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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/419

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415
PUBLIC-SCHOOL TEACHER IN A DEMOCRACY

second-rate. This apologetic attitude is directly traceable as a result to an ideal set up by the first universities, and maintained through the centuries with increasing power. The great idea of the colleges and universities has been that learning is the highest aim of education. They have attained their present station as the result of working out that idea.

In the undergraduate and graduate department of every university in this country to-day, those men who are planning to be teachers are definitely scaled by their professors, by their fellows and by themselves on the basis of their ability as scholars. If they show unusual ability they are set down as future college professors; if less ability, they are scheduled as possible college instructors. The slow ones fall into the heap of future high-school teachers, and are treated accordingly. As long as the present academic and social grading of teachers holds the high schools will have to be content with the less intellectual group, except in the occasional instances where the competition for college positions compels some able young men to take up a high-school career. A high-school faculty then is consciously second-rate, and they will continue to have that feeling, and to hold that place until society advances to the plane of broader and more human, and less exclusively scholastic ideals.

Naturally, one would expect the high schools themselves to begin their own reformation, but the ideas for it are coming from elsewhere, and the hearing for them will come in all probability from enlightened minds in other fields of education, or in other lines of endeavor. High-school teachers, it is thought, and they are so informed by their superiors, have enough to do to attend strictly to their teaching. As a class high-school principals and teachers alike do not think in any profound way, for they give no proof of understanding the social and political conditions under which they work as agents in a democracy. They have no clear and adequate conception of the social and political functions of the school. Their lives are circumscribed and restrained by school laws, and often dulled by the insistent effect of hard, nerve-racking work. When the scholastic training is completed in some normal school or college, the subsequent thinking of the average teacher is incident to the occasional reading of methods. A very high percentage of teachers in the largest high schools of this country make no study of methods, and of the science of teaching, beyond what is necessary to pass examinations.

A layman would suppose that in a profession dealing primarily with the training and development of the minds of people one of the best characteristics of a good mind, self-reliance and independence in thinking, ought to be the possession of those who are in a position to