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V172-73

PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL JOURNAL

VOL. LXXII

P

SEPTEMBER, 1923

Statement of General Policy

J. GEORGE BECHT

Superintendent of Public Instruclion, Harrisburg, Pa.

ENNSYLVANIA furnishes a larger field for educational initiative and endeavor than any other state in the Union. Because of its widely diversified industries, varied topography and mixed population, its educational problems are most complicated and difficult. There are in round numbers one million eight hundred thousand pupils enrolled in the public schools of our Commonwealth. In order to serve the highest interests of these girls and boys, the whole machinery of our school system is organized.

A program of education, first of all, must provide for this army of children proper housing facilities and an adequate teaching equipment. It must see that the children attend school regularly. The teaching force must be adequately paid and should be large enough to insure as much individual instruction as possible. Increasingly the teaching force must become better prepared and to that end the normal schools, schools of education and summer schools will be called upon to make a very significant contribution. The high schools both junior and senior-must have their courses adjusted to fall in line with the best educational thought and practice, and such instruction must equip the girls and boys to become competent citizens and to fill well the places they are to take in the world. There are special fields of education demanding attention. Americanization and the education of special classes are absorbing problems. So also are the problems of health of the school children, school libraries and matters of professional education. Music and art play a very large part in the common life of our people and these subjects must be pushed forward. Probably nowhere in the whole scheme is there greater need for study and development than in the rural school and general elementary school field. It is probable that in our emphasis upon higher and special types of education we have not given to elementary

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education as much attention as it deserves. Increasingly this work will command a larger share of our attention. Throughout the entire organization the call will be for a service of the spirit and a simple loyalty to the highest educational ideals. Our State program will be in line with the best educational thought and practice and calls for the support of every progressive leader in education in the Commonwealth. The Governor has most heartily indicated his approval of a forward-looking program and has expressed his approval under the general order, "Forward, march."

AN APPRECIATION OF DR. BECHT Editor of The Journal:

Doctor J. George Becht is pre-eminently the best qualified man in Pennsylvania for State Superintendent of Schools. Sweeping though that statement appears to be, I challenge its successful refutation. His parents were of that stock misnamed the "Pennsylvania Dutch." Fine, honest, industrious and trustworthy were the Bechts. J. George was born in the school of stern responsibility, wherein industry was the efficient master. His father taught him that, while work should be tempered by play, work should have the right-of

way.

Away back yonder in the eighties, we find George, then a lad of sixteen summers, successfully teaching a little school of a dozen children that had gathered from the seven hills of old Muncy in the county of Lycoming. The school was the same he had attended even as a babe of 5, and from which a year ago he received that common school diploma, that had been elaborately framed for a proud place in the little parlor at home.

Since then J. George Becht's record has been one of constant and uninterrupted service in all spheres of the diversified activities of the public school system of Pennsylvania.

om.

This I call a proud record-a record well

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worthy to be rounded out by occupancy in the distinguished office he now holds. Can it be matched? A graduate of common school; a graduate of normal school; a graduate of college; a teacher in all the various grades of the common school; an instructor of teachers in a normal school; a County Superintendent of Schools; a Principal of a state normal school; Executive Secretary of the Public

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School System of Pennsylvania; a Deputy
State Superintendent of Schools, and now
State Superintendent of Schools.

Honest, industrious, capable, courteous, kind, always a gentleman, a friend, reliable, sterling, genuine, worth while that is Dr. J. George Becht. May God bless Becht and his work. CHARLES J. CUMMINGS, M.D. Williamsport, Pa., June 22, 1923

Thomas E. Finegan's Statement

N May 30 the Governor made me the proposal that he would appoint me to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for the full four year term and send my name to the Senate for confirmation as required by the constitution. This proposal was repeated to me in a letter containing a press statement sent me by the Governor on May 31. His proposal, however, contained the proviso that I place my resignation in his hands at the time of my appointment, to be accepted in his discretion after he had made such further investigation of the State program of education and the administration of the same as he might desire.

The Governor predicated this extraordinary proposition on the ground that he had not yet had opportunity "to study the public school problem and situation" sufficiently to enable him to determine what action he should take in the appointment of a superintendent.

I immediately suggested to the Governor the impropriety of such an arrangement in view of the provisions of the constitution relating to the term and the removal of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I suggested that the determination of the question go over until this week and advised the Governor that my decision would be ready on Tuesday. My decision was ready at that time. I have made no request for a delay in coming to a decision in the matter. However, friends of the Governor as well as friends of mine made the request that it should be delayed, and it was only upon assurance from them that such delay was entirely satisfactory to the Governor that I acceded to the appeals to delay the decision.

During the past few days various suggestions have been made by the friends of the Governor, of myself, and of the schools, intended to effect an agreement in this matter between the Governor and myself. The Gov

ernor has also sent me a written statement modifying his request of May 30. All of these propositions have contained proposals which were tantamount to the original proposal of the Governor. I have declined all of these propositions and have insisted from the beginning, that I would accept the appointment on the condition only that it should come to me without any "strings" or limitations whatever and be made in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

There was not a day during the four years of my term as Superintendent when I should not have been willing to place my resignation in the hands of the Governor if the State Council of Education had expressed the opinion that the public interests of the State would be best promoted by the direction of its educational work under another superintendent. A superintendent having proper respect for his office would follow such course at any time.

I have given the Governor's proposals the most careful consideration from every viewpoint and have consulted the friends of education in the State and leading educators out of the State who have given unanimous approval to my decision to decline such proposals. The reasons for my action are as follows:

The acceptance of the proposals on the terms stated would be entering into an agreement intended to nullify a plain mandate of the constitution itself. I can not enter into an agreement which would subject me to public condemnation if it did not actually subject me to impeachment proceedings.

The express purpose of the provisions of the constitution providing that the term of office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall, unlike that of other State officers, be for a fixed period of four years and providing further that the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall not be subject to removal during that period of time except for cause, is to give

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that officer the freedom, the independence, and the protection essential to the efficient and honorable discharge of the duties of this responsible office unhampered by any considerations other than the highest welfare of the public schools.

The request of the Governor that he should have time to pass judgment upon the policies of the present program before appointing a Superintendent of Public Instruction is entirely proper and right. The Governor has had this opportunity. He has had more than a year to inform himself upon this subject. He has even made an examination of the policies of the education program and of the administration of the same through a committee of his own selection. About five months have elapsed since that report was placed in the Governor's hands. The Governor himself says that the subject under consideration is the most important executive function which he has to exercise. If that is his conception of the case, then the obligation rested upon him .to make such additional examination of this subject as was necessary to enable him promptly to discharge his official duty in making an appointment. It should have taken precedence over less important matters.

In fact, the framers of the constitution anticipated that a situation might arise in which a Governor of the Commonwealth would attempt to impose his views of public school policies, and the administration of the same, upon the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This is the very thing which the provision of the constitution seeks to prohibit, and a man fit to serve in that office should not enter into an agreement of this character with a governor. Governors will continue to follow the present incumbent and if any of them should not have the high ideals of public service which the present Governor has the efficiency of the schools would be endangered. No precedent should be established in this case which is not a safe and sound one to be followed by all succeeding governors and superintendents.

I stand squarely upon the principle that no precedent shall be established which shall permit political interference with the technical and professional administration of the educational affairs of the State. It is a wise provision of the constitution which seeks to give the public schools this protection. This principle in school administration strengthened and not destroyed.

should be

I am submitting, with full confidence, to the judgment of the people of the State my record in the discharge of my official duties as Superintendent during the past four years and all issues involved in the severance of my official relation to the educational work of the Commonwealth.-Thos. E. Finegan.

AN APPRECIATION FROM THE PITTSBURGH TEACHERS

We, the representatives of all Departments of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, speaking only for ourselves here assembled, but believing we voice the sentiments, even where they have not been put in words, of all people eager and hopeful for educational progress throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, salute you, Doctor Finegan, as a victim in the mighty struggle which men of vision like yourself have ever been willing to make against greed and prejudice in behalf of the free public school system of America.

From enemies of progress opposition is expected, but bewilderment seizes the people, when, as in this case, a Governor appears who has been recognized as a valiant fighter in progressive movements, as the source which removes from this State a progressive leader in education.

It matters little what the motives were that resulted in your retirement as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It is the result that hurts.

The character of the work, Doctor Finegan, you have done, for our Commonwealth is represented in such a real program of education that it has received the unqualified endorsement of the best educational thinkers in our country. Four state school surveys have approved it in terms of genuine and sincere praise. We sincerely trust that the administrators who follow you will have the wisdom and farsightedness to use the blueprint that you have presented and that they will finish the wise plans which you have so ably submitted for the boys and girls of our state.

Your ideals in behalf of education have benefited not only the boys and girls of our Commonwealth, but have also given impetus to the teaching profession not only in the State of Pennsylvania, but in every other state in the Union as well.

In addition, Doctor Finegan, and possibly greatest of all, do we appreciate the high ethical and professional standard which you have

manifested throughout your activities in the Commonwealth. Particularly do we wish to commend that fine spirit which you have shown and the high professional ideals for which you have stood, during the trying period between January 1 and June 8, 1923, while so valiantly fighting the battle for the rights of the children of the Commonwealth. We rejoice that in that battle you won by holding intact the Edmonds Act and all its re-enforcing laws passed by the Legislature of 1921; we rejoice that you won by securing the passage of an amendment to the Edmonds Law which now makes it possible to give greater financial aid to the poorer districts of the State, a thing for which you fought so heroically two years ago; and finally do we rejoice that you are winning today in the closing session of the Legislature by the passage of wise Revenue Laws at this very hour, which will completely finance the State Program of Education for the ensuing biennium. You lost the Superintendency, Doctor Finegan, but you lost it with honor, and we wish to assure you that this last-named fact has deepened our esteem and increased our admiration for you.

It is a deep source of regret to us that you have not been privileged to "carry on" in the work so well inaugurated and now so well under way. But we beg to assure you, sir, that your program, your high ideals of service, your loyalty to the teaching profession and your abiding faith in the greatest of the State's institutions, its public schools, will ever prove a source of inspiration to us all. Under that inspiration we shall be heartened to "carry on" in the battle for the maintenance and preservation of the great progressive program of education which you so courageously and so heroically set up,—and which shall ever stand as a monument to the service which you rendered to the cause of educational progress in our beloved Commonwealth.

Respectfully submitted

Caroline A. Patterson
Irene E. McDermott
John Adams
W. G. Showman

Bruce Cobaugh

H. E. Winner

Committee

Presented to Doctor Finegan at mass meeting of 3,500 teachers and citizens who met in Soldiers' Memorial Hall on June 14, 1923,

MEMORIAL FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION Pennsylvania sought a leader for her schools; a man of courage, a man of vision, a man of sound educational judgment. Such a man was found in Thomas E. Finegan.

He conceived an equal educational opportunity for every boy and girl in the Commonwealth. To realize this ideal was no light task, nor was it the matter of a moment.

On a foundation of law, he built a structure of organization that is become the cynosure of the nation. It was our privilege to be associated with this leader in the accomplishment of this task. We know the nights and days of ceaseless, faithful planning and working that he gave to this. We are proud to have had a part in that building and to do honor to the master builder.

He has achieved greatly and rich must be his satisfaction in the thought of a noble work well done. In whatever field he may hereafter choose to devote his splendid talents, we wish for him that same fullness of success which he has so well deserved by his service as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. THE STAFF

over.

of the

Department of Public Instruction Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1919-1923

EDUCATIONAL FIGURES

Dr. Carl C. Brigham of Princeton gives us some interesting educational figures to think He says that out of every 1,000 boys who enter the first grade in the schools 490 go through the eighth grade. In other words from the beginning of the child's educational career, until he is ready to enter high school, about one-half of the original thousand have dropped out of line. Of the original 1,000 230 enter high school and 95 are finally graduated from the high school. Mark the continued drop in educational attendance. Fifty of the original enter college and 10 graduate. No figures are available to disclose why so many have stepped out of the column after entering the first reader. Some die, of course. Peculiar considerations keep others from continuing. Some are shiftless and lazy. Another group does not possess the intelligence to continue. According to another authority "the average man is incapable of developing mentally beyond the first year of high school." How best to overcome these mental disqualifications constitutes one of the potential problems of American education. Are we capable of solving the question?-Dayton News,

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