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a series of years, showing the apparent, if not real, loss to the school funds. I have never charged that all these discrepancies were caused by theft or embezzlement; but they prove beyond a doubt that the book-keeping of the treasurers of districts is far from being perfect.
With all our care, and that of county superintendents, the report of 1880 shows a deficit in the various funds of $26,631.29. I am not able to give the results for this year, as I must prepare this part of the work before the statistics for this year are received. This is necessary to present the report in time to the legislature.
How much of this deficit is caused by bad book-keeping, how much by mistakes in transcribing, and how much by actual defalcation, it is impossible to determine, since we have no means to investigate. This proves that some provision should be made to ascertain the actual facts. I cannot see any reason why the power of the county superintendent could not be sufficiently extended to make him an auditing and revising officer, to whom treasurers must present their accounts, and by whom they should be investigated, either at the request of the board of directors or upon the motion of the county superintendent himself.
The common practice, and in fact the only safe one, for treasurers of country districts, is to deposit in some bank. This is a violation of the letter of the law, and the sooner a proper law is made to provide for a legal depositing in banks, as is now allowed to be done by county treasurers, the better it will be.
The longer I have opportunity to observe the working of our school finances, the more I become convinced that the division into three separate funds is unwise. The electors should have control of the levying of taxes for school-house purposes, and the directors should have power to provide for all other necessary expenditures of the schools; but to keep a separate account with each of the three funds, is a very complicated affair to the average treasurer of a country district, besides it is a constant occurrence that one fund has a large surplus and another becomes exhausted, and then transfers are made which confuse the accounts. A law so construed that funds voted for school-house purposes by the electors must be expended for the purpose designated, and that otherwise the money raised for school purposes shall be in a common fund, under the direction of the board, would be better than the present complicated arrangement. It would avoid the levying of excessive taxes much better than now. To show that the tendency of boards is to levy in excess of the necessities, I will here give a table
of amounts on hand for the years for which I have compiled the reports, except 1881, which, as above stated, I cannot now give.
$ 435,661.33 $
384,975.20|$ 1,437,871.10 $2,258,507.63 425,791.88 1,501,949.57 2,364,154.34 485,536.94 1,611,410.30 2,486,403.39 537,384.20 1,770,213.94 2,672,304.49
382,949.91 520,311.43 1,861,775.66 2,765,037.00
In this table, it will be observed that the amount on hand in schoolhouse fund has been decreased, owing to the smaller demand for new school-houses and the suggestion from this department, followed by a law of the Eighteenth General Assembly, that the electors could transfer school-house fund on hand to other funds. Still, in spite of this decrease, the total amount on hand has increased at a rate exceeding $100,000 per annum, when the actual expenditures have been nearly stationary. It must be left to the wisdom of the legislature to provide a remedy for this unnecessary accumulation of funds in the hands of district treasurers.
In order to present the views of some of our older and more experienced county superintendents upon questions of interest, I have asked several to write essays upon educational questions of general interest, which essays will form a part of this report, and to which I call special attention.
WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT.
Without enumerating the different kinds of labor performed during the last biennial period, I may be permitted to say that a much greater amount of supervision and personal inspection than can now be given would be a benefit to the schools of the State.
Besides the usual duties of the office, a new revision of the school law, and a new and revised edition of school law decisions have been prepared and distributed under the provisions of chapter 150, laws of the Eighteenth General Assembly. In all this work, I have had the valuable aid of my deputy, Ira C. Kling.
With confidence in, and good wishes for, my worthy successor, the Hon. J. W. Akers, I shall leave the office hoping that my labors in behalf of the cause of education in our noble State have not been in vain.
C. W. VON COELLN,
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
ESSAYS UPON EDUCATIONAL QUESTIONS.
PRIMARY WORK IN TEACHERS' INSTITUTES.
MISS E. E. FRINK, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF CEDAR COUNTY. The object of the teachers' institute is twofold. It aims, principally, to impart a knowledge of those principles of philosophy which underlie the teacher's profession, and in connection with that instruction to establish incidentally a common sympathy between teachers and pupils.
The plan of instruction must be suited to the wants of every grade of our public schools, but more especially to the primary. In no department of school work is there such pressing need of able and competent instructors as in the lower grades. It is here that habits are formed which will follow the child through life, and he will either have a love for study and culture implanted and wisely fostered, or he will learn to look upon all school work with disfavor as a drudgery to be shunned.
The normal institute is not the place to give instruction in the elements of any of the sciences taught in our public schools. This is pre-eminently the work of the school-room, where time and opportunity can be given for thorough drill, and since the time for holding institutes must be necessarily short, it should be devoted to other and higher purposes.
Instruction is the systematic arrangement of knowledge in the mind, and to make instruction thorough and complete we must begin with the elements which lie at the foundation and proceed slowly, step by step, adding to the superstructure until it stands out clearly and distinctly in the child's mind-a thorough knowledge of the subject under consideration.
To render this plan of instruction successful, it must be philosophical and must be applied in the natural order of mental development. Too many of our teachers know nothing of this law, nor of its application to the work of the school-room. Scores of the failures in our
schools to-day are the natural result of employing teachers having no well-defined plan concerning what to teach first, nor how to bring it within the scope of the child's mind. They know nothing of that general principle of education "to proceed from the known to the unknown, from the concrete to the abstract, from the particular to the general," nor of that first mental power employed by the child which acquires knowledge through the senses, and is termed perception.
Instruction upon these points belongs properly to the institute, for until they are comprehended by teachers, the waste of time and money is immense, and the schools lose half their efficiency.
There is a constantly increasing demand for good primary teachers, and inasmuch as new recruits are continually taking the places of those who have grown weary in the service, there is no danger of making too extensive preparation for primary work in every institute. In many instances it has been clearly shown that the best teachers in the highest grades of our public schools have been most benefited where a large proportion of the institute has been devoted to what is popularly termed primary work.
The methods employed to give this instruction are various. It can be done successfully by the instructor in didactics, using the members of the institute as a class and telling them how to arrange lessons for the little ones that shall appeal to the eye; and having created an interest in the lesson, the best method of enabling them to render it familiar and impressive, that they may remember it. He can point out valuable methods of arousing curiosity and speculation upon the subject-teach them to reason about it and finally to generalize by aiding them to form a group or class from a number of like individuals.
Perhaps the highest good is reached where the instruction can be given to the little ones by a competent primary teacher under the very eye of the institute, that they may see the entire work, and watch the modus operandi through all its stages, but it can be done with good results by almost any teacher who is so full of the thought and subject himself as to believe in it fully. Such teachers will always have followers.
The results of this work are far-reaching, and the material upon which we work imperishable. Teachers gather in our institutes summer after summer and listen to the words of counsel, instruction and encouragement there given, and then go out to practice their skill upon those strange, marvelous, and priceless pieces of mechanism
which they find awaiting them in their respective workshops. Their mission is to wake to action the energies of a living soul; to tune an instrument that will never cease to send forth its notes to a listening world. The instrument may be finely strung and wondrously susceptible, but unless a skillful hand shall sweep its strings, it will yield only discordant sounds and the entire mechanism become "jangled and out of tune."
If the work of the primary grades is properly performed, the higher grades will, in a measure, take care of themselves. Dr. Mark Hopkins says: Knowledge is the food of the mind. And as food may overload and enfeeble the body and is to be received only as there is a capacity of digestion and assimilation and ultimate reference to action, so knowledge may overload and enfeeble the mind, and should be received only as it can be reflected upon, and arranged and so incorporated into our mental being as to give us power for action."
Let us, then, as superintendents use every legitimate means to impress upon teachers the necessity of teaching ouly those things which the child is competent to understand, but to so illustrate, explain and demonstrate them to his senses that he may be able to acquire, retain and use the knowledge thus obtained.
THE UNGRADED SCHOOLS OF THE COUNTRY.
R. M. EWART, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF DELAWARE COUNTY.
The advance sheets of the biennial report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction show that there are 10,590 ungraded schools in the State. In these schools not less than three-fourths of all the children of the State receive a very great part of their education, and a large number of these children have no other educational advantages than are afforded by these schools. When viewed in this light, the ungraded schools of the country are seen to constitute an important factor in the educational system of the State. The great question demanding the attention of all good citizens, and especially of educational men and legislators, is, how these schools can be made energetic, thorough, and progressive, in the instruction which they give.
Since the public school system of the State was established, these ungraded schools have made great advancement in every respect. Their progress has been particularly noticeable during the past ten