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An examination of the Revised Statutes near the close of the session of the Legislature, revealed the fact that no provision had been retained by the revisers to fill vacancies which might occur in the office of county superintendents. Un. der the old statutes, the State Superintendent was authorized to appoint persons to such vacancies. A bill restoring the former law passed both houses under sus. pension of the rules, and was signed by the Governor in the last three days of the session.
The fact should be remembered by our county superintendents at their exam. inations this spring, that over three thousand teachers in excess of the number of our public schools, were employed in the State last year. This means the introduction of a large element of poorly qualified teachers, those who reduce the average wages of competent teachers to the lowest rates, and drive such teachers from the service. It is an unpleasant duty, but one which must be sternly performed by these officers, to reject all applicants for certificates, who, in ability and character, are ill fitted to teach in our schools. Those who fail may grumble, and their unreasonable friends may threaten, but the welfare of the schools committed to the trust of the superintendents, demands imperatively this pro. tection from their hands.
The law relating to the examination of teachers, was amended by the Legislature this winter. Hereafter, all applicants for teachers' certificates, must be examined in the constitutions of the United States and of Wisconsin. This is simply restoring the provision on this subject, which was omitted in the Re. vised Statutes.
Early in January, a circular was sent to the county and city superintendents, inquiring whether, in their opinion, the teachers should be required to pass an examination in the constitutions. Answers in the affirmative have been received from nearly all these superintendents. On the point of making this study optional in the public schools, these officers are divided; the majority favoring a change in the statutes so that the study may be taught, like l’nited States History, only in those schools which desire to pursue it. The law on this subject was not amended. But in practice, the constitutions are not usually studied in our schools, except where classes have been prepared to take up the study.
On the 3d of this month, copies of the Annual Report of the State Superin. tendent were delivered to the members of the Legislature. The practice of waiting for the Annual Reports of other State officers to be issued, for more correct returns from school officers to be received, and for the accounts of the condition of the State, Literary, and Charitable Institutions to be published, before the Superintendent can obtain materials with which to complete his own report, has prevailed for ten years, and cannot, under the present system, be avoided. No one would be satisfied with imperfect tables of statistics. One institution would complain if the report of another was included, and its own not pre. sented, and yet that one is not forthcoming until weeks after it is needed. The defect here experienced, may be partially remedied by the Superintendent issuing, on the meeting of the Legislature each winter, his annual statement, to be followed by the documents and the tables as soon as they are received and prepared.
THE State Board of Charities, in their Annual Report this year, referring to the action of the Trustees of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, in the retention of the present superintendent, make use of the following strong and pertinent words:
“If such men as have stood at the head of this school, and as are these trustees, are to be sacrificed to a wild, unreasonable public clamor, who, as well fitted for their work, will be willing to take their places? We appeal most earnestly to the people of the State of Wisconsin, to pause and consider these things. The loud. est complaints against the characters of public men, not infreguently come from persons of the vilest habits of life. If an election o'r appointment to office is to be the signal for the foulest aspirations, then dishonest ambition will come to wear the crown of public honors, while patriotism and purity will shrink from exposure to the dangers of public life.
We find that such of our citizens as become familiar with the condition of our public institutions, are the least disposed to find fault with their manage. ment, and are the most reliable in the support of their managers. We have found this to be especially true in the present instance. We have gratefully re. ceived many expressions of confidence and approval from our prominent and influential citizens. The demands of a mere clamor are always unreasonable and unsafe. The loss of public wisdom is a public disaster, as nothing can be so easily done and so well managed as when the press and people remain calm and impartial.”
A COMPULSORY educational bill passed the Legislature at the last session, under the title “To secure to children the benefits of an elementary education.” It was ably championed in the Assembly by Hon. John Brindley, of Bosco. bel, who introduced the measure, and it received the unanimous support of that body. In the Senate, it was supported most earnestly by Hon. Wm. T. Price, the president pro tempore of that house, and passed by the vote of 20 to 7. The bill is similar to the one which received the favorable consideration of the As. sembly a year ago, and was lost in the Senate.
It is unquestionable that the more intelligent tax-payers demand that the chil. dren shall be educated the schools which they are compelled to support. There is justice in their demand. Again, since the training of our schools tends to diminish crime and destitution, a much less number of our youth must not be al. lowed to reach maturity in ignorance of the common school studies, and without an experience of the restraints practiced in our public schools. The purely vol. untary system fails in securing a large per centage of attendance of the chil. dren. In our cities, less than 49 per cent. of the children of school age attended the public schools last year. Of those between four and fifteen years of age in the whole State, only 69 per cent. were enrolled in that time in these schools. Only about 5 per cent of the children were instructed in private schools. The great number of absentees from the schools must increase the feeling that more rigorous measures should be adopted to secure their proper education.
The principal question now before us is, whether the people will observe the provisions of the law. Such a statute is very popular in European countries, where it has been tried a sufficient length of time, and it is said that no promi. nent man in those countries would now advocate its abolition. In some sections of our own country, the measure is growing into decided favor after being in force a few years. If the school boards of the State will take an interest in the law, and enforce it in a prudent and efficient manner, they will make it the source of incalculable advantage to the State. Let an intelligent and healthful sentiment in support of it be awakened throughout the State before September next, when it goes into effect.
Not so many institutes as usual will be held this spring. More county superintendents are each desirous of securing a two weeks' institute next summer and fall. So much of the fund was expended last fall in conducting insti. tutes, that the committee in charge thought it best to discourage the organization of the usual number. Besides, they were deprived this spring of one of the regular conductors, who now serves as the President of the Platteville Normal School.
We have before referred to the fact that only about one-half of the teachers in our public schools receive any benefit from these institutes. Our leading ed. ucators take great pride in this means of instruction; and our teachers, who are thus instructed, are earnest in their praise of this work. We must expect this year a decided increase in the attendance. County superintendents will urge upon their teachers the necessity of reform in this matter. The school boards must not penuriously object to their teachers spending one or two weeks at the county institutes, during the term time of their schools. Persons who wish to prepare themselves for the exercises of the institutes to be held this year, can procure copies of the syllabus in advance from their county superintendents; and can thus be assisted to take a more active part in these exercises.
THE Legislature treated the Free High Schools of the State in a very generous manner the past winter. They passed, in the first place, a bill which allowed all such schools in operation under the old Free High School law, to receive their share of the State aid; as the Revised Statutes stood, only seven schools out of eighty-five could be thus helped. To this bill there was not expressed any opposition. As soon as it passed, the $25,000 raised last year toward the support of these schools, was distributed among them, on the basis of the provisions of the former law.
Subsequently, another bill was carefully considered in both houses, and this proposed radical amendments to the Statutes on this subject which had been in force since the first of November. In the Assembly, it was amended in several features. The limitation of five years in which any Free High School can be aided, was adopted. School districts not in cities or incorporated villages, but maintaining graded schools with at least two departments, and with twenty-five pupils prepared to enter High School classes, may be organized into Free High School districts. The provision authorizing the appointment of a committee to visit all the Free High Schools, and report upon their condition and compliance with the law, was rejected by the Assembly. This is a measure that should have been adopted, and will be demanded by neariy all the schools at no distant day.
In the Senate, the bill was further amended by allowing the boards in charge of these schools to determine, with the advice and consent of the State Superintendent, the course of study to be pursued in the schools and the minimum standing for the admission of pupils on their examination. The principals of these schools must, hereafter, be graduates of Universities, Colleges, or State Normal Schools, or pass an examination in the studies which they are required to teach in these schools. The Senate, also, accepted the provision that the district boards of the Free High Schools not in cities, nor established by towns, nor in incorporated villages, nor co-extensive in their territory with such villages, shall be composed of the usual boards of those districts. The bill, as finally enacted, received the almost unanimous support of both houses.
A pamphlet edition of the law as amended, with proper instructions and ex. planations, will soon be issued by the State Superintendent.
The several amendments of the general school laws will also soon be issued in pamphlet form.
The Statute relating to the annual reports of school-district clerks, was so amended this winter, that hereafter the classification of the ages of school children is not required. To return all those in attendance and not in attendance upon our public schools, who are in the three classes from four to seven years of age, from seven to fifteen, and from fifteen to twenty, demands a large amount of labor, and the statistics thus obtained are comparatively of little value. Some years, no notice has been taken of them by the State Superintendents, or by other school officers. This past year, special effort was made to ascertain the percent. age of attendavce of the children between four and fifteen years of age, and the results of this effort are given in the Annual Report of the Superintendent. Next year, the clerks of the school boards will be requested to give only the number of children between four and twenty years, in the State, and the number of these enrolled in our schools. This arrangement will be satisfactory to very many who have experienced great trouble in securing accurate statistics on this subject.
An amendment to the school law was adopted lately by the Legislature, limit. ing the amount of school district tax be raised annually. Hereafter it cannot exceed five per cent. of the assessed valuation of the property in the district. The benefit of this amendment will be realized mainly in the northern part of the State, where the lands of non-residents or of large corporations have been exorbitantly taxed some years for the erection of plain school-houses, or for the maintenance of small schools.
The law has been made very stringent in denying to any member of the district school boards, the privilege of teaching in the schools under their charge. It says that “no person employed as a school director, clerk, or teacher, shall hold the office of school treasurer in the same district.”
No further legislation having been perfected this winter, in regard to text. books, the laws upon this subject of course remain in force just as they were. They are embraced in the following sections of the School Code, or the Revised Statutes: 430 (sub-division 13), 436, 440, 514, 503, 501.
MESSRS. COWPERTHWAIT & Co., Philadelphia, remind us, through their agency at Chicago, that Warren's Geographies, Greene's Grammars, and Monroe's Read. ers, are used in Wisconsin schools, and that the name of the firm should there. fore be added to the list on page 77, of the February number of the Journal. Address F. S. Belden, Western Agent, 25 Washington street, Chicago.
COURSE OF STUDY FOR COUNTRY SCHOOLS, Considering the liability of any thing attempted in this line to run into un. meaning, mechanical monotony, the following extract from the address of Pres. Sabin, of the Iowa Teachers' Association, is worthy of consideration :
“ The attempt has been made to remedy some of the difficulties of country school work by county courses of study. If such a course tends to unify and simplify the work, the effort is in the right direction. If, however, it prescribes an undeviating line: if it marks out only a straight furrow in which teacher and pupil must walk, “Indian file,” it will work only evil. There is no conceivable good in substituting one rut for another. Such a course may be made so help. ful and suggestive as to add to the teacher's self-reliance; it may be so minute and imperative, as to form a convenient crutch upon which the teacher hobbles over the ground. It seems to me that a course of study for ungraded schools might be formed, setting forth what parts of each branch demand the most attention, and the essential relations of the various steps through which the pupil should advance, embracing al some simple instructions in methods. It should contain some suggestions and pointed cautions in regard to oral lessons; it should also be so framed as to render it easy for a pupil passing from the coun. try to a city school, to find a place in the grades with little loss of time. Some points easily attainable, which always characterize a good school should be