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should not be restricted in their right to do so.

It will be observed that money may be borrowed, and taxes
levied for the purposes, and upon the conditions and rates pre-
scribed in this section, in the same year^ in order that provision
for payment may be made at the same time that the loan is ef-
fected. Should the highest rates be borrowed and levied in any
one year, and a like rate of taxation be continued the next year,
both principal and interest could be more than canceled and paid
in two years. But while it may not unfrequently be expedient to
horrow the maximum rate in a given year, it will very rarely be
necessary or advisable to impose the maximum rate of taxation
in any one year ; a light tax, one that shall be sufficient to meet
the interest accruing on the sum borrowed, and gradually reduce
the principal, is generally to be recommended. ISTotices of meet-
ings to consider a vote upon questions arising under the provis-
ions of this section must be given as provided by the act in the
case of other district elections ; the cpestion or questions to be
decided being distinctly stated in said notices, and a majority of
the votes cast at such election being necessary to authorize the
directors to act.


The most important amendment made to this section is that
which fixes the minimum age at which children may be admitted
into the public schools, at six instead of five years as heretofore.
Such an amendment has long been desired, and will be hailed
with profound satisfaction by every intelligent friend of common

The consequences of admitting children of the tender age of
five years into the crowded public school rooms of the state, have
been regarded with sorrow and alarm. The records of this office
show that not less than fifty thousand of these little ones have been
annually subjected to the inevitable evils incident to their atten-
dance upon the public schools. In my first report to the legisla-


ture, I briefly, but earnestly adverted to the subject, and invoked
for it the kindly interposition of the law-making power of the
state. Some will doubtless regard this change as unnecessary, or
even as wrong and unjustly restrictive of the rights of parents,
but it would be easy to show by incontrovertible facts that the
evils connected with the admission of such young children far
outweigh the advantages. If right ideas of the laws of health and
growth, both of body and mind, were generally prevalent a^jiong
teachers and school officers ; if those laws were strictly observed
in selecting the subjects and methods of study; in prescribing
the number of school houses and settling the length and frequen-
cy of recesses, and in the arrangement of the seats, desks and other
fixtures of the school room — the reasons for increasing the mini-
mum age of eligibility would lose much of their force. But
these favorable conditions are, to a great extent, wanting. Right
views on these vital points are the exception — wrong opinions
|and practices are the rule. No distinction is generally made in
school regulations between the oldest and the youngest pupils.
The bodies and brain powers of the youngest and smallest are
brought under the same restraints and pressure that are imposed
upon the oldest and largest. No man can estimate the evils
which follow in the train of so monstrous a disregard of the fun-
damental laws of our mental and physical being, and of the dis-
tinctions which should characterize each progressive stage of de-
Ivelopment. The amount of book kno^\'ledge gained in a year,
in a large mixed public school, by an infant five years old, is of
necessity very small; while inroads upon health, the stifling of
natural impulses, languishing, weariness and ultimate disgust with
school and school duties, are the sad price that is paid for it. I
repeat that no intelligent man can examine this subject, in the
light of reason and of facts, without the deepest solicitude.

Hereafter no pupil under the age ot six years should be receiv-
ed into the public schools. The beneflts of this change will be by
no means confined to the little ones whom it debars from the
schools ; the remaining puj)ils and teachers will also gain im-
measurably by the change — the former in receiving a larger share
of attention, and the latter in. being relieved from nursery duties,
and thereby having more time to devote to educational duties.
There is the double advantage of having fewer to instruct, and

■ —7


those of an age better fitted to receive and be benefited by the
instruction given.

The next important changes are embodied in the italicised words
. of the following clauses of the section :

" They shall estabhsh and keep in operation for at least six
months in each year, and longer if ])mcticable, a suflicient num-
ber of free schools for the i^rojyer accommodation^ etc."

These changes are important, as showing the intention of the
law in respect^o the duration of schools, and the conveniences to
to be provided. It is a common supposition that the spirit as well
as the letter of the law is satisfied with six months' school. This
is an error. The term of six months is to be regarded only as
the minimum, as the least duration that will satisfy the require- ,
ments of the law. The whole spirit of the act is to encourage the
extension of the terms of schools to a longer period, whenever the
circumstances of a district will permit it to be done. In short, |
while every district must have a free school for at least six months, •
it may have, and it is the design of the law to encourage it to ,.
have, as great an extension as practicable beyond that term. It is ,
hoped that the time is not distant when the average duration of;,
school terms will not be less than eight or nine months in eachj

year. •

But the intention of the law in respect to the number and .
character of school houses, and theii- furniture and other fixtures, ;
is also clearly shown by the above clause of the amendment, j
Arrangements must be made for the :pro2yer accommodation of;
all the school children of the district. It is as much the duty,
of school directors to provide suitaUe school houses and enough^
of them, as it is to provide any school houses at all. They are
not to presume that it is immaterial whether their school houses.
are properly furnished and equipped or not, provided only that,
the children of the district can in some manner ^ be packed or,
stowed away in them. They are under solemn, legal and moral
obligation to consult the health, comfort and convenience of the
children, as well as their bare necessities, in all their school
arrangements. They have no right to crowd fifty children inta;
a house only large enough for thirty, they have no right to out-:
rage the laws of health in the construction and arrangement of
seats, desks and other fixtures. The district school houses of the
state'shouldbe among the most pleasant and attractive buildings


in the communitj, adapted, in all respects, to the noble ends con-
templated in their construction. If one school house is not suf-
ficient for the " proper accommodation " of all the children of the
district, or is not sufficiently accessible to all, the directors must
build another, and yet another if necessary ; and when a school
house ceases to be suitable, or becomes too small, they must en-
large and improre said house, or dispose of the same and erect
another that shall conform to and fulfill the conditions prescribed'
by the act.

Directors are also authorized by law to adopt and enforce all
necessary rules and regulations for the management and govern-
ment of the schools. The authority here conferred embraces
whatever measures are necessary to secure regularity and punc-
tuality of attendance, propriety and decorum of conduct in and
about school buildings, prompt obedience to every lawful require-
iment of the teacher, and whatever else they may deem essential
to the maintenance of discipline and good order, and to the suc-
cessful prosecution of study. The right of directors to make all
such necessary rules and regulations, and to enforce compliance
therewith, by suitable penalties, is clear and unquestionable. It
is inherent in, and inseparable from their legal and official rela-
tion to the schools, and since the adoption and enforcement of
salutary regulations is indispensable to the welfare and efficiency
of the schools, it is not only their right, but their duty to make
and enforce them ; and, in the exercise of this right and the per-
formance of this duty, they cannot be interfered with or restricted,
lexcept for manifest abuse of powers granted by the act, or un-
warrantable assumption of authority not conferred.

Directors are also required to visit and inspect the schools of
cheir district as often a practicable. This duty is too much neg-
tected, and many evils and misunderstandings result from such
neglect. Unfounded complaints against the teachers, originating
n malice, prejudice or idle rumors, could often be corrected at
once if directors would visit the schools and see for themselves
aow they are governed and conducted. It is only by frequent
dsitation that directors can keep themselves informed of the
condition and wants of the schools, and allay misunderstandings
and asperities as they arise. The occasional visit of the legal
guardians of the schools is also a much needed and salutary en-
couragement to both teachers and scholars. It creates and main-


tains that mutual sympatliy and confidence between teacher and
directors, which are so essential to success.

Directors are also authorized to direct what branches of study
shall be taught, what text-books shall be used, and to suspend or
expel pupils^ for disobedient, refractory or incorrigibly bad^ con-
duct. Uniformity of text-books, in the schools of a district, is ab-
solutely indispensable. Different books in the same branch of
study should in no case be allowed. Such diversity renders clas-
sification impossible ; and without classification there can be no:
successful teaching. In selecting text-books, directors will, of
course, avail themselves of, and be largely governed by, the su-
perior judgment and experience of the teacher. But uniformity,
must be insisted upon, and, when the best practicable selections ^
are made, they should not be changed for light reasons. Frequent
change of text-books is a serious expense and a source of much
annoyance and irritation to parents, and should be avoided. An
inferior text-book in the hands of a good teacher, is better than
the most excellent in the hands of a poor one. Corroborative of
the views already expressed relative to the disciplinary powers
vested in directors, is the clause conferring upon them the right
to suspend or expel pupils for disobedient or refractory conduct ;
a right which they should not of course resort to except in ag-
S'ravated cases ; but the exercise of which may become a clear duty;
from which they must not shrink. For the peace and harmony
of an entire school cannot be permitted to be disturbed, nor its
purity to be contaminated, by the incorrigible conduct or bad ex.;
ample of a single scholar.

The only remaining amendment to tliis section which it is
necessary to notice, is that which authorizes the directors to select
and locate school house sites, in case the voters of the district fail
to agree. It is presumed that they will rarely be called upon to
exercise the discretion thus conferred, but exigencies have arisen,
and will undoubtedly continue to arise, when the exercise of the
authority here conferred vfill be in the highest degree beneficia
to the interests of the district ; and the wisdom of the legislature
in providing for such contingencies cannot therefore be doubted


I shall consider the provisions of this section, as amended
under the following heads :


1. Examination of Teachers. Perhaps the most difficult and
responsible duty devolved by law upon county superintendents,
is that of determining who shall be the teachers of our common
Ischools. The county superintendent stands at the gateway of
every public school in his county, and d.ecides who shall, and
iwho shall not, enter. Upon the manner in which he scrutinizes
the moral and iutellectual credentials of the applicant, depends
the character of the school of which he is to become the teacher,
i Certificates are to be granted to those only who, upon due exam-
\ination, are found to possess the qualifications required by the
jact. The superintendent may, indeed, delegate to others the
examination of teachers, but he cannot delegate or alienate the
ju&t accountability to which the law holds hi7n for the manner in
I which the duty is performed. Whether the examination is in
' person, or by proxy, the responsibility of licensing none to teach
but such as possess the character and attainments prescribed by
law, rests upon and abides with the county superintendent. He
can in no way delegate or shake off that responsibility — it follows
him, and attaches to him, irrevocably, and holds him sternly
accountable for the consequences of his action. If he ai)points
examiners, he must know that they are competent and faithful ;
if he conducts the examination personally, he must be patient
and thorough ; in either case, and under all circumstances, he
should realize that he will be arraigned at the bar of the law, of
public opinion, and of conscience, for willful neglect of duty.
Every certificate issued to one who is unworthy, either mentally
or morally, to receive it, is not only a violation of law, but is a
direct blow at the heart of our common schools. Such a certifi-
cate is an official license, not to elevate and bless, but to injure
and degrade, and it may be to contaminate and curse the schools
and the community. Good schools cannot be taught by incom-
petent teachers ; the moral atmosphere of the schools cannot be
kept pm^e by profane or irreverent teachers. If an " un devout
astronomer is mad," an atheistic and immoral instructor of youth
is a monster. It is by no means a self-evident truth that poor
schools are better than none ; they may be so poor as to be a
great deal worse than none. It is truly lamentable that the num-
ber of thoroughly qualified teachers is so small ; and yet the
supply of such is not so much less than the demand, as many
seem to suppose. Teachers of at least fair abilities are usuall}'


to be had, if called for, and a reasonable compensation is offered.
Tlie saddest fact is that such teachers are in so little deinund.
County superintendents can do much to correct this state of
things, and I call upon them to do so, by insisting, to every
reasonable and practicable extent, upon the full measm-e of abili-
ty demanded by the law. They should strive to convince school
officers and parents how difficult it is to eradicate wrong habits
of study, carelessness and inattention, false ideas of facts and
principles, from the tenacious and imitative minds of children,
when once implanted by sciolists and smatterers and pretenders :
in the great art of teaching ; and that it is far better to wait till !
a good and safe teacher can be procured, though at a greater cost,
than to accept the services of any other, at any price. Kot more
difficult is it to bring back the gnarled and distorted oak to sym-
metry and beauty again, than to remedy the effects of a false and !
distorted early culture. By all the interests of the present gen-
eration and the hopes of the future ; by the priceless value of a \
true education, and the hopeless mischief of a false one, let!
county superintendents see to it that they prove not recreant to
the high trust reposed in them in the examination of teachers.
Let none of doubtful competency be appointed examiners. Prac-
tical teachers, or other experienced educational men, should be
chosen for that duty if the superintendent is unable to attend
to all himself ; and the extent and thoroughness of the examina-
tion should not be left to chance or caprice, but should be de-
termined beforehand, and a definite system of marking and just
standard of excellence should be agreed upon, so that the records
of the examination may enable the superintendent to decide upon
the merits of the candidate before granting the certificate. A
part of the examination should also be written^ in^ which case an
inspection of that portion of the candid:ite's work will greatly
assist the county superintendent in forming a correct judgment
of the mental habits and proficiency of the candidate.

In an experience of four years as county superintendent, I
found it best to combine the two methods of examination, oral
and written. Each has its advantages ; methods of teaching,
skill in expedients, aptness in illustration, etc., can be best brought
out by the oral method ; while habits of thinking and modes of,
reasoning, proofs of disci]3line and accuracy, acquaintance with;
principles, and general availability of knowledge, etc., are best


shown by tlie written method. As a general rule, the poorer the
attainments of the applicant, the longer it will take to examine
him, and vice versa. The reason of this is obvious ; there ^re, as
is well known to qualified examiners, certain comprehensive
questions that may be framed in relation to each of the branches
mentioned in the law, upon the manner of answering which, the
kind and degree of the candidate's proficiency may be very cor-
rectly determined. If these are answered in a prompt, methodi-
cal, and scholarly manner, such answers necessarily imply a
thoroughness of training, and a mastery of principles, that jus-
tify a comparatively brief examination of details. But if test
questions of this character are not so answered, a protracted ex-
amination upon minor points is usually necessary ; for it is by no
means safe or just to conclude that a certificate is to be refused
because the applicant is not versed in the laws of generalization,
or in the nicer processes of scientific analysis, transcendently
important as the latter are. A ];erson may be found worthy of
licensure, upon a fair estimate of average ability in the details
of each branch, in connection with good teaching powers, sense
and tact, personal and social qualities, etc., who would fail if tried
by other and severer tests. The aim of the superintendent
should be to do justice alike to every candidate, to the law, and
to himself.

I would earnestly impress upon county superintendents a
sense of the vital importance, and of the delicacy and difiiculty of
their duties in connection with the examination of teachers. This
duty must not be done hurriedly and superficially, but patiently,
fairly and searchingly. It requires time ; it cannot be done in a
few minutes, rarely in less than several hours. But be the time
required in any given case, more or less, take all the time that is
necessary to a faithful and thorough performance of the work. It
is in this way only that justice can be done to all, the intention
of the law fulfilled, and the grade of qualifications be improved.
Let examinations be so conducted that the ignorant and conceited
shall have a wholesome dread of them ; while the modest and
deserving, on the other hand, shall be assured that no injustice
will be done them.

It is the positive duty of the superintendent to know that none
but the qualified receive certificates. The fact that a teacher
already has one, or ten certificates, from other county superin-


tendents, does not constitute such knowledge, by any means.
True, it should, but it does not ; it is presumptive only, not con-
clusive. The qualifications of not a few teachers have proved,
u.pon thorough examination, to be in inverse ratio to the number
of former certificates held by them. A familiar maxim of the
law must be reversed in the case of candidates for licenses to
teach — they are to be presumed incompetent, until the contrary
is proved. ■ In the light of these considerations it will not be
necessary to characterize the practice, should such exist, of grant-
ing certificates, by letter, to parties wholly unknown to the
county superintendent, upon the mere request or recommenda-
tion of third parties, equally unknown to him. To say that such
conduct is wrong — all wrong — is no name for it. JSTor is it to
be understood that certificates may be so granted when both par-
ties, the applicant and the person recommending him, are well
and favorably known to the county superintendent ; in no such
way can the letter or spirit of the law be fulfilled, which requires
that certificates shall only be issued to such teachers as shall,
^'■U2?on due examinoMon by himself or a .board o± examiners by
him appointed, be found to possess the necessary qualifications."
To grant certificates by letter, without seeing the candidate, is
not only to decide in favor of the aj)plicant without ^'•due exam-
ination," but without any examination at all — such certificates
are issued not to persons ^'■found to possess," but to those who
are unwarrantably presumed to possess the necessary qualifica-
cations. It substitutes unauthorized presumption for the definite
and positive personal knowledge requu'ed by law. A teacher's
certificate is not an unmeaning form, but an authoritative declara-
tion by the county superintendent, that the holder is worthy of
the confidence of school directors, parents, and the public. It is,
in many instances, the only jDrotection or safeguard of employers
and the public against imposition, and hence the reputation of
the superintendent, and the pubhc welfare, are ahke concerned
in seeing that the manner and circumstances of the issue are
above suspicion.

2. Grades of CertifiGates. By the amendments to this section
the grades of certificates authorized to be issued by county super-
intendents, are reduced from three to two; each being vahd in
any district of the county for the terms of one or two years, re-
spectively. The thh'd grade, good for six months, in a given


district only, is abolished. The purpose for which that grade was
originally established having been subserved, it is meet and pro-
per that it should now be dispensed with. It was resorted to at
first with reluctance, and with misgivings as to its expediency.
It was created to meet a state of things which it was hoped would
not long continue, and was never designed to be permanent.
Whatever differences of opinion may have existed among enlight-
ened educators as to the good or ill effect of the third grade here-
tofore, the sentiment in favor of the change in the law by which
it is now discarded is, so far as I am informed, entirely unani-
mous. It cannot be denied that, notwithstanding the end sought
by the legislature, in allowing the six months' certificate, was
•good, its practical effect in many instances has been very detri-
mental. It seems to have been regarded by many county super-
intendents as a convenient asylum provided by law for the bene-
fit of disappointed ajDplicants for higher honors ; to soothe their
feelings and mitigate the chagrin of a total failure; and hence
scores of men and women have found refuge in the third grade
certificate, who should have been summarily rejected, and who,
but for such a dernier resort, would have been rejected, to the
great gain of the schools, of which, by a mistaken clemency, they
were permitted to become the teachers. "Whatever influence the
prospective gain or loss of the fee for a certificate may have exer-
cised in such cases, is now happily removed by the wiser provi-
sions of the act as amended — the compensation of the superinten-
dent for the time spent in the examination of teachers being not
only enhanced, but being entirely independent of the success or
failure of the applicant. From whatever point the change is re-
garded, it is believed that its effect upon the schools, and upon
the standard of qualifications of teachers, will be salutary.

There can be no doubt at all that the district schools of the
state can be supplied with teachers possessing the qualifications
demanded by the law as revised ; and if in rare cases it should
seem otherwise, it will still be far better to meet such special exi-

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Online Librarystatutes Illinois. LawsSchool laws of Illinois → online text (page 10 of 26)