"WHAT MAKES A GOOD SCHOOL?"
An Address by DR. C.C. GOLDRING
Director of Education, Board of Education for the City of Toronto
Thursday, March 11th, 1954
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. A. E. M. Inwood.
MR. INWOOD: Dr. Goldring is well-known to all of you as he has been the Director of the Board of Education for Toronto for the last 21 years. Prior to that he was Superintendent of schools and served in various capacities in the Board of Education.
Dr. Goldring is a member of the Board of Health of the City of Toronto. He is a Vice-President of this Club and immediate Past President of the Canadian Educational Association. He is also immediate Past President of the North Toronto Y.M.C.A.
Very proudly I present to you a man who is most qualified to speak to us particularly on the subject he has chosen "What Makes a Good School?"
DR. GOLDRING: When we consider education, we are aware of the fact that everyone knows a great deal about the subject. You have all been at school and many of you are parents whose children are now attending school. Nevertheless one hears many confusing statements about schools and educational work. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that "School" and "Curriculum" may have contradictory implications. The word "School" comes to us from a Greek word which originally meant "leisure". "Curriculum" is derived from a Latin word meaning "course", and has been associated with "race-course". Accordingly, in the minds of some there may be a mental picture of a child going to a place of leisure to run arounda race-course.
Recently, we have had some controversy about traditional education and progressive education. There seem to be a few people who would place all educators in one of those two classes. This is hardly in accordance with fact. I think "traditional" education means that emphasis is placed on the fundamental subjects, while those advocating the progressive approach think there should be greater freedom for the individual child. Progressive schools feature to a greater extent what are usually called "fads and frills". But, instead of dividing schools in this way, I will state that, in my opinion, there is not in Canada any publicly supported school system which is either strictly traditional or strictly progressive. Furthermore, if any community tried to maintain a strictly progressive or strictly traditional school, it would not continue long. A friend of mine, who is Superintendent of Schools in an American city, heard rumours that some of the citizens thought that progressive education was emphasized too much in the schools. He informed all the parents, by notices sent home with the children, that at the beginning of the next term he would organize in certain selected schools, classes which would teach only the three R's in the traditional manner. The notice stated, further, that any parent could have his child, or children, assigned to one of these special classes by signing the accompanying application. He found no takers! People want the traditional work to be well done but they also want in the schools some of the other activities or subjects which are loosely called "fads and frills".
In educational work we have to meet a rather common point of view which claims that each generation of young people is more unmannerly than the last generation, and somehow the schools are to blame for this condition. Periodically one hears statements such as the following: "Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders, and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households."
That, Gentlemen, was written by Socrates about 2400 years ago, and in the intervening years statements of a similar sort have been made from time to time. The point is that the child reflects the uncertainties, the tensions and hostilities of the age, of the community, and of the home. We live in troubled and difficult times and we should try to reduce these uncertainties, tensions and hostilities and thus, by attacking the major causes of juvenile delinquency, help to build anti-delinquent communities.
I am not one of those who severely criticize the young people of today: rather do I admire how well they behave, how honestly they live in the face of very great difficulties in many cases.
Most of us like to play games and probably all of us at one time or another have tried to play baseball or golf. These two games have some things in common. Each is played by means of a ball and an instrument called a bat or a club, and I think there is one common rule that one must observe in both games and it is this--keep your eye on the ball. I think in education, too, we must "keep our eye on the ball", which is the development and growth of the child, and all those instruments we use are but means to an end--the proper education of the girl or boy. Accordingly, it is of primary importance to understand the function of schools and to have some knowledge of what we are trying to accomplish.
In the elementary schools we should stress the full growth and development of the whole child as an individual and as a member of society. The purpose in the elementary schools is to develop and stimulate the natural abilities of the child-to guide him so that he will be better fitted physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, morally, and emotionally for his present life--and to equip him with skills, knowledge and understanding. In the classroom the work should interest him and arouse his curiosity as well as exercise his intelligence. He learns not only to work to a standard but to adjust to his environment and to co-operate with others. As a result of the daily work in the classroom, the child should be helped to develop a strong character, desirable habits, good attitudes, widened interests, the ability to think, and social adaptability. During this process the parent needs to realize that he is not responsible for everything the child is or everything the child does.
In the secondary schools, these general purposes of the elementary school should be continued and extended, and in addition there should be some assistance given to every student to formulate a plan of life which will enable him to become a reasonable, responsible, self-disciplined citizen of his home, his school, his community and his country. Secondary schools should help the pupils to develop a mutual understanding and social sympathy, along with the recognition and respect for individual differences-individual differences not only of a mental, economic, or social sort, but differences based on creeds and races. Some preparation should be given, too, for adult work, leisure, and social experiences. A pupil should acquire a sense of citizenship, and it would be hoped that in the secondary school he would find an environment conducive to the development of his whole personality.
Now, if you agree that the functions of elementary and secondary schools are somewhat as I have stated, let us consider how we try to achieve those goals. We have a curriculum composed of individual subjects. There is not sufficient time to make many additions to what is taught in the schools, and any subject chosen to be on the curriculum must fulfill a basic need. For example, Language Arts--including Speaking, Reading, Writing, Spelling--are basic to communication and understanding. Everyone must know how to communicate, how to talk, how to read, and how to write. The Language Arts provide a means of procuring information and for leisure time, enjoyment.
Science enables boys and girls to discover the world around them and to find answers to their questions through experimentation. They observe life and in more than a thousand classrooms in the public schools of this city there are terraria and aquaria in which the children can observe plants; fish, and small animals, and watch them grow and change. It might be added, too, that in our schools at present many plants grown from bulbs are in flower and add beauty to the classroom.
Social Studies acquaint children with the work of people in their communities, so that they see how life is organized to provide for our health, work, food and protection. In the upper grades, children learn how people live in far-away lands, acquire some understanding of the problems of people in other parts of the world, and in the historic past. There should consequently develop an understanding of some of the present and past problems of people in many parts of the world.
In day-by-day living there are times and occasions when we must be exact, precise, and measure accurately. Arithmetic and mathematical subjects help to fulfill that need for measurement.
As we grow to the adult stage, increasingly we have to carry out business transactions, at least of an elementary sort, in our daily lives. In this city many people earn their living in commercial pursuits and it is proper that the school should prepare girls and boys for this practical need of living and provide a training for earning one's living.
Little need be said about the place of Art and Music in education or in living.
Home Economics used to be regarded as providing some practice for girls in sewing and cooking. The subject has now been expanded to include a study of the function of the home, budgeting, financing, and the relation of various members of the family to one another.
General Shop enables boys to practice certain hand skills and to learn something about the use of tools and basic materials.
Vocational Education provides the opportunity for girls and boys to acquire a general education as well as to prepare to earn a living in industry.
One of the relatively new subjects in our curriculum is Safety. Owing to the increase in traffic hazards it is essential that we instruct girls and boys about safe conduct, on the streets particularly. Consequently, we have developed during the last several years a course in Safety. This is thoroughly taught in all our public schools.
There are other essential subjects in our curriculum such as Health, but probably enough has been said to indicate that the various subjects fulfill a fundamental need on the part of all girls and boys, and each is related closely to living as it is today.
Another essential for good schools is the employment of good teachers. The children born in the 30's when the birth rate was low, are now the young people who are looking for employment in a country which has expanded vastly. Consequently, there is a shortage of workers in several fields, teaching being one of them. We select our teachers carefully and provide an orientation course for them so that they will become acquainted with the school system and with some of the people with whom they will work. In-Service courses are established to help them to become more proficient as teachers of certain subjects. We employ consultant teachers, supervisors, and inspectors, who visit teachers in their classrooms to give them any advice or help which seems necessary to assist them to become better teachers.
A good pupil should have the will to succeed. We are at the stage now where we can measure, by means of standard tests, the pupils' expected achievement, but we find the actual achievement does not always measure up to that which might reasonably be expected. Generally speaking, the brighter boys and girls do not live up to their potential abilities. Those who are not so bright are often working above their capacity. Our goal is to try to have everybody work near to his potential capacity. In addition, girls and boys need good care at home and the encouragement of parents. One of the chief lessons they must learn is that every right which they acquire is accompanied by a corresponding responsibility. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. For example, if a boy acquires a bicycle, he must assume the responsibility of riding safely on the street. If a television set comes to the home, there must be some thought given to the number of hours that members of the family will spend watching it, and the effect on their other activities.
It need scarcely be said that parents should be interested in their children's education. It is desirable, too, for parents to take a realistic approach and not expect the impossible from their children. A tragedy in many homes is caused by parents expecting from their boys and girls a performance of which they are incapable. If, for example, a boy has an I.Q. of 80 and the parents try to urge him along to prepare for a university course, the life of such a child may be made miserable because he has not the required ability. We need homes which will provide facilities for periods of quietness and work, and which will not permit the children constantly to follow a treadmill of activities. A child needs a little time every day in which he can be by himself and not be in a hubbub of activities, going from one thing to the other. Parents help to make a good school by showing a good example in the home.
The other day I read the following in an American paper:
"In human relations the five most important words are: 'I am proud of you.'
The four most important words are: 'What is your opinion?'
The three most important words are: 'If you please.' The two most important words are: 'Thank you'. The smallest word: 'I'."
The home that exemplifies the spirit implied in that quotation is a good home for children.
Better tools for learning are sometimes necessary. Textbooks have been improved and this year in Toronto schools we will spend approximately $260,000 for books. New books are needed annually because knowledge is advancing and there are more things to be known now. For example, during the last few years changes have been made in our way of life and in our way of thinking by such factors as the development of atomic energy, television, and the alignment of nations during and following the Korean War. We must have books and other tools of learning which will keep boys and girls up to date. We cannot take the chance of handicapping today's children by using yesterday's methods and materials for preparing them to live in tomorrow's world. We have developed in our schools, for example, Audio-Visual Aids, including Sound Motion Pictures, Slides, Film Strips, Recordings, Transcriptions, Pictorial Aids, and Photographs. We have a Teaching Aids Centre in which these materials are produced and from which they are circulated. Teachers are brought in to the Centre to be taught how to operate the various types of equipment possessed. Our Board of Education has provided many other tools and articles of equipment designed to aid learning by pupils at various mental and grade levels.
Another factor in the efficiency of your schools is what might be called Co-Operative Relations, and right at the top of this list we must place the Trustees. School Trustees are men and women who lead busy lives, and they spend hours and hours each week giving leadership in educational work. I sometimes think their efforts are not sufficiently appreciated by the citizens at large, but they perform a valuable function in this city in giving leadership in education.
We have the administrative staff, which looks after the business part of the work--the planning for the school system as a whole. The Home and School Associations make a great contribution-they give leadership in their respective communities.
The Churches are concerned with the spiritual education of girls and boys. That is a very important part of their development. Other organizations, such as the Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., the Girl Guides, and the Boy Scouts, contribute to the informal education of boys and girls. Once a year, we have Education Week during which we think of how education is being carried on in our city and in our country, and discuss ways of improving the service.
Periodically, our Board of Education publishes educational material to tell the public about our work.
Many of the Clubs in the city are interested in education. The Rotary Club performs a valuable work in the field of guidance. The Kiwanis Club has recently completed a Musical Festival, in which many pupils from our schools competed. The Canadian Manufacturers Association gives scholarships each year to pupils in Vocational Schools. The Public Library operates in our schools. The Optimist Club is very much concerned in rendering help to one of our schools. The Junior Red Cross is active in most schools.
Now we come to a very important matter, and that is money. Our schools last year cost approximately Twenty-four Million Dollars, and that, Gentlemen, is a lot of money. Let us look at it in a little different way. I hesitate to talk about taxes in these uncertain taxation days, but if a man were to pay $200 taxes, approximately one-third of that--about $65--would be for schools. Now $65 is $1.25 a week, so that on a $200 tax bill, you would pay about twenty-five cents per school day for education. Looking at it in another way, the average cost of educating a public school child is approximately $250 a year--$1.25 per school day--twenty-five cents an hour. Could you get a baby-sitter for twenty-five cents an hour? That is the approximate cost of educating a child in the public schools of Toronto.
The Board of Education secures the money that is necessary to operate the schools for the year and there is no wastage in expending these funds.
In conclusion, may I say that education is a giant cooperative enterprise, the biggest in Canada, involving a great number of its citizens--as pupils in schools, as teachers, or as workers in some capacity related to education. The stake is the welfare of our children now, and the future of our country. Make no mistake, Canada is valued not for what we Canadians are, but for what we have, and what our country possesses--and you are well aware of the richness of our country. This generation of adults has a debt to discharge to its children and that is to prepare them as well as we can to be worthy inheritors of those national resources of which they will some day be in control. We can discharge that debt by providing now the best educational system we can, and by so planning it and administering it that the children now in school will be able to meet the final test of education, which is the union of knowledge and reason in the integrated personality.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Inwood.