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izens of the county. The taxes for its support are paid as cheerfully as the tax for the support of the common schools. Its influence in creating greater interest in the common schools is perceptible throughout the county. This being the only school organized under the law providing for such in the State, and established without a precedent, against strong opposition and prejudice, its successful operation is the strongest argument that can be produced in favor of county high schools.
The writer of this article has served as county superintendent of Guthrie county for eight years and by virtue of this office has served as president of the high school board. I give my views of a county high school from personal observation of its workings and influence, rather than those of a theorist. If the difficulties that arise in establishing these schools could be overcome, such as local jealousies, the false cry of high taxes, and the schools once established, I fully believe the system of county high schools would become a popular adjunct to the present common school system.
THE IMPROVEMENT OF COUNTRY SCHOOLS.
R. A. MATHEWS, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF JASPER COUNTY.
The needs of country schools are: better buildings; better official work; much better teachers; great improvement in public sentiment.
There should be greater care in the selection of plans for buildings and a more economical expenditure of public funds. It is economical to build spacious, well lighted and properly ventilated barns, because "there is money in it." Much more is this true in constructing school-houses, in which an over frugal policy is too often followed, and sometimes, too, not ignorantly.
The law should prescribe a minimum of dimensions, also of cost of school-houses; should provide more definitely for the construction, and, after they are built, for careful inspection under sanitary regulations.
Better official work would be done if eligibility to office required practical experience in teaching or the approval of the county superintendent as to the fitness for the official work in question. Reasonable salaries should be allowed all officials for actual service, and they should be held to strict account for the performance of official duty.
The offices of secretary and treasurer should be consolidated into that of supervisor, with the additional duties of special supervision of the schools and the school property in a district, and care of the latter. In the district township especially, teachers now suffier too much inconvenience in obtaining their salaries. An enforced annual settlement of this officer with the board and with the county superintendent, assisted by a committee appointed for that purpose by the board of supervisors, would be an improvement on our present system.
There should also be established a county board of education, to have jurisdiction over matters of general importance-appeals, arbitration cases, text-books, teachers' salaries, election of county superintendent, etc. said board to consist of one member from each congressional township, elected by the school directors therof for three years.
Better teaching is our sorest need. All agree in the opinion that our public schools are not what they should be. In the country schools fifty per cent of the teachers at least do not remain in the work longer than three years, for the principal reason that they can do better in other employment. Teachers' salaries, then, are not what they should be.
Every reasonable man is willing to admit that teachers' wages should equal that of average workingmen. Probably the average wages of workingmen is found in carpenter work, painting, masonry, and other work which is not permanent-giving employment for but a part of the year. To give stability to teachers' wages a minimum salary for teachers should be established by statute, as is that of the county superintendent, to prevent over frugal school boards from crippling the best interests of the schools, at times. This minimum salary, too, should at least equal that of the artisan, which would encourage teachers to fit themselves carefully for their work, knowing that a certain salary could be depended upon, and that merit would win more.
Greater permanency could be secured were it enacted that teachers on receiving a first certificate should be pledged to engage in teaching for five years—at least two years consecutively in the county in which the first certificate is granted; provided, that for sufficient reason a discharge from the obligation may be granted by a county superintendent.
Physical eligibility of candidates for certificates should be defined by statute, requiring greater age than is expected now, and a physician's certificate of good health. We then may have scholarship,
judgment, discretion and governing qualities greatly improved. Better teachers will be secured, too, if county superintendents are not too much at the mercy of the popular vote, that there may be sufficient permanency to enable them to become fairly acquainted with the teachers under their charge.
Public sentiment is much at fault in the attitude it usually holds toward the schools. As a rule, when excellence in work is known, it is grudgingly appreciated. In employing teachers, great uncertainties are often experimented with, in the expectation of a speculation— "getting a good quality of work for less than it is worth." This however, is not so objectionable as an experiment, as the practice of employing tried and faithful teachers at the same salary as beginners.
The employment of relatives of the school directors, when a fair minority of patrons are opposed, should be guarded against; but let faithful and able teachers be retained for several years in the same school, rather than several weeks. Serious, rather than ordinary, faults should be the occasion for removal of teachers. Let those of successful experience be employed by the year, and not by three months' terms, that the teacher's attention may be upon the school rather than upon a new situation for the next term.
What is most needed is more "Put yourself in his place" thought on this subject, and more of the golden rule practice in dealing with educational work.
The remedy for this apathy, however, is largely with the teachers. Conscientious work, performed as carefully for a low salary as for a higher one, will be appreciated, or will lead to later appreciation of the profession. As long as the accomplishment of good results is second in the teacher's purposes to the desire of an annual gain of twenty-five dollars, so long the profession will lack appreciation.
With earnest devotion to the work, without over-anxiety to worldly prosperity, teachers, in the end will attain greater good to themselves, and may rest assured of conferring far greater benefit upon those who, in the next generation, will certainly consider more favorably the teacher of their time.
"As you cross the desert, plant trees"; then it may soon be the lot of some to work in a shady, fertile oasis, and while the trees planted. call in their thirst for the life-giving element from their atmosphere, friendly clouds will be attracted and will pour upon them invigorating showers; and through the desert will soon flow perpetual streams for their nourishment.
OBSERVATION AND NATURAL SCIENCE.
W. W. SPEER, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF MARSHALL COUNTY.
Moleschott calls man a product of his senses. Man, then, as to his knowledge, is a product of his observation; for all he has received has come through the medium of his organs of sense, and from without. The development of a man's intellect does not anticipate the development of his senses. His power to think is regulated by his power to perceive. Acute perception results in clear thinking, blurred perception is accompanied by indistinct and drowsy thinking. If intelligence is the product of cultivated perception, it is then the first duty of the schools to cultivate a habit of accurate observation. That this is not done, is evident to the most careless observer. Travel through a country presenting the grandest views, the most magnificent scenery, and you observe that the varied and beautiful scenes excite little or no interest. The senses are dead. None of the myriads of beautiful forms nor the countless combinations of rich colors quicken the imagination. Nature, to most people, is an absolute blank.
Why is it that children who are delighted with the simplest things, a toy, an insect, a stone, or a flower, who are full of curiosity, are many of them, when grown, mentally dead? It is thought that naturally the number of dunces does not exceed the number of deaf; but it is evident that by some process of manufacture the number of the former has grown to be greatly in excess of the latter, and as it is the province of the common schools to sharpen the mental faculties, and as the schools turn out so many with blunted perceptions, it naturally follows that our educational system is in some way at fault.
It will be granted by any one familiar with the workings of the common schools, that no systematic effort is made to cultivate the senses. Systematic effort! there is not even an empirical one. Teachers are not to blame for this, they are not to blame for a want of ambition, enthusiasm, and a knowledge of nature's method; for they themselves have been fed on chaff. They have been taught to worship the forms of knowledge. To them the symbols of things are everything, the things nothing; hence the paralyzing effect of their work on the minds of the young.
In all the works of the great reformer Pestalozzi, there is nothing more distinctly shown than that the systematic study of things should precede that of books. The only places in which this principle is rec
ognized at all, are in the kindergarten schools, and in developing the first word in teaching reading by the word method. Usually, in teaching reading, after the instructor has shown one object, and has talked about it, object work in that school ceases. Instead of adopting this principle in all his work with primary pupils, he ignores it entirely. He soon places a book in the hands of the child, tells it to keep still and study. Then the grind begins and the chances are that, if the child is a docile and teachable one, and remains in the school for eight or nine years, he will be turned out a dunce. The cultivation of the senses, which measures the intellectual growth of the child, is left entirely to chance.
Any system of education that is not natural is harmful. Any system of education that does not excite the faculties of the child in such a manner as to give pleasure is not a rational system. The child to whom the study of books gives pleasure is the exception; the child to whom the handling and study of objects does not give pleasure is not a natural nor a healthy one.
There is not an educator in all this broad land who does not place a high estimate on the value of object teaching. Intelligent object teaching must be based on a thorough knowledge of objects. Is it possible for a teacher to excite an interest in the study of animals, rocks and flowers, unless he is familiar with these objects himself? Can teachers train.pupils to habits of accurate observation, unless they are acquainted themselves with the things to be observed? Can a colorblind pedagogue give a lesson on color? No more can one who is purblind to the objects in nature give an object lesson. Teachers must know the way, and have traveled it themselves before they can point the way to others. A very ordinary person, be he familiar with stones and insects, birds and flowers, can excite the curiosity, develop the observation, and train the child to think; but it takes a genius to make the study of a book pleasurable to a child. It takes genius to breathe life into a dead word or definition.
The mere talk about this fundamental principle in education results in little or no good. Were the educators of Iowa to unite in recommending, and in using their influence to secure the passage of a law requiring teachers to prepare themselves in the elements of botany, zoology and mineralogy, they would have taken a step that would eventually result in fitting teachers to begin at the foundation of the educational superstructure instead of at the top; it would fit them to begin with objects, not symbols; with ideas, not words. Were teachers