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“ The funds provided and secured by the Constitution for the support of common schools have become only in part productive, as will be seen from the operations of the treasury department for the past year. By far the largest portion of those funds is still inactive, and must continue so, until advantageous sales can be made of nearly a million of acres of land, appropriated to the use of conimon schools. It is not extravagant to predict that when that period shall arrive, the anticipations of the patriot and philanthropist with regard to the still more extensive operation of our school system, and its favorable effects upon the condition of society, will be fully realized. Indeed, what has education not already effected! It has given man dominion, not only over the elements, but it has enlarged his capacity and faculties beyond the sphere in which he moves. It has shown him that intellectual wealth is national wealth, and that it lies at the foundation of all that is useful in the arts; that its influence extends to the narrower path of private virtue and daily duty; and that while it strengthens the tie between parent and child, husband and wife, citizen and citizen, it secures from the rude and withering hand of oppression, and from the iron grasp of despotism, those valuable institutions of government, which it is no less the pride than it is the duty of freemen to maintain pure and inviolate. Common schools, supported by law and open alike to the poor and to the rich, (as they emphatically are in this state,) together with the higher seminaries of learning, are those monuments which render the glory of a nation imperishable; and while this state is engaged in the great works of canals and other internal improvements, she shows the boundless extent of her resources and the energies of her character by supporting at the same time, upon a basis equally broad and enduring, a plan of education unequalled in its operations and effect, by that of any other country in the civilized world.”
On the 12th of January, 1825, Mr. Yates transmitted to the legislature his fourth annual report, from which it appeared that the number of children taught, for an average period of nine months, in the common schools during the preceding year, was 402,940; being nearly 26,000 more than the number taught in 1823. The number of school districts was 7,642, from 6,936 of which reports had been received. The aggregate amount of public money received and expended in the payment of teachers' wages in the reporting districts during the year was $182,741.61.
In August of the preceding year, the Superintendent had issued a circular recommending school celebrations in the several towns of the state, from which the following are extracts: “ The object in view is extremely important, for it is addressed as well to the affections of the parent as the feelings and interests of the citizen. The happiness of society and the freedom of our country mainly depend upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and it is our duty to devise the best means for attaining and securing that very desirable end. In a few years, the children that now sit upon our knees, or play around the room, will fill our places and become the future legislators, magistrates and judges of our country, while we are silently descending to the tomb. How consoling then the reflection will be, that those objects of our affection are about to realize our fondest hopes and do honor to our memories! Even now, when we hear recounted the sage deliberations of the statesmnan, or the gallant achievements of the warrior, or the brilliant and still more useful attainments of the scholar, or the sacred and impressive eloquence of the divine or the profound arguments of the lawyer, or the useful inventions and experiments of the philosopher, farmer and mechanic, do not our bosoms burn with admiration, and do not the eyes and hearts of each of us exclaim, “Would that he were my son !' If then, these are the delightful emotions excited in us from the mere relation of the grand effects which knowledge and virtue produce, can we refuse yielding our best exertions to realize them in the per.. sons of our children? The means, under Providence, are fully within our power, and painful will be our reflections, if we neglect them."
* The plan suggested for the improvement of our common schools, by instituting celehrations, promises, I am convinced, far more beneficial and important consequences than any other hitherto devised. The experiment is neither doubtful nor difficult; and its benefits are certain, and their extent beyond calculation. Indeed, when we see the flourishing condition of our colleges and academies, and know that much is attributable to their public anniversaries, and commencements, why should we hesitate to believe that the same means when used in support of our common schools, will produce the same end? And why, permit me to ask, should not our common schools be placed on a footing as respectable as any other seminaries of learning? Are they not as useful ? and is not their influence more generally felt and acknowledged ? When we consider also the high character which our common schools have so deservedly maintained—when we fird other states and countries imitating their example and quoting their success, should we not feel the strongest desire to render them still more worthy of this distinction, and still more useful to ourselves and to posterity ?”
In his message to the legislature at the opening of the session of 1826, the governor (De Witt Clinton) thus adverts to the subject of education:
« The first duty of government, and the surest evidence of good government, is the encouragement of education. A genoral diffusion of knowledge is the precursor and protector of republican institutions; and in it we must confide as the con servative power that will watch over our liberties, and guard them against fraud, intrigue, corruption and violence. In early infancy, education may be usefully administered. In some parts of Great Britain, infant schools have been successfully established, comprising children from two to six years of age, whose tempers, hearts and minds are ameliorated, and whose indigent parents are enabled by these means to devote themselves to labor, without interruption or uneasiness. Institutions of this kind are only adapted to a dense population, and must be left to the guardianship of private benevolence. Our common schools embrace children from five to fifteen years old, and continue to increase and prosper. The appropriation for the school sund for the last year, amounted to $80,670, and an equivalent sum is also raised by taxation in the several counties and towns, and is applied in the same way. The capital fund is $1,333,000, which will be in a state of rapid augruentation from sales of the public lands and other sources; and it is well ascertained that more than 420,000 children have been taught in our common schools during the last year. The sum distributed by the state is now too small, and the general fund can well warrant an augmentation to $120,000 annually.
“Our system of instruction, with all its numerous benefits, is still, however, susceptible of improvement. Ten years of the life of a child may now be spent in a common school. In two years the elements of instruction may be acquired, and the remaining eight years must either be spent in repetition or in idleness, unless the teachers of common schools are competent to instruct in the higher branches of knowledge. The outlines: of geography, algebra, mineralogy, agricultural chemistry, mechanical philosophy, surveying, geometry, astronomy, political economy and ethics, might be communicated in that period of time by able preceptors, without essential interference with the calls of domestic industry. The vocation of a teacher, in its influence on the character and destinies of the rising and all future generations, has either not been fully understood or duly estimated. It is, or ought to be, ranked among the learned professions. With a full admission of the merits of several who now officiate in that capacity, still it must be conceded that the information of many of the instructors of our common schools does not extend beyond rudimental education; that our expanding population requires constant accessions to their numbers; and that to realize these views, it is necessary that some new plan for obtaining able teachers should be devised. I therefore recommend a seminary for the education of teachers, in the monitorial system of instruction, and in those useful branches of knowledge which are proper to engraft on ele
mentary attainments. A compliance with this recommenda' tion will have the most benign influence on individual happiness and social prosperity. To break down the barriers which poverty has erected against the acquisition and dispensation of knowledge, is to restore the just equilibrium of society, and to perform a duty of indispensable and paramount obligation; and under this impression I also recommend that provision be made for the gratuitous education, in our superior seminaries, of indigent, talented, and meritorious youth.
“I consider the system of our common schools as the palladium of our freedom; for no reasonable apprehension can be entertained of its subversion, as long as the great body of the people are enlightened by education. To increase the funds, to extend the benefits, and to remedy the defects of this excellent system, is worthy of your most deliberate attention. The officer who now so ably presides over that department is prevented by his other official duties from visiting our schools in person, nor is he indeed clothed with this power. A visitorial authority for the purpose of detecting abuses in the application of the funds, of examining into the modes and plans of instruction, and of suggesting improvements, would unquestionably be attended with the most propitious effects.”
It will be perceived that the governor here shadows forth two of the great features of public instruction subsequently engrafted upon our system; the establishment of institucions for the education of teachers; and the appointment of visitors.
On the 4th of February subsequently, Mr. John C. SPENCER, from the literature committee of the senate, to which this portion of the message of the governor had been referred, made an able report, in the course of which he distinctly suggests the expediency and practicability of a plan of county supervision, without however, going into any specific details. Thus it will be perceived, that as early as 1826, several of the prominent features of the admirable system which now prevails, were brought to the notice and attention of the legislature, by two of our most distinguished and eminent statesmen; one of whom, (Mr. Spencer) fifteen years afterwards, aided in carrying into practical and successful operation, the very plan in substance, which he had suggested at this early period. In the mean time, however, a similar suggestion had been earnestly and urgently pressed upon the public consideration by another distinguished friend of the common school system-the Hon. JABEZ D. HAMMOND; who in 1836 published a series of numbers in the Cherry-Valley Gazette, from whence they were transferred to other periodicals, showing as well the practicability as the expediency of the adoption of the system of county supervision and inspection, and urging the abolition of the office of town inspector. Judge Hammond's plan was the appoint
ment by the governor and senate, or by the State Superintendent, of a County Inspector of Common Schools, in each county, with power to license teachers and visit schools, and whɔ should be required to report periodically to the Superintendent. This was, in substance, the plan afterwards recommended to the legislature by Mr. Spencer.
The following extracts from the report of Mr. Spencer in 1826, to which allusion has above been made, will be found interesting:
“ The committee concur entirely in the sentiments expressed by the governor in relation to the importance of the vocation of a teacher, and to the propriety of occupying the time of the young in the higher branches of knowledge. The progress of improvement in the great business of education, must necessarily be slow and gradual. Our common school system is itself but of recent origin; and during the few years in which it has been in operation, incalculable good has been effected, particularly in causing the establishment of schools where none existed before, and where none would have existed but for its provisions. We cannot expect to make it at once perfect, but must content ourselves with providing remedies for the most obvious and in portant defects as they are discovered. From the observation of the committee, and from the best information they can obtain, they are persuaded that the greatest evils now existing in the system are the want of competent teachers, and the indisposition of the trustees of districts to incur the expense of employing those who are competent, when they can be obtained. It is a lamentable fact that from a mistaken economy, the cheapest teachers, whether male or female, and generally the latter, are emp'oyed in many districts for three-fourths of the year, and a competent instructor is provided for only one-quarter, and sometimes not at all, during ihe year. The state is thus made to contribute almost wholly to the support of teachers. This is a perversion of the public bounty; and its effect on the children, who ought to be provided with the means of instruction during the whole year, is most disastrous: for those above five or six years old are thus excluded from school three-fourths of their time, which must be spent in mental idleness, and thus the most precious time for education is utterly thrown away. The present arrangement of the authority to license and employ teachers, contributes to this result. Teachers are licensed by town inspectors, themselves generally and necessarily incompetent to determine upon the qualifications of candidates, and willing to sanction such as the trustees feel able or disposed to employ. This is essentially wrong; and the state, which contributes so large a portion of the compensation of the teacher, has a right to direct its application in such a way as to effect the object of procuring useful instruction. The remedy must