Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/97

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93
THE SCHOOL AND THE FAMILY

subvert both the school and the family. The lack of initiative and vitality in our entire school system is appalling. The influence of our half million teachers on the problems of democracy and civilization is entirely insignificant. The attractive and normal girls and the few able men tend to drop out, leaving the school principal, narrow and arbitrary, and the spinster, devitalized and unsexed, as the dominant elements. Boys get but little good from their schooling and leave it when they can. Girls, who need men teachers even more than boys, predominate in the upper classes. Women are good teachers, especially young girls with their intuitive sympathy for children and mothers who have bred children of their own, and women are cheaper than men cf equal education and ability. But the ultimate result of letting the celibate female be the usual teacher has been such as to make it a question whether it would not be an advantage to the country if the whole school plant could be scrapped.

It has been urged that the backwardness of the middle ages was due to the fact that the ablest men were selected for celibacy; with equal plausibility it might be argued that the 400,000 American women teachers withhold the million children who might give to our country the intellectual distinction that it lacks. However this may be, it is certain that the homes and the children are lacking; and in every school patterns are set to be copied in the next generation with disastrous results.

It will doubtless be thought by most of those who read this paper that the futility of our present educational scheme and the evil effects of the school on the family have been exaggerated. The rhetorical phrases that have been used to give emphasis may leave an impression of lack of sanity and humor. It is indeed true that the shadows rather than the lights have been depicted. It would be possible to write in praise of universal education and the humanity of modern civilization, to tell once more how the American school opens the gateway to any career to every child, and how woman has been freed from a slavery as complete as that to which any race has been subjected. But it is not the object of this paper to relate the progress of civilization; its aim is to draw attention to certain poisonous by-products in the hope that antidotes may be found, and to make a suggestion tending in this direction.

The proposal—not likely to be heeded, for if it were, then its need would largely disappear—is that the teacher should be the family and so far as may be that the scholar should be the family.

In the last of the often-read tales that give distinction to American literature, we learn how the traveler, after a weary world search for the three fatalities that should give him love, treasure and influence, returns to his native New England village to find them there in a wife