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qualified boards of examiners. Many may think that this is trenching on delicate ground, but I believe that only by some such means shall we secure the desired end. Let the governor appoint one central board, and let there be but one basis of examinations. By this means we should secure good teachers where now we have very poor teachers. Such a course would also be a direct benefit to our schools, making the work in them more thorough and broader; and it would also be a vast advantage to those already teaching, for now we have no rules to guide and uphold the teacher's profession from the swarms of incompetent persons who try to get into the ranks; but once make the entrance to the work of teaching dependent upon successfully passing an examination conducted by a skilful central board of examiners, and you make teaching what law and medicine are, a profession. Until we do this, we shall never attain the best results for the money we are now expending.
THE EXAMINATION OF TEACHERS.
By DANIEL B. HAGAR, Ph. D.,
I. By whom. II. Qualifications to be sought. III. How
to ascertain who has the qualifications.
I. By whom should teachers be examined? I answer, in brief, by those who know by experience what teachers can be and ought to be, can do and ought to do; in a word, by experienced teachers. Why should men in all sorts of occupations be deemed suitable to sit in judgment on teachers, while they would scout the thought of teachers sitting in judgment on them? If the lawyer, or the doctor, or the carpenter, or the blacksmith say, “I can read and write and cipher, and therefore I am competent to examine you, teacher,” the teacher may in turn answer to the lawyer, “I can look in a book and see if you state the law correctly, and I can tell whether you make a brilliant or a stupid plea to a jury”; to the doctor, “I can tell whether your patients mostly die or get well, and I can ask you a plenty of questions in physiology and therapeutics, which no.doctor can answer”; to the carpenter, “I can drive a nail and shove a jack-plane”; to the blacksmith, “I can blow your bellows and wield your sledge, — and therefore, gentlemen all, I may modestly claim to possess qualifications for deciding who shall and who shall not engage in your several professions and occupations."
The truth is, that when we view, in its proper light, the work of the teacher, that is, the development, training, and equipment of the human mind, there is no science, no art, that calls for more profound study, more consummate skill, and more varied and comprehensive knowledge than are demanded by the science and art of education. If this be true, or anywhere near the truth, it certainly seems reasonable to demand that whoever undertakes to judge authoritatively of a teacher's fitness for the position he occupies or seeks, should have made a careful study of education, and should have had such practical experience in teaching as would qualify him to place a just estimate on the amount and quality of the work accomplished by teacher and pupils. In saying this, I would by no means speak with unjust disparagement of school committees, as we have them in New England. They do the work assigned by law to them and to no others; and they do it, in the main, as well as can fairly be expected of men whose several occupations leave them little time to devote to schools. And it is but just to say that upon many of these committees are found accomplished men, whose education and experience amply qualify them to examine teachers of every grade, as well as to supervise the general affairs of schools.
But while I cheerfully and gratefully recognize the valuable service rendered by school committees, as they have this far existed, and while I maintain that their
continued service is indispensable to the welfare of the schools, I nevertheless believe that the time has come when here in New England, as for years has been the case in some of the newer States, there should be boards of examiners established by statute law, who shall have power to examine teachers, to grant certificates of different grades and for different periods of time; that such certificates should free those who hold them from liability to further examination within the territory and for the period mentioned therein; and that after a specified date, no new teachers shall be admitted to service in the public schools until they shall have obtained from the legalized board of examiners the required certificates of qualification.
In what way the boards of examiners should be constituted is a question to be answered positively only after the most careful deliberation. In conservative New England, the people are very jealous of centralized authority, and probably any scheme that should propose to throw the entire authority of organizing such boards into the hands of the State would meet with most serious opposition. The people may be expected to insist that, directly or indirectly, the control of the public schools, including the selection of teachers, shall remain with them. At the same time, the Legislature, as representing the whole people, must take the initiative in this as in other matters pertaining to the common weal, by passing such laws as will produce needful action by the people in their various localities. Having in mind these considerations, I present, with much diffidence, the barest outline of a plan for boards of examiners.
First. Let the Legislature of the State enact a law requiring that every city within its limits shall by its school committee elect a superintendent of schools, to whom shall be paid a salary not less than a specified sum.
Second. Let the law provide that the rest of the State shall be divided into districts for purposes of supervision, each district to contain a population of from 12,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, and to consist of entire and contiguous towns, and that for each district a superintendent of schools shall be chosen by the joint votes of the school committees of the several towns composing the district, and shall receive a salary not less than a specified sum.
Third. Let the superintendent in each city or district serve as the examiner in his own city or district.
Fourth. Let the superintendents employed in any county come together, or by a committee chosen from their number, as a board of examiners for that county, the certificates granted by them to be valid in every part of the county, for the grade of schools and the time specified in the same.
Lastly, let a State board of exaininers be established, that shall be authorized to grant different grades of certificates valid throughout the State, and for long periods of time, and in case of those teachers who have successfully taught for a certain period, good for life. Let this board be constituted in part of persons selected by the Board of Education, and in part of persons selected by a committee appointed from and by the school superintendents of the State.
Let this State board of examiners, in conjunction with the Board of Education, determine in what way and to what extent a graduation from one of the State Nor