Page images
PDF
EPUB

cry about the increase in crime. There are crimes against the property, and against the person. Drunkenness is now considered a crime, owing to the awakening of the consciences of the people making it a crime instead of an offense. Now these statistics count in drunkenness along with crimes against the person and property; the consequence is a swelling of the statistics of crime. Take the State of Massachusetts: in 1850 it sent 3,000 persons to jail for intemperance; in 1885 it sent 18,000 to jail for drunkenness, or six times the number, although the population had only increased 30 per cent. In Massachusetts crimes against the person and against property had absolutely decreased 44 per cent., thus showing that persons and property were safer.

MR. CALKINS: I am gratified that the previous speakers have so thoroughly discussed the subject in all its bearings that it will relieve me from going over the same ground. In many parts of the country we have schools where large numbers of the pupils have to be put through the most elementary exercises in mental development. They hardly know how to hear. They do not even have thoughts to express in language or in sentences. The teacher has first to ascertain the mental condition of the pupil before he knows how to set about reaching his intellect. If the subject be language, and the pupil has no thoughts, or thoughts that can be represented by only very few words, the teacher must first train them to know the symbols of these things. It is like a person trying to pump water from a dry well. The pupil must be trained in such a way that the mind must first be furnished with thoughts, and then with language to express these thoughts. The teachers tell us, “We have not time for all this; you are adding to our burdens.” In order, however, to be trained successfully in this direction, the pupil must be supplied with the thoughts and the words to express them. He must also be led and encouraged to use words in expressing his own thoughts. I have to apologize for dealing so much with elementary forms.

In regard to the matter of moral training, we must look at conditions as they are. What can we do where 95 per cent of the pupils are composed of the very lowest orders of society and unable to speak the English language? As, for example, in one school where 90 per cent. of the pupils are from Italy, and have been in this country only a few months.

In the teacher's conduct there should exist the elements of moral training. The children should be led to love right actions. They should be trained to distinguish between right and wrong; to distinguish the difference between their own acts and those of other pupils. It need not be made a special subject of instruction.

23

SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON SCHOOL

SYSTEMS.

In 1888, at the request of Superintendent Tarbell, then its chairman, I prepared for the Council the Report of the Committee on City School Systems, taking for a subject, “The Business Side of City School Systems.” The discussion of that report has twice been adjourned by special vote of the Council. As a consequence, its substance is no doubt nearly or quite forgot

At the request of Dr. White, the present chairman of the committee, I submit a résumé of said report, with some further views believed to be germane to the subject.

Two or three pages of the document are devoted to the relations of the public to the public schools. The schools considered as organizations of instruction are declared superior to the schools as organizations of business. Teachers are said to be in advance of average public sentiment and of average board administration; and the observation is ventured that such a state of things cannot permanently continue. The public and the board will overtake the schools, or the schools will ultimately fall back to the line of the public and the board.

The report then deals with the three main branches of the subject, in order :

1. The Constitution and Powers of School Boards.-It is said: “The powers of the board, from the very nature of the case, must be partly legislative, as in the adoption of studies, books, and rules; partly executive, as in the appointment of teachers; and partly judicial, as in handling cases of discipline.” The proper size of a board depends upon various circumstances, that need not be recapitulated.

2. The Selection of Board Members. -- Dr. Philbrick is quoted: “Without doubt, this is the supreme educational problem which remains for our educational statesmanship to grapple with.” The modes of appointing members are then stated:

First, popular election. The modes of procedure are: (1) Election by ward or district ticket; (2) election by city ticket; ( 3 ) election by these two plans combined.

Secondly, appointment. Four varieties of this method are discriminated : (1) Appointment by the city council; (2) Appointment by the judges of the courts; (3) Appointment by the mayor; (+) Appointment by the mayor, with the consent of the council. The reasons why selection by popular election works badly in most American cities, are suggested. The reasons why some method of appointment would be a great improvement on the elective method are also briefly stated.

Perhaps it is needless to say that the first group of reasons inhere in city politics. They are suggested as follows:

“The grand cause of bad school boards in cities is the same as the grand cause of bad city administration generally, viz., the triumph of politics over business methods. How complete that triumph is in many cities, all men know who are even casually acquainted with current municipal affairs. In fact, one of the pressing political questions of the day is the thorough reform of municipal government. There is no reason to think that in this respect the schools have suffered more or less than other departments of city government. It is to be observed, however, that the real nature of the evils that politics inflicts upon the school, or even upon city administration as a whole, is not always understood. No doubt partisan politics --Republican and Democratic politics - has much to answer for; but school politics - the application of the politician's methods to school questions -- does far more harm."

The other point is touched as follows:

* The mayor of the city, or the judges, would be able to appoint a better school board than the people at large are able to elect. The abstract proposition that the people have abundant intelligence and virtue to name a board, although true, is nothing to the purpose. The concrete proposition, What are the citizens doing and likely to do under the conditions actually existing in the cities, ridden and handicapped as they are by the politicians? is the one to be considered. Furthermore, the mayor, or the judges, if they failed to use their power, could be and would be held to a strict accountability. No doubt it will be objected that these officers, and particularly the mayor, would abuse the power; but cities can be named that never had a mayor who would dare to appoint such a board as the people habitually elect, save when aroused to spasmodic action by an accumulation of abuses. The mayor is one man, and an officer who can be arraigned at the bar of public opinion; while the demos is a multitude that is not responsible, since experience proves the futility of calling any power to account at its own bar."

The third part of the San Francisco report I have myself always considered quite the most important part of the document. I therefore transcribe in this supplement the four or five leading paragraphs, as follows:

“3. Mode of Board Administration.--The board must be clothed by the law with legislative, executive, and judicial powers and duties. One of the first things that it should do, however, is to immediately divest itself of the most of its executive and judicial duties, and to confine itself mainly to legislation. The reasons why a board is a bad executive body are obvious, and do not call for formal statement. But it is important to point out how its executive duties should be discharged.

“Acting as a legislature, the board should establish three executive departments, defining their powers and duties:

“The Department of Finance, Accounts, and Records.
“The Department of Construction, Repairs, and Supplies.
“The Department of Instruction and Discipline.

“The heads of the department might be called the auditor, the superintendent of construction, and the superintendent of schools. Nothing will be said here of their qualifications, further than that they should be men of decided ability and character, having each an expert knowledge of the important duties committed to their charge.

* These departments should be as permanent and efficient, relatively, as the executive departments of the State or National Government; perhaps it would be wise to have them provided for in the school law itself; certainly they should be put high beyond the reach of hasty board action. It is not necessary, in this report, to catalogue the duties that would fall to them respectively; but it is necessary to insist that they should be the sole channels of executive administration, within their seyeral limits. Judicial functions, so far as employés are concerned, should be delegated to the heads of these departments, granting the right of appeal to the board, duly limited.

**School administration in cities is still organized essentially as it was when the cities were villages. While this organization answered the villages well enough, it is now far outgrown. To be sure, semblances of executive departments are found in these organizations, but they are embryonic and feeble. To a very great extent, boards intrust administration to committees of their own number. This is not quite so absurd as it would be for a State legislature to attempt to carry on the whole State administration by means of standing committees, but the absurdity is of the same sort.

“Confining itself mainly to legislation, the board should proceed to do business like a legislature. It should appoint a few standing committees, say on finance, on teachers and salaries, on course of study and text-books, on construction, on judiciary, and perhaps two or three more. Details can be readily settled, when the main ideas have been agreed upon. At the same time, it will be well to indicate the method of procedure.

“For example, the Committee on Teachers and Salaries would, at the proper time, report the number of teachers needed the ensuing year, a schedule of salaries, and the amount of money required to pay them. After being printed, discussed, and amended if necessary, the board would pass the bill, and the money voted would then be duly entered on the Auditor's books, as subject to draft for this purpose. Similarly, the Committee on Construction should report on repairs, on new buildings, or on supplies, and the procedure should be the same as before.

"By this plan, the legislative work of the schools, as well as the executive work, would be far better done than now. At present the board spends a great deal of time in small acts of legislation. For the school board of a great city to legislate, in terms, on the purchase of a few feet of hose-pipe, or a lawn-mower, is no less and no more absurd than it is to have twenty-five or thirty standing committees, many of them charged with executive functions, in order that as many men may have the petty chairmanships.

“Not only would this plan of organization secure far better results than are now secured, but it would save much time and annoyance. A meeting a month on the average would be all-sufficient. Again, this plan would render a board of considerable size not only unobjectionable, but desirable; whereas, a board that holds the major executive duties in its own hands must, to be efficient, be small; it is hardly an exaggeration to say, the smaller the better."

Such are the salient points of the report made at San Francisco, two years ago. Further observation and reflection have the more satisfied me of their general soundness.

That our present methods of school-board administration are exceedingly defective, and that they are not improving, is generally conceded by those most competent to pass an opinion on the subject. Many persons are earnestly looking about to find some way out of these evils. Last year, at Nashville, I uttered the opinion that these methods and evils are no separate and isolated fact. I now repeat the declaration. Our schools are a part of our civic life; our educational machinery is a part of that municipal question which is one of the foremost issues now before the American people. American cities are governed more expensively, more inefficiently, and more corruptly than the cities of any other civilized country; and, upon the whole, our school administration is of a piece with the rest of our municipal system.

We deal, therefore, with no separate problem, and shall never reach a separate solution. The schools will not be taken out of politics until the other branches of the city government are taken out of politics likewise. To believe that the schools will be managed sensibly and honestly while the streets, the parks, and the police, are managed on political and not on business principles, as they are at present, is just as absurd as it would be to search for an apple one-half sweet and one-half sour. The reform that we seek is an integral part of a vastly larger reform. Here and there, owing to the operation of special causes, the schools may be well administered while the clutch of the politician is on the city's throat; but, as a rule, the business side of the public schools will be conducted in much the same manner as the business side of the city government.

The San Francisco report hinted at this conclusion. It said: “Those men who have studied municipal questions most thoroughly are convinced that there is no ultimate means of escape from existing evils but by reducing the number of elections and elective officers, by limiting the power of the municipal legislature, and by materially increasing the power and responsibility of the chief municipal executive.” It is a striking fact that the best-governed city in the United States is a city where the ballot-box is practically unknown, and where the citizens have no direct voice in the government. I refer to Washington, the government of which is a pure despotism. As a class, educators may not be able to deal with the large subject of municipal reform; but it is important that they shall understand the bearings and relations of their own peculiar problem. Respectfully submitted. B. A. HINSDALE.

DISCUSSION.

[REPORTED BY S, S, PARR, MINNESOTA.] MR. RICHARDS dissented from Mr. Hinsdale's view, that Washington is the best-governed city in the country. The people have no voice in their own affairs, and are not allowed to decide in matters of taxation and government. He believed Washington to be one of the most highly taxed, badly policed, and most mismanaged cities of this country,

MR. HARRIS: The question is not properly focused. It is a problem of democracy and monarchy. We must settle whether we believe in democracy or not. Carlyle believed democracy to be doomed, but the speaker thought

« PreviousContinue »