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INJUSTICE OF THE SCHOOL-MONTH.
BY J. N., MANITOWOC COUNTY.
The duty of the teacher engrosses the attention of most writers on educational topics, but duty to the teacher is a subject rarely discussed. People do not seem to realize, while enumerating the several duties incumbent on the teacher, that he also has certain rights which should be respected. The action of the Legislature in fixing the school-month at twenty-two days aod excluding Saturdays, is decidedly unjust. A comparison of the school with the calendar month shows the following facts : February, March, September and November have each but twenty-one school-days, while June has put twenty. In all other avocations the working month is within the limits of the calendar month. Why the school-month should be an exception is a mystery to all but those legislators who are desirous of making their mark at Madison. Our legislators should study the best means of remedying the present defects of our school system rather than make laws which all reflecting people must admit tend to deteriorate rather than perfect. It is conceded that ability to make school attractive is very essential to the success of a teacher. Why is not this equally true in regard to thọ profession of teaching? Why could we not by making teaching as lucrative and honorable as other professions attract talent rather than repel it by unjust legislation and unremunerative salaries? There can be nothing inimical to education in extending justice to the teacher, that people avoid it so studiously.
Ancient governments, in order to inculcate a military spirit in the people, granted the military privileges which were not extended to other classes. That the desired object was accomplished, is proved by history. We, to advance sur educational interests, pursue a course directly opposite. That the ancient military system was perfect, that our educational system is defective, show the relative merits of the means employed. Poorly qualified teachers, and an inefficient discharge of duties, are a direct and natural consequence of laws which make the position of teacher onerous. The unjust discrimination in the school month, and all kindred laws, insure at the best but mediocrity, where should be superior ability. Those evils resulting from unjust laws, thus literally return to plague the inventor. Some people are not very enthusiastic in entering a profession which promises no permanency of employment, and in which the compensation is by no means proportionate to the arduousness of the duties. The sensitive minds of others cannot bear the ridicule and virulent diatribes which are profusely
2-[Vol. II.—No. 3.]
showered on the profession because it numbers some incompetent persons-a result of illiberal laws.
The pedantry of Holofernes excites ridicule. The microscopic eye of Dickens, collecting the most salient vices of the profession, molds them into Squeers, the very embodiment of satanic malignity. After making allowances for the antipathy with which the great novelist regarded teachers, “Squeers” is considered as a pretty good sample of the average teacher. How are we to raise the standard from the low estimate in which it is prevalently regarded ? Manifestly not by a code of stringent laws which will debar men of genius from entering the profession. A persistence in infringing on the limited privileges now accorded to the teacher will be followed by a “ departure” which will not be relished by those who take an interest in education. A superior school system recognizes the necessity of employing good educators, and provides for it by liberal terms. The law regulating the school month virtually prohibits the employment of men of real talent. The dissatisfaction with which this law was received by teachers shows that it cannot be followed by any beneficial results. The present preponderance of incompetent teachers and the imprudence of causing additions to the number, show its policy to be questionable; and the fact that by giving two short vacations it takes eleven calendar months in which to teach ten school months, proves its injustice.
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORTS OF COUNTY SUPERIN.
DEFECTIVE REPORTS- THE REMEDY. Very few of the district clerks make correct reports to the town clerks, therefore, the town clerks are unable to report correctly.
I have taken much pains when traveling through my district to induce town and dirtrict clerks to make complete and accuate reports, yet for some reason or reasons, we receive but few that are passable.L. M. BENSON, Dodge, West Dist.
Many of the districts give no report whatever on many of the items called for, while others are very fragmentary and incorrect.-J. W. HARRIS, Rock, First Dist.
I am thoroughly convinced that some other method, than the present, should be adopted for getting true and reliable reports. One town clerk said that his report came nearest to making something out of nothing, that he ever undertook.-D. H. MORGAN, Green Co.
It may be asked, who is to blame for these imperfections? I certainly do not hold myself wholly responsible, as I have written to town clerks
to be more careful than usual, and to have district clerks correct any apparent errors in their reports. However, the district clerks in most cares claimed to have spent all the time they had to spare on the report, anů refused to do anything more about it. Now it seems to most of us in this county that clerks are excusable, because there are but few of our farming population able to lose from one to three days during the stacking season, for the purpose of taking the census of those of school age, and then pore over the treasurer's book until everything looks blue (and generally the longer they look the bluer it gets) for nothing.–ROBERT LEES, Buffalo county.
There are errors in the report, which I cannot correct. We never can have accuracy in these matters, until district records are properly kept, and that never will be done, even approximately, until men are fairly paid for their time and labor in doing it.-J. W. HARRIS, Rock, First Dist.
It does seem as if some method could be adopted by which this trouble could be avoided. Incompetent persons are often selected to fill these positions, and in fact those who are qualified cannot well afford to devote the time necessary to prompt performance of their duty, without fair compensation therefor. If the people of each district would elect their best men as district officers, and pay them a reasonable sum for thi ir labor, I think we should have less reason to complain of these piatters.-J. A. BARNEY, Dodge, East District.
Our school children are truly the wards of our districts. For this reason the theory that men who perform our school business should perform it for nothing, is, perhaps, good to talk about, but it is certainly in practice miserably poor. We have no right to ask men to work for nothing. But, it matters not how much we may ask them, the result shows that they will not do it. I respectfully suggest that the school law be amended so that district officers may be entitled to receive pay for their services, and then elect the best, most prompt business men in the district to such offices.-C. E. MEARS, Polk county.
Let it be enacted by our next legislature that district clerks be paid a specified sum for their yearly services, and let that sum be proportioned, say to the number of teachers required to teach the schools in their respective districts.
Our most conscientious and efficient clerks sɔmetimes have to spend two or three days in finding teachers suitable for their schools. At least one day in the year must be employed in making the annual returns ; it is but just that these and kindred public services, rendered by them as district clerks, be paid for from the state, or raised by the district. Were these officers paid a reasonable remuneration for their services,
returns from them would be more complete and their schools more effective.-Geo. Paton, La Crosse County.
IMPORTANCE OF HAVING GOOD CLERKS. Generally speaking, upon the clerk depends the success of the school. If a clerk has fair abilities, liberal views and is not fearful of losing a few days in looking for an efficient teacher, he will be enabled to secure the services of a competent person to teach the school. If he waits, however, for teachers to apply for the school, the most successful teachers are all engaged before he has an application. The resulting consequences are, he accepts the first so-called teacher that applies, and the people's money is worse than thrown away and the time belonging to the children is wasted. I am somewhat encouraged, however, by the manifested feeling of interest on the part of a large number of district clerks in the county as shown in their efforts to secure the services of teachers having good reputations as instructors.-M. E. MUMFORD, Crawford County.
SCHOOL HOUSES, ETC. Several comfortable buildings have been constructed according to the plans in the school code, and they speak volumes for the public spirit and thriftiness of their respective districts.
I am sorry to say however that there are a number of districts, perfectly able to build substantial and comfortable school-houses in place of the small, tumbledown concerns honored by that name, but which are afraid of the additional taxes, and go on term after term crowding their children together, neutralizing the efforts of the teacher, and absolutely wasting time and money for the want of suitable buildings. It would be an act of mercy to the children to condemn the old school-houses, and thus compel the people to build new ones.—ROBERT LEES, Buffalo County.
A great many school-houses are rendered very uncomfortable and inconvenient, and in many cases, comparatively useless; yet with the same outlay of money, they could have been rendered comfortable and convenient, and every part of the building within, and every portion of the
space, could have been made very serviceable; and the rooms could have been so constructed and arranged as to be healthful places for the pupils and teacher to occupy.
But those school-houses have not been thus constructed and arranged. The trouble arises just here: When a school-house is to be built, or when it has been built, and it is to be finished and arranged within, the chimney to be located, the opening for ventilation to be made, the stove to be set, the teacher's desk and platform to be placed, the amount of black-board to be decided upon, the distance from the floor or platform to the bottom of the black-board to
named, the kind of seats and desks to be chosen, the arrangement of
them and the way they shall face to ve specified, etc., etc.,—the buildrs consult farmer Thompson, or blacksmith Jones, cr merchant Thomas, or lawyer Smith, or saddler Ludwick, or saloon-keeper Hulse, or mason Earns, or-well, really, any person except an experienced schoolteacher, for his opinion in the matter. And of course, the person whose advice is sought guesses at what would be best, and gives directions according to his ideas concerning the matter. Now, it is a notorious fact that in relation to any matter, it is possible for us to guess right just once, but it is very probable that we shall guess wrong many times; hence in the particulars enumerated and in many others, we very frequently find that great mistakes have been made; and the consequence is that pupils and teachers suffer, and the school cannot be what it should be.-W. H. HOLFORD, Grant County.
number of neat and commodious school-houses have been built during the past year. Many school yards that were formerly open to the commons, have been enclosed. Some have gone so far as to plant shade trees within the enclosures, and begin the work of adornment, and a few have followed the recommendation, intended to be generai; that is, to provide a good well of water in every school yard. Water is a great civilizer, and I have not hesitated to recommend more water, for the benefit of every school in the country, which otherwise might be left unwatered or dependent on the scanty supplies drawn from wells and cisterns remote frem the school-room.-D. B. Lyon, Fond du Lac Co.
very few of our school houses are as yet provided with outline maps, globes or other necessa.y adjuncts to a well organized school, and most people seem to think they have done their whole duty when the school-house is finished and the teacher hired, never seeming to consider that the teacher's services can be rendered doubly valuable by spending a small sum, not exceeding a month's wages of a teacher, on maps, charís, numeral frames, etc., and at the same time add to the attractions of the school room. Our county being comparatively new, everything cannot be provided for on the start; but it is to be hoped that the day is not far distant when school apparatus will be considered as essential as a comfortable school room.—RobT. LEES, Buffalo Co.
More wall furniture is still needed, in the shape of maps and charts, and more teaching that shall take the form of the “ object system.” A heavy adherence to the text book, on the part of teachers, is the source of many intellectual woes.-W. H. LOCKWOOD, Eau Claire County.
One township alone, consisting of 12 districts, has expended the last year in globes, maps, charts, library and writing material, $1,200.