Professor William Henry Langdon, superintendent of the public schools of San Francisco, is one of the young men of the west of marked ability and enterprise whose progressive spirits are bringing about the rapid development of this section of the country. Holding advanced ideas concerning education and methods of teaching, during his incumbency as superintendent of the San Francisco schools he has introduced many methods which are proving of the most practical value in making the school what it ever should be--a preparation for the responsible duties which devolve upon every individual after reaching maturity. His course has received the approval of the most progressive citizens of San Francisco, and he has enlisted the co-operation of his teachers to such an extent that great harmony prevails and the concerted action is attended with excellent results.
Professor Langdon is a native son of California, his birth having occurred in Alameda county, on the 25th of September, 1873. His father, William Langdon, was born in the state of New York and was of Irish descent. In his boyhood days, however, he accompanied his parents on their removal to Illinois, where he was reared to the age of nineteen years, when he left the middle west for California, arriving in the year 1856. He first settled at Oakland and afterward engaged in farming at San Leandro, while subsequently he removed to Dublin, where he was extensively engaged in agricultural pursuits, operating one of the largest farms in Alameda county. He died in 1878, at the comparatively early age of forty years. In early manhood he had married Annie Moran, a native of Ireland, who came to America with a sister when only twelve years of age. They first settled in New York, and in 1861 Mrs. Langdon came to California, locating in Oakland, where she was married. She is still living on the old homestead farm. In the family were three sons and five daughters.
Professor Langdon pursued his early education in the schools of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and was graduated from Haywards' high school, following which he pursued a course of study in the San Jose Normal School, in which he was graduated with the class of 1892. He then engaged in teaching at San Leandro for a short time and was made vice principal of that school in August, 1892, continuing to occupy that position until September 25, 1893, when he resigned and went to Fresno, California, to accept the proffered principalship of the Center school of that city. There he remained until the 8th of June of the following year, when he resigned and returned to San Leandro, acting as principal of the schools there until December 20, 1902. In November of the same year he was elected superintendent of the common schools for the city and county of San Francisco, and in January entered upon his duties in this city.
In the meantime--in 1896--Professor Langdon had been admitted to practice law in all the courts and entered upon the active work of the legal profession in San Francisco and Alameda. In 1897 he was elected to the position of teacher in the public evening school of this city and after a few months was chosen principal of the school, acting in that capacity until the abolishment of the evening school, and filled that office up to the time of his election as superintendent of the common schools.
In conducting this office Professor Langdon has taken many progressive steps. He has abolished all political tendencies in connection with the conduct of the schools, and has appointed men to serve under him because of their merits and peculiar fitness and not because of any party allegiance. He went outside of the San Francisco school department for his deputies, selecting one from each university, each one holding a chair in the educational department of the respective institutions with which they are connected. Since taking the office of principal Professor Langdon has abolished written examinations for promotion of pupils from grade to grade; has taken steps to establish a truant school; to introduce an ungraded class in each school; has established grade meetings of teachers, held bi-monthly in which instruction in methods and practice of teaching is given by the superintendent and his deputies--which is a new department in the school work of San Francisco; and has reduced the sizes of the classes, so that the maximum is fifty-five pupils in the grammar grades and fifty in the primary grades. Thus the labors of Professor Langdon have assumed practical form, and already very beneficial results have followed his work, and the schools have made satisfactory advance under his guidance.
Professor Langdon is widely and favorably known in fraternal and social as well as educational circles. He belongs to the Benefolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Columbus, the Woodmen of the World and the Native Sons of the Golden West, and has represented the local parlor in the grand parlor. He is also connected with the Eagles and the American Order of Foresters. In 1894 he was president of hte Alumni Association of the San Jose Normal school, and in 1897 was vice president of the California Teachers' Association. His reputation in the line of his profession has gone abroad throughout the state, and he is accorded a foremost position in the ranks of the public school educators in California.
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