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much embarrassed by difficulties, arising, as was believed, from the imperfection of its provisions; that notwithstanding these obstacles and embarrassments, its influence had already proved very salutary, and that with the aid of legislative amendment, it promised to yield all that encouragement to common schools which it was designed to give. “It was not to be expected,” continues the Superintendent, “ that any system for the establishment of common schools could be devised, which in its first form should be wholly free from imperfections; and accordingly it has been found that the existing law for the establishment of such a system is, in some respects, defective in its provisions, and obscure and doubtful in its meaning.” The report goes on to suggest such amendments as were deemed requisite in various particulars, not necessary to enumerate here. The operation, however, of that portion of the law which left it optional with the several towns to comply with its conditions and participate in its benefits, or not, as the inhabitants at their annual town meeting might determine, is worthy of special notice. We quote from that portion of the report which examines this feature of the system.
“The fifth section of the act provides that such towns in every county as shall have complied with the law, by directing their Supervisors to levy on them the sum required by the act to entitle them to their proportion of the public money, shall receive by appointment, from the board of supervisors, the whole dividend of the county, according to their respective population, to the exclusion of such towns as shall not have complied with the law. By a subsequent part of the same section, it is further provided that the sum required to be raised on each town, to entitle it to a share of the public money, must be equal to the sum apportioned to such town by the board of supervisors. By the operation of these several provisions in the act, the case may be that a single town in a county shall be entitled to receive the whole dividend for such county; and although this sum shall be more than sufficient, (as in ordinary cases it will be,) to support all its schools, it must nevertheless be subjected by tax to the payment of an additional sum equal in amount to the sum it is entitled to receive; and this additional sum must, in law, be applied to the support of its schools, which may have had (and in ordinary cases will have had an excess of support already. Although the case here supposed has not yet occurred, to the knowledge of the Superintendent, there is nevertheless good reason to believe it will occur; satisfactory evidence having been obtained, that in some counties but few towns have complied with the law, or shown any disposition to comply therewith. The mischief herein complained of, may be remedied by providing that the board of supervisors shall not, in any case, raise by tax on any town, a sum exceeding the sum which such town shall be entitled to receive out of the county dividend, if all the towns in the county had complied with the law.”
"It will be found by inspection of the act, that one of its principal features is the provision which gives every town an election, either to comply with the act and receive its benefits, and bear its burdens, or to refuse such compliance, and thereby forego its benefits and avoid its burdens. In the exercise of this choice, it has already been observed that many towns have refused to comply with the act, and it is believed they will generally persist in such refusal, and that some other towns which have already complied with the law, will endeavor to retract their compliance. By allowing such an option to every town, the operation of the act depending on the pleasure, and not unfrequently the caprice of a few individuals, will be always partial and fluctuating; it will, moreover, be embarrassed by all the difficulties which are naturally connected with instability of system and intricacy of form. It is therefore submitted whether this provision in the act may not be so amended as to make it obligatory on towns to comply with the act, and also on the board of supervisors of the several counties to levy on their respective towns, a sum equal to the sum which shall be apportioned to such towns out of the public money to be distributed."
This suggestion was adopted by the legislature, and the act amended in this and various other respects, in conformity to the recommendation of the Superintendent. To Eato tai beities dood te si a3 16 1994 bed
On the 11th of February, 1815, Mr. Hawley transmitted to the legislature his second annual report as Superintendent. The returns which had been made to him from the several counties were, however, so few in number, and in general so extremely defective in substance, and inartificial in form, that he did not deem it advisable to communicate them to the legislature, preferring to defer the performance of the duty required of him in this respect until more perfect returns, in accordance with forms and instructions to be prepared by him, should enable him to discharge it more beneficially to the public.
On the first day of April, 1816, the Superintendent transmitted his third annual report, from which it appeared that returns relative to the condition of the schools had been made to him from 338 towns in thirty-six of the forty-six counties then in the State ; that the whole number of districts from which reports had been received by the commissioners, in conformity to law, was 2,631; that the whole number of children between the ages of five and fifteen in said districts was 176,449; and that 140,106 had been under instruction during a portion of the year reported, in the common schools. The Superintendent, however, observes :
“The returns not being complete, and many of them being defective in some one or more of their necessary requisites, it is difficult to form any certain estimate from them. Taking, however, the most correct and full returns for a criterion, it would appear that there are within the state about five thousand districts in which common schools are established; that the number of children taught in them is at least two hundred thousand ; and that the number of children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in those districts, is about two hundred and fifty thousand. The city of Albany and the city and county of New York, not being divided into school districts under the act are not included in this estimate.” These being the first statistical returns under the act of 1812, it may not be uninteresting to contrast them with those for the year 1849, after a lapse of thirty-nine years. The whole number of school districts is now eleven thousand four hundred; the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen is about seven hundred and fifty-thousand and not less than eight hundred thousand are under instruction during the whole or a portion of the year in common schools.
But to resume our quotation from Mr. Hawley's report
“The Superintendent has also had the satisfaction to learn from other sources, that the establishment of common schools by law has already produced many great and beneficial results. The number of schools has been increased; many school houses have been built; more able teachers employed, and much of that interest which ought to be felt in behalf of common schools, has been generally excited. The beneficial operation of the act has also been visible in the pecuniary aid which many schools have derived from it. A perpetual annuity of twenty dollars, which is the average sum received by each district, under the act, ought not to be considered a trifle unworthy of any account. It has been very sensibly felt, especially in those districts where, from the inability of the inhabitants, or from any other cause, common schools have not been kept open for the whole year, and when the revenue of the fund shall have attained its full growth, the distributive share of each district will be so much more considerable, that the munificence of the legislature cannot fail to be more gratefully acknowledged. g0337
“But the great benefit of the act does not lie in any pecumiary aid which it may afford. The people of this state are, in general, able to educate their children without the aid of any public gratuity, and if they fail in this respect, it is owing more to their want of proper schools than of sufficient means. The public gratuity is important, as it tends to excite an interest in the affairs of common schools which might not otherwise be felt, and is also beneficial in many other respects. But the great benefit of the act consists in securing the establishment of common schools, wherever they are necessary; in organizing them on a suitable and permanent foundation, and in guarding them against the admission of unqualified teachers. These were the great ends proposed in -9999 wat die bad Soderyal bedong GEDW nast aldarskyet og i
the establishment of common schools by law, and under the wise and liberal policy of the legislature, these ends have been so far accomplished as to warrant full faith in their final complete attainment."
On the 12th of March, 1817, Mr. HAWLEY transmitted to the Legislature his fourth annual report, in which he states that “the returns which have been made to him during the last year, from most of the counties of the State, afford satisfactory evidence of a progressive increase in the number of common schools, and a corresponding improvement in their condition. It is ascertained with sufficient certainty, that there are within the State, exclusive of the city and county of New York, at least five thousand common schools, which have been organized and kept up imder the act for their establishment; and that the number of children annually taught in them exceeds two hundred thousand.”
In his fifth annual report, under date of March 16, 1818, the Superintendent informs the Legislature, that from the returns made to him during the preceding year, it appeared that there were more than five thousand common schools, in which were annually taught upwards of two hundred thousand children, the returns not being sufficiently full and definite to enable him to speak with more precision. "On comparing the returns of common schools, however for different years, it appeared that in almost every district a greater proportion of the children between the ages of five and fifteen years, have been taught, and a regular school supported for a longer time in every succeeding year, than in the preceeding one. To this result, so favorable to the establishment of common schools by law, it may be added-and it has not escaped the most transient observer--that under the operation of this system, better teachers have been employed, a new and more respectable character given to our common schools, and a much greater interest excited in their behalf.”
“It is now more than five years," continues the Superintendent, "since common schools were established by law. The first act of the legislature was passed in 1812. Soon after this act was carried into operation, it was discovered to be defective in many of its provisions. To supply this defect, and to add some provisions which were deemed necessary, a new act was passed in 1814. This act was also found on trial to be imperfect, and in the following year it underwent sundry amendments. Since that time, the system founded on the act of 1814 and the amendments of 1815, has remained unaltered ; nor has a practice of three years under it discovered any very great defects. It was not, however, to be expected, even after the amendments of 1815, that the system would be found complete and perfect in all its details ; on the contrary, it was to be expected of this as of every other new and untried system, that time would develope many imperfections which had not been foreseen." The Superintendent proceeds to suggest several particulars of the system which, in his judgment, required amendment, and adds, “although when a system is once established it is not advisable to subject it to frequent revision and amendment, without urgent cause-yet as the system of common schools might be improved in these and other respects not adverted to, and it will be necessary, at least, to consolidate the different acts on the subject, the propriety of revising the whole system and amending it in some of its subordinate parts, is respectfully submitted." The residue of the report is devoted to a consideration of the Lancasterian system of education, the introduction of which into the common schools had been strongly recommended by the governor, (De Witt Clinton,) in his speech at the opening of the session. The peculiar excellencies of this system were clearly and distinctly pointed out by the Superintendent, and its adoption, especially in all the larger schools in cities and villages, urgently and ably enforced. Under the impetus thus given, Lancasterian schools were established in many portions of the State, and societies incorporated, some of which are still in existence, having for their object the introduction and promotion of the system of Bell and Lancaster, then at its zenith of popularity. Experience, however, failed to realize the sanguine anticipations of those friends of education who saw in the general adoption of this system the commencement of a new and brighter era in the science of elementary instruetion; and after an ephemeral and sickly existence, these institutions, from which such favorable results were expected, languished, and with few excep
tions, disappeared. Whether the failure of this experiment resulted from inherent defects in the monitorial system of instruction, from its want of adaptation to the peculiar genius of our people, or from an inability on the part of those to whom its administration was committed, to carry into effect the plan of its founders and the views of its advocates, is still an unsettled question.
30 On the 17th of February, 1819, the Superintendent transmitted to the Legislature his sixth annual report. From the returns which had been made to him during the preceding year, it appeared that the whole number of common schools in this State, organized and permanently established under the act of the Legislature, may be estimated at nearly six thousand; and the number of children annually taught in them, in the various branches of elementary education, at nearly two hundred and fifty thousand. "This great increase and prosperity of our common schools," continnes the Superintendent, “is evidently the result of the wise and liberal policy adopted by the legislature for their encouragement and support. On comparing the returns of schools made for different years since their first establishment by law, it appears that they have increased in a much greater ratio than the increase of population, and that their condition, which was before stationary, has, under the salutary operation of the law for their establishment, been rapidly and substantially improved.
"The same data also afford evidence that common schools have risen in public estimation, and received a degree of care and attention to their concerns, corresponding with their increase and prosperity. If these results were the only evidence of a beneficial operation in the system of common schools provided by law, they would be sufficient to establish the public confidence in the policy of that system, and to secure it a permanent duration. But it is well known, although it does not appear from any data in the returns, that the gystem has produced other results not less in magnitude or merit. It has secured our schools against the admission of unqualified teachers, by requiring them to submit to examination before a public board of inspectors, and to obtain from them a certificate of approbation, before they can legally be employed. It has imparted to common schools a new and more respectable character, by making them a subject of legal notice, and investing them with powers to regulate their own concerns. It has corrected many evils in the discipline and government of schoole, not only by excluding unqualified teachers but by subjecting the schools and course of studies in them to the frequent inspection of public officers. It has founded schools in places where, by conflicting interests or want of concert in the inhabitants, none had been before established ; and it has, by its pecuniary aid, enabled many indigent children to receive the benefits of education which would not otherwise have been within their reach. The system having already fulfilled so many of the beneficial ends, of its institution, and it being now only six years since it was first organized and carried into operation, it is warrantable to infer that all the expectations of its founders will in due time be realized.
The Superintendent renews his recommeudation for a revision and consolidation of the several enactments relating to common schools. His suggestions in this respect were adopted by the legislature, and on the 19th of April following, the "Act for the support of Common Schools” was re-enacted, with the various amendments which had from time to time been made, and such as were suggested by Mr. Hawley in his reports for the two preceding years. The publication of the revised act was accompanied by an able exposition of its various provisiong, from the pen of Mr. Hawley, and with complete forms for the several proceedings required under it by the several officers connected with its administration.
On the 21st of February, 1820, Mr. Hawley transmitted to the legislature his seventh annual report. He states "that the returns of comroon schools for the last year are much more full and satisfactory than any before received;" that from these returns it appeared that in 515 towns there were
5,763 common schools, organized according to law, and that in 5,118 of these schools, from which only particular district returns had been receiv; ed, there had been taught during the year, in the various branches of elementary education, 277,877 children. The number of children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in the districts from which returns had been received, was 302,703, making the number of children taught equal to nine-tenths of the whole number between the ages of five and fifteen. ..
On the 21st of February, 1821, Mr. Hawley transmitted to the Legislature his eighth and last annual report as Superintendent; from which it appeared that in 545 towns from which returns had been received, there were 6,323 school districts organized according to law, from 5,489 of which particular district reports had been made, showing that of 317,633 children between the ages of five and fifteen years, residing in those districts, 304,549 had been under instruction during portions of the year in the common schools. “The proportion,” observes the Superintendent, “which, from the present returns, the number of children taught bears to the number between the ages of five and fifteen years is much greater than at any former period. In about one half of the towns in the state, the number taught exceeds the number between the ages of five and fifteen years; and taking the whole state together, the number taught is more than nineteen-twentieths of the number between these ages.
“The average length of time for which schools have been kept for the last year, has also increased in about the same ratio as the number of children taught. There is now, therefore, reason to believe that the number of children in the state who do not attend any school, and who are not otherwise in the way of receiving a common education, is very small. The public bounty is sufficient to defray the expense of most schools for about three months in the year; and where that is expended in different parts of the year, so as not to defray the whole expense of the school for any particular part, it is understood that in most districts poor children have been permitted to attend the district school free of expense, under that provision in the school act which empowers districts to exonerate those children from the payment of teachers' wages. The readiness with which such permission has been generally granted, wherever it has been deserved, is very creditable to the public spirit and liberality of the inhabitants of school districts, and it is considered proper on this occasion, to bring the fact to the notice of the legislature. From these circumstances, in connection with the friendly disposition every where manifested in the cause of education, it is considered warrantable to infer, that of the rising generation in this state, very few individuals will arrive to maturity without the enjoyment and protection of a common education."
To no individual in the state, are the friends of common school education more deeply indebted for the impetus given to the cause of elementary instruction in its infancy, than to GIDEON HAWLEY. At a period when every thing depended upon organization ; upon supervision ; upon practical acquaintance with the most minute details ; and upon a patient, persevering, laborious process of exposition, Mr. Hawley united in himself all the requisites for the efficient discharge of the high functions devolved upon him by the legislature. From a state of anarchy and confusion, and complete disorganization, within a period of less than eight years, arose a beautiful and stately fabric, based upon the most impregnable foundations, sustained by an enlightened public sentiment, fortified by the best and most enduring affections of the people, and cherished as the safeguard of the state -the true palladium of its greatness and prosperity. Within this brief period the number of school districts had more than doubled, and the proportion of children annually participating in the blessing of elementary instruction, increased from four-fifths to twenty-four twenty-fifths of the whole number residing in the state of a suitable age to attend the public schools. When we take into view the disadvantages under which every new and un