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Professor POTTER, of Union College, who, at the request of the department, had visited and personally inspected during the year 1310, 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 allopted for training a class of teachers with more especial reference to country common schools, and to primary schools in villages and citiesteachers 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 number 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 otcurred to me that as 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 capital, where it could enjoy the supervision of the Superintendent of Common Schools, and he visited by the members of the legislature, it might contribute in many ways to raise the tone ol' 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 in 1815, the number of organized and reporting districts having increased from 2,631 to 10,397; the number of children insiructed from 140,706 to 572,995; anıl the amount paid from the treasury towards defraying the compensation of teachers from $45,398 to $220,005; and after referring to the fact that $275,005 were annually contributed in ta xes 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 thousanıl trustees of school districts gratuitously rendering their services, and making their returns with order, regularity and promptituile, we ought not to deny their appreciation of the value of the labor in 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, pald to teachers, a clear indication that a higher degree of talent is employed and appreciated; and in the interest almost universally excited among our 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 like. ly 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 unanımous vote, passed ihe act drawn up by Mr. Spencer, and reported by the literature committees of the two houses, providing for the appointment 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 pow. ers, 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; provision 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 school 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. ,
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 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 1311, 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 reforin eflected 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 education, 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 rain 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 ihe 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 5 and 16, 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 603,533, being an increase of 30,583 over that of the preceding year.
On the 7th of February succeeding, the Hon. SAMUEL YOUNG of Saratoga, was appointed Secretary of State and Superintendent of Common Schools; and in May following he met the several county superintendents in convention at Ulica, and possessed himself of a thorough acquaintance with the details and practical operations of the system which he had been called upon to supervise. In his first annual report, (Jan. 12, 1843) he recommended the reduction of the academical departments for the education of teachers of common schools I four, and the appropriation of a sufficient annual sum to establish and maintain a normal school at the seat of goverise ment, where it might be subjected to the immediate supervision as well of the department as of the representatives of 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, in pursuance of his sugo gestions, 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 its maxi. mum, 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 aster 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 cther 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 following objects:
“It can produce a complete and efficient supervision of all the schools of the state, in reference as well to their interna) management, as to their external details:
"]t 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 anpeals to the inhabitants of each school district, in tho form of lectures, addresses, &c.
" 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 school master, and intusiay 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 s'all and weight to the existing burdens of the community. Instead of this, it will be manifest that the system of deputy superintenden's 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.”
There were in the state, as appears by the last annual report of the Superintendent, (Jan. 13, 1844) 10,875 organized school districts, 670,995 chililren between the ages of five and sixteen, exclusive of those residing in the city of New York; and 657,782 children taught during the year.“ We may reasonably," observes the Superintendent, “ congratulate ourselves upon the accession of a new order of things, in relation to the practical workings of our system. Through the medium of an efficient county and town supervision, we have succeeded not only in preparing the way for a corps of teachers thoroughly competent to communicate physical, intellectual and moral instruction—themselves enlightened and capable of enlightening their pupils—but also in demolishing the rumerous barriers which have hitherto prevented all intercommunication between the several districts. An extended feeling of interest in the condition anil progress of the school has been awakened; and in o.ddition to the periodical inspection of the county and town superintendents, the trustees and inhabitants are now, in many portions of the state, beginning to visit the schools of their districts: striving to ascertain their advancement; to encourage the exertions of teachers and pupils, and to remove every obstacle resulting from their previous indifference. Incompetent teachers are beginning to find the avenues to the common school closed against them; and the demand on the part of the districts for a higher grade of instructors, is creating a supply of enlightened educators, adequate to the task of advancing the youthful mind in its incipient efforts to acquire knowledge. The impetus this communicated to the schools of one town and county, is speedily diffused to those of others. Through (requent and perivdical meetings of town and county associations