THE Michigan Schoolmasters' Club was organized at Ann Arbor in 1886, by a group of forward-looking educators who desired closer personal acquaintance between the college teachers and the secondary-school teachers of the state, a better understanding of the problems mutually affecting the colleges and the secondary schools, and a serious co-operative study of the relationships between the secondary schools and the institutions of higher learning in Michigan.
For its first seven years the club met three times a year for one-day sessions. This arrangement proved so inconvenient for teachers throughout the state that attendance gradually dwindled to the vanishing point. One meeting a year was accordingly decided upon; the sessions were then extended through two, and eventually through three, days. The attendance rapidly increased from less than three hundred to between three and four thousand.
In the first years all the sessions were general, and the topics treated were largely those affecting secondary education — curriculum, electives, proper content of subjects, general methods of teaching, and proper uses of a library. As the attendance increased the program was divided into short, general sessions and many specific sessions or conferences stressing the various academic subjects, such as Greek, modern languages, mathematics, chemistry, and biology.
A graphic conception of the development of the club may be gained by comparing the program offered in 1893 with that of 1938. The 1893 program consisted of three general topics: Electives in the High School, German Below the High School, and Mathematics in the High School — What and How Much? In 1938 a twenty-seven-page pamphlet was filled with announcements of the six general sessions, the nineteen special conferences, and the several subsidiary meetings. The special conferences clearly indicated the aim of the club to meet modern educational situations and covered a wide range of subjects.
During the entire half century of its existence the club has exerted an exceedingly wholesome influence on the secondary schools. It has brought together the leading college and secondary-school men of the state for face-to-face discussions of their common problems and of prospective solutions and has drawn to this campus distinguished scholars of other universities — Toronto, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Ohio State, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Chicago, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One notable discussion was held in 1908: "Formal Discipline in the Light of Modern Psychology," by James R. Angell of the University of Chicago, Walter B. Pillsbury of the University of Michigan, and Charles H. Judd of Yale University. This discussion attracted the attention of educators throughout the entire nation.
The introduction of the special conferences has greatly increased the attendance and has multiplied the influence of the club. From their very inception these conferences have profoundly stimulated the special classroom teachers to higher academic attainments and to better methods of teaching and have also provided these teachers with proper library lists for their respective fields. The most notable conference has been the classical, under the leadership of the late Professor Francis W. Kelsey. This conference attracted Page 322classical scholars from all parts of the country, and in consequence it came to exert a nationally recognized influence in this field.
The benefits rising from the operations of the Michigan Schoolmasters' Club were so helpful to the schools of the state that the club early desired to share these accumulated advantages with other states. Accordingly, at the Ypsilanti meeting on December 1, 1894, Principal W. H. Butts, of the Michigan Military Academy, offered a resolution requesting the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago to "unite with a committee of the Club in issuing a call for a meeting to form an association of schools and colleges in the North Central States." This request was accepted, and delegates from ten states met at Northwestern University, March 29 and 30, 1895, formed the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and elected James B. Angell, of the University of Michigan, president (see Part I: Angell Administration; Part II: Office of the Registrar). This association has since become an exceedingly powerful factor in developing higher standards in the north central states.
From 1905 to 1936, the chief papers presented before the groups of the club have been published in its Journal. They form a very creditable contribution to educational literature.