Page images

teachers did not furnish them with the instruments and materials of thought accumulated by the ages, but sent them into the world lacking many of the weapons by which life's battles are fought and won.


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 diplomas in recognition thereof. A bureau 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 adopt expedients 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, toward which he may work with unflinching 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 influence as a motive to sustained effort, it is apt to prove a snare 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 satisfied 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, instead of pointing the brightest minds to snbsequent courses of study and reading. In fact, it may be laid down as a universal proposition, that any institution whose teaching fails to aspire 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, text books 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 firms 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 beneficent 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 from 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, because the parents are unable to purchase the text-books. The care of the books will inspire respect 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 free text-book law is a step towards the solution of the most momentous problem now before the people of Pennsylvania. Our industrial life attracts immigrants from foreign countries in countless numbers. Their children must be assimilated by our social and civil life, or they may drift into the criminal classes.

A compulsory law might reach some of these children, but it would be far from solving the problem. In very many cases it would cause the parents to proclaim themselves and their children paupers, thus reviving the odious distinction. that was abolished with the introduction of the common school system. As long as there are more children than school seats in our growing centres of population; as long as there are children to whom no school house is accessible during the inclement winter months; as long as there are miners confronted by the alternative of sending their children to the coal breakers and giving them enough to eat, or of sending them to school and giving


them a warm place to sit in with less to, eat; as long as there are children who do not have garments fit to wear to school; as long as the struggle for bread forces. parents to adopt all sorts of expedients for the sake of securing employment for themselves and their children; so long something more is needed to bring all the children to school than a compulsory law upon the statute-book. Missionary effort is necessary on the part of teachers, directors and citizens in order that the causes for non-attendance may be quietly ascertained, and unostentatiously moved. The patriotic organizations, whose zeal has unfurled the Stars and Stripes before the eyes of children all over the land, can here find a field of effort worthy of their highest patriotism and their noblest aspirations. As our population increases, a compulsory law may ultimately become an absolute necessity; but, before an efficient and adequate statute can be framed and enforced, public sentiment must be prepared for it by a school census, showing how many children of the proper age are out of school, and what obstacles must be removed in order to secure their regular attendance.


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 school houses. Marked progress has been made in the erection of school buildings, and in the purchase of libraries and apparatus. Everywhere 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 furniture has been vastly improved, and is now the admiration of the civilized world. Nevertheless, school diseases, such as myopia and the over-wrought 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 five 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 ex

pected. 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 onethird 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 unaccounted for in the three million increase of the annual appropriation, amounting to $126,559.12, which must have accumulated in the treasuries of some of the districts, instead of being expended upon the improvement of the schools. Unfortunately, the spirit of progress has not permeated all parts of the 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, indeed. The total number of college graduates employed in the public schools is 284. The graduates of State Normal schools, academies and 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 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 decalogue at salaries ranging from twelve to twentyfive dollars per month. Some future historian will record it as the marvel of the ages that, in the closing decade of the nineteenth century, many parents were willing, in the rich Commonwealth of

Pennsylvania, to entrust the education of their children into the hands of persons whose services were not considered worth the wages of a common day laborer. Indeed, 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 latter alternative be accepted, it may be right to appoint the daughter of a citizen for the reason that he is a taxpayer, or a 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 subordinated to the interests of the children, for whose sake schools are established and maintained. Surely, the Keystone State is rich enough, and her citizens ought to be patriotic enough, to place within the reach of her sons and daughters school advantages equal to those of her neighbor states, or any to be found in the Old World. If the million boys and girls that constitute the most precious treasure of the Commonwealth are properly educated, their skilled hands and developed brains will add untold wealth to our vast resources. In no other way can we secure protection against the skilled labor of foreign countries, with their teeming populations, ready to migrate to our shores.


Evidently, at this time, the greatest need of the public school system is a body of trained teachers, sufficiently numerous to man all our schools, and efficient enough to rival those of every other country upon the globe. To this end, a normal school has been established in every one of the thirteen districts. The Legislature has been wisely liberal in fostering these institutions. In spite of all their shortcomings, they have been successful, not only in fulfilling, to a reasonable extent, their specific mission, but also in creating a higher estimate of the vocation of teaching. Let a rich man's daughter attend one of these schools for several sessions, and she will return home think


ing that teaching is the noblest calling in which she can engage; and, regardless of her wealth, she will take charge of a school through pure love and zeal for the work. No other schools have, to an equal extent, succeeded in inspiring this ambition into their students. The colleges have been preparing young men for the professions, and, as long as their faculties do not have a chair of pedagogics, they will inspire a different ideal of life. Very few college graduates now teach in the public schools. The normal schools, on the other hand, have thousands of graduates engaged in teaching. Moreover, they have been furnishing the best institute instructors and the majority of the most active superintendents. is the need for their specific work ever going to cease. Two-thirds of Pennsylvania's teachers are ladies, and, so long as their graces continue to charm the other sex, vacancies will be created by their promotion to the queenship of the home.




Another very difficult problem is to keep the teachers alive in their calling. If the same subjects are taught year after year by a pedagogue isolated from the rest of the world, his teaching is destined to degenerate into mere routine work, and he may die long before he is ready for burial. There is a dead line in all the professions, and, when a teacher reaches this line, what shall be done with him? The creed says nothing about a resurrection of the dead in the world of pedagogy. Shall such a teacher be translated into the school board? By no means; for his advent there will be the death-knell to all further progress in the district. only safe thing is to keep the teachers from dying before they are ready to quit the school-room. In the religious world, the annual camp-meeting, the periodic communion seasons, and the days of special devotion during the church year, help to revive the life and zeal of the worshiper. The county institute is the annual revival meeting for the teachers. It is far more essential to the old teacher than to the beginner. The pedagogue who derives no benefit from this annual contact with others, has surely reached the dead line, and the sooner he is translated to some other sphere, the better it will be for the innocent children. In her teachers' institutes, Pennsylvania is ahead of

the systems of the Old World, and of | Assembly, approved May 31, 1893, which most of her sister states. Listen to the testimony of President Sharpless :

"Our system," says he, "has a tremendous and overflowing vitality, which promises more for the future than the well-fitted machinery of England. Did you ever live in a country town during the week of a teachers' institute? It is a greater attraction than the new railroad or the circus. The air is saturated with educational questions. questions. The teachers, often of the same social grade as the best of the residents, are received into the homes, and made the central features of the excitement. The American free school is discussed, extravagantly, perhaps, in certain features, but, on the whole, intelligently. Better still, have you ever been to a state or national educational association? The discussions do not impress one as being in the least shallow or vaguely general. They seem to be deliverances of men of thought, training and experience, who talk of questions of which they know, anxious for results, willing to face every problem as it arises, and absorbingly interested in the subject. They are stirred up themselves, and they manage to communicate to others. They go to their localities, each one an enthusiastic agent of the cause of education."

The county institute admits of further improvement. In place of the evening lecture, filled with stories and jokes, aiming at entertainment rather than instruction, lectures on historical, scientific and literary subjects may be substituted with profit to all concerned. A closer co-operation between the teachers' institute and the movement in favor of university extension, is a consummation both feasible and "devoutly to be wished."


In medieval times, the multiplication of holy days proved a burden to the working classes. The multiplication of legal holidays by acts of the Legislature, threatened to add a new burden to those already carried by the teachers. The observance of New Year's day, of Washington's birthday, of Good Friday, of Memorial day, of Labor day, of Thanksgiving day, of Christmas day, and of election days, produced frequent breaks in the regular school year, thereby marring the progress of the children, and making the labor of instruction more difficult and more irksome. Relief came in the Act of

provides in the fourth section, that all days just named shall be regarded as secular or business days for all purposes not mentioned in the act; and, as the schools are not mentioned among the purposes of the act, it virtually repeals the clause in the Act of June 25, 1885, which provided for the closing of the schools on legal holidays. It is to be hoped, however, that the directors will, at least, order the closing of the schools on Thanksgiving day, by reason of its national importance, and on Christmas. day, which, of all the days in the year, brings joy to childhood, and turns the thoughts of young and old from secular to sacred things. Patriotism will, without doubt, cause the schools to be closed also on Decoration day, and on the Fourth of July, when these days do not fall into the vacation.

If it should be held that the several holiday acts of the last legislature have no bearing upon the act of June 25, 1885, it will then follow that the new days which were created legal holidays during this year are not legal holidays for the schools, and that it is illegal for teachers and pupils to engage in the work of ordinary instruction on Saturday. This ruling would jeopardize the payment of the State appropriation to districts in which a teacher, through ignorance of the law, taught on Saturday. It would embarrass the Normal schools and colleges which observe their weekly holiday on Monday instead of Saturday. These institutions are so delighted with the change that it would be a hardship to require them to go back to the old arrangement. Moreover, there is great diversity of opinion in different parts of the State on the observance of holy days like Good Friday. For these reasons the former interpretation, which leaves the determination of school holidays in the hands of directors or controllers (Institute week excepted), is much to be preferred from an educational point of view. It is in accordance with the maxim that the school laws are to be interpreted in the interest of the children who are to be educated-a maxim of interpretation that should never be ignored or forgotten.


The policy of dividing the school year into several terms, which has prevailed in the northern tier of counties, and, to

of some ambitious teacher, whose 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 development. The Legislature could then follow the example of other states in setting apart a share of the annual appropriation for the purpose of fostering and strengthening the high schools which come up to the proposed standard.


some extent also, in a few adjoining | shaped to meet the limited qualifications counties, has very little to commend it, and is open to most serious objections, both from a legal and from an educational point of view. What can be worse than a division of the minimum school year of six months into a fall term, a winter term, and a spring term, with a new teacher for each, and the cheapest sort of talent for the term in which the little ones are supposed to attend? The school law plainly says that "the minimum school term shall be six months," and makes an exception only in favor of districts where the maximum amount of tax allowed by law to be levied for school purposes, is found to be insufficient to keep the schools in operation for six months. My predecessor ruled that the division of the six months into several terms is a violation of law, and I see no reason for reversing this decision. Districts whose school boards do not comply with the law, forfeit their share of the State appropriation-a penalty which the Department is loth to inflict, because the punishment ultimately falls upon the innocent children. I, therefore, earnestly urge the school boards to comply with the law, by abandoning the policy of a divided school year, lest the youth of their district suffer a double loss-first, in curtailed school privileges, and, secondly, in a forfeiture of the school appropriation.


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 branches which are better taught in the colleges, by reason of superior equipment and endowed professorships; and, at the end of a three or four years' course, their graduates are mortified to find that they cannot enter a respectable college 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

Although not organically connected with the common schools, the State College is, nevertheless, an essential part of our system of public instruction. The liberal aid which it has received from the State and from the National Government, has enabled it to increase its facilities for instruction in agriculture, in mining, mechanical and civil engeering, and in other important lines of technical training. The increasing stream of young men who are drawn thither by its superior advantages, has not diminished the attendance at the denominational colleges. The growing classes tax their resources to the utmost. and necessitate constant appeals for more money to enlarge the faculty, the endowment, the buildings, the library and apparatus.

Nor has the attendance at the professional schools been diminished, although all the medical schools have lengthened their curriculum to three years, and the University of Pennsylvania to four years. This increase in the period of professional study is, on the one hand, very gratifying, in that it will elevate the standard of qualification for the healing art, and, on the other, it emphasizes the importance of so arranging and adjusting all grades of school work as to involve the least possible loss of time and effort on the part of the student.


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

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »