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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/421

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417
PUBLIC-SCHOOL TEACHER IN A DEMOCRACY

of sincere appreciation. The plan works, partly because of the emotional power of mutual felicitation, and partly because the administration is too busy to search for abler men who do not push themselves into the official horizon. All this is politics of a subtler kind than any the ward politician knew when in the same community he was the brutal power to be feared and flattered by the hopeful teacher.

The law protects the teacher in his position from the party politicians, but it does not protect the public, and the public makes no attempt to protect itself against the imposition of numerous teachers who have failed to "make good." It is practically impossible in certain of the large cities of the country to dismiss a teacher or a principal for incompetency. He can be harassed, but not dismissed. To a considerable extent custom and state or municipal laws insure him (in the case of teachers) an increase of salary as the years are added to his tenure of office.

The law which protects the teacher from unscrupulous interests strengthens and emphasizes the idea that public positions belong to the holders, and not to the public itself. The facts that a poor or low-minded teacher or principal may not only do infinite harm to human character in formation, but that he also fails to do infinite good, have not generally been taken into consideration officially in the best organized school administrations. If any one ever should suggest the idea that by the failure of a teacher to do constructive good in his position he thereby forfeited it, he would be set down as a "dreamer." Teachers and principals have been dismissed for open cruelty or viciousness, but not often for poor teaching, unsympathetic nature, low-mindedness, vulgarity, mental stagnation, and probably never solely for failure to contribute something to the moral and social uplift of a little community—the school. So general is the idea yet among teachers that their business is simply to "teach." A superintendent would need to be strong indeed with his community, if he should undertake to dismiss his inefficient teachers. The worst of them have their "influential" friends, and the argument from "bread and butter" is well nigh invincible. Our conception of the importance of education in the national life must become more clear, and our belief in education more sincere. Perhaps then we shall have advanced to the position that the selfish, incompetent agent of education shall not defeat or hinder the purpose of a great public movement, no matter what his personal needs may be.

The presence of inefficient and ineffective workers in the teaching profession undoubtedly has much to do with the present low salaries of teachers. The kind of work done, and the quality of it on the whole, have not been good enough to enable organized education to compel the payment of better salaries. Whatever complaints we may make