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South Platte River and Arkansas River valleys with a view to showing conditions as they exist thruout the sugar-beet sections. The records showed that the beet workers mist more than three and one-half times as many days as the other children. In addition to the preponderance of absence, excessive retardation on the part of the beet workers was also found; this was in all probability due entirely to their prolonged absence, for teachers declare that the beet workers would do fully as well in school as the others if they attended as regularly.
A second study was conducted in Kentucky in order to determine approximately to what extent farm work in that state interferes with the attendance of children at the rural schools. The records show that the greatest number of absences of both white and negro children in the first few months of the school term are due to farm work. It is also interesting to note that housework ranks third in responsibility for failure to attend regularly. In the case of the white children farm work and housework occasioned almost as many days of absence as all the other causes combined; in the case of the negro children they caused more.
It is striking that the farm-work absentees are more retarded, both in actual numbers and in proportion, than the other absentees. This is the logical result of the fact that farm work is responsible for more days of absence than any
One might at first be inclined to think that illness as a cause of absence would be just as great a menace to the standing of the child in school as farm work, but this is not the case. Farm workers are more retarded than children who are absent on account of illness, because farm work is steady, while illness is occasional; moreover, farm work occurs year after year, while illness may occur only once. The outstanding fact in all these figures is that farm work interferes with the education of rural children more than any other factor. The compulsory-attendance law is commonly ignored. The consequences in retardation are disastrous alike to the child, to the school, and to the community.
Oklahoma, still predominately a rural state, also presents conditions of interest. From the viewpoint of numbers at least, the rural school is the most important element of the state's educational system, and yet it makes the worst showing. In order to study this question the records of 6389 children were obtained for the past school year; these were about equally divided between the two sexes, 3255 being boys and 3134 girls. These were all white, but include a few Indians, as children of this race attend the white schools and negroes are segregated in others. So far as possible information was gathered concerning land tenure, and the children were divided into groups according to whether their parents owned or rented their places of residence. It was found that of the total number, 3488 were the children of tenants (1812 boys and 1676 girls) and 2499 of home owners (1232 boys and 1217 girls). It is significant that in nearly every county studied
tenants' children outnumber owners' children, while for all the counties the ratio is nearly 3 to 2.
Many of the children who mist school on account of farm work or housework were, of course, absent for other reasons also, such as illness, bad weather, etc., but as 73 per cent of the absences of the "farm workers" due to farm work only, and 62 per cent of those of the "house workers” to housework only, these causes predominate sufficiently in each case to justify the application of these terms. In the totals for all the counties the farm workers and house workers together exceed the figures for all the other groups of children combined, and here one begins to appreciate the extent to which labor interferes with the educational opportunities in rural districts. Of the 1152 boys and girls of migrants, 859 were the children of tenants and only 195 of owners, the land tenure of 81 being unknown. This reveals the comparative extent of moving about among tenants and the consequent interference with education.
Of all the children the farm workers are most retarded, 51.1 per cent of their number being below normal grade on the three-year basis. They are followed by the migrants with 41.1 per cent, and then by the house workers with 36.7 per cent. Fewer than a quarter of the other absentees are retarded, while for the daily attendants the percentage is only 12.6. The daily attendants and the "other absentees" also make the best showing with regard to the numbers ahead and in normal grades, while the farm workers and the migrants are again at the bottom of the list; 95.5 per cent of the daily attendants pass to the higher grades, the other absentees, house workers, farm workers, and migrants, following in the order named.
In comparing the percentages for the tenants' children with those for the owners' children we find that in every group the latter excel the former in progress thru the grades. They have higher percentages ahead, and normal and lower percentages retarded, in all the groups of workers, other absentees, migrants, and daily attendants. Here the advantage of the owner's child over the tenant's child in the struggle to secure an elementary education stands sharply revealed. The workers and migrants are shown to be the chief sufferers and, assuming that they are approximately as well endowed mentally as the other absentees and the daily attendants, we observe the disastrous results of tolerating carelessness and indifference and permitting parents to sacrifice the educational interests of their children to immediate gain.
The simple fact brought out by the study in Oklahoma and other states is that in rural districts the compulsory school-attendance law is commonly ignored. The people acquire land, build and equip schoolhouses, and pay teachers' salaries so that their children may get an elementary education, but this worthy object is largely defeated when the children go to school but little more than half of the brief period during which they are in session. If the people could be made to understand that they are suffering great financial loss thru this carelessness, to say nothing of the moral and educational loss their children sustain, they would doubtless remedy the situation at once. And the first necessary step is to make the compulsory-attendance law apply thruout the school term. The second necessary step, the enforcing of the law, is not less important, but cannot be properly taken until the basis for the organization of rural schools is changed from the district to the county. The members of district school boards are closely acquainted with the few families living within their jusridiction and will not prosecute their friends and neighbors who do not send their children to school regularly. There should be a county board employing a county truancy officer who would not be embarrast in the performance of his duty by personal relations with negligent parents. The state should then require each county to enforce the law, and in the event of any county's failure to do so it should be deprived of all state funds for school purposes.
PART-TIME V. THE SPECIAL TEACHER AS THE ECONOMIC SOLUTION OF THE SPEECH-DISORDER PROBLEM
IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
WALTER B. SWIFT, MEDICAL SUPERVISOR OF SPEECH CLASSES,
FALL RIVER, MASS. We are everywhere met, in the effort to introduce speech correction in public schools, with the idea that only special teachers can do the work. It is easy to see how school boards come by this mistaken idea. Some five or ten years ago a craze for special teachers swept thru the schools of the entire country. These teachers were given the sort of work which could not be accomplisht by the ordinary grade teacher unless she was taken from her grade work and given long training in a definite and prescribed subject. When the problem of speech correction came before the school board, therefore, the most natural thing for it to do was to turn to the special teacher. We in Boston do not approve of this, and the reasons for our disapproval will be stated in this paper.
By the phrase "special teacher" is meant one who gives all her time to a single restricted phase of school work. As a specialist she is of course more expert than the part-time teacher is expected to be. She is entirely removed from grade work, as are also, for the time being, the children who come to her. Because of her specialized training and ability she commands a higher salary than the ordinary grade teacher. The "part-time teacher," on the other hand, is one who, while continuing with her grade teaching, does other work of a specialized nature in addition. She remains a member of the regular teaching staff of the grades. Her remuneration for her special work is less than that which must be paid to the full-time specialist, but yet she is not underpaid, since she draws the ordinary salary of a grade teacher in addition. More important than this, the children whom she teaches in her special classes are not removed from the grades.
It seems to me that these advantages, even if they were all, are sufficient to attract the attention of public-school officials. But this is by no means all that can be said in favor of the part-time teacher. Besides eliminating or alleviating speech disorders, the work in vocal and oral drill has a most salutary effect upon the whole range of school work, especially in those cases in which such drill is given by the grade teacher herself to pupils engaged at the same time in grade work. On the other hand, where the children are taken from the grades during the period of their speech training this general improvement is not found. Indeed their grade work is likely to suffer from the interruption and from the distraction of energy and attention.
In addition it should be kept in mind that the special teacher who spends five hours a day on speech correction alone is doing very hard and monotonous work. It is hard because it is monotonous. Wherever I meet these special teachers I find them complaining that they are overburdened with work. Variety of effort has obvious advantages for teacher and pupils alike. They do all their work far better because of the change introduced by two or three hours a day of vocal drill. Shifting from one brain area to another keeps them alert, prevents fatigue.
The mere fact that she remains in grade work keeps a teacher's standard of mental reaction at a pitch that is of great value to her speech class. The special teacher, in giving up her grade work, loses contact with the normal mentalities of the grades. Instinctive knowledge of the grade standard, a very important and necessary thing in all teaching, she either has not acquired or does not retain.
There is another consideration in favor of the part-time teacher. We shall not always have such a large number of speech-defect cases in the grades. In a few years our methods will have weeded them out to such an extent that there will be none left by the time pupils reach the eighth grade. Then we shall go to work on purely preventive methods. Therefore our field is a gradually diminishing one. We shall not always need the large number of speech teachers required now. The question will then arise, What shall be done with those left over? The special teacher cannot readily be put back into the grades. A part-time teacher, however, can be easily withdrawn at any time, or she can broaden out into other fields if the situation demands.
The special teacher's work is done exclusively with those sent to her for a definite and specific purpose. Naturally these are the "lame ducks," children whose speech is intolerably bad. She gets only the extreme, the desperate, cases. But nearly all children in the lower grades are susceptible of improvement in speech. Shall we do nothing for these? Who is to train those whose speech is moderately good, but not good enough, not excellent? The special teacher never sees these cases, has no time for them. Anyone can see the immense advantage there is in having at least one teacher in every school building who has been sensitized by training to the excellencies and defects of speech-one trained to detect minor faults and to eradicate them. The part-time speech teacher exerts in her own schoolroom an influence for speech improvement which, as her classes come and go year after year, puts its mark upon the speech standards, and therefore on the intellectual standards, of the entire school.
In discussing the pros and cons of this question we must keep in mind the status of speech correction in the years to come. It is growing so important that before long this sort of work will be considered part of every public-school teacher's normal function. The question arises then, Does the special teacher or the part-time teacher play better into the conditions which we may foresee in the future? Clearly the scale tips in favor of the latter. The special teacher can remain only in her separate capacity. Her functions cannot be readily absorbed or transformed when no longer necessary. The part-time teacher, on the contrary, has her grade work as her mainstay. The speech-correction work which she does on the outside is done merely in response to a great but temporary demand. When this abnormal demand ceases she will return to her grade work again and there maintain her high speech standards. She is therefore the natural link in the evolution of events leading to the time when all teachers will be more or less engaged in speech correction.
There are many superintendents who hesitate to instal departments of speech correction merely on account of the expense. A few figures will suggest an easy solution. Two years ago in the city of Lynn two parttime speech teachers were set to work, with a total increase in salary of about $500. If a special teacher had been engaged, her salary would have been about $1200 a year. Last year in Fall River three teachers were set to work on speech-defect cases with an increase of $100 each in salary. This meant a saving, as compared with the cost to the city of a single special teacher, of about $900. I consider that no group of schools is too poor to instal speech correction where it is needed, provided the problem is approacht in the proper manner.
There is real need, of course, for special teachers in fields more isolated from ordinary school work than this of speech correction, such as the work with the feeble-minded and that in physical culture, neither of which can ever be taken into the regular grade work and maintained there as the higher ideals of grade work demand. The case with speech correction is quite different. The training is different, the application of it is different, and these differences require a different approach.
In summary I may say then that the nature of this work itself, the tendency of speech-defect cases to diminish in number under treatment as the years go by, the self-evident fact that this work should percolate thru all