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such an officer would do his best work. He would create a public sentiment in favor of the law by the good effects which would soon be evident." More than once before this the Massachusetts Reports have cited the example of Connecticut and urged greater centralization.”
It appears, therefore, from the foregoing that while the principle of compulsory education has taken a very deep hold on public sentiment in Massachusetts, and while the law relating thereto is being well enforced in many parts of the State, still the law is very unequally executed throughout the State, owing to absence of a strong central administration of the same; (2) that the defects of the local system of administration are being recognized, and a centralized administration of the laws is more and more becoming to be recognized not only as innocent and safe, but salutary and necessary. Perhaps it is not too much to predict that in the near future Massachusetts will wisely follow the lead of Connecticut, and turn in practice from the “local option" system to a “centralized” system.
It is interesting to turn to a brief consideration of the compulsory system of Connecticut, which State has from the start set the example for Americans of a system of administration in this field which is at once rational and effective. The vital part of the Connecticut compulsory law is contained in the following language: “All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some honest and lawful calling or employment, and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, spelling, writing, English grammar, geography and arithmetic. And every parent or other person having control of any child over eight and under sixteen years of age, whose physical or mental condition is not such as to render its instruction ini Mass. Sch. Report, 1894-5, pp. 567-8. Cf., for example, vol. 1, p. 184; vol. lii, p. 235; vol. liv, p. 113.
expedient or impracticable, shall cause such child to attend a public day school regularly during the hours and terms while the public schools in the district wherein such child resides are in session, or elsewhere, to receive thorough instruction during said hours and terms in the studies taught in said public schools. But children over fourteen years of age shall not be subject to the requirements of this section while lawfully employed to labor at home or elsewhere.” : Section 29 fixes a penalty not to exceed five dollars fine for each week's failure to comply with the above. Penalty is not incurred, however, when the child is destitute of clothing suitable for attending school and the parent is unable to provide the same, or when the mental or physical condition of the child renders such instruction impracticable. Sec. 40 requires towns to appoint truant officers. The language of the law is singularly clear and specific throughout and difficult of evasion. But the most important and characteristic feature of the Connecticut law is its system of execution. The significant language of the law concerning this is as follows: “The State board of education may appoint agents, under its supervision and control, for terms of not more than one year, who shall be paid not to exceed $5 per day for time actually employed, and necessary expenses, and whose accounts shall be approved by said board and audited by the comptroller. The agents so appointed may be directed by said board to enforce the provisions of the law requiring the attendance of children in school, and to perform any duties necessary or proper for the due execution of the duties and powers of the board.” ?
Here then we have a thoroughly centralized system of administration for the compulsory law-a very definite law, definite local officials subject to the direction of a central machinery. We have seen this system cited by way of conSch. law, 1896, sec. 28.
Ibid., seco 15.
trast with the Massachusetts system. Let us see directly how compulsory education has operated in Connecticut under this system of administration, which has practically existed ever since the passace of the Act of 1872. Perhaps we can show the workings of the system in no better manner than by making a few quotations from the State Reports from 1872 to the present time. As early as 1873 we find the following statement: “The law is generally approved and I learn of no opposition to it. . . . It is certainly increasing the attendance in many places."': In the
In the report for 1875 (p. 27) we find the following statement: “In Connecticut public sentiment is steadily growing in favor of the legal prevention of illiteracy. Stringent as are our laws on this sublect, they have awakened no public opposition. . A few parents—I have not heard of a dozen in all-openly defied the law, but as soon as they found that the law was imperative and that legal complaints were made out against them, they were glad to stay proceedings by compliance with its provisions.” The same report (p. 29) contains the following important direct allusion to the work of the State Agent: “A journey of the Agent or Secretary to the remotest district of the State would be amply compensated by the addition of a single child to the regular attendance at school. For the very purpose of increasing the attendance, the Agent is now chiefly occupied in visiting schools, school officers, and in some cases parents." We get a good idea of the efficiency of the centralized administration of the law from the number of prosecutions. There were nine prosecutions of employers between 1875 and 1886, and fifty-two prosecutions of parents and guardians during the same years." Mr. Giles Potter, who has been the State Agent ever since the adoption of the law, says “there have been prosecutions of parents or employers every year since 1878. But
1 Sch. Rep., 1873, p. 140.
constant efforts have been made to secure the due observance of these laws by other means. In enforcing these laws, much has been done by school visitors and other local officers by coöperating with the agent of the State Board.". In 1887 there were six prosecutions of employers and thirty prosccutions of parents and guardians. Concerning this unusually large number of prosecutions Mr. Potter says: "I have endeavored to follow up more thoroughly than formerly cases where it had been found that there had been criminal neglect on the part of parents and others having control of children. In doing this a much larger number of parents have been prosecuted . . . than in any former year.'
."'3 3 In 1889 there were seven prosecutions of employers and twentynine prosecutions of parents. In this year 764 children illegally absent were sent to school. In 1894 there was a total of twenty-two prosecutions. Concerning these prosecutions in general Mr. Potter says: " Prosecutions of parents and others having control of children have been made only in cases where there has been continued neglect of the children and defiance of law. It is not pleasant to resort to such means, but it is doubtless well that some do make themselves objects for the enforcement of the law and examples of what the law can do." He further comments as follows: “There is evidently an increasing tendency to regard violators of these school laws as deserving punishment quite as much as those who do violate any other criminal statutes." It is very doubtful if such a sentiment could have been created under any mere local option system.
It is very interesting to note the change in public sentiment in Connecticut during the past twenty-five years regarding compulsory education, as developed by this thoroughly business-like and centralized system of administration, 1 Sch Rep. 1886, p. 48. Ibid., pp. 48-9.
3 Ibid., 1888, p. 32. * Ibid., 1896, p. 34.
Ibid., 1888, p. 35.
especially as contrasted with all the other States in which a merely local and ineffective executive machinery has been established. At first twelve weeks' attendance each year was all that could be exacted, and that somewhat reluctantly; now thirty-six weeks are required in every district in the State. At first the age limit was eight to fourteen years; now it is eight to sixteen years. At first the people were opposed to the system, and cried out against what was thought to be excessive centralization; now they send in numerous requests from all parts of the State each year for the services of these same agents of the central board. In short, everything goes to show that the system is working admirably.
And what has proven true in Connecticut probably might and perhaps will prove true in other States of the Union. When compulsory education, even in its dilutest form, was first agitated in this country, it was everywhere declared to be unsuited to the “genius” of the people; "the first step towards centralization," "opposed to the spirit of American institutions,” and other like shocking epithets were hurled at it from every quarter. But as the Commissioner of Education says: “The arguments and discussions of 30 years or more have been gradually silencing opposition, and public sentiment is slowly crystallizing in the direction of requiring by law all parents to provide a certain minimum of school instruction for their children. This tendency is unmistakable.": Facts indicate very plainly that Americans are getting over their proverbial fear of such phrases as the above, and are being converted to compulsory education by its evident practicability. It is no longer deemed sufficient in a free public school system like ours to simply give every child an opportunity to acquire an elementary education, but the very safety of the State imperatively demands the
i Com. Educ. Rep., 1888–89, p. 470.