Our Common Schools.
A paper read by Miss Allie Marsh at Shiloh, in the Randolph County Alliance, January 4th, 1889.
We come to these meetings with an unwritten agreement to take things as they are and to join hands with each other in a laudable endeavor to make them what they should be. This face to face exchange of views cannot fail to be highly beneficial to all the community, if we in reality appreciate the value of these golden opportunities to do good and get good. Will these good effects abide with us and permeate our everyday life, in our homes, in the school, on the farm, and in the workshop?
You see I place the school second only to home. Do not think it egotism. Of course we teachers think that the axis of the earth stick visibly out of the particular school house over which we preside. All Americans are fond of speaking of the ballot box as the palladium of our liberties or as the ark of the sacred covenant carried in the front of our hosts to divide the waters of our national troubles. The home and the school are the angels and standing guard over the ballot box freedom, and so long as you men — the high priests, who alone have access to the ark, do your duty, all will be well. We who are not "fellow citizens" are perfectly content that you should have a monopoly of direct access to the ark, so long as you are vigilant in the making the guard over it as efficient as possible. I know that if you love your homes, and cherish a saving patriotism for the state, you will not allow anything vicious to enter the school life of the children. Is it from Chapel Hill, trinity and schools of like grace that your home guard reinforcements must come? No, it must be largely from what is doing in the common schools, common only in name.
In their power for good or evil influences they are not common. No other power comes so near being the lever with which some modern Archimedes, if he had a place to stand, could move the world. Now in regard to the schools "as they are," simply from a money point of view; are they doing one half the good for the state and society that they might do? If not, you alliance men have the remedy in your own hands. The pocket book is the most sensitive nerve in the masculine body, and is it not surprisingly strange that in this instance he is so neglectful of its interests?
When you invest money in a business, you expect a corresponding share of the profits; you are interested in the results, and therefore you will take great pains to see that all who are in
2charge do their duty well. But it is too often the case, that you pay your share of the educational fund when the tax collector comes around, take your receipt and suppose that somebody will see that it is properly spent. It is your duty to yourself and to the best interests of the community to see that your money is properly applied, and if you don't do it, you are wanting in the better elements that go to make up true citizenship. You have promised to help your brother, and would it not be the highest service you could render him to assist in having a good school right at his home?
Quite a number of the Sub- Alliances have reported flourishing orders — strong in members, & c. — but have your homes been benefited? Have you a better school in your community this winter than ever before? If not, your alliance is weighed in the balance and found wanting. Even admitting that the prime object of the alliance is to save money for the poor down trodden farmer — knowing that money judiciously expended is money saved, have you done your duty — not in advising your legislators in high sounding resolutions, nor in heated discussions concerning the probable benefits of the Blair Bill? Have you a well defined idea of a good school and of good teaching? What do you want a school I to do for your child? Our great object is to teach him to live for a high and noble purpose. You farmers will discuss the question of how to keep the boys on the farm. One announces that he has the panacea — make home attractive, keep books and papers for them to read — I say, this alone will not do; you must go farther back than that; you must wake up a desire, a thirst for knowledge in the child, and then he will love a good book. This can all be accomplished through your schools by a competent and faithful teacher. Pay your teachers a salary that will justify preparation for the work; let them make a business of teaching and devote their whole time and energies to this, grand work. Many of our teachers are engaged in some other calling all the year, except a few months in winter. As a rule, such teaching has but little heart in it and consequently does not inspire much effort in the children. The common school teacher should make teaching as much a profession as the college professor. For really is there not as much, if not more, depending upon them for the uplifting of the State and Nation? I fear that many of us only try to make our pupils study, merely for the sake of the knowledge gained — a higher aim should actuate the teacher, to develop mold, direct and make the most out of each child in mental growth. You want your teacher to take your girls, and,
by the influence of the school lessons, make her think, and thinking trulylive.
I have an idea that in some indefinable way her home duties in afterlife I will be better performed and that she will be more the light and joy of the home circle by the reason of those school lessons.
And remember my friends that the great majority of country boys and girls never go to college, but get all of their school learning in our common schools.
Let us teach them every day; so they can say at the close of each day;