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PASSING TO AND FROM RECITATION.
A teacher asks: What is the best method of avoiding noise in coming and going from a recitation in a room where there are eighty-nine pupils, and seats enough for only eighty? One method.-Have the pupils
seated so that those in the same classes are in the same neighborhood. Then have them remain in their seats during recitation, thus avoiding the confusion, noise, and loss of time arising from their passing to and from the recitation benches.
Remark.–To relieve the pupils from the weariness of remaining in their seats too long, form the whole school into line, require them to march around the room, keeping step with the clap of the teacher's hands. Let them step naturally, and not cultivate the awkward motions fixed by effort to tip-toe.
Second method.-At time of recitation, call the members of the class to their feet. Then have them march to their places in the class, keeping step with the time marked by the teacher. After a while, they will keep step without the beating of time. Return them to their seats in the same manner. By a programme on the board, and a clock on the wall, the members of a class will know when they will be called to recitation and excused therefrom. By the simple commands, “one,” “two,” they will instantly rise and move forward. All can be done very quietly and pleasantly.
Remark.-In all these motions, encourage the pupils to practice an elastic, erect walk, treading as they usually do, not too heavily, not tip-toeing. Walking on tip-toe should never be practiced. It is unnatural, ungraceful, almost cruel. The habit of stepping lightly on the heel can be easily fixed. But, generally, in moving about the schoolroom, allow the pupils to enjoy the unavoidable noise. Noise is not poisonous, immoral or wicked.-National Normal.
TWO DANGERS THREATENING OUR SCHOOLS.
Our public school system is a distinctively American one, grown up with our community and sprung from its character and needs, just as our political system has and our collegiate system. It is elastic enough to admit of almost unlimited improvement, and it is not very hard to introduce improvement; but it would be very hard to make any change in it which should materially affect its fundamental character. It is quite right that it should be so. We have a right to assume that an institution which has grown up with a community is well adapted to its needs; and although there are many features in which we could advantageouly copy European models, and although we might on abstract grounds even prefer some European system as a whole, if the question were to be considered de integro, yet it is perhaps quite as likely that our judgment is wrong as that the popular impulse is mistaken. Those reformers who wished, some years ago, to introduce the English or the German university system would, in all likelihood, have made a pretty mess of it if they could have had their way; we have waited not so very long a time, and now our oldest institutions, Harvard and Yale,
are developing a real university system, which stands a chance of permanence because it has its roots in the old order of things.
When one considers the real excellence of these schools, and the degree in which they have become a postulate in American thought, it is hard to realize adequately, the two perils that menace the system from entirely opposite directions. The first arises in the character of the school system itself, which is constantly tending to become more and more mechanical, and which favors an excessive routine and commonplace methods of instruction. The second is more vital and is directed against the very existence of the public-school system.
The first tendency is natural and unavoidable, and is probably entirely within our control. The schools suffered at first for lack of organization and gradation; nothing more natural than that, in correcting this defect, too much stress should be laid upon organization, and that, as a result, most scholars shonld have come to look upon it as the first of all objects to get from one grade into another. In any school, exact discipline is indispensable; the teachers are few who can maintain exact discipline in a large school without the precision of a martinet; and that is what our school discipline tends to become. Methods of instruction were wretched a generation or so ago, and one of the first features of the new impulse that education then received was new and more inspiring methods. Of course, when the impulse had passed, things settled down into a routine and the new methods became formal and antiquated, just as the old ones had been. All these results must have followed so long as the majority of teachers are not men of inspiration and genius, but honest, hardworking persons, who simply aim to do their work as well as they can, just as if it were ditching or bookkeeping or reporting. It is work, after all.
This will explain the routine and the commonplace that are the worst characteristics of our public schools. These defects are aggravated by the excessive amount of labor that is imposed upon the teachers. Teachers, as a class, have a much higher ideas, or rather the ambition for a much higher one, than they are able to realize, and are mechanical and commonplace simply because circumstances will not allow them to be anything more. The result is, however, that thinking people are dissatisfied with the work done in the public schools—not with the way in which the work is done, but with the work itself. They want a different training for their boys and girls from the mechanical“ high pressure” of the public schools; and this they find, or at any rate seek, in private schools.
Now, these evils are remediable, at least in a degree; but only with the increased culture of the community itself. The schools are but a reflection of the popular taste, which enjoys their big and showy mechanism, believes in this excessive amount of mathematics, and all these dreary rules of grammar and details of geography, and thinks the main object of a child's life is to get as fast as possible from one grade to another. As soon as parents realize that a girl who has been through the course, but cannot walk a mile, and never passes two days without a headache, is not precisely the highest possible product of civilization, and that the course itself is at once wofully narrow and extremely intense, they will demand a better system, and then they will have it. Even as it is, Hosea Biglow's words meet with more sympathy than is generally thought:
Three-story larnin's pop'lar now-I guess
We thriv as wall on jest two stories less." The corrective for the danger here discussed is an enlightened public opinion, and this has already begun to be formed. The evil has been often pointed out, and is widely recognized; and we think we are not mistaken in saying that it is already less threatening than it was five years ago. The other danger specified is fundamental and vital, touching not the character of the schools, but their very existence. It finds its best expression, of course, in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which makes the church the necessary foundation of every human institution; but it exists no less in every form of Protestantism which demands to be recognized in public education. The first and most consistent shape which it took was opposition to the very existence of a free-school system, but it was soon driven to more subtle and circuitous forms of antagonism. The free school is so firmly seated in the American mind as an essential part of American institutions, thao to try to overthrow it is labor wasted. Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Swedenborgian schools, German schools-every school which represents a single religious faith, or a single element of our compound nationality, are but an ineffectual protest against the system, and do not touch its vitality any more than any other private schools. Foiled in the effort to overthrow the system, it next aimed, with equal success, to divide it; at present the struggle, a much more perilous one, is to control. The controversy over the use of the Bible in schools is but a contest for the control of the schools—between Protestantism, which possesses this control by tradition, and Catholicism, which demands it as of right. We cannot wonder that an attempt to subvert a custom so revered, and of such historical prestige, should be earnestly resisted, and that the custom should be claimed as a fundamental and inherent part of the system. But it should be remembered that the nation is made up
cf those who are its citizens now, and that it is not at present-however it may have been in the past, Protestant nation, except so far as a nation is represented by its majority. It should be remembered, too, that if the majority to-day and here has a right to insist upon the use of King James Version, the majority next year, and in another place, will have an equal right to insist upon the Douai Version.
In view of the vital contest which has arisen upon this point, we see no hope for the maintenance of genuine public schools except in making them purely and avowedly secular. It may truly be said that the public-school system serves as a moral bond for our entire community, just as the visible church did in the Middle Age. That age was essentially theological and found its expression in an ecclesiastical unity; our age has no common ground of religious opinion, and can only meet on the undisputed truths of science. Secular education is, therefore, the only consistent object of our public schools; theological dogmas should be left to the Church, the family and Sunday schools of the several denominations.
Neither need we fear that the schools will foster immorality if the formal devotional exercises of the opening hour are omitted. We have very little faith in any great good accomplished by these formal devotions or by formal instructions in morality. It is urged that it is the well-instructed who recruit our most dangerous classes of criminals
, and that this shows that we should have more religious and moral instruc
tion in our schools. Are we to understand that the criminals in question have never been taught that there is a God, or that stealing is a crime, and that they do not know these truths as well as a professor of theology? It is not by set precepts or by elaborate lectures on morality that boys are trained to virtue, but by the daily exhibition of moral conduct and the constant and insensible inculcation of the principles of morality in everyday relations. There is not a well-conducted recitation in any school in the land which does not teach at every step that virtue is its own reward, that honesty is the best policy, and that in the long run fraud does not pay. We beg for this view of a much-vexed and highly-important question the careful attention of every friend of the system. The Nation.
Q. Can a school-house site be changed by the vote of a majority merely of the voters present at a district meeting?
A. Such a vote is sufficient. A majority present determine all questions at school meetings, unless special provision is made to the contrary. Such a majority is not always a majority of the district, but it is not the fault of those who attend that others do not attend.
Q. Can the State Superintendent authorize a feeble school district to dispense with a part of the five month's school required by law?
A. He has no such power. If a district,“ by reason of some unusual and unlooked for cause ” fails to maintain school five months, the State Superintendent has discretionary power, if he deems the reasons assigned for the failure sufficient, to apportion school money to the district, provided there has been not less than three months' school.
If a new district is formed but fails to organize and establish a school, and the scholars set off continue to attend in the old district, should they be enumerated there in the annual census?
A. They do not belong to the old district after the new one is formed, and cannot lawfully be enumerated there; but it would be quite right that they should pay tuition if they attend there. When the supervisors form a district they should see that it is organized without delay.
Q. If the clerk neglects to give notice of the annual meeting and in consequence none is held, will a subsequent meeting be lawful, if fully and properly notified ?
A. If the annual meeting is not held, at the time fixed by law, no subsequent meeting can take its place, as an annual meeting,
Q. What then is to be done if the annual meeting is forgotten?
A. A special meeting should be called, at which any business can be transacted, except the election of officers, the same as at the annual meeting: provided, notice is given of all business proposed to be done, as required by section 21.
Q. Can a vote be taken at an annual district meeting to build a school-house, although no notice had been given of such vote? A. Any lawful business can be lawfully transacted at an
ual meeting, although no notice of the business, or even of the meeting Thad been given. Nevertheless, it is the duty of the clerk to give notice, and it is quite proper for him to mention any unusual and imporbusiness expected to be done.
Q. Can a school district build a school-house in conjunction with the town, the upper story to be used as a town hall?
A. Such joint buildings are generally undesirable, but it has been held by this department that it is not illegal, if the necessity arises for a district to build in this
way. Particular pains should be taken, however, that the precautions recommended in the School Code (pp. 45, 46) be used.
Q. At a special meeting, called to consider the subject o, building a school-house, can a vote also be taken to borrow money, although not mentioned in the notice for the meeting, provided a majority of all the legal voters resident in the district shall be present and vote in favor of the loan?
A. The vote would not be legal. Borrowing money is a matter distinct from building, and those not present at the meeting could just!y claim that they had a right to be notified, and to be heard on the subject, before any vote was taken to borrow money. (See sectious 21 and 114.)
Q. After a tax has been voted to build a school-house and returned, and placed in the assessment roll, does a party who is set into another district before the tax is collected avoid the payment of the same?
A. He does not. See revised statutes, chapter 28, section 160.
Q. Can a district board put up a lightning-rod, without any authority from the district, and compel the district to pay for the same?
A. It is quite doubtful if they can; at all events they will avoid some thunder and lightning by waiting for the district to vote on the subject.
Q. Has a school district treasurer a right to a percentage on money received and paid out by him?
A. He has no such right; he must account for all the money that comes into his hands.
Q. Can a school-board recognize and use a private or incorporated accademy as a high-school department, and pay a portion of the public money for the instruction of certain pupils therein?