« PreviousContinue »
system, An institution once organized carries along with it, by its own force, a whole system of second-rate workers, and re-enforces their feeble efforts by the strength of the organized whole.
As soon as Connecticut had established a normal school, in 1852, Dr. Henry Barnard, the state superintendent there, secured Mr. Philbrick to organize it, As principal, he preached in that normal school the new doctrine of graded schools; and, finally, in institutes all over the state, held by him after he became the state superintendent, he continued to proclaim the same idea, reaching all the intelligent minds open to new ideas on the subject of education.
His return to Boston as superintendent, in January, 1857, opened a new epoch. Already the graded system had been established throughout the city. That was all done within seven years after the Quincy School had led the way. Now began his efficient work on the infant schools. They were classified and organized in accordance with his recommendation, and his untiring supervision of them elevated them to the foremost rank in the school system for excellence. His wise foresight made fast this degree of excellence by securing the adoption of a system of supervision by the grammar school masters, relieving them from some of the labor of the actual work of instruction of classes in order to gain the time requisite for this supervision.
To those unacquainted with school supervision, it seems strange to hear that the mere circumstance of making the head masters of the schools supervisors over a group of schools is in itself one of the greatest of school reforms. The routine of school work is very narrowing in its effects, and continually wears for itself ruts that prevent spontaneity in the teacher. These ruts produce a degeneration in school work. As soon as the head master begins to have work of supervision over other classes he begins to recognize new and good methods, and to carry them from one teacher to the next, thus helping each by the experience of all. He begins to replace dead methods by new, live ones, and there begins to be a vital circulation once more throughout the supervised school.
I have seen a system of schools adopt gradually the Boston method of local supervision. I used to say that the school of four rooms, without supervision, attained a degree of excellence that could be symbolized by twenty to forty per cent. ; that is to say, the amount of real ability brought into actual play in the school was only twenty to forty per cent of the possible power of the teachers.
Again, in a twelve-room school, with a little supervision on the part of the principal teacher, the average degree of excellence in discipline and instruction arose to forty or sixty per cent of the possibility in the teachers. But, in a larger school, when the principal teacher gave his or her time nearly all to supervising, the average of actual excellence arose as high as eighty to one hundred per cent of the capacity. The assistants felt new powers of work, and lived in a sort of vitalized atmosphere, accomplishing what they could never have believed it possible to accomplish under the system without supervision.
Organized supervision holds fast the ground already gained, and moves on to new achievements, for supervis. ion means that the individual contributions to methods of discipline and instruction are seen by the supervisor and carried to all others, so that each teacher is reenforced by all, and all by each.
The inventory of the great items of Mr. Philbrick's work as an educator includes, besides the organization of the graded school system, a multitude of suggestions regarding the proper methods of teaching special branches of study. These are to be found scattered through his school reports. The introduction of industrial drawing into the Boston schools, the state law making it obligatory on all cities of 10,000 inhabitants, the importing of the requisite experience and teaching ability from the great English Art School at South Kensington, the establishment of the State Normal Art School, and, finally, the spread of this branch of instruction to all the cities of the land, - Mr. Philbrick receives justly great honor for the very prominent share that he had in this move. ment, both as an originator and organizer.
To him, also, is due the introduction of evening schools, schools for licensed minors, and the evening high schools.
In the matters of school architecture the questions of hygiene greatly interested him. He discusses the most important advances in this matter over and over in his reports. The size of playgrounds, gymnastics and calisthenics, ventilation, proper heating, and, above all, the proper lighting of schoolrooms, were favorite themes of discussion and suggestion with him. The size of the schoolroom, the method of seating by single desks, the lighting of the room from the left side of the pupil by numerous windows ascending to the ceiling of the room, the proper size of the school for the best purposes of grading and classification, have been discussed by him in a thoughtful manner.
I come to what is, perhaps, his greatest intellectual trait. He believed in the study of the history of pedagogy. He prided himself on possessing the best library of education to be found in private hands in America. His motto was: “Study education as a whole," — know it as it is at home and abroad. You will find that the history of education contains the career of most educational ideas, showing their inception and adoption, and their subsequent effects, and, if they proved wanting on trial, you will find that also in the history of education.
He had attained that noblest ideal of the supervisor which we have described as exercising the function of taking from each one the original and valuable devices of method, and transplanting the same into the daily work and routine of the others. He now held that the supervisor must take all education, past and present, into his survey, and try to improve his system of schools by introducing the good elements wherever found, and eliminating the bad. "Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.” Of course each teacher has his idiosyncrasy and cannot be helped by all methods that are good for others. Each is in need of some specific, as it were; hence there must be careful and wise study of the history and laws of growth of one's own system before one undertakes to modify it in any particular.
Mr. Philbrick's aim was to be judicial, and not partisan. This appeared even in his style of writing his reports. He scarcely completes a sentence advocating a much needed reform before he hastens to make qualifications suggested by experience and reflection. The reform is not a cure-all, not a nostrum infallible in all cases, but is good under such and such conditions. Не proceeds to quote its hostile critics, and to show just wherein they are right. Almost all the great pedagogical reformers have been men of one idea. Mr. Philbrick was a many-sided reformer, and held that a reform is unworthy of its name until it can be reduced to practice.
With his wide glance taking in the entire field of education and cordially recognizing genuine merit everywhere, it was quite natural that he came to be recognized himself in all quarters of the world. In Spain, Russia, · Japan, Austria, Belgium, England, and Scotland, and especially in France, he was the best known of American educators, and all foreign circles were prompt to acknowledge his eminence and show him honor. It was fortunate for our nation that Massachusetts sent this man to take charge of its educational exhibit in 1873 at the world expo. sition at Vienna. It was more fortunate that the Bureau of Education selected him in 1878 as commissioner in charge of our national educational exhibit at Paris. He took in the situation at a glance. Being thoroughly