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THE VIRGINIA SCHOOL JOURNAL,
P. O. DRAWER 926,
N. E. A.
The Department of Superintendence of the National Educational Association will meet in Chicago, February 27th, 28th, and March 1st. Prelimi nary programs for advance issue are now in press. The usual rate of one fare and a third has been secured from all passenger associations in the United States. Headquarters of the Department will be at the Auditorium Hotel, and meetings will be held in Studebaker Hall. We hope Virginia will be represented at this important meeting.
Superintendent Southall's recommendation that the Legislature authorize the appointment by the Board of Education of a competent commission to revise the school laws of the State is very timely and judicious. The edition of the laws now in use was prepared in 1892, since which time some changes have been made in the laws. Furthermore, several statutes have become antiquated, and should be amended or repealed, and some new legislation is needed. The utmost care should be be exercised in revising the laws. A commission well acquainted with the practical working of school systems would doubtless improve the law in many particulars. If the Legislature now in session should authorize the selection of such a commission, a new code could be prepared in time to be submitted to the Legislaaminations, after competure two years hence. We hope Dr. Southall's tency has been once estab- suggestion will be adopted, and that the proposed new code will meet with the hearty approval of the Legislature.
1. Better salaries for teachers, and prompt payment. 2. A longer school term for chilThe dren, and more effective teaching. Virginia 3. Life diplomas, issued by the State and worthily won. School 4. A deliverance from annual exJournal Stands For
5. A Teachers' Reading Circle,
We would be glad to receive from our readers statements of views on any of the above subjects. Be brief and to the point.
In 1888 a joint committee of school officers and members of the General Assembly prepared and presented for adoption a new school code, but the bill was pigeonholed and the work of the committee was lost. There is urgent need for immediate action in this important matter. The school system is the chief interest of the State, and the Legislature cannot afford to be indifferent to its efficiency.
The meeting of the Southern Educational Association at Memphis on December 27th was an eminently successful one, more than seven hundred delegates, representing the entire South, being present, as well as a number of Northern educators. Virginia's Superintendent, Dr. Joseph W. Southall, was unavoidably absent. Our State was, however, ably represented by many prominent educators, among whom were Dr. W. W. Smith, of RandolphMacon College; Miss Celestia Parrish, of Randolph-Macon Woman's College, and Mr. B. F. Johnson, of Richmond, all of whom made address es, which added to their own reputation as educators and to the honor of their State.
We have had occasion more than once in these columns to congratulate ourselves, and all engaged in educational pursuits throughout our land, on having at our head a man of such profound intelligence, of such broad and far-seeing wisdom, as our Commissioner of Education, Dr. W. T. Harris. Nowhere has he shown in a greater degree this penetrating knowledge of the true and broad relations of things than in his address before the Memphis meeting.
The contribution that he makes to the subject of child study by directing the teacher to the danger that lurks in a too great desire for thoroughness in the pupil is one that is much needed. He justly says that there is great temptation to the teacher to keep her pupils on her own subject under the plea of making them thorough, long after the time when development is arrested and they have become listless and mechanical in their habits of study. When the will power and various faculties of the mind are no longer called into action, and the study becomes, by repeated acts of the will, simply a habit, mental development ceases, habit does most of the work, and the study is no longer educative. The caution that Dr. Harris gives to teachers in his advice is a timely
one, for most of us are unconsciously inclined to spend too much valuable time in the effort to compass thoroughness on the part of pupils.
We give in this issue of the JOURNAL an account of Lynchburg's Art Loan Exhibition. The example of the progressive and able Superintendent of the Lynchburg schools, Mr. E. C. Glass, in providing his schools with a library, is one that may well be emulated by other superintendents in our State. It is a verification of the old proverb, "Where there's a will there's a way."
In compliance with a request from us, Hon. George C. Round, clerk of the Manassas School Board, has sent us a
very interesting account of the dedication of Ruffner School No. 1 of Manassas, which we publish in this issue. He has also forwarded a letter sent
by Dr. Ruffner to be read at the dedication in which the father of the Virginia schools gives his final advice to the educators of Virginia, and which we should like to have every teacher and school officer in the State, read and take to heart. Like all the utterances of Dr. Ruffner, it is well worthy of careful consideration, and is peculiarly so in this instance, since he declares it to be his last "testimony in behalf of our public school system." This letter will be found in another department of this issue of the JOURNAL. shall give our readers in the March JOURNAL some other papers read at the dedication, including a clearly stated and thoughtful paper by Mrs. Fannie B. Metz, Principal of Manassas Institute.
It will be remembered that this is the school to which Mr. Andrew Carnegie gave $1,000 for a library on condition that another story should be added to the new building to accommodate the books. Accordingly the third story of the building is reserved for the Carnegie Public Library.
educated in this State at the public cost, while his neighbor, who has daughters, must educate them at his own expense, and if he wishes them to have the advantages of a university must send them out of the State? We fail to see the justice of this condition of affairs, and believe the time is not far distant when all our higher institutions of learning will offer equal advantages to both sexes. Speed the day, and when it comes, we shall wonder that it could ever have been otherwise.
I wish to thank the teachers of Virginia for the cordial manner in which they have supported me in my work; and I assure them that it is with deep regret that I separate myself from such a noble band of workers. I hope that in the future they will continue to show the same zeal that has characterized their work for the past year. A strong League is essential to the protection of the teaching profession and the continued growth of the public school system. I hope the teachers will stand firmly together, and before another session passes there will be a League in every county of Virginia.
I have the pleasure of reporting the League in a most excellent condition. There has been a most decided increase in its organization within the last three months.
I have written to Miss Parrish, Lynchburg, Va., requesting her to act as president during my unexpired term. With such culture and learning as is possessed by Miss Parrish brought to the presidency, I feel sure of the permanent success of the League.
Mr. Cowles displayed great wisdom in selecting Miss Parrish as his successor. The League will
be safe in her hands.
TALKS ON SCHOOL LAW AND
(Continued from January JOURNAL.) Employment of Teachers-Boards of Reference.II.-The Legislature at its session of 1897-'98 set at rest all doubt as to the jurisdiction of a special board of reference in cases of appeal concerning the employment of teachers. The following act
approved February 28, 1898, is a substitute for subsection second, section 23, page 43 of the School Laws.
An act to amend and re-enact subsection second of section 1466 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the duties of boards of school trustees.-1. Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, That sub
section second of section 1466 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the duties of boards of school trustees, be amended and re-enacted so as to read as follows:
Subsection second. To employ teachers and to dismiss them when delinquent, inefficient, or in* anywise unworthy of the position: provided, however, that the authority hereby given shall be subject to appeal to the board of reference provided by section 1487 of the Code of Virginia.-Acts of Assembly, 1897-'98, chapter 559.
Following is the law creating the board of reference (section 1487 of the Code; section 45 of the School Laws):
The board of school trustees shall provide suitable school houses, with proper furniture and appliances, in every school district; and to that end may hire, purchase or build such houses, according to the exigencies of the district and the means at their disposal: provided, that any five heads of families belonging to the district, who may feel aggrieved by the action of the district board in fixing the location of a school house on a particular spot, or in discontinuing a school, which they may have established by employing and paying a teacher in any house they may have purchased, hired or occupied free of rent for the purposes of said school, shall be allowed to appea! from such action to a special board of reference, to be composed of the county superintendent, as president, and any two trustees whom he may associate with him from any other district: in the county, except that of the district concerned; and on the written request of heads of families aforesaid, addressed to the county superintendent, it shall be the duty of that officer, without unnecessary delay, to call a meeting of the board of reference, at or near the disputed place or places, giving due notice to all parties concerned. And if, at the time and place appointed, the board of reference be present, it shall proceed to both sides of the case, to examine in person all competing locations, and to decide where the schoolhouse in question shall stand; or whether the school in question shall be continued as a public free school; which decision shall be final.
This board shall have jurisdiction over all questions which may be presented for its consideration, by similar appeal, concerning the action of the district board in respect to any subject over which the district board has power. Any action taken by this board of reference shall be duly recorded in the record book of the district board whose action is reviewed, and also in the book of the county superintendent of schools.
It will be observed that this law does not apply to cities. The school board of a city is a unit, and therefore the Superintendent cannot organize a board of reference by "associating with him any
two trustees from any other district except that of the district concerned," etc.
It is presumed that "any five heads of families belonging to the district, who may feel aggrieved by the action of the district board" in employing a teacher, will file with the County Superintendent their written request before the district board enters into a written contract with the teacher. The law, however, does not prescribe the time within which such appeal may be made, and, as contracts are made subject to existing laws, no teacher is secure in her position unless and until a board of reference has passed upon her appointment. [Under the law, district boards are required to enter into written contracts with teachers before they enter upon the discharge of their duties.]
The law is specific as to the procedure in appeals concerning the location of a schoolhouse or the discontinuance of a school. But the method of procedure in appeals in regard to the employment of teachers is not set out. This omission has occasioned much misunderstanding as to the powers and duties of a board of reference in such a case, and perplexed both local school officers and the Central Office.
Some of the difficulties have been pretty well settled by practice in such cases:
1st. The five heads of families who feel aggrieved should be patrons of the school, or should pledge themselves to become patrons of the school.
2nd. The "written request" to the County Superintendent for the appointment of a board of reference should set forth the specific reasons for preferring the request-the reasons why the parties feel aggrieved.
3rd. Each one of the five heads of families should sign the "written request" in proper person. 4th. After satisfying himself that the foregoing conditions have been complied with, the County Superintendent should associate with him "two trustees from any other district in the county except that of the district concerned," fix the time and the place of meeting of the board of reference, notify all parties in interest, and furnish the district board whose action is to be reviewed, and also the teacher involved, a copy of the reasons given by the complainants for asking an appeal.
5th. The province of a board of reference is to determine whether the action of the district board in the appointment of a teacher shall stand or be set aside. Should the board of reference decide
to set aside the action of the district board, the appointment of the teacher is thereby annulled and the contract cancelled. Here the power of the board of reference is exhausted. It has no authority to appoint a teacher. That authority belongs exclusively to the district board. Therefore, if a board of reference sets aside the action of a district board, this action creates a vacancy and the district board should proceed to fill it by the appointment of another teacher. Of course, if a board of reference approves the action of a district. board, the appointment stands.
Letter From Dr. Wm. H. Ruffner.
FINAL TESTIMONY FOR FREE SCHOOLS.
LEXINGTON, VA., December 26, 1899.
HON. GEORGE C. ROUND.
My dear Sir,-It would give me peculiar pleasure to attend the dedication of the enlarged Ruffner school building, but my age (now nearly 76) and my infirmities forbid. This school has long been an object of interest to me, and its present enlargement excites my warm sympathy. It is a credit to all concerned; and I do not doubt that Mr. Round, who to my knowledge has been working with intelligent zeal in the cause of education for thirty years, has done his full share in this new enterprise. I am glad that that princely Scotchman, Andrew Carnegie, has turned his benevolent eye upon our Southernland where help is so much needed.
Your addition of the high school course has great importance from the fact that our educational system is weakest in the secondary branches. The more distinctive and independent you can make the high school the better. But I would not be understood as making light of the lower grades, which are in fact the most important, not only because they reach the greatest number, but because their studies are the root from which all subsequent studies grow; and they are the instruments used in giving character to the mental development at the most formative period of life. The most skillful teachers should have charge of the youngest children and the most elementary branches.
But with such officers and teachers as you have, backed by an intelligent public sentiment, I doubt not you will have a school conducted on the best principles and methods. To such teaching the children will respond joyfully. They have a craving for knowledge, which is more insatiable than it is in after life. They appreciate the true, the beautiful and the good. They only ask the teacher to make them understand what they are expected to learn. A boy may wear the dunce cap and yet have the best mind in the school. What he wants is good teaching or else the spirit that Stonewall Jackson had throughout his school course, which led him to refuse to enter upon a new lesson until he had understood the previous The remedy for all the evils of the schoolroom is a plenty of good teachers. But you hear enough on these points. I want to say something in respect to a more fundamental difficulty.
Mrs. Randolph, in her famous "Cookery Book," under the head of "How to Cook a
Hare," says, "first catch the hare!" So, the first So, the first thing to be done with the children is to bring them to school! During the last school year the average daily attendance was less than one-third of the school population of the State. And what is worse-indeed, alarming is that the attendance upon the public schools has not increased in the last five years! Hence, relatively, it is annually diminishing; the population of the State being supposed to increase year by year. This is deplorable, and indicates a lethargic condition which is death to all present hopes of a general education of the people.
This general downward tendency ought certainly to arouse the friends of education, who should search out the causes and apply the remedies. We cannot lay the decline upon any deficiency of school funds; they have been liberal from the first, and have been increased from one million, in the early years of the system, to two millions last year, and might be so managed as to double their efficiency. Whatever virtue may be in laws compelling parents to educate their children, such laws are out of the question in Virginia just now. Such laws to have any value must be the outgrowth of a lively public interest in the cause, and a strong faith in such laws; neither of which conditions exists at present in Virginia.
What, then, should be done? I will mention a part. There are certain influences which are slow, but sure, in attracting the children to school.
1. I will first mention the familiar subject of improvement of teachers. Here the Legislature has failed egregiously in understanding the demands of a school system. But for the Peabody fund, and the zeal and ability of a few men, chief among whom stands E. C. Glass, pedagogy, with its science and applications, would be almost unKnown to the mass of Virginia teachers. The work of our few normal schools is of great value, but these instrumentalities can only be compared to a few small lights shining in a great expanse of darkness. At least $100,000 should be added annually to the present small appropriations for the improvement of teachers.
2. The externals of education must be made more inviting. Our cities and towns have done much in this direction, but the country schoolhouses are generally poor and badly neglected. It does not require large money to build a pleasant looking schoolhouse, and to take care of it after it is built; to furnish it suitably, to enclose and plant its grounds, and by the exercise of a little good taste to give an air of comfort and beauty to the whole establishment. Nothing is more calculated to bring a school system into contempt
than to see the desolate looking, unpainted, gaping door and rail-propped shutters, which are not unfrequently exhibited along our public roads, aud, per contra, there is no influence that primarily commands respect, or more attracts the children, than hospitable looking schoolhouses and grounds with nothing to offend the most refined taste; all of which is entirely practicable in every community.
3. There needs to be much quiet missionary work among the needy poor, and among the selfindulgent or short-sighted parents who appreciate their own present comfort more highly than they do the education of their children. Here is a poor widow wholly dependent upon the labor of her children; there is a bed-ridden father in the same distressed condition; and yonder is a family that might spare their children, but cannot clothe them decently. A compulsory law will not meet such cases as these. Will not their neighbors, for Christ's sake, look after these people?
As for those parents who could send their children, but do not, mothers who would rather their daughters should have a buggy than an education, fathers who would rather the sons should save them the chopping of the wood than know how many feet make a cord; people who are sometimes too ignorant and stupid to know better, and sometimes too selfish and mean to be just, even to their own children; even these may be ir fluenced.
4. All this, and a great deal more of the same sort, is known to those who have worked in the cause of popular education. The desire for knowledge is in inverse proportion to its possession, and there are special causes, poorly understood, which shake the faith of even intelligent people in the value of universal education. It should be admitted that there may be extravagant hopes in regard to the immediate effects of school education, both lower and higher; methods and courses of study may be justly criticised; new and highly diversified systems of teaching and training may be needed; but nothing has shaken or can shake the fundamental principles on which is based the argument for popular education by
The dangers to our school system were known when our school law was framed, and certain provisions were incorporated which were intended expressly to meet and overcome these evil tendencies. The army of school officers which has been scattered over the State, were not intended to be solely or chiefly engaged in a mechanical routine of official duties; they were to be the expounders of the school law in all its mighty pur