« PreviousContinue »
ecution; which affords to every citizen whose interests are ignored, or whose rights are invaded, a place for complaint and redress; and which puts the business interests upon a business footing, the teaching upon an expert basis, and gives to the instruction that protection and encouragement which is vital to the development of all professional and scientific work.
We have undertaken to indicate the general principles which we think should be observed in setting up the framework of government of a large city school system. While we have no thought that any precise form of organization which could be suggested would, in all details, be imperative, we are confident that the form or plan of organization is of supreme consequence, and that any which disregards the principles we have pointed out will work to disadvantage or lead to disaster.
ANDREW S. DRAPER,
W. B. POWELL,
A. B. POLAND,
I find myself in general accord with the doctrines of the report. There is only one feature of it from which I feel obliged to dissent, and that is an important though not necessarily a vital one. I refer to the office of school director. I see no need of such an officer elected by the people, and I do see the danger of his becoming a part of the political organization for the dispensation of patronage.
All power and authority in school affairs should reside ultimately in the board of education, consisting of not more than eight persons appointed by the mayor of the city, to hold office four years, two members retiring annually and eligible for reappointment once and no more. This board should appoint as its chief officer a superintendent of instruction, whose tenure should be during good behavior and efticiency, and whose powers and duties should be to a large extent defined by statute law, and not wholly or chiefly by the regulations of the board of education. The superintendent of instruction should have a seat and voice but not a vote in the board of education. The board of education should also appoint a business agent, and define his powers and duties in relation to all matters of buildings, repairs, and supplies, substantially as set forth in the report in relation to the school director.
All teachers should be appointed and annually reappointed or recommended by the superintendent of instruction, until after a sufficient probation they are appointed on a tenure during good behavior and efficiency.
All matters relating to courses of study, text-books, and examinations should be left to the superintendent and his assistants, constituting a body of professional experts who should be regarded as alone competent to deal with such matters, and should be held accountable therefor to the board of education only in a general way, and not in particular details.
EDWIN P. SEAVER, Superintendent of Schools, Boston, Mass.
I concur in the recommendations of the sub-committee on the or. ganization of city school systems as summarized in the concluding portion of the report, omitting in item 3 the words "And that it be constituted of two branches acting against each other.” Omit in item 5, “but we think it preferable that he be chosen in the same way that members of the board are chosen and be given veto power upon the acts of the board.” I recommend that the veto power be given to the president of the board.
ALBERT G. LANE, Superintendent of Schools, Chicago, Ill.
E. E. WHITE, Columbus, Ohio.-I consent to open the discussion with the distinct understanding that I am in no way passing judgment upon the organization of the schools of any particular city. The fact that I had official relations to the somewhat radical reform in school administration in Cincinnati, which prepared the way for the still more radical reform in Cleveland, enables me to appreciate the value of the service which this city is rendering the cause of education in the direction of needed reforms in school organization in cities. The auspicious inauguration of this radical reform in Cleveland is an assurance that other cities will soon profit by its example. This city is to be congratulated on its happy choice of a man for school director who has so wisely discharged the extraordinary duties of his office, especially in the choice of men to fill the important position of superintendent of instruction.
It is the purpose of the very able report to which we have just listened to present an ideal organization of the schools of large cities under normal conditions. It does not assume, as I take it, to indicate what school organization is best fitted to meet the emergencies of a revolution in school affairs. School systems, as a rule,
have a history back of them; but it sometimes happens that a city wisely rebels against its past experience in school administration and sets up a new organization in order to cure evils no longer tolerable. It is evident that a school organization best fitted to meet such abnormal conditions may not be the best possible for cities under normal conditions.
What, then, is the best possible organization of the schools of a large city? The report clearly presents the facts and the principles which enter into the problem, and if I had the liberty to strike out a few sentences, I could approve heartily the organization recommended. The report presents two sound and fruitful principles of school organization, to wit:
1. The separation of the legislative and executive functions of school administration. This principle is the basis of any efficient legislation, and its embodiment, in some practical form, is the first step in the needed reform in school organization.
2. The separation of the executive function into two distinct departments.the business and the pedagogic,-each in charge of an officer clothed by law with the authority and the responsibility requisite for the highest efficiency. This principle is scarcely less vital than the preceding one.
(1) The legislative function, including the general direction of the schools, should be vested by state law in a body composed of representatives of the people, and I know no better appellation for such a body than the “Board of Education." It is my belief that this board of education should have full authority and responsibility within its legitimate functions, and so I would omit the recommendation of the report that another body or person should have the power to veto its acti
therwise are its necessary authority and responsibility. The board of education should represent and be responsible to the people in all school legislation.
The report is in accord with experience in the recommendation that the board of education should be a comparatively small body-to be composed of five to fifteen members. It certainly should not be composed of more than twenty members. Whether the members of the board shall be elected by the people directly, or be appointed by some officer as the mayor, depends much on the size of the city and other local conditions. The one fact to be remembered in all school legislation is, that we are living under a republican or representative form of government, in which all legislative power emanates from the people. It is not worth while to attempt to divorce the schools from their control. The problem is, how to give the people the fullest possible control, and the ward politicians the least possible opportunity to come between the people and their purpose to have good schools-their vital interest.
(2) The report is correct in recommending that there be a clear distinction made between the legitimate duties of the board of education and those executive duties which experience shows that no board can efficiently or wisely discharge. The executive duties involved in school administration should be intrusted to two independent officers,—a business manager or director and a superintendent of instruction, and the duties of these officers should not only be properly co-ordinated, but the authority and general duties of each should be clearly defined by state law, not by the rules of the board of education. The duties of these two executive officers are well stated in the report, but I would add more specifically that the superintendent should not only have the appointment and assignment of teachers, and the supervision of instruction, but he should also be responsible for the course of study, and, to this end, should have the selection of books and other teaching appliances.
How shall these officers be appointed and what shall be their tenure of office? I know no plan that promises, on the whole, better results than their appointment by the board of education. No one can realize more keenly than myself the force of the objections to this mode of appointing the superintendent, so strongly stated in the report; and yet, in my judgment, the most hopeful remedies for the evils and perils set forth lie in the direction (1) of a longer and more certain tenure of office, and (2) the full guaranty of requisite independence in authority and duty by state law.
There are obvious objections to the appointment or nomination of the superintendent by the business director, but the initial nomination might possibly be wisely intrusted to the president of the board. In the transition from the present system of school administration to the one proposed there will necessarily be some friction. Men who, as members of the school board, have been accustomed to exercise executive and even supervisory functions, will naturally feel the loss of power and influence when these duties are intrusted to the superintendent or business manager, and they may seek to retain them by personal demands upon these officers. As a result, the superintendent who has the inauguration of the new system may here and there be sacrificed; but this result is to be accepted as an incident in all radical reforms that involve a change in official power and responsibility. It may be wise for the first superintendent (and possibly business manager), if he proposes to discharge his duties with fidelity, to be ready to retiro when those who covet lost power and influence have an opportunity to pass on the question of his continuance in office; but an appointment for even five years (the minimum term recommended in the report) will greatly lessen the liability of such an issue. In my judgment, the limited term of five to ten years recommended is better than a tenure for life; but I have not time to give reasons.
PROF. ALBERT BUSHNELL HART, Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass.-In a circular of suggestions for ethical instruction in schools are enumerated as proper subjects, “Providence, Honesty, and Thrift, and How All These Evils are Caused by Intemperance.” The able report of the sub-committee on school organization proceeds on somewhat similar lines—"Authority, Economy, and Efficiency, and How These Evils Are Caused by Board Government."
To resist the logic and consecutiveness of the committee's argument is, however, impossible; for it strikes at evils of which we in New England are especially sensible. The separation of executive' from legislative functions which it proposes will not only prevent the political, and sometimes corrupt, combinations which often demoralize the schools, but will prevent, also, that waste of expert time which goes on under the most honestly administered systems so long as committees and sub-committees rule. It would relieve some members of the Boston School Committee from six hours a day of harassing labor over the appointment of janitors and the patterns of ink-wells; and it would set free the superintendent and supervisors of that city-a city once so pre-eminent in education--from exhausting routine, and from the hampering effect of a body of laymen who continually settle the principles and details of professional questions.
Yet any student or observer of American polities, however convinced of the soundness of the general principles of this report, must recognize the difficulty of the changes which it advocates. At least four of the suggestions there made will rouse instant opposition in many communities, and especially in New England. Appointive councils are perhaps better than elective. Possibly I should be more inclined to think so were I not a member by election of one of the bodies to be reformed-on which I might not find a seat by appointment. But in introducing that system you must face the serious danger of diminishing the popular interest in the schools; which, at least in the smaller communities, is a steady force in favor of good education. A board of education must not degenerate into a board of intellectual public works. A second point for reflection is the suggestion of "two branches acting against each other.” One of the things which I learned in the excellent high schools of this city, of which I am very proud to be a graduate, was, that "action is always equal to reaction, and in the opposite direction.” A third difficulty which will be felt east of the Hudson is the conferring independent powers of taxation on boards of education; for it is contrary to the New England practice of two centuries and a half. The fourth, and, to my mind, the most vulnerable, point in the report is the tacit attempt to avoid the natural results of popular local government. The legislature is to be appealed to from time to time to draft educational charters in detail, and to fix them upon cities, willing or unwilling. Is that the road to good government? Are legislatures so pure and wise in state matters that you can trust them in city matters? Are members of legislatures more likely than the people of the city themselves to know their wants and to provide for them impartially? Are the people of Cleveland satisfied with the history and result of their soldiers' monument? Are you going, in the long run, to keep up popular interest in good schools by withdrawing from popular election, not only the executive but the legislative officers? The report calls for a system "flexible for good, while inflexible for evil.” There is only one power in the universe to which that antithesis can apply, and that is the Almighty. Even upon his power there is a limitation pointed out by the little theologian of five, who was told that God was omnipotent. She objected that “He couldn't make a two-year-old mule in a minute." Doubtless the committee recognizes that the ideal system of school government must have behind it a certain time for development; that the traditions and conditions of a community must be consulted even in making good changes.
The truth is (and we must work within that truth if we are to reach any results), that the most promising devices for improving the public service are, after all, simply an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober; from the people confused, unorganized, misled-even wrong-headed-to that sober second-thought of the people which is the foundation of American government. By appointing superintendents, through the mayor or other executive officer, by giving them a suitable term, by putting into their hands the school executive power, you can prevent hasty action and secure responsibility; by separating the business from the professional management, you get expert skill on both sides. Yet the measure of the schools is the character of the people. T'hey cannot always get as good a system as they desire, though organization helps them to reach it; but you cannot invent any machinery which will compel the people to maintain a better system than they desire.
While fully recognizing the power and fruitfulness of the committee's report, it is still possible to criticise it for some things which it does not say. It treats ably and exhaustively of school boards, directors, superintendents, supervision, and authority. Is that all there is in school education? Certainly not; there is also the enumeration of the materials for eflicient schools. “Buildings"-good! “Appliances”-excellent! and Teachers!" How are the teachers to be used in this combination? On the same page we are informed that it is “by employing, organizi:g, aiding, and directing" them; but nowhere does it suggest consulting them. Is it unfair to say that the conception of the teacher's place in school organization as set forth by this report is that of a well-regulated service of letter carriers? “The first delivery will begin at 8:30. There will be two deliveries daily. Badly addressed children may be returned to the superintendent's office, or to the sender. Special delivery children must be hastened forward to their destination. Carriers are not