Twenty Talks to Teachers

by Thomas E. Sanders

Chapter 15: The Value of a High School Course

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1908
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Sanders, T. E. (1908). Twenty Talks to Teachers. The Teachers Co–Operative Company.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 10.4
  • Word Count: 1,980
  • Genre: Informational
  • Keywords: education, educational, learning, teaching
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These talks are directed especially to young teachers. It is presumed that most of these are teachers in the grades or elementary schools. Your highest success and greatest usefulness must be measured by the lasting impressions you leave on your pupils. The worthy pupil who catches fire and ambition from you to be some thing and to do something, who years after can truth fully say it was from you that he got his aspiration for a high–school course, these pupils are to be the reward to you that is above all money value. I feel that I am justly proud of the percentage of my grade pupils who have gone to high school, and of my high school graduates that have taken a college or university course. Yale, Columbia, Vanderbilt, Tulane, Purdue, Chicago University, four State Universities, a number of normal schools and smaller colleges have had my high school students later in life. Most of them have made good. Many of them have done well, and in life are doing something for themselves. Whether I have contributed anything to these young men and women can hardly be told. But I rejoice in their success. Occasional letters from many of them, and greetings I get when we meet by accident, are some of the rewards which come to the earnest teacher—rewards above any money value.

I believe in education. I believe that right education will increase the value of the man. It will not make him do less work, but more. It may change his line of work, but if the necessity comes he can with all the energy and good cheer of the ignorant man do work no matter how humble and often more of it for his education. Not only that, but the boy of courage, and with a desire strong enough, if he have health, and no one depending upon him for support, can earn his way through the best high school or college. It is the measure of the grit of the boy. The world turns aside to let the man pass that knows where he is going. To kindle the fire of ambition in a capable boy, to call out the latent force and set it in the right direction, that is the highest office of the teacher.

Twenty–five years ago, when a boy of fourteen, in a country school, I had as teacher a young man to whom I owe much. It was his first term of school. Some patrons, in fact many, would not have voted the term a success, but he reached many of the boys, and myself among them. From him I received my first desire to be a teacher. From him dates my first desire for an education, and the faith in myself that I could secure it. Measured by the world's standards he has not been a great success, but to me his teaching was of the inspirational kind. It helped me to get my bearings, it created worthy desires and ambitions. Later, I have told him of the results of his teaching upon my own life and ambitions. With a modesty that is unassumed he begs me not to mention it, and thinks that it was simply a matter of chance.

A few years ago a father wrote asking me why he should send his son to high school. I wrote him my reasons for doing so. Perhaps these reasons may serve some young teacher for urging some other boy to go. They were at the time the best I could summon, and are yet as good as I could state in the limits of a personal letter.

1. If your boy is worth a bag of shucks, it will make a far more able man of him, mentally, morally and physically.—There are exceptions, it is true, but the exceptions only prove the rule.

2. High school teachers should be, and, if the high school is a good one, are, broad gauge, scholarly men and women, educated in our best colleges, normal schools and universities.—For a boy to come in close contact with such manly men and womanly women as should and do form the faculty of good high schools is above all money value to the boy. The magic mental touch that comes to the boy in contact with scholarly men and women of character, lifts him out of the hum–drum of life and makes a thinking man of him.

3. It will increase your boys money–making capacity.—The best statistics available show that the illiterate man in the United States earns less than $300 a year. The man with a common school education earns $400 a year. The graduate of the high school earns over $600 a year. Suppose your boy works from the time he is twenty until he is sixty years old—an earning period of forty years—figure the increased earning capacity the high school education will give him, and then answer if you think it will pay. There are some exceptions, of course. I take it that your boy is an average boy, as bright or brighter than his father was at his age. If he is an average boy, this will represent his chances. Fools and dudes are exceptions to all rules.

4. A good high school course will give a broader Held of activity to your boy.—In every walk of life the demands are more and more for men and women with more than a common school education. Firm after firm announces that their employees must have at least a good high school education. The mental discipline and self control given by a good high school course will give self–direction and grasp of conditions to your boy long after the Latin endings and algebraic formulae which gave the discipline have been forgotten. It is discipline for life's duties that is the real worth of the high school to the boy.

5. The more thorough the education of your boy the larger will be his adaptability to different kinds of work.— Blessed is the man whose resources and intelligence are such that he can readily—if circumstances demand it— find a dozen ways to make an honest living for himself and family. Here it is that the great superiority of the culture–giving, broad–gauge high school course is shown over the trade–fitting, quick–time, short–cut, get–ready in–a–hurry trade or business school.

6. The high school course will prepare your boy for the deeper and broader training of the university.—If he is made of the right material he will get the university training for himself, or urge you to help him to secure it. If he does not go to the university the high school course will fit him to become a successful leader in business or lay the foundation for a professional course or career.

7. The discipline and training of a high school course will not only increase the earning capacity of your boy, but it will increase his living capacity.—He will see more beauty in the evening sunset, God's wonderful watch care in the stars overhead, and more and sweeter fragrance in the pansy at his feet. It will develop character and manhood, give him thoughts and ideas of his own, make him broader in his views of life, and raise him to a higher standard of manhood.

8. The high school course should, and the chances are that it will, discover the boy to himself.—This is the greatest discovery any man can make—his own dignity, and worth, and capacity, and inclination—these things discovered and the man has a stronger power of his own to make life a success. If the high school discovers the boy to himself it has been of infinite value to him.

9. The high school course will increase your boy's chances for distinction in his life work.—A high authority, after much study of census returns and biographical dictionaries, reaches the following conclusions:

(1) That an uneducated child has but one chance out of 150,000 to gain distinction as a factor in the progress of the age.

(2) That a common school education increases his chances four times.

(3) That a high school education will increase the chances over the common school twenty–three times, or make his chances for distinction eighty–seven times as great as if he were without education.

10. A high school education will make your boy a* more positive force' in his community , his state, and the nation, socially, economically, and politically.—With many noted exceptions, in the future as in the past, our real constructive men, men whose monuments are their work, will be men trained and disciplined in the best schools of the country.

If your boy will work in school, if he has any desire whatever to continue in school, if he has the requisite amount of gray matter, or if he has the capacity of the average American boy, give him the advantage of a high school course. It will pay you and it will pay him. Make some sacrifice on your part if necessary to do it. Do not spoil him by giving him too much money. Teach him the worth of a dollar and how to earn one honestly. Hold him to strict account of every cent he spends, the day and date and for what spent. Teach him from the very first to handle your money as he should handle the money of an employer, accounting for his allowance each month without quaking, quibbling or miscellaneous accounts, and he will handle his own money better later in life.

Keep in close touch with his teachers, give them your loyal support, see them frequently and make inquiries about the boy and his work. For the boy's sake do not take his part against the teachers if he should be reprimanded by them for any cause. Do not tell his teachers too much about his excellent qualities at home, and how smart he is. They may soon know him as well as you do and maybe better. If they point out some of his faults, listen to them and do not fly off the handle—the chances are that they can see scores of faults that you have never discovered. Show your genuine interest in the boy, their work and the school. Take at least as much interest in the trainers of your boy as you do in the trainer of that young horse of yours which you confidently hope will take first prize next fall at the county fair. Show your interest in the boy as much as the horse and the chances are the results will be as good.

Understand your boy, and expect much from him. Let him know you expect much from him and that you shall keep close track of his work and his conduct. Study his report each month. If his grades are low, question him about it, and question to the point. Know the subjects he studies and who teaches each subject. Perhaps you know nothing in the world about the subject yourself, but question him and let him justify the study and what he is getting out of it. It will help you and do him much good. It is this daily co–operation and sympathy, this close oversight, the constant keeping in touch with the boy and his work, and your loyalty to the teachers and the school that will determine largely your boy's success.

Yes, send your boy to high school, and these are my reasons for you doing so.