Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/420

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encourage the development of this characteristic in children. It is a fact, however, that teachers even of the highest scholastic training, with extensive opportunities of forming judgments of their own, are unduly impressed by the opinions of persons in authority. With the leaven of intellectual capacity in the body of teachers as it is to-day, there might develop in the profession some general desire to study and understand the social and political conditions of life in this country and elsewhere, and thus to see the problem of how to make the school contribute to human progress—all this might happen if self-reliance and independence of thought were permitted to develop in our military system of school administration. There is probably no school superintendent in the country who would not urge his teachers to read and contribute from their thought to the solution of academic problems. He would welcome independence of thought as long as it is purely academic. But it is a noteworthy fact that in general the opinions of teachers on questions of school administration with local reference are not wanted. If the opinions expressed happen to be in opposition to those held by the "government," the teacher is guilty of "insubordination." Insubordination is anathema pronounced by principals, school superintendents or boards of education against offending teachers with such accompaniments of tyranny that it is small wonder that teachers are most anxious to inquire what their superiors want them to think or want. The writer was once informed by a superintendent of schools of extensive reputation that in his opinion a teacher who complained of the conduct of a superior officer should be punished for so doing, no matter whether the complaint was based on facts or not. Under those circumstances moral courage would seem to approach foolhardiness.

In large communities where the individual teacher is unknown and ignored, and the school government, only, makes representations to the people, the security of the teacher resides in occasional state and municipal laws designed to protect him from the machinations of political parties, and in his ability to keep his mouth shut and support the administration. His advancement to the highest positions depends not on the possession of unusual ability, but on his capacity to "mix" and make fortunate acquaintances among the officially powerful. In one of the largest cities of this country, it is common among men who are ambitious to hold high positions in the local educational system to make it a point to belong to as many dining organizations of educational officials as possible, to attend public installations of principals, leaving their classes to be cared for by the stay-at-homes, and to put officials of influence under lasting obligations to them by promoting subscriptions for the purchase of expensive presents, under the guise