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years. In that time the buildings and school property have been greatly improved, and the efforts of State and county superintendents through careful examinations, systematic inspection and through the training of normal institutes, have done much in bringing about uniformity in methods of instruction. There are certainly many encouraging features about the work of the ungraded schools, and yet, under their present organization and management, there appears to be a limit to their progress. Close observation will show that the improvement of late years consists more in a tendency toward uniformity than in a general raising of the whole body of the work.
But what is the actual condition of these schools at the present time? Our school system in general has been vigorously attacked by eminent critics, both at home and abroad, and although much of the criticism is unjust and founded on no very good reason, it cannot well be denied that our schools are not giving the returns that reasonable people might well expect for the time and money invested. Perhaps the country schools are imitating the graded schools in attempting to go over a great deal of ground at the expense of thoroughness in the essentials. At any rate, after several years of attendance-we could hardly use the word study-how much valuable education have the pupils obtained? They have no doubt gone through the whole series of text-books in the common school branches, but how many of the principles therein set forth can they apply to the most common and simple business transactions? It is generally acknowledged that the examination questions sent out by the Department of Public Instruction are fair and practical, but requiring some general information, and a constant exercise of the reasoning faculties on the part of the applicant. But every one who examines applicants for teachers' certificates knows that even the best pupils, fresh from the schools, who apply at the examination, show themselves deficient in all work that requires anything more than the memory of text-book matter. Why is it that nearly every higher institution of learning has to devote so much time to giving instruction in the common school branches, when there is a common school whose business it is to do this work, within easy reach of almost every individual in the State? If it is because the work is not done in the schools established for that purpose, it is high time some attention was given to the subject. Indeed, it is as well to own frankly that the country schools are in a backward condition, and that the pupils are not receiving the thorough instruction neces
sary for the sufficient development of intellectual strength and selfconfidence.
If a strong, healthful intellectual development and growth of moral character is ever to be the work of the common schools, they must be in charge of teachers who through their general intelligence and the strength and purity of their character, can command the confidence not only of the pupils but of the entire community. Our teachers are generally worthy young people, but most of them did not have the advantages of thorough training themselves, and many of them are not matured enough to make any forcible impression on others. Some teachers have been at work in the school-room for years before they attain the age when the State considers it safe to give them a voice in the election of the most unimportant officers in their own township. Some teachers are frequently employed in places where local prejudices prevent them from receiving all the confidence to which they are entitled. But worse than all, teachers are seldom retained in the same place long enough to become thoroughly familiar with the disposition and needs of the pupils. This feature causes few to enter the country schools with the purpose of remaining very long in the work, and for this reason teachers do not generally give the thought and attention to their work that they otherwise might.
But as matters now stand, who could expect any one to devote himself for any length of time to the work of the country schools? The work in these schools is such that no one can hope for permanent employment and reasonable remuneration for the services performed. The ungraded schools of the State are not in session on an average of over seven months in the year, and it is doubtful if the whole amount paid teachers in ungraded schools will average $150 a year through the State. But a common laborer will receive upwards of $200 a year for his services, with board thrown in, and he is not expected to dress neatly or to pay institute and examination fees and other incidentals, amounting in the aggregate to a considerable sum. It is a significant fact that the salaries of teachers are the only salaries of public employés wholly within the control of the people. The State law fixes the compensation for every public act of State, county and township officers, and it is generally fixed on a liberal scale. The law is very particular in defining all the requirements of a teacher, even to saying just how much he shall pay for the torture of examination, and then he is turned over to the public, whose generosity is well taxed in paying all the many public expenses and salaries required by law. In
deed, the people are always ready to retrench in this only item of public expense wholly within their control, and it has almost become a saying that teachers' wages are the first to be cut down and the last to be raised. There are cases even in some of our older and wealthier counties where school boards ask teachers to work for $12 per month and board themselves.
The cause of most of the obstacles in the way of permanent progress in the country schools may be found in the short and irregular school terms and the very low wages that are paid. If the school work was permanent, and the remuneration afforded a reasonable living, there are many who would devote their best thoughts to the work. If the schools were in session for at least nine consecutive months in the year and the same teacher employed at fair living wages through the whole time, and continued in the same school as long as good work was done, the common school work would begin to make steady and permanent progress. A school in charge of a teacher of only moderate ability will make greater progress in the end than if it were in charge of a number of better teachers who are continually changing about. If the public schools are worthy of support at all, they should be conducted so as to produce the best possible results. The time which pupils usually spend in these schools, if devoted to good earnest work, would give the average pupil a thorough knowledge of the essential branches, and fix in him the habit of close attention and vigorous thought. And who will not say that much permanent injury is wrought through the indolent habits and careless work permitted in many of these schools.
Considering the position which these schools occupy at the very foundation of the whole educational system, their claims do not receive enough attention at the hands of educational men. There is a disposition at present to exalt the advantages of higher education, and to forget, perhaps, that the masses are not receiving substantial instruction in the very rudiments. The public school system is being judged by the success of the lower grades, and the whole educational work would be strengthened if the common schools were made thorough and efficient. The man who will do most to relieve these schools from the difficulties with which they contend, will deserve the everlasting gratitude of the people of the State.
COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLS.
G. C. MILLER, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF GUTHRIE COUNTY.
Higher education than can be acquired in the common public schools is admitted as essential for the proper intellectual development of the youth of the State; to enable them to discharge properly the duties of intelligent citizens, and fill the many positions of trust and remuneration. This higher intellectual development required cannot be attained without institutions of learning that provide for more thorough training, and more advanced courses of study, than the elements of the common branches as taught in the common public schools.
The cities and larger towns provide for this higher and more thorough training by establishing public high schools, or high school departments, in connection with, and a part of, the public school system, at the public expense, under the control of the board of education of the city. These schools meet the demand of the cities, but are not open without expense, and free to the young men and women of the country, who must be content with an imperfect and fragmentary knowledge of the elementary branches, such as can be given in the common district schools; or receive this higher training demanded in the high schools of the city, at their own expense for tuition, and at the option of the school boards. To provide this class an opportunity for higher instruction in science, mathematics and languages; to meet the increasing demands for superior qualifications of teachers; educated men for the professions; competent young men and women for the different pursuits; to enable industrious and ambitious young men and women to acquire the necessary attainments, both rich and poor alike, in harmony with the spirit of the public school system, a county high school should be established in nearly every county in the State, either distinct or in connection with the public schools of the central city or metropolis. These schools would fill the intermediate place between the common public schools and the college, or supplant some of the falsely termed colleges.
The course of study should be varied to meet the different demands; a school that will prepare its pupils for teaching, for the ordinary business of life, or serve as the preparatory department for the State University, Normal School or colleges.
The course of study should embrace a thorough review of the common English branches; the methods and principles of teaching, ele
ments of science, algebra and the first books of geometry, language and composition, civil government and United States history.
The right to support schools beyond the common public schools at the public expense is denied by many. It is not the province of this article to discuss this, but we assume the position that it is the duty of the State, for the best interests of the State and its citizens, to provide the best educational training it can give. To afford equalļfacilities to all the youth of the State is the foundation principle of the public school system. The legislators of the State have recognized the right to go beyond the instruction in the elementary branches in training its citizens for useful and intelligent citizenship, by the enactment of a law providing for the organization and maintenance of county high schools at the public expense. Under this law one county has been able to establish such a school by a vote of the people. The law is almost a dead letter, notwithstanding the wisdom of the founders and supporters. The question of establishing a county high school has been submitted to the electors in several counties, but through local feelings and issues the proposition was defeated, excepting in Guthrie county, where by the reason of local issues rather than the merits of such an institution, a school was established in Panora by virtue of this law. The school opened in January, 1876, with two teachers and fifty pupils. During the first two years of its existence most of the pupils attending resided in Panora, or the adjacent country. It is now patronized from all parts of the county. At. this writing fourteen of the sixteen townships in the county are represented. Over one-half of the teachers of the county have received instruction in the school, enabling them to meet the increasing demands for higher scholarship. The schools of the county are supplied with competent teachers. Very few young men and women attempt to teach without attending two or three terms at the county high school. The school has become an inseparable part of the school system of the county, growing stronger each year in numbers and influence, until to-day, should the question of abolishing the school be submitted to the voters it would be defeated by a large vote. Taxation for its support is very light-less than one mill for all expenses the present year. A fine, commodious brick building has been erected and furnished with a fine library and philosophical apparatus. There are now seventy-five pupils attending, and three teachers employed. The principal receives ninety dollars per month, one assistant seventy, another forty. The Guthrie county high school is the pride of the cit