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Statement of appropriations by Congress for the National Museum, etc.—Continued.
When we contemplate the vast amount of useful work that is now being done by this department of the Governinent in the collection and dissemination of knowledge, it seems strange that the United States should have existed ninety years as a nation before this institution was called into existence. Though the Bureau was established according to the needs and demands of education, it has served to give strength and vigor to every department of knowledge.
SKETCH OF ITS ORIGIN.
It is impossible to treat fairly the subject of higher education in the United States without placing among the foremost agencies for the promotion of knowledge this Government clearing-house for statistical and historical information. “Educators, political economists, and statesmen felt the need of some central agency by which the general educational statistics of the country could be collected, preserved, condensed, and properly arranged for distribution. This need found expression finally in the action taken at a convention of the superintendence de
1 For a full discussion of the subject, see “The National Bureau of Education; Its Work and Limitations,” by Alexander Shiras, D. D., and “Answers to Inquiries about the Bureau of Education; Its Work and History,” by Charles Warren, M. D,
partment of the National Educational Association, held at Washington, February, 1866, where it was resolved to petition Congress in favor of a National Bureau of Education."
The memorial was presented in the House of Representatives, with an accompanying bill for the proposed Bureau, by General Garfield, who on this occasion made an able speech on national education. The bill was passed by the House, and subsequently by the Senate, with an amendment creating a department of education instead of a bureau, as was first proposed.
The act took effect in July, 1868, and was amended in June of the following year, by abolishing the Department of Education and creating a Bareau of Education as an Office in the Department of the Interior, the form in which it has since existed. Section first of the text of the act sets forth the chief objects of the Bureau of Education as follows:
“ Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be established, at the city of Washington, a Department of Education, for the purpose of collecting such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories, and of diffusing such information respecting the organization and management of school systems, and methods of teaching, as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems, and otherwise promote the cause of education throughout the country.”
As defined by this act, the range of the work of the Bureau is unlimited as far as all classes and grades of schools are concerned, and, in fact, the subject of higher education and libraries, with all means of education, should receive as much attention as the common schools.
It was not intended by the originators of the plan for the Department of Education, nor by those who gave it their intelligent consideration in Congress, that it should ever exercise national control over the administration of education. · Yet no. other agency has done so much toward the homogeneity of schools and methods as this. If it does not bring the youth from all over the country into one institution and there instruct them after a uniform plan, it does acquaint each part of the nation with what all the other parts are doing in education. This, after all, is the great method of leveling distinctions and turning local pride into desires for universal education.
MAGNITUDE OF THE WORK DONE.
The work of the Bureau is increasing rapidly, and the collections and classifications of educational material in the library render the work permanent and thorough in its effects.
1 Warren, 9.
The idea of forming a library at the national capital with works treating of education alone is in itself an inspiring thought.
The library of the Bureau is becoming exceedingly useful to educators and investigators of educational subjects. It now contains twentytwo thousand bound volumes aud sixty thousand pamphlets, besides many thousand duplicates for exchange and distribution. During the past year one thousand seven-hundred volumes and fifteen thousand pamphlets were added; eight thousand cards for the catalogue were written, and over three hundred giving reference to investigators on different topics were prepared.
The library contains many foreign books and periodicals, which greatly enchance its value to students and educators. The clerical work in handling the educational material and attending to the collection and publication of statistics may be illustrated by stating that in 1886–87 the Office received 11,006 written letters, 43,000 acknowledgments, 4,825 documents, and 20,000 replies to statistical forms of inquiry. The office also sent out 19,354 written letters and distributed 218,526 printed documents.
A GREAT EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION.
A modern feature of the Bureau is a valuable museum of educational apparatus and appliances. In this collection are now exhibited two thousand five hundred objects.
The Bureau is arranged for the student, as well as for the benefit of schools. As the library and museum increase, it will become more
and more valuable in the former respect. Persons who go to the Bureau for the work of research will find under the direction of the Commissioner a polite and attentive body of clerks, who give every needed assistance to find what students desire in the well ordered and well classified library,
The appropriations for carrying on the Bureau are small in comparison with other Government Departments, while the aniount of work done is comparatively large. Everybody in the Office works under difficulties on account of the crowded condition of the library and other
While considering the problem of erecting a Congressional Library building Congress could easily and wisely spend a hundred thousand in constructing a new fire-proof building for the library, museum, and offices of the Bureau of Education,
A few statistics kindly furnished by the present Commissioner, Col. H. N. R. Dawson, will show what is being done by the Government.
| Report of the Commissioner for 1886–87, 13.
2 Ibid, 12.
APPROPRIATIONS FOR SUPPORT.1
Ordinary appropriations for the Bureau of Education, 1867 to 1889.
Appropriations for printing not included in this summary. 880-No.16