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These problems were presented to each of the pupils upon a card, in the form above given.
The percentages of correct answers in this grade, the average age being fourteen and one-half years, ranged from zero to sixty-seven. On the whole the percentages were low. In arithmetic, as in geography, reasons exist why this result might be expected. The pupils are not often tested with “written examinations," nor frequently with any: hence they do not readily interpret the language of new problems. For example, in most schools there were some who did not know what was meant by “average age” in the first problem. After the explanation was given, the majority of the pupils obtained the correct answer. What was meant by “both sides” of the slate in the fifth problem, could not have been understood, since very few answers were correct, and a large number gave for the answer thirty-six inches. The analysis of problems is not familiar enough to be practically applied. The second problem was without exception, I think, done by proportion; the answer to the third problem showed that a large number of pupils multiplied by two-thirds instead of dividing. Tbe processes used were mechanical ; thus, in the fourth problem, in finding the time “from May 15 to the 9th of the following June,” nearly every pupil put down:
many the year also, and then found the difference of time by compound subtraction; all who did this obtained twenty-four days for the time; and all except five or six pupils, and these in one school, found the time in that way. Several put down 1881, and some other year, as 1880, and obtained an additional year. The very few who were careful to make a diagram for the sixth problem were almost the only ones who obtained a correct answer. I do not know how wide is the range of answers to this problem ; I noticed one was $19,602.06, another $5,335,882.20. The latter was given by a pupil who had seventy-five per cent of his answers correct.
In all the schools (no exceptions were noted) there is too much dependence upon the book, and too little practice upon problems dictated from other sources. The moment the pupils are set to do work outside of the book, or to make a problem from data of their own, they are adrift. In almost all they depend upon one another; in several schools the comparison of answers among the pupils was so universal as greatly to interrupt the work, and as entirely to vitiate the results. Were more practice given upon problems outside the book, and good habits established among the pupils, much better results could in a short time be secured. Where independence among the pupils was observed, there the best results were obtained.
GENERAL CONCLUSIONS. The schools in their present condition justify the fullest confidence; what they demand is greater vigilance in their supervision. No one test, or form of examination, will reveal their real work. None but the most intimate relations with them, and with the teachers, can discover their true merits. But, with all that can be claimed for them, it would be unwise, and it would be untrue, to assert that they have not many defects. The few simple tests which were applied show that in the amount of knowledge, and in mental discipline, the rank of the pupils is far too low. To admit the defects, and try to point out the causes, may be a step towards finding a remedy.
Teachers. — First, the teachers employed are largely without either professional training or experience ; fewer than one in seven being normal graduates, while some are very young, wholly untrained, and now for the first time “trying their hand” at teaching. Of the latter class, I found a bright girl of sixteen, in charge of an important primary school; the school was well kept, but little was taught. With her marked ability, and the training of a normal school, this young person would at once become an excellent teacher: now the poor children are being sacrificed, that she may get her poor experience. That the results are so good as they are, shows that the persons employed to teach have tact and ability, or that the tests applied are too simple.
Again, a serious evil is the frequent change of teachers : full one-third of the teachers were keeping their first term in the particular school in which I found them ; a large number had been too short a time in the school to be responsible for its results. It would seem that the policy of some towns is to change for the sake of the change. Indeed, one school-committee man enunciated his doctrine of the tenure of office, by saying
that the teacher should float out at high tide. If he had said would instead of should, the proposition would be generally true. Whether the doctrine prevails or not in our towns, the changes are frequent, and attended with most disastrous consequences to the schools.
Teaching. — Under such a system of employing teachers, there cannot be, and there is not, much teaching. Little is done in very many schools to occasion the right activity in the mind of the pupil. In his hand is placed a book, which he pores over and tries to commit. The book is a collection of words that are often signs of nothing he has known or can conceive. Among these meaningless signs he is sometimes left to grope till the result is stultification.
As an illustration of the traditional modes of teaching which still exist, the method of teaching reading by first teaching the alphabet may be instanced: this is found in more than one-half the schools. In some the little children are still brought up, one at a time, to point out these meaningless signs, and call their names. How common it is, I cannot say, but I have seen children called in the same way to give in order the digit names, one, two, three, etc., as a first step in numbers.
Number of Classes. — A general fault in the mixed schools is the great number of classes. A case may be cited, which, though extreme, well illustrates this evil. To a method proposed for teaching some particular thing, a teacher objected that he had too many classes for such a method. “How many classes have you?" I asked. - Thirty in the forenoon," was his reply. “And as many more in the afternoon ?” I said, inquiringly. “Not quite so many,” he replied. “Fifty, do you think, during the day?” —“Oh, yes, as many as that certainly,” he said. What can be expected but rote work in a school with fifty classes? Yet to have twenty or more is not uncommon.
Apparatus. — I have spoken in an earlier part of this report of the furniture. Some furniture is a necessity: the pupils must have chairs and desks; the room must have a stove. But the entire absence of apparatus of all kinds except occasionally some wall-maps, and here and there a globe or numeral frame, is a marked feature of our district schools. With the ingenuity which characterizes some teachers, all necessary aids for teaching find their way into the schoolroom : they contrive and con
struct apparatus from cheap materials at hand. Instances have occurred where, without a dollar's expense to the town, the teacher has furnished all needed appliances for illustrating every topic he had to teach. There is much to hope for from such a teacher.
In very many of the schools the young pupils are not properly supplied with slates and pencils: there is consequently much idleness among this class, and great weariness often results. Some towns furnish these to all the children, from a general fund. I have found but few reference-books in all the schools: the little apparent demand for them is a serious reflection upon our methods and aims. A few committees have exercised their right to control the town's portion of the school fund, and have appropriated a part of that to the purchase of books of reference. With the evils enumerated, and they are a small part of what could be named, - the wonder is that the schools accomplish so much.
Government, etc. — It was contemplated in my inspection of the schools, that their form of government should be observed, also their physical and moral training. The pupils in the schools in general have no systematic physical training. The stooping forms and awkward carriage, especially among the boys, show how much it is needed. In two schools I saw practice in calisthenics. The training received was mental as well as physical.
The order of the schools is generally good, and seems not to be prompted by fear of corporal punishment. Instances have come under my observation where the order is secured by an appeal to low motives, as ranking and marks; others, where flattery is employed by the teacher. In general, the reason and conscience are not sufficiently exercised. On the whole, the schools are largely controlled by arbitrary rules; these are repressive in their influence; the child is forbidden to do this or that. The rules are not discriminating: for minor and graver offences, about the same penalty is attached; the pupil, without other guide than the penalty, would think the dropping of a slate as great an offence as lying, whispering as stealing. The order seems to exist for the school and the teacher, not for the child. The school government is not, so largely as it should be, self-government.
In some of the schools recently visited, I have been particular to inquire what moral instruction is given. A single teacher was found who had set times for talking with his pupils of the habits they were forming, of the effect these babits have upon character, of the kind of actions that tend to give happiness and form good character, and so on. Here was a systematic course of instruction in morals in a grammar school. But, with the exception of the incidental and silent tuition going on wherever a truly conscientious nature exists in the teacher, no teaching of morals is attempted. While this is a fair statement, and while it indicates that occasions are not made for giving moral instruction, and that the subject does not present itself to the teacher as a primary object of the school, it is true that as a class the teachers are themselves highly moral, and do continually exert a decided moral influence.
There are schools in which a desire for knowledge and a love of truth actuate the pupils. The atmosphere of the schoolroom is one of honesty. There seem to be as much purity in the hearts of the boys and girls, and as much love and respect for one another and for the teacher, as exist in the best homes among the members of the family. I should be most happy to accept the invitation to “come again,” which was kindly subscribed to some of the papers returned from such a school in Bristol County.
It has already been distinctly stated that the tabulated results from which my inferences are drawn are of the examinations made in the less populous and less wealthy towns of the county. These towns have a just pride in their schools; for the liberal support they give them, considering their means, most are to be commended. The majority tax themselves above the average of the State ; some are below, and the schools suffer in consequence. Money is a potent means for improving the schools. Let all the towns apply twenty-five per cent more to the wages of teachers, and expend the money in securing and retaining the best the market affords, and the schools could be made one-fourth better. But with this, provision must be made for more and better supervision, — supervision which implies a more careful selection of teachers, with no end in view but to get and keep the best; it implies a more careful classification of the schools, the preparation of definite courses of studies, frequent examinations, oral and written, for all grades, and the demand for the most approved methods of teaching. Till all this