Page images
PDF
EPUB

in this connection not easily surmounted; but as the time to which youth are privileged to attend the Common School is extended to twenty-one years, every child

may

receive the more needful rudiments of knowledge before he goes forth into the world.

The system of education of the State has grown out of its political relations, which contemplate and provide for the good of the whole people. Social and self improvement are results of good government in free States. Philanthropic principles are nursed by knowledge and virtue, and consist only with freedom of inquiry and of action in social, political, and religious affairs. We are already reaping good fruits from our broad-cast sowing of the seeds of knowledge. Persecuting bigotry and slavish superstition would overwhelm us, but for the schools. Like clouds and mists they sometimes darken the margin of the firmament, but when the light of knowledge comes like the sun, we have prevailing day. The due appreciation of political rights does not co-exist with ignorance. The State, to be secure, must have an educated population. To make sure of the privileges of self-culture and self-government, we must have some guarantee for our personal rights.

The community is made up of individuals, each constituting a part. They must be educated somewhat alike in the common branches of learning, or all will not be co-operative and socially happy. They are the civil power, that make the laws, administer the government, constitute the armies. They are the agriculturists, the merchants, the artists, the laborers in every domain of art and toil. All the compacts, immunities and responsibilities incident to regulated society are theirs. They have the same political rights, the same prospective destiny, the same religious hopes; and it is adjudged proper that they should, with like aspirations, mingle in the same Common School, Academy and College.

This system is not yet perfected. Rome was not built in a day, and then it was rebuilt, again and again, first of wood, then of brick, and then of marble. Improvement is a thing of progress, and perfection is always a little further on. Our system is graded, but it is not so faultless as it appears in perspective. The steps are unequal and sometimes too high, and sometimes a step is taken retrograde. Numerous architects employed upon the same machinery are more likely to disturb than to increase its harmonious working and unity of design. The more admirable it is from its multiplied co-operative complexities, the more easily is it deranged. This has been fully exemplified in the abundant labors of inexperienced legislators. Alterations are not always improvements, and a pure intention is not always a protection against blundering. It has been the misfortune of the State, that it has had too much legislation. The cardinal principle, however, that the property of the State shall educate the children of the State, has been sustained. The liberal men who pay the taxes for the support of schools realize the truth of the aphorism, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," in the consolation of their own bosoms, and in the protection of their own homes and property.

Education begins in the family, the very sanctuary of human life, where maternal love seasons and intensifies the new thought. Then comes the Primary School, in which knowledge and letters are taught by an authorized teacher. This school is watched over by anxious parents and by chosen trustees. Here the child's education is carried on for several successive steps through the more necessary studies. The rich and the poor have mingled together, and have learned to love one another. They have studied the same things, and are qualified alike. Now some must go to the business of life, and some to the High School or Academy. The decimated portion that go up, have become very much identified with the nine tenths who go out, and are the true substratum of society. The Academy carries on the education by several degrees, qualifying many for school teaching, and for entering upon professional studies or business pursuits, and from thence another decimation takes place for the College and University.

One of the incongruities of the New York system is found in the step from the Common School to the Academy. This step needs adjustment. There is a hiatus to be filled, not in scholarship, for the Common School in a thousand instances oversteps the Academy. It is in the change of the means in the two institutions for support. The one is now free, and the other is not; the Regents not having control of sufficient funds for very material aid to the student, except he be so fortunate as to have assigned him a free scholarship, which may be found in some

of the Academies, or he may attend for four months in preparation for teaching.

The allowance to the Academy is small, and a comparatively small number put in their claim for its enjoyment. Some fall back upon the Common School as the people's College, forgetful that a system involves the idea of higher and lower; and that by the system, the cultivation of the wisest is made to benefit the most ignorant. No one who can deduce a logical sequence from an admitted premise, will start a crusade against Colleges and Academies by way of improving Common Schools.

The educational system of the State consists of one University, under the care of twenty-one Regents appointed by the Legislature, with twelve Colleges, two hundred and four Academies not concentred in one favored place, but distributed all over the State, in which are taught the rudiments of science, and the classical, and some of the modern languages; with nearly twelve thousand District Schools, whose privileges are free to all; each school, in whatever secluded spot, and however small, having its licensed teacher, its common school library its supervising trustees, and every town its superintendent; and the town superintendents forming a County Board, with the State Superintendents holding appellate jurisdiction over the adjudications on the inferior officers in all matters of difference arising between districts, with regard to licenses, &c.

This organization includes every grade of instruction from the abecedarian to the man who passes out into the world to lead in counsel, teach in its seminaries, or officiate in its learned professions. It ignores all theories that distort into disproportionate importance one class of instruction to the prejudice of the others. It contemplates the Common Schools as a broad basis from which, and on which, must be superstructed the ornate columns of strength and beauty that dignify the Temple of Science. It counts its Common Schools not as a separate interest, or as a system, but as the first and indispensable part of a great system, suited to all conditions of society in whatever state of advancement.

With regard to Colleges, we often hear it suggested that they are less adapted to their work than they were fifty years ago. Now why is this? The answer is

very

obvious. It is this : that the circumstances of society have greatly altered; the Colleges, while they have increased in number, have altered very little. Academies, on the contrary, are not only more numerous, but better. Classical and boarding schools are multiplied and of higher character. Eminent lecturers open courses on literary and scientific subjects, in the treatment of which they often excel, both in ability and learning, the regular College Professors. These may be heard in all our cities and towns. There are also private schools which adopt collegiate courses, or courses that many prefer, because they seem better adapted to the wants of particular individuals. These make a diversion from, and divide the interest with the Colleges; and they are oftentimes fully equal to some of the inferior Colleges.

But these schools which enter the lists of compe

« PreviousContinue »