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EDUCATIONAL MATTERS OF INTEREST IN VARIOUS STATES.
Report for 1895-96, Hon. T. E. Dalton. superintendent of public instruction.
The census of children has increased since the year 1895 to 16,936, being 1,027 more than in that year. Of this number 76 per cent attended the public schools some time during the year. The attendance at private schools added would raise to 82 per cent. The average of actual daily attendance, however, was only 45 per cent, a fact which, in the opinion of the superintendent, shows the need of an effective compulsory educational law.
The increase in the number of school districts during the year 1895 was 4, making the number now 223. Increase in number of teachers is 3, the whole number now being 224. Some reduction in wages has taken place. Duration of school term was 6.34 months, an increase of about one-third of a month. The number of new schoolhouses built in the biennium is 20. Table of receipts and expenditures is added. At one of the meetings of the Territorial board of education (June 20, 1896), among the instructions given to teachers was the following interesting one regarding corporal punishment:
"Any teacher, before inflicting corporal punishment upon a pupil, must first notify the parents or guardian and one member of the board of trustees of his or her intention at least one day before such punishment is to be inflicted, stating the day and hour at which the punishment will be inflicted, and extending an invitation to such parent or guardian and one trustee to be present. The punishment must not be inflicted in the presence of the school."
The report urgently recommends a uniform course of studies in the entire Territory. The report comments upon the fact that, notwithstanding the severe responsibilities of the superintendent of public instruction, his position is dependent upon one appointing power, which subtracts from its dignity. He contends that, as in other States and Territories, he should have control over county superintendents, trustees, and teachers, and be allowed an adequate salary. The matter is argued at some length. So it is with the provision of the school law which makes the county probate judges ex officio county school superintendents, whether or not they have had experience in teaching. Recommendation is made of some provision of law whereby the standards in grading in county schools by county board examiners may be brought at least to some nearer approximation to conformity. The report, indeed, advances the opinion that these boards should be abolished and their duties assigned to the county superintendent.
The new law for apportionment of school funds, although liable to some objections, has proven to be in the main satisfactory. Some carelessness in the too rapid increase in the number of school districts is complained of, as well as the inefficiency of the existing compulsory school law which the attorney-general has decided to be "inoperative and void."
Report for 1895-96, Superintendent Junius Jordan.
While the value of property in general has dwindled, taxes for school purposes have been maintained. The work of the county normal schools has served to increase greatly competency among teachers and bring about a better system of grading. There has been a notable improvement in schoolhouses, apparatus, and other school appointments. Appeal is made for greater force in the superintendent's office, because of the increased number and burthen of its duties. Notwithstanding the urgent calls from every county in the State in that behalf, the superintendent
was enabled to visit only about one-fourth. Change is earnestly asked in the matter of school directors, many of whom are wholly incompetent, some using the office mainly for the purpose of putting in favorites, and many of whom neglect even the nominal work of making official rules required by law at their hands. It is claimed that present conditions make change from the districts to the town system indispensable.
The report asks for abolition of the office of county examiners and creation of that of county superintendent, with liberal salary. If the former is to remain it is recommended that it be elective, in order to remove it from the influence of politics, candidates being required to stand examination before the State superintendent.
The country schools, although yet far behind what it is desirable they should become, have improved under the influence of the county normal schools. The report recommends advance in the programme of all common schools.
By an act of the general assembly of 1895 a normal school was required to be established for every county in the State, to continue in session for one month. This has been a notable success. Among many things said by the report upon this subject is the following:
"I feel authorized in saying that the money appropriated by the normal for the two years past has done more good for the public schools of Arkansas than all other movements of like nature that have been set on foot. Nor can we afford to stop where we are. The two years were experimental years, but the results show such gratifying success that I feel it my duty to urge on the legislature a continuation of the appropriation for two years more. At the end of that time the State will be able and the necessity apparent for the establishment of one or two permanent normals.” The reports of county examiners, in the opinion of the superintendent, show more and more the inefficiency of the system of directors.
The money received from the Peabody fund, which was $2,750 in 1893 and in 1894 $3,300, has been "utilized in normal work, supplementing the State appropriation in those counties when the attendance was so large and important as to require one or more teachers and in extending, in some instances, the session of one month allowed by the State to five or six weeks, as the case demanded." Normal schools were held for three months in five towns-Jonesboro, Prescott, Hope, Normal, and Forest City, the last two of negro faculties.
The question of uniformity of text-books which prevails in some States is discussed at some length, the superintendent's views being adverse to it beyond the schools that are under the control of their own special boards of control. In view of the great differences in teachers as to culture, habits of thought, and methods of teaching, it would seem impracticable to attempt to carry it throughout the State.
On the whole, what has been done in the matter of education in the State since the beginning of the public system is to be highly commended and is auspicious of happy consequences. It requires much time for a people, however unembarrassed by public, social, domestic, and individual constraints, to become familiar with a policy of great universal importance which has been newly introduced into their life. Such familiarity was necessarily prolonged during the throes of political reconstruction after a disastrous war and the financial struggles, which ever since its passing bave been continuous. It is most noteworthy that the people have cheerfully submitted to the taxation necessary for the prosecution of a purpose whose value has year after year been more clearly recognized.
GREAT PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN THE UNITED STATES.
By EDWARD S. HOLDEN.'
The present decade has witnessed the foundation of several great libraries and the reorganization of others. The movement has not come too soon. Library organization in the United States has been studied with success, and we have a school of librarians whose intelligence and fitness is beyond praise. By their congresses and by their printed papers the main principles, and more especially the details, of their work have received a thorough examination. It might seem that there was little left to be said on matters of organization and policy. But a great library has to meet the wants of a very varied constituency, and it may not be impertinent for one of the outsiders and tax payers to present a few considerations, from the nontechnical point of view, which relate rather to principles than to details. I recollect a sight-seer at the Naval Observatory of Washington who asked to be furnished with a volume which had cost the Government $8 to print. He was highly indignant when his request was denied. He was a tax payer, he said, and demanded
1 Reprinted from Overland Monthly, August, 1897.