Page images

evolution, influenst so materially by the individualistic thinking of our people, conditions of organization and administration that are by no means ideal obtain in various states.

Briefly stated there are in existence three distinct types of organization: (1) the district, (2) the town or township, and (3) the county. As this paper claims the county system to be far superior for administrative purposes, it will first undertake to sketch briefly the main outlines of the other two and attempt to show that both are out of touch with the drift of administrative practice in the domain of education.

I believe that the school district is today the greatest anomaly in American public education. It had its place and its use historically considered in American growth and a great purpose in the evolutionary processes of the upbuilding of this great nation, but today “it is a democracy gone to seed, a worthless inheritance from Massachusetts," long discarded by her and, as one of her most distinguisht sons has said, “the greatest blunder in the whole history of educational legislation.” Superintendent Cassidy speaks of the system as follows:

Because of the absence of a central controlling body, such as a county board of education, and the responsibility consequent to such a body the schoolhouses are the merest sheds; equipments are makeshifts or are wholly lacking; there are perhaps six months of learning and certainly six of forgetting; the selection of teachers is in the hands of men who have little or no conception of what a teacher should be; competency and teaching ability do not assute stability of position; and supplementary aid is regarded as extortion.

The second or township system is an improved modification of the former. It insures centralization of management, consolidation of equipment, resources, and facilities, less expense, and more efficiency. Its chief result is to better the conditions of education for the community. Under this system, when carried to its ultimate conclusion, the township will constitute one district with one board of education, a central high school, and as many primary or ward schools as are needed at properly located points in the township and all under expert supervision both pedagogically and financially. This system also guarantees the services of a higher order of school trustees, since the increast responsibility under the township plan leads the people themselves to be more particular with respect to the professional interest and intelligence of the men selected for these positions.

The third or county system of school organization had its origin in the states south of the Mason and Dixon line. Here the district system could not thrive in the early days, since plantations were large and homes far apart; the colored population was not an educational factor, and the children of the whites could afford tutors or private schools. The county therefore became the civil unit and the county seat the center of the political life of the people. When the public school became a necessity its control in view of the absence of districts, in part at least, was placed under the care of a central board with more or less general power to administer thruout the county. This system has developt variously in the several southern states.

In recent years Maryland has been one of the foremost in the passage of social and industrial laws, and it has been the crowning act of this state to place on its statute books the most comprehensive and ideal educational administrative law in the United States without compromise or limitation. This educational code adopts the county as the unit of organization, but subjects the county organization to the control of the state board of education, whose executive officer is the state superintendent of schools.

Maryland has always had a county organization of its school system, but the system failed to secure the full benefits of such an adaptation because there was not complete coordination between the working parts.

After a survey of the state by the general education board and a report of its findings, the legislature in 1916 past a law correcting the abuses of the system, consolidated great power in the hands of the state superintendent, and only a little less in that of the county superintendent, at the same time freeing them from the dictation and interference of local politics, making the boards of education non-partisan and consolidating the power of school administration entirely in the hands of the superintendent and the board of education, thus removing the last remnant of the old district system from the state of Maryland.

Ideally the general purpose to be served by a county board of education is to assist the county superintendent in carrying out his educational policies and in the performance of the work necessary to operate the general educational system of the state. It can approve or disapprove rather than initiate legislation. This thorogoing county organization of the school system of Maryland is all but unique, and offers splendid possibilities to the educational leader. It is common in all sections of this country for the urban communities to have separate school systems, each under its own administrative and supervising officers. As a result of this the county superintendent is usually little more than an executive clerk with merely nominal supervision over a few small districts, or he is perhaps in charge of a purely rural community which is unable to do much for itself. It is easy to see then why relative feebleness and inefficiency should exist in a large proportion of school systems outside of cities of at least moderate size, and why ordinarily the drift of the more efficient professional people is toward the cities. Yet the education of these village and rural communities is a matter of vital importance from every point of view, a prime factor in the much discust problem of rural life.

Now in Maryland the county-unit system of organization provides the strength of union. By uniting in one system all the rural and urban communities of a large county ranging from rural districts and small villages to cities of 10,000 to 40,000 inhabitants, public education rests upon a vastly stronger basis financially and socially. It becomes possible to provide for each of these communities expert professional service much beyond what it could pay for alone. Thus it becomes possible to extend to the country child the exceptional opportunities enjoyed by the city child, to develop urban organization and efficiency in rural districts, and to give assistance where assistance is most needed. The flexibility and elasticity of a city organization becomes readily adaptable to the rural communities when the county is the unit of organization. In the distribution of funds no regard need be paid to the amount raised by any district or ward, but the total fund in hand is distributed according to the necessities of the community determined by the number of children to be educated. The same salary schedule, the same degree of efficiency in supervision, the same expert assistance, the same courses of professional reading, the same course of study, textbooks, and supplies, the same length of school terms, are provided for the country as for the town or city schools.

In all lines of human effort the tendency is strongly toward combination and centralization to the end that more effective work may be done and details more definitely planned and executed. In the county superintendency we have the beginnings of a complete and effective system of organization. The county division existing in all states lends itself to the elimination of politics, to efficiency, to equal opportunity for all, to expert supervision and control, to elimination of petty neighborhood dissensions, and to a far more efficienct means of directing public sentiment to better ends. This ideal system has been adopted by the state of Maryland, and is now in process of inauguration. Prominent features of the law are:

1. A distribution of the state school fund to each county based upon the average attendance.

2. The power of the board of education to compel the county authorities to levy for school purposes up to a maximum rate on each hundred dollars of taxable property.

3. A compulsory attendance for all children from seven to sixteen.

4. Certification of teachers by uniform state examination and certificates issued by state superintendent.

5. A school census. 6. Provision for adequate school supervising forces. 7. Minimum qualification for teachers, and minimum salary schedule for all grades. 8. A minimum length of school term of nine months.

9. State regulation of courses of study, of approved high schools, and of plans and construction of buildings and improvements.

10. A county budget.

The qualifications, duties, and powers of the county superintendent are interesting under this law. He must be especially trained for the work; he must be a college graduate with postgraduate preparation in administration and supervision in a recognized university, and he can be eligible to the appointment then only after he receives a certificate from the state superintendent of schools. He must devote his full time exclusively to the duties of his office and see that the school laws, the by-laws and policies of the state board of education, and the rules and regulations of the county board are carried into effect.

He must also visit all schools several times a year and supervise and direct the work in the schools either directly or thru the supervisors. He must organize and direct teachers' training classes and conferences, local institutes for teachers and citizens, reading centers, and take a leading interest in the educational uplift movements of his county.

The superintendent also has direct control over the whole system, issues all certificates to teach and supervise, passes on all building plans, interprets the school law, and is the final court of appeal in disputed cases that arise in administration.

This law has now been in effect nearly two years, and while there is more or less agreement that a few minor changes might be advantageously made there is a nearly universal unanimity thruout the state of Maryland that the new law has past thru its experimental stage and the possibilities of a county-unit system have been recognized and utilized to their full capacity, and the public generally has come to feel that this state has taken a step forward in the educational field. The adaptations of the county unit in Maryland to educational administration is an upward step in the evolution of a democracy in its attempt to adjust itself to proper growth and progress.



ROSWELL, N.M. For several years there has been a growing conviction among the citizens of our great country that the general welfare of its citizenship bears a direct ratio to its educational progress. The increase in general interest in every phase of public education for the past ten years especially has been marvelous and the substantial progress in all phases of educational endeavor has been phenomenal.

While the advancement being made is very encouraging the ideal has not been attained, and will not or cannot be attained until the public school is so developt, organized, and administered that it will be able to train all the children and all the people of the community. Here we probably find the beginning of the important movement in American education---the effort to continue school instruction thruout the entire life of the citizen.

To make the educational system more efficient has been a stupendous task. The Department of the Interior thru its Bureau of Education is waging a nation-wide campaign for better rural schools and for the improvement of rural life. There seems to be a unanimity of opinion that something should be done to solve this rural problem. Observant students of education have differed as to the policies or solutions suggested, but wholly agree upon the essentials. All are agreed that one urgent need in developing an efficient system is increast financial support; while many believe that trained teachers, standards and requirements with reference to school buildings, grounds and equipment, attendance of pupils, medical inspection, longer terms, consolidation, good roads, and many other matters which time forbids mentioning, are necessary.

This brings me to that phase of my subject of rural community advancement which deals with the rural school as a social center.

Within the twenty minutes allotted each speaker I cannot hope to do more than barely refer to the many excellent results brought about by the community-center movement and shall have to confine myself to the educational and social phases of this vital educational movement of the presentday rural school. This movement must concern itself with translating the work of the school into the language of the home and the community thru the agency of the rural school. The twentieth-century rural school must be properly organized as an efficient unit in the economic plan for rural betterment so that its effect shall be emphatically exprest in terms of betterprepared and happier citizens in the country with an education which they can use, not alone for profit, but for pleasure.

Along with the home, church, and state-the primary social and economic elements—the school has taken its place as the most potent factor, and the rural school is one of the most promising fields in which to make social and economic work effective. It has the vantage-ground on account of being the common meeting-place of the community where all are considered upon an equal basis from the standpoint of democratic principles, right, and justice.

American people demand social life, and you know the conditions of our rural life in many cases. Hard work and the struggle for existence crowd out social life. The young people have few, if any, social relations. They leave the farm because they believe that the conception which lies behind it is forever opposed and uncongenial to the spirit of youth, for to that spirit life is the ever-paramount feature. The people are not brought together frequently enough to establish that sympathy and love so necessary to overcome those petty jealousies which creep into the community life. Farmers have abandoned their farms and agricultural progress has failed to keep pace with growth in population and with progress in other industries because the rural school has heretofore failed to determine and meet the educational and social needs of the rural people. But we hail with great pleasure the dawning of the new day in the life of the rural school and the rural community; and today we are realizing as never before that the time is past when the schoolhouse was intended merely for children, and we see it fast becoming the most important center in the entire community. Truly the school has become the social opportunity of the centuries, and we seize the occasion to transform this work which makes one of the big

« PreviousContinue »