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THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RECORD

VOLUME IX, NO. 1, JANUARY 1, 1909

THE WORK OF THE FALL TERM

THE MISSION OF THE CONFERENCE FOR EDUCATION IN TEXAS*

BY W. S. SUTTON, LL. D., PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION

The name of the Conference for Education in Texas declares its mission. This society is not a douma, created to execute policies predetermined by external authority; it is a conference, which hopes that, through investigation and discussion in which its entire membership is to share, the ideals, content, and method of its work are to be established and maintained. Its strength is to rest upon the intelligence of its individual members, and the common stock of their reason is to fix the limits of its undertakings and its progress. Conference as it is, it is under bond to exercise its powers in the interest of the general welfare. If that spirit which is absolutely necessary to the development of any democratic institution once be lost, this Conference will hasten to a deserved, a foredoomed, and an inglorious end.

It is a Conference for Education, and, therefore, it will consider only questions pertaining to that field of human activity. Other fields are important-vastly important; but this association can be true to its name and preserve the unity of its followers by holding aloft but one banner, and that the banner of Education. This banner, however, must be broad enough to be recog nized as the rallying symbol by all those interested, whether directly or indirectly, in the many varying phases of education. That banner should never be raised to promote the interests of

*An address delivered in Dallas, May 9, 1908, at the second annual meeting of the Conference for Education in Texas.-Reprinted from the Texas School Magazine, for December, 1908.

any special school or group of schools at the expense of other schools or other groups; it should never be unfurled to encourage a propaganda for any particular aspect of education to the disparagement of other aspects. The legitimate results of education, in its widest and most significant sense, results affecting the lives of the 900,000 children to-day in Texas and of their successors in the oncoming generation, are to be the enduring objects upon which the zeal and the wisdom of this Conference are to be centered.

This movement has, furthermore, been founded in order that, through the co-operation of teachers and laymen, educational progress may be greatly developed in Texas. Other praiseworthy societies there are, having for their respective missions the amelioration of the condition of the inhabitants in foreign lands; but this Conference was born that we Texans might come to realize the difficulties in our own educational situation, and then, with patriotic devotion, employ whatever means may be necessary to the vanquishment of those difficulties. While it is to be confined to our own State, our work should no more be considered a provincial affair than is one's wise direction of the economic and social features of his own home. The truth is, that one who manifests, by contributions of personal service and of money, a greater regard for the welfare of foreigners than for that of his own fellowcitizens, deserves the censure of that scriptural passage which reads, "He that provideth not for his own household is worse than an infidel."

Having, in general terms, described the mission of this organization, which is a Conference the policies of which are to be determined by democratic methods, which is to direct its efforts to the study of problems pertaining to educational interests, and which is to confine its labors within the territory of the State of Texas, let me direct attention briefly to some of the more important phases of that mission.

In the first place, the financial support of our schools is a question which should be considered of primary importance by the citizens of this State and by the members of this Conference. The problems pertaining to the financing of our school system must be solved if all the children in Texas are to enjoy such ad

vantages as should obtain in every modern civilized State. There should be devised the best plans possible for the raising of school revenues, including methods of handling permanent funds, as well as the levy of moneys raised by state, county, and local taxation. The scientific study of these taxation problems is a work which this Conference cannot afford to neglect. When states go to war against ignorance, just as when kings go to war, the first and continuous demand is money. Texas, depending too largely upon a permanent fund which was created by the fathers of the Republic, and which has not cost this generation one drop of blood, an hour's labor, or the expenditure of a single dollar, has not become conscious of the fact that the amount spent per capita upon the education of her children is altogether insufficient, and is far below the per capita of each of a great many states in this Union. Whether Texas, however, occupies high rank or low rank in the list of states, is a matter of secondary importance. This is the question which she ought to face, and which she has not yet faced. "Does the taxation which now obtains furnish enough revenue to accomplish the purposes for which our school system has been established?" The following paragraph, taken from the message of Governor James Stephen Hogg to the Twenty-second Legislature, shows unquestionably that he had grappled with this question, and had discovered the only sure and satisfactory way by which it can be solved:

"A misleading opinion that 'the State will educate the children at its own expense' to some extent seems to prevail. This may sound well and appear as plausible, yet the question is pertinent, how will the State get the money with which to do this? The only answer is, from the people. The people compose the State. It exists by their consent, for their convenience, and to promote their happiness. Without money it cannot exist, and that must be raised by some means of taxation. A partial, qualified excep tion to this rule applies to the public schools. For their support— the State once owned a vast domain. At first it seemed to be the general expectation that all the expenses of schools could be defrayed out of it without resort to taxation. No longer does such an opinion prevail among those who are informed on the subject, and there is no hope of such a mistake's ever again being

in the least excusable.

The proposition, narrowed down to the line of candor, is, that if the people ever expect to have an efficient system of public free schools, they must prepare to pay for it." If it do nothing more than reveal to our citizenship the truth of Governor Hogg's contention, that our schools are inefficient, primarily for the want of funds, the existence of this Conference will be fully justified.

Again, in the organization and administration of school affairs are to be found many questions requiring the most careful consideration. Among them none is more important than to devise ways and means for the completion of our system by providing suitable instruction in secondary schools. At the present time legal provision is made for elementary and for higher instruction, but our statutes are silent as to secondary education, without which both elementary and higher schools are themselves seriously defective. Until this want be supplied, Texas cannot, in justice or decency, claim to have perfected a school system at all.

Another matter which relates to school organization, and to which this Conference can properly direct attention, is the utter divorce of the management of educational institutions from what is known as practical politics. The school is an institution which exists for the benefit of all classes and conditions of our people, for those of all political parties and factions. It needs no debate to reach the conclusion that any influence other than that which promotes the best interests of our children, has no rightful place in the management of the schools which they attend. Texas has, perhaps, suffered, comparatively speaking, little from political abuses on the part of those that have been charged with the control of her school, but, as she grows in population and in wealth, and as her urban communities increase in number, there will be greatly increased opportunities for the injection of baneful practices in school administration. Now is the time, when these evils are few and small, to make adequate provision, by law and otherwise, for the protection of our schools in this direction.

The third of these questions of organization and administration is that of supervision. For years the most primitive and expensive kind of supervision existed in this State. Many county. judges, who were ex-officio county superintendents, were men of

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