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of words which have been selected by some far-away genius and laid away in blocks in a spelling-book whose orthography is to be learned for future use. No plan of work could be more illogical, wasteful of time, and inadequate in results. Hence, we are obliged to chronicle as one of the changes of the closing years of this century the “passing” of the spelling-book.
The change of attitude on the part of high schools toward composition and English literature, or more properly literature in Eng. lish, is very significant. This has doubtless been the result to a certain degree of changes in requirements for college entrance. Grammar rules and definitions, parsing, analyzing, and diagraming will not pass muster at the college door. Ability to write a good composition, fair as to thought and correct as to expression, is the demand. The high schools demand, and rightfully, that correctness of expression be secured in the grammar schools, in order that their work may be devoted to the thought element of composition and elegance of style. In line with this desire, and in furtherance of it, the high school study of literature is coming to have a new meaning; not studying the lives of authors and what somebody else has said about their writings but the studying of the writings themselves in wholes, and many of them. In a word, it is the study of literature and not about literature.
As already indicated, the other great disturber of the educational peace during late years has been science. It would be hard to tell where the disturbance began, or when, but it would be a dull place indeed to which it has not reached within the past ten years. Looking at it from the college standpoint, the text-book and lecture-room were found utterly inadequate to the proper teaching of science, whether physical or biological. The working laboratory for students was added, and each man had in a degree to work out his own experiments and researches. The awkwardness of students in handling apparatus and their inability in matters of observation made painfully apparent the defects of the high school preparation. Something different was demanded by colleges, and their demands have been more than met by the high schools. In fact, it may have been the high schools which took the lead. This matters not. The changes which the past ten years have wrought in science teaching are wonderful indeed. Ten years ago there were probably not a dozen high schools in the country in which laboratory work in science was done by students. Now there are hundreds of them. In 1889 Chicago acquired its first high school laboratory by annexation. To-day every one of its twelve high schools has one, two, or even three laboratories. The Hyde Park High School. recently completed, has an outfit for science-teaching superior to that of half the colleges in the United States. Every projector of a high school building, even in small villages, considers the laboratory essential. At the same time, the demands of geology and of botany for field study have been just as imperative and the results correspondingly intelligent. These are certainly magnificent changes, and they are working wonders in the cause of science.
But what of the primary and grammar schools? That natural history ought to be introduced into the primary schools at the very beginning and continue through the grammar schools is generally conceded by intelligent teachers. That simple experiments in natural philosophy and chemistry are just as suitable for these same schools, is also true, and, therewith, the study of natural phenomena and their causes; and this contention is, not only because of the tremendous advantage to the pupils who continue in high school but because nature study is the best possible study for the children, the richest in thought-content, and, consequently, the most developing. It is their birthright, and how shall you and I excuse ourselves if we keep them from it?
There may be one excuse for us—that is, our ignorance. Here is nature all around us, with its phenomena, plant life and animal life on every hand; earth-history carved in every gully and every hillock, piled in every sand-heap and strewn on every shore. We see it not; know it not; read it not. How can we teach it? It is ignorance of subject-matter that stands in the way of elementary scienceteaching to-day, and that alone. The text-book study has left us so helpless. The attitude of the teachers is splendid, even in Chicago -fool-talk of the newspapers to the contrary notwithstanding; and almost everywhere an honest effort is pushing forward. Nature study is well established in thousands of primary schools, and is gaining ground every day as teachers are finding out something to teach. In the grammar schools, the movement is slower, and there is a break between the primary and high schools. An adjustment is at hand, or will be with the new geography. God speed the day!
Prior to 1880 the basis of promotion in public schools was almost universally a test or final examination in which the dead line between success and failure was a fixed per cent. Seventy-four, with a good record, meant failure; seventy-five, with no better record, meant success. In fact, the record had nothing to do with it. I think it was in 1881 that George Howland announced to Chicago principals that pupils would thereafter be admitted to high school on their recommendation, and that alone. After regaining their breath, the principals prophesied various disaster's to the schools, and went off to think it over. Within two years it was evident that Mr. Howland had executed a master-stroke. It was the greatest official act of his long and successful superintendener. So far as I know, it was the first of its kind in any large city. Examinations for grade pro
motions were gradually abolished in all of the best schools. How generally Mr. Howland's action has been adopted by other cities I cannot say, but I know that it has by many. I believe the examination test has been modified where it has not entirely given place to more rational means for determining promotion. The question involved is a very serious one, but I cannot take your time to discuss it fully. It seems plain, however, to me, that the person best qualified to judge of a child's ability to go on is his teacher. If the teacher is in doubt, the principal, who should know individually every child in school, may aid in the decision. To say that any other test is necessary is a travesty on common sense.
Cramming for examinations is the most vicious of all school practices. It impairs the health and depraves the mind. The anxiety of the few weeks preceding "the final" is terrible on the highlystrung nervous temperaments; and all the more so the farther removed the examining power. Suppose a case:
Suppose a case: A city has some grammar schools and a high school. It has an excellent corps of teachers. Each school has a competent principal. The city has an able superintendent, with possibly an assistant or two. The eighthgrade pupils are nearly ready for high school. The eighth-grade teachers are the best in the city, but they cannot determine who shall go to high school. The principals cannot. The superintendent cannot. All together cannot pass children from their own grammar schools to their own high schools. Somewhere, far away from this city, there is an examining board to determine this vital question. Its members are wise men, but they know nothing of the children they are to examine. Days and weeks are spent in special preparation for the great board examination. No effort is made to finish subjects broadly, grandly, or to make the closing recitations inspiring and memorable in showing relations, making deductions, and generalizations not before noticed. Oh, no! The aim is to teach what will probably be asked for, and the possibility of this question, that, or the other, with the answer that would suit the examiners, is kept constantly before the children. As a last finishing-touch the teachers are directed to take sets of old questions already given by the board and teach them. This is done, reaching back for years, on the theory that history must repeat itself and that history includes examiners. The examination is taken, and later the pupils of a school are assembled to hear results read from a platform, to the glorification of the winners and to the utter humiliation of the poor children who fail to pass. Need I say what I think of"this sort of thing? Is it good sense, good pedagogy, justice to childhood, or common humanity? What is the ideal thus set up as the end and aim of school life and school study? To pass the examination, to be sure; and that any practices that will insure this success are justifiable—a most degrading sentiment for American teachers. Mar the Lord have mercy on the souls of children committed to the tender mercies of a percentage factory." The tendency is against this sort of thing, but it clings tenaciously in many otherwise intelligent communities.
One of the most pleasing and valuable of all of the changes that have come about in the last ten years is the more cordial relation between sections of our school system. The primary and grammar schools as one, the high school as another, and the college as another, have stood isolated and unsympathetic. There was little of communication or relation between them, except when the colleges berated the high schools for lack of preparation, and the high schools berated the grammar schools. All this is changing. In looking for lack of preparation, college-men look beyond the high schools to the grammar, and even to the primary schools. And this is sound and logical; but it is not with the same old fault-finding spirit. There goes with it a desire for helpfulness and sympathy utterly unknown a few years ago. At a recent meeting of the Illinois State Teachers' As. sociation there were present from the state university ten or fifteen of its professors, including the president, taking part in all of the discussions, whether primary, grammar school, high school, or college. There were also present five other college or university presidents and how many professors I do not know; but I believe it safe to say that there was a greater per cent of college-men, as compared to the whole number in the state, than of any other class of teachers. Such an element at a state meeting ten years ago, or even five years ago, was unknown in the country.
The pioneer in this magniticent change, the man who has done most to bring about an intelligent feeling of sympathy between the colleges and the lower schools, both by his manly criticism of those schools and by his splendid suggestions in the way of improvement, is that prince among college-men, President Eliot of Harvard College. His meetings with the grammar and high school men of New Eng. land and their sharp discussions have been read the country over. President Eliot was in a position to command a hearing, and fortu. nately he has had much to say about the public schools, and he has said it magnificently. How he has argued and plead for the enrichment of the primary and grammar school courses, and how terrible the need! President Eliot's views have not been generally adopted by any means by the grammar school men of the country, but there are very few of them whose views have not been modified by what President Eliot has advocated. He has done that best of all things, either in the matter of education or any other institution. He has set men to the defense of their practices, and in this de. fense comes careful, earnest thought, and it is rare, indeed, that it is
not followed by some reconstruction. For this we have to thank President Eliot.
Another most significant change which is slowly moving forward is that of making teachers accountable to the superintendent or to the principal. Every business of large magnitude in the country recognizes the importance of placing the responsibility for any particular part of that business in the hands of one man or one woman. A railroad or bank in which each member of the board of directors was more or less a superintendent would be laughed to scorn, and its management would have but one outcome-utter failure. The same is true in schools. For the school system of any village or any city, so far as the instruction and the work of the teachers is concerned, one man or one woman should be responsible. Take any body of teachers who are now responsible to Tom, Dick, and Harry on the board of education, who are exercising what is called a "pull" to keep their places, in whose appointment relationship, friendship, or politics cut a large figure; remove all these unsavory influences, make this body of teachers directly responsible to an efficient superintendent, let them know that their continuance in the schools depends solely upon the efficiency of their work as judged by this superintendent, and the effectiveness of the schools in which they work will be more than doubled in one year. This is universal experience, and I am glad, indeed, to say that the placing of this responsibility in the hands of superintendents is on the increase even in the Eastern States. A New England school board usually has a realizing sense of where to find a summation of earthly wisdom up to the date of its appointment, but the Boston school board has, within the past year, and for the first time, concluded that its members should be something besides a pack of official busybodies, constantly meddling with and effectually preventing any effective work of their superintendent; and we congratulate the Boston schools. All are watching with intense interest the reform movement in New York City, as it shall affect the schools, and the fate of the proposed law to make the superintendent the center of power and responsibility. The action taken by this splendid city of Cleve. land some years ago stands as an object-lesson to the other cities of America, and your schools to-day are the strongest possible justification of the action. The whole law in a nutshell should be: Every teacher responsible to the superintendent alone; the superintendent, and he alone, responsible for the schools.
Politics in every form-hands off!.
The newcomers that have fought their way into our education since 1880 are the kindergarten and manual training, and a right royal fight they have had of it. The opposition in these cases has come from teachers, keen and strong, but blind to the truth-and