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STATEMENT OF LOSSES
To the school funds of the State by deficits in reports of district officers for the nine years, commencing 1873.
Sum total, $506,034.96, averaging $56,226.10 per year.
TWENTIETH REGULAR REPORT
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
THE hope expressed in my last biennial report, that with the return of prosperous times, the reduction of teachers' salaries during the preceding years would be regained, seems to have been well founded, and some who had left the occupation for better paying employment are returning to the school-room as teachers. The two years embraced in this report have shown a gradual improvement in the school work, which is encouraging. We have our hinderances and discouragements. Prominent among them are the want of permanency of employment, a misapprehension of the real objects of the schools, and the lack of trained teachers. In our country schools, the large majority of teachers teach for a single term and then must seek a new field of employment, where they have to make themselves acquainted with the condition of affairs, and where their methods and ways have to be learned by the scholars.
In our graded schools, most of the teachers are employed by the year, and I am glad to be able to say, in many communities the principal teachers are often retained for a number of years in succession. Still they are subject to the continual annoyance of an annual excitement, and the anxiety caused by the inquiry whether their services will be required for another year.
It is not my desire to deprive the people of the privilege of dismissing incompetent or undesirable teachers; but it is a well-established fact, that often an experienced and successful teacher is removed on account
of personal hostility on the part of a few, created by the faithful discharge of his duties. If necessary, the law should authorize boards of directors to employ a tried teacher or superintendent for an indefinite time, subject to the limitations of law now existing for removal for cause, and with the stipulation that the engagement could be closed after a notice of a reasonable time.
There is a belief of many persons that the object of teaching and education is to give a boy or girl a certain amount of knowledge, which after a certain time must result in so many dollars and cents. The true object of elementary education is the discipline of mind in all its faculties, so that the individual may be prepared to perform his duties as a citizen and as one of the immense number of producers. If a trade is to be chosen by such person, he needs an apprenticeship for learning the special requirements of such trade; if he desires to follow a profession, he must secure the professional training to fit him for such work.
The demand for industrial training in our elementary schools is made by persons who misapprehend the object of these schools, and who have given little thought to the requirements for preparation to conduct such instruction. Our schools must become more practical, and none appreciate this more than those in charge of our best schools. Instead of teaching geography for five or six years in our elementary schools, the rudiments of botany and zoology should be taught. The child who can tell all about the rivers and mountains of Asia and Africa is often utterly ignorant of the names, habits and uses of the plants that grow by the roadside, and of the animals that he sees in field and forest. Instead of studying the intricate rules for complicated examples of arithmetic, he should be made thoroughly familiar with the ordinary operations of every-day life, not by learning rules, but by continued practice and reasoning. Instead of learning definitions and rules of technical grammar, he should be taught to speak correctly and to write in a legible handwriting a good business or friendly letter.
The teachers in our country schools are better prepared for this work than they were six years ago, when the normal institute was inaugurated; but they still lack knowledge of methods, and comprehensive views of education and of their own place in this training of the young.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS OF THE STATE.
The State University is making constant progress, and if sustained. by the people as it ought to be, will be looked upon in a few years as second to none in the West. Michigan University is, to-day, the pride, not only of that State, but of all the West, and its success is largely owing to the munificence of the people in endowing and sustaining it.
Former legislatures have done well, but the increased demand for new buildings must be met, and the call for additional aid needed to make good the loss from interest on the endowment fund should be favorably received and promptly responded to. The ever-increasing wealth of this promising State should feel proud to sustain within our borders at least one institution which will give an opportunity for the best academic and professional education to be obtained anywhere. The report of the University will show a gratifying increase of popularity and success, and an absolute necessity for new buildings and more means to carry forward the actual wants of the institution.
What has been said of the University will apply with equal force to the only institution of the State for the training of professional teachers, the State Normal School, at Cedar Falls. Removed from the town, it can accommodate only about one hundred scholars with board, and is thus laboring under constant difficulties. There is needed an assembly room large enough to seat all the students with comfort; there should be some provision to secure board and lodging within convenient distance from the school, and the facilities for teaching should be increased by providing a larger number of instructors and more and better apparatus.
It is a fact that both these institutions are full to overflowing and need enlargement. Any one examining the work done in these schools, will agree with me in commending the management heartily and pronouncing it successful.
The question of additional schools for the training of teachers is being urged constantly, and all who desire successful schools must recognize the necessity for the establishment of more normal schools. The wisdom of the legislature must determine whether the means can be secured for this purpose at the present time. If they can be provided for the carrying forward of these schools, several localities stand ready to furnish the needed buildings and grounds.
Since my official career will have closed when this report is presented
to the legislature, it is proper to suggest that the Superintendent of Public Instruction should have a legal connection with the board of directors of the Normal School. Both houses of the last legislature passed bills for this purpose, but differing in some features, both were lost for want of time.
The Agricultural College secures industrial training to those who attend this favorably known school. It has an excellent corps of instructors, and an ample endowment.
The State provides abundantly for all her unfortunate children. The blind, the deaf-mutes, the feeble-minded, the orphans, and those whose moral training has been neglected at home, are all supplied with special training at the expense of the State. These institutions have no official relation to this department, and information must be obtained from their respective reports.
The only professional preparation given to the large majority of our country teachers is obtained in the normal institutes. These institutes have been sustained with almost uniform favor and enthusiasm. They employ the best teachers of our graded schools and many of the best professors in our higher institutions of learning. That there are defects in the management of many of these institutes cannot be denied. Some of the county superintendents employ persons as conductors and instructors who have not the necessary qualifications. A person may be a good teacher of a school, but not an efficient conductor or instructor of an institute designed to teach methods and to give professional training. Another difficulty has been experienced by nearly all county superintendents; the desire of teachers to study all the branches required for examination; in other words, these teachers believe the institute to be a short and special review to secure a certificate. Both of these difficulties have been observed by our best educators, and our courses of study for the years 1880 and 1881 have been prepared to counteract the latter, and my endeavor has been to prevent as far as possible the former. To show what has been done in this respect the courses of study for 1880 and 1881 are herewith printed. The course for 1881 was presented at the request of many educators who desired a continuous course which, with study during the years intervening, accompanied by the reading and study of professional books, would make a fair substitute for the professional training received in academies and other schools.