Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/865

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

tends poor teaching. "In New York city," we read, "teachers are rarely discharged even for the grossest negligence and incompetency. In order that a principal may be discharged, sixteen of the twenty-one members of the Board of Education must vote against her; and, for many reasons, it is practically impossible to secure that number of adverse votes."

The other conditions to which Dr. Rice refers as unfavorable to the production of a high type of teaching are, briefly, lack of proper supervision, a generally chaotic system of administration, and the predominance of private or political influence in connection with the selection of teachers and principals. "In selecting principals," we are told, "expert qualifications are not taken into account. Indeed, as a rule, the newly appointed teachers are better, professionally, than the principals. . . . Nearly all appointments are made by 'pulls,' merit being a side issue." This is bad, but we are not at the end yet of our discouragements. "In regard to the public," Dr. Rice observes, "the mere fact that things are muddled as they are proves that the citizens take no active interest in the schools." Strictly speaking, is it to be expected that they should? People take an active interest in things that they can directly and more or less visibly control; but this is not the case with the public schools. The action of the individual citizen upon the schools is a most indirect action, the result of which can seldom if ever be distinctly traced. Again, people take an active interest in things that immediately affect their comfort or welfare, but either no interest or a much diminished one in things that affect them only indirectly and perhaps remotely. Thus, if a man has a letter detained to his injury in the post office, he will promptly complain, because he knows that his complaint will probably bring home the fault and the responsibility to some particular individual, and secure, if not compensation for his loss, at least an increase of attention to avoid similar errors. He acts because his interests are directly affected, and because his action may be expected to produce some immediate effect of a beneficial kind. How different all this is from the case of a citizen whose children are not being as well educated as they might be in a public school, but, on the contrary, are being made the victims of a "hard, unsympathetic, mechanical" routine! What is he going to do about it? How, indeed, can he establish the fact in the first place? Must he not wait until somebody like Dr. Rice comes along to tell him about it, and if somebody else—some official of the Board of Education, or some partisan of the board—confidently pronounces Dr. Rice a crank and a busybody, how is the citizen going to decide? Then, supposing he does decide that the education is bad, what is next to be done? Why, canvassing and electioneering, with the interminable vista they open up of deals and dickers, of flatulent talk and endless mystification! Dr. Rice sees all this as well as we do, for what does he say? "That the schools of small cities may be improved in a comparatively short time is a matter that has been repeatedly demonstrated; but how to improve the schools of large cities is a problem that has never been solved."

We have left ourselves space to say but a few words of Dr. Rice's experiences in Boston. There he found better administration, owing principally to the fact that ward politics are kept at a greater distance. There incompetent teachers are removed as soon as their incompetence becomes manifest. And yet we read that "the Boston primary schools belong, in my opinion, to the purely mechanical drudgery schools. . . . The teaching is highly unscientific, and the teachers, though not really severe in the treatment of the pupils, are nevertheless cold and unsympathetic." In "one of the best" of the seven primary schools that Dr. Rice visited he found the