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What matters it that our immediate fathers had a family difficulty? Many families have their little dissensions, and are all the more loving when the quarrel is over.
Relying too confidently upon the work of her colleges and the old private academies, the South, it is true, lagged behind for a time in the matter of public education. This backwardness was due in part to the existence of another institution incompatible with popular education, and in part, also, to the sparseness of population.
But the cannons of civil war had hardly ceased to roar before the people, in the midst of poverty and misery which their own children and few at the North will ever comprehend, finding themselves unable to educate otherwise, began taxing themselves for the education of their own children and for that of their former slaves. They paid for schools for both races, and it was too often the case that the white boy ploughed to pay the tax while the negro boy sat in the school.
Under such conditions you could hardly expect the public school system to develop rapidly; but it delights us to inform you that "the schoolmaster is abroad in the land" to-day, and it is being invaded by an army of school teachers, whose silent yet powerful tread is shaking to the earth the walls encircling the Jericho of old preju dices and overthrowing the strongholds of error and ignorance.
The South cannot boast of the present status; but is exceedingly proud of the progress made in the past fifteen years. Our honored commissioner of education, by his address at Atlanta, now published in the proceedings of the National Educational Association of 1895, has placed the whole South under a debt of gratitude to him, which we know not how to pay, unless it be to petition the next president to retain him in the position he has filled in a most master
While extremely grateful for our part of the exposition of the facts showing the progress of the South in education, Florida is yet a little ambitious to be contrasted with the general showing that is made when she is grouped with her larger sisters south of the Ohio. and extending from Virginia to Texas. It may not be known that Florida, though sparse in population and feeble in taxable resources, yet arrogates to herself leadership in her section on many important counts in common school education.
I was informed by our president that the picket line must fire their small arms quickly and fall back to make room for the unlimbering of the heavy artillery, but I believe this audience will accord me five minutes to make good the claim of Florida, by a recital of some statistics reduced to as few figures as possible. The record of the school year 1892-93, the latest date obtainable, as published in
the report of the commissioner of education, is used. Sometimes the data for Florida is taken from the report of the year 1893-94, as the report of the year previous is not full and complete. Another fact to be remembered is, that the school age of the group is reduced to the basis of five to eighteen, while that for Florida is from six to twenty-one; evidently a disadvantage in the showing, as only a small per cent over eighteen years of age go to school.
For the sake of brevity, I will merely mention the points of comparison, the average per cent made by the group of ten states, including Florida, and the average made by the latter alone. The ten states are North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana.
The first number in every case refers to the group, the latter to Florida alone.
1. In the number of pupils enrolled in the common schools in every hundred of population the showing is 61 to 66-the latter more than Rhode Island or New Jersey, and nearly the same as Pennsyl vania. Divided as to race, the showing would be 74 for the whites and 57 for the negroes. Counting the whites alone, it is five points higher than the average for the United States. If it be desired to do justice to the whites of the South, the fact must always be borne in mind that the poverty and indifference of the negro discounts all statistics on questions of merit.
2. Average attendance of pupils as compared with the enrollment is 62 to 66-the latter a small fraction larger than the average in the United States, and greater than in Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey.
3. Average length of school term in days, 87.3 to 105; that is, Florida gave her children within a fraction of eighteen days more schooling in a year than did the whole group of states.
4. Percentage of female teachers, 47.1 to 56.7. This fact may show that the children were taught more conscientiously and industriously in the latter, because a larger percentage of Florida's teachers were females.
5. On account of blanks in the reports of three of the states, it was impossible to make a just comparison of the salaries paid teachers. Suffice it to say, that the average monthly salary paid females, white and colored, in Florida, was greater than the average salary paid in either of the seven states reporting, and was only $4.46 less than the average salary paid females in the United States. Monthly salary paid males in the seven states, $31.68, to Florida $35.50.
6. Amount of school fund raised per taxpayer, $3.86 to $5.08. 7. Amount of school fund raised per capita of school population, $2.53 to $3.76. Lest our own people become too well satisfied with
this exhibit, I give the amount raised per capita of school population in three other states-in Massachusetts, $17.91; Montana, $21.50; Colorado, $22.98.
8. Average yearly expenditure for common schools per capita of population, 0.836 cents to Florida $1.25. Average for the United States, $2.47.
9. Average yearly expenditure per pupil, $6.40 to $8.82.
I also read, to prevent too much local pride: The above average for the United States is $18.45; for Massachusetts, $33.24; Montana, $43.44; Colorado, $41.34. These latter facts so completely overshadow the small satisfaction of leading our immediate sister states that we cease the comparison.
It was not our aim to boast of the little that has been done in our state, but to call attention to the facts, liable to be overlooked, because Florida is not yet one of the populous and wealthy states of the Union.
The public school system in the state was legally twenty-seven years old the thirtieth day of January last; but it gave little evidence of life and did not begin to take root and begin to grow into the affections of the people until ten years later, so it is to-day but in its swaddling clothes.
As late as 1876 it may be said that there was not a school for higher education in the state, though there were two seminaries in name that were practically graded schools. We have no Harvard University, but a State Agricultural and Mechanical College, East and West Florida Seminaries, two State Normal Colleges (one each for white and black), the South Florida Military and Educational Institute, two independent normals, and three denominational colleges, John B. Stetson University (Baptist), Rollins College (Congregationalist), and the Florida Conference College (Methodist),—all giving higher education and enrolling altogether about 1,200 students.
Our public school system is unique and adapted to the conditions. prevailing in our state. I would like to give its main features, but the injunction to be brief continually rings in my ears. Suffice it to say, that ours is the county system, allowing certain district features. Except as to the constitutional one-mill state tax, the county is the financial unit—all citizens bearing equally the burden of taxation, except when a district votes to levy a special tax in supplement of the apportionment received from the county.
The county school levy is fixed by the constitution between a minimum of three and a maximum of five mills. The maximum district levy is three mills. As evidence of the willingness of the peo
ple to be taxed for schools, a majority of the counties levy the maximum of five mills, only three being satisfied with the minimum.
Many districts levy the special tax, thus paying nine mills tax for educational purposes, including state tax, and apply to the same purpose all poll taxes, the payment of which is made a prerequisite to voting.
Large numbers of the brethren in black deny themselves the right of suffrage by refusing to contribute one dollar toward the education of their children.
The right to fix salaries, assign teachers,-in fact, nearly all power, is vested in a county board of three members, the executive. officer of which is the county superintendent of public instruction.
The state uniform examination of teachers is in successful operation, and is doing much toward raising the standard of teachers. Summer schools under state auspices are held yearly, and monthly county institutes are conducted in most of the counties; both helping to improve our teaching force.
All concede that the negro should be educated, and the people bow gracefully to receive and cheerfully carry the load of taxation for the education of all. It can be truthfully said, that there is not a child in the state, white or black, but that is within reach of a school and can obtain from sixty to 120 months' schooling at public expense if he will only avail himself of the privilege.
The negro is treated more than fairly in the matter of education, as statistics will prove. Some are skeptical as to the value he will derive from it. At any rate, we do not desire the help or intervention in his education of persons knowing nothing practically of the race, and who do not propose to live with the condition of affairs they would create. They must be educated in their own separate schools. Their future in the South is a difficult problem that must be solved by the South; and there is in her enough patriotism, enough humanity, enough Christianity, and sufficient wisdom to solve it on principles of philanthropy to the best interests of the race and to the good of the common country.
We pray that no fanatic be encouraged to intermeddle for our molestation and the injury of that people.
I should like to tell you of some of the difficulties we have to contend with; but as that would be making public family secrets, I desist. Suffice it to say, that, here as elsewhere, like the poor, we have always with us the inefficient officer, the indifferent and unqualified teacher, the meddling politician, and the legislatures "born short" on questions of public school economy.
Again I bid you welcome to our growing state, our beautiful city, our genial climate, and to the warm hearts and outflowing hospi tality of a generous and noble people.
PAPERS AND DISCUSSIONS.
WHAT IS THE TRUE FUNCTION OR ESSENCE OF
BY C. A. BABCOCK, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, OIL CITY, PA.
The superintendence of all kinds of work seems to divide itself naturally into two parts. First, the general direction of the effort must be determined—the object to be gained must be conceived; and, secondly, there must be guidance along the way-the means necessary to the attainment of the end must be discovered and used. The true function of school supervision consists in the formation of a right ideal of education and in the use of the best means to realize that ideal.
The ideal accepted will determine to a great degree the character of all the means taken to reach the end, just as knowledge of the destination will control even the first steps of a journey. Is it not evident that those who would direct aright even the beginnings of the educational process should have a comprehensive view of the end sought? "Our reach should be wider than our grasp." Many, perhaps the majority, regard education as of value only for its utility, and would limit it to those subjects that are of immediate use in the practice of some craft, or to the knowledge that is essential to the carrying on of business. Arithmetic, reading, writing, and geography are necessary to the world's commerce, for without these it must Astronomy and the mathematics, for their application to navigation and to the measurement of land, and the physical sciences, for their utility in manufacturing, are also recognized as needed branches of knowledge.
Further examination might prove the value for use of many, if not of most, of the subjects of study.
The trouble with the argument for utility is, that it can never conclude. It leaves its advocates at different points of the ascent, each with his theory limited to his own particular range of vision. What he cannot see to be of use he does not think worth acquiring. It thus begets an economical habit of thought concerning knowledge, and tends to a narrow view of life; at the best, kind of tinker's philosophy, which considers the man of less importance than his job.