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opinion, even when one may be confident of his own security in the indulgence, is it not the more magnanimous, the wiser policy to refrain ? To illustrate: A father once stood in the darkness and terror of a stormy night upon the shore of a rocky and dangerous sea, holding the light that was designed to direct the course of the vessel of his son, who was making his way towards the landing. Thoughtlessly the father stepped too far from the exact spot where the light should have been seen. The father was secure, but the son, directing his bark towards his father's light, was dashed upon the rocks of that treacherous sea, and nothing but the fragments of a wreck were washed ashore to tell the tale of disaster and death.
The greatest of earth's teachers said : “ Ye are the light of the world.” How necessary, as we walk before so numerous a company of those ready to follow any light that may be placed before them, that our lights be trimmed and properly adjusted, that their bright rays may shine out along a safe pathway amidst the dangerous pit-falls and deceitful quicksands of youth. Should our lights be obscure in our church relations, in the social sphere, in civil affairs because, forsooth, we are teachers in the public schools ?
I believe that I stand in the midst of a company, representing as exemplary, as generous, as noble band of Christian men and women as the society of our proud State can muster, yet I am aware that the same privileges and rights are not freely accorded in all places and at all times to the teacher in the same measure as to other citizens ; 80 that some are deterred from taking a bold, decided stand on questions religious, political and social. These things ought not so to be.
Not long since I heard it sarcastically remarked, by one in a favorable position to observe and know whereof he spoke, that, under existing circumstances, it was not expedient for a teacher to take any decided stand in society,
Upon this point we quote the following, taken from the Illinois School-master : "The teacher's status, in many coinmunities, is not what it ought to be. He (or she) is a citizen and entitled to all the rights and privileges of a citizen, as such. He has a right to social, political and religious convictions, and a right to express them the same as any other citizen. And not only is it his right, but it is his duty. No person is fit to stand in the teacher's place who has thought so little upon men and things, or who is so low in the scale of manhood as to look upon questions of state and society with indifference.
Above all things the teacher, male or female, should be a model citizen ; and the model citizen is one who views all matters with the utmost candor and intelligence, and whose conscience compels him to speak and act his convictions."
Society may better afford to throttle her statesmen than her teachers, to fetter those who lead her armies than those who train her children, if the words of Burke and Everett are true that “Education is the cheap defense of nations and a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”
In the presence of the illiteracy existing in our nation, at once the terror of the patriot and the hope of corrupt demagogues ; with great national evils standing as huge blots upon our escutcheon, and threatening to overshadow its entire radiance; in the presence, I say, of these menaces to our national purity and greatness, the times call loudly for skillful, strong, patriotic teachers, to lead the people out of the presence of these perils by their wise instruction and noble lives, and he who heroically stands forth and persistently leads forward will rear for himself the enduring monument, of which Spurgeon says: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you, will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered. Carve your name on hearts and not on marble.”
SUPT. Howell, Lansing; said : This is of greatest importance. To what extent should the teacher engage in social games like card-playing, etc.? I once played cards and smoked, but it seemed to me that my relations to society required me to refrain, and I did. The teacher should consider his influence when thinking of enjoying any of the amusements which a considerable number of his patrons do not approve. The teacher who does this will have a deeper and wider influence.
SUPT. CHURCH said : I would support Supt. Howell in the position taken. Teachers weaken themselves by being afraid to take a right stand. Dancing drives out the spirit of study in the schools. Skating-rinks ditto. We should be as blameless as we expect our pastors to be.
Hon. IRA MAYHEW said: I commenced teaching 55 years ago. I smoked the hams and bacon on my father's farm, but that has been the extent of my smoking. Whisky and tobacco are almost as dangerous to our country as slavery was. I unhesitatingly denounce the use of tobacco by any. Especially is this true of clergymen and teachers. A man may smoke and be a Christian, but for a minister to do this is certainly a symptom of dwarfed Christianity. I sympathize with these papers, and wish to express my high appreciation of the increased interest and ability of these later associations.
PROF. A. GEORGE said : The teacher should be broad, and mingle with people-be a man of affairs-of the world. Have a knowledge of and a sympathy with men of affairs. Get away from the school-room, and don't always talk shop. When out among men talk about things in which others are particularly interested.
THE TOWNSHIP LIMIT IN OUR EDUCATIONAL
HON. H. R. GABS, FLINT.
Schools are the cheapest and strongest defense of republican governments and civilized states. Free education and a liberal culture are the most potent agencies for securing the prosperity and happiness of a people.
The mental and moral discipline acquired by years of scholastic training prepares the citizen for social standing and material prosperity, and gives him that intelligence and strength of character to become an obedient subject or a wise ruler. Ignorance, on the other hand, is an element of discord, a hindrance to progress, and a leech upon the body politic. It renders possible the great strikes that stop the wheels of commerce and industry, and is soil and sunshine for the growth of anarchism and nihilism. Each year adds its millions to the uneducated masses of our population, and extends the right of citizenship, with all of its responsibilities, to large numbers of un-Americanized foreigners who have not the intelligence to understand our laws or patriotism to cheerfully obey them.
It is the duty of the state to guard herself and her citizens against the pernicious effects of this tide of immigration, and to provide such means as will remedy the evils incident to an uneducated population. Already the hand-writing is on the wall. To-day the cry is heard that “the rich are growing richer and the poor poorer; ” that the educated few are becoming the leaders and masters of the uneducated many; that society is being crystallized into aristocracies and castes by the inequalities of wealth and education. These complaints demand consideration.
The evil that now most seriously threatens the safety of society and the security of government is that of igŋorance.
Especially is this true, as under our democratic institutions the way to social standing, wealth and power are equally open to every citizen. In the strife for either or all of these, the ignorant labor at a disadvantage, and discontent is the result. Men may deplore the thralldom of poverty, but that of ignorance is far greater. Educate a man and he has placed in his hands the means of gaining riches, honor and power. Equal education for all means equal rights for all.
In seeking a remedy, then, for this evil we must look to the public schools. They are the conservators of the people, and tend to maintain that homogeneity of society which its safety demands. Every child must be afforded an opportunity to secure a liberal education and then be induced to acquire it. Equal educational privileges must be extended to all as far as is consistent with the welfare of soicety and the good of the state. This principle prevailed in the establishment of the first educational system in the colonies. It has grown with the increasing wealth and population of the country, and in the organization of new states has ever been recognized as the chief corner stone in their foundation.
Men may differ as to many of the details of governmental affairs, but it is the universal verdict that no state can afford to have any but the best system of public schools. Of whom, then, shall we take counsel in such matters, and where shall we find our best model? Is it to be found in the public school system of our own State? If she is not maintaining an educational system that sends out her sons and daughters equally equipped for the duties of life and the responsibilities of citizenship; if she is not providing the best means for securing these ends, then the system is faulty, and its defective parts should be made known and such legislation advised as will remedy them.
That it is imperfect is true; and it is universally conceded that the most inefficient part of our plan of public instruction is in the management of the district schools.
They are not affording such privileges as the State designs or her welfare demands; nor are.they accomplishing the work that might be accomplished under a different organization.
As chairman of the committee on legislation to report to this convention, I am asked to discuss the township district system of schools. It is my purpose to present this as the best plan for improving the rural schools, and at once meeting more fully the educational wants of both the State and her citizens. Such arguments as may be advanced in the discussion, I shall endeavor to reinforce with the weight of excellent personal authority, the eviderce of successful experience, and the unanswerable logic of statistical facts from this and other states.
The first point to which I wish to direct your attention is the unequal privileges and the unjust discrimination in the work of the country schools. There is but little uniformity in the length of their terms or in what is accomplished in them.
It is not unfrequently the case that adjoining districts in the same township have the widest possible difference that the law will permit in the amount of schooling provided during the year. In the wealthier or more liberal districts nine, ten and sometimes eleven months of school will be had, while in the poorer and more parsimonious districts but three months will be furnished during the year. In justice this difference should not exist. It is contrary to the principle of free schools, and would not be tolerated under the township system. By this plan every school in the township would necessarily continue in session an equal number of months during the year. It is far from it under the present arrangement. In 1883-4 sixty-eight districts in the State, with 1,000 children, had no school whatever. One hundred and sixtynine districts with 3,000 children had but three months, and 100,000 children were in districts that maintained school less than the average number of months that school was taught in the country districts of the State. That old Puritan compact of 250-years ago declared that “every settler should have equal rights under the law. That this principle has figured in the organiza
tion of all our school systems is true, but it has not been fully recognized in the enactment and enforcement of laws to operate them. The safety of the state depends upon the intelligence of the people. Therefore it is held that the property of the state should educate her children, and this with some degree of equality.
The primary school interest fund of the State is distributed each year upon this basis. The State does not give to one district $5 for each child therein for the support of its schools, and to another $1, but each district receives an equal amount for every child of school age.
The State, in distributing her aid to the districts, proclaims the principle of equal educational advantages to all. The districts, in contributing their support and in the varying length of the terms of their schools, ignore this principle. The question may well arise to anyone in the less favored districts : What right have the children of Mr. A. in an adjoining district to longer terms of school and better educational advantages than mine? This question points to a great wrong in the management of these schools.
Another obstacle to the advancement of the district schools is the frequent change of teachers. The tenure of the country school teacher's position is usually brief and uncertain. Every one who has had experience in these schools, either as pupil or teacher, is aware of the results of a change in school management. In consequence of these frequent changes the growth of the schools is dwarfed and the advancement of the pupils is retarded. With a new teacher the pupils are turned back to go over the same topics that they studied the previous term. This process of “thrashing over old straw" is generally repeated as often as there is a change in teachers. School work lacks much of thoroughness and success in the hands of a strange teacher. Before he can do his best work it is necessary to understand the capability and disposition of each of his pupils. This is not usually acquired in less than three or four months, and by that time the district employs another teacher,
This is the usual length of time that teachers remain in these schools. To remove any doubt that may exist as to the frequency of these changes let us consult statistics for the facts. Their evil results will go undisputed.
The State Superintendent's report for 1886 shows that the country schools in Calhoun county required 158 teachers, and employed 342; that the average length of school in each district for the year was 8.4 months; and that each teacher employed taught an average of 3.8 months. In Ingham county the number required in these schools was 126, the number employed 290. There was an average of 8.3 months' school in each district during the year, and 3.6 months taught by each teacher employed. This gives an average of two teachers in every school during the year, and three in about one-third of them. The ratio of the number required to the number employed is about the same as this throughout the State, the tenure being longer in the newer than in the older counties. We will compare this tenure of position in Michigan with that of teachers in those states that have the township district, and thus see that this plan is a remedy for these frequent changes. In Michigan in 1885-6 the number of teachers required to supply the country schools was 6,511. The number employed was 12,047. In Massachusetts the number required was 8,275. Employed, 9,670. In Indiana, required, 9,000. Employed, 9,500. It will be seen that in Michigan during the average eight months taught in each of the country districts, there were two teachers for