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Now these philosophers are wiser than God, and so they have set spectrums in their eyes, and when they look at human nature they see nothing but colors.
Cure your eyes, gentlemen, and you will see through the surface to the divinity within. Then shall you comprehend that every human form is filled with the light which beams from the eye of the All-seeing, and that these colored rays retain their inherent nature.
It is no business of ours that God put His light into the negro form. The negro may be God's dark lantern; but He has use for dark lanterns in His universe or He would not have made them.
Let us be careful, or when we least expect it He will turn the light upon us to our discomfiture. God keeps books, and He will make our accounts balance in the end. He gives no discharge in bankruptcy.
Looking then at the South as we should, we see no reason for the use of other or different means and methods for the improvement of society than are necessary and appropriate at the North and everywhere else.
The Southern problem, or the race problem of the South, is no Southern any more than it is a Northern mystery. It is merely a problem in human nature. Its solution depends upon the proper use of the same means which have improved the condition of men everywhere, regardless of race or color.
“The same light lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Education is the solution of the problem of all human advancement. Right education of the physical, mental and spiritual powers of each individual will perfect society, and nothing else will do it.
Five hundred thousand teachers, who constitute the great profession in our country, are solving the difficulties which environ the nation.
True, there be other agencies: the church, the press, and the influence of the daily contact of life.
But the work of the teacher is fundamental and is necessary, in order that intelligence may criticise creed and prevent religion from degenerating into superstition; in order that the press may perform its work at all, and that daily contact with others may not simply reproduce in coming generations the imperfect environment of the present.
The public-school system is the only hope, in the sense that it is the great creative and saving institution of the republic. The general diffusion of knowledge, intelligence and virtue made us a republic.
Education was that diffusion. The common school was the chief agency. Just in proportion to the influence of the common school has been the perfection of the process. As it has been, so it now is, and so it will be. The education of a free people can never be accomplished otherwise than by universal education in common knowledge at the public expense.
Private schools may do something, denominational schools may do much, and higher education possibly may better depend upon individual or corporate endowment; although I doubt it. But all these agencies combined will leave us with an imperfect, unrepublican education for our people. They will never reach one-half of our children. The property, the whole property of the country must educate the children of the country.
As children exist for the common good, and are the nation in the process of perpetuation, so does property exist merely for the common good, and subject to the promotion of the general welfare. Some individuals produce children, some produce property, some produce both; each has a primary care of that which he has by his own effort brought into existence, or preserved.
But society can destroy even life, in battle, and property, by taxation, for the general welfare.
The public-school system is the army which wages everlasting war upon ignorance, and all whose victories are peace.
Taxation by the public must be for the general good, and of necessity results in the public school, without which at least one-half of the property of the country would escape its just contribution to the education of the people, and not less than one-half the children would grow up in ignorance, by reason of the poverty of those who, while they have produced life, may not have made money.
Who has done the most for the country — the mere millionaire, or the hardworking mother of ten healthy children?
Your great profession was established to wait upon the one at the expense of the other; such is the public school.
Long life to other educational institutions, whether private or parochial, whether sectarian or agnostic, which do not assail it; but death to its enemies ! Let us alone, for the republic will defend its life.
One lesson is apparent from this, and that is the duty of the nation which is itself a republic, and which has pledged itself that every state shall be a republic also, that whenever for any cause, wherever local effort fails, the property of the nation shall educate the children of the nation.
This may better be done, where help is necessary, through state systems and under local administration. But should states and parents persistently fail, the work to be done, which is the preservation of the existence of both nation and states, must not fail. That work must be done, and will be done.
· Let no one fear that the cause of national aid to education, for which this mighty Association has labored and petitioned for many years, is dead. That cause is stronger than ever. Time but the impression stronger makes.
The waters of intelligence will overwhelm the cess-pools of ignorance, and fill the land with sweeter life.
This as yet untried power-national aid to common-school education--would solve the Southern problem in ten years.
I believe that it would remove the peculiar dangers which assail the publicschool system in the great cities and in rising States of the North ; while by uplifting the children of the masses of the conservative South, that great and patriotic section would in the future become the most powerful and reliable upholder of the institutions of the republic. Educate fully and impartially the children of both races in the South, and I believe the safety of the future will come from that very section, which, under conditions which education alone can fully destroy, assailed the nation's life.
Justice, patriotism, brotherhood, and even enlightened selfishness, all demand national aid to education.
There is no other help adequate to the great work. With it the work may be done in ten years which cannot be done in fifty years without. Not done when it should be done, that work may fail.
In some States, and in many large sections, illiteracy of the voter is increasing. In one, at least, those who have a right to cast a majority of the ballots cannot read them. Under such conditions at least another fourth are so ignorant that they know nothing of the issues which they decide.
The suffrage of the country has not as a whole improved in intelligence since 1880, and is not more capable of self-government now than it was then.
The last reports of the Commissioner of Education show that the publicschool system has not increased relatively with the population, while in many cases it has declined. There is a congressional district in Virginia, where the colored population is large, in which the wages of colored teachers have declined fifty per cent. since 1885. So I am informed by one of the teachers themselves.
Since 1880, twenty-five millions of babies have been born in this country, every one of them an ignoramus. Millions of foreigners have sought our shores. There has been an actual growth of fifteen millions, of itself a nation as large as Spain, and five times the number with whom we defeated the British empire a century ago in the first revolution. Nearly or quite one-third of the existing body of intelligence has died within ten years, and the teaching power of the country has not more than kept pace with all this, whereas the safety of society requires that the standard of intelligence should have been greatly raised.
This country is not yet out of the woods. The wise and sleepless opposition to the public-school system knows its time and improves its opportunity. Its opponents are to be commended for their sagacity and the vigor with which they devote themselves to their mighty work of overthrowing the public-school system of the whole United States. If its defenders would but imitate their consecration, far more would be accomplished than by denunciation. They give us an example from which we may learn much, and by imitating which we might organize victory. This great Association has never failed to encompass the whole country in its patriotic vision. It is itself national. During all these years of struggle your annual trumpet tone has reverberated throughout the land, calling for national aid to education.
The victory is not yet won, but with perseverance it is sure.
The evil remains, and until the evil is removed, the absolute necessity for national aid will continue. Illiteracy is the disease of the nation, and it will not yield to the puny force of mere local remedy.
Individuals may fail and disappear in the ocean of oblivion, but the cause will survive. Education is the hope of the world. Its never-ending processes are the work of eternity.
Members of the Association rcill notice with regret that the address by Inspector James L. Hughes, of Toronto, Ontario, on "The Training of the Executive Powers," does not appear in this volume. The manuscript was lost in St. Paul, and so never reached the editor.