• U.S.

Education: Defrilled Chicago

3 minute read

Chicago’s Board of Education has learned the temper of its teachers. Standing by at the board meeting late one afternoon last week were 24 stout policemen. The precaution was unnecessary. As the secretary droned out the board’s latest economy program, prepared at a secret session earlier in the day, the 300 teachers present sat dumb with shock. Many & many a Chicago teacher, long unpaid, would now be unemployed. Into the discard went one after another of what the Board’s president, James B. McCahey, called “fads and frills”—continuation schools, kindergartens, athletic coaches, band & orchestra leaders, physical training instructors, swimming pools, grade school manual training and domestic science. Biggest jolt of all was the abolition of the city’s entire junior high school system. Its 47,895 students, 1,385 teachers will be reallocated among seventh and eighth grades and first year high. The chief object was physical—to fill up vacant rooms in elementary school buildings, empty the 29 junior high school buildings for use by overcrowded senior high schools. But teachers shifted to grade school status will have their pay lowered. To those who consider the junior high school a means of hurrying youngsters out into industry, Chicago’s move seemed timely. But to most secondary educators the step was a long one backwards. Berkeley, Calif, set up the first U. S. junior high schools in 1909. In 1930 there were 5,129 in the U. S. Designed to ease the step from elementary to high school, they usually offer the pupil some freedom in choosing courses, treatment adapted to his early-teen-age mind and body. Far-seeing educators regard them as first link in the chain by which senior high schools will take over the first two years of college, leave U. S. colleges & universities free to become the advanced institutions which they are in Europe. Chicago teachers recovered their voices, held a protest parade, planned a mass meeting, a flood of appeals to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of Labor Perkins. From the University of Chicago campus, where the Institute for Administrative Officers of Higher Institutions was in session, they got a chorus of support. In a lengthy resolution the Institute viewed the Board’s action with “concern and dismay,” declared it “time for a serious consideration of the desirability of eliminating altogether . . . incompetent and untrained representatives of the community who are obviously appointed to the board to serve political rather than educational purposes.” Cried University of Chicago’s smart young President Robert Maynard Hutchins: “Inspection of the action of the Board of Education shows every one of its measures to be a backward step and most of them to be crimes against the school children of Chicago. . . . The failure to consult Superintendent Bogan and other able men in the system is a reflection on the attitude of the board, which apparently is not interested in education.” George Frederick Zook, new U. S. Commissioner of Education (TIME, July 3), got his first chance to pontificate in an educational rumpus. Declared he: “My attitude toward the action is one of deep amazement at what seems to be a return to the dark ages in education. It is more than reasonably apparent that the board has gone about its reductions in a wholly unintelligent way. The board has not consulted with or taken the advice of competent leaders in education.”

Unimpressed, the Board of Education eyed with satisfaction its $4,000,000 economy. Added to more than $1,000,000 in business and administrative economies, another $4,000,000 saved by a four-week shortening of the school term, it almost wipes out the board’s expected $10,000,000 deficit for 1933.

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