Page images

In the report of the Literature Committee of the Senate, to which this portion of the message had been referred, prepared by John C. Spencer, is found the following: "But in the view which the committee have taken, our great reliance for nurseries of teachers must be placed in our Colleges and Academies. In connection with these the committee admit that the establishment of a separate institution for the sole purpose of preparing teachers would be a most valuable auxiliary." The committee, however, did not recommend the adoption of the latter suggestion at that time, as other measures of a more pressing nature would involve as much expense as ought to be incurred, and evidently at this time the sentiment was common that the Academies were the proper instrumentalities through which suitable teachers should be provided.

In 1821, in their annual report to the Legislature, the Board of Regents in speaking of the Academies, had said that "it is to these seminaries that we must look for a supply of teachers for the common schools;" and in their annual report in 1823 they say that the distribution of the funds under their direction to the Academies subject to their visitation "ensures a supply of competent teachers for the common schools." No legislative action had yet been taken toward giving aid and encouragement to this essential department of education, although the attention of the executive and legislative departments of the State had been turned in this direction, and the question difficult of solution then as now, as to how an adequate supply of competent teachers for the common schools could be secured, perplexed the minds of the prominent educational men of the State, and not infrequently formed the subject of discussion in the educational committees of Senate and Assembly. In 1827 a bill was reported from the literature committee of the Senate, and April 13 of that year became a law, entitled "An act to provide permanent funds for the annual appropriation to Common Schools, to increase the Literature Fund, and to

tion must have a most pernicious influence upon the habits, manners, morals and minds of our youth, and vitiate their conduct through life.”

In 1820 he used the tollowing language :

"The education of youth is an important trust, and an honorable vocation, but it is often committed to unskillful hands. Liberal encouragement ought to be dispensed for increasing the number of competent teachers."

In 1825 he again urged this subject as one of first importance to the State. Various authorities upon the history of Normal School Education of earlier date are cited in the "Report on Education in Europe," by A. D. BACHE, chap. ix, pp. 323-361. F. B. H.


* *

promote the education of teachers." Although the title of the act leads us to expect in the act itself some specific aid to be provided for the education of teachers, no further mention of this subject is made, but the increase in the Literature Fund provided for by this law, and the change made in the basis upon which this fund was to be distributed in requiring scholarship in higher branches of education than before, it was evidently thought, would act directly in promoting the education of teachers. The report of the legislative committee, which accompanied the bill, expressly states that their object in thus increasing the fund is "to promote the education of young men in those studies which will prepare them for the business of instruction which it is hoped may be accomplished to some extent by offering inducements to the trustees of Academies to educate pupils of that description. * Competent teachers of Common Schools must be provided; the Academies of the State furnish the means of making that provision." In view of the fact that the Academies were called upon to furnish, and were furnishing at this time, a large number and probably the great majority of teachers for the Common Schools, and considering also the advance in standard of scholarship required of the Academies by the law of 1827, the Regents, in 1828, say: "The Academies have become, in the opinion of the Regents, what it has always been desirable they should be, fit Seminaries for imparting instruction in the higher branches of English education, and especially for qualifying teachers of Common Schools." And the same year the Superintendent of Common Schools (Hon. Azariah C. Flagg, Secretary of State), said: "If the required information to fit a person for teaching can be obtained in the Academies, sound policy and good economy are in favor of relying upon them for the training of teachers." The annual report of the Superintendent to the Legislature of 1831 reviews the various plans proposed, and recommends the Academies located in different parts of the State as the proper agencies to be employed in this important work.

Public sentiment as well as official opinion was silently exerting its influence in favor of action which should recognize under due form and sanction of law the organized instruction of teachers in those things which pertain exclusively to their calling, and the actual work which the Academies were doing, as shown by their official reports to the Board of Regents, enforced in a practical manner

Chap. 228, Laws of 1827.


which could not be gainsaid the necessity for recognition of this work by the State. Thus we find in the returns of Academies to the Board in 1831, Canandaigua and St. Lawrence Academies report the "Principles of Teaching" among the studies pursued by classes, and St. Lawrence Academy, with evident and justifiable pride, reports "more than eighty district school teachers furnished by this Academy during the year. In the reports of 1832, we find that Lowville and Oxford Academies are added to the number of those instructing classes in the "Principles of Teaching;" the report of that year from Canandaigua also stating that fifty teachers had been furnished by that institution during the last two years; and that from Lowville stating that it had furnished twenty teachers during the last year; while the report of 1834 shows that the Rochester High School had added itself to the small but steadily increasing number of schools who were the pioneers of pedagogical work in this country.

The Board of Regents, in their annual reports to the Legislature, had, from time to time, as we have seen, referred to the Academies. as the natural agency for the supply of qualified teachers for the common schools, but the reports made to the Board by the Academies above mentioned indicate that the preparation of teachers was fast becoming a distinctive work and would very soon probably demand special facilities for its accomplishment. In the annual report of the Board for 1832 this subject is ably presented, and its view of the field is so broad that it is deemed proper to quote in full what is said in regard to this matter. After referring to the very satisfactory condition of the Common Schools as shown by the annual report of the State Superintendent, and observing that the school system was "as near perfection, perhaps, with a single exception, as it can be." the report proceeds as follows:

"But there is one topic (the exception above adverted to) connected both with our Common Schools and Academies, which the Regents deem it proper to present to the Legislature; and it was with a view to introduce and give force to the remarks, which they consider due to the occasion, that they referred to the condition of the former. However complete in other respects the system may be, it is manifest that a sufficient supply of competent teachers is indispensable to its efficacy. The truth of this position is too obvious to be disputed; but there has been a contrariety of opinion with regard to the best mode of providing them. With some it has been a favorite theory to provide further education at the public expense by the institution of a State Semmary with branches in the several senatorial districts. This plan does not differ materially from that

which has been adopted in some European countries. In Prussia there is in each province one or more seminaries, supported at the expense of the government, for the preparation of teachers. But there is this essential difference between the elementary schools in that kingdom and in this State. There they are under the absolute control and direction of the government. No one is allowed to act as an instructor without written permission from examiners appointed under the authority of the government; and although the expenses of the schools, between twenty and thirty thousand in number, are paid by the inhabitants of the several parishes, parents who neglect to send their children to school are liable to be fined for their omission to comply with the requirements of the law. In a word, the whole plan is compulsory; presenting the anomaly of a government, founded upon arbitrary power, compelling its subjects to cherish a system, which is at war in principle with the very elements of its own preservation. Although it might seem much more proper with a political organization like ours, the best security of which is a diffused intelligence, to compel parents to educate their children; yet our rule is, in all things not manifestly essential to the operations of government to persuade rather than coerce. Our Common Schools, though assisted by the State, are maintained by voluntary contribution of the inhabitants of the respective districts; and those who are most interested have the selection of teachers. Public opinion in this country would hardly endure a system like that which exists in Prussia. If the State were to establish seminaries for the preparation of teachers, it would be no certainty that the school districts would give them employment, and they could not be forced upon the districts against their wishes. Many individuals would unques tionably be tempted, after receiving their education as teachers, to abandon that calling for the higher rewards of others, and thus the munificence of the public would be expended for individual benefit. It was, therefore, conceived (as the Regents think, wisely) that the Academies should become the nurseries of instructors for Common Schools, leaving it to the interest of individuals to prepare themselves for the business of teaching, to the interest of the Academies to provide the means of their preparation, and to the liberality of the school districts, to offer snfficient wages to secure their services.

"The act of 13th April, 1827, increasing the literature fund virtually adopts the latter plan, by declaring that one of the objects of that increase was "to promote the education of teachers."

"The Regents had the honor to say in a former report to the Legislature, that they should cheerfully co-operate in promoting the speedy accomplishment of that object. They have now the satisfaction to present a fact, which they consider of immense importance as an evidence that the views adopted by the Legislature, although dissented from at that time by many intelligent individuals, were founded in wisdom. By a reference to the abstract it will appear, that St. Lawrence Academy at Potsdam, St. Lawrence county, in the fourth senatorial district, has sent out during the last year eighty teachers

of Common Schools, and that a part of the course of study consists of lectures upon the principles of teaching. The superiority which the St. Lawrence Academy has acquired in this respect is to be ascribed altogether to the new branch of instruction introduced into it. There is at least an average of more than one academy to each senatorial district equally capable of accomplishing the same result by adopting the same measures. The Canandaigua Academy has introduced a similar course of instruction, but with what success does not appear by the report. There is no doubt that a thousand instructors might readily be prepared annually for the Common Schools, a number exceeding by nearly two hundred the average number supplied by the seminaries of Prussia. It only remains for the school districts to furnish the inducement by offering wages which shall be equal to the average profits of other occupations. The advantages of a regular system of instruction in the principles of teaching need no illustration. Experience is constantly suggesting improved methods for the communication of knowledge, and for the discipline of youthful minds; and works have recently been published embodying the results of observation and practice. With the aid of these and with such a course of instruction as has been adopted at the St. Lawrence Academy, teachers attain, in a very short time, to qualifications which would otherwise be the fruit of long and painful experience, equally embarrassing to themselves, and fatal to the progress of their pupils. The Regents are decidedly of opinion that the Academies are the proper instruments for accomplishing the great object of supplying the Common Schools with teachers. These institutions have already the advantage of convenient edifices, in some cases of large permanent funds, valuable libraries, and philosophical apparatus, amounting in all to an investment of about half a million of dollars. By engrafting upon the course of studies a department of instruction in the principles of teaching, the respectability and capacities of institutions will be increased, and those who are qualifying themselves for the business of instruction may enjoy the benefit of all the other branches, which enter into the ordinary academic course. In every point of view it is conceived that this is the most advisable method of preparing instructors. Under this impression, the Regents take the liberty of remarking, that in case the condition of the public finances shall at a future day admit of an additional appropriation to the object of promoting the education of teachers, the end may be much more advantageously attained by connecting it with the academies, than by creating a separate establishment for the purpose. When these institutions shall send forth a regular supply of well qualified instructors, an object which they hope to see accomplished by a union of the same munificent policy, which has heretofore guided the councils of the State, with the liberal spirit which has animated the people, our system of elementary in struction will be complete; and in this department the government will by contributing to close up the sources of ignorance and vice, have done all that properly falls to its province to give strength and duration to our civil liberties."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »