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One good result of the agitation appears in the appointment, by the Department of Superintendence, of a Committee of Fifteen authorized to consider the field of elementary education. This committee was wisely chosen from experts in the organization and administration of common school systems.
The division of the committee into three sub-committees, charged respectively with the study ( 1.) of the training of teachers, ( 2.) of the correlation of studies.in elementary education and (3.) of the organization of city school systems, was wisely determined by the Committee of Fifteen.
The results of their deliberations are presented to the public in a report submitted at Cleveland, Ohio, February 19 – 21, 1895. Three distinct reports appear, without discussion by the entire Committee of Fifteen.
This sub-committee makes a unanimous report. Its findings will meet with cordial approval, since a wide field is left open to the forces arrayed upon the side of academic work and upon that of professional work. A clear distinction is drawn between “model schools” and “practice schools,” with a decided preference for the latter. Those who have had experience in city Normal Schools will agree heartily with the findings of the subcommittee. But how shall other Normal Schools secure the opportunity for the “practice school” feature? What modification can be made of the “model school" attachment? How shall the chair of pedagogy in colleges obtain even the “model school”?
This most important portion of work of the Committee of Fifteen has the fullest treatment. It consists of one carefully written report by the chairman of the sub-committee, Dr. Harris, to which are appended four largely assenting, mildly dissenting, reports from the other members of the committee.
Those who have long been associated with Dr. Harris in the National Council will see in this report evidences of his habitual fairness and courtesy. He has no liking for the composite style of presentation, but prefers that the features characteristic of the thought of the individual shall appear without attempt at blending. There are no compromises in order to secure a unanimous report. With the exception of Mr. Greenwood, the associates approve the main features of Mr. Harris' report. Mr. Gilbert would extend the line of correlation and would change the place of some studies in the programme, extending some and limiting others.
Mr. Jones, also, would extend the line of correlation and would give greater emphasis to language study. “A 'system' or 'programme' of correlation on this basis would seek for fundamental ideas in all the leading branches and make them themes of thought and occasions of language exercises."
Mr. Maxwell criticises the details of Mr. Harris' report as to the uses of grammar and of language exercises — as to the time of beginning of number study — preferring French or German to Latin in the eighth grade, and objecting to the great number of short periods into which the programme cuts up the day.
Mr. Greenwood, evidently endorsing Mr. Harris' report in the main, uses his customary free lance in the field of mathematics; sees no reason for Mr. Harris' objection to the study of the history of our Civil War, and utters his confidence in the old spelling book.
In the light of these criticisms, a review of Mr. Harris' report strengthens my conviction as to the great value of its analysis of subjects and of its statements as to comparative educational values.
Its practical presentation of a school programme is, in the main, admirable. Its division of time and length of recitation periods accord with best results attained by experiment in many cities.
As to the introduction of Latin into the Grammar School, election is better than prescription; perhaps option between it and a modern language would be better still. One year (the seventh ) is enough for algebra, and the eighth year should be given to higher arithmetic or geometry.
In the line of correlation, most fully discussed, Mr. Harris limits himself to four distinct threads : 1. Correlation in order of studies.
Correlation in the symmetry of studies. 3. Correlation upon a psychological basis. 4.
Correlation of the course of study with the pupils' environment. Mr. Gilbert suggests still further,
Correlation which recognizes content, or philosophy, and form, or science, of education.
6. Correlation “of the several branches of human learning in the unity of the spiritual view furnished by religion to our civilization.”
Mr. Jones would add,
7. Correlation “in such way that the selection of subject matter may be, to some extent, from all fields of knowledge.”
A close study of Mr. Harris' report would show that No. 5 is found running through all the discussions of numbers 1 to 4.
No. 6 is quoted from Mr. Harris and merely argues for an earlier consideration than Mr. Harris would give it.
No. 7 is directly antagonized, in more than one place, by Mr. Harris as “a species of faulty correlation."
In the programme presented, the hours devoted to recitation are so arranged as to leave time for study in school hours. For the pupils of the lowest grades there need be no study at home, and not to exceed two hours daily home study for those of the highest grades.
Incidentally, Mr. Harris presents valid reasons for the continuance of the old-time recess, in which spontaneity in play may take the place of the substituted physical exercises within doors which require so much of intellectual exercise as to serve but little purpose in recreation.
CITY SCHOOL SYSTEMS. The report of the sub-committee on city school systems is commendable in that it emphasizes the absolute separation of the two prominent functions,— business administration and scholastic administration.
The proposed organization of the business department seems rather hastily considered, with the brief experience of one city as the basis of recommendation. The equally successful experience for longer time of other cities evidently counts for little against the theorizing of a majority of the sub-committee.
The organization of a virtually biennial Board of Education follows the practice in National and State Legislatures. Are we to understand that the veto of the proposed school director is an executive or a legislative act? If the former, then the director cannot serve as part of the Board of Education, for by the words of the report, “ The Board of Education should be vested only with legislative functions ;” if the latter, would not the upper chamber (the director) find itself in an anomalous position to be
told "you have the power to negative every act of the lower chamber (the Council), and in the same breath to be told the Board “should control the expenditure of all moneys beyond a fixed and limited amount, which may safely and advantageously be left to the discretion of the chief executive business officer?” [The italics are mine.]
What would be the result if the Director should veto appropriations beyond the “limited amount" which “may safely and advantageously be left” to his “discretion ”? I can see no good to arise from placing an executive officer of the Board with the veto power upon the acts of a Board who do not consider it safe or advantageous to put in his hands the expenditure of moneys except to a limited amount. There is good reason for the appointment of an executive business officer who shall be responsible for the carrying out of all the orders of the Board and who shall have the power of naming his assistants and all employés within the limits, as to number and compensation, such as the Board may determine. Such is the policy of many cities, and it has proved successful. The introduction of such an officer as proposed, with virtual control of the business affairs of a school system, would increase, rather than diminish, the danger of political influence.
If appointed by the Mayor he would, almost of necessity, be a political associate whose immense power of patronage would prove a strong temptation. If appointed by the Board, he is placed in such a position of independence that he could, at any time, assert his prerogative and negative any interference with his own will.
If elected by the people, he would, for a stronger reason, be tempted to reflect the political opinions and to obey the behest of the party electing him.
A non-partisan, or even a bi-partisan Board of Education, such as a Mayor would appoint or the people elect, would never appoint a partisan to be their business executive officer. Nor would an officer so appointed or elected show partisanship in selecting assistants or employés, or in purchase of materials, for he would be conscious of the watchful oversight of his superiors.
Have, by all means, an executive business officer with all powers accorded by the report except the power of veto.
After all, the plan suggested would apply to but few cities in the United States.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO HAMLIN GARLAND.
ARTHUR INKERSLEY, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. In his artistic principles Mr. Garland is a radical, and is enthusiastic in his radicalism. Like all enthusiasts, he is somewhat dogmatic, somewhat unreasonable and imperfectly convincing. He is a strong admirer of the present day, and an earnest believer in the brilliant literary future of the Western States. Not content with throwing off all literary allegiance to the Old World, he rejects all foreign exemplars and all outside criticism, refusing to regard even the critics of New York and Boston. His idea is, that life is equally open to all of us to study and to depict according to the spirit that is within us. Each man is to represent society, and the men and women around him, as they appear to him individually, and to pay no manner of regard or attention to any one else, of whatever time or country. Originality is the thing for us to aim at; form matters little or nothing. Culture is an aristocratic and, therefore, to Mr. Garland, a hateful thing ; wisdom is said to be essentially democratic.
Mr. Garland advises the coming American novelists and dramatists to give up all the old stagey characters,— the conventional hero and heroine and the stereotyped villian — and to look around the streets of their native towns for types. They are to be, above all things, local, and fidelity to local surroundings is to be their end and aim. Henceforth, provincialism is to be the watch word, and “ localism” the ultimate test of high art. Every town in the country is to have its own writers of plays and stories, and these are to depict the life with which they are familiar,— the fortunes of the local lawyer, doctor, farmer, brakeman and wood-splitter. The coming novel is to be built on no pre-arranged lines, but is to build itself up; it is to begin when and where its author pleases, and stop short when he tires of it; and, above all, it is to be subject to no depreciatory criticism or unkindly comment. It is to be a law unto itself.
Mr. Garland's saving doctrine in literature is what he terms " veritism." By this he seems to mean what most of us call realism ; but, perhaps, he avoids the use of the terms “ realist” and “realism,” from an idea that they are dyslogistic words, and