« AnteriorContinuar »
to raise enough money so that no maximum rate for either state or locality need be written in the law. Hence a larger local fund could be raised for educational purposes, and more state money would be available for distribution.
Illinois still cherishes the out-worn principle of distribut-ing funds according to the school population. The law of 1855 inaugurated a policy of so distributing the state tax and common school fund that the less able communities would be aided by those who were more able to pay, but it was repealed because the rate of assessment was so unequal in each district, and the wealthier sections wanted their state school tax returned to their own districts for their own schools. It is entirely conceivable that certain sections in some parts of southern Illinois have found it impossible to provide both elementary and secondary education at all equal to that which has been provided in the central and northern districts of the State. The latter territory should be taxed by the State and the money so distributed that the children of the former will have a more equitable opportunity.
The abolition of individual tuition payment for nonresident pupils in high school areas as provided by the law of 1917 is a partial equalizing of opportunity for secondary education. The academy and the common school usually received fees before the free school of 1855 made taxation mandatory for the support of the latter and permitted the former to reorganize as a public institution. Even then, there were instances in which tuition was charged for secondary education. Galesburg received a special charter in 1859 which allowed the city council to fix the rate of tuition. For a few years charges were made, so it was said, not to unnecessarily compete with the college academy in town.
At least any school district was permitted to charge tuition for non-resident pupils. Such cities as Springfield, Peoria and Jacksonville made tuition charges for non-resident pupils as soon as the free school law was in operation. Until recently, pupils who lived outside of a school district paid their own tuition in other districts unless their own district consented to pay the rate demanded by the board where the pupil was attending school. Legal residence rather than the ownership of property was necessary to entitle one to free tui
tion, although children that were apprenticed could claim free tuition in the district in which the man to whom they were apprenticed lived.
In 1913, a law was enacted that provided for the payment of the tuition of high school pupils by the district in which the pupil lived to the district where the pupil attended high school. That law was superceded two years later by a law which allowed the tuition to be paid out of the distributable fund by the county superintendent before the money was apportioned to the county. Finally, the law of 1917 required that the non-high school territory of the State shall pay the tuition of their pupils to the district where a high school is maintained. So far as the State as a whole is concerned, individual tuition payment has been entirely abolished.
Many of the ideas in relation to education that have been conceived at an earlier date have taken a long time to realize in practice. The manual labor aspect of the academies purported to make education economically possible, as well as to give the pupils an intelligent understanding of agriculture and industry so that they could perform these pursuits more advantageously in later life. But it was not until 1877 that much the same arguments began to be cited in favor of manual training in high schools. The educational leaders divided on the question as to whether manual training ought to be a cultural or a vocational subject of study. At the present time, all degrees of these two ideas are mingled but the mixture is clarifying somewhat in that the junior high school is taking the ground that it should provide an opportunity for a large range of vocational subject matter in order that the pupil may better understand the constitution of social life; while the senior high school is maintaining that it should provide vocational training along the line for which the pupil is fitted mentally and socially. Some of the high schools in Illinois are beginning to realize these two conceptions.
Other schools have progressed only a little beyond the conceptions underlying the aim of secondary education in the earlier periods. The colonial Latin grammar school existed in order to give the ministerial class advanced education in preparation for college. The academy was partly a protest against that idea so that the lawyer, for instance, found an onportunity for the study of his profession. However the academy ministered to the wants and needs of the upper middle and wealthier people in Illinois. The common school system was a demand by the people for equal rights in education. It found its aims and wants similar, hence it must furnish the same advantages to the public. Therefore, in the earlier years of the high school, programs were copied from the academy. The languages, mathematics, some science and history formed the center of the curricula which were designated as classical, general, English and English classical. The subject matter offered in the high school programs emphasized the idea of formal discipline but a justification for the same material in the high schools now must be based on a different psychology.
The examinations in many of the high schools have shown also little development from formalism. In fact, the method of examination in numerous academies and some of the older high schools had some of the advantages that the present high school examinations have lost. It is true that part of the examination was rigorous, but there was the frequent opportunity for the patrons to come in contact with the work of the school. A stimulus was given to the pupils, while the parents learned the needs of the school. Many of the examination days were occasions for social gatherings which are frequently omitted now. The parents met at the picnic dinner and mingled in a friendly way such as the social center movement is trying to advance. The high school must be a functional institution in the community where it exists, or like the grammar school and the academy, it will be superceded by an institution more in consonance with the life about it.
The academy was unable to reach all of the people, and as a class institution it had to give way to a school for the people. It had, however, a distinct relationship to the common school in preparing teachers, and the normal school is its successor in that respect. A bill of 1835 attempted to set up a state system of county normal academies for the preparation of teachers for the common schools. Some academies were instituted, advertised, and designated as places where prospective teachers could be trained. One of the arguments in favor of the union graded school was that it prepared teachers for the lower departments. County superintendents and teachers' conventions urged the formation of higher schools for teachers. The State created the first normal school in 1857 and others since, as well as making it legal, in 1869, for the establishment of county normal schools.
But the high schools seem never to have lost the idea. Chicago created a department in the high school in 1856 for the instruction of teachers. That course continued in the same institution for several years and then was separated and enlarged into the Chicago Normal School. Little evidence exists that the movement found more than a scholastic encouragement in the high schools over the State until the last two decades. One was supposed to be well qualified to teach the common branches if he had the additional training of the high school. Township high schools have recently taken a real interest in preparing rural teachers. Those institutions are better able to assume the function of preparing rural teachers than the city high schools whose problems are different. Therefore, the State might subsidize teacher training courses in certain designated township high schools in order to encourage and develop this movement that has begun to function more satisfactorily for the country districts.
A reorganization, however, is needed for the county educational department. When Illinois was admitted as a State, the type of local government adopted was that of a county commissioners' court elected at large. One of the commissioners had the important function of supervising the public land of the county, as school commissioner, therefore, his functions consisted of little else. The office of county superintendent grew out of the commissioner office. In spite of the suggestions that the county superintendent supervise the rural schools, that officer's functions have remained inspectoral and clerical.
i A county board should be elected to represent the people, but which has the duty to select a county chief executive officer whose business it would be to administer the schools of the county as the city superintendent manages those of the city. Instead of the county being supreme in itself, as many of the Illinois counties are, it should become a unit in the educational administration of the whole State.
While some superior men have held the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and while the duties
and importance of that office have increased, the same method of election occurs as was established by the law of 1855. Political election has little educational significance, and political prejudices and ideals can be satisfied in the election of the governor who should use his appointive power to select a state board of education. The most important business of the state board would be to appoint a chief executive officer without regard to residence, party, religion, race or sex. This officer should fill the highest educational position in the State not excepting the presidency of the state university. Among the assistants that the state superintendent appointed should be one whose concern would be chiefly with secondary education. The entire State, with the county as the educational administrative unit, could then be developed according to its needs and the interests of any locality.
With the creation of state and county supervisory units, it would be possible to achieve and advance the aims of the educational institutes that began in the early history of the common school. In the more progressive places, by 1850, institutes were held that had a genuine educational significance because superior institute leaders conducted local and state conventions as schools, rather than as social conventions which are held today. Granted the value of the inspirational institute, teachers of the elementary and secondary school ought to be so organized in their conventions that they could be graded and classified according to their needs. The morning sessions might be thus organized in classes which actually recited. The conductor and teachers would have an opportunity to discuss their problems in common. The afternoon should be spent in actual study of a problem for the meeting the following morning. An institute so conducted for a week, and the problems so studied, followed up for the year by the state and county supervisors, would be a vital force in the elementary and secondary education of today.
Such a plan would involve a closer connection of the school with the public libraries and a farther development of the school libraries. Some of the earlier academies were to perform the function of supplying books to the surrounding public. A little later the State attempted to establish school libraries but a recent survey has shown that the Illinois high