J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) online

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The proportion of girls in attendance at high school has long been much greater
than that of boys, a state of affairs which has been a matter of deep concern to
those superintending the high schools. Superintendent Lane early recommended
greater elasticity in the curriculum and this, secured by degrees, has been the
means of keeping many in school, especially boys. It has been recognized that
a more effective means of preventing the boys from leaving school early would be
the existence of courses of instruction in commercial studies. Such studies would
not only attract a great number of students who now find no interest in the scien-

7 Report of Public Schools, 1901, p. 104.


tific and literary courses at present offered in the high schools ; they would also
furnish a valuable business training which would produce men well equipped in
commercial ability men who would in time become the better citizens and busi-
ness men for such training.


The commercial schools of this and European countries have been investigated
by President Edmund J. James of the University of Illinois, whose writings have
been stimulating to other educators who feel the necessity of a public school of
commerce. He is quoted in the school report for 1896 as writing: "The sys-
tematic and steady development of commercial interests lies in the interest of our
business world, in the interest in the community in general, and in the interests
of our public system of education. There is at present little opportunity for a
youth desiring to enter business life to get any systematic assistance in preparing
himself for his future career, if he desires or expects to engage in anything but
clerical work. The old system of training young men in the great business houses
has almost completely disappeared, even in those places of our country where it
may have existed, while it can hardly be said ever to have existed at all in most
places in this country. Even in the old countries (England, Germany and France)
it has broken down like the apprenticeship system in the trades, and at present
the only possible substitute for it seems to be the properly organized commercial
school. There is at present a special reason why we in the United States should
provide facilities for adequate education along mercantile lines, at least in the
narrow sense of the term. We are rapidly nearing the point in our manufactur-
ing industry when we may expect to compete with England, Germany and France
in foreign markets. In this field of enterprise England is at a great advantage
because of the better training and education of their youth, who enter their busi-
ness houses in foreign countries. If we wish to find such competition successful,
we must be able to find a ready supply of trained men for foreign correspondence
and services; men who have had systematic training in foreign languages and in
the geography and industries of foreign countries. Such a training it is the
business of a commercial high school to give."

In 1900 commercial studies, including commercial geography, commercial law,
the science and art of accounting, and stenography and typewriting, were in-
troduced into the course of several high schools ; the interest in commercial studies
has steadily increased since they became part of the course. Plans for a new
building, to be used as a high school of commerce and to be located near the down
town district, are now being considered by the board of education.

A further step in expanding the high school course was taken when in 1909
domestic science classes for girls were introduced into several high schools. A
supervisor of the department of household arts was elected, to direct the work in
all the public schools. Formerly this department, in the grades, had been in charge
of the supervisor of manual training.


The regulation by school authorities of interscholastic high school athletics was
undertaken about fifteen years ago, when the Cook County High School Athletic


league was organized, in which the governing body is a board of control, consist-
ing of one teacher from each high school in the league, elected by those in the
school who are interested in athletics. This organization endeavors to safeguard
the interests both of the school and the pupil, by demanding of members of the
team a certain standard of scholarship, by enforcing medical examination of
athletic candidates, by considering the expressed wishes of parents regarding the
players' participation in contests, and by providing a faculty representative of
each team at all contests.


Kindergartens were introduced into the Chicago schools through outside effort
and pressure, as in the case of manual training. Private kindergartens had existed
in the city since the first one was established here in 1867. In 1888 the Froebel
association requested the board of education to grant them the use of a room in
one of the school buildings. Then the Froebel association and the Free Kinder-
garten association asked for the use of other rooms in public schools, and when,
by 1892, several of these kindergartens had been established and their value proved,
the board was asked, and consented, to take charge of them. Many requests were
made to establish kindergartens in different parts of the city, but the board has
never been able to grant all of them, because, with chronic lack of seating space
for children of elementary school age, it has seemed unjust to these latter pupils
to provide first for kindergartens.

By 190-1 there were 118 schools having kindergarten rooms, with an attend-
ance of about 10,000 children between the ages of four and six. The accommoda-
tion of so many pupils compared with room space is the result of the adoption,
in 1901-1902, of the two session plan, whereby two sets of kindergarten pupils
are taught by the same teacher, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
The number of children of kindergarten age in that year was about 70,000, of whom
about 50,000, it was estimated, would apply for admission to kindergartens were
they given the opportunity. The reason for the insufficient accommodation lay in
the fact that to meet the demand in that year, 400 rooms then used for pupils
over six years of age would have to be given up. Thus it would have been neces-
sary to build new school buildings to the extent of 400 additional rooms, at an
estimated cost of $3,200,000. With this obvious deterrent to remedying the con-
dition, the only expedient plan was to extend the work gradually as the board
could find the means to do so, with the policy of locating the new kindergartens in
the poorer parts of the city, where educational influences of all kinds are most
needed, and where children below six years of age spend the most of their time
on the street, in alleys and on dark stairways, uncared for and undisciplined. The
influence of the kindergarten children from these districts of the city is noticeable
in introducing new elements of refinement and cleanliness into the home and
neighborhood. "In some of the poorer districts of the city," we read in the school
report for 1901, "the kindergarten has a distinct value in addition to that usually
considered. This value lies in its utility in teaching children of foreign parentage
the English language. Experience in this city seems to show that the kindergarten,
with its freedom of intercourse between teachers and children, is a much more
effective agent than the primary school in teaching the English language. Chil-

Vol. 120


dren come out of our kindergartens, after a single year's experience, able to speak
the language well and get along as well as their neighbors. As we extend the
kindergarten privileges in the city, such poorer districts, with their non-English
speaking population, should be accommodated first. By means of the kinder-
garten we shall practically lengthen the instruction of the child in such localities
by a full year, as he will then be able to enter the primary school and complete
the work with his class; while, without this kindergarten training, or the train-
ing in the use of the English language, he is almost invariably compelled to
remain two or more years in the first grade. The policy of the Board of Educa-
tion in giving preference to such localities in establishing new kindergartens is
unquestionably the right one." There are now eighty or ninety kindergartens open
in the city.

The observation in the schools of a number of national holidays was due to
the initiative of outside organizations. The celebration of Decoration day was
begun in 1887; the memorial exercises were instituted at the suggestion of the
women's branch of the Grand Army of the Republic. At the request of the Trade
and Labor Assembly the schools were closed Labor day; and the Union League
club directed the observing of Washington's birthday. In 1888 the Patriotic Order
of the Sons of America presented the principal schools with flags, and this led to
a decision on the part of the board to provide a flag and flagstaff for every school


A woman was first given a place on the board of education in 1889, when the
mayor appointed Mrs. Ellen Mitchell, the choice of the Chicago Women's club.
This appointment, contrary to the mayor's policy regarding the appointing of
board members which had hitherto been taken for granted, had been effected by
agitation which took the form of personal interview of committees with the mayor,
petitions circulated among business men, and exerting of all possible personal in-
fluence to bring about the appointment. It has been in general the policy of the
mayor since then to appoint one or more women to the school board, though in
certain years there has been no woman on the board.

With the annexation of Hyde Park to the city in 1889 the responsibilities of
the board of education were greatly increased. The new districts in its charge
included 30,000 children and 700 teachers.


At the death of Superintendent Rowland in 1890 Mr. Albert G. Lane, former
county superintendent of schools, was appointed to take his place. He found two
serious evils in the schools: the usual inadequate school room accommodation, and
the lack of training for new teachers who were entering the Chicago schools. The
overcrowding was so great that over 15,000 children were in half-day divisions,
and many pupils were in rented rooms, which were usually unsanitary, not having
been built for school purposes. To accommodate the children properly at least
twenty new schools should have been built every year instead of the eleven or
twelve that were built. Superintendent Lane's recommendations for new buildings
were urgent.



The other serious deficiency in the system the fact that new teachers were
without technical training seemed hard to remedy, for ever since the discontinu-
ing of the Normal school in 1877 there had not been in Chicago the means of pre-
paring those who wished to teach. Accordingly many of the teachers were young
girls who., with only a high school education, and no other training, had become
grade teachers. By the "cadet system," adopted to improve this condition, a new
teacher served for a time as assistant or substitute to an experienced teacher. To
offer more adequate training an afternoon class of cadets was organized for six
months of study, from which good results were at once perceptible. A final solu-
tion of the problem was arrived at when in the winter of 1895-6 the Cook county
commissioners offered to make over to the city the Cook County Normal school and
all its property if the board would assume the management and maintenance of
this institution. After careful consideration the offer was accepted by the board,
and the Normal school became part of the school system, known as the Chicago
Teachers College.

The Cook County Normal school, founded in 1868, had, for several years before
being taken over by the city, been in charge of Colonel Francis W. Parker, whose
enthusiastic and progressive work had brought him a national reputation as a man
having broad ideas and a stimulating influence on the teachers working with him.
At the transfer of the school to city ownership Colonel Parker and his faculty
were reelected by the board of education to continue in charge of the Normal
school. Admission to the school was limited to those graduates of high schools who
reside in Chicago having a required standard of scholarship; also to graduates of
Cook County High schools, who are recommended by the county superintendent of
schools. Graduates from the Normal school are assigned to cadet (practice teach-
ing) in the schools for a certain time, and if successful in practice, are given reg-
ular positions. The Training School for Teachers, established in 1893, was trans-
ferred to the Normal school building in Englewood when this latter property became
a part of the city school system. In order to furnish material upon which the
normal students may exercise their growing pedagogic powers, normal practice
schools are maintained in connection with the Normal school, and the pupils of
these schools are taught by the normal students, under the supervision of members
of the faculty. In 1899 a large building with assembly hall and manual training
shop was erected for the Normal Practice school.

The resignation of Colonel Parker in 1899 left the school without a principal
for a year, until his place was filled by the election, as his successor, of Dr. Arnold
Tompkins, president of Illinois Normal university. Before accepting this posi-
tion Dr. Tompkins had become well known to the teachers of the country through
his eloquence as an orator in the exposition of educational ideals. His task now
was to enter the Chicago Normal school as a successor to a well loved educator
whose ideals were jealously guarded against any possible changes to be made by a
stranger in the school. He had, besides, to meet the difficulties of a surplusage of
teachers in the city and of a long waiting list of cadets; of a new program in
the school which increased the requirements for graduation, and of financial limita-
tions which forced the board of education to give up the payment of the $200 a year


to cadets while on the waiting list. In spite of all this, Dr. Tompkins undertook
the work full of hope, his ambition being to see the Teachers' college thoroughly
established, equipped with a good faculty, and prepared to train all classes of
teachers needed for the schools of Chicago. In his report for 1904 Dr. Tomp-
kins indicated the purpose of the school: "A strong endeavor has been made on
the part of the Normal school to establish itself at the head of the public school
system as an institution capable of giving help in every line of school work." His
death occurred in 1905, just as he was about to see the realization of these hopes,
which were materialized later.

The length of the Normal course was increased in 1899 from one to two years,
and in 1901 the first departments for the training of special teachers were opened.
Soon after the lengthening of the course to two years the superintendent of schools
was recommending its extension to three years to include adequate preparation of
the subjects in which a teacher must now be trained. Still greater demands were
made on the students when in 1902 the entrance requirements were greatly in-
creased in order to lessen the number of applications. This policy was made neces-
sary by the fact that lack of funds had forced the board of education to reduce
expenses, cut down the list of teachers, and decrease salaries. As was foreseen,
too soon the long list of unemployed teachers would result in smaller entering classes,
the absence from these classes of the more bright and energetic students, and
there would be a deficiency both in numbers and standard of excellence of the
graduates. This was the dilemma which caused the added requirements both for
entrance and graduation.


In 1903 work was begun on a new normal school building 011 the grounds of
the former school, to take the place of the outworn and outgrown building which
had been erected in Englewood by the county in 1868, a year after the Normal school
was established, with D. S. Wentworth as principal. After the work was begun,
an injunction suit was brought against the board of education to restrain them
from erecting this new Normal school building. The complainants, certain citizens
and tax payers of Chicago, maintained that the school tax fund, already inadequate
to make proper provision for the seating and teaching of all eligible pupils of
Chicago, should not be used for erecting a new Normal school building. The com-
plainants maintained "that the legislature has not, either expressly or by neces-
sary implication, given any power to the Board of Education in cities having a
population exceeding 100,000 inhabitants to conduct Normal schools or to erect
buildings for such schools, or to apply the school fund or any part thereof in pay-
ing the costs of conducting such schools or erecting such buildings." Furthermore
it was complained that "the erection of said costly new building is or will be a
wholly unnecessary and unjustifiable waste of the property of said public schools
and of said public school fund of the said City of Chicago."

The suit was one of great public interest. It was finally decided that the board
of education has the right to conduct a Normal school to train teachers for its
public schools. The new Normal school building was completed, and opened in



Iii the summer of 1905 Dr. Tompkins died, and Mrs. Ella Flagg Young was
elected to succeed him as principal of the Normal school. For many years Mrs.
Young had been a part of the Chicago public school system, and well understood
the questions involved in a school whose purpose was the preparation of those
who must maintain the high grade of that system. She found the Normal school
and its practice schools in excellent condition, and in need of continued strong
and progressive surveillance, which she was fully able to undertake.

Among the important problems to be solved was the question of maintaining
the balance between the demand of teachers for the Chicago schools and the supply
of such teachers. Mrs. Young's simple and logical suggestions concerning the
problem, as found in her report for 1905, written when she was principal, shows
the forthright method that characterizes her coping with difficulties. She wrote,
"the Normal school is a professional school established for the purpose of prepar-
ing for the City of Chicago well-trained teachers who, experience has shown, cannot
be secured in sufficient numbers unless there be a city training school; the school
is not established for the purpose of furnishing specially trained teachers to the
State of Illinois or other states ; to prepare more teachers than the city needs is
to dissipate the appropriation for schools by diverting it from its legitimate pur-
pose and aim; at least 99 per cent of the young men and young women entering
the Chicago Normal school are residents of the city and desire to continue as such.
If the school were given to overproduction of graduates, many of the most enter-
prising among these young people would, in preference to taking up their resi-
dence as teachers in villages and towns outside, enter other professions or lines of
industry in the city a condition that would lower the percentage of energetic and
capable among the students admitted. . . . The solution of the problem of
supply and demand lies, I believe, in an advance of the standard for admission
of experienced teachers applying for the certificate to teach in Chicago, and also
of applicants for admission to the normal school."


An important branch of the normal work done by the Chicago teachers is that
studying which is undertaken as so-called normal extension work. Classes were
begun in 1902, when the board of education offered to furnish to teachers oppor-
tunities of carrying on regular academic and professional work under the direction
of instructors, and at times and places convenient for the teachers. A short
summer session of the Chicago Normal school was provided, to be free to teachers
of the Chicago schools. Many teachers have taken up this work, most of them
for self-improvement, and a few for the purpose of preparing themselves for the
promotional examinations given, (though there is no formal connection between
the extension work and promotional examinations.) Attendance at the classes is
entirely voluntary; the work is designed especially to reinspire the old teachers
with interest and enthusiasm for their work, and to equip them with the most
modern ideas in methods of teaching. The results have been unexpectedly gratify-
ing, and it has even been said by certain principals that the whole spirit of their
schools has been changed by the work of the Normal extension classes. It is gen-


erally believed that ordinarily teachers reach the maximum of efficiency within five
years after they begin to teach. To prevent deterioration, therefore, there must
be persistent study in some academic or professional line of work, and to strengthen
the inclination toward such advanced work, the normal extension classes are offered
by the school management; the results have been found to justify fully the effort
and money expended. As the work developed, it was thought just to the teachers
to keep a record of the work done by them in systematic study classes. The ex-
tension work was organized with a director, and became a regular part of the
Normal school.


Any resident of the city who is a graduate of the Chicago high schools or a
school of equal grade, may enter the Chicago Normal school on passing the en-
trance examination, which includes also a physical examination. The physical
examination is given to prevent the entrance into the school system of persons
physically unfit for doing good service as teachers, because of defects of sight or
hearing, or on account of deformities, or having contracted some progressive
destructive disease. When the course at the Normal school has been completed and
the physical examination has been passed, the graduate is given a certificate to
teach in the elementary schools, and is assigned as a cadet. For those who wish
to prepare as special teachers of the blind, the sub-normal, or of such special sub-
jects as domestic science, for instance, there are extra courses which can be taken
at the Normal school.

Cadet service is made up of two kinds of work: practice teaching, the teaching
of classes under the direction of the principal or room teacher; and substituting
in place of teachers absent on account of sickness or for other reasons. After four
months of teaching the cadet is placed on the list of those eligible for appointment,
arranged in the order of merit, according to a mark depending one-half on the
scholarship average at the time of graduation from the Normal school, and one-
half on the record made while serving as a cadet. The list of eligible teachers is
being constantly revised in order to take due account of new applicants and the
latest efficiency records obtained by former teachers seeking reappointment.


Those who were reading the Chicago papers in 1893 will remember the feeling i
and discussion that were aroused over the "fads," as many called them, which j
were among the subjects taught in the schools. A motion was made in a meeting:
of the board to abolish clay modeling. Certain members were kindled by this sug-j
gestive proposal, and other motions were made to abolish one and another "fad" !
until, in the fervor of iconoclasm, even drawing, music, physical culture and Ger- '
man were threatened. The public became more interested and expressive on this|
subject than ever before on any school question. Petitions were signed, resolu-
tions were adopted by societies, letters were written to the newspapers, and there;
were even public meetings for its discussion. The final settlement was a com-

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 43 of 59)