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gencies by granting a second grade certificate under a liberal
construction of the law, than to continue the existence of a pro-
vision that operates as a perpetual invitation to incompetency. As
before remarked, the true difficulty is not so much that teachers
capable of sustaining the examination now required by law are
not to be obtained, as that, through mistaken ideas of economy,



90 ■■■ SCHOOL LAWS OF ILLINOIS, "WITH

and erronoiis views of the nature of education, and of tlie quali-
fications essential in a good teacher, school directors are disposed
to be satisfied with cheap teachers and low attainments; not reali-
zing that poor teachers and schools are in fact in the long run in-
evitably the most costly, because the true work of education can-
not be performed -by such teachers and in such schools, and must
therefore sooner or later be done over again, if it is ever effectu-
ally done at all. "While, therefore, these mistaken views and
tendencies exist, and the law itself opens the door for the accom-
modation of school directors who entertain them by providing for
licensure of those not properly c[ualified, it is obvious that the ef-
fect must be to exclude from the schools teachers of a higher
grade of attainments. It is well, therefore, that the law itself
should interpose to check this downward tendency, and necessi-
tate the employment of a better order of teachers by hmiting the
grades, raising the standard, and thereby excluding the notorious-
ly incompetent. In a word, recognizing the fact that so long as
poor and cheap teachers can lawfully be employed, such teachers
will continue to be in demand, the amendment strikes at the root
of the evil, by declaring, so far as legislation can, that hereafter
the competent and qualified only shall be admitted to license ;
thus anticipating the slow growth of public sentiment in some
quarters, and forcing a demand for an order of teachers which
might not otherwise have existed for years. It remains for coun-
ty superintendents to secure, by their faithfulness and fii-mness,
the good points which this reduction of grades is intended to
promote.

Since the difi'erent grades of teachers' certificates must be based,
not upon an examination in different branches of study, but upon
diflerent degrees of excellence in the same branches, it becomes
a task of no little difficulty to indicate with any degree of minute-
ness or accm^acy the extent and character of the examination that
should be required for each of the several grades. It must be
left mainly to the wisdom and judgment of the superintendents.
But it is very desirable to have the greatest practicable uniformi-
ty in the standard of award for each grade, and to this end the
following general outline of principles is respectfully suggested,
for the guidance of superintendents and examiners :

First Grade. — The candidate for this grade should be able to
sustain a thorough and critical examination upon all the subjects



OFFICIAL AND JUDICIAL DECISIOITS. 91,

named in the act. They are but few. It would seem that less
could not be required of a person who aspires to a first-grade cer-
tificate than a thorough acquaintance with these few. But this
thoroughness is shown, not alone, nor indeerl principally, by mere
technical knowledge. It should be the aim to make the examina-
tion philosophical — so to frame the questions as to elicit the appli-
cant's knowledge of governing principles, rather than unimport-
ant details ; to test his acquaintance with the general truths, the
broad outlines of a subject, rather than isolated facts and barren
statistics. Thus, in geography, for example: the relation of the
earth to the solar system ; the causes of day and night and of the
seasons ; the elements of mathematical and physical geography,
such as the direction of the principal mountain ranges, the water
courses, the drainage and contour of continents, the oceanic cur-
rents, etc.; a clear and general view of the geography of the
whole world, and an accurate knowledge of that of the United
States, should be deemed of more importance than the popula-
tion of some obscure town in South Ameaica, or the length of a
tenth-class river in Africa. In history : a clear and intelligent
statement of the causes which led to the war of 1812, should be
infinitely more satisfactory than the precise number of killed and
wounded at the battle of New Orleans. In arithmetic : a lucid
explanation of the principles of decimals, or a ready and accurate
analysis and demonstration of the rules for taking the second and
third roots of numbers, would establish a claim to scholarship in
that science, which the failure to answer some mere technical
question or a chance error in the performance of a given example,
could not seriously impair. In grammar : it is of vastly more im-
portance that the applicant show a familiarity with sentential struc-
ture, and especially with the history and development of the Eng-
lish language, than that he be able merely to parse a given word ac-
cording to grammatical formula. These instances, selected at ran-
dom, will serve to indicate the general character of the examina-
tion, and what is meant by the investigation of principles instead of
details. Not that technical knowledge and accuracy of details are
unimportant, by any means, but simply that a general knowledge of
causes and principles and laws is more important. Especial inquiry
should also be made as to the candidate's peculiar aj)titucle in
communicating 'knowledge^ and ability to make it clear to the pu-
pil by lucid explanations, and prompt and pertinent illustrations.



92 SCHOOL LAWS OF ILLDvOIS, WITH

In determining the claims of tlie candidate for this grade, it
would also be proper to regard certain points, upon which, from
the nature of the case, there can be no formal examination, but
the importance of which cannot be Cjuestioned. Sach as precis-
ion and clearness of utterance, propriety and purity of diction, re-
finement of manner, genuine dignity of character and bearing,
earnestness, conscientiousness and high-toned morahty. It is
thought that, in examinations of this character, far too much
stress is ordinarily laid upon the value of mere scholar shij). The
technical and scientific acquii-ements of the candidate must indeed
be respectable, but it is sincerely believed that the considerations
just referred to have a more important bearing upon the question
of the real fitness and highest success of the teacher, than the ut-
most perfection of purely scholastic attainments.

Second Grade. — To secure this, the candidate should exhibit a
fair knowledge of all the branches required by law, but the ex-
amination may be conducted in a tnore technical form, with less
reference to comprehensive, philosophical principles, and less rig-
or of scrutiny into the general qualifications enumerated above,
as necessary for the first grade.

County superintendents can more easily apprehend the distinc-
tion to be observed in the Kne of examination for each grade re-
spectively, than I can define it in terms. Sufiice it to say that
the examination for the second grade may be conducted more in
accordance with the routine of the books ; it may deal more with
specific details and less with fundamental principles than would
be proper for the first grade: Thus, ia orthography, approved
ability in spelling should be accepted though not accompanied by
that knowledge of the powers and classification of letters, the
generic rules of orthography, and the acquaintance with phonic
analysis which should be demanded in the first grade. Again :
in reading, proficiency in the art rather than in the science should
be reqmred for this grade. If the candidate is able to read any
ordinary piece at sight with a reasonable degree of intelligence,
force and expression, it may properly be accepted, though he may
not be versed in the higher principles of rhetoric nor the subtler
laws of utterance ; and so of each of the other branches. In brief,
the examination for this grade may be confined more to facts
and extend less to principles ; it may deal more with practical



OFFICIAL AND JUDICIAL DECISIONS. 93

ability in specific directions, and less with theory and abstract in-
vestigation..

I am aware of the indefiniteness of these suggestions, but noth-
ing more specific seems practicable in view of the extreme diver-
sity of circumstances under which they will be interpreted and
aj)plied. A fixed standard of examination for each grade could
not be carried out. A criterion that might be sustained in one
county or section of the state, would prove too severe for another
county or portion of the state. A rule that would easily admit
teachers enough for the whole of one locality, would efiectually
exclude those of another. There are irreconcilable differences in
the ability and fidelity of su.perintendents ; in the sentiments of
the people, and in the number and competency of candidates.
In these circumstances I can only outline, as clearly as possible,
the general j)rinciples that ought to govern in the examination for
the respective grades, leaving much, of necessity, to the intelli-
gence and discrimination of the superintendents.

The general efii'ect of the system of grading in elevating the
standard of qualification, does not depend, so much as might be
supposed, upon having an absolute rule of examination and award.
Because while superintendents may difler widely as to what shall
constitute fitness for the first grade, they will be substantially
agreed as to the intervals between it and the subordinate grade,
or the relation that each inferior grade shall bear to the maximum
standard which each superintendent adopts for his guidance.
Thus the spur of emulation will be nearly as eifective in the one
case as in the other.

This duty of licensing men and women to be the teachers and
guides of our children — to sustain to them relations scarcely less
intimate and controlling than those of the parents themselves, for
several months in the year, and for several of the most critical
and formative years of their lives, is one of paramount import-
ance and responsibility ; one requiring great judgment and pru-
dence, nice discrimination, honesty and faithfulness. It should
always be performed with a sincere regard to the magnitude of
the interests involved, and a profound sense of just moral account-
ability for the consequences of haste, indiscretion and thought-
lessness. The careless flippancy, the indecent haste, the indifier-
ence, the recklessness even, with which these most serious mat-
ters are often disposed of, are sad indeed. It is lamentable to



■ 94: SCHOOL LAWS OF ILLINOIS, WITH

tliink tliat an intelligent people can commit snch interests to sncli
nnwortliy hands as tliey often do. Superintendents cannot be too
firm in resisting the importunities of candidates for certificates of
high grade, when not clearly satisfied that snch grade is deserved.
The examination^ and not the wishes, friendship, relationship, or
pecuniary circumstances of the applicant, is the inexorable rule
of the law, and by this the superintendent must, if he does his
duty, be governed, with uncompromising fidelity. It is no real
kindness to a teacher, to give him a certificate above the grade of
his actual attainments and qualifications, while on the other hand,
it is in violation of law, and utterly subversive of the ends con-
templated in the provision for difiJ'erent grades — namely, the ele-
vation of the standard of qualifications and a just discrimination
between the better and poorer qualified. A candidate who is fit
to receive any certificate, will not ask or take one of a higher
grade than he is found to be honestly entitled to. Such a man
will be willing to begin where his competency is unquestionable,
and bravely strive to earn a higher grade.

Among the conditions required by law is "good moral charac-
ter." Let this not be a mere form, to be practically ignored or
lightly slurred over. It is a peremptory demand of the law, of the
schools, and of society, and should be inquired into by the super-
intendent, where the applicant is unknown to him, with no less
rigor of scrutiny than that exercised in ascertaining his fitness in
other respects. The question of character should always be the
first considered, and until it is satisfactorily disposed of, the su-
perintendent should refuse to go a step further. Great mistakes
have been made in this matter. Moral monsters have been quar-
tered upon unsuspecting districts, the contamination and havoc
of whose example and influence cannot be thought of without \
shudder. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know in some cases,
that the candidate is worthy in this respect. But for this very
reason, because it is so difficult, and because the consequences of
serious error here are so fearful, the greater care is needed.

But little change is made in the record of the examinations re-
quired to be kept by county superintendents. The chief point
to be noticed is that a separate record is to be kept of male and
female teachers examined ; the law requires no record of such as
fail to receive certificates. The record here required is of much
importance, and may prove of inestimable value for future refer-



OFFICIAL AND JUDICIAL DECISIONS. 95

ence. County superintendents are enjoined to a faithful perform-
ance of this duty, and to see that the record is kept in a well
bound book, properly ruled and headed for the purpose. The
form given in the act is very simple, and it will require but very
little time to make the necessary entries. To insure accuracy a
proper memorandum should be made immediately after the re-
sults of each examination are determiued.

3. State Certificates. By this section as amended a very im-
portant change is made in the manner of granting state certifi-
cates. Heretofore it was competent for the state superintendent
to grant such certificates at his individual option, if he thought
proper so to exercise the authority vested in him by law. Bj the
change, "state certificates shall only be granted upon public ex-
amination, of which due notice shall be given, in such branches
and upon such terms and by such examiners, as the state super-
intendent, and the principal of the normal university, may pre-
scribe."

The object of this modification is obvious, and its wisdom can-,
not be doubted. That object is to invest the issue of the highest
professional diploma known to the law, with such assurances of
fairness and impartiality, and such safeguards against the possi-
bility of abuse as shall challenge the respect and secure the con-
fidence of the profession and the public. There is a manifest
propriety in associating the head of the normal university with
the practical development of this feature of the school law, since
he is placed at the head of the state institution for the training of
teachers, and is therefore identified with whatever has for its ob-
ject the promotion of a professional spirit in the great body of
teachers and the recognition of their claim to the rank of a pro-
fession. The best results are anticipated under the operation of
these modified provisions of this important feature of the system.

4. English Schools contemplated hy the Act. This section as
amended is expressly declarative of the kind of schools author-
ized to be established under the act. Every school so established
must be for instruction in the various branches of an English edu-
cation, and no school funds can be approved under this act for
any other class or description of schools. These declarations are
unmistakable and emphatic; they indicate the true American
idea of public education, which is not to foster and continue dif-
ferences of dialect and nationality, but to break down all such dis-



96 SCHOOL LATVS OF ILLINOIS, WITH

tinctions, to blend and fuse all the elements of onr population into
one homogeneous whole, and to mold all our youth in harmoni-
ous unity, upon the broad basis of a common nationality. Hence
the education to be given in our schools must not be German or
French, but English: English ideas are to pervade and animate
it through and through. The eye of our legislators, in framing
this noble system, was upon the future as well as the present; the
grand idea was before them of preparing the thousands that
should come amongst ns from year to year, for the high duties of
American citizenship.

The idea of the law is, that the common medium of communi-
cation shall be the English language and no other. ISTo matter
what the nationalities or languages of the pupils may be, the in-
structions of the teachers must be imparted through the English
lano-uao-e and no other. A departure from this rule works the
forfeiture of the public funds by the express tei-ms of the law
itself.

But lest the foregoing provisions should be misunderstood
or misapplied, this section closes with the proviso, that nothing
therein contained shall prevent the teaching in common schools
of other and higher branches than those specified. By this proviso
all necessary latitude is given for the introduction into our com-
mon schools of such additional or higher branches, whether of
language or mathematics, etc., as may, in given circumstances,
be deemed advisable. It will thus be seen that while the Ger-
man and other foreign languages cannot be made the teaching
language, or medium of communication in our schools, yet they
may be introduced and taught to any necessary extent through
the medium of the English ; the same as the Latin, or Greek, or
other additional branches are taught ; and so far from intending
to discountenance the teaching in our public schools of modern
languages, especially the grand, rich old German tongue, I
would earnestly encourage the teaching of that language when-
es^er circumstances will admit, and- expediency recommend the
same to be done. In like manner, under the wise and liberal
provisions of this section, high schools may be established in con-
nection with, and as a part of our system of public schools, with
a course of instruction as extended and varied as the best interests
of the community may require.



OFFICIAL AND JUDICIAL DECISIONS. 97

REMARKS ON SECTION 51, AS AMENDED.

By this section, as amended, it is made the duty of county
superintendents to hold at least four public examinations annual-
ly, for teachers desiring certilicates, on such days and at such
different points in their respective counties as will, in their
estimation, best accommodate those concerned. It is not meant
by the term "quarterly," that the four public examinations should
be held successively at the precise interval of three months. The
intention of the law is simply to require that there shall not be
less than four public examinations in each year ; the precise time
of each being left to the discretion of the county superintendent,
having in view the convenience and accommodation of the largest
number of teachers. It is plain, from the language of the law,
that in all large counties, more than one place should be desig-
nated for the holding of such examinations ; they are to be held
"on such days and at such places in their respective counties as
will, etc." The superintendents of large counties should not re-
quire the attendance of all applicants for certificates at the county
seat, or wherever their respective offices may be ; this would, in
many instances, impose an unreasonable burden of time and ex-
pense upon candidates. It must be noticed that the convenience
of the greatest number of persons desiring examination, and not
the convenience of the county superintendents, is the rule which
should govern in the designation of times and places. Superin-
tendents receive compensation for the services required by this
section, and they must, if necessary, subordinate their own con-
venience to that of the teachers of the county. Under a former
section, county superintendents are authorized to delegate the
authority vested in them for the examination of teachers to a
board of examiners, to be by them appointed. While the ap-
pointment of such examiners in some instances, as in the case of
large and populous counties, etc., may be necessary, yet this im-
portant duty should, as far as possible, be performed by the super-
intendent in person, and not by proxy. Ther6 can be no objection
to having experienced educational men present at the e:^amina-
tions, nor to their assisting superintendents in their duties on such
occasions ; on the contrary, the presence and co-operation of such
persons is desirable. But what I would earnestl}'^ urge is that
county superintendents should themselves always be present, and



98 SCHOOL LAWS OF ILLINOIS, WITH

superintend the examinatioD of teacliers, if at all practicable.
The object of the law in requiring a certain number of public
examinations, is primarily, that teachers, and all others interested,
may have due and timely notice of the times and places where
such meetings will be held, that they may make their arrange-
ments and govern themselves accordingly. Others beside the
candidates have an interest in such examinations, and may desire
to attend them. This is particularly true of the directors and
citizens of the particular districts where the applicants may pro-
pose to teach, in order that they may see and hear for themselves,
and be thereby the better enabled to judge of the abilities and
qualifications of the persons whom they propose to employ. The
four examinations required by law must therefore be strictly
public — open to all who may choose to attend. It is, however,
to be distinctly understood that the number of public examina-
tions that may be held is not limited to four ; that is merely the
minimum number required by law. Superintendents may hold
as many more public examinations as they choose ; they may hold
them monthly, or even oftener, if deemed expedient ; or they
may insist that all examinations held by them shall be open and
public, if in their estimation, the intention of the law and the
best interests of education would thereby be promoted.

On the other hand, it is not to be understood that private ex-
aminations of teachers are meant to be interdicted by this section
as amended. Special cases or emergencies may occur when pri-
vate examinations should be granted. But while the liberty of
private examinations is not restricted by the amendment, it is
recommended that all examinations be public, unless very good
reasons exist in favor of a contrary course. Many strong consid-
erations might be urged in favor of this recommendation. It is
well known to the experienced, that public examinations are in
almost all cases more thorough, impartial and satisfactory than
private ones. The superintendent himself is less liable to, be
affected by feelings of sympathy ; and in case of marked dispari-
ty in the attainments of the respective candidates, those sustain-
ing the.poorest examination will themselves be able to compare
their attainments with those of the remainder of the class, and
thus, in case of failure to obtain a certificate, will the more read-
ily acquiesce in the decision of the superintendent, as they see
the ground upon which it is based. Another consideration in



OFFICIAL AND JUDICIAL DECISIONS. 99

favor of public examinations is to be found in the fact that it ef-
fectually prevents charges of favoritism or partiality, which are
sometimes brought against superintendents, however groundless
or unjust such charges may be.

Notices of all public examinations must be given for a sufficient
length of time, by publication in at least one newspaper of gen-
eral circulation in the county. In counties having no local news-
paper, the intention of the law would be satisfied by giving such
notices through the medium of handbills, posters, or circulars,
to be generally distributed throughout the county. The expense
of such publication, in whatever form made, is to be paid out of
the school fund.

•The fee for teachers' certificates is abolished. The exaction of
a fee from a teacher for his certificate has always been regarded
by thinking men, as wrong in principle and bad in effect; wrong
in principle, because if any fee is allowed it should not be paid
by the teacher ; and bad in its influence, because it brings to bear
upon the superintendent motives to a favorable judgment of the
candidate's quahfications from which that officer should be wholly
exempt. Under the law, prior to its amendment, it was hard for


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Online Librarystatutes Illinois. LawsSchool laws of Illinois → online text (page 11 of 26)