Shaw's The True Character of the NY Public Schools

The True Character
of the
New York Public Schools


Adele Marie Shaw

  • written between 1903-4
  • largely dismal portrait:
  • $23 million to be spent!!
    the future is in public schools
    unless it involves us we don't concern ourselves with educ
    What is your commitment to educ unless you have a kid in it?

    The Problem in NYC

  • start her study here
  • 85% of sch pop foreign or of foreign parentage

    Can any amount of work or money really solve the Problem

  • sch pop @ 588,614 up 40,408
  • sch budget $23mil in 1901-2
  • Make it all good, no matter what it costs
  • fewer child deaths, growth in NYC abnormaly high
  • If it hopes to Americanize a school pop chiefly offoreign parentage it must use abnormal means.
  • educate families too.

    scenes from primary School Rooms

  • visited 25 schools. carefully selected
  • lower grade teachers bear the heaviest burden: clases too large and demands exacting.
  • In a Brooklyn school: 65 kids in room for 20; kids change names to be like friends because of their friend's linguistic limitations; the good primary teacher has the power of making you forget your environment; teacher gave entire mind, soul, and heart to her task and then the philanthropist and super ask her to visit the kids in their homes.
  • @ 141 & 110 found ideal principal and modern building.In both sunshine, warmth and light pervaded.
  • Such schools are making self-supporting men of probable paupers, good men and women of probale criminals and good citizens of 1000s of parents who don't speak Englsh. example of inventive excellence.

    Medical Inspector

  • healthy body and child is the start of educ. Mann's 12th Report
  • It is the dead weight of of ignorance that fell at first upon the shoulders of the medical inspectors and the nurses.
  • kids like to be cared for

    the Darker Side of the Picture

  • NYC kids do not have eual chances
  • hundreds of girls deformed by classroom posture
  • 2-3 kids per desk, need more furniture more space
  • the environment should be better for growth of body, mind, character and be in good air and cleanliness.
  • open windows consumption scourge of NYC and fresh air will help.

    Murderous Hole of Darkness

  • Classroom enveloped in darkness, windows out to yards with laundry, water closets. Yards to small to play in.

    The Wrng kind of teaching

  • 3/4 of teachers couldn't get jobs in private schools.
  • teachers scold, ridicule, tone of exasperation,
  • the best because it rose to the principal's ideal
  • the worst because it ignored absolutely any individuality in the pupils and rewarded them for nothing more than a mechanical obedience to another's thinking.

    No School better than this school

  • In the majority of the schools I was continually embarassed by the discourtesy with which tghe children were addressed or ignored.

    About School Boards and examinations

  • stupid discourtesy of Bd and its workers make life for a new teacher horrible.
  • They act like they are doing something for you. You are intruding on them. they are rude.
  • took one taeacher six trips to get exam.
  • She ends by saying not all are like this, there can be found a great corps of gently bred, enlightened teachers

    Pay of Teachers

  • pay should be on merit and length of service, only on length.
  • certain injustices: W Prin gets $750 less than M head of hs dept and $150 less than W hs teacher. salaries should be equalized.


    1. NYC most dificult in country.
    2. doing wonderful work in solving problem
    3. however, conditions exist which make solution impossible.
    4. remdies: restrict immigration and more money.