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citizen, who shall have improved the advantages offered by our common schools and the district libraries, will be without some scientific knowledge of the earth, its physical condition and its phenomena, the animals that inhabit it, the vegetables that clothe it with verdure, and the minerals under its surface; the physiology and the intellectual powers of man; the laws of mechanics and their practical uses • those of chemistry and their application to the arts, the principles of moral and political economy; the history of nations, and especially that of our own country; the progress and triumph of the democratic principle in the governments on this continent, and the prospects of its ascendency throughout the world; the trials and faith, valor and constancy of our ancestors; with all the mspiring examples of benevolence, virtue and patriotism, exhibited in the lives of the benefactors of mankind. The fruits of this enlightened and beneficent enterprise are chiefly to be gathered by our successors. But the present generation will not be altogether unrewarded. Although many of our citizens may pass the district library, heedless of the treasures it contains, the unpretending volumes will find their way to the fireside, diffusing knowledge, increasing domestic happiness, and promoting public virtue."
"When the census of 1850 shall be taken, I trust it will show, that within the borders of the state of New York, there is no child of sufficient years who is unable to read and write. I am sure it will then be acknowledged, that when ten years before, there were thirty thousand children growing up in ignorance and vice, a suggestion to seek them, wherever found, and win them to the ways of knowledge, and virtue by pursuasion, sympathy and kindness, was prompted by a sincere desire for the common good. I have no pride of opinion concerning the manner in which the education of those whom I have brought to your notice shall be secured; although I might derive satisfaction from the reflection, that amid abundant misrepresentations of the method suggested, no one has contended that it would be ineffectual, nor has any other plan been proposed. I observe, on the contrary, with deep regret, that the evil remains as before , and the question recurs not merely how, or by whom shall instruction be given, but whether it shall be given at all, or be'! altogether withheld. Others may be content with a system that erects free schools, and offers gratuitous instruction; but 1 trust I shall be allowed to entertain the opinion, that no system is perfect that does not accomplish what it proposes; that our system is therefore deficient in comprehensiveness, in the exact proportion of the children that it leaves uneducated; that knowledge, however acquired is better than ignorance; and that neither error, accident, nor prejudice, ought to be permitted to deprive the state of the education of her citizens. Cherishing such opinions, I could notenjoy the consciousness of having discharged my duty, if any effort had been omitted which was calculated to bring within the schools all who are destined to exercise the rights of citizenship; nor shall I feel that the system is perfect, or liberty safe, until that object be accomplished. Not personally concerned about such misapprehensions as have arisen, but desirous to remove every obstacle to the accomplishment of so important an object, I very freely declare, that I seek the education of those whom I have brought before you, not to perpetuate any prejudices or distinctions which deprive them of instruction, but in disregard of all such distinctions and prejudices. I solicit their education less from sympathy than because the welfare of the state demands it, and cannot dispense with it. As native citizens they are born to the right of suffrage. I ask that they may at least be taught to read and write; and in asking this, I require no more for them than I have dilligently endeavored to secure to the inmates of our penitentiaries, who forfeited that inestimable franchise by crime; and also to an unfortunate race, which having been plunged by us into degradation and ignorance, has been excluded from the franchise by an arbitrary property qualification incongruous with all our institutions. I have not recommended, nor do I seek, the education of any class in foreign languages, or in particular creeds or faiths; but fully believing, with the author of the Declaration of Independence, that even error may be-safely tolerated where reason is left free to combat it, and therefore
indulging no apprchensions from the influence of any language or creed among an enlightened people, I desire the education of the entire rising generation in all the elements of knowledge we possess, and in that tongue which is the uniTersal language of our countrymen. To me, the most interesting of all our republican iustitutions is the common school. I seek not to disturb, in any manner, its peaceful and assiduous exercises, and least of all with contentions about faith or forms. I desire the education of all the children in the commonwealth in morality and virtue, leaving matters of conscience where, according to the principles of civil and religious liberty established by our constitution and laws, they rightfully belong."
In his annual report for the present year, the Superintendent strongly urges the continuance of the departments for the instruction of teachers connected with the academies, and the increase of the number of the institutions required to maintain such departments. "Normal Schools," he observes, "which are so strongly urged by some, must, after all, be essentially like these departments and the academies in which they are established. There must be a board of managers or trustees, teachers, a building, books and apparatus. These are already furnished by the existing academies, and there can be no intrinsic defect in them which should prevent their being made as useful as any normal schools. The change of name will not change the real nature of the institution. The sum of money which would be requisite to purchase ground, erect buildings for one normal school, and fit them for the purpose, would enable at least ten academies to maintain similar schools in buildings already prepared, and under managers already organized. The Superintendent does not mean to under-rate those schools, nor to depreciate the benevolent motives of those who recommend them. He acknowledges, and indeed earnestly urges, the inestimable value and absolute necessity of institutions in which our youth may be prepared for the business of teaching. But he would use the means we already have at hand for the purpose without incurring what seems to him the needless expense of providing others of a similar character. He would respectfully recommend the extension of the public patronage to all the academies in the state, to enable them to establish teachers'departments, and in those counties where there are no academies, the establishment of normal schools. For the latter purpose there might be a provision, authorizing the boards of supervisors in such counties to raise the necessary sums to procure suitable grounds and erect proper buildings; and upon their being completedappropriating from the funds of the state a sufficient sum to employ compe tent teachers." He, however, remarks in conclusion, "One model school or more might be advantageously established in some central part of the state, to which teachers and those intending to become such might repair, to acquire the best methods of conducting our common schools."
Professor Potter, of Union College, who, at the request of the department, had visited and personally inspected during the year 1840,several of the teachers' departments connected with the academies, submitted a very able report of the result of his examination closing with the following suggestion: "I would suggest'whether some means might not be adopted for training a class of teachers with more especial reference to country common schools, and to primary schools in villages and cities—teachers whose attainments should not extend much beyond the common English branches, but whose minds should be awakened by proper influences—who should be made familiar by practice with the best modes of teaching, and who should come under strong obligations to teach for at least two or three years. In Prussia and France normal schools are supported at the public expense; most of the pupils receive both board and tuition gratuitously; but at the close of the course they give bonds to refund the whole amount received, unless they teach, under the direction of the government, for a certain nuudier of years. That such schools, devoted exclusively to the preparation of teachers, have some advantages over any other method, is sufficiently apparent from the experience of other nations; and it has occurred to me that as a supplementary to our present system, the establishment of one in this state might be eminently useful. If placed under proper auspices, and loCated near the capitol, where it could enjoy the supervision of the Superintendent of Common Schools, and be visited by the members of the legislature, it might contribute in many ways to raise the tone of instruction throughout the state."
The Superintendent renewed his recommendation of such a modification of the common school system, as was suggested in his report of the preceding year. He contrasts the present situation of the schools with their condition m 1815, the number of organized and reporting districts having increased from 2,631 to 10,397; the number of children instructed from 140,706 to 572,995; and the amount paid from the treasury towards defraying the compensation of teachers from $46,398 to $220,000; and after referring to the fact that $275,000 were annually distributed in taxes, and nearly $500,000 on rate-bills, for the support of the schools, observes, "A people who have thus freely expended their money and appropriated their private means for the education of their children, to an amount nearly double the expense of administering the government cannot with any truth or justice, be said to be indifferent to the subject. And when we find thirty thousand trustees of school districts gratuitously rendering their services, and making their returns with order, regularity and promptitude, we ought not to deny their appreciation of the value of the labor m which they engage, nor their merit in performing it. It is no slight proof of the value of a system which is thus administered without compulsion. Its fruits are seen in the education of one-fourth of an entire population, and of nearly every child of a proper age for the primary schools; in the advance of the wages paid to teachers, a clear indication that a higher degree of talent is employed and appreciated; and in the interest almost universally excited among onr fellow-citizens of every class, in the success of the effort. Still, like every other human institution, it is susceptible of constant improvement. This is not to be accomplished by sudden changes which derange the machinery, and which, when effected, will probably be found to require alteration; and least of all by those schemes which are so comprehensive as to be incapable of practical execution. Amendments, when experience has indicated their necessity, may be gradually incorporated in the system, without obstructing it. And the introduction of new elements to aid, invigorate and sustain what we have, and in keeping with it, will be more likely to accomplish their purpose than if they were antagonistic to what is already established."
On the 26th of May, 1841, the legislature, by a nearly unanimous vote, passed the act drawn up by Mr. Spencer, and reported by the literature committees of the two houses, providing for the appointmeut by the board of supervisors of each county, biennially, of a County Superintendent of common schools, charged with the general supervision of the interests of the several schools under his jurisdiction. The various powers, functions and duties of this officer, will hereafter be more particularly adverted to. The number of town inspectors of schools was reduced to two; the qualifications of voters at school district meetings, specifically defined; provisions made for the establishment of schools for the instruction of colored children; a subscription for so many copies of a monthly periodical exclusively devoted to the cause of education, as should supply each district in the state, authorized; and various minor amendments in the details of the system made.
Under this act, County Superintendents were appointed in the various counties of the state; and under full and ample instructions from the Superintendent, entered in the succeeding winter upon the discharge of their official duties. S. S. Randall, then a clerk in the department, was appointed by Mr. Spencer, general Deputy Superintendent, in accordance with one of the provisions of the act.
By an ordinance of the Regents of the University, of the 4th of May, 1841, the sum of $300 was directed to be annually apportioned to two academies in each of the Senate districts, for the maintenance of the departments for the education of teachers of common schools; in addition to which seven other academies were provided with similar departments, under the act of 1838, requiring their establishment in every institution receiving a share of the literature fund equal to $700 per annum. In October of this year Mr. Spencer was transferred to a seat in the Cabinet, as Secretary of War; and by a provision in the act of 1841, above referred to, the duties of Superintendent of Common Schools devolved upon his general deputy, until the vacancy was filled by the legislature in the month of February ensuing.
Of the energy, ability and transcendent success with which the brief administration of Mr. Spencer, Was conducted, it would be superfluous here to speak. The value and importance of the reform effected under his auspices, and chiefly through his indefatigable exertions, in the system of common schools, by the adoption of the plan of local supervision through the agency of County Superintendents, will be best appreciated by the fact that every successive legislature since convened, through every mutation of party, has, with unexampled unanimity, sanctioned and sustained the system so devised and matured: that the practical operation of that system has immeasurably elevated the condition of the common schools throughout the state, advanced the standard of popular educatiou, enlisted the efficient co-operation of an enlightened public sentiment, and laid the foundations for that universal diffusion of knowledge, which under the guidance of sound moral and religious principles, is destined to sustain, and we would fain hope, to perpetuate, the fabric of our free institutions.
On the 5th of January, 1842, the acting Superintendent, (S. S. Randall) transmitted to the legislature the annual report required from the department, from which it appeared that the whole number of school districts in the state was 10,886; the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen, residing in the several districts from which reports had been received (exclusive of the city of New York,) 583,347, and the number of children under instruction 603,583, being an increase of 30,588 over that of the preceding year.
Administration of Samuel Young—Town Superintendents, Normal School and Teachers' Institutes—1842 to 1846. On the 7th of February succeeding, the Hon. Samuel Young, of Saratoga, wa s appointed Secretary of State and Superintendent of Common Schools ; and in May following he met the several county superintendents in convention at Utica, and possessed himself of a thorough acquaintance with the details and practical operations of the system whch he had been called upon to supervise. In his first annual report, (Jail 12, 1843) he recommended the reduction of the academical departments for the education of teachers of common schools to four, and the appropriation of a sufficient sum to establish and maintain a normal school at the seat of government, where it might be subjected to the immediate supervision as well of the department as of the representativesof the people during the sessions of the legislature; the abolition of the offices of commissioner and inspector of common schools, and the substitution of a town superintendent; the extension of the official term of trustees of school districts to three years, one to be elected annually; the vesting of appellate powers in the first instance in the several county superintendents; the perpetuation of the district library system, with suitable modifications and restrictions, and various other incidental and minor reforms of the system: most of which, with the exception of that portion relating to a normal school, in pursuance of his suggestions, and on an able and argumentative report from Mr. Hulburd, of St. Lawrence, chairman of the committee on colleges, academies and common schools, of the assembly, were incorporated by the legislature in the act of April 16, 1843. At this period the number of school districts had attained the number of 10,893; the number of children between 5 and 16, residing in the several reporting districts, was 601,765, and the whole number under instruction 598,749. The Superintendent acknowledges a "decided predisposition" on his accession to office, "to exercise whatever influence he might possess" for the abolition of the system of county supervision. But after attending the convention of county superintendents, and possessing himself of a thorough acquaintance with the previous defects and present advantages of that system, he thus sums up the conclusions to which he had arrived:
"Deputy Superintendents properly qualified for the discharge of their functions, possessing a competent knowledge of the moral, intellectual, and physical sciences, familiar with all the modern improvements in elementary instruction, and earnestly intent on elevating the condition of our common schools, can do much more to accomplish this desirable result, than all the other officers connected with the system. Acting on a broader theatre, they can perform more efficiently all that supervision which has heretofore been so deplorably neglected, or badly executed. The system of deputy superintendents is capable of securing, and can be made to secure, the followmg objects:
"It can produce a complete and efficient supervision of all the schools of the state, in reference as well as to their internal management, as to their external details:
"It can be made to unite all the schools of the state into one great system; making the advancement of each the ambition of all; furnishing each with the means of attaining the highest standard of practical excellence, by communicating to it every improvement discovered or suggested in every or any of the others:
"It can do much towards dissipating the stolid indifference which paralyses many portions of the community, and towards arousing, enlightening and enlisting public sentiment, in the great work of elementary instruction, by systematic and periodical appeals to the inhabitants of each school district, in the form of lectures, addresses, <fec.
"It can be made to dismiss from our schools all immoral and incompetent teachers, and to secure the services of such only as are qualified and efficient, thereby elevating the grade of the schoolmaster, and infusing new vitality into the school.
"An attentive examination of the interesting reports of the deputy superintendents will clearly show that the accomplishment of several of the most important of these objects is already in a state of encouraging progression.
"In these times of commercial paralysis, monetary pressure and impending taxation, superinduced by causes which were clearly foreseen, and might easily have been obviated, it is very far from the intention of the Superintendent to advocate any system which shall add weight to the existing burdens of the community. Instead of this, it will be manifest that the system of deputy superintendents can be made to supersede official duty heretofore badly performed, and taxation heretofore imposed with little resulting utility, to an amount greatly exceeding the expenses of this system."
Gov. Bouck, in his annual message to the legislature of 1844, thus alludes to the condition and prospects of the common schools:
44 JNTo interest of the State is entitled to a more favorable regard, or a greater share of attention at the hands of the legislature, than that of public instruction. The intellectual and moral culture of the six or seven hundred thousand children who are speedily to succeed the generation now on the stage of active life, and to assume the duties and responsibilities, as well of government as of society, in all its departments, involves, in its consequences, the existence and destinies of the Republic itself, and cannot be neglected without danger to the vital interests of free institutions. The elementary education of the youth of the state has attracted the attention, and occupied a prominent position in the policy of, the executive and legislative departments, from a very early period of our existence as a state. A perpetual fund, the revenue of which, for several years past, has secured an annual apportionment from the the treasury, for the benefit of the common schools, of jj-11 0,Gin», lias been specifically appropriated, by a provision of the constitution, to this object; and since the year 1839, the additional amount of $165,000 has annually been appropriated, by the liberal and enlightt nod policy of the state, from the revenue of the United States Depo ite Fund, to the same object, and to the procurement of common school libraries in the several school districts of the state. An amount in the aggregate equal to these two sums ($275,000) is required to be annually raised upon the taxable property in the several towns; and the proceeds of this fund, augmented by nearly an equal amount, contribute