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had we a school in the county free to such as could stand a certain scrutiny, and directing its energies to the end we speak of, under a teacher whose ability to teach the common school studies had been thoroughly tested by a State Board of Examiners, and by successful practice, we could direct them to it. They could rent rooms and their parents could help furnish them (such scholars are not apt to be fastidious), could supply them with provisions and see them every week or two, and all this without any great outlay of cash—an article rather difficult to be drawn, in any great amount, from an ordinary farm. They could attend this school in the winter, and perhaps teach school or work on the farm during the summer; or the more advanced might . teach in the winter and attend in the summer.
By this means not only would we remove the stigma from our common schools, but we would greatly help the University and the Normal schools. At present these institutions have to maintain a preparatory department to do the work which the county school could do equally well, and at much less expense both to the State and the student ; besides frittering away the time of the professors, diverting these institutions from their proper objects, and degrading them in the eyes of the community. These county schools would every year send them a supply of the very best material ready at once to enter upon
the of study proper to such institutions.
In regard to the matter of expense, let me say that the state of Wisconsin has never been niggardly in the educational line, when the necessity of the expenditure has been clearly established. But let us look at the matter a little. The whole amount expended in this county this
year for common schools, is in the neighborhood of fifty thousand dollars. I speak greatly within bounds when I say that one-fourth of this sum is wasted because of inefficient teaching. Over twelve thousand dollars annually thrown away in this county for lack of qualified teachers, and the precious time and opportunity of our children lost! If there is any one doubts this let him speak. Indeed the loss is understated, and not exaggerated. A plain school-house, capable of accommodating from sixty to eighty scholars, would be sufficient for such a school; and if many a single district is able to furnish such a building, surely the county is. The annual expense of maintaining such a school need not exceed $2,500. In view of our pecuniary loss, from the present state of things, the expense sinks into insignificance. As to the supply of teachers, if our University and three Normal schools (with the aid of an occasional teacher of sporadic growth), cannot supply this want, and if we are to have no other source of supply provided by the state, it is time that they were abolished, and a return made to the voluntary principle.
Attempts are made in many localities to supply this lack on the part of the state, by the efforts of private individuals to sustain schools of this class under the names of seminaries, academies, high schools and colleges. They do so at a very great sacrifice, and the work, though faithfully done, as far as it is possible under the circumstances, is on the whole very unsatisfactory, from the fact that, to make the ends meet, they have to teach from the A. B. C., to the Latin and Greek classics, a thing impossible to be done well with the limited number of teachers they are able to employ. We are glad to have such, in the absence of academies sustained by the state. Indeed they are a necessity, for without them our common schools must retrogade instead of advancing. But it is scarcely possible for these schools to live since the establishment of our normal schools, and the vast increase of the common school department of the University, because these draw away from them a large number of their best paying pupils and those that give tone to their schools. The conclusion of the matter is this—if our common schools are to increase their efficiency, or ever maintain what they have, we must have such county schools as we have here recommended, in order to provide us with efficient teachers, and relieve our normal schools and University from the plethora of crude, immature. undeveloped tyros, who, while they may give to these institutions a show of prosperity, from the mere force of numbers, are in reality a source of weaknes and symptom of decay.
A CARD TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.-BY PEN.
As we write, we have before us several beautifully illustrated cata-, logues of leading firms, showing us the “newest and most approved” styles of school furniture. The school desk and seat claim a very large share of our attention; we have them of every size aud shape, from the simplest to the most elegant, from the wee little things for the primary to the elegant folding desks for the high school. They are no longer stiff, hard and straight, and long enough for six or eight pupils to sit abreast; on the contrary, most of them have all those elegant and restful curves which the structure of spine and limb demands, and which enable our delicate, or perhaps, sickly children to sit for four or five hours with less fatigue than we poor urchins of stouter body and sounder health used to experience on those old-fashioned beds of Procrustes, yclept school benches. No longer the short fiveyear-old sits on a bench which just suits his neighbor of sixteen, dang
ling his two little legs just two feet above the floor and resting his chubby chin on the high desk before him, or hiding behind the latter to perpetrate some untold mischief, fearless of ferrule—for how could
marm” get at the “middle man” of a bench extending half-way across the school-room? Those were the palmy days of district school-boards, who, poor souls! are now continually bothered by the teaching members of the Go-ahead and Wide-awake families, who urge them to discard those “ nuisances of impractical, unhealthy and very rickety” old desks and benches which the village carpenter made “ long, long ago."
“When were those desks made?" inquires the new master, Mr. Progress, of old Squire Fogy, the clerk.
“ Made? Let me see—ah, yes, they were made when Methuselah Squills' grandmother was married—she was eighteen then, and Squills will be seventy-two, coming seed-time. They were not made to last a day and then be sold for old lumber-oh no! The very best pine boards were taken, and joined with the biggest nails and the stickiest glue that was to be had in those good old times of solid workmanship and genuine materials. They are still strong enough to stand the kicking and whittling of a few generations to come. Last that city chap, Master Speaks, taught our school and turned up his nose at what he called a lot of “begrimed torture-racks,” we had them rubbed and painted, and some even made smaller for the younger ones. I'm sure we have done our duty in that line! You just let me alone with those expensive new patent school-desks-new humbugs I call them."
" But those that we have are much too narrow
" The boys need not sprawl right on them, I'm sure. I learned to write with just my right hand on the desk.”
(" And a precious paw you do write,” thought the master.) “But they are really unhealthy, Mr. Fogy.”
“Are they? Thank God the children are healthy enough, which will do as well.”
“Not all. There is the widow Briggs's little boy who is lame and humpbacked.”
“Well, your new desks won't help that.”
“And the minister's daughters have weak backs and look consumptive."
Why don't the minister feed them on milk and corn-cake as I do mine? They'd grow as fat as prize-pigs in less than a year. Look at my gals--they're a proof of my knowing better than to raise children on coffee, tea and sponge cake. Just look at my NELL and BETSY and
JAKE—they're as sleek as Durhams. (Yes, fat and stupid, was the master's comment, made aside.) I tell you wc ain't going to buy those costly desks just because Mrs. Briggs's boy can't sit on the old ones, and because the minister don't know anything about the bringing up of his children. As long as I could sit on those benches, and my children can, I shan't have taxes levied to buy a lot of furniture, and then throw what we have away.”
Teachers, how many of you have taught in the district of this good, old-fashioned clerk, who had an extra button sewed to each pocket to keep the deft fingers of “humbug” (i. e., any improvement) out of them? We think a good many of you have. And you all remember sighing over poor little Jimmy Briggs, and pale, faded Ella and Mary Goodlove, as they sat like weeping willows, on their very hard and “ strait" benches; and how you pitied scores of others who gradually fell into habits of sitting crooked and doubled up from the unnatural positions they were forced to assume day after day. And now, sit in the clean, pleasant school house of the district where Mr. Enterprise is clerk, and Squire Goodfellow director—as you look at the bright maps upon the wall, the new patent stove near the door, and those nice desks and seats before you—how glad you are that the “light of reason” is beginning to dawn, even in the backwoods! How proud you are of your comfortable school, cheerful scholars, and all those improvements, when your kind, smiling Superintendent, in one of his annual visits, compliments you on the nice appointments of your little dominion. No rush or crash of the very opposite of the
light brigade,” as you call a class to recite to the interested officer. No getting up of pupils and walking behind other pupils' backs on the benches, in order to “get out” of their seats; no upsetting of inkstands and throwing down of slates while so traveling; and no final thump, as the pupil jumps to the floor, just as likely sprawling on it as alighting on his boots. All this is now done away with. The children leave their single or double seats quickly, and as quietly as they would at church, and as they walk up to the teacher's desk their faces are bright with innocent vanity at exhibiting their excellent “ drill," while their tempers are unruffled by the vicious punches of disturbed “ benchers.” And the Superintendent leaves your school with the impression that a liberal school board, a progressive teacher and good school furniture have something to do with success in teaching, clamorous speeches to the contrary notwithstanding.
We have just been praising those new school desks, and perhaps it may seem a little inconsistent if we now begin to say that, in our opinion, even the very best and most beautiful have one serious fault
-a fault so great that we would willingly sacrifice their beauty to have it remedied. We suppose that the improvement we should like to introduce would, to a certain extent, interfere with the elegance and symmetry of our modern desks.
The fault we have referred to is, that in spite of inclined desks and well curved seats, they are no comfort in writing ; at least not to those whose chest, spine or eyes are weak. They do not allow the whole upper part of the body, especially the head, to retain a natural and erect position; the right arm is always brought too much forward, thus inclining the whole body to lean in the same direction. Teachers often try to remedy this by advising the pupils to sit sideways; but this is just as bad, as it causes the limbs of the child to remain in a cramped position, which prevents their properly supporting the spine. It is our opinion (and we know of others who share it,) that in all cases where the pupil is not a strong, healthy child, well able to maintain an erect and natural position while writing, our desks are productive of more or less discomfort, if not always of absolute mischief.
How is this to be remedied ? is very naturally the question now asked. We answer, By making desks that do not require the pupil to bring forward his right arm as he now does, causing the head and chest to follow. The proper position for the right arm in drawing and writing, is one that keeps the arm above the elbow parallel with the chest and spine, that is perpendicular, and the arm below the elbow almost horizontal. This can easily be accomplished by adding to each desk a leaf curved on the left side, to support the right arm. (The accompanying diagram will serve to give an idea of such a desk with leaf attached. A is the desk, B the leaf.) This desk has many and decided advantages. It permits the body to retain, for a greater length of time, a natural and easy position-a most important item where the chest or spine are not perfectly sound—and it keeps the head and neck of the pupil erect, thus preventing the rush of blood to the head and the consequent strain, on the eyes which all experience who lean forward when writing. It is too well known to observant teachers, that headaches, flushed faces and nearsightedness are the common effect of the strained and stooping position so general among school children; to speak nothing of the frequency of a high right shoulder and the habit of holding the head sideways which are also caused by it.
We do not think that the extra expense in constructing the additional leaf, would be so great as to overbalance the material benefits which the