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From this brief but comprehensive survey of the historical development of public instruction, and especially of common schools in the different States, it appears
ibat: 1. The universal education of the people is now regarded among the primary objects of legislation, and a system of common or public schools is now ordained in the constitution or fundamental law, and organized and administered by legally constituted authorities in erery State and Territory.
2. In every State there is a department of public instruction, under either a board or a single officer, charged with the supervision of this great interest, and in communication with the subordinate officers in the remotest and smallest corporation into which the territory may be divided.
3. For the establishment and support of public schools, permanent funds, amounting in the aggregate to over $100,000,000 are set apart; and all property, real and personal, is subject to State and local taxation, and was assessed in 1871 to the amount of over $75,000,000 for public school purposes.
4. To provide local accommodations and material facilities for public schools, within the last twenty-five years, upwards of $100,000,000 have been invested in school-houses and their equipment.
5. To realize an adequate return from this immense expenditure, . more than 100 State and City normal and training schools have been established, and a system of examination and inspection instituted, more or less efficient, to exclude incompetent teachers; and to improve the qualifications of persons actually engaged in the work of instruction, more than 400 iustitutes are now held annually, in which over 50,000 teachers spend from three to five days in professional studies and exercises.
6. Notwithstanding this legislation and these expenditures, the non-school attendance and the adult illiteracy of the country is alarming, the national census of 1870 returning 4,528,084 persons,
over, who can not read, and 5,658,144 who can not write ; and of the last number 4,880,371 are native born. * 7. The national census of 1870 returns 125,056 public schools of different grades, with 183,198 (109.024 females) teachers; 6,228,060 pupils (about equally divided as to sex); and a total expenditure of $64,030,673, of which sum $58,855,507 was raised by property taxation.
SCHOOLS TEACHERS AND SUPERINTENDENTS.
CONVENTION OF TEACHERS AND SUPERINTENDENTS OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
Held at Philadelphia, October 17, 18, and 19, 1849.
A National Convention of Teachers, Superintendents of Public Schools, and Friends of Education generally, assembled at Philadelphia, in the Hall of the Comptroller of Public Schools, on the 17th of October, 1849, and continued in daily and evening sessions until the close of the evening of the 19th—under the presidency of Ilon. IIorace Mann, member of Congress, and late Secretary of the Board of Education for the State of Massachusetts.
OPENING ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT. GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION :—The duty of setting forth the specific purposes of this meeting does not devolve upon me; but there are some benefits to be derived from it, so signal and prominent, as to deserve a passing notice.
I suppose the great proportion of the gentlemen whom I see around me, and whose presence on this occasion I most cordially welcome, to be practical teachers, - men whose daily occupation is in the school-room. But from the fifteen States which are represented here, there are men of another class, — men who till high and responsible offices in the great work of public instruction,-Secretaries of State, wlio are charged with the interest of public education in their respective States, superintendents of schools, secretaries of boards of education, and others, to whose hands vast and precious interests hare been confided, upon whom the most weighty responsibilities have been cast; and from whose administration, the matured fruits of wisdom are expected. Now all teachers have felt the genial and upholding influences of sympathy, in discharging the duties of the school-room. All have grown wiser while listening to the counsels of experience. The teacher who has met a hundred of his fellow-teachers iu a public assembly, and communed with them for days, enlightening his own judgment by the results of their experience, and kindling his own enthusiasm by their fires, goes back to his schoolroom with the light of a hundred minds in his head, and with the zeal of a hundred bosoms burning in his heart.
Now, if school teachers need this encouragement and assistance in their labors, and can be profited by them, how much more do those high officers need encouragement and assistance upon whom rests the responsibility, not of one school only, but of all the schools in a State. If the vision of the one, in his narrow sphere, needs enlightenment, how much illumination ought to be poured over the vast fields of the other. I see those around me who have been engaged in the great work of organizing systems of educatiou for a State ; I see those on whom has devolved the statesman-like duty of projecting plans of improvement for a whole people round them, and for generations after them, where a mistake wonld bring calamity to the most precious and enduring interests of mankind, and where wisdom and genius would throw forward their light and happiness into coming centuriis; and I know I shull bave their assent when I say that no position in human life could inspose more anxiety and solicitnde and toil upon its po se: sor, than the perilous position tl ey have occupied. Without guide, without precedent, witl out counsel, they h..ve bad no helpers but in their own forethoughit, fidelity, and devotion. How cheering and sustaining to them, mu:t be such oppo tunities as the pre: ent, where the errors of others may become admonitions to them, and the successes of others may be used for their guidance.
Still better is it, when the teachers of schools and the superintendents of schools can meet together, as on the preseut occasion, and render reciprocal aid in the discharge of their re: pective duties. At meetings like this, what. ever wisdom the country possesses on the subject of education, may be brought into common stock, and by a self-multiplying process, the whole of it may be carried away by each individual. At least, so much of the whole may be carried away by each, as he has capacity to receive.
By a national organization of teachers, great and comprehensive plans may be devised, to whose standard each State may be gradually brought into conformily: for in-tance, such as relate to the organization of territory into school districts; to the proper age at which children should go to school; or, as the Germans so beautifully express it, when a child is due to the s hool;' to the gradation of schools, &c., &c. There are not more than two States in this Union where the census of the school-going children is taken alike;-where those between the same ages are considered as belonging to the school. When, therefore, one State repo ts a certain number of children, and another State another number, we can not compare them for they have not taken children between the same ages; the result is the same, when they report the number of children who are out of school. Now we want uniformity in these matters, so that we may speak a common language; so that the same terms shall express the same ideas all over the country.
Let me give an illustratiou of what I mean. Three or four days ago, I was consu ted with by a distinguished gentleman connected with the administration of schools, in regard to a School Register for the schools of a State. One column of the proposed Register was to be appropriated to a classification of the scholars, according to their conduct. It was proposed to enter three degrees of merit or demerit upon the roll. As I came through New York yesterday, I visited that establishment, so honorable to the city, the Free Academy. I there saw a merit-roll consisting of ten degrees. Now, measures and plans, differing from each other like these, exist all over the country, and are found on all subjects, in the different States, and in the different towns and schools in the game State. Now some of these must be better than others. A national association can select the best, and discard the others. Thus we shall have a common language, and not be compelled, as at present, to translate one State dialect into another State dialect, all over the Union. On all school subjects we want: first, the best way; and second, the universal adoption of the best way. This broad principle, however, does not exclude variations to suit the different circumstances of different communities.
These advantages pertain to the head, to our ability to conduct the great work of education, in the wisest manner and to the most beneficial results. But the heart may be as much warmed as the head is instructed. By the communion and the sympathy of assemblies like this, we can not only enlighten the guiding forces of the mind, but we can generate the impulsive forces of the heart. We can not only diffuse new intelligence, but we can excite new enthusiasm. Throughout the whole country, the machinery of education needs to be increased in strength, and worked by a miglitier power. In all material interests, we are proverbial as a people for our enterprise. Let us seek for our country the higher honor of becoming proverbial in our regard for moral and spiritual interests. Let us devise systems of education that shail reach every child that is born in the land; and wherever political privileges exist, let the intelligence be imparted and the virtuts inculcated, which alone can make those privileges a blessing.
It is but a few weeks since we witnessed the spectacle of three great kingdoms, or countries, vibrating as with one simultaneous thrill, in reference to the fate of a single individual. Four years ago, there went forth from Englund an adventurous navigator, to make discoveries along the northern shores of this continent, and he went merely to gratify curiosity, and his voyage, however successful, could have conferred no substantial benefit upon the world. The government of Great Britain fitted him out with expensive equipments. He departed under the highest auspices that could be invoked for his success. Thousands cheered him, and sympathized with him, and prayed for l.im, at his departure. He has gone. He has not returned. Fears are entertained that he never will return, and those fears are fast verging to despair An appeal was lately made to our goverument in his behalf, and one of our highest functionaries answered that appeal with sympathizing words and with encouragements of assistance. Had it not been for the lateness of the season, at the time when our aid was invoked, American vessels would now be on their way to the Arctic Ocean, in search of tire lost adventurer.
The Russian government, too, which spreads itself around the globe, promised the aid of its ships and its resources, to rescue this mariner from the perils of a polar region, and the terrors of an icy death.
Thus the three most powerful governments in Christendom express their regret and proffer their assistance for the recovery of a single man-Sir Jolin Franklin. And yet, my friends, you can not pass through one of the great streets of this or any other of the cities of this country; you can not go through the most secluded town or village in all this broad land, without meeting some juvenile Sir Jolin Franklin, some great man in embryo, more valuable, and of more consequence to futurity, than the one who we fear now lies buried beneath the icebergs of the Arctic Ocean.
All these Sir John Franklins, aye, and Dr. Franklins too, and other names of potential and prospective greatness, who have within them the latent powers, which, in their full development, might bless and regenerate the world, are scattered all over this country; but none of the three great nations of Christendom offers its sympathy or succor, or extends an arm for their deliverance from a fate which is as much worse than to be buried beneath the snows of the Arctic, as moral perdition is more terrible than physical.
Look too, at the condition of our country, and see what need there is of comprehensiveness in our plans, and of energy in their administration. We have a higher object than to prepare a system of education for any one locality, or for any one party. To the West, a region spreads out almost interminably—a region to be soon filled, not with savages, but either with Christians, or with men as much worse than savages as christians are better. On the East, there comes pouriug in upon us a new population, not of our own production, not of American parentage nor the growth of American institutions. Owing to the marvelous improvements in the art of transportation, the Atlantic ocean has been narrowed almost to a river's breadth. The western and the eastern continent, by the power of these improvements lie side by side of each other. Their shores, for thousauds of miles, lie like two ships, broadside and broadside, and from sten to stern, the emigrant populatiou of Europe is boarding us, tens of thousands in a day. We must provide for them, or we will all sink together.
And what are we doing to prepare for the great exigencies of the future, which the Providence of God seems to have placed in our hands; and, I speak it with reverence, to have left to our disposal? A responsibility is upon us that we can not shake off. We can not escape with the lying plea of Cain,
Am I my brother's keeper?' Let us then be aroused by every consideration that can act upon the mind of a patriot, a philanthropist, or a Christian; and let us give our hands, our heads, and our hearts to the great work of human improvement, through the instrumentality of free, common schools. As far as in us lies, let us save from ruin, physical, intellectual, and moral, the thousands and hundreds of thousands, aye, the millions and hundreds of millions of the human race, to whom we are bound by the ties of a common nature and of kindred blood, and who, without our assistance, will miserably perish, but with our assistance, may be saved to usefulness and honor, and immortal glory.
The discussions of the convention were confined closely to the following topics, relating to the organization and administration of a system of public instruction adapted to the different sections of the United States, introduced by the business committee, of which Henry Barnard, of Connecticut, was chairman.
1. TERRITORIAL, OR CIVIL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE-Involving the extent to which the district system should be carried, and the modifications of which the same is susceptible: and the official superintendeuce required for each subdivision, State, county, town, and neighborhood.
2. SCHOOL ARCHITECTURE—Including the location, size, modes of ventilation, warming, seating, &c,, of buildings intended for educational purpo es.
3. SCHOOL ATTENDANCE–Including the school age of children, and the best modes of securing the regular and punctual attendance of children at school.
4. GRADES OF SCHOOLS—The number and character of each grade.
5. COURSE OF INSTRUCTION— Physical, intellectual, moral, and religious; esthetical; indu-trial. Studies.— Books, apparatus, inethods.
6. TEACHERS—Their qualifications; their examination and compensation; normal schools, teachers' institutes, books on the theory and practice of teaching.
7. SCPPORT—Tax on property, tax on parents, school funds—local and State. 8. PARENTAL AND PUBLIC INTEREST. 9. SUPPLEMENTARY MEANS-Library, Lyceum, Lectures.
CLOSING ADDRESS. In rising to adjourn the Convention, as the clock struck ten, the hour fixed on for closing its proceedings, the President (Mr. Mann), remarked as follows: