Page images
PDF
EPUB

evade this rigid observance by shortening the holy day at both ends. We did not care to sit up late on Saturday night, but were quite willing to be put to bed with the swallows. But Sunday! Ah me! what remorse falls over my guilty soul! How we watched for the going down of the sun! I am afraid we were so wicked as to think it a piece of good fortune that our valley was shut in by mountains that hastened his disappearance. And yet he lingered and lingered, as if determined to check our ill-timed spirits that were ready to burst. But at last the golden rim touched the line of the horizon, and slowly disappeared. Then, whoop! and away we scampered to give vent to the spirits that had been held in check so long. Mother took her knitting, and life went on as before."

The protest of these buoyant spirits is,

The son of a sister, who was married to a missionary, Rev. Josiah Brewer, took his seat by the side of his uncle on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Surely, this is a proud record for the sons of a Connecticut country minister, whose salary never exceeded seven hundred dollars. It is further interesting to note that the son of another country minister in the same State (a classmate of the father of the Field brothers), migrated to Pennsylvania, began his career as a lawyer and a judge in Berks county, and at last became famous as Justice Strong on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.

PROVISIONAL CERTIFICATES.

perhaps, evidence that the Sabbath disci-origin, merely a make-shift, a temHE provisional certificate was, in its

pline was carried too far, and it may be a question whether the success of the

[ocr errors]

Field boys" is to be attributed to the stern discipline of the father, or to the sweet face of the mother which hovered over the children as they said their evening prayers, and laid their little heads upon the pillow, showing them religion in its most attractive form because dressed in the garb of motherly tenderness. It remains to be seen whether our modern methods will produce a galaxy of men and women like the following:

The oldest son, Dudley Field, graduated at the head of his class in Williams college, studied law, and was for sixty years a conspicuous figure at the New York bar. He helped his younger brothers, three of whom went through college, viz., Jonathan, who became a lawyer, and who during the war, though a Democrat, was elected by the Republicans to the Senate of Massachusetts, and was three times chosen its president, an honor never before accorded to any member of that body. Stephen, who is the oldest of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, where he has been for thirty years. And Henry, a minister, the full extent of whose services will only be known when the Christian souls whom he has led to Christ will be revealed as jewels in eternity.

Cyrus, the next to Henry, went to New York at fifteen as a clerk, and afterward became a merchant. It was his indomitable will that at last brought success to the Atlantic telegraph.

porary device, under the pressure of necessity, to help overcome existing difficulties that could not otherwise be surmounted. It was never intended to be a fixture in our school policy, and become, as now, a formidable obstacle to the elevation of the teaching profession and the improvement of the public schools.

Prior to the Act of 1854, which established the County Superintendency, not only the election but the examination of teachers was vested by law in the School Directors of the proper district. Sometimes they conducted the examination themselves, sometimes they called in the neighboring clergyman, or physician, or storekeeper, to conduct it for them; and very often they employed teachers at their own sweet will, without any examination, and without any regard whatever to qualifications. Even if rejected after examination, the applicant would resort to the next township or the next county, and get employment in the common schools notwithstanding his first rejec tion. Failure in one district was no hindrance to employment in the schools of some other district.

The Act of 1854 relieved School Directors of the duty of examining teachers, and vested it exclusively in the County Superintendents, who were intended to be independent barriers to the intrusion of incompetent teachers into the schools. That was the primary purpose of the of fice of Superintendent.

That enactment was intended to work

a radical reform in the administration of the school system Its tone and purpose, so far as the work of instruction is concerned, can be gathered from the 38th Section, which provides that if after one month's notice from the County Superintendent School Directors neglect or refuse to employ competent teachers, the State appropriation shall be forfeited absolutely. That section has never been repealed.

The 41st Section requires the County Superintendent to examine all candidates for the profession of teacher in the presence of the Board of Directors and to give to each person found "qualified" a certificate specifying the branches of learning he or she is "capable" of "teaching."

This obviously means scholarship, and skill in the art of teaching. Those who are not found "qualified" and "capable" were of course to be rejected. The words qualified and capable in this connection are absolute terms, that do not admit of any shade of meaning that one may choose to put upon them. The applicants are either "qualified" and "capable" or they are not. The wording of the Act leaves no middle ground to stand on.

per

But it so happened that not ten per cent. of the teachers then in the field were up to the requirements of the Act, and so the School Department issued two forms of certificate, one known as the manent certificate, stating that the applicant had passed a thorough examination in the branches specified, and a temporary certificate good only for one year, stating that the applicant had passed an examination, without indicating the character of the examination. Both these classes of certificates were good throughout the State.

The standard of qualifications was generally very low in those days, especially so west of the mountains, and the permanent certificate was issued with such prodigal liberality as to provoke remonstrances from the more advanced eastern counties, into which they were often intruded under the attraction of higher wages. To meet this difficulty a decree was made by the State Superintendent limiting all certificates to the county in which they were issued, but this was only a measure of palliation, and in 1857 all the permanent certificates in the State were called in, and a lithographed county certificate with an ornamental vignette substituted, but only granted upon a thor

| ough examination successfully passed. The provisional certificate was graded so that it might show, by the figures used, the exact standing of the applicant in each of the branches named, and enable School Boards to judge more accurately of the holder's relative qualifications.

The provisional certificate was purely informal, and had no legal standing. There was no authority of law for issuing it, but no legislation was asked in its behalf at that time, because it was regarded as only a transient feature of our school policy, that in a very few years at furthest could be dispensed with entirely.

Ten years later, however, the Legisla ture defined its character and determined its status. The 11th Section of the Act of 1867 provided that no person should receive a certificate as teacher who has not a "fair" knowledge of the elementary branches specified. This was well, very well, because it prescribed, although vaguely, the minimum of qualifications, below which no certificate could be granted, and to that extent the schools were protected against illiterate and nndesirable teachers.

The 12th Section wisely limits provisional certificates to the district in which the examination is held and the certificate granted, thus localizing the evil and preventing injustice and wrong to the schools of other districts; that is, if this restriction in the law is recognized in practice. We presume that Superintend ents in visiting the schools would, of course, ascertain by what authority the teacher is in charge of the school, and if the certificate held is from another district than that in which the school is located he would immediately report the matter to the Board of Directors and require the illegality to be at once corrected.

But having fixed upon mediocrity as a legal standard of qualifications, the first part of the section unfortunately made that standard in a measure compulsory upon the examining officer, being expressed in the imperative mood and leav ing too little to the judgment and sound discretion of the officiating Superintendent. It provides that if the applicant does possess a "fair" knowledge of the branches the certificate "shall issue," and so stands in the way of progress. The Superintendent should always have full authority of law to elevate the standard of qualifications when circumstances permit, selecting only the best talent and

attainments, and always discarding that which is inferior when something better can be had to take its place. He should not be open to the charge of having put a forced construction upon the law, even for the benefit of the schools.

This injuriously weak point in the Act of 1867 has been declared "the first backward shadow on our common school dial,' and has wrought harm to public schools in all parts of the State. It could not have been intentional on the part of the framer of that Act. We consider it an unguarded use of language, without seeing at the moment what its effect would be upon our school policy. If it had said, it shall be lawful to issue provisional certificates when necessary to supply the schools, and that no more certificates shall be issued at any examination than would be necessary to supply the schools of the district in which the examination is held, and that in no case should a low-grade certificate be issued if teachers of higher qualifications could be had, it would have protected the schools, and the helpless pupils attending them, who cannot protect themselves.

The low-grade certificates will always crowd out those of a higher grade, because the teachers who hold them will accept low wages which better teachers cannot afford to take, and ought not to accept. In finance an inferior currency will always crowd out a better, and in the common schools, where, in too many districts, Directors are more economical than sagacious and true, low-priced teachers. of correspondingly inferior qualifications will always occupy the field to the exclusion of those who have a better right, but whose right the Superintendent under the hindering restrictions of this Act cannot wholly protect, no matter how much he may desire to do so.

If this is not a misfortune for the schools we are at a loss to understand what would be. It is no wonder that Supt. Sturdevant, of Crawford county, chafing under the restraints imposed upon him by the section of the law to which we have referred, and the blame he received for issuing so many low-grade certificates, should demand in his last annual report the repeal of that obnoxious requirement of the law. It first fixes a low standard of qualifications, and then makes that standard supreme over the rights and interests of pupils in the schools, and establishes a rivalry that cuts the ground from

under the higher grades of teachers' certificates. It stands in the way of all of them, and they owe it to themselves to make common cause against such injurious and unjust competition.

Nothing can be done, of course, to change the terms of the law until further legislation is had upon the subject; but, in the mean time, much can be done to partially protect the schools by an official construction that the word "fair" in the Act shall be equivalent to number two on a certificate, and nothing less. This has been done in certain of the more advanced districts in the State. Nobody of intelligence wants "middling "teachers in the schools.

It should never be forgotten that the schools have been established solely for the benefit of the pupils who attend them. All the vast organization and machinery of our school system has no other purpose, and if it fails here it ceases to have any reason for its existence. It is not established for the benefit of those who want to teach school, except upon the pre-requisite that they are competent to do the work for which the schools were established. The idea which so widely prevails in some localities that young men and young women, irrespective of teaching ability, have a right to teach a public school because they want money, and the school-house is in their neighborhood, and they have friends in the School Board, is a pernicious heresy that should have been exploded long ago. They may have lived within a stone's throw of the school-house all their lives, yet they have no right to take possession of it as a teacher, unless they can intelligently and well do the work for which alone the school was established. The only rightful passport to professional employment is scholarship and teachingskill officially certified.

If, with munificent appropriations and a large and well-organized force of administrative and supervising officers, our school system cannot protect itself against the intrusion of those who are not fit to take charge of the schools, then it behooves the friends of education to make themselves felt in an aggressive campaign of reform that will lift the schools everywhere to that level of superiority which the founders of the system contemplated, and the Constitution of 1874 requires.

Our school policy has been provisional and tentative long enough. We have

reached a stage where better things are plainly in sight, if not yet actually within reach. With thirteen State Normal Schools splendidly organized and efficiently administered, and nearly nine thousand pupils in attendance, the time cannot be very far off when the obnoxious features of the Act of 1867, having outlived the conditions which brought them into being, can be expunged bodily from the statute book. Then, with no certificates in the field for Directors to choose from below the level of State Normal School diplomas, or their full equivalent, and our Superintendents relieved entirely from the examination of teachers, for provisional certificates, they can devote themselves exclusively to the more fruitful work of visiting the schools, and devising means for their improvement. Then every common school in the State, without exception, could be equal in all respects to the needs of the people, and the reputation of the Commonwealth.

This ideal is in advance of present realities, but it was plainly in the line of vision of those who founded our school system, and from time to time enlarged its great organization. This is the goal that should be kept constantly in view. It devolves upon the workers of to-day to assiduously help forward this glorious consummation so devoutly to be wished by every clear-headed and honest-hearted lover of his country.

PERSONAL INTEREST.

HE Lancaster Inquirer, one of the best

Tof our weekly exchanges and always

of our weekly exchanges and always right on school questions, whose annual Institute Supplement is the most complete thing of its kind in Pennsylvania, has the following under the head, "A Great Need of Our Schools:"

'What our schools need, beyond appropriations, beyond good teachers, beyond capable supervisors, beyond an energetic school board and a capable superintendent, is the cordial support of the people at large. In the pressure of the duties of life upon all people, the school is one of the things taken for granted. With the churches unable to exercise a strong and central influence over the morals of childhood, with family care constantly being deteriorated by the pressure of business and society, the public school is continually being loaded

down with duties and demands which weigh upon conscientious teachers, especially the large-minded and largehearted women who are the soul and strength of our public schools, and it is increasingly difficult to educate young people up to the proper standard in the knowledge of what they ought to know, and up to a proper appreciation of the relation of conduct to life. This is where our public school teachers cannot be too earnestly or too warmly supported by those who put children in their hands. It may be too much to ask busy men and women who believe in the public schools to take an hour now and then to visit the school-rooms and show by their presence that they stand by this or that teacher; but wherever this is done, and in many places it is done, the results far more than compensate for all the trouble which they compel. If there is any one class of unappreciated people in the community unappreciated and yet deserving of the highest honor-it is the men and women who are our faithful servants in the public schools."

GROWTH OF CHILDREN.

FAC

LACTS, both interesting and instructive, have recently come to light through observations upon the development of children in different cities. In Moscow it has been found that children of Russian parentage do not grow quite as rapidly as those of Jewish parentage up to the age of thirteen or fourteen, full height being reached generally between eighteen and nineteen. On the other hand, we learn that the growth of children who work in factories is retarded by the untoward circumstances of the life which they are forced to lead. These, as a rule, reach their full height between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two. English school boys, it is said, grow taller than those of Moscow or Boston, although in most cases factory-life seems to stunt their growth, possibly because too much vital energy is consumed in throwing off deleterious influences, while there is an insufficient supply of the most healthful diet.

Dr. G. M. West, of Toronto, has computed the rate of growth of the children of six American cities. He finds that physical development depends upon geographical and social surroundings, and

upon the nationalities which compose the population of the several cities. Boston children are a little less favorably developed than the average American; those of Worcester are decidedly in advance. Toronto children are least favorably developed; the children of St. Louis are in the beginning above the average, and seem in the end to be below it. Those of Milwaukee show the opposite phenomenon. They begin near the average, and end considerably above it. The children of Oakland, California, are throughout taller than the average child. In some cases the results may be affected by peculiar conditions. Thus the great difference between the children of Worcester and Boston may be due to the fact that in the former city certain objections to these measurements were raised, which influenced the less educated part of the population. The less educated belong mostly to the poorer classes. In consequence, a portion of the poorer children were not measured, and this fact tended to raise the general average.

Very interesting data relating to the growth of the head were also obtained from measurements taken in Worcester and Toronto. From five to twelve years of age, the boys are slightly taller and heavier than the girls. From twelve to fourteen years of age, the girls are in advance of the boys. Later on the boys overtake the girls again, and continue to grow when the latter have reached their greatest height and weight.

The laws which govern the growth of the head differ from those which govern the growth of the body. The girl's head is always considerably smaller than the head of the boy. Consequently, the ratio is also smaller when compared with the stature, until the time when growth ceases, at which time the boy's head becomes relatively smaller than the girl's. The difference between the breadth of the face of girls and boys is not as pronounced as the difference in the size of the head. During the twelfth year girls have a wider face than boys. The face grows more rapidly than the head, as is shown by the steady increase of the proportion of breadth of face to breadth and length of head. The ratio of the face to the size of the head is larger in the case of girls than boys. The length of the head increases a little more rapidly than its breadth. The head of the girls is also a little rounder than that of the boys.

Children are least subject to disease during the years of most rapid growth. Many children begin to grow quite rapidly after the seventh year. But the period of accelerated growth begins with the eleventh year in girls, and with the fourteenth in boys. Hence, all persons meet with genuine surprises on seeing children from whom they have been separated for several years. A gentleman who lost his vision when his son and daughter were approaching the years of accelerated growth, and whose eye-sight was restored by the well-known operation for the removal of cataract, could not find words by which to express his surprise at the change which had taken place in their appearance.

In

Perhaps the most interesting results are obtained when a comparison is made between the physical growth of children and their classification by teachers upon the basis of mental ability. Those whom the teachers ranked above the average are not as well developed physically as those tabulated below the average in mental ability. This may be due to the fact that children who are adjudged as less able by their teachers devote more time to play and physical exercise than those noted. for high mental ability. That these differences do not invariably last through life is apparent from another test. Worcester, Massachusetts, where the students of pedagogy from the State Normal School and from Clark University are permitted to conduct original investigations in the public schools, about 7,000 children were tested in the following manner: Groups of seven-place numbers were read aloud, and the children attempted to write down as many digits as they could recall. In addition to illustrating the general growth of memory with increasing years-such growth practically ceasing at fourteen years in the case of the mechanical memory-the children marked as good scholars have better memories than those marked as medium, and these, in turn, have better memories than those pronounced to be poor scholars. The tendency of these differences to disappear at nineteen is significant. At the same age girls are slightly superior to boys in their power to remember. It remains to be determined whether the memory for logically connected ideas may not develop according to a different law.

To many people these investigations

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »