« PreviousContinue »
the standard of the teaching force, which condition means a defeat of the efforts which our public school authorities have been making to bring the schools to the present splendid standard of excellence. Now we must do one of the three following: go without teachers, and close the schools; lower the standard of teaching and teachers, thereby injuring the future citizenship; or raise the salaries commensurate with other professions. This will hold the competent and efficient teachers. In so doing we shall be able to develop a new and fairer civilization that will reach the highest ideals of humanity.
The problems now facing the superintendency are the results of new conditions, and to solve them without injury to the children is going to require the soundest and sanest of judgment and good common sense. In the adjustment of these problems the county superintendent is going to be the directing influence. He should first ask himself, “How can I go about this matter for the preservation of my schools ?” For it is no longer a question of justice to the teachers, but simply one of running his schools. Therefore we would say that it is now time for extreme measures to be taken for the sake of the school children and also for the sake of democracy.
To make clear the statements we have made with respect to some of the problems of the superintendency we would like to give you data collected with regard to what teachers are doing on their meager salaries. We give this for the express purpose of showing what is expected, or we might say demanded, of teachers. In Kansas City during one year 123 teachers at a salary of $1,000 each per year spent $16,537 on war and local charities and Liberty Bonds, while the same teachers spent each about forty-five dollars for recreation during the same time. Now we do not feel that a teacher is getting much recreation out of forty-five dollars spread out over a period of three hundred and sixty-five days, not to the extent that she can bring fresh life, vim, human interest, and companionship into her work with children.
We say to you frankly that this problem of teachers is one of most vital importance to us, and of all problems of the superintendency the one that should be lookt into first. Some states have hundreds of schools without teachers, and the slogan of many, many teachers is, “Anything but teaching.”
Almost daily we hear some teacher say, "Why, the superintendent does not appreciate my efforts. I have been teaching for him two, three, five, or more years," as the case may be, "and the board has never offered to raise my salary, not so much as offered a small bonus, when even the men who drill oil wells get a substantial raise of salary and a nice bonus also.” And too, after such statements we hear this question, "What can you do ?” The answer is echoed back very quickly, "Most any thing is better than teaching. One of my students of last year now in a local bank is drawing more annual salary than I, and does not work nearly so hard. Besides, the bank appreciates her at Christmas with a neat little bonus, with a nice little card, 'A merry, merry Xmas and a happy New Year.' Why, who ever heard of a superintendent being authorized by a school board to do such a thing!”
We think that the time has come when teachers should let it be known that teaching is a profession and must be lookt upon as such by those who are recipients of their conscientious efforts.
Now is the time for the county superintendency to show its colors. It can well afford further increases in salaries. The conditions are ripe for it. The time of pale, whispering pussy-foot arguments for higher salaries no longer "goes." No, no longer should we as the teaching profession put up with such, for ultimatums unmistakable are being thundered and flasht by the most obvious conditions on every hand. A nation-wide drive among the county superintendency is needed. No other work is so necessary for them. Not to do this aggressively and conscientiously is to give comfort and aid to both the child's and democracy's worst enemies, ignorance and incompetence.
With one more thought, for which I am indebted to Mrs. Mary C. C. Bradford, president of the National Education Association, I shall close. Superintendents, you are called to the colors by the Spirit of America, by the needs of children, by the Soul of Civilization. Will you not heed this call? Will you not be up and doing? Will you not save our schools by holding the competent and efficient teachers in the profession?
STANDARDIZING THE SMALL COUNTRY SCHOOL
J. H. BINFORD, SECOND ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS,
RICHMOND, VA. Nearly five million country boys and girls attend the one-teacher schools of the United States. Does this statement seem exaggerated ? Listen to the roll call of some of the states. Illinois has more than 10,000 of these little schools, Minnesota 7000, Nebraska 6000, Virginia 5000, North Dakota 4000. The rest of the states make a similar showing. Massachusetts boasts that it has only 500 one-teacher schools; but when we remember that the Bay State has 90 per cent of its population classified as urban, we see that even the state of Horace Mann still retains in its rural sections the small country school.
What shall we do for the vast army of country children who now get a totally inadequate training in the small country schools which abound in all rural sections ? These children are to be the country dwellers of the next generation. Most of the graduates of rural high schools will leave the farm, but these boys and girls of the one- and two-teacher schools will remain to practice a system of farming of a much more complicated and scientific type than has characterized the farming of the past. Will they gradually sink to the level of the European peasant or will they, while maintaining the best American traditions, practice scientific agriculture ?
To the average student of rural education there is only one solution of rural education-consolidation. As an ideal proposition we agree with Dr. Joyner, of North Carolina, that the smallest country school which can really train for social efficiency is the three-teacher type. With the increasing density of population and the improvement of rural transportation the country community will each year include a wider area. Gradually the large school will become the prevailing type.
In the meantime, however, we have five million country children in oneteacher schools. The practical problem is, not to give these children a highschool education, but to give them in the schools they now attend a 100 per cent better training than they are now receiving. If we accomplish this improvement we bring about two important results: first, we give the country child a far better education than he now receives; secondly, we hasten the coming of the consolidated school.
But how shall we improve the one-teacher school? We first think of compulsion thru legislative enactments administered by a highly centralized state department of education. Write into our school laws statutes requiring the county system of administration, minimum school terms and teachers' salaries, trained teachers and closer supervision, and you solve the small-school problem.
But it is difficult to get rural communities to live up to rigid state school regulations. The farmer is conservative and the rural school is supported either by local revenues or by state funds appropriated on the per capita basis. The country-school teacher and trustee and more especially the average farmer do not know what constitutes a good school. The first step, therefore, is to raise the educational ideals of the rural community, to carry on a campaign of persuasion and education to the end that local pride may be aroused and the rural community may strive to measure up to the requirements of a good school as set by the state.
The burden of my remarks up to this point is that we must improve the small country school and that the first step and the most effective is standardization. Like all other movements the standard-school movement is open to criticism. But I beg that you do not condemn the movement because of any defect or inconsistency in the plan which excites your attention. You can be a disciple of consolidation and still adhere to standardization. You need not reject the plan because of the difficulties in its administration.
What are the characteristics of a good standardization scheme?
1. The requirements to be met by the rural community must be definite. To illustrate, it will not do to say that the schoolhouse must be "well lighted.” One state uses this expression and even adds, "The light must come from the left and the windows must have adjustable shades.” The
important matter, however, of the ratio of window space to floor space is omitted. Again the expression “attractive interior decorations” is quite prevalent in standardization plans, but what does this expression mean? Many states say, "The attendance must be good.” This requirement should be made still more definite by designating what percentage constitutes good attendance. To show what a stimulating effect standardization may have upon rural teachers, let us note a few of the definite requirements laid down by some of the states. One state requires that a standard school must have a well-cataloged school library containing not less than 100 volumes and including juvenile books. Another state makes supplementary readers and drill cards required items. Wisconsin requires at least four pieces of play apparatus, while Colorado requires a phonograph.
he requirements must be in reach of at least the more progressive rural communities of the state. Colorado rightly gives a credit of eight points for a teachers' residence, but this feature would be impossible of attainment in other states. Kansas requires the teacher of a standard school to be a four-year high-school graduate. In Pennsylvania, where conditions are different, only two years of high-school education is obligatory. There are some requirements, however, such as instruction in domestic science, membership in agricultural clubs, and the teaching of agriculture which should appear in every plan, not as essential, but as entitled to considerable credit. It is our duty to spread in the country schools these new and essential things in modern education.
3. Every standard-school plan must provide for a well-organized propaganda for the spreading of the movement. Not only breakfast foods and chewing gum, but new movements in education must be advertized. Most of the states issue attractive score cards to be prominently displayed on the school walls. Handsome diplomas and door plates are awarded schools placed on the standard lists. A number of the most beautifully illustrated pamphlets issued by state departments deal with the standardization of country schools. This attractive literature, mailed to the remotest sections of the state, arouses great interest and is essential to the success of any plan of standardization.
4. There must be an effective plan for the inspection of schools applying for standardization, and accurate records must be kept of all such schools. The failure to provide for these two things constitutes one of the main objections to standardization. No standardization plan can be a success without adequate office force to keep the records and sufficient field force to see that the schools measure up to requirements while on the standard list. While the state supervisor of rural schools should do considerable field work, the burden of inspection must fall upon the local superintendents and supervisors. All records should be kept by the state department of education.
5. While not essential, it is highly desirable that there should be a special state appropriation to every standard school. In Virginia every oneteacher standard school receives an extra appropriation of $50 out of the one- and two-room special appropriation and every two-teacher school meets ing the standards receives $100. Wisconsin's plan rests upon an appropriation giving special aid to schools which meet statutory requirements. No rural school in Texas can share in the annual appropriation of one million dollars without meeting the requirements laid down by the state, and the 462 schools which in 1916–17 met these requirements received each the handsome bonus of $300 from the state. The hope of sharing in a special state fund is undoubtedly a powerful stimulus to the country community.
In conclusion I submit that this plan of improving the small country 'school has past the experimental stage. It is employed by a large majority of the states, and a composite score card compiled from the several states will give you the standards which the ablest rural school experts in the country have set up for country schools. It has been impossible up to this time to standardize the instruction in these small schools, and herein is a serious defect of the standardization plan. But the standards for the physical part of the school, length of term, salary and training of teachers, enrolment and attendance of pupils, and the curriculum have been made very definite. These things constitute the foundation upon which thoro instruction must rest, and if we can attain these ideals we can well leave to our successors the standardizing of the instruction.
THE COUNTY AS A UNIT OF ORGANIZATION
MAURICE S. H. UNGER, SUPERINTENDENT OF CARROLL COUNTY
SCHOOLS, WESTMINSTER, MD. Probably the most difficult problem for a democracy to solve is that of finding the machinery necessary to administer its affairs adequately and efficiently. As a democracy cannot continue to exist as such unless it grows constantly, it follows that its governmental methods cannot remain dormant and yet continue to serve the purposes for which they were contrived. Thuthruout the history of the growth of democracy we find a constant evolution of new methods and practices developt in order to serve the needs of the body politic.
In the United States schools and the means of education arose as distinctly community undertakings and not as state systems. The development has been from the community outward, and the organization of county and state school systems has come by a gradual grouping together of these community efforts. As the several states have gradually formulated their school laws and systems it has naturally followed that markt differences obtain in methods of organization, support, and administration, as between the different states, and that as the result of this long popular