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“There is in our town, I am sorry to say, a great want of interest on the part of parents, as evinced by their almost entire neglect to visit the Schools. Also hy the fact, that they allow their children to be frequently absent from School. As near as I can ascertain, the children who pretend to attend School at all, average little more than half the time. This may be regarded as the greatest obstacle with which we have to contend.
What is needed to render the Schools more efficient and useful, is a deeper interest on the part of parents, manifested in the improvement of the School Houses and premises of districts, and in personal visitation of the Schools.
TOWN SUPERINTENDENT OF Darien." “ In some of the districts within my jurisdiction, a lively interest is felt in the cause of education; while in others, Schools are maintained only long enough to consume the public money; evincing a great lack of right feeling on the part of parents.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF WEST BEND." " In answer to your Circular I have to say, that there is not that degree of interest felt in the upbuilding and prosperity of the Public Schools of the City, which ought to obtain in a place of its size, intelligence and future prospects.
CITY SUPERINTENDENT OF FOND Du Lac." “The town of Holstein is settled almost exclusively by Germans ---three of the four School districts, into which the town is divided, by people coming from Schleswig. Ilolstein; a country famous for the excellencies of its Common Schools. The people here are therefore, in general, very well educated, and much interested in a gool education for their children,
In the winter of 1851-5, when the town was only divided into two districts, we made in the largest of those districts an experiment, which was accompanied with the happiest results. The sixty-seventy scholars who attended school, we divided into two classes, according to their capacities, and each class was taught during five months in a separate room by a qualified teacher and his assistant. Never before nor after dick the scholars so rapidly improve. Town SUPERINTENDENT OF N. HOLSTEIN.''
“I regret that I am not able to give a more favorable report of the condition of our Schools, and the progress of education among us. By a few individuals there is a commendable zcal manifested, but with the masses at large there is comparatively little; and but for the zeal of the former our Schools would be limited to the short term required by law; and were it not for the public money, I believe somo of our districts would be without any School.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF Elba." " The Schools in this town are in a prosperous condition. The inhabitants take great pains to secure good teachers. Large and commodious houses are taking the places of log shanties. There will not be a log school house left in town after this year.
Towy SUPERINTENDENT OF OakrilLD)." "Too little interest is felt on the part of parents in this town. In fact this seems to be the greatest embarrassinent the cause of cducation has to contend with.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF OSHKOSH. * There is a great degree of interest manifested on the part of parents and scholars.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF CLAYTON.” " The obstacles and embarassments are poor school houses, poor teachers, poor Superintendents, a lack of interest on the part of parents and district boards, and a greater desire to enrich the pocket than the min.
Town SUPERINTENDENT O- LEWISTON.” "Parents and others manifest a good degree of interest, and with few exceptions are willing to lend a helping hand in the work of increasing the pro-pierity of our schools, and of training the young mind and heart.
Towy SUPERINTENDENT OR WALWORTI." "Parents are beginning to open their eyes to the fact, that they have something to do.
Town SUPERINTENDENT' OF OREGON."
“With regard to the condition of Schools in this town, I can say but little. I huve thought that they were in a hopeless and helpless condition, but some faint signs of life and progress begin to appear. Parents, as a general thing, manifest very little interest in the great and important subject of education. The main object with a large majority of them seems to be, to use up the public money in time to get more, and to send their children to school in order to keep them out of mischief. They know as little of what is going on in the school room, as we know about the interior of Japan or of Africa. Town SUPERINTENDENT OF Waldwic."
“Until within the last eight or ten months, quite too little interest has been felt hy parents and others Now a different feeling is manifested. The Uniformity Movement has awakeneil new zeal on the part of parents, teachers, scholars, and all; and has added a mighty impetus to the cause of education.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF COURTLAND." “The interest manifested by parents is far from what it should be generally. They are all desirous of having good schools, but are not willing to incur the expense of providing proper school houses, and of hiring teachers of ability. In this, however, I do not think they are behind the people of other towns; yet they are not where they should be in this age of improvement and progression.
Towy SUPERINTENDENT OF Mr. PLEASANT." “All seem to manifest a desire to avail themselves of every means within their power, to advance the education of the rising generation.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF COLUMBUS." It has been well said, that the school room and family circles are connected by channels of communication. The influence of the one affects, to a greater or less extent, the other; and if healthful agencies are in operation in the school room, they may be disturbed and counteracted, at least in part, by agencies from without. To reach the highest attainments of the school room, therefore, the influence withont must be in harmony with that within. Parents must co-operate with and assist both teacher and scholars. They should contribute their part to maintain proper authority and wholesome discipline. They should imbue the minds of their children, to as great an extent as possible, with the love of Knowledge and of right. Under proper regulations at home, the children should be trained for the school room. Good counsel and corresponding action in the family circle will fit them, in a great degree, for the school. Nor can the responsibilities of parents be wholly met by doing their duty at home. They should visit the school often-become acquainted with the teacher, his wants and trials; and instead of listening to that mischievous gossip, and those frivolous excuses, which result in destroying the harmony of the school, and depriving the children of its advantages, judge for themselves, from personal observation, of all that is reported, and of all that is going on. While the school is in session no trivial excuse should be allowed to justify a child's abscence. When parents shall become thus interested, and shall thus dlo, the welfare of the individual, the improvement at home, the good of society, and the prosperity of the State shall be permanently established.
SCHOOL HOUSES. The Reports nearly all concur in representing a large proportion of our school houses as being far from what they should be with regard to size, location, accommodations, &c. From a personal inspection of thein, in many parts of the State, I know that that they are mean, murderous things, the most of them. Often I have found them located in close proximity to a slough or marsh, where the children, in
the summer seaso.1, could recreate themselves by engaging in the two-fold and interesting employment, as Dr. Hoy says, of catching tadpoles and the fever and ague! Nearly ninety-nine out of every hundred of our school houses should be torn down or greatly improved, and given a far different location. As they now are, they are stinted in the ground they occupy, stinted in room, stintel in God's free air, and in short are destitute of almost every thing that ought to be regarded prerequisite in a place of education. Yet in them our children must be huddled, and if the weather be a little cold—especially if it be in the winter season—every door and windows must be closed, all air excluded-though in five ininutes the inmates breathe up all the room contains--the stove be well fed, and amid the press, the heat, & vitiated atmosphere, and the pantings for breath, the process goes on of rearing the tender thought, and teaching the young idea how to slo: t! The idea of developing and training young minds under such circumstances is preposterous in the extreme. No wonder that our children are feeble and sickly; that they droop and fade like autumn flowers under such treatment, and early pass away.
In my travels over the State, I have every where observed with deepest regret, school houses of recent construction, of the same old class as to style, finish and arrangement; set down, perhaps, on a bit of low, waste land; or on a high, hleak eminence, with nothing comfortable, convenient, pleasant or attractive about them. Modern improvements have been repudiated altogether, and sums of money expend. ed for coarse, clumsy-looking affairs, and of bad internal arrangement, that would have sufficed to crect edifices of neat architectural design, and every way adapted to school purposes, with respect to the health and comfort of their occupants.
Scattered throughout the Reports of Town Superintendents are expressions like these: “There are many poor school houses in this town." "In the district in which I live, the school has been kept in an old log school house for years.” “In district No. 2. school has been kept so far in a shanty, and the people are quarreling over a site for a new house." (Profitable employment!) “Should I mention
any particular embarrassment I suppose it would be that common one; school | loues built in bad taste, with too little reference to pleasantness of location.” Of
a schoool house in one of our most flourishing cities it is said. “The one in the south district is small, ill-ventilated, old, and altogether inadequate to the wants of the district in which there are about 1000 scholars.
But there is a brighter side to this picture. Says one, “Suitable houses have been built, mostly within the past year, costing from four hundred and fifty to one thousand dollars. Two are excellent stone edifices.” Others report to the same effect. The balance when struck, however, is largely in favor of the dark side. The value of a large majority of school houses in the State, as per the Returns of Clerks of County Boards, is estimated below $ 150,-many no higher than $50,and one, at least, is said to be worth the incredible sum of three cents. This presupposes " three cent" parents. And we have only to suppose farther a three cent teacher, and a three cent school, to complete a very interesting and prosperous state of things!
So far as possible the pleasantest spot should be chosen for the School House, embracing at least one acre of ground. If there are three or five acres, all the better. This should be enclosed by a neat, substantial fence, and the rear portion di
vided into two play grounds. Reserving sufficient ground in front for shrubbery and flowers, the building of chaste design, should be erecte:l. It should be of ample size, and if for a Union or Grade School, or for a Central School or Free Academy, from two to three stories in height. The finish should be neat and substantial. The internal arrangement should be mainly with reference to comfort and health. The furniture should be abundant, and of the most approved fashion and make. lligh walls, white as marble, hung round with maps, charts and pictures, should give to the place a cheerful, inviting air, and render it most attractive. Especially ought means to be provided for the most thorough ventilation.
The School House being finished and furnished after the manner described, let the entire grounds be surrounded by two rows of shade trees, and other rise improved and ornamented ; and we then have provided the place for a lire teacher to work in, and furnished him in part with tools to work with; and the whole shall constitute the most profitable investment for our children that we could possibly have made.
I would in this connection respectfully call the attention of the Legislature to work entitled Barnard's School Architecture, which furnishes most valuable information respecting the building, furnishing, &c. of school houses; and I woull recommend that provision be made for furnishing a copy at least to every town in the State. (For further notice of this invaluable work, see Appendix.)
SUPERVISION OF SCHOOLS. I insert here, as furnishing my views of an enlightened supervision, and to what it should extend, a Circular addressed by this Department to Town Superintendents.
Madison, -, 1856.
Great and important interests are intrusted to your supervision, and on your welldirected labors will largely depend the welfare and prosperity of our Common Schools.
Good and suitable school houses are needed—such as in situation, size and arrangement shall be ardapted to promote the health and comfort of pupils, and to afford the teacher all desirable facilities tor imparting instruction. So far as advice, persuasion and argument will avail, see to it that commodious and pleasant sehool buillings are furnished in your several localities--that spacions and ornamented grounds be attached--that they be situated, not on the borders of swamps and frog. ponds, but on elevated and pleasant places.
Your supervision will also extend to the proper furnishing of school houses-to the necessary apparatus--to the library--to the out-houses, &c. All school rooms should possess ample means for thorough ventilation. They should be supplied with maps, charts, models, and objects of Natural Ilistory; as children especially learn and understand much more readily, and remember more perfectly and permanently, what they see, than what they acquire in any other way. The more these outward helps of real utility are multiplied, the more attractive and successful will be our schools. It has been truly and forcibly remarked, that, though there is no royal road to knowledge, there is a natural road to it; and the more the nature of
things is exhibited in the course of teaching, the more rapidl and thorough will 1, the course of the pupil.
The Examination of Teachers is an important duty with which you are charge It is, indeed, a work of the last importance, and of extreme difficulty. None othe given you to do, tells with such power upon our schools either for good or evil. B your
decision with respect to teachers shall be determined the character of thes schools, an ito no small extent what shall be the characters of our children to the dying day. llow thorough, therefore, ought to be your examination !--how cay tious in granting certificates of qualification sare to instructors of intelligence an moral worth!
Nerer hesitate for a moment to annul the certificate of one who shall prove to be on trial, an unworthy and incompetent teacher. Never fail to stand by, encourag and sustain the teacher who is faithful and true.
You will strive for a uniformity of Text Books within your several jurisdiction and so far as you can consistently, co-operate with this Department in introducin such uniformity throughout the State.
For the purposes of mutual counsel, co-operation and preparation, and that yo may the more surely and largely promote the great educational interests entruste to your supervision, I would recommend, that, as often as twice a year, you meei i County Convention, and that you invite the presence of teachers and friends education, and their participation in your deliberations and discussions.
This Department would earnestly invite your frequent correspondence. Mor minute details of the condition of schools, thian is furnished in the Annual Reports is greatly desired. When you have complete your quarterly visitations, pleas forward an account of each school-its condition, prospects, name of its teacher and whether parents take an interest in its prosperity--together with such sugges tions, recommendations and inquiries as you may deem profitable and important.
Trusting that you will continue to labor earnestly and intelligently for the pro motion of the highest interests of the schools of Wisconsin-that you will bring t the work in which you are engaged the best qualities of the mind and heart, with full and clear conception of the vast responsibilities of the office in which yo I have the honor to be, Gentlemen,
Your obedient servant,
A. CONSTANTINE BARRY. Without doubt we need a more able and efficient supervision of the commo schools than is now furnished. In saying this, I would not seem, even by implica tion, to find fault with any who hold the office and exercise the functions of Tow Superintendent. If not always possessed of the highest qualification, they ar generally interested, well-meaning, faithful men, and honestly discharge their dut with what ability they have. In any event, it cannot be said that they seek or ad cept the office for the sake of pecuniary recompense, or for the honors which beloi. to high official position. And yet is their office a most honorable one, and I am sometimes inclined to believe that it is more to be a good Town Superintendent tha to be Governor of a State. lle is supervising interests which underlie the pro: perity of communities and nations, and superintending processes which resuit i making more than Governors and Kings-in making men.
I said that we needed a more able and efficient supervision of the schools. Thi is concedeul by Town Superintendents themselves, who are in a situation to discer and appreciate what is needed. The following testimony, gathered from the Re ports, is submitted for consideration :
"I think if the office of Town Superintendent was abolished, and all the business supervisory and otherwise, transacted by a County Superintendent, who should re ceive a liberal salary, it would be beneficial.
Town SUPERINTENDENT OF VINLAND."