W. Catton Grasby.

Teaching in three continents; personal notes on the educational systems of the world online

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form the drag which hinders the progress of educational
reform. The worst teaching I saw in America was by men
who were graduates of some of the best universities. They
taught as they had been taught when they were boys at school.
They are the conservative party at the Association meetings
and teachers' Institutes. Their standing as university men
gives their words weight, which they should not possess.

This custom, I believe rapidly passing away, of thus
looking at the work of a teacher, has been productive of
much harm. Except in individual cases, men will always aim
at those positions in which it is possible to win the widest
reputations, the highest honours, the largest incomes, and
the best social position. While the relics of savagery linger
to such an extent that the drones of the national hive, the
fomenters of quarrels, thrive best — nay, exist at all — in
consequence of the barbarism of our natures ; while the
profession of suppressing crime and fomenting national
quarrels and wholesale butchery is more highly honoured
than training boys for useful lives; while it is considered
an " advance " to leave the education of a child, in order to
publicly lie in defence of a criminal who has been allowed
to reach his condition of degradation by neglect in early life,
it is not to be wondered that the world's progress, though
sure, should be slow.


More about Teachers and Education. 233

Proportion of Male and Female.

In the United States there are upwards of four hundred
thousand teachers, of whom thirty-seven per cent, are men.
This statement will astonish the average American, nearly
as greatly as the visitor who goes from city to city and finds
women reigning almost supreme throughout the public
schools. When I further state that of the ninety-six
thousand public eletnentary teachers under the English
Education Department, only thirty-one per cent, are males,
that is to say, according to statistics, the proportion of male
teachers is less in England than in the United States, it will
be thought necessary to find some explanation for the un-
expected result.

In the first place, the number given for the United States
includes all grades of teachers. If it were possible to find
the number of teachers in the primary and grammar schools
of the States, the comparison would be very different.

I was fully aware that there has been for some time a
decided tendency in England to increase the proportion of
female teachers, but I was not aware that it had developed
to the extent which it has. Only forty-one per cent, of all
certificated teachers, twenty-six per cent, of the assistants,
twenty-seven per cent, of the pupil-teachers, and twenty-five
per cent, of the candidates for engagement as pupil-teachers,
are males.

In London the experiment of employing women teachers
for standards I. and II. in the Boys' Departments of a limited
number of selected schools was tried a few years since,
with such success that the Board decided to continue and
extend the principle. There are now nearly twice as many
lady as gentlemen adult teachers, while only twenty-one per
cent, of the pupil-teachers are males. At the same time
women are not found in charge of boys' schools, as in
America. There is always a man at the head.

234 Teaching in Three Continents.

Returning to the consideration of the proportion of
male teachers in the United States, some curious results are
obtained. Where education is worst, the proportion of
male teachers is highest ; while in the centres where it has
made the greatest progress, and where the schools are most
efficient, it is becoming a curiosity to find a male teacher in
the primary and grammar schools.

In New Mexico seventy-eight per cent, of the teachers
are men, in Utah fifty per cent, in Arkansas seventy-three
per cent., Carolina sixty-two ; while for the whole of the
South Central States it is sixty-one, and for the South
Atlantic group of States it is fifty-three. I have no practical
experience of any of these States except Utah ; but the
census shows that illiteracy is increasing at a greater ratio
than the population, and it is chiefly for them that the
advocates of the Blair Bill wish to devote eighty millions of
dollars from the national treasury.

If we examine the figures for the groups of States where
education has received most attention, we find that in the
Atlantic Division only twenty-two per cent, are men, and in
the North Central group of States thirty-four per cent.
Taking individual States, the difference becomes still more
marked ; New Hampshire has ten per cent, of men in her
schools, Massachusetts ten per cent., Rhode Island twelve
per cent., New York State seventeen per cent., California
twenty-one per cent. Taking a few of the cities and towns,
it will be found that in Chicago only four out of each
hundred of the primary and grammar-school teachers are
men. In Boston there are twelve, Springfield seven, Pro-
vidence six, Washington nine, San Francisco six. New
York City thirteen. Long Island city not three, while there
are fourteen smaller cities which employ only female
teachers. Philadelphia has three per cent, of men, St. Louis
nine per cent, Minneapolis three, St Paul five per cent

In Toronto, Canada, there are only thirty male teachers

More about Teachers and Education. 235

in the schools, having an attendance of sixteen thousand
children, or just ten per cent.

In South Australia forty-five per cent, of all the regular
teachers are males. Of the head-teachers eighty-one per
cent, are men ; of the assistants and pupil-teachers twenty-
nine per cent, are males.

I collected a number of opinions as to the cause and
effect of the great and growing disproportion of ladies in the
schools ; some of which I will summarise.

The concensus of opinion in England appears to be,
that the increase of proportion of lady teachers has been
brought about in the first place principally through motives
of economy ; but now it is considered that for some depart-
ments of the work they are better than men. If this
tendency continues, co-education will follow as a natural

The Clerk of the Liverpool School Board, after watching
the result of the gradual increase of the number of lady
teachers, is of opinion that except for the higher classes of
boys they are preferable to the majority of available men.

The same opinion was given by other School Board and
Voluntary school authorities.

The head-master of one of the finest, though not the
largest. Board-schools I saw, whose staff of assistants con-
sisted of five female and two male teachers, said he liked
female teachers best except for the two upper classes. Said
he, " Female assistants are more easily managed, and I can
get a deal more work out of themr That reply is character-
istic of many I received : " Female teachers carry out in-
structions better," " Lady teachers are more careful of
details," and so forth. On the other hand, there are not
wanting a large number of men who predict dreadful con-
sequences if the present tendency is allowed to continue.
The work is too hard for women, say some \ and in England
there is some truth in the statement, but that is no

236 Teaching in Three Continents.

argument against ability. " Boys need strong manage-
ment ; " " They lose self-respect when they have to remain
under women," are remarks often heard.

The principal of the Normal School, Boston, considers
that the paucity of male teachers, and the lack of means
for training them, is one of the weak spots in the school
system of the towns. He greatly regrets that there are not
more men in the schools, though under present conditions he
considers it a good thing. They have to be obtained where
they can, and often are not of the first order : they have
had no training, teach as they were taught, and have
no grasp of the higher part of the teacher's profession. The
consequence is that they are seldom on the progressive side
of the education movement, and retard its progress. One
of the most difficult tasks of a progressive teacher or super-
intendent is to fight against the ignorance and prejudice of
these men. That they are often college graduates makes
matters worse, for they hold up their diplomas as guarantees
of capacity, and the people grant their claims.

The same gentleman says that the usual reason assigned
for the employment of female teachers is that they are more
sympathetic; but after seeing male teachers in Germany
teaching junior classes, he is of opinion that men properly
trained are more sympathetic than women. " The real
reason is economy. We do not pay women more than
about 1,750 dollars, and we cannot get first-class men for

Among other opinions I sought were those of the
managers of the education departments of several large
publishing houses. One gentleman who had formerly been
a teacher, and afterwards a State superintendent of schools,
said : " It is chiefly a question of money. First-class men
are, however, looking more to the profession of late since
they see that in consequence of the development of the
System of Superintendence there will be better opportunities.

More about Teachers and Education. 237

At present, it is no doubt true that the men do not show to
advantage, and the progressive movements are largely
carried on by women."

Another business man, but also having experience of the
schools, in reply to my inquiry, said :—

" It is chiefly a question of money. A 1,500 dollars
woman is superior to a 1,500 dollars man, and so on down
or up the scale. A first- class woman can be secured for a
salary which would not secure a second-class man. The
women are anxious to take up the work, while the men are
equally wishful of finding other occupations."

Questioning Superintendent MacAlister of Philadelphia,
who is looked upon as one of the most progressive men
in the United States, and who has worked marvels in
the improvement of the Public Schools of Philadelphia, he
said : " There are fewer men in proportion in Philadelphia
than in any other large city in the Union. I think women
make better teachers than men ; they are brighter, quicker,
more sympathetic, and less conservative than men. We
have some splendid women in our schools." There is a
magnificent Normal School for the training of women, but
no means whereby a man may receive special training as
a teacher. I therefore suggested that the comparison be-
tween men and women teachers was hardly fair. A man
is taken without any preparation, and placed to do the same
work as a woman who has had a special training; and
because he does not do it as well or better, it is argued that
he is not as well adapted for teaching as a woman. They
may be educated, cultured gentlemen, but unless the argu-
ments in favour of teaching being a profession are devoid of
weight, it is not to be wondered that they are opposed to
" New Systems " which, in the nature of things, they do not

He admitted that there was much to be said in the
way I had indicated ; but when a man became a teacher,

238 Teaching in Three Continents.

he should read and understand the signification of his

A plan was being considered for giving the necessary
training to men, who, at present, were often the greatest
hindrances to the progress of true education.

I made a number of inquiries in Toronto. One
principal said : " Plenty of men could be engaged, but
women are cheaper, and the short-sighted authorities will
make that the chief consideration. Our boys leave school
early because they have to be under female teachers ; boys
over ten require a man's force of character. The upper
classes of both boys and girls should be taught by men.
There are only half a dozen male assistants in the whole
of the city, at a salary of not more than seven hundred and
fifty dollars, while the maximum salary of a female assistant
is six hundred and fifty dollars, and only two or three
receive that."

The same statements were repeated over and over
again, in a multitude of forms ; but I have no hesitation in
saying that the prevalent opinion is that, while women
cost less, they are just as effective as men.

Hoiv Teachers Act toivards Sfrafigers.

In one characteristic, all countries are alike. It seems
to be the rule everywhere that as soon as a visitor enters a
school the teachers change their work. There appears
to be a great reluctance to allow him to see the school
in its normal condition. When this desire simply leads
to a general brightening-up of both pupils and teachers,
while the regular work is carried on in the ordinary way,
I am glad that it should be so. I go to a school wishing
to see it in its real condition, under the most favourable
circumstances. All fine days are not equally bright; a
humorous man is not at all times equally witty; a poet

More about Teachers and Education. 239

has not always the divine gift of song. A school may
be excellent, but there are times when it is out of harmony,
just as there are times when work proceeds with more
than ordinary vigour and smoothness. If I am to make
but one visit, I do not wish to see it under either of the
unusual circumstances, but would choose that which is too
good rather than the unfavourable. Even a cipher does
not present exactly the same appearance from every point
of view. Many objects, having been seen from only one
position, are unrecognisable from others ; comparatively
few people would recognise a side-view of their own faces.

Many teachers find it absolutely impossible to conduct
their work in the ordinary way in the presence of visitors.
I can, I think, generally detect when this is the case.
Some men and women, however, while lacking the power
to be natural, have developed to an astonishing degree
the power to hide, under a formal bearing and appearance
of stolid indifference, their intense excitement and the
acute suffering they feel. This is a great misfortune. The
children see their teacher is not the same as usual when a
stranger is present, and become different too. Both are
alike uncomfortable, and both deserve strongest sympathy,
and neither get it.

Very different is the lazy teacher, who gathers himself
together on such occasions, and adds to the opinion of
laziness with which his pupils regard him the further
despicable one of dishonesty and hypocrisy. All " show
off," and the casual visitor thinks what a fine teacher and
well-disciplined class he has seen. The behaviour of chil-
dren, like that of teachers, varies greatly in different places
when a visitor enters a school.

In San Francisco, immediately a visitor enters the room,
all rise, step out of the desks with perfect order and quiet-
ness, and stand, respectful and silent, until the visitor is
formally introduced, when they gracefully bow, and in many

240 Teaciiixg in Three Coxtixexts,

schools say, with winning grace, "We are pleased to see
you, sir."

Notwithstanding the opinion I shall presently express, I
must candidly own that the custom has much to recommend
it. Had I seen it burlesqued in even a i^w of the scores of
rooms I visited, I should condemn it ; but I did not. It
was performed with greater grace in some than in other
schools, but it was only a difference in degree where the
worst was good. While it is evidently a result of drill,
nothing could be more free from the stiffness one generally
associates with drill. The attention, due to the Delsarte
System of Calisthenics, must be the secret of the grace of
movement. It is essentially pleasing to the visitor ; and
while I would much rather have entered without form, I
cannot but recognise that the training must have a great
influence in producing that courteous, self-contained bearing
so noticeable among the Cahfornian people. As anyone
who wishes to gain an insight into the schools will not
confine his observations to a mere formal visit, the chief
objection is thereby removed; for, after this formal introduc-
tion to teachers and pupils, he can pass from room to room
while the work is proceeding in the ordinary way. As I
proceeded East, I observed, with the increasing conservative
tendencies of the people, a gradual lessening of this for-
mality; but, at the same time, a growing tendency to put the
pupils through sets of exercises to show their proficiency. I
did not go to hear what the children knew, but to see how
they were taught. This weakness was most marked in New
York city, whose schools seem to have had great influence
in forming the English opinion which I have read and heard
of American teaching. There seemed to be so great a desire
for me to see what they thought good, with a corresponding
apparent disinclination to allow me to see what I wished,
that I found it profitable to spend less time in the Empire
City than I had intended. I came to the conclusion that

More about Teachers and Education. 241

there is more system and less education in New York than
in any other city of the Union I had visited. In contrast
to this, I was pleased to find in many places that, unless I
was accompanied by a superintendent or other official, the
pupils did not change their positions nor cease work at all,
apparently not noticing me ; while the teachers politely but
silently acknowledged my presence and continued their

At one large convention of teachers, the Superintendent
particularly impressed upon his hearers the importance of
this, emphasising the point that visitors should not be
allowed to interfere with the regular work of the school.
" Anyone," said he, " who is really interested in the school
would much prefer to see it in its normal condition ; and
anyone not so interested should not be considered." The
majority of Australian and English, as well as American,
teachers, would do well to adopt this advice.

When the neglect of ordinary work takes the pleasant
form I have mentioned in connection with Californian
schools, and only less perfectly carried out in the schools
of many of the other States, as well as in England and
Australia, it is hard to find fault with it ; but not when, as
is often the case, the regular work ceases, to give place to
show-work, and mere efforts to keep order, until the visitor
feels the unwelcome nature of his presence and leaves.

In Paris the pupils invariably stood to receive us, and
remained standing while we examined the writing, drawing,
and so forth. The teachers were very reluctant to go on
with their work, and the scholars took advantage of every
opportunity to talk and play.

I was very strongly impressed in America with the
decorum observable in all the schools. " Boys will be
boys, you know," is often the excuse for their being rude,
tumultuous young savages. The Enghsh boy has this
tradition to maintain, and he does it well ; so does his

242 Teaching in Three Continents.

Australian relative. Popular belief led me to expect the
American cousin to be the roughest of all. I have come
to the conclusion that the smaller the traveller's stock of
" expectations," the larger his crop of " realisations." The
American school-boy exhibits little or none of that rudeness
supposed to be essential to and inseparable from a school-
boy. The visitor misses the noisy mode of marching —
especially upstairs — with which he is so familiar in Australia
and England. The teacher does not seem afraid to turn
his back or leave the room lest the pupils should take
advantage. Perhaps the Americans will be the first to
smile at the perfection attributed to their boys and girls ;
but I speak of my own careful observation. During my
visit I only once heard a teacher threaten a boy with a
task. Strange to say, this teacher was a man, and his
school a small one.

I tested some of the classes severely. In several in-
stances I obtained permission to take charge of classes
for a time, sometimes when the teachers were away. I
invariably had to make the same note — " The behaviour
of the children is most pleasing. They are polite, orderly,
and self-controlled." In England, on the other hand, I
found the pupils as ready for tricks as the Australians, and
had frequently to write — " The children were orderly and
quiet when I entered the room ; but as soon as the
teacher took his eyes off the class they began to talk, copy,
or otherwise take advantage."



Qualification of an Instructor. — Of an Educator. — Of the Perfect Teacher. —
Need for Good Apphances. — American School-house more comfortable
than English. — Scope of American and English School compared. —
Heritage of England in her Traditions. — Style of School depends on
its Scope and Organisation. — Playgrounds. — Height of Buildings. — Do
American Children Play as much as English and Australian ? — Use of
Drill. — Leeds Higher Grade School. — Single Class-rooms. — Substitute
Teachers. — General Assembly not so frequent in America. — What con-
stitutes Good Order and Discipline. — Influence of Single Rooms on
Corporal Punishment. — Dr. Harris' Experience in St. Louis. — Separate
Class-rooms in Germany and Paris. — Pupil Teachers and Larger
Rooms. — Australian School-houses. — Sombre Appearance of Parisian
Schools. — Arrangement of a Parisian School. — Providing Clothes. —
Dinners for Children in Paris, — French Infant Schools. — Veniilation ,
Lighting, and Heating. — Australia. — England. — America. — School
Furniture. — Kindergarten, Primary and Grammar Schools. — Con-
tinuous Blackboard. — Teachers Rooms. — Spelling. — Copying.

A COMPARISON of the school buildings and accessories by
means of which the teacher is enabled to carry on his work
is very instructive.

Versatility, readiness, application, continuity, power to
concentrate on a narrow field, and frequently repeat a fact
in every varying form, are the attributes of the successful
instructor. In education more is required. It is intensity,
depth, soul — in fact, the man himself that counts. A happy
combination of these two sets of attributes constitutes the
ideal schoolmaster. When a school system is conducted
by a staff chiefly composed of such men, there will be no
further discussion as to whether teaching is a profession.
The true genius does not assert himself, he works. But a
Q 2

244 Teaching in Three Continents.

skilful surgeon works in the most perfect operating room,
with the best instruments procurable.

Apart from a few exceptions, what we call skill is
applied carefulness. The good teacher will give his pupils
a good education, with nothing but the sea-beach for a
copy-book and Nature for text-books. But he does not
wish to be so limited ; it is not good that he should be.
The learned English professor and eminent scientist who,
when asked to give a lesson in a little village school, went
and bought a pennyworth of candy, and kept children,
who had never heard of chemistry, thoroughly interested
in a lesson on crystals, was independent of apparatus ;
but if he were not an exception, his name would not be
honoured the world over. The ordinary teacher needs
the best appliances which can be procured, and the wel-
fare of the pupils demands that he should have them.
To what extent the school buildings answer the end re-
quired of them, with something of the why and wherefore,
I shall in this chapter attempt to show.

The counting-house of the American business man is
more comfortable, and the office of the professional man
more cosy and luxurious, than are those of their English
cousins. In the same degree, the American school-house
is architecturally more pretentious; and, internally, more
elegantly and comfortably finished and furnished than the
English, French, German, or Australian Elementary School.
The difference in furnishing is, however, greater than that
of building. Here, again, I must digress. I have made a
comparison which, true in itself, is not so in its bearings.
In order to give only the proper value to the statement,
the scope of the schools must be considered.

The American Public School is for the people as a
whole. Theoretically, it is equally and freely open to the
children of the poor and the rich — of labourers or pro-
fessional men. I say theoretically, because while the school

Schools and School-Houses. 245

is open to them, many in the larger cities, by reason of
poverty, cannot attend the ordinary schools, and are either
provided with special institutions (chiefly by private liber-
ality), or attend no school. Nevertheless, it is true that

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Online LibraryW. Catton GrasbyTeaching in three continents; personal notes on the educational systems of the world → online text (page 20 of 28)