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EDUCATION BOARD., Issue 7967, 24 July 1889
A special meeting was held this afternoon, and attended by Messrs H. Clark (chairman), M. Fraer, J. W. Jago, J. Macgregor, J. Green, Dr Hislop, and the Hon. T. Dick. Tho business was to consider the following communication from Mr D. White in regard to what was said by that gentleman at the recent meeting of the Education Institute :
Dunedin, July 22.18! 9 >ir,—At the request of the Education Boaru, I avail myself of the opportunity of making a statement regarding certain words used by me at the recent meeting rf the Educational Institute! of Otago. Beforo applying myself to what appears to me to be the precise meaning of tho sentence to which the Board direots my attention, I may perhaps be permitted to state the circumstances under which it was made. Though not beating directly on the object and purpose of this letter, these circumstances yet tend to throw light on the whole subjeot, and may enable the Board to judge of tho significance to be attached to the rem irk to which the Board takes exoeption. I havc'always taken tho deepest interest in the Board's administration in the matter of appointing toachcrs. I think I am right in saying that every resolution of tho Institute that has been pissed from time to time with regard to tho appointment of teachers was originally drafted by me. The Board will therefore see that I have had good reason for showing special interest in tho systems it has adopted in the dischargo of this important function. The rceoi.t dissatisfaction of the Board, together with an increiding want of confidence on tie part of teachers in the working of the system, as well as the marked absence of harmony between school committees and the Board in this matter, all induced me to do what I could to draft out what appeared to me the best mothod of appointing teachers. Some tiino before the Institute meeting I gave considerable attention to the methods adopted in Frante, Germany, Great Britain, Amend, and the colonies. I thought to see if that knowledge would aid me in oomin>; to a decision on the merits or demerits of our own system. I had then no idea of bringing tho matter up in the Institute, I committed my conclusions to paper with tho hope that I should bo able to mako use of them in some way when occasion offered. It seemed to me that I must accept the educational machinery of our Education Act, and I looked at no part of it with any hostile feeling. I satisfied myself that my knowledge of the systems that had beej tried by the Otago Boird was fully and fairly accurate. I was thus enabled to speak with some authority on the question. The Committee of Management of tho Institute thought it advisable to discuss the whole [ matter at our annual meoting. Members of the Board thought it would be a wise thing to get the opinion of the teachers on tho subject, and at the meeting of the Institute I moved for the appointment of a committee to consider the matter. A large and representative committee, some thirteen or fourteen members, selected from the different branches of the Institute, including head-masters and assistants, met twice, and after full discussion unanimously adopted certain resolutions, drawn out by myself, which were afterwards submitted to the Institute. Having given the subject some attention, the Committee agreed that I should take charge of the resolutions at the public meeting. I happened to mention incidentally to a friend of mine connected with the Press that I intended speaking on the appointment of teachers—a question in which ho is most keenly interested-and he kindly offered to send a reporter to give a full repoit. I mentioned this fact to other members of the Institute, so that if tbey intended speaking they would know exactly what was to bo done. Mr speech was a virtual reproduction cf my written notes, and what I said was said deliberately, and with the idea that it would he published. The speech as reported by the ' Daily Times' of July 5 is not a verbatim one; it does not on tain all that I said, but so far as it goes it is perfectly accurate. It seems to mo that If a part o! a speech is to be rightly understood, especially when that spoeoh is nude on any plan or with connected arrangement, any particular sentence mujt be viewed, not only as an independent clause truo or untrue in itself, but it must also be considered in the light of preceding and su' scqueut passages. I therefore wish to point out what line of thought I was pursuing when I spoke in the way Indicated in my notes. I spoke first of the past system. By the pas: system I meant a system carried out by the Board in accordance with the terms of a resolution proposed by myself and carried at the Dunedin branch of tho Institute some time ago, to the effect that before making a selection of names to send down to committees the Board should fix on a certain rank below which a 1 should be exoluded, and that this rank should be determined in each cade by the importance of tlw appointment under eonsideration. In my remarks I pointed out that this system bad not been consistently applied. Membois of the Board gave me ample evidence on that point. Members of the Board had said that in tho past system appointments had been largely influenced by buttonholing, that the system had been a haphazard one, and that under the past they knew thera had been injustice. I took these words as referring to a system, and to tho operation of a system, and in my speech I also spoke of a system and of the operation of a system. I then pointed out what b.idics wire concern d in carrying out any system cf appointments, and referred to the difficulties that wo m iy expect to encounter in trying to secure an impartial administration. These powers obviously WBre, I said, (1) the officials of the Board ; (2) the Eduoition Board ; (3) the School Committee. In proposing any schtme I remarked twit these were all to he taken into consideration. Tlio best system would be that which would mast successfully exclude the possibility of favoritism or injustice in every one of the three sources of influence or power. I discussed boards and the cftloials and their undefined powers and school committees in a perfectly general way, without any particular reference, and showed that the possibilities of unfair influenoo wero numerous. I then sought to rtitw that the system of appointing teachers according to rank, when invariably odhored to, was a system that would tend to lesson the facilities for injustice and favoritism. With that system I wished to contrast the present or three-name sy6tem, and pointed out wherein the ono was preferable to the othor. Having given tho subject a great deal of unbiassed consideration, I was able to discuss this system in all its buarings. I then referred at length to whit I considered tho inherent defects of the system tho Board had adopted, apart altogether from its results in aotual operation, making it very e'ear, I think, that any system of appointing toachers which fixes o definite number (three or five) for selection is a wrong ono, because it givrs prominence to the idea of person* rather than claims and qualification!!, and tnia, I pointed out, would opon up at onco opportunity and faoility for favoritism. I looked at it es a theoretical system. But I did more than this: I had also to consider tho syt-tem in its practical aspect, as administered by the officials, by tho Board, by the School Committee. I discussed " What about the thrcenvne system'!" both as an abstract system and as a practical system of appointing teachers, and under both systems I thought it very unsatisfactory. When I had vividly in view not only tho possible, but what appeared to mo to have been the actual effects of this system of appointing teachers, I said "It appears to me to be a gross system of favoritism from beginning to end." It is a system that offers facilities for favoritism when looked at theoretically; it is a system under which favoritism has been at work. This was the general attitude of my mind to tho whole system when I uttered the sentence "It appears to me to be a gross system of favoritism from beginning to end." Now, I submit that anyone who ooes not look at this particular sentence in the full light of this knowledge will fail to understand its full moaning or intention. But the sentence has, of course, an independent meaning of • its own, as well as its meaning whon taken in coherent relation to previous sentences. What meaning haß It? In the first place, I said "It appears to me." That is, I have expressed my opinion on tho appearance of certain facts and principles in connection with a particular system of appointing teachers. Then, feeling somo amount of indignation, 1 said it was a " grofs" system. Further, I used the words " gross system." I spoke of a system of appointing teachers and of bodies concerned in udmloisteiing the system—viz., the officials, the Board, ths School Committee I said it was a system of " favoritism." I spoke of favoritism as it affected the teacher, injustice as it affeoted the bodies carrying out the system either in the way of error of judgment, imperfeot consideration, or personal bias or influence. I do not profess to define justloe or favoritism further than to say that the Teachers' Classification Scheme, sanctioned by the Education Department and recognised by the Board, is a publicly recognised test of a teacher's qualifications In my opinion the threcnamo system disregards this, and sets up a different and varying test of teachers' claims to consideration, as a result of such a system, in the actual administration by officials, by the Board, by the Committee, there is, it appears to me, evidence of favoritism somewhere. I did not say where. In order to show that this is the meaning of this Bentenoo I osk the Board to look at) the very next sentence—viz.: "His opinion was that that had been the effect of this system, and that it would continue to be the effeot of the system unless it was a'tered." I spoke throughout of what appeared to me the effect, the results of a system. I also added the final words " from beginning to end," which were intended by me to mean that the injustice or favoritism did not appear to me to be confined to a single case; there appeared to be more cases than onr. Certain cases were set before mo, but knowing tho difficulty of proving wrong intention or wrong motive I do not intend to give them. Nor is it necessary for my caso. All I said was that it appeared to me to he so. Having now referred fully and fairly to the meaning and interpretation of my words as reported in my speech, I feel it due to myself to say something regarding the Board's action with regard to them which seems to mo to bo somewhat irregular. On the evening of the day beforo the public meeting of the Board, I received a letter from the Board covering certalu resolutions to which I shall now refer. , ~ , " 1. That although the Board recognises the right of its toachers, in common with othor members of the community, to express their opinions regarding any line of policti that may be adopted and followed by the Board in the administration of school affairs, yet the Board, in justice to its members and the position they occupy, cannot allow that teachers in the employment of the Board should in their publlo utteranoos call in question thn honeMy of purpose and integrity of conduct ol tho members of the Boardin their performance of the official duties devolving upon them." This resolution lays down what Is evidently Intended as a goneral direction to toachers regarding their public utterances. This is legitimately within the functions of the Board in dealing with its servants. If this is a rule of general app'ication, however, then in a matter that so nearly concerns the privileges of teachers in their liberty of speech, ought there not to be some publio notification to this effeot? If, on the othor hand, this expression of opinion is only intended to apply specifically to myself then it should not. I respectfully submit, toko anything of a retrospective nature. However, supposing that such a rule wee in existence, I havo to submit that in anything I havo said I am oioarly within tho bounds nf the rights and duties tbia principle would impoße. The essential words of the whole paragraph are "a line of policy." Q-iite so. I discussed throughout a system or line of policy, and what appeared to me to bo the inevitable eftVct of any such eysten . I draw attention to the italiuiscd words towards the end of the paragraph, and in reply say that tho only momber of the Board to whom 1 rcforrcd was Mr Maogrcgor, and of him I eaid iu my speech : " Mr Macgregor had
brought the matter up—the three-name system—in the Eduoation Board, and the motion he proposed, had stirred up great opposition. II was prompted Vji the beat motive:)."
" 2. That in the opinion nf the Board oertain words attributed to Mr White in the report above referred to are of a most objectionable character, as they plainly and unmistakably impute to the Board a oourse of conduct of a most improper and unworthy nature." As this decision expresses the meaning whioh the Board attached to my words before it gave me an opportunity of saying what my words meant, I am fully of opinion that the Board wilt now see its w.iy to a reconsideration of the whole matter. With regard to tbe third paragraph, I was simply requested to answer it in the affirmative or in the negative, whioh 1 did. I understood ihtit the only part of the Board's letter of tbe 17th July to which it was oompetent for me to refer was tbe direct question in the third paragraph, but at the urgent instigation of the co-members of a deputation that was to wait on the Board, I agreed to call attention to the circumstances under which tbe Board arrived at its decision. The whole of this statement is a reply to the Board's second letter, dated July 18,1(89. Tbe Whole elm and purpose of my speeoh was intended to aid the Board in tbe solution of a difficult question. No one with any oommon sense would ever do anything to lessen the estimation in which be i) held by his fellow workers; and for my own part I am not conscious of having said anything in my speech derogatory to any body of men. I know what respect for offlolal superiority means, and I aho know what Is due to my own character and reputation. I, therefore, hope th'it what I have said does not appear evasive; I trust lam not induced under the semblance of having the courage of my opinions to maintain an attitude that is Indefensible.—l am, yours respectfully, D. White.
The Chairman asked whether the Board meant to discuss the matter in open Board or in committee.
Mr Frabb thought it would be better to take it in committee in the first place, and would move in that direction.
Mr Green seconded the motion. By taking the discussion in committee they could go more fully into the matter, and besides, speaking for himself, he had not yet read Mr White's letter right through, and was therefore not prepared to express an opinion on it offhand. The Chairman agreed with the motion, not so much for the reason that anything that might Le said should not be published, but because, being in committee, they could talk to each other in a conversational way about the matter.
Mr J ago was disposed to have the matter discussed in open Board, but would not press his objection to the motion. The motion was put and carried unanimously. On resuming, The Chairman moved that the following resolution, agreed to in committee, be adopted—" That Mr White's reply to the resolution of the Board is evasive and unsatisfactory, and that Mr White be requested to say definitely whether he meant, by the words quoted in the Board's resolution of July 17, to charge the Board with favoritism."
The Hon. T. Dick moved as an amendment—"That inasmuch as Mr White has stated that his remarks referred to the system and not to the Board, and also has stated that he is not conscious of having said anything in his speech derogatory to any body of men, this Board accepts his explanation."
The amendment was lost, and the motion carried by a majority, Mr Dick dissenting.
EDUCATION BOARD., Issue 7967, 24 July 1889
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