Popular Science Monthly/Volume 65/September 1904/More Men in Public Schools
|MORE MEN IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS.|
AMONG the recent movements in education, none is more worthy of notice than the call for more men in public school work. The proportion of women teachers has grown steadily. Fifty years ago the men engaged in school work outnumbered the women; the civil war reversed this, and the gap has widened every succeeding year. There are fewer men teaching to-day than there were in 1860, but there are four times as many women. Women will probably continue to do a greater part of the teaching. It is generally recognized that women are better suited than men to instruct young children; and there is certainly a place for them both as teachers and students all the way up from kindergarten to college. Women have exerted a softening and humanizing influence that is accountable in part for the change from the rough school of fifty years ago, from which the teacher was not seldom pitched into the road by his bigger pupils, to the happy, orderly school-room of to-day. Women teachers have accepted a salary of scarcely half what men of like capacity would have accepted. They have thus been the means of extending the public school system to a point far beyond what tax-payers would have borne if equal intelligence had been secured from men. For these and other services in education women are to be congratulated.
And yet we can not help believing that any further increase in the relative number of women teachers would not be to the interests of education. Women outnumber the men in high schools already; and below the high school they reign supreme. Many large city schools of grammar grade employ no men teachers. A majority of boys and girls never come under the instruction of men. There is danger in this of a one-sided development: both sexes are being educated by the sex whose relation to the political and industrial systems is not usually that of either voters or wage-earners.
Less than one woman in five is engaged in earning a living. Of these comparatively few are under the necessity of so doing. They seldom have persons dependent upon them for support, and not often would suffer if thrown out of employment. Their earnings are usually additional to the support given them by others and are regarded as supplementary to the family budget. Even when engaged away from home they can usually count on a father's support in case work fails. Marriage relieves most women of the responsibility of self-support, and parents are willing to keep their daughters at home longer than their sons. The woman teacher has not been accustomed from early life to the thought that she must one day earn her living. She knows even after entering the school-room that her career as teacher is likely at any time to be cut short by marriage. Comparatively few women are wage-earners; the economic condition of the woman wage-earner is, moreover, quite different from that of the man; and the difference lies in the fact that the one is much less under the necessity of work than the other. It might naturally be inferred that the education of both sexes by that sex upon which the necessity of earning a living is rarely imposed would tend to keep economic considerations in the background. And it is true. Even in the higher grades economic independence is seldom a conscious aim; and the esthetic has a larger place than the useful. There ought to be more sympathy than there is for the boy with a yearning as he enters the age of adolescence to get out into the work-a-day world and earn a place for himself; a thing which the enrollment shows he is pretty likely to do if school does not prove that he will be the gainer by delay, or appeal to this side of his nature.
The presence of girls in the same classes with boys is not without significance here. It acts as a reinforcement of the same tendency away from the economic side which we have noted as a result of teachers exclusively women. A study of the tastes and preferences of women students in our universities, as indicated by the studies they elect, reveals the fact that they are not influenced to a great extent by economic forces. Women choose the purely cultural courses. A much larger proportion of them than of men study languages and literature; while very few take seriously to physics, chemistry, mathematics, political economy and political science.
In the University of Chicago in 1900-01, there were 3,520 students registered in attendance, of whom 1,844 were men and 1,676 were women. The two sexes were thus fairly equal in point of numbers, the men out-numbering the women by 168. But in the language courses women greatly out-numbered the men. There were during the year 1,603 women studying English, and only 1,084 men; in French there were 468 women and 435 men; in Latin 621 to 430. In those courses which are more practical as being more closely associated with industry, the figures are reversed; here the men greatly out-number the women. In chemistry during the same year, there were 666 men enrolled and 120 women; in physics, 353 men and 90 women; in political economy, 354 men and 65 women. As showing that women are less interested in political and governmental matters, there were in political science only 68 women to 269 men.
These figures have been compared with statistics of other universities in the same subjects and they show a remarkable similarity. Where the elective system is more freely allowed the choice of culture courses by women and of utility courses by men is still more marked. At the Leland Stanford Junior University in 1901-02, the number of students registered was 1,295, of whom 737 were men and 458 were women, the latter numbering only about three fifths as many as the men. Of the students electing English as a major subject, 156 were women and 58 were men; in Latin, 44 majors were women and 26 were men. On the other hand, in chemistry and economics the women made but a small showing; in the former there were 56 men to 13 women, and in the latter 62 men to 7 women. These figures will be more apparent in
|Class Enrollment by Subjects, the University of Chicago.||Class Enrollment by Major Subjects, Leland Stanford Junior University.|
the case of both universities cited, by reference to the graphs below. A large number of college women prepare themselves for teaching; it is probable that still fewer would be found in science courses if these were not demanded in the teaching profession.
The great preponderance of girl students in our high schools coupled with the fact that more than half the teachers are women may account for the loss of ground which the sciences have recently met with in secondary schools. The period from 1890 to 1900 was one of rapid expansion in high school work; the requirements for graduation were greatly strengthened, in some cases the amount of required work being almost doubled. During this decade the number of students pursuing courses in history, algebra, English and the languages (Greek excepted) was greatly augmented; from 5 to 50 per cent, more of high
school students being occupied with each of these subjects in 1900 than in 1890. But the percentage of students taking work in science has actually fallen off. The figures are taken from reports of the Commissioner of Education at Washington.
Greek is the only language that suffered a decline. The falling off in the number pursuing physics and chemistry is out of all harmony with modern industrial demands; students of these subjects in scientific and technical schools are being called to positions before they have graduated. Among those preparing to enter college, the sciences are losing ground, the classics gaining. In 1889-90, 51 per cent, of students preparing for college were preparing to enter the classical course, and 49 per cent, the scientific; in 1895-96, 52 per cent, were preparing for the classical, and 48 per cent, for the scientific; in 1899-00, 56 per cent, were preparing to enter the classical and 44 per cent, the scientific. The number of competent science teachers is now short of the demand, though language teachers are far in excess of it.
Coeducation has its share in forming sentiment and shaping instruction. The high school must suit its curriculum to the needs of its pupils; it has to give what is demanded. Since girls are in a decided
majority, and the number of women teachers is in excess of the men, it is not strange that cultural courses receive the most attention.
Below the high school a still higher percentage of teachers are women. A circumstance that shows the effect of this on school work occurred to our notice a few years ago in a certain county of California. The attempt was made to introduce a little elementary physics into the ninth grade of grammar schools. The community was mainly rural; and it was thought that since most of the boys left school from that grade, it would be well to teach them the simple mechanical laws of pulley, lever, wheel and axle, screw, etc., to apply to their farm experience. It was a laudable design; but it was a failure. The teachers were women, competent above the average, but they were not interested in that side of life, and they simply could not, except in rare instances, make a success in it. A flood of protest poured in from them to the county superintendent, and the subject was shortly discontinued. In view of the situation, we should not be surprised that almost everywhere in our public schools the esthetic has the preference over the practical—that poetry and literature receive more attention than arithmetic; painting and art than mechanical drawing; and music and the languages than physics, chemistry and industrial training.
Mr. Calvin M. Woodward, president of the St. Louis Board of Education, has made a study of the causes which impel pupils, and
Growth in Number of Children of School Age and of Pupils Enrolled, in Typical State of Illinois. The gap between these lines widens with increasing number of women teachers. Boys outnumber girls in primary grades but are outnumbered in upper grades.
especially boys, to drop out of school between the ages of 12 and 15. Circumstances are seldom such as to render it necessary for them to go to work for wages. Mr. Woodward says:
My deliberate conclusion, after a careful study of the matter, is that the prime causes for the abnormal withdrawals are: First, a lack of interest on the part of the pupils; and secondly, a lack on the part of parents of a just appreciation of the education now offered, and a dissatisfaction that we do not offer instruction and training of a more practical character.
The pupils become tired of the work they have on hand, and they see in the grades above them no sufficiently attractive features to invite them. They become discontented and neglectful; failure follows, they get behind, and then they stop.
As for the boys from 12 to 15 years old, their discontent is not unnatural. They are conscious of growing powers, passions and tastes which the school does not recognize. They find the restraints of the school room and grounds irksome. Their controlling interests are not in committing to memory the printed page; not even the arithmetic serves to reconcile them to school hours and school studies. They long to grasp things with their hands; they burn to test the strength of materials and the magnitude of forces; to match their cunning with the cunning of practical men and of nature.
The dissatisfaction of parents springs from several sources. The discontent of the boy or girl contributes to the feeling that the cost of books and the loss of a child's labor are too great price to pay for what the child is getting. As for going to the high school, it seems to the parent to be out of the question. The school is too far off, too costly in books, in dress and car fare, and not sufficiently practical in its course of study. Mr. Woodward here recognizes the popular feeling that the schools are impractical. He has not noted the preponderance of women teachers as a contributary cause.
Women, as we have seen, are interested in the esthetic rather than the practical or the industrial side of life. In the boy's mind the grammar school with its corps of women teachers comes to associate education with the interests of women only. This I believe is one reason why so few take the step from grammar to high school. At this age boys begin to notice differences of sex. They are proud of their masculinity. The voice changes; they are conscious of superior strength, and they love to show their muscle. They cultivate the gruffer ways of men, and often learn to smoke and chew, not because they want to be vicious, but because men use tobacco and women do not, and they want to emphasize the fact that they are men. From fourteen to twenty they love football. It is a game that calls for masculine strength and masculine courage. So everything that is distinctly masculine is admired and imitated; everything womanish is despised. Few boys at this age are ready to admit that women are the equals of men. Even the mother's influence wanes. Her word is not final in everything. She is only a woman and can not understand all that men should do.
So it is in school. The woman teacher is at a disadvantage with high school boys. She must be of a decidedly strong personality to appeal to him. He sees intuitively that the tastes and preferences of women are different from those of men, and he is not at all ready to take a woman teacher's advice in choosing a course of action for himself.
We believe thoroughly in coeducation; but coeducation does not exist when both sexes are educated by one. The living teacher and the ideal his personality presents is more effective than anything else in holding students in school. The lady teacher can not present such an ideal to young people of the opposite sex. With all the growth in number of schools and teachers during the last half century, there are fewer men teaching to-day than there were in 1860. In spite of our boasted progress in education, there are fewer school children enrolled to-day in proportion to the number of school age than there were in 1860. If we would hold boys in school between the ages of 12 and 15, we must appeal to the more practical bent of a boy's mind, and the ideals of manhood which attract him. We must have more men teachers.
It was noticed above that women by their choice of studies in the university evidence very slight interest in political matters as compared with the interest exhibited by men. And yet they teach civics in a majority of schools. It will be interesting to endeavor to learn what the effect of this teaching is.
There is no doubt that we owe our extensive system of free public schools in great part to faith in the service of education as a training for citizenship. Webster was a firm believer in the efficacy of popular education to ensure the triumph of democratic principles. "We do not," said he, "expect all men to be philosophers and statesmen, but we confidently trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government rests upon that trust, that, by the diffusion of general knowledge and good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as well against open violence and overthrow, as against the slow but sure undermining of licentiousness." It is on the faith that education has power to prepare for the duties and responsibilities of citizenship in a republic, that government has provided so generously for the public school system in taxation and grants of land.
Since Webster's time the rapid growth of urban communities has created a most extensive and intricate system of city government calling for detailed knowledge. To be merely a good man is not now sufficient to be a good citizen. Good citizenship requires more than 'the diffusion of general knowledge and good and virtuous sentiments,' if the tide of municipal corruption is to be turned back. Here the school fails. The civic function of our school system has no doubt suffered greatly from the fact that teachers are so little interested in current politics. Fear of 'mixing in politics' has held the teacher aloof from matters of this kind; and the teaching of civil government is often a perfunctory task. It can hardly be expected that those who are denied the right of suffrage should speak with authority on the duties of citizenship. Few teachers are acquainted with matters at issue in local elections; and few understand the real inner workings of party politics. Political patronage, the caucus, the convention and the primaries are little more than abstractions to most of them. It would be interesting to know how far the widespread apathy of educated people as to local politics could be remedied by more adequate instruction in the schools. General education and enlightenment no doubt has much virtue in effecting good government. The entrance of women into public school work, by extending the system to a point beyond what the public finance would have permitted if equal intelligence had been secured from men teachers, has been of inestimable value in promoting this general enlightenment. But so far as educating to an intelligent interest in political and economic matters of a technical character is concerned, our educational system has not yet done all that should be expected of it.
If there were a steady growth in public sentiment regarding extension of the franchise, such as induced the legislatures of half a dozen of our newer and less conservative states to grant women full suffrage, this weakness of civic education would tend to correct itself. But the movement has been met by a counter movement among women themselves. An antisuffrage association has been active in Massachusetts for a number of years; in 1896 the New York State Association opposed to woman suffrage was formed, and in two years it had no less than twenty thousand members, a standing committee of a hundred, and branches in various cities. The Illinois Association, founded in 1897, issued a circular from which the following is quoted:
Through their clubs women have been active of late in municipal affairs. During the last decade they have aided materially in bringing about reforms in education, public charity and sanitation in several cities, notably in Chicago, Washington, Denver and Louisiana. It is to be hoped that they will occupy a still larger part of their leisure with problems of municipal reforms, and that a scientific discussion of such matters may get into the higher grades of schools.
The call for more men in public schools should be a call for more able men. So long as the marked superiority among women teachers continues, so long they should continue to be preferred. The difficulty lies in the fact that promotion and tenure of office are very uncertain, and salaries rarely sufficient to secure men of first-rate ability. The average salary of men teachers in the United States is higher than that of women, but it is still wretchedly low. It amounts to only $46.53 a month for 7 months and 6 days, or about $337 a year. According to Mayo Smith, the average wages of operatives, skilled and unskilled, were in 1890, for males, above 16, $498. Carnegie says in his 'Empire of Business,' "In one of the largest steel works last year the average wages per man, including all paid-by-the-day laborers, boys and mechanics, were $4 a day for 311 days." This would be $1,244 a year. Compare it with the $337 the male teacher gets, and judge of the average capacity our schools are likely to attract. The United States census for 1900 gives the mean annual wages of all laborers, including men, women and children, white and black, skilled and unskilled, as $437.96; one hundred dollars more than the average male teacher receives. If the salary, low as it is, were the only drawback the teacher contends with, he would be comparatively happy. He holds a political office, and though it is not usually under the system of political parties, like all political offices not under civil service, it is exceedingly insecure. In the great cities positions are fairly permanent, but among the smaller towns every year brings its list of changes, and the teachers go bumping about from Podunkville to Daisy Hollow, often spending half a year's salary before they get a situation again, if in the annual shuffle they should succeed in getting any at all. If they do not procure a position the women teachers go home to their parents for a time, and then try it again next year; and the men, if they have any energy, go into other lines of business, leaving the inexperienced and unfit in the profession.
To sum up. Civic and economic considerations make it desirable that there should be a sufficient number of men teachers in the upper grammar and high school grades so that as many children as possible may come under the instruction of a man, for a time at least, before quitting school. Competent men can only be secured by an increase in salaries and a more secure tenure of office.