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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/417

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PUBLIC-SCHOOL TEACHER IN A DEMOCRACY

THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL TEACHER IN A DEMOCRACY
By HENRY R. LINVILLE

NEW YORK CITY

THE present wide-spread interest in the economic situation of school teachers in America has its sentimental foundation in the recognition of the generally beneficent relation of the public-school system to the people. With the gradual disappearance of ignorance and open cruelty among those who teach, and the establishment of a more perfect organization of the machinery of education, there has grown up intelligent interest and admiration of our school system in our own and in other countries. We, as well as our foreign admirers in educational lines, do not overlook the sad existence of evil conditions in outlying districts, but the energy of money and organization is being directed to the wiping out of these black spots on the map. Except for the occasional spasmodic anger aroused by local policies, there is general satisfaction with our educational system.

And yet, when we observe the great body of personalities, men and women alike, that transmit the learning of the ages to the young, the conviction must slowly dawn upon us that in proportion to their opportunities the teachers of elementary and high schools in this country do not measure up to the requirements of the situation. The ineffectiveness of school teachers in the most important functions of teaching is general, and is tacitly recognized by the thinking public. The exercise of commanding influence by them in any branch of social activity is unexpected, and is almost an unheard-of thing. We do not expect from this body of public servants constantly in touch with social conditions effective leadership, or the suggestion of important constructive ideas. The originators of ideas for the betterment of mankind do not look to school teachers for support, or even for understanding.

However, students of social life in America, know well the wonderful advance in the quality of teachers within the last hundred years. It is known that the schoolmasters of our English and Dutch colonial ancestors were generally social derelicts, failures in everything else, and much given to intoxication. We may safely claim that the advance in knowledge and in respectability in the ranks of those who teach has been greater than the advance of society generally. This hopeful fact might render unnecessary critical studies of the personnel of the