Page images

painter occupied his brush on a single piece of canvass; but that canvass has, age after age, imparted instruction and delight to hundreds of thousands. For years did the Grecian sculptor, in almost exiled seclusion, employ his chisel on a single block of marble; but that marble has survived the wreck of empires, and still commands the admiration of the refined of all countries. Let the practical philosophy of these facts be engraved upon the hearts of every right-minded teacher, and it will sweeten his toil, and add fresh attractions to every successive year of his increasingly skilful and efficient labours.

2. Duties of Trustees.-(See pages 21-43).

1. The full and explicit manner in which the duties of trustees are enumerated and stated in the Upper Canada Consolidated Common School Act, renders it unnecessary to do more, in this place, than make some expository remarks on the nature of the general duties of trustees, and the relations subsisting between them and the teachers whom they employ. The law invests trustees with most important functions; they are a corporation, and, as such, the ownership and control of the school-site, school house, and all the property attached thereto, is vested in them; they are to provide and furnish the school-house and premises, and apparatus and text-books for the school, and they alone have authority to employ the teacher, Their duties are, therefore, of the greatest importance, and they should be well understood.

2. While the trustees employ the teacher-agree with him as to the period during which he shall teach, and the amount of his remuneration—the mode of teaching is at the option of the teacher; and the local superintendent and visitors alone have a right to advise him on the subject. The teacher is not a mere machine, and no trustee or parent should attempt to reduce him to that position. His character and his interest alike prompt him to make his instructions as efficient and popular as possible; and if he does not give satisfaction, he can be dismissed according to the terms of his agreement with his employers. To interfere with him and deprive him of his discretion as a teacher, and then to dismiss him for inefficiency, which is the natural and usual result, is to inflict upon him a double wrong, and frequently injures the pupils themselves and all parties concerned. It should then be distinctly understood, as essential to the teacher's character, position and success, that he judge for himself as to the mode of teaching, in his school, including, of course, the classification of pupils, as well as the manner of instructing them. It is, nevertheless, the duty of the trustees to see that the school is conducted according to the regulations authorized by law.

8. It is, therefore, important that trustees should select a competent teacher. The best teacher is always the cheapest. He teaches the most, and inculcates the best habits of learning and mental development in a given time; and time and proper habits are worth more than money, both to pupils and their parents. Trustees who pay a teacher fairly and punctually, and treat him properly, will seldom want a good teacher. To employ an incompetent person, because he offers his incompetent services for a small sum, is a waste of money, and a mockery and injury of the youth of the neighbourhood. We entirely concur in the following estimate of the qualities of a good teacher:

"A teacher should be a person of Christian sentiment, of calm temper, and discretion; he should be imbued with the spirit of peace, of obedience to the law, and of loyalty to his sovereign; he should not only possess the art of communicating knowledge, but be capable of moulding the mind of youth, and of giving to the power which education confers a useful direction. These are the qualities for which patrons [or trustees] of schools, when making choice of a teacher, should anxiously look."

4. Trustees will always find it the best economy to have a commodious schoolhouse, kept comfortable, and properly furnished. It is as difficult for pupils to learn as it is for the master to teach, in an unfurnished and comfortless schoolhouse.

5. In the selection of books to be used in the school, from the general list authorized according to law, page 40, the trustees should see that but one series of reading books, one arithmetic, or one for the beginners and another for the more advanced pupils, one geography, &c., should be used in any one school, in order that the scholars may be classified in the several branches which they are studying. Heterogeneous school books (however good each book may be in itself), render classification impossible, increase the labour and waste the time of the teacher, and retard the progress of the pupils. But the teacher and pupils labour at the greatest disadvantage when they are compelled to use books which are as various as the scholars' names.

(1) Powers and Responsibilities of Trustees.

As the representatives of the people in the Legislative Assembly determine the amount of money to be expended for any object, or the salary of any public officer to be employed; so the trustees, as the representatives of the people in a school section, have the sole power of determining the amount of the teacher's salary, and of the incidental expenses of the school.* They can also procure such maps, apparatus and text books as they may judge expedient for the use of the pupils in the schools. But the manner in which the salary of a teacher and other actual or estimated expenses of the school shall be raised, is left to a public meeting of the tax-payers, to be called for that purpose [pages 13, 33, 34, and 107]. Then, if the whole of the expenses are not thus provided for, the trustees have authority to raise the balance in such manner as they may think proper, either by voluntary subscription, by rates on parents sending children to the school, or rates on all the ratable property of the school section. Trustees themselves (and not a magistrate) issue the necessary warrants for the collection of all rates levied by them on resident rate-payers [page 34]. The Common school property of a section is no longer vested in the Municipal Council, but in the corporation of trustees, and is therefore liable for debts contracted by them. Trustees are, therefore, furnished with every needful security and means to enable them to establish a good school and provide for its efficient support. Faithful trustees are provided with a still further protection and assistance, in the penalties which the act imposes upon those trustees who refuse or wilfully neglect to perform their duties. [See note on page 18, also page 41].




(2) Protection of Teachers.

The eighty-third section of the Upper Canada Consolidated Commou School Act [page 79] guards also against an injustice and evil, by providing that "any teacher shall be entitled to be paid at the same rate mentioned in his agreement with the Trustees, even after the expiration of the period of his agreement, until the trustees shall have paid him the whole of his salary, according to their engage ment with him." This provision will prevent the injurious accumulation of debts to teachers in a sction; and it will furnish trustees, desirous of performing their duties, with satisfactory reasons for insisting upon the prompt payment of the rates for the teacher's salary, while it will afford protection to the discharged teacher against any possible attempt to wrong him.





(3) Establishment of Free Schools-Their object.

It will be seen that the Common School Act provides every desirable facility for the establishment of FREE SCHOOLS-schools supported by the property of all, and equally free to the children of all; the only schools which are, in my opinion, based upon the true principles of national education, and adapted to national wants. But I wish every School Municipality to be the judge as to the manner of supporting its own schools; and I think the success of Free Schools will be greatly influenced by the discretion exercised in their first establishment. As the

* See page 13.

See Departmental Notices, page 147.

See (3) on pages 25-27, and note ‡ on page 103.

very object of a Free School, and the principle of supporting it, implies a school for the common education of all the children and youth of a school section, the first requisite towards its accomplishment is to provide a house and teacher adequate to that end. To empley a teacher incompetent to teach all the schoolgoing youth of a section, and yet to tax all the inhabitants to pay the salary of such incompetent teacher, is manifestly unjust. Trustees should, therefore, upon the ground of justice to all school-rate payers, as well as from regard to the interests of their children, employ none but a highly competent teacher, when it is determined to have a free school. A good school and a free school should be convertible terms; as should an able teacher and a teacher of a free school. Then will the quality and character of instruction be as much advanced, as the number of pupils will be multiplied, with the establishment of every free school.-[Chief Superintendent's Circular, August, 1850.]



(4) Maximum Rate-bill.

By the one hundred and twenty-fifth section of the Upper Canada Consolidated Common School Act [page 107], no rate-bill can be imposed exceeding one shilling and three pence per month for each pupil attending school.* All other expenses of each school must be provided for by voluntary subscription, or rate on property. Reducing the maximum of all school rate-bills to one shilling and three pence per month for each pupil, is the next thing to establishing free schools throughout Upper Canada; and all the hitherto agitating questions at school meetings, as to the mode of providing for the support of schools, are now narrowed down to the simple question as to whether a rate-bill of one shilling and three pence or less, or nothing-per month for each pupil shall be imposed. This provision will largely increase the attendance of pupils at school, as no parent will now keep his children from school for fear of a heavy rate bill; it will vastly lessen the topics and causes of differences and disputes at school meetings; it will render the duties of trustees more simple and easy to discharge, and the salaries of school teachers more uniform and secure. The real design of this noble provision of the law, and the legitimate inference from it, ought never to be forgotten by trustees. A law providing that a school should be supported wholly or mostly by the property of all, could not have been exacted, except with a design that a teacher should be employed who is qualified to teach the children of all-that is, the several branches of an English education to all persons of school age residing in the section. If each man contributes, according to his property, to support a school, each man's child has a right to be taught in such school. Should trustees employ a teacher (for the sake of getting a "cheap" one) who is not qualified to teach all the children of their section the subjects required to be taught in common schools, they would virtually exclude a portion of the children of their section from the benefits of the school, they would abuse the principles and pervert the great objects of the free school system:-they would, I am inclined to think, render themselves liable to a fine for neglect of duty, and to a prosecution for damages on the part of parents of children deprived of the advantages of the school in consequence of the incompetence of the teacher employed. All trustees should bear in mind, that the principle of free schools aims as much to improve the quality of teaching and to elevate the character of the school, as it does to render them accesible, without let or hindrance, to all the children of the land.

(5) Rates on the Lands of Absentees.

While the thirty-third section of the Upper Canada Consolidated Common School Act [page 49] secures to each school section the benefit of all the taxable property situated within its limits, the one hundred and twenty-seventh section [page 108] provides a prompt and easy mode of securing the payment of all school-rates on the lands of absentees. These two provisions will be of great advantage to a large proportion of the school sections throughout Upper Canada.

*Payable in advance, see page 36.

(6) Rates for Sites and School-houses.

The twelfth clause of the twenty-seventh section of the Upper Canada Consolidated Common School Act [page 36], invests the trustees of each school section with the same authority to assess and collect rates for the purpose of purchasing school sites and the erection of school-houses, as they are invested with by law to assess and collect for other school purposes; so that the trustees need not, unless they choose to do so, apply to a municipal council for any purpose whatever, except in reference to the boundaries of their school section; nor has any municipal council a right to interfere in the affairs of a school section (except in altering its boundaries), unless at the request of such section, made through its trustees.

(7) Limitation in the powers of Trustees.

There are but two particulars in which the powers of trustees are limited. 1. They cannot change the present school site, or select a new one, without calling a public meeting of their section to consider it. [See the thirtieth section of the School Act, page 45.] 2. They must also consult the annual or a special meeting of their section, as to whether a rate bill (of twenty five cents, or less, per month, for each pupil) should be imposed or not [pages 13 and 33]. The selection of a new school site does not often occur: the decision as to the rate-bill is annual, and should be made at the annual school section meeting. With this single exception -and it is reduced to a simple question of a small monthly rate-bill-the management of all the affairs of each school section belongs wholly to the trustees as the elective representatives of such section. They, and they only, are authorized by law to determine the sum or sums that shall be raised, and when and how paid, for all school purposes-whether for the procuring of a school site; the erection, repairs, or furnishing of a school house; the payment of a teacher; the purchase of apparatus, text-books, maps, library-books, or for any other school purpose what







The office of school trustee being now one of great power, as well as of responsibility, I trust that you will earnestly labour to fulfil its high objects, and thus become instruments of unspeakable good to the rising generations of our country. -[Ibid. June, 1858.]

3. Duties of Local Superintendents.

Extracts from the Chief Superintendent's Circular to Local Superintendents, dated August, 1850.

(1) The Local Inspection of Schools.-Pages 85-87.

To perform this duty with any degree of efficiency, a local superintendent should be acquainted with the best modes of teaching every department of an Eng lish school, and be able to explain and exemplify them. It is, of course, the local superintendent's duty to witness the modes of teaching adopted by the teacher, but he should do something more. He should, some part of the time, be an actor as well as spectator. To do so he must keep pace with the progress of the science of teaching. Every man who has to do with schools, ought to make himself master of the best modes of conducting them in all the details of arrangement, instruc tion, and discipline. A man commits a wrong against teachers, against children, and against the interests of school education, who seeks the office of local superintendent without being qualified and able to fulfil all its functions. In respect to the manner of performing the visitorial part of your duties, I have nothing material to add to the suggestions which I made in my circular to local superintendents of schools in December, 1846. They are as follows:

"Your own inspection of the schools must be chiefly relied upon as the basis of your judgment, and the source of your information, as to the character and methods of school instruction, discipline, management, accommodations, &c.: and on this subject we ought not to content ourselves with exterior and general facts. But it is not of less importance to know the interior regime of the

schools-the aptitude, the zeal, the deportment of the teachers-their relations with the pupils, the trustees and the neighbourhood-the progress and attainments of the pupils, and, in a word, the whole moral and social character and results of the instruction given, as far as can be ascertained. Such information cannot be acquired from reports and statistical tables; it can only be obtained by special visits, and by personal conversation and observation-by an examination of the several classes, in their different branches of study; so as to enable you to ascertain the degree and efficiency of the instruction imparted.

(2) Spirit of the Law in regard to the office of Superintendent.

It remains with each incumbent to say whether the spirit and intentions of the law shall be fulfilled within his jurisdiction, as far as depends on the performance of the duties of his office. The act has been passed by the Legislature in the spirit of a generous nationality; the spirit of patriotism prevailed over the selfishness of party during the parliamentary deliberation on this subject. The Government duly appreciated the wants and interests of the whole country, in the preparation of the measure, and all parties in the Legislature cordially responded to it. In the same non-party and national spirit, I hope to see the law administered.

* * *

In a 66

Digest of the Common School System of the State of New York," published in 1844, by the Deputy, under the auspices of the State Superintendent of schools, I find the following remarks, which I commend to your serious attention:

"As the usefulness of local superintendents will depend mainly on the influence they shall be able to exercise upon the officers and teachers of schools, and upon parents and the inhabitants of districts generally, they will endeavour to deserve that influence by their deportment, and studiously to avoid everything which may impair it. Hence it will be indispensable that they should abstair. wholly and absolutely from all interference in any local divisions, or in any questions by which the community in any town or district may be agitated; and although they cannot be expected to abandon their political sentiments, yet it is obvious that any participation in measures to promote the success of any political party, will not only diminish their influence and impair their usefulness, by exciting suspicion of the objects of their movements and measures, but will expose the office they hold to a vindictive hostility, that will not cease until it is abolished. The intelligence of our people will not tolerate the idea of the agents of public instruction becoming the emissaries of partizan management.."

The conviction expressed in the concluding sentences of this quotation has been painfully realized. As party politics ran high, it was found that the appointments of local superintendents were made, to a considerable extent, in the spirit of political partizanship, and the influence of the office was frequently employed for partizan purposes. A clamour was soon raised against the office itself, which resulted in its abolition in 1847. Great efforts have been subsequently made, by the State Superintendent and other experienced educationists, to restore the office of county (but not of township) superintendent, and place it on a better footing than heretofore. These facts are admonitory. A man's qualifications, irrespective of sect or party, should influence his appointment to the office; but when once appointed, and during his continuance in office, he should act in the spirit of impartiality and kindness towards all persuasions and parties. This has been the avowal of the Government, and the sense of the Legislature in regard to the office and duties of the Chief Superintendent; and I think it was equally understood and intended, that no tinge of partizanship should attach to the supervision of schools, even in the remotest township of the province. The spirit of the vow made by the Prussian school counsellor DINTER, should imbue the heart of every school officer in Upper Canada:-" I promised God that I would look upon every Prussian peasant child as a being who could complain of me before God, if I did not provide him the best education, as a man and a Christian, which it was possible for me to provide."

« EelmineJätka »