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In Vocal Culture, much has been gained, and nearly the whole body of our teachers have now become instructed to a considerable extent in the best methods of teaching in this department. The great advance in vocalization already made in our Grammar Schools during the past few years, will be maintained, and its effects felt through the whole course of instruction.
The usual exercise in military drill is continued, and the school-boys, in their evolutions before competent military judges, received high praise for their skilful manœuvring and soldierly bearing. Military instruction commenced a few years since on the petition of some of our leading citizens, during the trying days of the rebellion, as an experiment, is now a manifest success, and should be hereafter considered as an integral part of our educational system. Owing to the increase of the number of boys now requiring instruction (numbering six hundred), the arms available for their use are insufficient, and an increase in the number of muskets must be made. It is also important that some means be found for providing a hall suitable for drilling at one time the large number who must be taught. Such a hall located near the school-building, or in such building as may in the future be erected for the use of the Latin and English High Schools, would be found useful for many other purposes, and appears to your Committee to be one of the great needs of the city at the present time.
The instruction in drawing has heretofore not been under the direction of any special committee, and although this Committee know incidentally that pro
gress in that department has been made, yet they are without official information upon that subject.
The Committee are able to make the gratifying announcement that a system of evening schools, for the instruction of adults or minors, employed during ordinary school hours, is now in successful operation under the charge of a special committee of this Board, who have established six Schools in the City proper, one in South Boston, and three in the Highland District. Such schools in this city have heretofore been under the direction of private or organized charities. But the time had fully come when the City of Boston, through its School Board, should provide instruction for that class in the community, whose necessities had prevented their giving any time to the work of the school-room during usual school hours.
Among these untrained minds there is great earnestness and a determination to acquire knowledge, worthy of all success; the good directly and indirectly accomplished by these schools, will be felt through all classes of the community. We shall always have a percentage of immigrants and others who need this instruction.
Two schools for licensed minors are in successful operation. The pupils attending them are licensed boot-blacks and newsboys. With police co-operation they are doing much good, and the number of schools will be increased if necessary.
An investigation respecting the number of scholars who left the city to spend the summer vacation, showed that while eight per cent went to the country before the schools closed, and others left the city during
a portion of the time, yet forty-seven per cent of the pupils remained at home in the city. What were this large per cent, amounting to nearly 16,000 children, doing during the summer vacation? Were they at work, or at home, or roaming about the streets? Those of us who come much in contact with the parents of poor children know very well that it is a hard task for them to control the wayward wanderings of youth. They would be very glad to have some plan adopted by which these children could be controlled during vacation, for a part of the time at least. It is a serious matter for the consideration of this Board, whether it would not be a most wise course, to organize some scheme by which, at least for a portion of the time, they could be gathered from the public streets and instructed wisely, instead of being, as now, subject to all the temptations which idleness finds in a large city. The Committee feel the morale of the children would be improved by such a course.
It seems proper, in this connection, to call the attention of the City Government to the necessity of reserving in each section of the city, some public ground sufficiently large for a play-ground for the children of both sexes. In the older parts of the city, no such spots are to be found, and the public streets are the only places where children can find recreation. This should not be the case, but the city, standing in loco parentis, should provide suitable grounds, where the open air sports of childhood could be engaged in, under proper supervision, and where every parent would feel safe in permitting his children to go.
One valuable and easily available source of instruction has heretofore been entirely neglected by the School Board, one by which the slumbering intellect of youth may be wakened into new life, and perhaps in this way made to appreciate the value of sound learning, and turn to the ordinary duties of the school-room, not as to a task, but as to a pleasant duty; we refer to systematized familiar lectures on common things, by those best qualified to give them. Suppose that two hundred scholars each, from three of our Grammar Schools should assemble in the hall of one of them, to listen for an hour to the instructive talk of Agassiz on any subject with which all were familiar, his very blackboard drawing of a fish, an animal, or a bird, is, in itself, an inspiration, and many a tiny hand would strive to imitate the master's skill. So with other departments of knowledge, with botany, chemistry, physics, geology, etc., simple familiar lectures, on each of these subjects, could be given and illustrated, in which the youngest child could be interested and instructed, and perhaps have awakened in his mind some hitherto dormant faculty, which would lead to distinction in after life. Were no such result obtained in individual cases, the Committee feel satisfied that the general culture of the whole rising generation would be broader, the effects of such instruction would be felt in the higher culture of all classes of society, and a very valuable stimulant to study brought into use at a comparatively small cost to the city.
The subject of the proper and perfect ventilation of school buildings is one of great importance, to which more attention than heretofore given should be paid by those having in charge the constructing of school-houses;
for while it is manifest that much has already been gained in this respect, yet even now in our last and nearly perfect building, the necessity arises of opening some of the windows before the close of the school session. Much of the lassitude and apparent weariness manifested in many of our school-rooms towards the close of the school-day, is in a large degree to be attributed to this vitiated air, which is not renewed often enough by the systems of heating and ventilation now most generally employed. Were the school-rooms all well ventilated, we should have none of that complaint of headache and exhaustion, now by no means unfrequent from both teachers and pupils, and many of the complaints about the high pressure system would be silenced. The attention of the city government has been repeatedly called to the subject of the proper ventilation of school buildings. That it has not received sufficient consideration, is no fault of this Board.
The subject of corporal punishment in our schools has been widely discussed during the past few years, and has been more than once before the Board. The Committee print herewith the able report of our lamented associate, Mr. Drake, which thoroughly covers the points under discussion, and earnestly hope that the time will soon come when the Board may hear from all the districts, as they already have from one, that not a blow has been struck, either in the Grammar or Primary departments during the term.
The opinion of the majority of the Board at the present time is, that while it is desirable to reduce punishment to a minimum, or dispense with it entirely, yet it is unwise and unsafe to abolish the rule permit