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the system, — where the good superintendent is found and trusted. In all this there is not the slightest reflection upon those men and women who, in places without superintendents, have nevertheless better served the schools than an inferior superintendent could possibly have done. Indeed, it is better, in the argument for expert supervision, to dismiss at once all comparisons of able committees with poor superintendents or of poor committees with able superintendents. Each of these conjunctions of superiority with inferiority is abnormal and undesirable. The right comparison to make is that between good men and women, of general intelligence and ability, who cannot be expected as members of school committees to give a large part of their strength and thought and time to the schools, and good men and women, of general intelligence and ability, who have specially trained themselves by study and experience to deal with school questions, particularly with those of an educational character, and who give all their time to this difficult and important work. Ideal supervision in Massachusetts now requires that each of the foregoing kinds shall be supplemented by the other; and that the people everywhere shall press for the highest attainable service on both sides, and press all the harder for it, wherever incompetency has brought either kind into disrepute. Shall a school cease to exist because a teacher has failed therein, or a school committee because its members are a discredit to the town, or a superintendency because its incumbent does not adequately fill it? If good teachers, good committee members and good superintendents are worth having,

and that is the verdict of ninety-five per cent. of our people, - by all means stand by the permanency and universality of the offices, and fight for better holders thereof.

History of Supervision down to 1826. – Mr. George H. Martin, in his historical sketch entitled “ The Evolution of the Massachusetts Public School System,” thus outlines the development of supervision previous to the legislation of 1826:

This legislation (that of 1824* and 1826+) is of commanding importance in Massachusetts school history. It was the first attempt

• Laws of Massachusetts, Feb. 18, 1824.
† Laws of Massachusetts, March 4, 1826.

to remedy the evils of the district system, — not by prevention, but by a check. Every town was required to choose annually a school committee, who should have the general charge and superintendence of all the town schools. They could determine the text-books to be used, and no teacher could be employed without being first examined and certified by them.

Here let us pause and review the history of school supervision in Massachusetts for the first two hundred years.

During the colonial and provincial period there was no statutory provision for the supervision of schools. The selection of teachers and the regulation of the schools were vested in the town as a corporation, and not in any particular officer of it. The choice of teachers was guarded by the requirement that their scholarship and character must be attested by the ministers. In practice there was no uniformity. Often the town in its meeting chose the master, fixed his salary and regulated the terms of admission. More often committees were chosen to perform these functions, as well as to provide and repair schoolhouses and to lay out the districts. These committees were chosen for specified executive functions, and they had no term of service. Most frequently all these functions were performed by the selectmen, as the general executive officers of the town. But in no town was either of the three modes used uniformly or continuously.

The law of 1789 first required supervision, though it left all execu. tive functions still unlodged. The ministers of the gospel and the selectmen, or a committee specially chosen for the purpose, were required to visit and inspect the schools once in every six months, at least, to inquire into the regulation and discipline and the proficiency of the scholars therein. The suggestion of a special committee was quickly acted on, and in the next twenty years a large number of towns chose such a committee, the ministers and selectmen often being ex officiis members. There are in existence several sets of school committee records beginning before 1800, - one beginning in 1712.*

The visitation required by law was a formal and solemn affair. The ministers, the selectmen and the committee, sometimes numbering more than twenty, — the chief priests and elders of the town, - went in stately procession at the appointed time to inspect the schools. They heard the classes read, — Primer, Psalter, Testament, Bible, Preceptor, — examined the writing and the ciphering books, listened to recitations in Latin, aired their own erudition - in the customary school committee way - and took their departure, leaving on the records their testimony to the good behavior and proficiency of the scholars and the fidelity of the master. The quaint record of one such visitation to the school of old Nicholas Pike closes by say. ing, “ The school may be said to flourish like the palm tree.”

* Salem, 1712; Newbury port, 1790; Boston, 1792; Hingham, 1794.

Meanwhile, the support of the schools was falling more and more into the hands of the districts, and the executive functions came to be performed by the district committees, with the results which we have learned to deplore. The law of 1826, therefore, introduced no new idea into the school history of the State; it made universal and compulsory what had already become familar to many communities. But it did more than this : it elevated the school interests by differentiating them, specializing these functions — as the care of the roads, of the poor, of taxing, had long before been specialized.

The law of 1789 was a long step forward, by making it somebody's business to know what the schools were doing. This law was a longer step forward, by making the somebody a special body, and giving to it new and more extended powers. It is not strange that the law met with vigorous opposition. Petitions came to the next Legislature urging its repeal, but it was not repealed.

So arrogant had the little districts become, so jealous of their imagined rights, - though they had had a corporate existence but thirty-seven years, -- that they complained of the new law as being arbitrary and oppressive, because it gave back to the town a part of the powers which bad always belonged to it, but which the districts had usurped.

The law was not repealed, but a sop was thrown to the districts, which in practice went far to neutralize all the good effects of the law. This was the authority given to the prudential committee to select the teacher. * The power had been long exercised; now it was legally conferred. The town committees neglected their restrictive duties, so that in many towns the new legislation was practically inoperative.

It was not until the year 1882 that the school district system in Massachusetts was finally abolished by law, thus ending one of the longest and most stubbornly contested controversies in the school history of the State. The good sense of the people, however, had voluntarily abolished it over a large part of the State long before the State saw its way to a final summary disposition of it. Some of the States that borrowed our unfortunate school district system are still struggling to get rid of it, and the secretary of the Board is frequently called upon to tell how the township system is working in Massachusetts, as compared with the discarded district system.

* Laws of 1827.

Conservatism, however, has its value with us. It heads off many a wild scheme. The policy that triumphs over it must usually have merit to do so; and when it triumphs conservatism will at length make its stand on that, and await the next

As a result, the progress made in Massachusetts is of a solid and enduring sort. If a sound idea has strength to fight its way to advanced positions, the same strength enables it to hold on to them when gained.

move.

TEACHERS' INSTITUTES. Number and Attendance. — The following table gives sundry facts about the State institutes held in 1899 :

XXXI. Table showing the Location of State Institutes for 1899, and

Sundry Facts about them.

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XXXI. Table showing the Location of Institutes, etc. — Concluded.

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Division of Institute Work in 1899 among the Agents. The institute work was divided among the agents as follows:

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Mr. Fletcher and Mr. MacDonald conducted the long summer institutes at Northampton and Salem respectively. In the western part of the State several small institutes have been held to accommodate rural teachers working under special conditions of isolation.

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