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The overcrowded schoolroom with an insufficient supply of pure air is being replaced everywhere by rooms having a smaller number of pupils assigned, more ample floor space, and equipped with modern systems of ventilation assuring a continuous ample supply of fresh air.
Even more recently has come the gospel of the open-air school, designed in some places to assure conditions within the room closely approximating at least the idea of a schoolroom on a porch protected overhead and on two sides. Such rooms enable pupils and teachers to work during large portions of the year under hygienic conditions not essentially different from outdoor life.
Some school systems have already been able to go even farther and to carry on during portions of the year schools actually in the open. Schools of this type have been designed to enable children of enfeebled physique, unfortunate heredity, or unfavorable hygienic environment to overcome as far as possible their original handicap and improve their physical condition while incidentally holding their own in educational development.
These schools are rapidly passing out of the experimental stage and winning for themselves an assured place in the public-school system. Details of management, the medical inspection involved, the amount of trained nursing necessary, the character of the food furnished, and the amount of additional expense justified by the results are matters far from standardized. The fact that the special school of this type will soon be found in all effective school systems must be admitted.
The installation in the city school system of medical inspectors and school nurses marks another effort to provide more effectively for the physical welfare of the child. Thru their skilled services, the danger of the presence in the school of those who are physically unfit is avoided, defects and disease are remedied, suitable segregations become possible, and a general improvement in all hygienic conditions results.
We shall soon secure thru these agencies systematic records and studies of the individual child which will point the way to still further effectiveness in securing more ideal physical education and environment.
The supervised school-playground movement shows wonderful activity and promises much that is most helpful and valuable. This movement is receiving such enthusiastic support from all interested in civic betterment that one finds difficulty in determining with any degree of definiteness its possible future extension or its probable limitations.
Out of it will certainly result conditions far more favorable to the existence of true sport, of fair play, and to extended participation by our boys and girls. The danger of evil associations, too often the menace of the unsupervised play, will be greatly decreased, and the physical growth and betterment which accompanies proper sport and
the physical activity of the outdoor game will be insured to a far greater degree than heretofore.
The varieties of special schools now found in connection with city systems, all designed to furnish the specific training needed by the individual child, are too numerous to permit of anything approaching effective description. The recent emphasis given to retardation is resulting in efforts not only to overcome the causes and so greatly to lessen the amount of retardation, but to establish schools planned to cater directly to the needs of those who have accomplished less than they should and have fallen behind in their educational advancement. These schools are demonstrating most conclusively how often the child hitherto discouraged and a laggard will respond when placed in more favorable environment, under teachers whose sole duty it is to find the seat of the trouble and to remove it, if possible.
Another form of special school tending to increase the flexibility of the graded-school system is that designed for the pupil able to do more than normal work. Under the unmodified system of gradation and promotion the unusually gifted child suffers. The extent of injury to those of this class is as yet scarcely realized either by parents or teachers. In numerous places, however, we now find tentative efforts to meet the needs of this class and to prevent thereby the deadening of power and the temptation to the formation of habits of idleness or worse. This type of school will at least lessen the unnecessary waste of time, which constitutes a present vital criticism of the public school.
Finally, a complete recognition of the possibilities of extended use of the special school for the retarded, the backward, the bright, and the misfit will result in such a breaking-down of the old grade system that the oldtime adherents will scarcely recognize it.
Any school system having definitely committed itself to departmental work and to special schools or teachers for the various types of pupils differing from the average or normal soon will be forced to the final step away from that which up to very recently has distinguished the elementary from the secondary school. Promotion practically by grade only is still the custom in the former. Promotion by subject has long characterized the latter.
Most of us still work and reason by custom and hold to our traditions. But change and advance, generally permanent and effective, have come so rapidly that before long the fetish of the grade as the necessary mechanical system of a public school, without which all would be chaos, will have lost its grip upon us and we will have realized fully that which is the characteristic of the educational advance of city schools in recent years, the breaking-down of mass education and the substitution of the problem of the intelligent treatment of the individual child.
B. IN THE STATE
CHARLES P. CARY, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION,
MADISON, WIS. This is a large topic for so brief a time. When the history of educa
a tion in America comes to be written in future years the period thru which we are now passing will doubtless be regarded as little less than an educational renaissance. No great revolutionary changes are occurring, but evolution is proceeding with unexampled rapidity. Enormously increased appropriations, both local and state, have almost ceased to be matters of comment. States that sustain state universities and normal schools have doubled, trebled, and even quadrupled their appropriations to these institutions within a decade. State distributions of money to the common schools are steadily and rapidly increasing in volume. In this respect the states vie with one another, north and south, east and west.
New schools of various kinds are added at every legislative session in most of the states of the Union. Agricultural schools of various types seem to predominate, but training schools for teachers, industrial and vocational schools of various sorts are rapidly multiplying.
In nearly every state of the Union there is a marked tendency to increase the qualifications for teachers. It seems to be the ultimate and not very distant aim everywhere to require professional training of all teachers, with the possible exception of college and university teachers. The proper training of country teachers is the most troublesome problem to be solved in the most of our states, but the experiments that are in progress everywhere indicate a determined effort to solve the difficulty. Fortunately no state in the Union is content to contemplate the development within its boundaries of a class of uneducated tillers of the soil, whether white or black. With some notable exceptions our farm population the country over seems to educational leaders to be apathetic with respect to education beyond the meager elements found in the textbooks devoted to the common branches. They are disinclined to spend money, beyond the meager necessities of the case, in school buildings, school equipment, and teachers' salaries. As a result there are going on in every state that is educationally awake campaigns of some sort designed to stimulate the interest and pride of the farming population in their schools. Sometimes it takes the form of whirlwind campaigns, sometimes school-board conventions held in each county in the state, sometimes contests of one sort and another planned for the purpose of stimulating the interest of the farm boy and girl and thru them the interest of the community. There is no greater educational problem in America today than that of reaching and rousing the agricultural population to the tremendous importance of suitable schools and competent teachers. State departments of education are keenly alert to the situation, but doubtless inventive ingenuity will discover many new ways of carrying on the missionary work which is so greatly needed. I doubt if any of us yet have utilized as fully as we should the public press in carrying on our campaigns of enlightenment. I doubt if we have yet done as much as might be done thru pamphlets, bulletins, public addresses, and local organizations. If I had but one word of exhortation to give to my fellow-workers it would be, Let no day go by without racking your brains for new ways and more efficient ways of enlightening our country communities as to the value of the right kind of education and stimulating in them the desire to secure for their children the most in the way of education their circumstances permit.
There is a notable tendency, particularly in the South, to increase local taxation for school purposes. The educational leaders of the South have rendered splendid service to the cause of education by developing the sentiment of local initiative in this respect. When communities begin to tax themselves for educational purposes they are on the highway to all sorts of educational progress. The more they do for themselves, the more they want to do. Notwithstanding the grumbling that we hear everywhere as to taxation, there is nothing that tends more strongly to educate a community in the right direction than discussions with respect to the proper expenditure of money raised by taxation for school purposes.
Another tendency that is rapidly developing thruout the nation is that of taking educational affairs out of politics and putting them on a professional basis. This is particularly noticeable with respect to the chief school officer of the commonwealth. The state of Pennsylvania, for example, has at the head of her school system a man, an honored member of this department, who has been appointed again and again by successive governors regardless of politics. When his present term expires he will have served for a period of twenty years. The state of New York has appointed a man for life to a similar position. The state of Massachusetts has taken for her chief officer a man from the faculty of Columbia University, not even a resident of the state. These are a few of the more notable instances of the complete subordination of politics to the cause of education. City superintendents today are rarely, if ever, selected on a political basis. County superintendents are likewise rapidly escaping from the political yoke and are coming to be regarded in the most progressive states of the Union as professional men and women of high standing. It is to be hoped that the time will soon come when every state and county superintendent who is efficient and who does not meddle with politics in a partisan way will be regarded by his educational equals as filling a position that they would no more think of attempting to displace him from than they would think of attempting to displace, for their own benefit, a man who fills any other educational position. In other words, professional honor and courtesy should be extended to state and county superintendents the same as to any other sort of educational workers.
Along with increasing qualifications of teachers may be noted a more or less rapidly increasing salary scale for teachers, supervisors, and superintendents. While salaries are still far below the level that we believe should exist, the change that is in progress in most states is highly encouraging. In the last analysis the salary question is the most vital question involved in our educational progress. Increasing salaries will draw into the profession men and women of larger ability and better training than those they displace. Stationary or decreasing salaries will drive from the profession all except those who have a passion for teaching and those of such indifferent capacity that they cannot hope for anything better in any other field of effort. Mediocre teachers must ever be associated with moderate salaries, but high salaries will attract talent in this profession as in any other. The higher salaries are the result of increased intelligence and interest in education and these are the result, in large measure, of intelligent state activity in the cause of education. Even more than in the case of teachers, the salaries of supervisors and superintendents are increasing. The most progressive states in the Union are today making special efforts to train a body of professional superintendents and supervisors of education. It should not be forgotten that with a greater appreciation of the superintendent's function there goes an increased amount of clerical help which enables the superintendent to be something more than a mere clerk dealing with educational statistics and school supplies.
It is coming to be keenly felt by the educational leaders in many of our states that anything more than a common-school education is likely to become rather rare for any except those who have the good fortune to possess wealth. Educational departments and legislatures the country over are interesting themselves in securing, so far as possible, equal educational opportunities for all. Equal wealth for all seems out of the question under the present economic order, but society should leave no stone unturned to bring the highest educational opportunity to the door of those who care for it. The country high school has become a necessity; and if the people immediately concerned are indifferent to it, it should in some way be thrust upon them by society at large. There should be state aid to weak school districts, both for common-school education and for high-school education, and there is a strong tendency toward a larger unit of taxation.
Compulsory education laws and factory laws are rapidly assuming effective form the country over. Fourteen years of age is the usual limit of compulsory education, but I have little doubt that sixteen