the causes which hinder the attainment of the best educational results. (From report of Hon. J.W. Dickinson, secretary of State board of edncation, Massachusetts, 1885–"86.)

From the nature and extent of the duties of school committees, it will at once appear that they should be skilled educators, able and willing to devote their time and study to school work. In some cases much time and study are freely given, and with good results. It is generally true, however, that school committee-men are quite fully employed with their individual concerns; that their school supervision is accidentai, and not always performed with the skill which kvowledge and experience alone can

SUPERVISION.

To strengtben and perfect the supervision of the schools, the State has made it law. ful for any town to require its school committee to annually appointa

superintendent of schools, who, acting under direction, and as an agent of the committee, shall perform all those acts tbat are peculiar to school supervision.

About sixty cities and towns bave availed themselves of the provisions of the law, by requiring their school committees to elect superintendents and commit to them the general care and supervision of the schools. The schools in these towns are the best in the State. The reasons for this are obvious. The conditions pecessary for the existence of good schools are not likely to be secured, except through the service of those who know what the conditions are, and who have been chosen for the special work of supervision.

The schools in towns employing eficient supervision are supplied with better teachers; the schools are direcied in accordance with a plan towards some definite results. All those things that come under the head of means of teaching are promptly furnished, and the whole school population is in school. The schools of the smail towns are suffering for the want of good management. They are falling behind the scbools provided with special supervision, as may be seen by their annual returns, and by the inferior advantages they offer to the children who attend upon their instructions.

Experience and observation both prove that the conditions necessary to good schools cannot exist, unless they are provided with efficient superintendence. There is a common agreement among educators on this subject, that the cause of popular edu, cation “will ever languish” in towns not provided with an intelligent and special management. This opinion prevails among the people themselves of such towns, aud they are generally willing to do all in their power to secure, in common with the larger towns, the advantages of special school supervision. Inability

to support such an agency is the obstacle in the way of its general introduction. The large towns are able to provide each its own supervisor. This they have generally done. The smaller towns may unite into districts and support union supervisors. There is already a permissive statute providing for the union of towns into districts for the support of such officers. Five districts have taken advantage of the provisions of the law, and have the district system of superintendency in active and most successful operation. The small towns need aid in supporting their educational institutions, and no aid could be given that would produce such radical and needed reforms in our commou-school affairs as that given in support of an educated supervision.

UNIFORM SCHOOL TERM. (From report of Hon. J. W. Holcombe, superintendent of public instruction of Indiana. The time seems to have come for making our school system really uniform in affording something like equal school privileges to all the children of the State, according to the true intent of the constitution (art. 8, 1).

Such equality of privileges is far from being enjoyed at present, and cannot be secured without mandatory legislation. A few figures will show existing inequality. In the school year 1885–86 the average terms of counties varied from 90 to 178 days, and the general averago for the Stato being 129 days. In a certain county the term in one township was 120 days; in another, 65 days. In another county the terın in one township was 179 days; in another, 107 days. The unfairness of this is obvious. Upon po principle of justice can the State, while professing to maintain a "general and uniform system of common schools,” give to some of its children so much less of school privileges than are enjoyed by others. The practical inconveniences are also very great. Successful classitication is hindered, the enforcement of a course of study embarrassed, and the administration of the schools of a county ils an organized and vital unity prevented. The apportionwent of revenue equally among the children, upon a per capita basis, will not secure equality of school privileges. The same amount of money will provide more and better instruction for an equal number of children in a deuse than in a scattered population, and other local conditions make is great it difference in the expense of maintaining schools,

The equalization of terms can be secured through the local levies by which the State's apportionment is supplemented, but it will be necessary to fix by law a minimum within which the term shall not be allowed to shrink. The experience of teachers and superintendents seems to indicate seven school months (140 days) as a safe ininimum límit. Such a lengtb of term would interfere but little, if at all, with the farmi work of the older boys. "Indeed, it is noticeable that, as the country schools have bceu gradually made more efficient by classification and improved methods, the older buys contrive to do the work for which they are absolutely needed, out of school hours. But, nevertheless, it would perhaps not be wise to require by law a longer terw than seven months.

FREE TEXT-BOOKS. (From report of Ilon. J. W. Dickinson, secretary of State board of education, Massachusetts, for the

year 1884-'85.1 The advantages of the free text-book system are: 1. Economy in time and money. Under the present system the schools may be supplied, on the first day of the term, with all the necessary means of study. This prevents the long delays that were formerly experienced in organizing the classes, and enables the teacher to make a better classification of his school. Experience has proved that the expense of books and supplies, by the new method of purchase, is reduced nearly one-half.

2. The new system furnishes a good occasion for training the children to take good care of those things not their own, but which they are allowed to use.

3. It has, without doubt, increased the attendance upon the schools more than 10 per cent. 4. The public schools of the State are now literally free schools, offering to all, on the same free terms, the advantages of a good education.

The labor of purchasing and distributing the books and arranging plans for a proper care of them will be much less after the system lias once been introduced. Before the act of 1884 was passed, sixteen towns in the Commonwealth bad voluntarily adopted the free text-book system. In all cases of fair trial the most satisfactory results have been produced. The few objections that have been made to the free system are:

1. It prevents the children from owning the books they use, and from preserving them for the future. 2. It cultivates a spirit of dependence. 3. Contagious diseases may be communicated by second-hand books. 4. Why not furnish board and clothes as well as books ? 5. It requires the expenditure of a large amount of time in purchasing and distribating the books and supplies among the schools. These are the objections usually made. The use of the free text-book system does not prevent a pupil from becoming the owner of the books he studies, nor, if that were piossible, ot preserving them. This may be done even at less expense than under the old system.

Experience, however, has proved that school books are generally worn out by the use to which they are subjected in the school room, and that future reference is more profitably made to new books, representing the latest phase of human thought on tho subjects of which they treat.' old school books are interesting relics. They are even useful as occasions for revising old associations; but they are not always safe guides in the acquisition of new knowledge. School books should be bouglit for present use, as they will be quite surely out of date when the future arrives.

If the statement that the free text-book system takes away the manly foeling of independence, which should be strong in every mind, has any force, it presents an argnment against the whole system of free schools. Why is not the manly spirit corrupted by furnishing free teachers, and free school-houses, and freo apparatus to be used as the means of teaching? On what principle may we furnish everything else free with good results, but cannot furnish free books without harm As a fact, neither are the schools or the means of study free to the people in any absolute sense.

The expense of supporting them is borne by those for whose benefit they were established. This is done by a general tax levied in such a manner that the burden of support is made to rest equally on all. With this understanding the people accept their free-school privileges, not as a charity, but as a gift presented by themselves..

Free text-books have been used for many years in some of the towns in our own State, and in some of the cities and towns of almost every other State in the Union. No complaint has hitherto been made that these books are the media through which disease is actually communicated.

The sanitary objections to the nse of second-hand school books may be more reasonably urged against the use of books drawn from our circulating libraries, and handled by persons exposed to all the conditions of social life, or against paper money, that by its associations may become the media of many kinds of exchange. It should not be forgotten that the Legislature has passed stringent laws regulating the attendance of children who are suffering with contagious diseases, or who have been exposed to them; and that the free text-books are all committed to the care of the teachers of the schools.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors]

Do.

· Ira G. Hoitt

Leonidas S. Cornell
Chas. D. Hine

Thomas M. Williams.. , A.J. Russell

Gustavus J. Orr.
Riphard Edwardew
A M. La Follette -
John W. Akers
J. H. Lawhead
Jos. D. Pickett.
Warren Easton
N. A. Luce...

M. A. Newell.

John W. Dickinson.
Jog. Estabrook.

D. L. Kiehle...
J.R. Preston.
Wm. E. Coleman.
Geo. B. Lane

W.C. Dovey
James W. Patterson
Edwin Chapman.
Andrew S. Draper
Sidney M. Finger
Eli T. Tappan..
E. B. McElroy.
E. E. Higbeo .....
Thos. B. Stockwell..

Montgomery, Ala.. Dec. 1886-'88 State superintendent of education.
Little Rock, Ark.... Oct. 1884-'80 State superintendent of public instruc-

tion.
Sacramento, Cal... Jan. 1887-91 Do.
Denver, Colo... Jan. 1887-'89
Hartford, Conn .J. Jan. 1886-'87 Secretary of State board of education.
Dover, Det.. April 1886-87 Stetosuperintendent of free schools. abor.
Tallahassco, Fla ... Jan. 1885–89 State superintendent of public instruc-

tion.
Atlanta, Ga Nov. 1884-'86 State school commissioner.
Springfield, It... Jan 1887-91 State superintendout of public instrue

tion.
Indianapolis, Ind... Mar. 1887-89 Do.
Des Moines, Iowa... Jan. 1884-'80 Do.
Topeka, Kang.. Jan. 1887-'89 Do.
Frankfort, Ky 4 Sept. 1883-87 Do.
Baton Ronge, La..May 1:84-'88 State superintendent of education.
Augusta, Me . Feb. 1886-'89 State superintendent of com na

schools.
Baltimore, Ma Jan. 1880-'88 State superintendent of public instruc-

tion.
Boston, Mass...... Jan. 1886–87 Secretary of State board of education.
Lansing, Mich...... Jan. 1887-'89 State superintendent of public instruc-

tion.
Saint Paul, Minn.... April 1885-'87 Do.
Jackson, Miss # Jan. 1886-'90 State superintendent of education.
Jefforson City, M04 Jan. 1883-'87 State superintendent of public schools.
Lincoln, Nebr Jan. 1887-'89 State superintendent of publis instruc-

tion.
Carson City, Nev.4 Jan. 1887-'91 Do.
Concord, N. H July 1884-'86 Do.
Trenton, N.J. ...3

1885-'88

Do.
Albany, N. Y.....3. April 1886-'80 Do.
Raleigh, N.C..... Jan. 1885–89 Do,
Columbus, Ohio. .3 Jan. 1880-'89 State commissioner of common schools,
Salem, Oreg - 4 Sept. 1889, Jan. State superintendent of public instruc

1, 1887.

tion.
Harrisburg, Pa ...4. April 1885-89 Do.
Providence, R.I... Elected annu. Commissioner of public schools.

ally.
Columbia, S. O.... Dec. 4, 1886–88 Superintendent of public education,
Nashville, Tenn ..4. Jan. 1887-'91 Stato superintendent of public schools.
Austin, Tex

Jan. 1887-'89 State superintendent of public instruc

tion.
Montpelier, Vt..... Dec. 1886-'88 Do.
Richmond, Va....4. Jan. 1886_'90 Do.
Charleston, W. Va# Mar. 1885–'89 State superintendent of freo schools.
Madison, Wis. Jan. 1885-'87 State superintendent of public schools.
Sitka, Alaska Indefinite. General agent of education for Alaska.
Prescott, Ariz Jan. 1883–'87 Superintendent of public instruction.
Olivet, Dak.... Mar. 1885–'87

Do.
Washington, D.C..

Superintendent of District schools.
Boisé City, Idaho.. Feb. 1887-'89 Superintendent of public instruction.
Helena, Mont. Feb. 1883-'85

Do.
Santa Fe, N. Mex.. Feb. 1886-'88 Ex-officio superintendent for reports.
Salt Lake City, Utah Aug. 1883-'85 Superintendent of public instruotion,
Olympia, Wash. T. Jan. 1884-'86
Cheyenne, Wyo..... Mar. 1884-'86 Do.

James H. Rice
Frank M. Smith
0. H. Cooper ..
Justus Dartt
J. L. Buchanan..
Benj. S. Morgan.
Jesse B. Thayer.
Sheldon Jackson.
R. L. Long
A. Sheridan Jones...
Wm. B. Powell, white
F.T. Cook, colored
J. H. Wickersham
Wm. W. Wylie.
Trinidad Alarid.,
L.J. Nuttall
J.C. Kerr..
John Slaughter.

Do.

« PreviousContinue »