« PreviousContinue »
The course of study provided includes all the elementary branches, from a first reading book and primary arithmetic to the completion of the arithmetic, English grammar, United States history, and during later years much hand and tool work, for which shops are provided in some one of the rooms.
For convenience and corresponding efficiency in work, although rigid adherence is not always found, eight years are commonly set apart for elementary education and for the course of study in the typical city school, and for further convenience the work of each year, set aside by itself, is called a class or grade, thus making eight grades in the elementary schools, the 6-year-olds being called the “ first grade" and the 14-year-olds the “ eighth grade." In well-conducted schools the limitations upon promotion are few; the brightest pupils find it easy and possible to complete the eight years' work in seven and frequently in six years.
Beyond the elementary schools, at the time corresponding to the period between the fourteenth and eighteenth birthdays, high schools are provided. The term * high school” is quite indefinite, and the courses of study provided in the high schools, while they are similar in a general way, yet are varied in detail and frequently in sequence of studies. The adjustments and appointments of the high school are necessarily different from those of the lower grades; more completo apparatus and quite well-appointed laboratories, for instruction in physics, in chemistry, and in biology, in fact, in all natural sciences, are provided. The instruction demanded in the high school requires a different assignment of teachers from that in the graded school. A great change with the pupils takes place at this period of public school life. Up to the fourteenth year they are gathered in groups of between 30 and 50 pupils in daily and constant association with one teacher, who conducts all the studies and respectively covers the entire ground for which provision is made by the course of study. When the pupil leares the graded school and enters the high school he becomes associated with many teachers daily; specialists are necessary in language and history and science; the pupil or teacher passes from room to room, and if the school is of sufficient size, numbering several hundred, the pupil daily is in the company of 110 one teacher to exceed one recitation period of from forty to sixty minutes.
This wrench of school habits, occurring at the time of life when the young people are changing most, is a source of some embarrassment. The pupil no longer has one teacher in whom to confide and to whom to go for direction and assistance. The intimate ties between teacher and pupil are broken, so that the boy or girl finds that the personal equation of previous life has been materially changed. It would be better for the training of character and disposition if this change could be postponed until entrance to college, when the student is more mature; but competent instruction can not otherwise be given covering so large a field as does the course of study in the high school.
The high school, or secondary, education, as it is termed-synonymous terms-to distinguish it from elementary education on the one side and college education on the other, is generally well equipped. Frequently large and complete reference libraries are at hand for the use of the student. Specialists in the several branches are employed who devote their time exclusively to the work in hand. Examinations occur from time to time to test the scholarship of the pupil, the results of which determine largely the advancement or promotion of the individual. The expense of educating the pupil in the high school is two and sometimes three times as much as in the elementary school. Perhaps a fair statement of the expense of the education would be $25 per capita in the elementary schools and $50 in the secondary schools.
Both sexes attend the usual high school, although in some of the older cities will be found separate high schools for boys and for girls. Coeducation, which is looked upon by our European friends with so much dread, seems to have been productive of good results in America. There is, however, a respectable minority in the nation, which it is believed is increasing, tending toward the separation of the sexes during and after the high school periods.
The industrial, commercial, and professional interests of men, relating especially to the training of the inoney-making ability, permit and cause secondary schools to enroll more girls than boys. In the common American city it will be found that the enrollinent of girls stands to that of the boys as about 3 to 2. While many of the sisters are so situated that they are able to remain in school during their early teens, the demands of the homes of the common people compel the brothers to leave school in order to increase the financial income of the household.
The course of study in the secondary schools is identical for the sexes, but latitude is given in the election of studies. Equivalents are substituted and accepted, so that at the end of the four years, when the young person has completed the prescribed course of study, it does not follow that each has pursued the same line of training. Mathematics frequently is dropped by the girls before the end of the course, and literature or history or language substituted. Three distinct andi positire lines of training, however, are demanded, namely: Mathematics, science, and language. These three lines in some form will be foun), continuing from the first to the fourth year. Some modification in the seconılary school course is necessary on account of the career jılarıne by the home for the young person. Training in Latin, Greek, and mathematics is required for the boy or girl who looks forward to the college beyond, while practical commercial and business branches are more sought by that larger class with whom the high school course terminates school life. It is noticeable how little one high school in the country differs from another in the amount and kind of acquisition demanded-1
--more remarkable when it is remembered that each of the States and even each of the cities is permitted to make its own adjustments with regard to the course of study.
Many beautiful and expensive houses have been erected during the last twenty years devoted exclusively to secondary instruction. Some of them are noticeabla in architectural design and construction, and so admirably adapted to hygienic conditions as to attract the attention of the civilized world with their completeness and the wonder and admiration of most people at the willingness of the community to make such vast expenditure for the education of the young.
Secondary education includes the teaching always of the Latin, Greek, French, and German languages. To these, in communities connected commercially or geographically with Spanish-speaking people, is added the Spanish language. French and German are the chief modern languages taught.
In all first-class schools, both clementary and secondary, attention is given to physical training. In the largest and best-equipped schools skillful and professional drill is required, and the health of the young people receives high consideration. Frequently well-equipped gymnasiums will be found in the buildings, where classes under competent instructors are trained in gymnastics. This part of public school education is increasing in importance and attendance from year to year.
The hours in the elementary schools range from five to six daily-three hours in the morning, froin 9 to 12, and two hours in the afternoon, after a noon interval of from one to two hours for lwcheon. Secondary school hours, although about the same in duration, are bunched into one session, with a short interval at nown for luncheon. This plan does not meet with the approval of the medical profession, because a long noun rest is deemed desirable, but it is forced upon many communities because one high school only in quite a large city is sufficient to accommodate the pupils, even though some homes are 1 or 2 or even 3 miles away. The enrollment in the high schools of a few cities is 3 per cent of the enrollment
ED 1903- -23
in the elementary schools, while others can be found where 12 per cent of the enrollment of the elementary schools is equal to the enrollment of the high school. Throughout the country will be found secondary schools where the enrollment ranges between 3 and 12 per cent of that of the elementary schools. The history of a community, the industries, the commercial and agricnltural interests, and the antecedents of the people are some of the factors that cause this noticeable modification in the attendance at secondary schools.
The schoolhouses in the United States that have been erected within the last ten years are superior in hygienic appointments, fan ventilation being the rule. Closets and conveniences are of quite complete character, but the schoolhouses have not yet generally reached in their construction measures of safety from fire that obtain in European houses. Many wooden staircases are found instead of stone and iron, yet disasters from fire have been of very rare occurrence.
School furniture—that is, seats for the children--has received special notice and attention. The “ adjustable boy." spoken of hy a Massachusetts superintendent, in the minds of some specialists in hygiene seems to have passed off the stage of action, and one great city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an ailjustable seat-a seat so constructed that the soat and desk can be raised or lowered, accorling to the physical form of the pupil. A few cases are recorded of spinal curvature and other malformations of boys and girls, said to be caused by badly constructed sittings in school. Like many other improvements in the school world, the efficiency of a seat perfectly adjusted to the child is conceded. The practice, however, so far has not seemed to justify the position of the extremist, who insists that every seat shall be accurately alljusted to the form of the individual, who at most occupies it not to exceed four hours a day, five days in a week, and two hundre:l days in the year. A large elementary school containing 500 pupils probably should have 10 per cent of its sittings capable of readjustment on account of abnormal physical forms. Ninety per cent of the young people can be accommodated safely and healthfully in an ordinary seat.
The typical American child who enters school at 6 completes the elementary grades in eight years, at which time he is 14 years old. Continuing his course in the free schools through the secondary course of four years he has arrived at the age of 18, and is now ready to pursue his studies in higher institutions, or in the great majority of cases to enter the active world for life's duties. Many of the States provide for free instruction beyond the eighteenth year: college and university are maintained by taxation, to which institutions those who have completed the high school course are admitted, usually withont examination, and are permitted to remain to the end of the university course, when they receive college degrees with their diplomas. Thus it will be seen that the American free school institution provides in some States for the education of the child from the time he is 3 years old in the kindergarten, from 6 to 14 in the elementary schools, from 14 to 18 in the secondary schools, and from 18 on indefinitely, usually for four years more, in the college and university, all without expense to the private treasury of the home, except such expenses as food and clothing and medical attendance.
In addition to this free contribution to the training of American children, many communities and States provide for free books, a custom that seems to be on the increase. A conservative opinion is expressed that where the home is put to no expense whatever for books, paper, pencils, and in some cases luncheon, as well as instruction, the ultimate effect of such paternalism on the part of the government will tend to make a weaker and more unreliant people. This, however, evidently is not the general opinion of the country to-lay. The extreme conservator insists that there is no proper stopping place; that with every instrumentality furnished at public expense, including food, the same reasoning will ask for clothing, umbrellas, nurses, and medical attendance.
An innovation not yet 10 years old, especially in the rural communities, is attracting attention on account of its efficiency and economy. The transportation of pupils from home to school has become a salient feature in the conduct of the rural schools of several States. A group of children, not exceeding 30 in number, in previous years have been furnished with a little schoolhouse, in which school, conducted most of the year, were found pupils of all ages from 6 to 21 and one teacher trying to cover all the ground. It is demonstrated now that in place of little one-room schoolhouses, several miles apart, one commodious and complete building can be erected, where classification can be made close and a complete institution established. Omnibuses or carriages contrived for the purpose transfer the children from their homes to school and return daily; all this at less expense than the original cost of the one-room school and to the advantage of more ability, better instruction, and more comfortable schoolhouses. In the suburbs of large cities this enstom is obtaining, and to a very great extent in the rural and agricultural districts of our great western farming communities. The salary of the teacher added to the cost of maintenance of the small school exceeds the cost of transportation to a central school. Homes situated 4 miles from the schoolhouse ara accommodated at a decreased expense, increased efficiency, and better schooling for the young members of the family. The reports of the State superintendents of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa, among others, contain helpful information on rural transportation.
The public school efficiency of the United States is gaining strength year hy year. Its weaknesses have grown from lack of intelligent organization as well as from too many independent corporations. The uncertain tenure of school-teachers and the lack of men teachers are two sources of weakness. The average term of service of a woman school-teacher in the country perhaps does not exceed four years, and yet the women are three-fonrths of the teachers in the elementary schools. The average teaching life of a man is much longer, but that has been much hindered and hampered, and is yet, by the frequent and harmful changes in position. A small American city outside of the old States regards the school as the important institution of the village, but very rarely does one schoolmaster remain for any reasonable number of years. This results from one of the strong points of our Government, but which in the matter of schools is a weakness. Schoolmasters' positions are often assigned for other than proper reasons. The number of men teachers is increasing. Never before in the history of the country were so many brilliant young men and middle-aged men in the ranks of the profession as are found to-day. The brightest and best intellects of the country, that hitherto have chosen the law or the ministry or medicine for their life work, are turning their attention to the schoolmaster's life. This has come about measurably on account of increasing confidence in tenure of position. One has the right to expect in the next generation that shoolmasters will be as permanently fixed in Ohio and west of Ohio as they have been for two centuries in some parts of Enrope.
Again, educational enterprises have been barnperel and will be for some time to come by well-intended but ill-advised legislation. The typical American legislature, made up as it is of representatives from every part of a given State, with grievances conined to a definite neighborhood, too often succeeds in causing a law to be enactel concerning the management and control of schools which, while it remedies an evil in one small neighborhood, creates greater evils throughout the State. In educational as in other legislation it is quite too easy in our country to make laws, and the harm is often greater in the educational than in the commercial, industrial, or professional field.
The Bureau of Education, established and maintained by the National Government in Washington, has for its purpose the collection and publication annually of such statistics and facts as show the condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories from year to year, and the diffusion of such inforination respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems and methods of teaching as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems and otherwise promote the cause of education thoughout the country. It also has charge of the education of children in Alaska and the administration of the endowment fund for the support of colleges for the advancement of agricultural and mechanic arts.
The most powerful and iniluential body in the educational field is known as the National Educational Association, a volunteer society maintuined at the expense of the individual members. The meetings are held one each year, in different cities, so that in the course of ten years the association is in session in each part of the country. They ocear in summer time, when the schools are not in session, thereby permitting the teachers generally to attend. It has grown steadily from its inception in 1857; the last fifteen years have seen the greatest increase. More than 35,000 teachers, men and women, attended the meeting of 1903, which was held in Boston.
Each member of the association pays $? annually for meinbership and receives in return not only the advantage of listening to the papers and essays at the meeting, which continues from three to five days, but also a printed copy of the annual report. This report, averaging about 800 pages a volume, forms, in connection with the report of the Bureau of Education, a complete reference library on elucation.
All papers presented at the meetings and most of the discussions are reproduced in the annual report of the National Educational Association. A library equipped with the two reports to which reference has been made is ample for the administrative use of any and all school-teachers.
The association is incorporated under the provisions of the act of general incorporation of the District of Columbia. Its avowed purpose is to elevate the character and advance the views of the profession of teaching and to promote the canse of education in the United States.
While the meetings are general in character during part of the week of the meeting, for more direct work there are 18 separate departments, in each of which will be found papers and discussions pertaining to that line of work indicated hy the name of the department. These departments are styled:
18. National council of education. The association has accumulated a fund amounting to $150,000, which has been made up from the surplus of the dues at $2 per capita that has not been expended