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BOARD OF EDUCATION,
The change from annual to biennial sessions of the General Assembly has made it necessary to submit to your Excellency instead of to that body the twenty-third annual report of the State Board of Education,
The work of the Board has been pursued along its usual lines under the guidance of the Secretary with industry and energy. Educational and teachers' meetings have been frequently held in all parts of the State; examinations for the State certificate for teachers have been held in summer and winter at places convenient of access to every town; careful attention has been given to the State Normal School; the work of the agents of the Board in reference to the enforcement of the child labor law has received the necessary supervision and direction; the text book on Physiology and Hygiene, the first attempt of the State to publish a text-book, has issued from the press and has been distributed to nearly every town;* the usual blanks have been issued and distributed, and statistics collected and arranged, all of which will more fully appear by reference to the accompanying important and interesting report of the Secretary with its reports, tables of statistics and other matter. In this report the Board can specially refer to only a portion of these subjects.
* The number distributed to towns will be found on pages 87, 88.
TEXT-BOOK ON PHYSIOLOGY.*
The text-book of Physiology and Hygiene with whose preparation the Board was charged in 1886, was, after numerous and somewhat troublesome delays, issued in September last. Dr. Francis Bacon, having found his professional duties too exacting to allow him to give necessary time to the preparation of the work, was succeeded in that part of it referring to questions of fact by Dr. J. K. Thacher, Professor of Physiology in Yale University. Mr. A. B. Morrill of the State Normal School had the care of the methods of arrangement. The Board need hardly say that it desired to secure Connecticut authors to prepare a book at the expense of the State for the use of the schools of the State. These gentlemen were given entire liberty to use their own judgment in the style and manner in which they should carry out the provisions of the law. It was at first intended that the book should consist of two parts, one for the teacher and the other for the scholar. This was, for the present at least, abandoned and the work was issued in a duodecimo cloth cover of fifty-three pages, with a series of charts for each school using the book. Partly because of this change, partly because of the very condensed style of the authors, and partly because the edition finally decided on, forty thousand copies, was much smaller than at one time it was thought it would be, the $5000 appropriation of 1886 proved amply sufficient to pay all expenses connected with the preparation and publication of the book and leave a surplus of $362, which was covered back into the Treasury.
Too short a time has elapsed since its publication for the judgment of the public upon its merit to be generally expressed. So far it has met with favor in some quarters, in others not. The balance of opinion is favorable, especially among those teachers who are the more experienced in their profession. The more it is used and known the more it gains in favor.
* The book is printed in Appendix pages 295–319.
In reference to the purpose of the book, one view regards the law as mainly requiring the teaching of "the effects of alcoholic liquors, stimulants and narcotics on the human system.” If this is correct, there should only be enough physiology and hygiene in the book to furnish a peg on which to hang such teaching. Precisely this idea obtains in some quarters and finds public expression. Another view regards the law as requiring primarily the teaching of physiology and hygiene, but with the effects of alcoholic liquors, etc., more fully dwelt on than in the usual text-books for the teaching of that study. This view was entertained by the Board in the belief that it was correct and that it expressed the intention of the General Assembly, which during its deliberations on the subject struck the word “evil” from the bill, which originally provided for teaching concerning the evil effects of stimulants and narcotics.” It was the purpose of the Board to follow faithfully the law in the preparation of the book (which duty was far from the desires of the members of the Board) and to the best of its ability to set forth only the truth.
In reference to the adaptation of the book to the wants of all grades of schools, in the nature of the case it would be impracticable in “a text-book” to which the Board was restricted, to give such expanded or simplified matter as would be appropriate, with no other aid, for the most efficient teach. ing of pupils of every grade by law required to attend school. Nor is it more desirable in this than in other studies that teachers should appear before their classes with only such preparation as they can find between the covers of the textbook. Simple repetition of question and answer as found in the scholar's book is now less than ever acceptable teaching. The order of the General Assembly was for “a text-book to be used in teaching." A large portion of school books on all subjects have been too much encumbered with detail. It has been well said that scholars and even many teachers do not
understand how to discriminate between essentials and nonessentials in their text-books. Without going further into the subject, let it suffice here to say that in aiming to fix thoroughly in the pupil's mind short, concise statements, to exclude unnecessary detail and to stimulate thought, the Board believes that the compiler of this work has done a service to the cause of education. It is yet too early to speak confidently of results, but experiments in various schools indicate that the book can in the hands of a skillful teacher be adapted to every grade from the lowest to the highest. It cannot be expected that Physiology can be well taught by an incompetent teacher, nor that in this more than other studies can any text-book either supply the place of the living, enthusiastic teacher, or make a good teacher out of a poor one.
While the Board does not claim for this book perfection, nor exemption from the possibility of improvement, it is convinced that it is a good work and believes that in the hands of good teachers it bids fair to be of essential service in teaching the children of Connecticut to care for their bodies, and so promote good health and habits.
The Board is pleased to have to report that the Normal School at New Britain is in a prosperous condition and steadily improving in the quality of its work. The present corps of teachers is not only efficient and enthusiastic, but appears to make it a point to devise fresh and improved ways and methods of instruction from year to year. The special appropriation of $7,000 made by the General Assembly of 1886 for improvements about the building has resulted in better facilities for heating and ventilation, which for the first time in the history of the building are entirely satisfactory. In the third or attic story have been placed a commodious workshop and an exceptionally well equipped gymnasium. In the former the