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place in society, on a level of respectability with the average of what are called the liberal professions? We pretend to honor the work of the teacher, and to regard it as highly as that of the clergyman, the lawyer, and the physician ; but let us ask, in all earnestness, whether our actions correspond with our pretences. How stands the fact ? Can a gentleman, placed at the head of a public school, which occupies his time and thoughts, to the exclusion of all other business, meet the expenses of a family, share in the intercourse of refined society, and put by something against a rainy day, on a salary of fifteen hundred dollars a year, in the city of Boston? The question answers itself. A bachelor can doubtless do well enough upon that income anywhere. It is more even than he deserves. But teachers are not apt to remain bachelors, nor is it desirable that they should. A severe and painful economist, doubtless, by living in a miserable street, where rents are cheap, by denying himself and his family all amusement, by making his wife and daughters do all the servile work of the cook and the chambermaid, by abstaining from the purchase of books, by never entertaining friends at his house, — in short, by giving up all the embellishments and refining influences of life, — may thus contrive to keep soul and body together, though there can be very little in the partnership to make it mutually desirable ; but it is perfectly plain that the condition of such a man, so far as his salary is concerned, is far below that of the master mechanic or the wholesale
grocer. The house-builder and the tenant of a stall in Quincy Market increase in wealth from year to year, and at length buy houses in Beacon street, furnish them with sumptuous Parisian luxury, open their doors to the fashionable world, and place within their children's reach every refinement of letters and art. This is all right. But where is the head of a public school all this time? Toiling on from year to year in an employment which, according even to Boston notions, is obscure, while common sense declares it to be most important. When Boston society is spoken of, no person dreams of including in the collective idea the masters and sub-masters of the much boasted public schools. When distinguished gentlemen from other cities or foreign countries visit Boston, and its elegant hospitalities are extended to them, no one dreams of asking the masters and sub-masters of the public school to share in the social rites by which the stranger is welcomed.
The traveller, who wishes to see the institutions for which Boston is famed, may be taken to the public school, and asked to admire the regularity, order, intelligence, and able management there displayed ; but he to whose talent, accomplishment, industry, skill, and tact these honorable boasts of the city are due, is scarcely thought of in the general claim for the credit which the public makes, and is allowed to
In the circle of the saloon, where the stranger is received in the evening, to the delights of cultivated conversation, and where the effect of the scene is heightened by the elegant arts, by the elaborate toilette, by entrancing music, and it may be by the science of the cuisine and the exhilaration of Champagne and the Rhine, does the stranger meet the masters and sub-masters of the Boston schools ? He will find there the lawyer, all forensic cases laid aside ; the clergyman, in black coat and white cravat; the banker, forgetful of interest and discounts; the merchant, respited from the anxieties of the cotton-market and the exchange; the speculator, fresh from the purchase of stocks which support the Mexican war; the clerk, dismounted from his three-legged stool, his ledger closed and locked up in the iron safe; the spendthrift even, known to be a useless cumberer of the ground. But in this throng of varied characters who make up what is called preëminently the society of Boston, the master of the public school, who has spent the day in benefiting the moral and intellectual natures of six hundred Boston youth, is not to be found. It does not occur to society that such a man has a claim to their respect, sympathy, and hospitality, so far as these are shown by acting towards him as if he were one of themselves.
There are some who care nothing for society beyond that of their immediate family and most intimate friends. But the indulgence of this indifference is good neither for body nor mind in any case ; and the teacher needs the relaxation and exhilaration of society in a more especial manner than any other professional man. We say, then, that a community, which truly values the education of the mass of its children, ought to value the services of its public teachers enough to place them, in social estimation, and in the means of a modest elegance of life, not much below the average position of the liberal professions. As things are now, the condition of a public teacher is a depressing, exhausting, discouraging
There is little in it to make him feel the stimulus of hope for himself and for those who are nearest and dearest to him. The young, the able, and the ambitious see nothing attractive in the profession. They see the most faithful and zealous condemned to a life of pinching economy and obscurity. The spur of fame, which rewards distinguished exertion in other intellectual occupations, rarely touches the spirit of the teacher in a public school. The prospect of wealth he would be insane to take into the account. As a general rule, the young, the able, and the ambitious will therefore turn their thoughts to other and more brilliant careers. See what a vastly disproportionate share of the talent of this country is drawn into the profession of the law. Now it cannot be that the mass of details in legal practice is a whit more liberal or liberalizing than the details of a teacher's daily routine. But the legal profession stands high in the public estimation. It opens the path which leads to wealth, to honor, to the possibility of the highest honor which the country has to be
The reputation of a good lawyer opens the doors of the best society for his admission, and, what he will prize infinitely more than any advantage personal to himself, places his children within the reach of the most desirable associations that any community can furnish. We do not say that able men will not accept the place of public teacher in our city, even under all the discouragements of the profession. If we venture upon any such rash assertion, the admirable reports named at the head of this article would contradict us point-blank. The talent, skill, and accomplishments now employed in the public schools of Boston, and the success of the teachers' efforts under the discouragements of their situation and of some fundamental defects in the organization of the schools, are very surprising. But would not the glow of honor and prosperity which the able instructor merits make even these gentlemen feel a greater ardor in the pursuit of the objects of their profession, and devote themselves with even more enthusiasm to the duties of their noble calling?
In making the foregoing observations, we have had in our eye only the schools embraced in the reports. The Boston Latin School is an institution with which the higher education of the city is intimately connected. It has always been the brightest jewel in the crown of the city's honor. Every
year a large class of young men, the very élite of Boston, go forth from its friendly portals, to enter upon the studies of the neighbouring University. The exactness and thoroughness with which the classics have always been taught there, and especially under the present distinguished head and his able corps of associates, have been the chief reliance of the University and the other schools in their efforts to keep the standard of classical learning high. The salaries in this institution, though on a more liberal scale, bear no fair proportion to the talent and labor which the maintenance of the school at its present height of fame imperiously demands. And yet it is not many years since the city, in violation of an implied contract, and in a fit of niggardly and absurd economy, cut down the salaries of the heads of this and the English High School ; and though a return to common sense has put a stop to the injustice, yet the sum honestly due these gentlemen for arrears during the period of repudiating curtailment has not to this day been paid.
We have touched upon these considerations by way of introduction to a slight notice of the School Reports of 1847. Topics of this nature scarcely come within the range of a school committee, and it is not therefore surprising that they have received no attention. They force themselves, however, irresistibly upon the notice of one who looks upon
the Boston schools from abroad, and who sees reason to sympathize with the peculiar hardships which a city schoolmaster is compelled to bear. To exhaust the subject, which we feel to be one of immense importance to the welfare of every American city, would far transcend our limits ; we must therefore content ourselves with these brief hints of a general nature, and now confine what we have further to say to the pamphlet before us.
At the head of the sub-committee that made the report on the Grammar Schools stands the name of George B. Emerson, - a gentleman identified with the intellectual progress of the city for nearly a quarter of a century. To speak of bis merits as they deserve will belong, at some very remote day, we trust, to his biographer. But without trenching on the reserve proper on the present occasion, we may say, that his long experience, bis profound acquaintance with the subject, and his searching intellect give an authoritative weight to his opinions on education. This report is distinVOL. LXVI. - No. 139.
guished for clearness of arrangement, and the intelligible manner in which the condition of the schools is described, the scrupulous and discriminating justice with which the labors of the several instructors are set forth, the care with which all the circumstances in the situation of the schools and the character of the scholars which ought to influence the judgment formed upon the teachers' course are explained, and, what is of more importance beyond the limits of the city, for the general reflections incidentally thrown in. The pamphlet consists of a general view of the appearance of the schools, which occupies the first eighteen pages ; then a particular account of each of twenty schools, as ascertained by oral examination, conducted for the most part by the members of the committee. This is followed by discussions of the following subjects : Moral Instruction, the System of two independent Heads in the Grammar Schools, Text-Books, Vagrant Children, and Intermediate Schools. The remainder of the document, from the sixty-fifth page to the end, is occupied by “tables of the questions proposed at the examination of the Grammar Schools, together with the character of the answers given to each question in the several schools."
To the friend of education, all these details are of the highest interest. It is due to the teachers of the Grammar Schools to say, that the general results, stated by the committee with perfect impartiality, are most honorable to their fidelity and talents. On the mode of examination, the committee make these impartial remarks :
“ In their first visits, the Committee endeavoured to ascertain, by personal questioning and inspection, the condition of the schools in respect to the instruction given and the progress made in reading, grammar, geography, and history; the examination being, in all cases, and, with few exceptions, throughout, conducted by the Committee. They are aware that this mode of examination gives but a partial view of the condition of a school. The oral examination, to be completely just and satisfactory, ought to be in part conducted by the Committee and in part by the teacher. The point reached, the attainments made in each study, may be ascertained by a Committee, by means of questions put by themselves, while the teachers are looking on as spectators. But other points not less important, — the language, the manner, and the spirit of the teacher, the intelligence, vivacity, and thoroughness of his teaching, and the mental habits