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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

2. Extract from Superintendent W. T. Harris' Report. — The Kindergarten

2. Extract from Superintendent W. T. Harris' Report.

The Kindergarten.

The experiment of establishing a Kindergarten in South St. Louis, at the Des Peres School, in the year 1872—73, having succeeded beyond expectations under the able management of Miss Blow, it was resolved to try the experiment in two schools near the centre of the town. Accordingly, the Divoll and the Everett Schools were selected, and a room page 4 in each was placed under the charge of a teacher who had received training under Miss Blow as an assistant the previous year. From two to five assistants have been allowed each "director" or manager of a Kindergarten. No compensation, as yet, has been necessary in order to secure the services of able assistants. They volunteer in large numbers to teach for one year gratuitously for the sake of the opportunity of learning how to conduct a Kindergarten.

The experiment at the Divoll and Everett Schools proved successful. It was hoped that the children of the very poor would be brought to the Kindergarten, inasmuch as the peculiar power of the new institution to elevate, and regenerate as it were, was relied upon to work great results where its influences were most needed. Cleanliness, manual skill, taste in ornament and design, politeness and courtesy, are the very virtues needing cultivation first among the indigent. But, as in all educational matters, the intelligent and well-to-do were foremost in appreciating the Kindergarten and in entering their children to enjoy its benefits. Ignorance cannot be left to itself to provide its own remedy—directive intelligence must first show the way. There has been certain improvement in this respect, and when the afternoon Kindergarten was opened at the Everett School, the ultimate success of the experiment in this direction was no longer in doubt.

The primary difficulty in the way of engrafting the Kindergarten on a system of public schools is its expensiveness. This objection has to be overcome first. In St. Louis we have not met the objection in its full force, for the reason that a plenty of assistants have been found, as above mentioned, to volunteer their services without compensation, for the opportunity of learning the art. We have had only the expense of the director. Inasmuch as the daily session of a Kindergarten ought not to exceed three or three and a half hours, there is time for a second session in the afternoon, with different pupils. The room and apparatus is thus page 5 utilized to twice the extent. Again, if one director could supervise both Kindergartens—morning and afternoon—a better salary could be paid her and yet the cost of tuition would not be increased exorbitantly. As before shown in this Report, the average tuition in the Public Schools, including the District, High and Normal, amounts to about $19, and the cost of incidentals is 82.50 extra. The tuition in the Primary Schools is $12.50 per annum and less. The salary given the director of a morning Kindergarten is $500. If her average attendance is 50 pupils, the tuition will cost only 810. The salary of $800 was offered for the director who would manage both morning and afternoon Kindergartens, but as yet no one has been found equal to the task; the drain on the physical system is too great. Accordingly the afternoon Kindergarten is conducted by a different director. Cheapness of tuition depends upon the number of pupils taught by the teacher, as well as upon the salary paid. If one director could manage a Kindergarten with 100 children in attendance—seated at four tables—her salary might be placed at $800, and $400 distributed among three or four assistants.

At present the tables used in the Kindergarten seat about 16 pupils when full, and the percentage ordinarily absent reduces the number to 13 or 14. An assistant at $200, having the control of 20 pupils only, costs each pupil a tuition of $10 per annum. Tables of double this size have been suggested, and probably will be adopted for the sake of economy.

As the material used by the pupils for their work—sticks, peas, drawing books, colored paper for weaving, clay for modelling, worsted for sewing, etc., etc.—is quite expensive, the bill for incidentals is large, and there is no way of leaving each pupil to purchase his own material as the pupils in the higher grades purchase their books and stationery.

The friends of the system claim, very justly, that true economy is to be measured not by cost alone, but by the page 6 amount and quality of the education that is purchased. They point to the superiority of Kindergarten training, and demand that it shall be introduced everywhere, because so much more valuable than any other. There will be, notwithstanding, great difficulty in persuading a School Board to pay $10 for the education of a child in his fourth or fifth year, when he can be taught in his seventh or eighth year for $12. The financial problem is, therefore, a vital one in the establishment of public Kindergartens. I have no question as to their great success under reasonably competent and well-trained teachers, to produce the following results: (1) Good physical development; (2) quickness of invention and fertility of imagination; (3) a keen sense of symmetry and harmony; (4) great mechanical skill in the use of the hands; (5) ability to form rapid judgments in number, measure, and size at a glance of the eye; (6) initiation into the conventionalities of polite society in their demeanor towards their fellows, and in the matters of eating, drinking, and personal cleanliness.

In this connection the following report* of Miss Blow will be read with great interest: