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every other survivor from that period. But it is not true that I am yet so old as to be loath to believe good of the present.
Matters have not workt out quite as planned. To illustrate: Twenty years ago, there was hope that the educational lines of school direction would be turned over to professional experts, leaving to laymen the financial matters. The very proposition has in many instances embittered the lives and defeated the efforts of school superintendents by arousing the jealousy of the laymen upon governing boards. Some states have actually retrogressed in consequence.
Those who have not given careful and candid thought to this matter, and very few have done so even among teachers, are unaware of the nature of the bulwarks against the direction of education by educators raised by the boards of control. To be specific: Wisconsin has 23,000 board members, and but 13,000 teachers, a ratio that precludes expert local educational direction. In Connecticut the three years' report of the State Board of Education for 1906-7-8 has just appeared. In it there is a list of school officers, which gives the names of all the 1,350 school visitors of the 175 towns of the state, including certain special districts. Of the eighty-five towns electing school superintendents, many choose laymen for that office. One town of 30,000 population has no superintendent, lay or professional. Last year, the Legislature of the state had before it eighty-eight reform bills dealing with education, and did almost nothing, primarily because of the resistance of the same school officers.
When one investigates, one discovers that in Connecticut school visitors and school committees have but little financial control. In consequence, they are but little more, tho sometimes something worse, than surplusage. With nothing of importance financial to do, they must deal with educational matters in order to justify their existence. But the unwise efforts of enthusiasts who have tried to take courses of study and similar matters out of the hands of these laymen without giving them something else to do, have but accentuated their interest in these educational matters by arousing their jealousy
It is not my present purpose to raise for its own sake this question of who shall direct education, but to show its bearing upon the reduction in quality of the men in nominal charge of school affairs. Many boards are careful not to secure experts lest their own occupations be taken away.
With some notable exceptions, the men who are being promoted now in the lines of the school superintendency are not of the quality of their predecessors, but they resemble more and more the members of their own boards, being “ business men.” The same tendency seems everywhere to characterize the recent selections of principals of state normal schools, chosen by state boards, likewise with notable exceptions.
But from a fairly extended knowledge of the country, after visiting forty-one states, I have come to the opinion that in personnel all other lines of educational endeavor are moving upward. Our professors of education in colleges and universities, our city normal and high school principals, and our teachers generally, are growing more efficient, and the entrants into the ranks are being chosen with more and more care.
It is a highly significant thing that the school superintendents and normal school principals chosen by city and state boards try to get as subordinates the best persons available at the salaries, and often try to get better salaries. The reason is that the superintendents, and not the boards of control, or the still higher boards that manage the money affairs, are held responsible by the public for the educational conditions, and many a head, himself improperly chosen, rejects for subordinate positions persons of his own type and equipment. He acts, in short, for the public good as he best knows how, because not to act in the best interests of the school would endanger his own usually already precarious position.
Even their own subordinates hold the principals and superintendents responsible, as do usually their fellow-teachers elsewhere. This came home to me in a highly humorous way last summer. I had just completed a lecture in a Southern city when a high school principal of long experience arose and said that he liked it well enough, but that he thought it strange that the lecturer, “when superintendent of schools in the District of Columbia, had not removed the negroes from the board of education."
I am not of the interesting condition of mind which supposes that leaders are supprest. There is not much to be said for the idea of " looking for leaders.” But at the same time, it does seems to me that for the National Education Association, the true future course is to encourage the presence upon the programs of university professors of education, and of principals of city high and normal schools. These are the men who may think of theirs as a life-work, and seriously discuss its principles.
The city superintendency and the state superintendency are not now and for many years will probably not be life-positions. They are temporary prizes. Few men serve in either of these offices more than three years. Men who have held two different superintendencies are few. Of men who have held four different superintendencies, one or more of them being of importance, I can count but four in this country. If any man is now in his fifth superintendency, I have not heard of him in that way. Taking a superintendency seems to me to be opening a hall door out into the common economic life; most men who lose or resign a superintendency go into “business." Few superintendents die in office; few retire because of old age.
There is at least one other reason why the National Education Association is now losing in number and quality of leaders. There have been recently too many transcontinental trips, taking too much time and costing too much money. Dividing the country into four regions, the Atlantic, the Mississippi Valley, the Rockies, and the Coast, we might well move regularly across the center of population, which is in Indiana, in such a way as this,-Cleveland, Denver, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlantic City, Minneapolis, Baltimore or Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Buffalo, St. Louis, then Cleveland again. Only regular attendants can be leaders.
WILLIAM E. CHANCELLOR SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
SOUTH NORWALK, CONN.
SCHOOL AFFAIRS AT MEMPHIS
The school situation at Memphis illustrates the baneful workings of personal politics and sectional prejudice.
More than three years ago, President I. C. McNeill, the highly respected and widely known head of the State Normal School at Superior, Wis., but formerly of Kansas City, Mo., was invited to Memphis to confer with the Board of Education. He was soon after selected to succeed General George W. Gordon, who had been elected to Congress, to the superintendency of the schools.
While there was opposition from friends of local candidates to a Northern man at the time of his election, Superintendent McNeill took up his work, knowing he had the support of the majority of the board as it was then constituted, and of most lovers of good schools, who hold:
There is no North, South, East nor West in the domain of knowledge. The field of education should be as broad as the sea, and the schoolteacher, if he be a man of common sense, is valuable in Memphis tho he came from Rhode Island, just as he would be valuable in Princeton, tho he were born in Tennessee.
Without exception the newspapers of Memphis gave Superintendent McNeill fair and friendly treatment. Gradually, but surely, lines of improvement were established and supported. Memphis began to be placed on the educational map of the nation. The addresses Superintendent McNeill gave before the Teachers' League every two weeks during the last two years of his term of office were largely attended by enthusiastic teachers. Courses of study in harmony with modern standards were made and followed. Equipment and courses worthy a city high school put the Memphis high school on the list of accredited high schools. Teachers took advantage of opportunities to seek better equipment. It is said that more than fifty-five per cent. of the white teachers enrolled in summer schools during vacations. An advance in salary was twice made, amounting to about twenty per cent. Thru the cooperation of thousands of taxpayers Memphis reached the proud position of standing first in the South in the payment of teachers' salaries.
In the confusion of issues at the general election last November, one new man was elected to a place on the Board of Education. In July, on the day for the election of Superintendent McNeill to succeed himself, as the community thought, without warning to the citizens, the president of the board, who had been a candidate for the superintendency two and a half years before, entered into a compact with the new member, and one of the old members, who had never become reconciled to the “ Yankee,” to “ change things up.” Superintendent McNeill's two public-minded supporters could not save him. The next day, and for many succeeding days, all the daily papers and a large proportion of the citizens made it personally uncomfortable for the trio, but without avail. The deposed superintendent prudently did not wish his friends to force his reinstatement.
The following abstract from the Commercial Appeal mildly puts the generally accepted views of the matter:
The public schools of Memphis made great progress during the last two years. The School Board, as people thought, had ceased to be an annex to the various political machines of Memphis. The people themselves had confidence in the Board, in the teachers and in the Superintendent, and they did not resist a $500,000 bond issue for a new scheme of education which was added to the great burden of taxation in this city.
Great educators do not seek positions where political favor may be the test of ability in holding educational office. If the school superintendent has to watch politics and watch his schools at the same time, the schools get half of his time and, when politics get hot, less than half. The wrong of the whole thing, then, is against the defenseless child.
Memphis has had some severe jolts within the last month. The worst blow is in the confusion that will follow the disorganization of the public education forces.
Public opinion prevented the consummation of plans of local men to secure the superintendency. Dr. Thomas P. Bailey, Dean of the Department of Education of the State University at Oxford, Miss., was elected.
Superintendent McNeill declined the chair of ethics and philosophy in the University of Mississippi, which was tendered him in September, and has formed a business connection which may, we regret to say, result in his permanent retirement from the educational field.
A LOOKER-ON IN MEMPHIS