Page images
PDF
EPUB

for efficiency. When a democracy earnestly demands efficiency in its servants, it has outgrown the swaddling-clothes of theory and is coming to years of discretion. It is plain to any careful observer that this demand for efficiency is now widespread in this country, and is by no means confined to the schools alone. It is heard in respect of the civil service, of the army, of governmental functions of all sorts. Why is there such widespread inefficiency in public school administration ? There is little or no actual dishonesty there; there is abundant earnestness; there is not a little skilled experience and special training. Only one answer is possible. The inefficiency is the result of the crystallization into system of traditions as to school government which are abreast neither of modern administrative machinery nor of the present condition of education itself. It is required nowadays that the machinery of education be simple, that power and discretion be definitely located, in order that responsibility may be promptly and justly fixed. It is required that legislative functions be sharply distinguished from executive, that matters needing professional knowledge and experience for their proper disposition be intrusted to professional hands, and that the pressure of party pull and private push be relieved in all possible ways by statutory provisions. The long but successful struggle to establish these conditions in New York, in the midst of great difficulties and against overwhelming odds, opened a new era. School reformers everywhere took courage, and there can be no question that the principles I have named will before long be established, no matter under what variety of detail, in every large city in the land.

During the year the storm-center of this disturbance has been over the city of Chicago. There the history of the New York movement is being repeated. A wholly admirable plan of reform has been outlined and formally proposed, and it has met with defeat at the hands of those who have most to gain from its adoption. It will be brought forward again, and perhaps again be defeated. It will be brought forward a third time, and then the fight will be won. When the modern, scientifically ordered system is in operation, those who are now resisting it so stoutly will marvel at the strength of the illusion which influenced them in so doing. In my judgment the report of the educational commission of the city of Chicago is the most exhaustive and the most authoritative contribution that has been made to the literature of city-school administration, and is the one quite indispensable book of reference on the subject. I regard its conclusions and recommendations as almost unassailable, whether viewed from the standpoint of theory or from that of practice. It is a model of painstaking study and of scientific method. That it bears, as the first signature attached to it, that of a member of this Council is a source of pride to us all.

In this movement for the improvement of the conditions attending

[ocr errors]

municipal school administration, it seems to me that two serious departures have been made from sound principles; and I am bold enough to predict. that, unless corrected, their practical working will in time prove disas, trous. One of these departures is that contained in the law governing the city of Milwaukee,' by the provisions of which the appointment of members of the school board is intrusted to a bi-partisan commission of four, who are in turn named by the mayor. This is, on its face, a device for devolving the power of designating members of the school board upon a semi-judicial body removed one stage from the heated controversies of party politics. In reality, however, it interposes an authority between the school board and the mayor, who alone can be held directly responsible by the voters for his school-board appointments; and, by attaching the bi-partisan principle to the constitution of the intermediate board, it suggests and rather emphasizes the fact that party politics should be considered in making school-board appointments. The Milwaukee law has other defects of detail, but this provision I believe to be a serious departure from sound principle, and one which should nowhere be imitated.

The second instance which I have in mind is contained in the new charter for San Francisco, soon to go into operation. Here we find two thoroly bad principles combined in one scheme: a bi-partisan school board and a paid school board, the members of which are required by law to give their entire time to the duties of their office. This is not only a departure from uniform American practice, but it is in flat contradiction to the principle which demands that the school board shall legislate only, and that all executive duties shall devolve upon professional officers. The city superintendent is to sit in the San Francisco school board, as in that of New York, without the right to vote, but his legitimate duties are apparently to be divided with the paid school board, so that either confusion and inefficiency or trading and practical "deals" may be expected to follow. There is no excuse for a paid school board in an American city. Such a board can only be given work enough to occupy it by stripping the superintendent, the supervisors, the principals, and the business officers of the school system of their just powers and responsibilities. The ideal member of a school board is the representative professional man or man of affairs, who understands and reflects public sentiment, who is accustomed to act promptly on matters of large concern and with a broad outlook, and who will bring to problems of school policy and to the consideration of the recommendations of the professional officers of the board a mature, well-balanced judgment and an unbiased care for the highest public interest. Such men will not serve for pay, nor will they — nor should they-give all their time to the business of the schools. The San Francisco innovation is, I feel sure, a bad one. It is

[ocr errors]

1 Statutes of Wisconsin, 1897, chap. 186, sec. 2.

to be regretted, too, that the adoption of a new charter was not made the occasion for doing away with the custom of electing the superintendent of schools by the voters at a municipal election, a custom peculiar to San Francisco and to Buffalo, and one which of necessity introduces into the choice of a superintendent influences and considerations which should never have a place there.

Despite these important exceptions, however, the general movement for improved city-school administration has gone forward rapidly and in the right direction. The tendency to intrust professional duties to professional men and women, and to protect them from political or personal influence in their exercise, is uppermost. That hotbed of politics and jobbery, the local committee system, is being done away with. The principal is emerging as a school official whose powers should be increased and his influence recognized. The great body of the teaching force, always suspicious of change and usually opposed to it, is gradually coming to see that the new administrative scheme means for them increased freedom from deadening routine, from outside pressure and influence, and that it makes for the power, the dignity, and the professional upbuilding of the teacher himself. In all these respects the year has been distinctly one of progress.

Let me turn, now, to the events of the year in the three great culturenations whose life and thought most nearly touch and affect our own. One cannot help being struck by the fact that the long-delayed awakening of England to her educational duty and her educational opportunity is an accomplished fact. To begin with, it is important to know that we have now an authoritative book to turn to for accurate information regard. ing the organization of the many and diverse educational agencies which exist in England, and which puzzle so sorely the American student. This is Mr. Graham Balfour's Educational Systems of Great Britain and Ireland,' published during the year. The English Educational Review has been revived, after a period of suspension, and two new journals of importance are trying their wings; these are The School World, devoted to secondary education, and The Paidologist - may it long survive its name !— having the study of children for its field, and gladly recognizing American influences in describing its origin and purpose.

I am most struck by the fact that the American college, as now con: stituted with its classical and its scientific courses side by side, is the type toward which there is a well-developed movement in England, an easily recognizable one in France, and a noticeable, tho as yet blind and unorganized, one in Germany. This is the meaning of the municipal colleges which are rapidly increasing in strength in England, and attracting to themselves new sources of support. Of these, Owens College, Manchester, is the best equipped, but University College, Liverpool,

1Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898. 320 pp. 7s. 6d.

merce.

[ocr errors]

claims attention, particularly in America, because of its brilliant efforts to work out the problem of an academic organization in close relation to the needs of a great modern municipality. For example, it is at University College, Liverpool, that the first higher school of commerce has been established in Great Britain. It has many points of likeness with the collegiate course in commerce which is to be established in New York by Columbia University, thru the co-operation of the Chamber of Com.

The new Midland University, to be established at Birmingham, largely thru the efforts of Mr. Chamberlain, has already received a generous gift from Mr. Andrew Carnegie, and is to devote much attention to applied science, and to commercial and technical subjects. Not much progress can be reported relative to the teaching university for London. The statutory commission is hard at work upon plans for it, and some sources of opposition to the scheme seem to be disappearing. The Reading College, whose rapid growth and excellent work have just led to its affiliation to Oxford University, is really a demonstration of the vitality of the university-extension movement in England, for it is in a sense the product of that movement.

Oxford and Cambridge are still institutions apart, with peculiar relations to the church and to the class from which England's rulers have mainly been drawn. How long they will retain their prestige is, however, a matter of conjecture, for democracy is sweeping all before it in England, and the two older universities have not smiled either upon it or upon the new educational movement. It is not impossible that there will be a rude awakening one day for Oxford and Cambridge. Meanwhile, they are sadly in need of funds, for the long period of agricultural depression has cut down their income very greatly. Just now, happily, Oxford has received some large donations for the scientific library (Radcliffe) and to establish the readership in psychology to which Mr. Stout, the editor of Mind, has been appointed. Cambridge has made a public appeal for funds, and the response is encouraging, owing in large measure to the influence of the Duke of Devonshire, chancellor of the university.

The movement to bring some order out of the chaos of secondary education, to fix standards, and to make provision for proper oversight, goes slowly but steadily on. As everyone knows, the problems having their origin in secondary education are those which have most engaged the attention of students of education in England for some time past. The time has now come when actual legislation seems near at hand. But the complications, social, economic, ethical, and religious, are very great, and extreme caution in framing a measure for enactment into law which will command unqualified support, is necessary. The country may be congratulated that at such a juncture the office of lord president of the council, to which falls the mair. parliamentary responsibility in the matter, is held by so judicious and so experienced a statesman as the Duke of

Devonshire. He has already indicated the steps which seem to him important. The first is to form a competent central authority, so organized as to be able to guide educational opinion without coercing it. This is what the pending board of education bill proposes. If established, this board of education will take the place of the existing central authorities for England and Wales. It is believed that the bill will become a law.

During the year a valuable mine of information has appeared in a parliamentary paper giving the results of an inquiry into the work and equipment of a selected list of secondary and of high-grade elementary schools, the purpose being to throw light upon the relations which exist, and those which should exist, between elementary and secondary education. Despite the many and perplexing aspects of the question, peculiar to English conditions, it is safe to predict that the more this matter is studied, the more clearly will it appear that there is no field or definite line between elementary and secondary education, but that the one fades gradually and insensibly into the other. It is apparent that what hides this fact from English view is the existence of certain economic and social distinctions which do not enter into the same problem as it exists in the United States.

The wisest observers are agreed that, as to elementary education, the outlook in England is anything but satisfactory. This is in large measure due to the fact that public opinion, when not wholly apathetic, is sorely divided as to a number of fundamental principles, which have long since established themselves securely in the United States. For this reason, perhaps, it is not infrequently said that an educational crisis is approaching in England, and Mr. Gladstone's prophecy that home politics for the next few years will center largely about education may on the point of fulfillment. While it is true that large numbers of men and women in England are enthusiastic advocates of educational advance, yet it is also true that they have no formulated policy to urge, and that there are opposed to them not a few influential critics who doubt whether the work done in the elementary schools is in any true sense educational, and who believe that the nation cannot bear the crushing weight of the cost of making education universal and adequate. As a high authority writes in a personal letter: “Puzzlement, plus a crude idea of the essential importance of education, accompanied by a readiness to spend money in great masses rather than to devote some hard thinking to the problems at issue, may be taken as a rough diagnosis of the present state of English public opinion on elementary education."

As in the United States, so in England, the rural-school problem presents difficulties of its own. There the economic and taxing aspects of the question are quite as important as the purely educational. Nor do the resulting differences of opinion follow the usual party lines. Many

be

« PreviousContinue »