THE NORMAL SCHOOL.
Close of Its First Twenty Years—Interesting Exercises Through the Week.
The usual round of exercises closing with the thirty-eighth commencement of the State Normal School at Cortland began with the final examination on Wednesday of last week, Jan. 16th. These were eminently satisfactory to all the professors.
On Thursday evening at half-past seven o'clock, the eighth public exercises of the Young Men's Debating Club took place in the Normal chapel. The debate as to the rights of the Nihilists and their value as public reformers was well sustained on both sides. We might particularly commend the young men for their evenness of delivery and earnestness, notably Sanford Ellsworth, who sustained himself admirably.
On Friday evening, at the same hour, and in the same place, the Normal Debating Club entertained their friends with a well selected programme, as follows:
President's address by C. H. White, entitled "Preparation, a Basis for Success;" an oration by G. A. Kratzer, "Two Types of Greatness;" a declamation by F. K. McFall, "Under the Flag;" and a debate or discussion: "Resolved, That the term of office of President should be lengthened to six years, and that no man should be re-eligible."
Messrs. Allen, Hulse, Place and Blodgett, debated the subject with evenness and a fair degree of logical acumen. Mr. Blodgett might be particularly commended.
The final examinations closed on Monday Jan. 21st, and the Ladies' Normal Debating Club gave their ninth public exercises in the evening, in the Normal chapel, to a crowded house. This was certainly one of the most enjoyable of all the evenings. All the students acquitted themselves with great credit. The programme was: Presdent's address by Miss May Hanson; an essay by Miss Eva Smith, subject, "Shakespeare's Love of Nature;" a poem by Miss Lottie Van Hoesen. "Carrie Goldsmith Childs;" an oration by Miss Ella Van Hoesen, "Manual Training in our Public Schools;" a recitation by Miss Pauline Gardner, "Wild Zingarella;" and the usual discussion: "Has Morality Increased with Civilization," ably debated by Miss Mary Peck and Miss Mabel Olmstead.
Miss Gardner deserves more than usual commendation for the excellent rendering of her recitation, as do also, Misses Van Hoesen and Miss Smith, for their efforts. The debate was strong and evenly contested, though we are inclined to believe that morality has increased with civilization, still Miss Olmstead would almost persuade us that it has not, if we yielded to her cogent argument.
Miss Stout sang with her accustomed grace and sweetness. She is always enjoyable.
The commencement proper was held in the Opera House on Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock. Every seat was filled with the beauty and fashion of Cortland and vicinity.
The Rev. Dr. Cordo opened the exercises with prayer. The printed programme was as follows:
ANTHEM—"Praise Ye Jehovah."
1. ORATION—Symmetrical Culture…Herbert P. Gallinger.
2. ESSAY—The Results of Discontent…Margaret J. Crofoot.
3. ESSAY—The Search for the Holy Grail…Ella M. Freeman.
4. ESSAY—The Specialist…Addie Wilcox.
5. ORATION— Practical Education…Ella M. Van Hoesen.
INSTRUMENTAL DUET— Lustspiel Overture.
6. ESSAY—The Pillars of Hercules…Myrtie Reynolds.
7. ORATION—Patriotism in Song...John K. Lathrop.
8. ESSAY—The Last Words of Great Men…Ada M. Wadsworth.
9. ESSAY—Fleeting Literary Reputations…Mary B. Jepson.
10. ADDRESS—Dr. M. MacVicar, Chancellor of MacMaster University.
CHORUS—"Moonlight and Music."
11. Presentation of Diplomas to Normal Graduates.
12. CLASS SONG—Sung by the class of January 22, 1889.
The feature of the exercises was, however, the address by Dr. MacVicar, of Canada. None of the young ladies appearing, and all the gentlemen being absent, engaged in teaching, we quite missed the usual bright faces and the general air of grace and freshness that we are accustomed to having at our commencements, but this being the closing of twenty years of work, a special effort was made to have an elaborate address from some one noted in educational circles.
Dr. MacVicar, formerly of New York state, but now Chancellor of the MacMaster University, Toronto, Canada, was invited to deliver the address. His subject was "The Proper Training for a Useful Life." He spoke without notes, in an easy, natural manner, and held the attention of his audience to the close of what proved to be, though lengthy, a most substantial argument against the immorality of the time, the lamentable tendency towards socialism, and the frightfully pernicious amount of vile trash offered our children under the head of light reading. Dr. MacVicar made a broad distinction between being learned and educated. A learned farmer or a learned teacher might have theory and the literature of any profession at his fingers' end, and yet not be able to do anything in his chosen walk of life. To be educated meant to be able to put forth the power in one to successfully do and not theorize. His advice to all students and teachers was to develop in every direction the power within one to thoroughly illustrate any detail of his work. Among the qualifications for any line of work Dr. MacVicar placed first, this development of power; second, correct habits; third, good moral character; fourth, adaptability to one's work.
Each of these heads was carefully elaborated, discussed, and illustrated through an address occupying nearly two hours. Dr. MacVicar is a pleasing speaker, full of quiet humor and apt illustration. Some might take issue with him on the question of mental pabulum, but none would question the soundness of his views on moral training in our schools.
Dr. House's address to the graduates was as usual full of good words of counsel expressed in his own happy manner. This being the close of the twentieth year we give his address in full:
FELLOW TEACHERS:—These diplomas are your honorable credentials to membership in the Fraternity of Teachers. These exercises are the thirty-eighth in the history of our school; they close the first twenty years of our school life. Including your selves, there are 116 men who are graduates, and 548 women—a grand total of 654 graduates from the normal courses. In round terms, 18 per cent of the graduates are men, and 83 per cent are women. We have no very recent statistics in the case, but it is quite safe to name 95 to 98 per cent as the number of graduates who have taught more or less since they were graduated.
The enrollment of students has been as follows: 1149 men and 1915 women—a total of 3064 different normal students in the twenty years; this gives an average of 158 new students per year. Omitting fractions you will see that 22 percent of those who joined the school as Normal students have been graduated; ten per cent of the men who joined, and 29 per cent of the women have been graduated. And about the same ratio indicates the amount of teaching done by the under graduates.
I have time to review only an occasional point touching the entire field that is opened before us by the above introduction.
Twenty years of experience have raised many important questions, modified many conceptions and taught [us] many lessons concerning Normal schools.
What is a Normal school? A Normal school is a school established by the State for peculiar purposes. It arose out of the needs and demands of the public schools—especially out of the needs of primary and intermediate schools. It has no status in the State except towards the public schools of the commonwealth. It must have standards that are peculiarly its own. Scholarship for Normal students does not mean scholarship to enter other schools; but it means qualifications in learning that are essential to teaching pupils in other schools; it means mental attainments that are competent to prepare pupils to enter higher schools of learning. Scholarship in a Normal school means intellectual power in the public schools of the State.
The Normal school must have a standard of conduct which is peculiar to itself, and so stands alone among schools in this nature. Normal students are teachers—or are in training for the profession. Supt. Draper says, in his last annual report just issued: "It is incumbent upon the State to see that only persons of unquestioned moral character, of aptitude for the work, and of ample qualifications, shall be permitted to teach in the schools, and it is endeavoring to do this with thoroughness." (p. 21.)
Here is the standard of conduct—and conduct measures the moral tone—of Normal schools. Every person who applies to enter a Normal school consents thereby, and implicitly, to conform in action to this standard. Put in another way, the standard may he stated thus: A Normal student is a teacher in interests and purposes; he teaches in the public schools of the State; teaches the children in our own schools of practice; he walks in and out before the eyes of our citizens whose children he teaches, and of every tax payer; would this person be engaged by trustees and parents to teach their children? is the question, the standard of conduct.
Would parents have a teacher who is addicted to strong drink? To attendance at evil places of whatever character; to sowing "wild oats?" No, by no means. Such a person has no place in a Normal school. He does not possess our "unquestioned moral character." Is this teacher loyal to his trusts? Is he given to perverting the purposes of our public schools? If the former, he has a place in a Normal school; if the latter he has no place in a Normal school; he does not possess an "unquestioned moral character."
The supreme element of our Normal school is our schools of practice: they test the scholarship given in our classes by our faculty; they control the standards of scholarship and our conduct throughout our whole school. Whatever conduct is permissible and desirable in our schools of practice measures the conduct for Normal students.
Looking to our own twenty years of history, it is gratifying to feel that the above standard of scholarship and conduct have been those of the school all these years; they were erected by the authorities at the beginning, and were the mature deliberations of patriotic and wise, as well as distinguished, citizens and school officers. These standards have held us on our way; they have given form to the activities of our graduates and undergraduates—and our graduates have risen into high fields of usefulness and influence in the educational work of the State.
It would be interesting to review the educational progress in our State during the past twenty years; but time forbids more than an enumeration of some phases of the progress. The State has left its lethargy in educational affairs: it is vigorous in these lives. Courses of study have been modified; modes, theories and practices of teaching, have been greatly modified; the educational forces of the State have been brought into harmony of action; the township system, moral training, and professional investigation are imperative and living problems; savings banks for schools. These are a few of the fields to which you are relegated by your profession. You are to be heartily congratulated that your times have fallen among the stirring scenes in the educational activities of the State. Do not disappoint the expectations entertained by your Alma Mater.
Following Dr. Hoose's address came the class song, composed by Herbert P. Gallinger of the graduating class:
Joyful day, so full of gladness.
Long we've toiled for thee
Unalloyed with thoughts of sadness,
Sweet to memory
Out upon life's stormy ocean
Look we hopefully
Others have before us crossed it
Aim exalted, purpose reaching
Far beyond the skies;
Cheerful, let us learn by teaching
Where enjoyment lies
Hearts to win and minds to furnish,
Wills to mould aright.
Serve our own to cleanse and burnish,
Serve to keep them bright.
Fast is fading, future's present;
Now we hear the call.
Spurring us to great achievement;
Courage one and all.
Obstacles will not impede us;
Mount them one by one.
Difficulties do but speed us,
Battles must be won.
As we go from ALMA MATER,
And her tender care;
Gratitude and praise we bear her
Wafted on the air.
Normal Joys and Normal labors
Now we bid farewell,
And to all our Normal school-mates,
Hail a long farewell.
The next term begins on Wednesday morning, February 13th, at the usual hour.