William Hawley Smith.

Walks abroad and talks about them online

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finitely more about the real art of pedagogy than I ever
learned from all the books on that branch of science that
I have ever read.

For when, at the end of the month, our bookkeeper
showed me a balance-sheet that noted a loss of dollars and
dollars, and which loss came because of "waste in con-
struction in the shop " ; when I saw the cold and rigid
figures which I could neither stare nor bluff out of coun-
tenance, when they looked me right in the eye and said :
" You have had so much material, out of which you should
have produced so much out-put, whereas you have only
succeeded in getting so much out of it, and you are
charged with the balance " — I say, when I saw this, and
felt it in my pocket-book, why then the real condition of
things took hold of me in a way that meant something.

And I wish there were some way that poor work in
the school-room could be brought home to the teacher in
as potent and persuading a manner as my poor shop-work
wa.s rolled back upon me. I wonder if there is any such

WinrTLING. 133

way ? Yes, I believe there is, only it is longer in coming
around, that is all. The chief difference is that the books
are not promptly kept, and the balance-sheets are not
taken off every thirty days, that is all.

But the hooks are kept somewhere, and some day they will
shoiv 71 p^ a>id zve shall be forced to see what kind of shavings
we are zvhittling.

How zrc yon whittling, beloved ? Look at your stick,
and do not forget that thick shavings mean v/aste and
destruction and loss, and that somebody has to pay for all
these things, sometime.

And happy are ye, yea, thrice blessed, if you can
fashion the children that are committed to your hands so
that they shall fill the places that you are set to fit them

Don't get blue about it, though it is enough to give
one the blues, sometimes, this difference between require-
ment and fulfilment ; but if you continue to whittle in the
school-room, I commend to you a never-ending study of
the art of whittling a thin shaving !



I have been greatly impressed, as I have been in and
out of some scores of different school-houses, in the past
few months, with the fact that there are a great many
badly constructed school buildings in this country; and
because I have gleaned a good many ideas about the con-
struction of such buildings from the many School Super-
intendents and Boards of Education that I have met in my
" walks " here and there, and because new school buildings
are constantly being erected, it has occurred to me that I
might "put together a few thoughts on this subject," as
we used to say in our " composition " days, that should be
worth while.

What I have to say is based upon experience and not
upon theory. I shall report only what I have seen and
know to be reliable.

And in the first place, it seems to me that any Super-
intendent, or School Board that has to do with the build-
ing of a school-house ought to realize that such a building,
once built, is something that will be used for a long time,
and for this reason it is very important that it be made//^/
right to start on. If it is wrong, anywhere, that wrong will
be a constant source of annoyance, for many years. If it
is right, in every point, it will be a blessing for genera-

And a school-house can be built that is right at every
point. I make this statement deliberately, and because I
have seen a number of such buildings in the past few
months. That is, they seem to me to be all that is to be
desired. They are well-ventilated, well-warmed, and


well-lighted; the rooms are well-arranged, and the build-
ings present a reasonably pleasing exterior.

These things being present, what more is required?

I have seen scores of school buildings that come far
short of possessing all these desirable things, and some
that had none of them; but I have seen enough that had
them all to know that it is possible to build a school house
that has all of them.

And, further, I have seen enough to convince me that,
if a school house is to be built it is not such a very diffi-
cult thing to build it right, if only the Superintendent or
School Board get a clear idea of what right is.

My observation teaches me that the reason why we
have so many bad school houses is because so few of those
who have to do with their construction are well posted on
the details of just what they should be like. These people
go wrong for lack of experience.

How many of those who read what I am now writing
have ever had to do with the building of a school house?
I'robably very few. And yet, this is a point on which
school teachers, of all classes, ought to be well posted,
for it is on them that school boards rely, when it comes
to the practical matter of erecting a school building.

These things being so, I beg to submit a few of the
results of my observation of a large number of school
houses, as follows:

First, I have found that it is a good thing, when plan-
ning to build a school building, to keep in mind the fact
that one cannot tell how good a school house is by the
way it looks on the outside ; and this thing is just as true
when the building exists only on the architect's plans as
it is after it is finished. The old maxim is true here, as
elsewhere, "Handsome is that handsome does." And
while an ugly exterior is to be avoided, yet no school


house should ever be built for the reason, merely, that it
is pretty on the outside. My candid opinion is that more
bad school houses have been built from this one cause, of
trying to get d. pretty looking building, than from all others
that can be named.

Hence, in settling on a plan for a school building, the
adoption of one plan or another should always be deter-
mined by the inside arrangements, rather than from the
outside appearance.

But this is often a hard thing to do, for beauty has a
way of its own that often lures one away from its more
practical rival, use. But use is the party to live with,
through the years, all the same.

So no one ought to be deluded and waste money, and
still not get what is really needed, by trying to get 2ipretty
house at all hazards. Get one that looks as well as possi-
ble for the money; but have it right inside, at all events.

And to make a school house right on the inside, the
essential points are ventilation, heat, light, and the arrange-
ment of the rooms.

I mention these things in the order of their import-
ance, so far as the real value of a school house, for school
purposes, is concerned. I am well aware, though, that it is
not the order in which these things are ordinarily counted
valuable by those who have built the bulk of the school
houses in this country up to date. If I should name them
in such order, it would be, first, the outward appearance of
the building, and, second, the arrangement of the rooms;
and that would cover the most of the ground, for the great
majority of the school buildings in this country today.

But as the years have gone on, and as the potency of
scientific truth has begun to be realized by the people in
general, gradually the public has come to understand that
the first essential to a good education is good health; and


to have good health with a poorly ventilated school-room
is next to impossible. That is why I put ventilation as a
first requisite to a school house that is built right.

And in this matter of ventilation there are only one
or two things that are really essential, though people have
blundered on it for years. It is really so simple that a
child can understand it, so far as its practical working is

To ventilate a school-room as it should be, it is only
necessary that each room should have a separate system of
exliaiist and air supply^ both constructed on correct princi-
ples, as follows:

There should be, for each room, a separate exhaust-flue
that can be Jieated, so as to insure an upward current of air
in it; and there should also be a separate hot-air supply
'^WQ^ for each room, so arranged that its supply can be taken
from any one of the foztr sides of the school building.

As a rule, except in crowded cities, and often there,
a school building is set in an open lot, so that the wind can
strike each of its sides, as it blows north, south, east, or
west; and because the blowing of the wind always affects
the circulation of air in a building, this plan of taking the
air supply from any of the four sides of the house, as the
wind may happen to blow, must always be insisted on, to
get good results.

The separate exhaust-flues should each open at the
base, or floor line, of the room they are to ventilate, and
the hot-air supply should be delivered into the side of the
room, a few feet above the heads of the children.

With such a system, a perfect ventilation can be ob-
tained, and with a proper heat supply (indirect steam
or direct furnace heat) the house can always be kept well
warmed, let the wind blow whichever way it will.

In a successful system of ventilation, then, the cssen-


tials arc, separate and heated exhaust flues for each room
with separate air-supply flues that can get their supply
always fromthe side of the house that the wind is blow-
ing against. Such an arrangement can be made to meet
the demands of any building containing from two to
tvrenty rooms; and it is the only one that I have ever
seen that is perfectly satisfactory under all circumstances.

The reason why an exhaust-flue should be heated is
really very simple; and if provision is not made for heat-
ing these flues they cannot be relied upon to exhaust the
bad air from a school-room.

I have seen several very expensive school buildings,
in the last few months, that have failed to do what was
expected of them in the way of ventilation, because of
this serious error in their construction. Exhaust-flues
had been built for each room, but they were merely cold
air flues, with no provision for warming them, and for
this reason they could not do the work required of them.

Everybody knows that cold air sinks and hot air rises.
If a flue is Jieated.^ the air in it uuist rise; and z/ it rises,
and the flue is open into a room at the bottom, it must
exhaust the air in that room; that is, it will do so if cor-
responding provision is made for a supply of fresh air to
get into the room.

These two things must balance each other.

The ^/-.y/ problem, in any system of ventilation, is to
get the bad air oitt of a room, and the second problem is
to get pure air in in its place. But with either one of these
two things only, there is no such thing as a good ventila-

And yet there are hundreds of instances where there
is to be found only one of these essentials to perfect ven-

With an unheated exhaust-flue, it makes very little


difference what the air supply may be, since the air is
more apt to flow down into the school-room from such a
flue, than to be pulled out of the school-room by it. Can
anything be plainer than this?

Now this is the whole philosophy of thoroughly and
perfectly ventilating a school-room. It can be done in
this way, every time, and it is the only way in which I
have ever seen it successfully done. There is nothing
mysterious about it. It is perfectly simple, and it will
give perfect results.

It ought to be understood, also, that no room that
depends upon the radiated heat of steam coils, or stoves,
only, and is without a heated exhaust flue, and a fresh-air
supply flue as well, can ever be successfully ventilated.

This is why nearly all the offices in large city build-
ings have no ventilation whatever. Such rooms have
steam radiators, or stoves, and that is all. They are
merely sweat-boxes, and nothing more.

But with a well-ventilated and well-heated schooi-
room, the possibilities of having a good school are many-
fold advanced. Without them, a good school of healthy
scholars is well nigh impossible.

Given these, the next thing is the light.

There is no need of saying much about this, for it can
all be told in a sentence. The light in ei'cry school-room
should come from the left-hand side and from the rear of
the pupils, as they sit in their seats. That is all there is
of it.

And yet there are hundreds of very fine looking
school-houses, the country over, where this very simple
and easily to be obtained requisite is not present. It is a
simple matter, but one that should never be overlooked
in planning a school-house.

As to the size and arrangement of rooms, there is a


larf:;e space for variation on these points; but for the
average room, one that will seat about fifty pupils will be
found the most convenient. Such rooms should be ar-
ranged in the most convenient manner for getting the
pupils in and out of, and about the building, with the
least possible clashing; but this is not a very difificult
thing. I have seen less to criticise on these counts than
any other, in the buildings I have visited.

It is easy to get a good school-house, so far as all
these points are concerned; but to get the ventilation,
heat, and light right — it is a rare thing to find these what
they should be. One will find fifty handsome and well-
room-arranged school-houses in this country where he will
find one that has its ventilation, heat, and light as these
things ought to be.

Another item of great importance, in any school-
house, is its water-closet facilities and arrangements.
Whole volumes could be written on this often tabooed
subject. All the way from the neglected and filthy out-of-
door closets of a country school, to the ill-ventilated water-
flushed closets of a metropolitan school-house, the matter
has received but a tithe of the attention that it deserves, for
many years. But people are waking up to the matter
now, and results that amount to something are beginning
to appear.

And the most successful outcome of this problem is
the "dry closet " system, which is now being introduced
into the large majority of all the modern-constructed
school-houses. I cannot stop here to specify, but the es-
sentials to success in any such system are, a large and
separate exhaust-flue, that shall go to the top of the
building, connecting directly with the closet at the base,
and being Jicatcd so as to insure a draught — this, and the
presence of sufficient heat to rapidly and perfectly evap-


orate all defecations — given these, and the problem is
solved beyond question.

The rooms containing these closets should be sepa-
rated from one another, so that there can be no possible
communication between them, and the stairs leading to
them, from the floor above, should be in different parts of
the building, and as far removed from each other as

Where there are two entrances to the school-house
(and it is always well to have two, if possible, one for
the boys and one for the girls), the stairs leading to the
closets should be as near the respective entrances as pos-
sible. This makes a perfect arrangement, and one that
cannot fail to give satisfaction.

There are many minor points that might be noted,
but these that I have set down I believe to be the essen-
tials. The height of windows from the floor — that is,
having them so high that pupils cannot see out of them,
is a good point to notice; but this is found in nearly all
modern school-houses.

Having the upper half of the inside school-room doors
of glass, is another good feature. Having the stairs that
lead from the street to the school-room first floor on the
inside of the building, is another excellent arrangement.

But this paper is already too long; yet I find it hard
to shorten it and say what it seems to me needs to be
said as to the essentials of a perfectly constructed school-

To get such a house, the testimony I have taken all
leads to the fact that the architect who plans the building
■ — its exterior appearance, arrangement of rooms, light,
etc., ought also to be compelled to plan for its ventilation
and heating, substantially according to the principles
which are noted in what I have written.


In fact, whenever an architect or a school board sets
to work to plan a school-house, I believe he or they can
make a success of it only by beginning wh^r^ I bei^an this
paper, at ventilation, and making all else subsidiary to
that ; because it is more important than anything else,
and it can be successfully provided for only when it is
made the basis of ail subsequent arrangements.

If school-houses can be built substantially "" this end
to," the people who pay for them will get the worth of
their money, and the children who attend them will be
well provided for, on the physical side, whatever comes
or goes; and these two things are greatly to be desired
by all parties concerned.



I suppose the Lord knows why it is that the good
and the bad are let grow side by side in this world, so
that wherever you find one of them the other is sure to be
close at hand; and if He would only explain this pheno-
menon, we should then know just how it happens that
there are county institutes, and county institutes, all the
way from those that are "away up in G," as 1 heard ;i teacher
say the other day, to those that are not worth " ten cents
a gross in fifty-five cent silver," as another brother (or was
it a sister?) remarked in my presence not long ago, when
trying to find some term near enough the zero point to
express his or her estimate of the value of a certain
teacher who couldn't teach.

But whatever the reason for all this may be, the fact
is, that when one walks abroad among county institutes,
even for a single summer, he sees such exhibitions of the
good and the bad, such combinations of the just and the
unjust, as to make him marvel at the possibilities in the
premises at either end of the line.

A score of times in the last two months I have wished
I could be a kodak, for the time being, so that I might
snap-shot some of the institutes I have attended, and
afterwards have the plates developed for the readers of
this record; but, like the ghost in Hamlet, something has
said to me that such eternal blazon must not be to the
eyes of flesh and blood, and as all of the eyes I know of
are constructed on that basis, I must content myself, as
did the poor specter in the tragedy, by saying only " List !
List ! O List ! "


Can anybody tell me why, in a Christian country and in
times of peace, when the thermometer is 98° in the shade,
a quiet and law-abiding company of noncombatant and
inoffensive young men and women, mostly from the coun-
try, should be arranged in squads, and platoons, and
divisions, and bastions, and breastworks, and clicvaux de
frise, or words to that effect — and to the music of the
wry-necked fife and boisterous drum, that make day hide-
ous in the upstairs hall of the school house, they should
be marched about and in and out of the recitation rooms
like the figures in a St. Peter clock, or the automatons at
Mrs. Jarley's?

I am sure it is right that all things should be done
decently and in order, but when I saw such military dis-
play as I have noted above clamped on to a very clever
lot of young men and women, in institute assembled, the
other day, somehow I didn't like it. I saw these same
young folks, when the " exercises " of the day were over,
moving about, from room to room, in a quiet, orderly, and
natural manner; and I couldn't help wondering why they
should not have been permitted to do the same thing —
taught io do just the same thing, if need be — rather than
have been marched about like soldiers.

No, no ! We don't want to make soldiers of our boys
•and girls. We want to make them men and women, — just
plain, free, and sensible men and women, — that's all;
graceful because they are natural, and obedient to the
divine principle to keep out of one another's way by the
use of their own wits, rather than according to orders
issued from "headquarters," while the band plays !

The greatest general of recent years said, a good
while ago, " The war is over ! "

I wonder what has gone wrong with the first personal
pronoun, singular number, nominative case, that it is no


longer " good form " for a teacher to use it as pertaining
to herself when talking to her class about the illustrious
personage who is hearing the then-on recitation? And
yet I recently heard the following from a newly-minted
schoolma'm, freshly imported from an eastern teacher fac-
tory, and with the tool-marks of her makers all over her, so
that there could be no mistake about the brand, as who
should say, " Examine the label, which bears our signature,
and without which none can be genuine!"

This young lady (and a very clever girl she was, too,
after you got down through the triple plate of formality
that her "training" had covered her over with) had a
class of little folks that she was working, to show us "how
to do it." And here is a part of what she did with that
class anent the use of that least, and yet greatest of all
words, the first personal pronoun aforesaid;

"Now ch-ldren," she smilingly declaimed, "look
right at Miss Twiddledum (herself) for Miss Twiddledum
is going to give you an exercise that will be so cute and
funny! Now all do just as Miss Twiddledum does. That
is very nice. Oh, you are so smart!

"Now see Miss Twiddledum do this! Isn't that funny?

"Now see if you can do what Miss Twiddledum did.
Careful now — just as Miss Twiddledum did! Oh, no,
that is not the way Miss Twiddledum did at all!

"Now look at Miss Twiddledum again! See how Miss
Twiddledum does? Look sharp! Now just as Miss
Twiddledum does! "

And so following, for a quarter of an hour by the stolid-
faced clock which gazed at the entire performance with-
out either smile or frown, though it was the only counte-
nance in the room that came so happily through the
trying ordeal.


I remember that it used to be said that President
Andrew Johnson's printed messages and speeches looked
like a post-and-board fence with the boards knocked off,
so frequently did he use the word "I;" but even such
diction seems to me preferable to the ultra " Caesar-led-
his-army" style of this latest disciple of third-personalism.

And yet double prices are paid for this sort of thing,
well rubbed in, by some county institutes that I have

I wonder if anyone knows just what parts of the cere-
brum and cerebellum of a six-year-old child are illumin-
ated and made to glow with an arc light brilliancy when
the lucid statement is made to the little him or her that
"the fishbone sound, followed by the little lamb sound,
followed by grandpa's watch sound form the vocalized
expression of the word cat!"

It tdk.es three prices, and a "special importation of our
own brand" of teachers to get such instruction as that
just quoted into a county institute. And yet, though it
comes high, I have found those who have had to have it,
and who have had it — once! Curious world we live in,
and curious folks who live in it!

But I wish you could have seen, at another institute,
that motherly little woman that we all sat entranced be-
fore, for half an hour, while she taught a second reader
class of boys and girls how to read.

Like Riley's "Old Fashioned Roses," "There wan't
no style about her," and yet she held her class, and the
fifty of us who were "observing," for thirty minutes, so
that we all wondered where in the world the time had
gone to.

Tell you how she did it? Ask me to tell you how the
sun shines, or roses bloom, or brooks flow!

Method ? None, and all of them!


How can that be? Well, it was, and would be again,
and always will be, in the hands of a teacher who knows
how to teach, as she did.

That is a mystery, I grant; but it is as divine as it is

Most divine things are mysterious — that is, they are so
to a good many people, especially the matter-of-fact, cold
blooded, and mathematically logical people.

This little woman was neither cold-blooded nor math-
ematically logical.

She loved her children (not in any gushing and dem-
onstratively-sentimental way, but with real, honest, home-
made mother love), and she had the tact and gumption

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Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 10 of 16)