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the most competent committee; yet it is better that these points should be decided by a committee, and thus be comparatively permanent, than that they should be changed every time a new teacher enters the school. The committee, however, who do not advise with the teacher in the matters which come under their supervision, and who do not allow great weight to his judgment, are guilty, not simply of a slight to him, but of a grievous wrong to the school.
But again; the teacher is a servant to the public; under certain restrictions his school is open to all, and he receives his pay from the public treasury. It is, therefore, not only perfectly proper in itself, but the community has a right to know from some reliable source with what fidelity he discharges his trust. No man should be placed in so responsible a situation without being obliged at stated times to give an account of his stewardship: and the faithful teacher will be the last to object to the rendering of such an account. It is natural for us to believe that the members of our profession are as honorable, upright, and trustworthy, as those of any calling in life; but the examples of perfidy and breaches of faith with which the newspapers of the day are almost literally filled, teach us that it is unsafe, as well as unwise, to place a man in any responsible position without subjecting him to a constant and careful oversight and control.
If, now, we have succeeded in establishing the necessity of a supervision of schools, it remains for us to inquire by whom, and in what manner it may be most profitably exercised.
In regard to the persons most competent to judge of the efficiency of a teacher and the success of his school, it would seem that there could be but one opinion. It is not usual to consult a physician upon a question of law, or a clergyman in regard to the bodily “ills which flesh is heir to.” On the same principle, we assert with the utmost confidence, that the practical teacher is better able than any one else to judge of the skill and fidelity of those engaged in his own calling. And here it may be remarked, once for all, that by practical teachers we do not mean those who may have taught for a few weeks in their younger days to obtain the means of completing an education, or to relieve the tedium of a college life ; nor those, even, who may now regularly engage in the business of instruction at that season of the year when they cannot plough by reason of the cold. But we mean those, who, having prepared themselves as best they might for the solemn position they were to assume, have put on the harness and given their hearts and their lives to the work. But practical teachers, it will be readily seen, are generally engaged in the active duties of their profession. In discussing this question, therefore, we are not to consider who are the most capable of presiding over schools, but who are the best that can be obtained. And in answering it, our object will be to show that the present laws of our State, with some slight modifications, furnish us with the most efficient supervision that can be desired : a school committee chosen from the people, who shall be assisted by a superintendent selected by themselves and under their control.
The selection of a school committee is a matter of much importance. That they, who are to direct the course of instruction which is to give character to the young of their city or village, should be the best men that can be obtained, needs
ment, we think, to prove. But it is not necessary in our judgment that they should all be the most learned men. It is desirable that a part of them should be able to examine teachers, select suitable text-books, and lay out a course of study, and such men may be easily found. It is equally desirable, we think, that some of the number should be taken from the common walks of life; men of sound sense, large hearts, and liberal views. It is often thought that literary men only are capable of examining schools. This we regard as a great mistake. There are many things to be taken into account in determining the character of a school besides a prompt or a tripping recitation ; and we have known men of very limited scientific knowledge, for whose opinion of a High School, even, we would give more than for that of some of the greatest scholars in the land. Men, also, whose employment leads them into different paths and trains their minds to peculiar habits of thought, will be able to look at a subject from various points of view, and thus to come to a more correct and intelligent decision. Moreover, there are material interests to be cared for in the management of a school, and, to deal with these interests aright, the most competent are not generally professional men. But whatever qualities may be looked for in a school committee, it is highly desirable that sectarianism and politics should have nothing to do with the selection. Sad, indeed, will it be for the interests of our children, when the bitter waters of party strife or sectarian feeling shall be allowed to disturb the harmony of our public schools.
If, in addition to the choice of suitable men, they could hold their office for a term of three or five years, with a change of one or two members annually, it would give a character as well as permanency to their doings that would add greatly to the usefulness of the board.
But a great amount of labor is necessary for an efficient superintendence of schools. Besides examinations at stated times, the statute requires a monthly visitation of all the schools in the town, and the maximum requirement of the law will certainly be the minimum performance of a faithful committee. But it follows almost as a matter of course, that the men the best qualified to perform these duties are the very ones the most engaged in the active duties of life. However interested, therefore, they may be in the work, and however anxious to discharge their duty, they cannot devote to it that time which is absolutely essential to insure success. Whether merchants, professional men, or laborers, how can it be expected that, in addition to the peculiar duties of their own calling, they shall keep themselves acquainted with the contents and the merits of the multitude of text-books that are continually swarming from the press, with the various methods of instruction pursued in different schools, and, in one word, with all duties and perplexities of the school-room? The thing is an utter impossibility, and hence the necessity of a superintendent.
'When this subject was first proposed, we confess that we regarded it rather as an innovation, than as an improvement ; and such, if we mistake not, was the opinion of teachers in general. But after having given it some thought, we are fully convinced of our error; and we now believe that towns and cities will really take an important step in advance, when they avail themselves of the provisions of the statute for the appointment of a superintendent.
The first objection that presents itself to our mind is, the difficulty of obtaining a suitable person for so delicate and responsible a position. It is true that a proper discharge of the duties of the office requires a rare combination of qualities possessed perhaps by few. But this objection may be urged with nearly equal force in respect to very many of the responsible positions in life. An approximation to what is wanted is all that we can reasonably expect ; and the difficulty of finding competent men is not so great, we believe, as it has often been regarded. School committees are chosen in open town meeting, and too often, as we have already said, without any regard to their fitness for the office. But a superintendent is to be selected by a school committee for a special purpose ; he is to have a regular salary, and is to devote all his time to the work. Now, if a board will exercise any tolerable degree of care in the choice of a teacher for a single school, is it reasonable to suppose that they would appoint a man to superintend all their schools without the most careful inquiry and the most earnest deliberation ?
Another objection sometimes urged by teachers is, that they are unwilling to be placed so entirely in the power and under the control of one man. But it should be remembered that this man is responsible to a higher power, and that he can do nothing without the sanction of the board that appointed him. Besides, if he be, as we suppose him to be, the right man, he is better able to enter into their feelings, to understand their wants and their duties, and to appreciate their labors, than the most competent committee that ever was chosen.
And this leads us to the inquiry, Who is the right man for the office? To this we unhesitatingly reply, a practical teacher of large experience, sound sense, and of good ability. As it regards the school committee, we have already shown that it is not practicable to select its members from men actually engaged in the business of instruction. Neither is it a matter of so much importance if they are properly assisted in their labors by a competent superintendent. But in respect to the latter office, the case is different. Not only is it possible to secure the services of such a one as we have described, but we affirm with confidence that no other one should be obtained. If the candidate be highly educated and of great intellectual culture, so much the better ; but the want of these, if he possesses the other requisites, should not be fatal to his appointment. On the other hand, no combination of qualities, however rare, should avail without positive experience in teaching. It would be an act of sheer injustice to place one without this experience over teachers, some of whom may have spent their lives in the work. Neither is there any necessity for such a course.
The annual and the district schools of the commonwealth now furnish a sufficient number of welltrained and successful teachers, from whom a proper selection may be made; and out of this number an intelligent committee will make their choice, if they regard only the best interests of their schools.
But what shall be the office of the superintendent? We answer, in one word, that he is to perform all those duties, which, from want of time or from any other cause, the school committee may not be able properly to discharge. As we have already said, they are engaged in the active duties of life, and it is often inconvenient, sometimes utterly impossible, for them to leave their clients or their patients, their stores or their workshops, to answer the numerous calls which may
be made upon their time and attention.
It should be his business to attend to all the material interests of the schools. If a blackboard needs to be painted, a pane of glass to be set, or any repairs to be made, he sbould know what is required, how, and by whom, it is to be done. It must be entirely superfluous to specify the thousand little wants and necessities that are constantly arising ; but it is enough to say generally, that whatever is requisite for the comfort and convenience of the schools, which it is within the power of the school committee to furnish, it should be his duty at once to provide. He may also be the medium of communication between the teachers and committee. Passing round from school to school, and conversing with the different teachers, he becomes acquainted with their views on the various subjects of their profession, and those views he may properly present to the board.
He should visit the schools as often as circumstances permit, and be in readiness at any time to give professional advice in all cases of doubt and difficulty that may arise. This, indeed, must be a prominent part of his duty, and being, as we have insisted he must be, a practical teacher, he is wellqualified for the work. Even the most experienced teachers are often placed in difficult and trying circumstances, where they need sympathy and professional advice; but it is more especially true of those who have just entered the profession, and to them should his attention be particularly directed. The schools of a city or town will not of course be all alike. Each teacher' will have his excellences and his peculiarities; and the superintendent should see that, as far as possible, whatever is good in one school is incorporated into all. He may give liints in regard to discipline, and suggest different methods of instruction; or, in the case of new teachers especially, he may conduct the recitations himself, and thus by living example impart instruction which it would be next to impossible to convey by precept.
But his attention should not be confined to his own village. He should become acquainted with the best schools and the best teachers in the vicinity, and should introduce at home the most approved methods of instruction and discipline which he may find abroad. Whenever a vacancy occurs in a school under his charge, he will know or should know where to find the very best teacher to fill it; and the great advantage of this can be best appreciated by those who know how many blanks are usually drawn to a prize. In case of applicants from other towns, he should visit their schools, and thus in the only satisfactory manner ascertain in regard to their efficiency and success; and he should also be present and take part in the examination of teachers so long as the present system of examination lasts.
In addition to the rest, he should become familiar with the merits of the principal text-books as they issue from the press,