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Officers of a Common School Society. 561 tems of instruction in the United States, and also in foreign countries; drawings of model school houses ; communications of literary men on kindred subjects; and earnest appeals to parents, teachers, pupils and school inspectors, to co-operate in elevating the standard of common school education.
' To offer premiums for good school books, which may be printed and sold by agents of the Society.
"To communicate with auxiliary societies and correspondents, for the collection of facts, and for the distribution of information; and to arouse attention by public lectures on the subject.
"To open an office in the city of New York, where all books and information relative to schools, in this as well as in foreign countries, may be collected, and be accessible to inquirers—and where all the publications of the Society, and other approved books on education may be purchased.'
Now while we cannot doubt, for one moment, that the measures which such a Society might adopt, would do immense good in our country, yet we are also aware that it may do immense evil. It does not follow that because the public mind is awakened and excited on an important subject, or because splendid associations have been formed, and magnificent measures proposed, the cause of good will on the whole be promoted. (Much depends on the ability of the Society to accomplish its objects. If it contain within but one man who ha he wisdom-we do not say knowledge—which is necessary in directing such a work as that of elevating common schools in a proper manner, and if that individual happens to be truly benevolent as well as wise, something may be done. If it contains more than one who possesses the same spirit, then its prospects are doubled, and more than doubled. But if it contain among its individuals not one such individual, then will it fail of its objects.
We see many worthy names in connection with the American Common School Society, either as its acting officers, or as honorary members. They are the names of men who are foremost in almost every other good cause, and the first thought, with many, may be that they will be foremost in this. We hope it will prove so.
We think, however, that, as a general rule, the officers of such a society-those, we mean, who are its actuaries-should know something of the real character of Common Schools, as they actually exist in this country. It is not sufficient that they have read what is said about them, or that some one of their number has visited here and there one of them in a particular section of the country, or town or city; or that he has run over the United States and stepped into a few schools in every State
An Important Caution. of the Union, or that he holds or professes to hold an extended correspondence. Nor is it sufficient that he has written a book, or edited a paper, containing some truth and some untruth, some original matter, and some which under pretence of being original was borrowed.
As to the officers of the society of which we are now speaking, they are all of them, for any thing we can say, very good men in their way; and some of them, as we happen to know, and have already said, are men whose reputation for doing good is heard all over the country. But we have no evidence that they possess much practical wisdom, or even much real knowledge in regard to common schools. Of those who will probably be the principal actuaries, although their intentions may be the most pure and their purposes the most exalted, we do not hesitate to say that they are wanting in some of the qualifications necessary to first rate reformers of common schools.
Moreover while we rejoice in the hope that the society, such as its materials and instruments are, will accomplish great good, especially by means of the cheap monthly paper spoken ofwhich under proper direction cannot fail of its object-as well as by means of offering premiums for the best school books, we must enter our protest against the society's making and puffing and advertising, in its own paper, and selling its own books. Perhaps this caution is not quite necessary; and yet we rather think it can do no harm. There is room to fear that the whole concern will become a machine for speculating in books and papers and apparatus ; and that not a few good men, in every part of the Union, will be imposed upon by its specious and benevolent appearances.
We beg those who are lending their names and their influence to the promotion of this scheme, to pause a little before they become the supporters of a mere machine for monopolizing the sale of certain publications, &c., for our schools. Let them not only pause, but let them consider whether the paramount object of the society—that of diffusing a spirit of inquiry, an enlightened, and conscientious, and benevolent regard for common school improvement-cannot be accomplished without exposing themselves to the suspicion of having local and selfish aims; against the very thought of which we have not the least doubt that most of them would, as individuals, revolt. We entreat them to persevere in the work of doing good to be sure—in a cause where doing good is so much needed—but to be exceedingly careful to ascertain that what they do is good. There is a caution to be found in some of our ancient records which may not be wholly inappropriate in the present instance; 'Let not your good be evil spoken of.'
Eclectic Series of School Books.
[We have seen, in the Louisville Literary Register for Aug. 27, the following series of remarks on the Eclectic Series of School Books, edited by Wm. H. M'Guffy, President of the Cincinnati College, and published by Truman & Smith.-We would not insert the opinion of a single newspaper-even a highly respectable one—had we not other information on the subject in our possession.We hope the exhibition will be a salutary lesson to all literary plagiarists throughout the land of which there are a host, small and large,—whose number is yearly increasing.)
• The rapidity which the “ Eclectic Series,” prepared by President M'Guffy and his immediate associates, threatened to supplant all other school books in the west, and the great favor they found with teachers generally, signified in the numerous certificates signed by names of high respectability-with which the publishers have usually formed an appendix for each volumehad prepared us for the greater surprise, on being shown by a teacher of this city, to whom we had referred a set of them for examination, that the whole of this series of books had been compiled on the most flagrant and impudent system of literary piracy that has ever come to our knowledge. The principle and plan on which the “ Eclectic Series” of Mr M'Guffy is compiledand arranged, is precisely that on which Mr Worcester prepared his excellent series of Reading Books, which he commenced about twelve years since, and has recently completed. Mr Worcester had been for twenty years a practical teacher when he commenced the preparation of his Reading Books; and in the completion of his series he was employed, as we have already stated, twelve years. His series commences with a “ Primer” or “ First Reader," designed for children, and advances in a regular gradation of progressive lessons to a “Fourth Book ;” so does President M'Guffy's, with the exception that the latter has the “Eclectic Primer” and “Eclectic First Reader," where Mr Worcester has only the “Primer.” Mr Worcester's First and Second Books are composed of easy lessons in reading, mostly from his own pen, or pieces re-written and adapted by him to the understandings and capacities of children. Each of the reading lessons is followed by a short lesson for spelling, selected from it. The same description applies exactly to the “ Eclectic Primer," and First and Second Readers of President M'Guffy's series.His books are made on the same plan, and are composed nearly
Materials of which they are Composed.
of the same pieces, and are mostly written or prepared by Messrs Worcester, Pierpont, Goodrich, or Emerson, each authors of different systems of school books, in very extensive use in other parts of the Union.
Between the Third and Fourth Readers of President M'Guffy and the same of Mr Worcester may be traced many wonderful coincidences. Preceding his reading lessons in each, Mr Worcester has inserted rules to be observed in reading the lesson to which they are affixed; and succeeding the lessons are found a list of the common errors in pronunciation, questions on the lesson, and a selection of words from the lesson for spelling. Pres. ident M'Gufly, in the compilation of his Third and Fourth Readers, has fallen upon precisely the same plan and arrangement; and, most striking coincidence! has affixed to the lessons the same rules, with few exceptions, verbatim et literatim. For example :
“Rule.- When you do not know how to pronounce a word, or are obliged for any other reason to hesitate while reading, do not cough, or say hem or eh; but stop silently till you are ready to proceed.”—Worcester, 1835.
“Rule.- When you do not know how to pronounce a word, or are obliged for any other reason to hesitate while reading, do not cough, or say hem or eh; but stop silently till you are ready to proceed.”—M'Guffy, 1837.
The selections in these two readers are, to great extent, taken, punctuation, paragraph, &c., from the books of Pierpont, Worcester, Emerson, and Bailey, selected by these gentlemen from an extensive range of reading.
Mr Pierpont makes an error in the first edition of his “ First Class Book,” in assigning a piece of poetry entitled the “Rainbow" to Campbell: President M'Guffy falls into the same error. Pierpont corrects the error in his last edition : President M'Guffy will undoubtedly do the same in his next. Another selection is referred by Mr Pierpont to Irwin, an English author; but Mr M'Guffy, presuming, probably that this must be a mistake, refers it to Irving-(Washington) quite a different man.
We have not leisure at present to point out farther, the remarkable coincidences between President M'Guffy's series of School Books, and those prepared by individuals in New England, whose names we have already once or twice mentioned. What is excellent in M'Guffy's books appears to be either imitated or stolen. We think the public, if enlightened on the subject, would much prefer the originals to the caricatures.'
School at Newburgh.
The attention given to education in our country at the present moment, cannot but be regarded by the christian and the patriot as one of the most encouraging signs of the times. The Common School system, it is now very generally admitted, labors under very serious defects; the efforts made by those who have perceived them, and are anxious to introduce a more perfect system, deserve great praise, and from the interest which these efforts have already excited in the public mind upon this subject, we cannot but anticipate the happiest results.
Whether the system so generally pursued in the boarding schools of Great Britain and the United States, may not be materially improved, is a very important question, one which, we fear, has not attracted the attention which its importance deserves. In the present communication it is not our design to exbibit all the defects of the present system, or to state all the points in which it might be improved, but we would ask attention to only one. The particular improvement referred to, has respect not so much to the subjects on which instruction is usually given in such establishments, nor to the mode in which it is communicated, as to the constitution of the school. In these institutions it is almost universally the case, that the principal is at once the parent and the instructor-the head, both of the family and the school. To this long established and very common arrangement, there are objections, which, though they strike our minds with very considerable force, we should still feel some hesitation about urging against it, if we were not able to adduce an actual example of the beneficial results which flow from a system that we believe to be better, and which is founded upon the complete separation of the family and the school.
In a former number of this work, an account is given of a boarding school at Newburgh, under the care of Dr Benham, with the constitution and history of which, the writer of this communication is well acquainted. The editor of the Annals of Education, with no other knowledge of it than that which he derived from an advertisement in one of the New York papers, pronounced an exceedingly favorable opinion on its merits. We are happy in being able to say that the results which he anticipated from it, have thus far been fully realized.
The peculiar features of Dr Benham's school are the following. It receives the pupil into the family, allows him as much as possible, the benefits of parents and a home. The Principal,