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MERTHYR, DOWLAIS AND DISTRICT TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION. ANNUAL MEETING. The annual meeting of the above association was held on Saturday afternoon in Caedraw Schools. The members attended in force, and Mr. Woodman, Dowlais, took the chair. The first business done was the election of president for the forthcoming year. Following the usual custom Mr. R. Price, the vice- president, was elected president and took the chair amidst loud applause. THE PRESIDENTS ADDRESS. Mr. Price sincerely thanked them for conferring the honour upon him, and said that he had taken the important question of the overcrowded curriculum which was agitating the professional world to such an extent at present as the topic upon which to deliver his presidential address, and, after a few preliminary remarks, proceeded as follows In the year 1884 there was a great outcry against Overpressure in schools." At that time the curriculum, as I shall show directly, bad not assumed anything like its present proportions; yet the strain was so great that the executive of our union felt compelled to institute an inquiry into the whole question. The result was the publication of that important document, The New Code and Overpressure in Elementary Schools." Also the matter was deemed of such importance that a conference of members of Parliament was held, and a deputation from the National Union of Teachers gave the teachers' views on the question, Public meetings were also held in different parts of the country. Now the document referred to contained vast amount of startling information. It stated that a number of letters from local associations in all parts of England and Wales had been received, testifying to the existence of overpressure on teachers and scholars. These contained the names of many teachers whose deaths had been attributed to the overstrain caused by their work. In other cases, teachers had com- pletely broken down under the pressure, and had been obliged to give up their occupation while others were working in Schools at ereat risk of a breakdown in health. Other additional evidence, overwhelming in its force and extent, was adduced. From this I think it is perfectly clear that practical men saw danger in 1884, in the overstrain experi- enced at that time, in the demand for results. And I seriously ask, if there were c verstrain then, what can be said of the condition of things to-day with the recent additions to the currictilam ? I shall not trouble you with the requirements of the Code of 1884, but I should like to point out briefly the addi- tions made to that code. In 1884 class subjects were optional; now one must be taken. Then, too, draw- ing was an optional subject; now, wherever there are boys drawing must be taught. In 1884 the examina- tion in singing by note was by no means a difficult test; now a further test in time and tune in Division IV. is demanded in all schools with an average atten- dance exceeding 60 where there is more than one certificated teacher. Now, in addition to all this there must be provision on every school time-table for :-(a) object lessons and suitable occupations (b) instruction in Swedish or other drill or suitable exer- cise (e) ten minutes' recreation at every school meet- ing. Who will dare deny after this that this is not a question of primary importance ? Why, our best equipped and most favoured town schools from all parts of the country are sending in their protests against these further demands, and pointing out the absolute impossibility of carrying thein out under pre- sent conditions. If this is the case with the town school, what about tho poor rural schools, where the teacher has, in hundreds of cases, to take charge of three, four, and even five standards himself ? We can but arrive at one conclusion that it will simply be unbearable, and the cry cver-pressure" will have to be raised with renewed energy. And it isourduty as unionists, yes as human beings with a trace of sympathy in our natures, to direct public attention to the whole business. Let it be atonceunderstoodthat we are for a wise and generous curriculum for the child of the toiler. Further, none of us look for finality in educational progress. Far from it. Swedish drill, physical exercises of all sorts, and suitable occupa- tions are excellent things in themselves, and we, as teachers. fully realize their value and highly approve of them. Also, we believe that Mr. Acland, a gentle- man whom we all honour and respect as an excellent administrator and one imbued with the highest prin- ciples of education, has made these additions with a laudable object in view, viz., the true happiness of the children. But the fact of the matter is this Mr. Acland has piled his pet ideas on to the curriculum without taking off the load which his predecessors left behind tfiem, and one result only, as tar as I can see, must inevitably follow. The endeavours to encompass and achieve all these matters may cause the machinery to break down of its own weight, and then maybo we shall have a thorough-going re-constitution of the curriculum. There is a danger also that what should be healthy physical training may, in many instances, be rendered a dull and even irksome task in consequence of the unreasonable demands made by the rather inelastic system under which we are bound to work. Take the subject of drawing, for instance. What might lie a pleasant interlude for all concerned is ren- dered, I fear, more or less a drudgery of the inexplic- able ways of the Science and Art Department. The question amounts to this Is it possible in the limited number of years available for school life, and in the number of hours during which the school could be opened, to get through the number of subjects demanded in anything like an intelligent and efficient fashion ? We say decidedly, No. We readily admit that the code grants a consider- able amount of elasticity in choice of subjects, and that a good deal of improvement has been obtained in this direction stfll I think there might he still more liberty to choose subjects. And in pleading for lightening the requirements on the children, we agree that the code should make provision for the develop- ment to the utmost of the mental faculties of every child, and I am sure none of us would suggest to cut oilt from the code anything necessary to such Educa- tion. I feel confident that every teacher most ardently desires to make every school a fitting por- tion of our great educational machine all of us long to see school life an endless round of happiness and sunshine for the children in many cases school should be a relief from the squalid home aid in all cases it should be an attraction to be quitted with regret and ever regarded with pleasure. But if our schools and our teaching are to approach anything near the ideal, they must not be so closely interwoven with the payment of grants, and the value of educa- tion must not be too readily gauged from the £ s. d. standpoint. It is true that a better and more rational education is given now than in former years, but we say best is better, and we maintain that if educa- tion is to be the most precious heritage of the future citizens of this country it should be the best possible. The fact is, England is saturated with the commer- cial spirit, the spirit that Napoleon justly satirised when he spoke of us as a nation of shopkeepers." Probably England is the only civilised country that could have been persuaded to sacrifice its education for 30 years to the principles of the yard stick and tape measure. It is still difficult for many to under- stand what could be amiss with a system of pay- ment by results there is a great deal of lingering inability to rise anywhere near to the heights of the question, or to appreciate the finer threads which weave education into right living. Not only in rural districts, but in numberless towns, is there a great and palpable distrust of education, and as a policy of inaction is out of the question, the role of the enemy of the elementary schools is to choke education when- ever or wherever possible, or dole it out in small doses, warranted innocuous. However incredible it may seem, there are in our much-boasted nineteenth century persons in our communities, especially in our rural districts, who still look upon the enactment which provides for the attendance at school of young Hodge as a mild form of national lunacy. They object to be made contri. butory to this senseless aberration, and they make no secret of the fact that the beginning and end of their School Bodfrd policy will be to render the cost of equipping the schools as insignificant up human ingenuity can make it. To many I have no doubt these statements may appear exaggerated but they accurately represent the high water mark of the intelligence of an appreciable section of even directors of education. To any who wish to dispute this, I would recommend a close perusal of Mr. Macnamara's paper on Small School Boards." Now we will readily admit that educational qualification may not be essential in those who essay to guide the work of national education. Many of the best and noblest friends to the cause of education in this country are to be found amongst those who were denied the advantage in early life of such training as the schools provide. But what is absolutely indis- pensable is that anyone who wishes to interfere in ) le education shall be a man or woman of public spirit and that he or she shall have a high estimate of the value and importance of the work being done in the schools of the people, a ready sympathy with the teachers, and a burning resolve to allow no obstacle which makes for inefficiency to go unremoved. From similar reasons to those I have mentioned already arises the fact that some people do look rather contemptuously on the office of school teacher. But no doubt the feeling is fast disappearing as it must necessarily do under the influence of the present-day teacher. People forget that it is no longer the wooden-legged sea captain-" not the man to impart a good moral tone "-as the Blue Book for 1850 puts it, or the one-armed sea captain "salary J618 a year with no house"—who is teaching the young idea how to shoot nowadays. Oh, no the present day teacher has gone through a self-denying apprentice- ship of five years and generally two years college course, during which he has been subjected to the most vigorous examinations anent his physical condi- tion and mental capabilities. However, rather than you should think that I tm taking a too pessimistic view of the whole situation, I am pleased to confess that there is every evidence that the area of real interestedness in education is rapidly extending. And I am proud to say that nowhere is this more conspicuous than in the working classes of the pre- sent day. Here let me give you a quotation showing what that sturdy and honest champion of the working- men, John Burns, thinks of education and teachers. Speaking atameetingin London last June, heexpressed his "regret that schoolmasters did not take a much more prominent and active part in public life as was the case with teachers in France, Switzerland and Germany. The teachers there after training the children, turned their attention to guiding and influencing the adults. He felt jealous that the virtues, the patience, and the discipline which teachers acquired and exercised in their calling were not utilised to a much greater extent outside the schoolroom. He found fault with society for accord- ing the teacher a status below that of the doctor or the lawyer, while in his opinion the teacher was more valuable than either. The teachers' work brought them into daily contaot with numbers of poor and neglected children, they had constantly before them the sad effects of parental neglect and of bad home conditions, and he called upon the teachers in these cases to take a human interest and to play a parent's part. He was in favour of ample pay which would relieve teachers from the necessity of undertaking extraneous work, and thus enable them to return refreshed to their daily dutiea. He wished to rub in the lesson that money spent on education was really nianey saved, that it was far better to spend money in fitting'children to earn au honest living, and in training them to virtue, than to spend thoivsaude in tracking down criminals, or to vote away millions on armies and navies." The following is interesting and instructive at the present time, and we value it highly, because we believe it to be the heartfelt conviction of a true friend of the people. We also have the assent nf all kinds of politicians in saying that few, if any, public men have a keener conception of the new leaven which is leavening the political lump, or a more accurate judgment of the forces which are shaping the con- trolling democracy of these realms. Lord Rosebery, in a speech delivered last May, assures us that we are the captains and guides of the future democracy, which is to make our future destinies." A whole host of lesser authorities in both parties are enunciating the same truth. Indeed it is generally admitted now that a State governed on democratic principles must see that its real rulers, the people, are equipped with due knowledge and intellectual training, if they are to register wise decisions on weighty political pro- blems. It has been said truly that ignorance is neither a safeguard ofconstitution nor a fit weapon of reform." The true greatness of this country depends upon the intelligence and the education of the demo- cracy, and the moulding of these is in the hands of the primary teachers. The country then, for its own sake, should insist upon teachers receiving fair-I would say generous—treatmmt. We have only to hope now that the compliments which are showered on us will not only blossom and bring forth good fruit, but golden fruit. Before concluding, I feel it is my bounden duty to say a. few words on our great Union. First of all, let me heartily welcome to our ranks those friends who have just left college, and who hold appointments in our district. I sincerely trust that each one will make it a point of enrolling himself or herself at once. In glancing over the executive's report for last year, I find that over 80 per cent. of the certificated men teachers of the country are associated in Union but, I am bound to say, that only about 40 per cent of the women certificated teachers are members. This seems strange, but then possibly the explanation is that they have other unions in view, more congenial to them, and where they think that the vexatious troubles of school life Ni-ill be heard of no more" (laughter). But looking at the question seriously, it is a matter of great regret that during the past year, our own numbers should have fallen off, because we feel that the Union may now more than ever claim the adhesion and loyalty of its members, both old and new. It must be evident that the Union is now in numbers so strong, and in influence so powerful, that no teacher, no matter how well placed or how poorly paid, can afford to remain outside the self-protective phalanx of its ranks. To those who still hold aloof may I add one more to the many earnest appeals levelled at them ? They may desire to stand aside, indifferent and apathetic. They may have no quarrel with the Union they may simply want to be left alone. We say the attitude is an impossible one. Their very apathy, if the conflict of terms may be allowed, is actively hostile to the Union's aims and ends. Every non-member, whether he or she desires it or not, is absolutely a drag on the wheel of Union progress. Those who are not for us are against us. With every new member enrolled the benefits accruing to membership are enhanced mani- fold and increasingly. Let ns all, therefore, endeavour to enrol every possible member in our district during the coming year. We believe that a brighter and happier day for education and the teacher is near its dawn, and we may fairly claim that the long and steadily continued operations of our Union have been the chief agents in bringing about those improvements in education and in the position of the teacher which are now visible. Although a vast amount has been done, still we cannot regard this as sufficient, or as strictly typical of the work of years to come. In the immediate future, great problems in education will need to be grappled with, and the power and resources of the profession will more than ever need to come into play. At every stage in our progress fresh duties and responsibilities arise. For what has been done by the veterans in our ranks wo may well be thankful for what remains to be done the Union, with its pre- sent leaders, may well take heart and determination. No teacher can justly rest until the whole educational system of the country is founded upon an educational basis, and until the high mission and faithful labours of the educator are accorded the recognition and con- sideration, professional, social, and pecuniary, which are their due. The address was frequently applauded, and Mr. Price resumed his seat timid loud cheers. A vote of thanks to the outgoing officers for their services, was proposed by Mr. John Lloyd, seconded by Mr. J. R. Evans. and carried unanimously.—Mr. Woodman briefly returned thanks.—Mr- A. Houlson, Dowlais, was elected vice-president, and Mr. T. David, secre- tary. Miss James was re-elected Measurer. The following were made members of the Executive Com- mittee :—Misses Morgan, Jenkins, Jones and Davies, Messrs. Walters, Fleming, Lloyd, J. R. Davies, M. Owen, E. Williams, T. T. Jenkins, Edward Jenkins, R. H. Rees, W. T. Williams, and Woodman.—Mr. J. R. Jenkins was elected recreative secretary, and Mr. Walters and Mr. Price, the piesident, were appointed delegates to the Manchester Conference. The members afterwards adjourned to tea.