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Defective Children and the Public

Schools

JOHN T. PRINCE, MASSACHUSETTS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

SUBLIC school education is maintained for the sake

of society and the State, as well as of the individual. It is at once constructive and preventive-constructive in helping to create high ideals and intelligence,

and preventive in helping to hinder pauperism and crime. For the normal bodied and minded child the work of education is mainly constructive, and for this reason the duty of the State to foster education for that class, and even to make it obligatory up to a certain point, becomes evident to all. We see that it is a wise provision of statute law for the upbuilding of society and for the happiness and usefulness of individuals that every normal child shall be assured of a common school education. But if we keep in mind the need of the State to protect itself and the dangers to individuals of physical and mental degeneracy, we may see that the duty of the State toward abnormal or defective children is even more imperative than it is toward the normal or sound ones. It is incumbent, therefore, upon the State to provide means of education for all classes of children who are capable of education, and to provide care for all who are not. With a law upon the statute book making such education and care mandatory, it becomes necessary to define the means of carrying the law into effect.

It is said by good authority that from one to eight per cent of the children are what may be called abnormal children, i.e., children who are defective either in body or mind so as to need special care or treatment,—the smaller per cent indicating the number of children who are feeble minded, and the larger per cent including the children who are abnormally dull. At present a good proportion of these children are either in the regular schools blocking the progress of others, or else they are outside the pale of the schools waiting to commit some crime before they can be brought to the notice and protection of the State.

1 A paper read before the Department of Special Education of the National Educational Association in Boston, July 8, 1903.

In general, there may be said to be two classes of defectives : (1) those that need scientific or institutional treatment, such as the feeble-minded, the blind and the deaf-mute; and (2) those whose education may, with some modifications, be conducted on lines similar to those of normal children, such as the dull or backward children, and those whose sight or hearing is but partially impaired.

Upon the assumption that the State must assume the education of the first class of children named, there will be three classes of institutions founded at convenient locations in the State—those for the blind, the deaf-mute and the feeble-minded. All of these institutions, with the exception of the non-educable portion of the latter class, should be conducted with the view of making their pupils self-supporting. Industrial or technical training of various kinds will therefore be a prominent feature of the education carried on in these institutions. As they are supported by the State, they will be free to all its citizens, and will afford accommodation and facilities for all who can profitably take the training offered. Attendance upon these institutions will be compulsory; that is, the State will assume the same authority over its weak subjects which it assumes over its sound ones, by obliging all defective children of a certain age who are not otherwise cared for to take the training it offers in one or another of its institutions. This should be done on the principle that it is the duty of the State to protect the child from the neglect of the parent or guardian. This principle of protection from neglect is to be applied to all classes of children. But in the case of mentally or physically unsound children there is an added reason for making education obligatorythe reason that has already been given for establishing schools for defectives—namely, that of the protection of society and of the State.

2 Dr. Edward M. Hartwell, of Boston, in a computation recently made for the writer, reports as follows: “1,384, or 0.324 per cent of the population of school age (5 to 15 years) in Massachusetts in 1895, were non-educable in the public schools; 384, or 0.09 per cent, were mentally defective, i. e., insane or idiotic.

The State schools of which I have thus far spoken are for that class of educable defectives who need scientific or institutional treatment. They may be said to be a part of the public school system of the State, because they are free to all residents of the State, and are under the direction and control of the educational authorities of the State. The other class of educable defectives are those which should be educated directly in connection with the city or town public schools. This will be done by making of them small groups, and of placing over them skilled teachers, with the expectation that they will be treated for the most part individually and with special ends in view. In cities or large towns in which there is a sufficient number of defectives to form into groups, the plan would be simply to separate the pupils of school

age-say from seven to fourteen-into groups of ten or fifteen, and place the groups in convenient localities. If the number to be trained is large enough, there should be a classification according to attainment and capacity ; but it should be understood that the treatment of this class of pupils will be chiefly individual. The experience of Providence, R. I., and other cities with the schools of weak-minded and backward pupils shows what can be done with a class of children whose neglect means degradation and crime. So great is the menace to society of a continuance of this neglect, that the State is justified in obliging towns and cities to properly train in special schools all abnormal children who do not need the institutional treatment of which I have spoken. For the cities and large towns this will not be a difficult matter, as has been shown by experience. For country districts provision may be made for carrying the children to a central school, or for establishing small home schools in convenient localities. These schools should be under the charge and superintendence of the local public school authorities. In states like Massachusetts, where district supervision prevails, the schools may be under the direction of the superintendent and district committee, the expense of the schools being borne by the towns from which the pupils come. In country districts whose unit of government is the county, the schools may be organized and controlled by the county board and county superintendent, and the expense of arrying them on will be borne by the county.

It is then, to summarize what has been said in this paper, both right and feasible for all educable children to be included in the scope of the public school system, and to share in its benefits and its obligations. It is also right and feasible for the State to place all educable children of a certain age under the statutory requirement of compulsory school attendance to the end of giving all its citizens the benefits of intelligence and self-support, and of guarding itself and society against the dangers of ignorance and crime.

At Midnight
Steeped in the stillness of the moonlit hours,
The radiant night wears out. No eye seems oped
To trace the penciled tree-shades on the snow,
Or note the dropping diamonds of the stars.
Wrapped in mysterious arms from out the void,
Earth holds her joyous course. The very air
Quivers with songs of love, unheard, but felt.

HELEN CARY CHADWICK. MALDEN, Mass.

Herbert Spencer's Essays on Educa

tion

JOHN J. TRACY, LA SALLE ACADEMY, PROVIDENCE, R. I.

HE translator of Emile seems to be correct in his judgment when he places Spencer's Education among the three best classics in matters educational that have appeared in the world from Plato's

Republic to the numerous works on education that in our epoch are yearly coming from the press. Mr. Payne would have done better still had he put in the very first rank of pedagogical literature the contribution thereto from the hand of Herbert Spencer; because, unlike the Republic, the Four Essays deal directly with education, and, unlike Emile, nearly all of what the Englishman advances is practicable, and meets with the approbation of educational theorizers and practitioners alike. I say nearly all because there are some positions taken by Spencer that are quite untenable. They will be noticed in part and briefly throughout this little review. Again, not all the plausible theories of education, presented so charmingly by Spencer, are the product of his own unaided thinking. On the whole, however, this work of Herbert Spencer deserves, in my opinion, the first place among educational writings.

More than forty years ago Spencer phrased his conception of the aim of education as preparation for complete living, and to-day the greatest authorities in the theory and practice of education,-men like Pres. Nicholas Murray Butler and Prof. Paul Henry Hanus, who have devoted their best years, their distinguished talents, and the innumerable resources placed at their command, to the reducing of the principles of teaching to a nearer approach to the limits of a well-defined science, —both President Butler and Professor Hanus fully concur with Spencer in his view of the primal aim of education. This is, indeed, a remarkable commendation of the basis of " What knowledge, is of most worth?” The superstructure of that

" literary edifice, however, does not meet with the same approval, and deservedly not.

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