« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
except to apportion, annually, the State school moneys. In 1864, the State Board was made to consist of the Governor, the State Superintendent, and the County Superintendents of San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Joaquin. The Board was empowered to adopt a uniform series of text-books, for all schools except in incorporated cities; to require a uniform course of study, and to make rules and regulations for the schools. In 1865, the Board was enlarged by the addition of the Principal of the State Normal School, and of two members appointed by the State Superintendent. In 1872, the two appointive members were cut off. In 1864, the State Board was made, ex officio, the Board of Normal School Trustees; repealed, 1870.
VI. TEACHERS' CERTIFICATES AND BOARDS OF EXAMINATION.
From 1850 to 1860, the power of examining teachers for certificates was vested in District School Trustees and City Boards of Education. These Boards were authorized to grant certificates "of good moral character and fitness to teach a common school one year.
In 1860, Superintendent Moulder secured the passage of a law providing for a State Board of Examination, appointed by the State Superintendent, with power to grant certificates, valid for two years, and for County Boards, appointed by County Superintendents, with power to issue county certificates, valid for one year.
The power of examining teachers was still vested in City Boards of Education, which were not required to recognize State certificates.
At the State Institute, Sacramento, 1862, the first State examination was held by Superintendent Moulder and a Board made up of County Superintendents. The examination was somewhat informal, and mostly oral. The Board granted five Grammar School certificates and twelve "Mixed School" certificates.
From 1851 to 1863, teachers in San Francisco were examineď every year. At first, these examinations were oral; but, in 1856, the Board introduced written examinations.
Concerning this annual re-examination of experienced teachers, Superintendent Swett, in his first Report, said:
No one cause has done so much to render the occupation of a public school teacher distasteful as the old system of annual examinations. Teachers were condemned to be tried, not by a jury of their peers, but too often by men who knew little or nothing of practical teaching, and who not unfrequently made the annual examination a guillotine for decapitating any unlucky pedagogue who had fallen under ban of their petty displeasure. A teacher in the public schools, though he might have, added to the finest natural abilities for teaching, a complete professional training in the best normal schools in the United States; though he might be crowned with honors, won by many years of successful experience; though he might be esteemed by the community, and revered by thousands of grateful pupils-at the end of each year, forsooth, he must be "examined' by a committee of lawyers, doctors, dentists, book-binders, contractors, and non-professional men, to ascertain if he were 66 fit to teach a Common School!" After having passed through the examination mill annually, nine years in succession, turned out each time with a "bran new" certificate of "fitness to teach a Common School one year," I can speak feelingly on this subject. These annual examinations of experienced teachers offered an annual insult to intelligence, by lumping character, aptness to teach, moral and social culture, in tabular statements of "percentage" on arithmetic and spelling, in which infinitesimal details counted everything, character and success nothing at all. Actual trial in the school-room is the best test of fitness to teach; and when a teacher has once passed examination, and proved successful in school, subsequent examinations are uncalled for and unnecessary.
I remember more than one successful teacher, arraigned before the Examination Star Chamber, who was decapitated by the official guillotine of “percentage," because he happened to fail "on the best route from Novogorod to Kilimandijaro," or from "Red Dog to You Bet;" or forgot the population of Brandy Gulch, Humbug Canon, or Pompeii; or could not remember the names of all the rivers of the world, from the Amazon down to the brook where he caught "minnows" with pin hooks when a boy; or blundered on some arithmetical shell, hard enough to pierce the hide of a monitor; or chanced to spell traveler with two l's; or happened, finally, to fall one tenth of one credit below nine hundred and ninety-nine, the standard which exactly gauged the moral character and intellectual ability of a man "fit to teach a Common School one year. The new State law, by granting diplomas for six years, relieves teachers from the annoyance of such examinations, and is the first step towards recognizing teaching as a profession. It was my firm
conviction from the first, that the end sought would be best attained by vesting the authority to examine candidates in a board of practical teachers, selected for that specific purpose. The future success of this important movement will depend upon retaining this principle as a foundation. Teachers have a right to demand an examination by their peers.
In the State Institute circular, 1863, the subject of teachers' certificates was noticed as follows:
The State Board of Examiners will hold an examination of all applicants who desire to obtain State certificates during the Institute Session. By an amendment to the school law, these certificates remain in force during the term of four years-relieving the holders from all further examination by County Boards. It would be difficult to adduce any reason whatever for the annual examination of teachers, except the natural desire which some seem to entertain for tormenting unlucky applicants for district schools. There are many able teachers in the State whose pride revolts at the humiliation. Under the old law, a teacher in the public schools, though he might have added to the finest natural abilities for teaching, a complete professional training in the best Normal schools in the United States -though he might have grown gray in the service, might be crowned with the well-earned honors of many successful schools, be revered by thousands of grateful pupils-though he had graduated from a university-yet he could not apply for the smallest district school in the remotest corner of the State, without "passing an examination;" and, if he wished to teach another year, he had to travel twenty or thirty miles to pass examination, to satisfy the State that he was “fit to keep a common school!" And further, if he wished to remove to another county, he must be examined by another Board, to ascertain his fitness to teach a common school! If examination imparts fitness to teach, some of the teachers in this State ought to be well fitted for their occupation.
In 1862-3, Superintendent Swett secured important amendments to the law relating to certificates and examining boards; and in 1865-6, the Revised School Law made elaborate provisions for the whole subject.
This law authorized the State Board of Education to issue State Life Diplomas to teachers of at least 10 years' experience, holders of State Educational Diplomas; provided for City Boards of Examination, consisting exclusively of professional teachers; required City Boards of Education to recognize the validity of State certificates; required the percentages obtained in the different studies to be indorsed on the back of the certificate; required the State Board to issue certificates to the holders of State Normal School diplomas, and of State life cer
tificates of all other States in the United States; provided for granting State certificates on the results of county examinations with the State series of questions-in other words, made teaching a legal profession.
These provisions, with slight amendments, are retained in the present school law.
On this subject, Mr. Swett spoke as follows, before the National Educational Association, at Boston, August 6-8, 1872:
By way of introducing my subject, and for the purpose of showing why I entertain radical views on the common methods of examining teachers, and of granting them certificates, I am constrained to offer my own experience as an illustration.
Twenty years ago this very month, moved by the migratory instinct that seems to be hereditary in so many Yankee boys, impelling them to take flight in search of warmer climes and richer feeding-grounds, I sailed out of Boston harbor bound for California, "round the Horn."
My pocket-book was not plethoric with money, but carefully stowed away in its ample folds there were three certificates, every one of which bore the most positive evidence as to my good moral character, and certified to my "ability and fitness to teach a common school for the term of one year.' One of these, like its holder, had its birth in the Old Granite State.
It bore the signature of a "Deestrict School Trustee," dear old Deacon Brown, who examined me in the vowel sounds, and the consonant sounds; asked me to pronounce correctly g-e-w-g-a-w, and, by way of a clincher, required me to define the four parts of English Grammar according to Lindley Murray, to wit: Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.
The other two certificates were dated in the town of Timbuctoo, in the old Bay State, almost in the shadow of Bunker Hill. I was examined in the dingy office of a cobwebbed old lawyer, who was quite as scientific in his style of doing things, as was dear old Deacon Brown.
It is enough to say that every one of these examinations was as great a farce as it would be for Vincent Collier to examine an Apache Indian in mental and moral philosophy and theology, or rather, as absurd as it would be for a green-grocer to examine John Stuart Mill in political economy.
I would not rake up old events that happened so near the cradle of the common-school system, except that on returning, nearly a quarter of a century later, I find that good old way of examining teachers still going on in my native State, and in some other States that I do not now care to mention.
When I reached California, I mined, until I found myself deadbroke; worked as a day-laborer on a ranch; sought in vain for permanent employment, save only the profession of blacking boots;
and, at the end of the year, looked sadly at my certificates, and, as a last desperate resort, looked round" for a school.
I heard of a school, but my old certificates were not current in California; and the flattering letters of Prof. Russell, who taught me how to teach, availed me nothing. I had to be "examined before I could be patented to be "fit to teach a common school in the State of California, for one year," and a miserable little school of half-Spanish children at that.
The school trustee, a Yankee minister, a man of huge body and enormous pomposity, did his duty with an awful dignity, which nobody but a little-minded man, in a petty little office, can ever aspire to. It was the same old rigmarole of "readin', 'ritin' and 'rithentic, with never a question to test education, culture, or power to teach. After a half-day's examination, he gave me a certificate, and the school to somebody else.
Then I went to San Francisco. There was a vacancy in the school department. The old examination-mill was still kept running under Yankee management. Fifteen of us, all in a row, like good little boys in school, were questioned once round" in arithmetic, "once round" in grammar, in grammar," once round" in geography, once round' in spelling, by the Superintendent and the Mayor the former a Vermont Yankee, and the latter like unto him, except he hailed from a city nigh unto Boston, where they gibbeted witches instead of teachers.
I was told I ranked first of the batch; and of course somebody else, who had "influence with the board," got the place. The successful somebody this time was a young doctor without patients. He soon resigned, and I was allowed the privilege, at $125 a month, of conquering a peace by subduing the young hoodlums, or of meeting the fate of my predecessor.
This was how I became a schoolmaster, and how I won my way into the noblest profession-I think that is what they call it sometimes in educational conventions.
For eight successive years I taught the same school, and—I am am ashamed to own it, and would not tell it were it not necessary to illustrate what I intend to present I had the cowardice, like other teachers with me, to submit to eight annual examinations, in order to determine my fitness, at each annual revolution of the sun, to teach the same school each succeeding school year.
Nor was this the end of humiliation and insult. After getting a "bran new certificate at the end of each year, before I could go on again, I had to be elected by the votes of twelve members of the Board of Education, because my term of office lasted only one year. This annual election system was handed down to us from the primitive New England" town meetings." I believe that here in Boston, and in all New England cities and villages, and, in fact, in most parts of the United States, it is still kept up. A teacher holds the office only one year, and then he is at the mercy of any school director, or local member of the board, who may have some spite to wreak, or some relative to put in. Much as I honor the occupation of teaching, I am not in love with a system that tends to take all the manliness out of a man, and all the independence from a woman.