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cities are making efforts in the right direction—whether we are ready for it or not, I do not wish to determine. The Agricultural College is doing a part of this work, but the few who secure training there are expecting to be employed not as mechanics, but as professional superintendents. Schools for boys at an age of fourteen to eighteen years, who have obtained a fair English education, are needed. These schools should be under the direction of competent master workmen. If such persons cannot be obtained during the summer, these schools might be conducted in the winter, or during evening hours. A law authorizing boards of directors to provide such schools at the request or by the vote of the electors can certainly do no harm and might result in great good.
In all our schools drawing should be taught, and with special reference to its use for practical purposes.
This is as far as we can go, perhaps, at this time.
INSPECTION AND SUPERVISION.
Our school work can hardly be called a system, since it is left almost entirely to the directors of each district, or rather board of directors, to provide such schools, such courses of study, such teachers, as they see fit. We have county and State supervision, but all of this is advisory, with the single exception of the granting of certificates, which is made obligatory, as a condition of receiving public money, and even this condition is often set aside and the law violated without penalty. I am not complaining about this freedom of action on the part of districts and boards of directors, for I think that the good common sense of the people will in time correct the mistakes made, and meanwhile they are enthusiastic in supporting their schools with money and good will.. But it is well to show to the masses, how much energy and money might be saved and expended in a more paying manner, if competent inspection and supervision were employed. In many counties, the county superintendency is looked upon as an unnecessary expense, and a useless office. If you examine the facts, you find almost always that in such counties the office has been used as capital for political trading, and the person who fills the office was considered good for nothing else.
As long as the pay of county superintendents is below that of the principals in small towns, very few competent persons will sacrifice themselves by acting as county superintendents. In my official intercourse with these officers, I have been surprised to find so many very
competent men and women who would serve for the small pay given for service rendered; but I am aware that we have incompetent persons in the office. A person who is to examine teachers for their qualifications, ought at least to have given proof of his own qualification for such an office. With this limitation, it is best to leave the selection in the hands of the people.
The competent superintendent should then be entrusted with greater powers and receive better pay. He should watch over the school property and the school finances, he should be indeed an advisory officer to school boards to a far greater extent than he is now, and his suggestion of a course of study, such as has been recommended by many superintendents in years gone by, should be respected.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction has too much to do to supervise the work of the schools and other educational institutions as it ought to be done, and the time must soon come when a board of education shall aid him in this work. The State Teachers' Association at their last session recognized this want, and selected from the different branches of the educational field prominent educators as an advisory council to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This council consists of President J. L. Pickard, Iowa City; President W. F. King, Mt. Vernon; Professor M. W. Bartlett, Cedar Falls; Professor C. E. Bessey, Ames; Superintendent H. H. Seerley, Oskaloosa, and Superintendent R. H. Frost, Atlantic. The advice given by such council will aid the Superintendent of Public Instruction in his administration of affairs; but we need a body whose duty it shall be to devote some time to the actual inspection and supervision of school work, including the normal institutes and the various educational institutions of the State. The duties of such a body would in no way interfere with the management of these institutions by their respective boards of trustees. Hints given by such a body of professional teachers, chosen from the wisest of them, would be gladly received by the intelligent gentlemen who now control the affairs of these schools.
SCHOOL LAWS-CODIFICATION AND CHANGES.
Our school laws started out with the idea of the township as a unit; but we have allowed such constant changes that about one-fourth of our country schools are governed as separate organizations. The laws have been changed and modified, and so thoroughly obscured that it is almost impossible to unravel them. One section often contradicts
another, and what has been prohibited by one may be accomplished by another.
A single illustration will suffice. The law to divide district townships and independent subdistricts was repealed by chapter 155 of the Sixteenth General Assembly; but by section 1814, of the Code of 1873, township districts may be consolidated and organized as independent districts, and when so organized they may be subdivided into any number of independent districts, as provided by chapter 133, of the Seventeenth General Assembly, as amended by chapter 131, of the Eighteenth General Assembly. Thus, what is prohibited by the law of 1876, without a repeal of that law, and without the intention of the lawgivers, is made possible by the law of 1878 and 1880, when taken in connection with a section of the Code. Other instances of incongruity could readily be pointed out.
Since my administration began, I have avoided suggesting any bill which would change the organic law of our school system. But it is my candid conviction, that whenever a new revision of the statutes is undertaken, the school law should be sin plified and made uniform.
ORGANIZATION OF DISTRICTS.
This is one of the most important matters to be considered whenever a revision is made. Districts should all be governed by a board holding office for a number of years, and chosen by all the electors in the district. The civil township should be the unit, but it should not be subdivided into subdistricts, to be in part governed by a subdirector. The only exception to the township district should be the town or city district as we have them now. Districts having less than five hundred inhabitants should be governed by a board of three directors, of whom one should be chosen annually. Districts having more than five hundred inhabitants should be controlled by a board of five directors, one of whom should be chosen annually. Such an arrangement would avoid the objections to the subdistrict plan and to that of having each subdistrict an independent district.
We have had the same difficulty that we experience with the subdistrict plan, in our county government. When under the former law each township had a supervisor, the majority of supervisors from the poorer townships controlled the county legislation and finances, often to the serious detriment of the wealthier townships.
The objections to the division into rural independent districts are: A needless multiplication of officers, for which often suitable persons cannot be found; the unnecessary expense of paying so many secretaries and treasurers; and the inability of many of these districts to provide proper school facilities, owing to the lack of means. All these evils would be avoided by the arrangement suggested above. Another point which should be carefully studied by lawgivers, and which should be provided for, is:
COMPULSORY EDUCATION. In my first report, made four years ago, I discussed this subject at some length, and desire to call attention to some statements of facts there made and suggestions given. Recent reports prove, even with greater force than former ones, that
, compulsory attendance has not been enforced by law except in very limited localities. Factories may be compelled to exclude children who have not complied with the law from their working force, but to secure the attendance of children at school has never been entirely accomplished in this country or in any other.
It is claimed that in Prussia, my native country, at least two per cent of those who enter the army from eighteen to twenty-three years of age are unable to read and write, which fact can only be accounted for by their not having attended school; although a law for compulsory attendance exists, and it is generally believed that it is as well enforced as anywhere.
The best practical results have been obtained in Holland, where the only compulsion employed consists in withholding “out-door relief from any family where children are allowed to run wild in the streets, or to grow up as vagrants, or are employed in any factory, without previous elementary training."
It is my strong conviction that we must establish in some of our larger cities separate schools for vagrants and truants, which shall be of a reformatory nature. Our attendance in country schools, if we
a take the summer and winter schools together, includes nearly all who would be required to attend such schools under any compulsory law. A compulsory law might do good in this way: some parents who desire to be law-abiding might send children, who are now withheld, either from ignorance of the good they would receive, or from the desire to have them earn as much as possible.
In my report four years ago I discussed this question at considerable length, and hence shall confine myself to a few remarks on this subject, which has agitated the legislatures of nearly all our neighboring States, as well as our own.
In my opinion, any enforced uniformity for county or State will in the end prove obnoxious and financially wrong. Townships should have a uniformity of text-books, and so far as it can be done by voluntary action, such uniformity might be extended to the county, or even to larger districts.
The majority of modern text-books in the various branches are of such good quality that the best teachers will differ in their choice as much as they possibly can. There are some books which are not suitable to our schools, but they are seldom found in them. To ask any committee or body of educators to choose one set of readers, one set of arithmetics, geographies, grammars, and of other books as the best, and then to compel all the people and all the other teachers to accept this choice as the wisest, leads invariably to discord and wrangling, and causes charges of dishonesty and bribery. The legislature might just as well invite bids and select for themselves the books they wish to adopt and compel the people to use.
But the question of expense is to be met. In the first place there should be fewer books used in the schools. We must have readers, and reading material outside of the readers; but the number of arithmetics, grammars, and geographies, should be reduced materially in all our schools. The teachers should do a good portion of the work, which is now studied from the book. This requires better teachers and better supervision.
The books which we must have should be furnished by the district; if not free, then at cost. This has been done in some places, and should be authorized by law. To prevent the necessity of buying new books for children of transient persons, such as tenants, districts should own some sets of books which they could loan at a reasonable rate.
SCHOOL FINANCES AND TAXATION.
There is a great amount of jealousy lest the people should have too much protection for their money, and their home officers should not have sufficient opportunity to handle the money contributed by their neighbors. It is perfectly proper that the amount of money raised by a school district should be disbursed by a resident of the district; but it should be done with such restrictions and under such supervision, that every dollar should be properly expended and accounted for.
In former reports, I have given tables of deficits by counties and for