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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1959
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, at 10:30 a.m., in room 4232, New Senate Office Building, Senator Lister Hill, chairman of the full committee, presiding.
Present: Senators Hill (presiding) and Yarborough.
Committee staff members present: Stewart E. McClure, chief clerk; William G. Reidy, Frederick R. Blackwell, and Raymond Hurley, professional staff members.
Senator Hill. The subcommittee will kindly come to order.
We are delighted to have with us this morning our very distinguished colleague and friend, the Senator from Wyoming, Mr. O'Mahoney.
Senator, we would be only too happy, sir, to have you make any statement you see fit.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOSEPH C. O'MAHONEY, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF WYOMING
Senator O’MAHONEY. Mr. Chairman, I arrived here this morning to introduce a witness from Wyoming. Finding the microphone on the table, I presume that that is an in
I vitation to proceed.
Senator Hill. It is an invitation, sir.
Senator O’MAHONEY. Mrs. Betty Lou Pagel is the coordinator of elementary education in Cheyenne, and she can testify to you about the conditions which confront the teachers and what can be done by the Federal Government in providing the aids to education which are mentioned in this bill.
She has been in the service as a schoolteacher for, believe it or not,
Senator Hill. Looks are certainly belying, Senator. Senator O’MAHONEY. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to come here this morning and present her to you with my endorsement. She is a competent person, and I know she is going to tell you a story in which you will be interested. .
And inasmuch as the joint economic committee is meeting in the Old Senate Office Building, Mrs. Pagel, I know, will excuse me if I depart at this moment.
Senator Hill. Senator, may we thank you for your presence. May I say that I personally know
of your long, devoted, and active interest in the cause of education. We so much appreciate your coming and being with us this morning.
Senator O'MAHONEY. The Federal Government must do these things. In the last 25 to 30 years the taxable wealth of the United States has been concentrated in hands and in safety deposit boxes beyond the reach of the local assessors. If we are not going to develop the greatest natural resource that we have, namely, the children, the rising generations, if we are not going to educate them, we will pursue the old policy of relying on local taxation.
Local taxation will not raise the funds. Concentrated economic power makes necessary the passage of legislation of this kind.
Senator Hill. Thank you very much, Senator.
Now, Mrs. Pagel, we will be delighted to have you proceed in your own way. STATEMENT OF MRS. BETTY LOU PAGEL, TEACHER,
CHEYENNE, WYO. Mrs. PAGEL. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, with your permission, could I take this opportunity to say thank you to our wonderful Senator O'Mahoney for taking time from his busy schedule to come over and give me such a nice introduction.
Senator Hill. We assure you we share your appreciation of him.
Mrs. PAGEL. Before I begin my testimony, Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce Dr. Lambert, who is chairman of the research division of the NEA.
I would like to ask your permission that if I get into a question that becomes too technical, I may turn to him and let him help answer.
Senator HILL. We will be delighted to have Dr. Lambert here with us, and we will be delighted to have you refer any question you see fit to him.
Mrs. PAGEL. My name is Betty Lou Pagel, and I am a classroom teacher from Cheyenne, Wyo. Actually, that title of coordinator of elementary grades means I am kind of like an itinerant preacher"will travel.”
I not only will travel, but I must travel. For I am on call in any classroom in our city from the kindergarten through the sixth grade.
I am not an officer of the NEA, but I am speaking as a teacher, typical of the many thousands of teachers who work daily with children right in the classroom. In addition, I am a parent. My daughter is in the ninth grade.
It is my purpose this morning to testify in favor of Federal support for education which would provide funds for school construction and teachers' salaries.
You have heard testimony of a factual and technical nature, but this morning I should like to take you right into the classroom, and it is my hope that as we go into the classroom, you will see how important the passage of S. 2 is to the children of this Nation.
Gentlemen, our schools are in the midst of a crisis which could imperil the future of our youth. Too many students, in all parts of America, are not receiving an adequate education as the result of
schoolhouse shortages and teacher shortages. Is it small wonder that many boys and girls who have been the victims of overcrowded classrooms, double shifts and half-day sessions do not measure up to par in such subjects as reading, spelling, arithmetic, and social studies?
Thousands upon thousands of grade school youngsters across this country could be classed as deprived children because they have not been given the educational opportunities to which they are entitled. Frankly, the majority of classroom teachers are inundated by the tasks of trying to give extra help to all their children, many of whom have special problems.
School systems must provide education for these deprived children. At the same time, they must do more for the average child, and again not forget the gifted or bright child. Then, too, special facilities must be provided for the handicapped child--ones with sight, hearing, speech, and motor defects.
These offerings cost money and are possible only by an adequate supply of well-trained, dedicated teachers, an adequate number of school buildings, and a desire on the part of all of us to have the best set of schools in the world.
Our very survival depends upon how well we provide our 34.6 million school age children with an appreciation of their heritage and with the effective skills and tools to preserve and expand our freedom, culture, and economy.
Young America must grow up to be an electorate with emotional and intellectual balance, capable of making wise decisions. This year is the year for courageous legislation to improve our schools. This decision is yours.
. If you will come into the classroom with me, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to you some of the children and yes, teachers—who were victims of the “too big” class and the frustrations it causes.
Take Arthur, for example. I personally recall labeling him as a retarded learner. Fortunately, even though my first grade class was too large to give all the children immediately individual attention, I discovered that this little boy suffered from a major hearing loss. You know it takes ages sometimes to discover physical and emotional problems in children in a crowded classroom. It is particularly hard without the help of special personnel. Arthur came from a Spanish-speaking family, but once he was equipped with a hearing aid and could hear speech sounds and directions, he picked up English rapidly. Because Arthur was not hearing all the speech sounds, he was having trouble speaking, too. After speech therapy, he entered class discussions eagerly, anxious to try out his newly-found abilities. Today, Arthur is a successful high school student who, I am certain, has developed a lifelong love of learning.
And now meet Mary. Mary was the brightest and quietest little girl in the third grade. I remember the night her teacher came in, astounded and heartsick, because she had found a note from this child. And the note merely said, "I wish my teacher liked me.”
It was only then that this teacher realized that she had neglected Mary through the time she had spent with slow learners, in disciplining the troublemakers, in general classroom supervision of too many students and in routine nonteaching tasks. Even though the teacher
had to add an extra hour to her day to do it, Mary soon felt she was liked and belonged. Today Mary is studying to be a teacher.
I hope sincerely that when she enters her first classroom, her group of children will be small enough that she may know the joy of being a real friend to each child. It is very important, because small children need to feel close to their teachers.
There has been a lot said recently about the problems children have in learning to read. This is not surprising, for learning to read is one of the most complex skills, and one of the most continuous tasks children have to encounter. And these reading problems are multiplied in a class of 35 to 40 youngsters, because the teacher practically has to return to a method of instruction that research has proved is ineffective.
Some of you remember the kind I mean, in which every child opened the same book to the same place at the same time and listened while another child read. Those days of marking time for a page turn, while their thoughts hopped, skipped, and jumped from a pending ball game to an unspent nickel, in most cases are gone.
In small classes today, reading has meaning. Children are guided into the habit of picking up the words they need to know out of life situations instead of from stilted narratives such as were contained in the McGuffy and National readers.
And I want to make it clear here that I am throwing no aspersions on those books, because they have served a wonderful purpose in our society; but we will have to agree that many of the words and phrases were quite stilted and meaningless to the child as he was reading them.
And today we realize that reading is not an end in itself, but it is a means to an end, and we must give instruction so that our children will learn to read with meaning. Today they are taught many skills, the ability to attack new words, and they learn the importance of sequential development as they learn to read.
Can you imagine the frustration of a teacher who knows how to teach effectively and then finds it nigh onto impossible under our present working conditions? Long ago we learned to stop cramming skills into children in the way of priming a pump, because we found what was poured in did not always come out. This is not to say there is no place for drill, but today we feel it is more important to very carefully supply a foundation of understanding, to develop meaning, and then we go into drill, so that they are drilling on meaningful material.
Now our youngsters work at reading, spelling, and writing, at their own speed, because just as there are all sizes and shapes of 6-yearolds, so there are different rates of grasping different subjects. Individual problems of one group of youngsters will be given attention by the teacher, while a second group works away by itself on another step in the reading program. Children actually help set their own goals, under the careful guidance of their teacher.
The first grader comes to school thinking that his chief aim in life is to be able to read and write, and the really good teacher harnesses this spontaneous interest and starts it running
on the right track. This is the way we teachers want to teach your children. But too many children and not enough room and not enough teachers are most discouraging to us.
I would like to have you listen to this letter I received recently from one of the high school teachers in Cheyenne. And I quote:
I have 150 students to counsel this year, their records, their problems; plus my 110 regular class members, their grades and papers; plus student council sponsorship every Tuesday after school. In addition, I am the only sponsor of the creative writing club, which meets the first and third Monday nights. Since we are on three shifts in my high school, we must meet at night. Oh, yes,
also am junior class sponsor. I tell you this, because I am frantic, and I feel I am not doing anything real well.
Teachers have an obligation to work on planning and study committees and to sponsor special interest groups which broaden the curriculum; but when there are too many students and too many duties, I am afraid the reaction of this teacher is legion. He is only one, but there are so many like him in schools in all parts of America.
We must keep those teachers in the teaching profession and not allow sheer frustration of not having enough time to teach to drive them from the classroom and into other occupations, some of them, of course, better paying in most instances.
It is not uncommon for a secondary schoolteacher to instruct 175 to 250 students in the course of a week. Let us see exactly what this means in written words.
If a teacher were to require three typewritten pages a week from 190 students, the teacher would be reading and marking a total of 20,500 pages in 1 school year. This is more than 4 million words, or the equivalent of 40 books of 100,000 words each.
That does not leave much time to relax with a good mystery.
And how well do you think this number of pages can be checked for accuracy?
Many of the high schools in our country, because of limited space, are forced to adopt shifts. Many thousands of elementary school pupils are shortchanged by half-day sessions. Teachers' record books are filled with evidence of children whose education has been crippled and stunted because they were victims of the part-time instruction.
I have seen the effect that large classes have had on children, and I have also seen the effect of half-day sessions.
I should introduce you to Jane at this time, because Jane transferred into our system after having gone to school the previous year on a half-day basis, and when she came to us she was unable to do the work in the fourth grade and had to be demoted to the third grade, which was quite an emotional blow to Jane and started her out on the wrong foot. It took quite a lot of work to build her back up into the real Jane again.
If part-time instruction can do this damage to an average child, such as Jane, think what it must do to the child with a serious reading block;
and these are the ones that are so desperately in need of special attention. These children need to be placed in special learning situations. Such programs require special material and additional equipment, and small classes of no more than 15 pupils are preferred. Also these programs require specially trained teachers, and this takes money.
I firmly believe it is worth every cent it costs, because it is miraculous to see a child advance his reading ability by one full year in just 312 months. This is merely the average gain we have seen proved in the too few special reading classes we have in Cheyenne. Some children have advanced as much as 2 years in the same length of time.