CANAL ZONE HIGH SCHOOL, JUNE 1910.
|MARIE ELISE JOHNSON........Editor-in-Chief
ALBERT SMITH..................Business Manager
The Canal Zone High School with its fifty odd students is an institution existing under difficulties unknown to those in the United States; notwithstanding this, its academic excellence is recognized and it holds rank with kindred schools in the States, whose existence does not entail a similar effort on the part of patrons, pupils and authorities.
In order to raise the standard of high school education in the Canal Zone to its present state of efficiency, the Division of Schools concluded, this year, to concentrate the three high schools at one point, placing the teachers best fitted for special work in charge of their particular branches, rather that scatter them along the "line" to teach everything from mathematics to language.
While this plan has been attained at the cost of inconvenience and considerable physical effort on the part of those who have long railroad journeys to go, it has resulted in an efficient high school and has given birth to a school "spirit" which is no small part of a secondary education. It is the evolution of this "school spirit" which is now finding expression through the medium of a school paper.
Getting out a high standard of school work in a school building in tropical Cristobal, a building blessed only occasionally with a breeze, is not the easiest thing in the world. For the obstacles we must overcome to be like our unexiled countrymen in the States, we claim only our due credit. And so we regale ourselves with the toast:
Here's to those who believe they CAN
Whatever be their station
Even though they have to FAN
While getting education.
A Message of Progress
The Canal Zone schools were organized in December, 1905, under the direction of the Collector of Revenues. This plan of organization obtained until May 1, 1906. Until November of that year the schools were administered by the Bureau of Municipalities. The Division of Schools was then created, responsible directly to the Head of the Department of Civil Administration. In January, 1906, a superintendent, Mr. D.C. O'Conner was employed.
The problems before the new superintendent were manifold: Teachers, buildings, supplies of every kind, were to be secured. As there is no distinctly American school system, representatives from as many different systems as there were communities represented on the Isthmus were here, and their provincial educational ideals were to be subdued, worked over, and amalgamated into a system which would, as far as practicable, meet the various demands of this most heterogeneous society; there was no "lamp of experience" by which the new superintendent's feet were to be guided, as this was the first attempt to establish American white schools in a tropical climate; the children were taught civil government, arithmetic and other practical subjects, far from the base of supplies, so to speak. Such, and many more, difficulties were encountered, and out of it all a school system was to be evolved which would give to American children schools of a quality that parents could not count inefficient school facilities among the objectionable features of living on the Zone.
Americans in the Canal Zone are, for the most part, much above the average in points of intelligence and tolerance for the views of others. This fact simplified the school problem by one half. While they have an abiding taste for pastry that mother made, they find it not impossible to thrive on other diet. The readiness with which they have appreciated and accepted the situation has made poissible a school system which has incorporated some of the best things from each of the states represented, while at the same time discarding many of the shortcominings of these various communities.
Among the good things are free textbooks, free medical inspection and treatment, consolidation by means of free transportation, absolute freedom from political interference, expert departmental supervision, and, best of all, a high standard of eligibility to appointment as teacher obtains.
Among the features of the present year's work are the establishment of school gardens, the authorization of kindergartens, the revision of the course of study, the approval of plans for consolidating practically all the schools of the Zone into a few well graded, well organized, central schools; and, not by any means least, the consolidation of the three high schools. The last named point is of especial interest in connection with the context of this article.
Heretofore the high schools have been carried along as sort of an incident to the other work. Teachers devoted what time they had to spare from their grade work, to high school pupils, and one teacher frequently had as many as fifteen or sixteen recitations daily, ranging through the seventh and eighth grades - Latin, algebra, botany, geometry, ancient history, mediavel history, modern history, civil government, physical geography and what not. It is no disparagement to the teacher to say that this work was not done well. How could it be? In the first place, few people are specialists in more than a dozen different subjects; in the second, the teacher is not made of Tungsten steel; in the third, it is not likely that a mathematics teacher will be able, with her multiplicity of duties to accomplish in a ten minute Latin recitation what a specially trained Latin teacher sometimes fails to accomplish in a forty minute recitation. In the fourth, the pupil himself was sacrificing all those advantages which come with rubbing elbows with the crowd-enthusiasm, wholesome rivalry, social contact, exchange of ideas, measuring swords, and the like - which make for vigor, sharpness, liberality, unselfishness and the ability to give and take.
To one who has observed the workings of both plans, as I have had the opportunity of doing, there can be no doubt as to the superiority of the present plan.
Books are an incident in the education of children. Men are not measured by what they know so much as by what they are able to do. Roosevelt learned to break broncoes and do big things on the plains of the West, not in his study room at Harvard, and when he became President he didn't find it inconvenient or difficult to bridle some very vicious concerns and to "kill" a few trusts about every day. That school which affords the child the largest possible opportunity for doing, will do the most effective work in turning over to society, men of real social efficiency. The child as man is going to have to do, if he does at all, with a very large crowd, and the sooner he gets into the game the shorter apprenticeship will he have to serve after he leaves the home and the school. The parent who would keep him away from the crowd has no laugh on the simple-minded mother who admonished her children to keep away from the water 'till they had learned to swim. I never learned how many of her offspring this good lady followed to a watery grave, but I believe there would have been less likelihood of their drowning when they did take to the water if the youngsters had been allowed to try their hand under the direction of a competent instructor in the art of swimming.
That child's education is fearfully one-sided and inadequate who does not learn to live with the crowd - who does not learn to do things. The present organization of the Canal Zone high school, with its more than half a hundred fine boys and girls, is doing much to meet these two requirements. It furnishes the crowd, and efforts like the present one, and many others of like character planned for this and another year, have directly to do with traning the boys and girls for doing things.
I congratulate them, and the Principal and teachers, on the excellent results of the work already accomplished, and on the prospects of a still better year before them.
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