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the state) have recommended the establishment of teachers' seminaries on the Prussian plan. The prevailing opinion, however, has been in favor of departments for the education of teachers, engrafted upon the incorporated academies of the state, with such endowments as lo render them adequate to the object in view.”
“Although the proper objects of popular instruction are better understood than they have been at any previous time, the importance of the reform now in progress is not, perhaps, so generally appreciated as it deserves to be. It is but a few years since conimon school instruction was ordinarily limited to a knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic. The acquisitions which are now regarded as the means of education, 'were then sought as its objects and end. No plan of education can now be considered complete, which does not embrace a full development of the intellectual faculties, a systematic and careful discipline of the moral feelings, and a preparation of the pupil for the social and political relations which he is destined to sustain in manhood. It must be conceded that the standard of common school education in this state falls far short of the attainment of these objects. But the aim of its friends is to introduce into the established system such improvements as shall ultimately secure their accomplishment. Is this a visionary hope ? Those who are most familiar with the practical workings of the system, believe that it is not. The whole reform will be accomplished by furnishing each school district with a competent teacher. The application of the remedy is certainly surrounded with difficulties. It must be accomplished by the gradual progress and influence of opinion. The Prussian system not only prepares the teachers, but compels the school districts to employ them. Our whole system proceeds upon the principle of accomplishing by persuasion what the Prussian affects by force."
“ There is reason to hope and believe that opinion will gradually accomplish what it seems difficult, if not impossible, to secure by compulsory measures. No people are more quick sighted as to their true interests than the inhabitants of this state. They cannot fail to see that the education of their children will be best secured by employing competent teachers, and that the avenues to wealth and distinction, though open to all, are beset with difficulties for those who enter them without the mental preparation which is necessary to enable them to contend successfully against more favored competitors. These convictions may, and doubtless will be, the fruit of time; for they are to take the place of long established opinions, which are not often bastily eradicated. I'he reform of the Prussian system, as bas already been observed, was gradual. The teachers' seminaries were, for many years, few in number, and were altogether inadequate to supply the schools. Our departments for the edu cation of teachers have been in operation but little more than three years; and there is certainly much ground for encouragement in the fact that the demands of the school districts upon these departments, for teachers, have been greater than they have been able to supply.”
In reference to the plan of county supervision through the medium of local superintendents, he observes:“ A regular super vision is in dispensable to the success of every public or pri vate undertaking. There is not a department of the government which is not subject to some direct and immediate control, and no individual appoints an agent for the management of any business without reserving and exercisiny a superintendence over him. Conscious of the absolute necessity of such a provision in the common school system, the framers of the law endeavored to secure it by the election of town inspectors. But the object has not been obtained. The official reports show to what extent even the duty of simple visitation has been neglected. And when the nature of these visitations is considered, it will be obvious that if they were as frequent as might be desired, they could not accomplish the great purpose in view. To be of any avail, the inspection of schools must be conducted by those who are competent to judge of the qualifications of the teacher, and of the progress of the pupils, by examinations in the different studies pursued, and to suggest such improvements and modifications as will enable the student to derive the greatest amount of benefit from the schools. And time must be devoted not only to the schools and their masters, but to the trustees and inhabitants.” “All writers on public education concur in the unanimous and decided opinion, that effectual inspection and supervision are more essential to the proper management of schools, and more indispensable to their improvement than any other agency or all other agencies combined; and the Superintendent does not hesitate to express his conviction that ui til they are providel, all efforts to improve the condition of the schools, to extend the range and elevate the character of the instruction in them, will be utterly hopeless. M. Cousin, the celebrated author on popular education, attributes the success of the schools in Holland almost entirely to the constant and unremitting inspection to which they are continually subjected, and demonstrates that wherever schools have failed, in other countries, to meet the public expectation in the degree and amount of instruction, it has been owing to the want of such supervision.”
On the 15th of April, John A. King, Esq., from the committee on colleges, academies and common schools, of the assembly, submitteil an elaborate report, accompanied by a bill embracing substantially the improvements and mo:lifications of the system recommended by the Superintendent. This bill passed the assembly on the 12th of May subsequently, by a vote of fifty-eight to forty-seven; but no definitive action was had upon it in the senate, for want of time.
The following are extracts from the message of Gov. Seward, at the opening of the session of 1841:
.“ The nuinber of children attending the common schools is about 570,000; and the whole number of children between five and sixteen years of age, as nearly as can be ascertained, is about 600,000. There are about eleven thousand common school districts in the state, in all of which schools are main tained during an average period of eight months in the year. Of these school districts there are very few which have not com plied with the act providing for the establishment of school district libraries. * * * Although an injudicious choice of books is sometimes made, these libraries generally include his tory and biography, voyages and travels, works on natural his tory and the physical sciences, treatises upon agriculture, commerce, manufactures and the arts, and judicious selections from moilern literature. Henceforth no 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 ascendancy throughout the world; the trials and faith, valor and constancy of our ancestors; with all the inspiring exaroples 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 persuasion, sym
pathy and kindness, was prompted by a sincere desire for the common good. I have no pride of opinion concerning the manaer 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 I 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 not enjoy 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 fecl 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 diligently endeavored to secure to the inmates of our penitentiaries, who have forseited that inestimable franchise by crime; and also to an unfortunate race, which baving been plunged by us into degradation and ignorance, has been excluded from the franchise by an arbitrary property qua. lification 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 apprehensions 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 universal language of our countrymen. To me, the most interesting of all our republican institutions 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 childien 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, he essentially Hike 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 woulıl 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 underrate 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 acadenies 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 completed, appropriating from the funds of the state a sufficient sum to employ competent 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 accuire the best methods of conducting our common schools.”