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Ordered, That it be referred to Messrs. Dix, Buel and Graham to prepare and report to the Regents at some future meeting a plan for. carrying into practical operation the provisions of the said act."
At the annual meeting of the Board, held January 8, 1835, the committee, through Regent John A. Dix, its chairman, presented their report outlining "a plan for the better education of teachers of common schools."
The report is too elaborate to be quoted here in full, as it occupies twenty-eight printed pages of an octavo volume, but the ability shown in devising a plan which covered ground as yet unoccupied, with little light to guide and with no experience to aid, together with the fact that this is the very first outline of a scheme devised for providing a suitable course of instruction for the special preparation of teachers of the common schools in a free government demands that a summary of the report be here given.
The importance of the subject is first mentioned and the fact that it will depend much on the measures adopted by the Regents whether the defect in the public schools, the want of competent teachers, shall be remedied, or whether it shall continue to embarrass the efforts of the Legislature and of individuals to carry out the system of popular instruction to the great results which it is capable of producing. Some account is given of the relations of seminaries for the education of teachers in France to the system of primary instruction there; and a brief outline of the system of public instruction in Prussia, with the standing of the teacher, is given, showing that the vocation of the instructor there is a public office as well as a profession; that he is educated at the expense of the State, his qualifications are determined by a board deriving its authority from the government, his salary cannot be less than a certain sum, and when, through age or infirmity, he becomes incapable of discharging his duties, he is allowed to retire with a pension for his support. Allusion is made to the difference in circumstances between a system of education which is carried into complete execution by a government having the entire control of the system, and a system which is subjected to the control of persons on whose contributions the schools depend for their support. The delay in making provision for the education of teachers is explained by stating that common school instruction in this State existed a long time upon the foundation of voluntary private contribution before it was recognized and reduced to a system by public law. That the result was to put in
requisition the services of a large number of persons, who by long practice had become familiar with the business of teaching; and that it was doubtless to be ascribed in no inconsiderable degree to this circumstance that the necessity of making some provision for the education of teachers was not felt at the time the common school system was established. Reference is made to the fact that the question of creating separate seminaries for the education of teachers had been repeatedly before the Legislature, but after full examination, it had been deemed more advantageous to engraft upon the ex-isting Academies departments of instruction for the purpose. The provisions of the act of May 2, 1834, are mentioned and attention called to the fact that this is the first instance, in which the contributions of the State to this great object have been accompanied with such a delegation of authority as is necessary to insure its execution, and the responsibility thus placed upon the Regents in making such a plan as to secure the highest efficiency in the departments to be created. The sum in the treasury applicable to the object is stated to be $10,040.76; and the annual excess of the revenue of the Leg islature Fund, after distributing $12,000 to the academies, as required by the act of April 22d, 1834, would amount to about $3,500. The sum first mentioned could be used at once in the establishment of departments of instruction for common school teachers in the existing Academies, but it would be too small to admit of a general distribution among them; and if it were adequate to the establishment of a department in each, the annual surplus of revenne applicable to the support of these departments would be too small when divided among so great a number to be of any practical utility. The desired end must be attained by selecting a limited number of Academies, but the public convenience would demand that one should be within reach of every county in the State. The least number which could be selected consistently with general convenience would probably be eight, or one in each Senate district, and the committee therefore recommended that one Academy in each Senate district be selected for the purpose in view, and that the selection be made from those which from their endowments and literary character are most capable of accomplishing it.
The following topics are then taken up and discussed in the order given:
I. On what principle shall the funds applicable to the establishment or organization of the departments be apportioned to the Academies
which may be selected for the purpose? It was thought that the departments should all be placed in their organization on the same footing; they should have the same apparatus and be provided in all respects with equal facilities for commencing the contemplated course of instruction. It was thought that but $4,000 out of the $10,040.76 in the treasury, or an average amount of $500, should be applied to the establishment of departments, considering that this amount would be adequate to the object; the surplus of $6,000 could be left for future uses.
II. On what principle and to what extent shall the annual excess of the revenue of the Literature Fund applicable to the support of the departments be apportioned to the Academies in which they may be established? The committee consider that there should be apportioned annually to each Academy in which such a department is established, in addition to the amount to which these academies will be entitled under the general annual apportionment, a sum as nearly adequate as possible to the support of a competent instructor. This would give to each $400 annually, which it was considered each should receive without reference to the number of pupils in training. This rule, however, could be modified if at any time circumstances should seem to make it expedient, and an additional sum might at some time be apportioned to these Academies in proportion to the number of pupils in training for Common School teachers and to the aggregate length of time during which they shall have been trained according to the prescribed plan.
III. What shall be the organization of the departments?
1. As to the course (or subjects) of study. Evidently the course of study should include all subjects which it is deemed indispensable for a first rate teacher of Common Schools to know. No person should be admitted to the teachers' department until he shall have passed such an examination as is required by the Regents to entitle him to be considered a scholar in the higher branches of English education. The subjects of study then should be:
1. The English Language.
2. Writing and Drawing.
3. Arithmetic, Mental and Written, and Book-keeping.
4. Geography and General History, continued.
5. The History of the United States.
6. Geometry, Trigonometry, Mensuration and Surveying.
9. The Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York.
10. Select parts of the Revised Statutes and the duties of Public Officers.
11. Moral and Intellectual Philosophy. 12. The Principles of Teaching.
Other subjects were not to be excluded if any Academy should think proper to introduce them, but no others should be required in order to entitle the pupils to the prescribed evidence of qualification.
The committee proceed to make extended suggestions in relation to the several subjects of study enumerated and mention under each certain particulars which they deem most worthy of attention. They recommend that the teacher be made familiar with the best methods of teaching the alphabet and the steps by which the children can be conducted with the greatest facility through the first lessons which they receive. In teaching spelling, that black boards and slates be used, so that the eye, as well as the ear may be made instrumental to the correction of errors; that each member of the class be made to practice writing from the beginning of the course so that he may be able to write a good hand before he leaves the institution. In teaching arithmetic, in order to facilitate a clear perception of abstract numbers and quantities, visible illustrations should be liberally employed, and that to all arithmetical exercises a practical direction be given, as far as possible, by selecting as subjects for practice those familiar operations of business with which the pupils must be conversant in after life, but the study is to be so conducted as also to secure all the benefits which it is capable of producing as an instrument for mental discipline. Under principles of teaching, instruetion is to be thorough and copious, not confined to the art of teaching or the most successful methods of communicating knowledge, but embracing also those rules of moral government which are as necessary for the regulation of the conduct of the teacher as for the formation of the character of those who are committed to his care. "Hall's Lectures on School-keeping" is recommended as a text-book, and "Abbott's Teacher," "Taylor's District School," and the "Annals of Education," to be used as reading books. The pupils are to be practiced in conducting some part of the recitations, to prepare proper questions on the particular subject of study, and to illustrate it by explanations for the purpose of improving their colloquial powers, and thus giving them a facility for explaining what
ever they may be required to teach in the future office of instructor. As the possession of knowledge does not necessarily carry with it the faculty of communicating learning to others, the best methods of imparting knowledge are to be made a subject of instruction to those who are preparing themselves for the business of teaching. They are to know how to command the attention of their pupils, to communicate the results of their own researches and experience in the manner best calculated to make a lasting impression on the mind, to lead their pupils into the habit of examining for themselves instead of being directed at every step of their progress by their instructor, and thus to observe, investigate and classify objects, to combine the fruits of their observation, and draw conclusions from the facts which they have obtained. At every step the mind is to be taught to rely on the exercise of its own powers. The result of common school education in most cases is to burden the memory with facts and rules, of which the proper application is but imperfectly comprehended. Hence pupils are to be made to think for themselves instead of treasuring up merely the results of other men's thoughts. To almost every species of instruction the inductive method may be applied to great advantage. Nature herself seems to teach that the observation of facts should precede inductions and, that general principles can only be deduced from particular facts. An intelligent instructor will know how to apply the rule and convert it to the most useful purposes.
2. As to the duration of the course. The committee consider that this must be regulated by the number and extent of the subjects of study. In the Prussian seminaries in which the requirements for teachers of the first grade are about equal in importance to those which the committee propose for the departments in question, the term of study is three years; and they are of opinion that a shorter period would not be sufficient for a strict compliance with the contemplated course. In order to permit members of the class to teach a winter school of three months by which means many of them may earn something to enable them to complete their course of instruction, and at the same time improve themselves by making a practical application of the knowledge which they will have gained during the rest of the year, it is suggested that it may be necessary to have only two terms each year of four months each.
3. As to the necessary books and apparatus. The committee are. of the opinion that each Academy should be furnished with a library well stored with the best authors on the prescribed subjects of study,