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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/424

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

would become practical. There is hardly any question that many of the generous spirits who give their lives to the amelioration of social conditions would gladly work through the agency of public education if they could. The school is so dominated now by the idea of formal education, and "what the colleges require" that considerations of the physical and spiritual welfare of people seem merely incidental. Moreover, the administration of school systems is so autocratic, and the officials often so overbearing, insolent and petty, that finer spirits prefer to ally themselves with other movements. The loss to organized democracy of these finer men and women is great, but more serious still is the loss in a supposedly democratic country of the opportunity to encourage the development of democracy by teaching the principles of human right and duty in the schools and practising them in the administration. No amount of knowledge learned as the result of perfect machinery of organization can justify the neglect to develop democracy through our system of public education.

The officials of administration in school systems in cities in America consist usually of a board of education appointed by the mayor of the city and one or more superintendents elected by the board of education. The members of the board of education are business men representing any profession except the teaching profession. Their absolute ignorance of educational ideals is not considered a bar to their usefulness and probably is seldom taken account of at all. The idea is that the board of education represents the citizens, and supervises the financial business of the system, while the superintendent looks after purely professional or technical affairs. But the effects of the acts of both sets of officials can not possibly be kept distinct. Every town and city in the land has its bitter quarrels between the board of education and the supervising officers. Each side is more or less ignorant of the point of view of the other and indifferent to the point of view of the teaching staff. All this is loose administration because there is no unity of purpose and no centralization of responsibility.

Now, there is a very evident centralization of responsibility in the hands of technical experts in our fire departments, boards of health, and frequently in our police departments. What is the reason that intelligent teachers may not hope for promotion to positions of administrative opportunity, if firemen may? Is it not true that citizens generally would prefer an honest and able policeman as chief of police to any able but untrained and hence ignorant citizen?

The assertion is often made that teachers are not practical, that they know nothing about business. Even if that were true, it would be an argument against the average teacher and not against the idea of giving trained citizens the opportunity to direct those affairs they know most about. With the agency for training ready at hand, it