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ing, writing, and spelling, and arithmetic as far as the rule of three. English grammar, geography, bistory, and the higher parts of arithmetic, were almost unknown in these schools, but were supposed to be studies appropriate only to the superior schools or academies. At present the elements of
geography, with maps are very generally taught in the common schools; English grammar is taught to some extent, though for the most part, very imperfectly; and arithmetic is carried to a much greater extent than formerly. In a few of the common schools, a smattering of natural philosophy, of astronomy, and of history, is acquired. But while it is evident that the cause of school education has advanced since the creation of the school fund, it is equally clear, that the improvement has not been produced by the school fund. For the first twenty years after the establishment of that fund, the tone of school education was not raised at all. Reading, writing, and spelling, with a little arithmetic, still embraced the whole encyclopedia of village learning. Had the school fund of itself wrought any important effects, they ought to have been visible within twenty years, after it went into operation ; but at the end of this period, no such effects were manifested. compelled to conclude, therefore, that this grand provision, although it has defrayed nearly all the expenses of instruction, has contributed, in no perceptible degree to advance the cause of common education, but bas wholly failed, hitherto, to secure to the State, the blessings reasonably anticipated from it.
Let us inquire into the cause of this singular phenomenon. Here is the case of a provision on the part of a republic, of gratuitous instruction for all its citizens, for more than half the year at least ; a provision unprecedented for its liberality when compared with the limited territory and population of the State, and the admiration of the world; and yet, after forty years, we are forced to make the humiliating confession, that it has done no good, but possibly harm.
The more enlightened portion of the inhabitants of Connecticut, when they saw how inadequate the common schools were to furnish their children with a good education, sought to make up for the deficiency by providing gramınar schools or academies. About thirty years ago a great number of these institutions were erected in our country towns. Few of them, however, have enjoyed a permanent prosperity, but in a majority of instances the buildings provided for their accommoda
tion, have been suffered to fall into decay and dilapidation, or they have been converted to the use of the mechanic or inanufacturer. To support, in these institutions, a preceptor of a liberal education, exceeded the ability, or, at least the liberality of the proprietors. They had anticipated great aid from the avails of the tuition of students from abroad; but this proved a precarious resource, fluctuating with the measure of popularity of the respective preceptors, and often failing altogether. Of all the academies of this description, erected in different towns in the interior of the State, not half a dozen have been uniformly prosperous ; and the few that have succeeded, have, for the most part, been sustained either by the aid of perrnanent funds, or by the personal reputation of a fixed and eminent preceptor.
In the cities and towns of the first class, the wealthier and more enlightened of the citizens have generally abandoned all their interest in the public money, and have supported schools at their own expense. They have been prompted to this course in part, no doubt, by the desire of securing to their children the advantages of more select associates than could be expected in the promiscuous assemblage gathered at the public schools; but they have also sought, by employing teachers of higher qualifications, to obtain for their children a better education than could be acquired there. The committee on common schools, appointed by the last legislature, say in their report, “the same studies are taught in the private schools as in the common schools, but to better advantage ; for there is less diversity of school books, better classification as regards age and proficiency, and better qualified teachers." Still
, it must be confessed, that these schools are, in general, devoid of a regular system, or course of instruction, shifting from one thing to another, according to the views of the several instructers, which usually change very often ; or according to the caprice of the parent, or even the whim of the child. I think it can be shown, that it is practicable and comparatively easy to make all the village schools much better places of education, than the majority of the private schools are at present.
But the higher tone of instruction maintained in these private institutions, and especially the salutary influence of a few academies, which have constantly maintained their prosperity, while many other similar institutions have languished and expired around them, have contributed, within a few years, to
elevate, in a slight degree, the tone of education in the common schools. To this cause, and not to the direct influence of the school fund, we ascribe the fact that, within a few years, the course of instruction in these schools, instead of being limited, as before, to the simple exercises of reading, writing, and spelling, has been so far extended as to embrace the rudiments of English grammar, geography, and arithmetic.
But let us now meet more directly the question, why the school fund has done no good ?
The answer is, because it did not effect any improvement in the qualifications of the teachers.
The money which was distributed to the several towns, just released the inhabitants from paying their schoolmasters out of their own pockets. It added nothing to the wages of the masters, and consequently held out no additional premium for higher talents and attainments. The schools still looked among their own alumni for their teachers, as none of higher qualifications could be bought for the sum at their disposal. In a few instances, indeed, the town added something to the dividend received from the funds; but in most instances, the simple principle was and ever has been, to make the public money pay the entire salary ; and the teacher was selected either with reference to the longest time and least wages, or a shorter time with higher wages; the public bounty being made to vary in the compound rates of the quality and time. Those who originally devised the plan of making this rich provision for common schools, expected great results from the visiting committees," as they were called, which were appointed by every school society, to license teachers and to inspect the schools. Very little good, however, has resulted from this organization. Of what avail is it to sit in judgment upon candidates who must, at all events, be had for $ 14 50 a month, (the average wages paid for schoolmasters,) a compensation much inferior to what is paid to many day-laborers ! And of what use is it to require able instruction from ignorant and incompetent teachers? The tendency of such a system, manifestly is, to produce indifference and apathy in the public agents; and that tendency has, in a striking degree, led to its legitimate consequences. A board of supervision, acting under the authority of the legislature, however the board is organized, may exert a useful agency in concert with good teachers; but no school or seminary of learning can flourish without able
and skilful teachers, whatever be the character of its visiters, or how great soever may be their vigilance. If a board of trustees, or if school agents appointed by the government, to see to the wise and faithful disbursement of the public funds, have the means of employing accomplished teachers, their own faithfulness and ability will be tested by the kind of teachers they may select and approve, as the energy of a monarch is seen in his ministers ; but when none but ignorant and incompetent schoolmasters will be employed, it matters little who has the oversight of them.
The friends of education then in Connecticut, with chagrin and inortification, are forced to admit that their great school fund, so much vaunted, has hitherto done no good to the cause of education ; that it has only relieved a portion of our citizens from paying for the instruction of their children, while it has not in the least contributed to elevate the tone of instruction ; that it has even probably done harm, by leading our people to undervalue what costs them nothing, and by creating a parsimonious feeling in regard to appropriations for the support of the cause of learning in general, in all its departments. As friends of popular education, we make this free confession, to show to other States, and to the world, that it is possible for a government to make large and munificent grants for the cause of education, without in the least benefiting that cause ; and in hope thus to exbibit the immense importance of giving a wise direction, by efficient and salutary provisions, to those ample means, which are accumulating in the new States of this Union, for securing and perpetuating the benefits of school education. But while we make these humiliating concessions, we glory in the fact, that the Connecticut school fund itself is still entire, indeed, that its amount has been constantly on the increase. The interest, only, has been wasted; the two millions of capital are still our own, and so secured and so productive that other millions will flow from it, from age to age, to the end of time.
It is still a power resembling that of steam, which was suffered long to waste its energies, but which, when controlled by suitable machinery, has at last made ample amends for all the profusion with which it had been squandered. We proceed, therefore, to inquire,
Secondly, What, with the aid of the school fund wisely and skilfully managed, the state of school education in Connecticut
ought to be, and how the required changes are to be accomplished ?
It is the universal practice of writers on mechanics first to investigate the laws of machinery, on the supposition that forces act without the least impediment, — that levers and wheels are themselves devoid of weight, and move without any loss from friction or resistance. Having thus determined the intrinsic efficacy of the power, they finally inquire what allowance must be made for the various impediments in each particular case, or by what devices the effect of these may be neutralized or annulled. In like manner, we may now inquire what ought to be the legitimate effects of the Connecticut school fund, or rather, what system of school education, the people of Connecticut ought, with such means in their power, to create and sustain ; and, although we anticipate great practical difficulties in carrying out our views into full and complete operation, yet, having once determined what ought to be done, we will cherish the belief, that with the blessing of heaven, it can be done.
With the arnple aid then afforded by the school fund, the tone of school education, in this State, ought forthwith to be raised, in all the village schools, from the mere rudiments of knowledge, such as reading, writing, and spelling, to an enlarged and systematic course of English education. In short, so far as respects a mere English education, all the common schools ought to be what the best of grammar schools are now; where, in addition to an accurate acquaintance with the simple rudiments of knowledge, there shall also be acquired an extensive acquaintance with geography; a familiar and correct knowledge of English grammar; the elements of universal history; the fundamental and practical branches of mathematics; a brief outline, at least, of legal and moral science, and the great principles of natural philosophy and chemistry.
In the first place, I regard geography as deserving of far more attention in our common schools, than has ever yet been bestowed upon it. In the older systems of geography, as those of Guthrie, and Pinkerton, and Morse, was comprised a great variety of useful information, not confined simply to a description of the earth, but, what is still more important, embracing likewise an account of its inhabitants, - giving statistical facts to show what they are now, and historical sketches to show what they have been in times past. The study of geography