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Of the many objections to this scheme, the most serious is that it tends to convert the chief school officer into a dictator, and thus lessen the interests of the people in the kind and character of the schools which their children attend. Just so far as the people are made to feel that their wishes are not to be consulted, that they have nothing to say, that they are to be utterly ignored as to choice of teachers and the general conduct of the school, just so far will the schools lose the confidence and support of the people. There is but one path of safety for the friends of the common school to follow, and that is to arouse and keep alive the school consciences of the masses, for whose children the schools are maintained. In the past this has been the strong point in the American school system, and we are in no position to-day to abandon it.
Another objection 'equally strong is the tendency to disregard the powers of the superintendent as a leader in school affairs. It makes him a dictator in that it gives him power which he can use tyrannically if he is in that mood. The school system is not a military system; the relation of the superintendent to his teachers is not that of a general in the army to his soldiers. The teacher is not a private, whose only' duty is to obey and ask no questions. Against this tendency the spirit of those through whose instrumentality our school system has grown and matured, utters the most vigorous protest. The best way, in nine cases out of ten, to rid the schools of inefficient teachers, of whom so much complaint is made, is to discharge the inefficient superintendent. The superintendent must be more than a conductor, whose business it is to be responsible for running the train on time, bringing it in on time with no collisions, and with no accidents of any kind. There are too many of these conductor superintendents, whose rule of action is the time-table, for the good of the school. I do not object to giving the superintendent the initiative in the selection of teachers; but I object seriously to giving him the absolute power of a dictator, without any appeal or limitation whatever.
The proper attitude of the superintendent toward his teachers is that of an enthusiastic, intelligent leader. If he has occasion to criticise, he does it in the most kindly way possible. If he desires to impart information, he does not do it in the spirit of
"I know it all." He studies with his teachers; he talks over their troubles with them; and while they ought to learn much from him, he is not above learning something from the experience of each one of his corps. In the same spirit the superintendent should be a broad-minded scholar; an all-round scholar, who can gather his inspiration from the fields of literature, science, art and poetry, and who can in turn inspire his teachers with a love of knowing, and a taste for, the true and beautiful.
The tiresome, ceaseless study of strictly professional books of pedagogy and psychology to which some superintendents subject the teachers under their care has a narrowing tendency, begets no enthusiasm, and degenerates at last into low drudgery. Not that pedagogy is useless, nor that the teacher may not be benefited by the study of psychology, but it is questionable whether the duties of the schoolroom are not too exacting to permit, on the part of the teacher, profitable study of difficult branches in lessons which must be recited as a school exercise in the presence of the congregated teachers of the city. It is also questionable whether both school and teacher would not be profited in a larger sense if leisure time on the part of the teacher were spent in reading along general lines of teaching, science and literature; or even in healthful outdoor recreation, gaining thus that health of body and tone of nerve and spirit so necessary to a strong, vigorous intellect.
There would be no trouble in maintaining the proposition that the teacher who has made the most extensive preparation for her work is not always the most proficient. There is such a thing as "Teachers Study," and it has a sphere distinctly its own, in which every superintendent should become well versed. How can I help this teacher to do better work? In what is she most deficient? What is her true field of labor? In what is she strong, in what is she weak?" These and similar questions. are often left for the superintendent to determine. If he is a true helper and counselor, if his support can be depended upon at all times, then the inefficient teacher under his sympathetic leadership will often develop new resources, and become an energetic, successful worker in the schools. The great source of inefficient teachers is found in the inefficient
superintendent, who has none of the elements of leadership in his character.
From another standpoint, the ideal school director is desirable, but he is not in sight to-day. The leadership of the superintendent in the counsels of the Board is of much importance. As a general thing the school director knows nothing whatever of the arrangement of a building for school purposes, especially as concerns ventilation, lighting, heating and many minor matters which make the room attractive as well as those concerning its sanitation. The legitimate work of the superintendent requires him to have an oversight of all these particulars whenever a building is to be altered or a new one to be erected. It is useless to say that this work can be done better by an agent hired by the Board for that purpose. It remains true in nine cases out of ten that if the superintendent does not do this work it will remain undone.
There is one more aspect which is seldom considered in discussing the duties of the superintendent. The superintendent can make no greater mistake than by ignoring the financial conditions of the city or district under his supervision. "What can we afford in the way of improvements, appliances and larger salaries?" is a question which Boards have to consider, and they ought to find a reasonable, wisely economical adviser in the person of their superintendent. The superintendent who is thus taken into the confidence of the Board of directors, and who shows an appreciation of the actual condition of affairs as business men look at them, has a hold on his position which he can get in no other way. The usefulness of the superintendent is vastly increased when as a business man he can look at things from a business man's standpoint.
No other conclusion can be reached in any fair discussion of this question than that the great duty of the superintendent in most of our schools is that of leadership. A strong, permanent, vivifying influence ought to go out from the superintendent's office, reaching not alone the teachers and schools, but the entire community as well. A superintendent who considers himself a fellow-laborer with his teachers, and incites them by his presence to the highest possibilities of action, will find his reward in their hearty co-operation.
RELATIONS OF THE STATE TO HER PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
HON. JOHN W. DICKINSON, EX-SECRETARY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION,
are the relations which a free State, like Massachusetts, should hold to her public schools? This subject has always been considered to be of vital importance in the government of our free Commonwealth, and never more important than at the present time.
History informs us that the idea of a system of free public schools originated in the same minds that established for us a democratic State. From the most ancient times, in the history of the State, the people have been accustomed to think that the free common school and compulsory education are the legitimate offspring of those ideas that led to the establishment of our democratic form of government, and that neither can exist without the other. If this is true, the State must hold a vital relation to her public schools.
This truth will appear if we consider, first, what sort of a person a democratic state is, and, second, what relation her public educational institutions hold to her existence and to her well-being.
A free State, like our own, is a community of persons living within well-defined limits of territory, and acting together under a permanent organization, controlled by self-imposed rules, for the protection of these persons in the enjoyment of the objects of their natural rights, and for their development into intelligent and loyal citizens.
As the State is a community of persons, the State and the people are one and the same thing; therefore, when we declare what the State may do we affirm what the people may do for themselves.
As the State which we have defined is governed by self-imposed rules the people are their own rulers.
As men living in the individual condition only, holding no social relations with one another, can neither protect themselves in the possession of the objects of their rights, nor develop their social natures, the existence of the State is a necessity.
The nation or state, then, rightly organized for human protection and development, has its origin in the nature and wants of man. If the nature and wants of man require the existence of the State for his well-being, then, like man himself, it must have a divine origin.
The State being the people acting together as a community under self-imposed rules, it must have the right to exercise supreme civil power. In this right to exercise supreme power is found the sovereignty of the State.
The sovereignty of the State includes its right to exist; and this right must be higher than all other civil rights.
There is sometimes an apparent conflict of laws, as when one law protects a man in the possession of his property and his life, and another law compels him to give up one in support of the government and the other in its defense.
An eminent writer has said that the law which in the conflict of laws abrogates or annuls all other laws is the law of the State's supreme necessity. That is, when the State is in danger even the property and the life of individuals must be offered in its support and defense. The State, therefore, in its necessity may interrupt and suspend the ordinary course of rights in their relations to the individual. If we consider the nature, origin and purpose of the State, then its right to exist and to exercise supreme civil power will at once appear. With this view of the State, anything that is necessary for its well-being may be rightfully done; especially may that be rightfully done which is necessary to train every individual citizen into harmony with the constitution of the State, of which he is a component part.
There are three conditions necessary to the formation and continued existence of a free State. One is an intelligent people, who have the independent power of knowing each for himself what human rights are; another is a virtuous people, who are ever ready to render to one another whatever is justly due; and a third is a homogeneous people, who are disposed to act together as a people. The existence and prevalence of intelligence and virtue, and a common sympathy among the people, require a wise, faithful and universal application of the influences of a common education.