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rienced teachers. To effect this object, treatises on the varions sciences, and books of practical utility have been published at such moderate prices, as to bring them within the reach of all classes. A small sum applied to the publication and distribution among the several school districts, of similar works, would have the most favorable influence."
It will have been perceived, however, that Gov. Clinton, in his message at the opening of the session of 1827, called the attention of the legislature to the expediency of providing “ small and suitable collections of books and maps,” to be attached to the common schools.
Gov. Throop, in his message to the legislature, at the opening of the session of 1831, thus alludes to this great interest of the state:
“There is no one of our public institutions of more importance, or which has better fulfilled public expectation, than that providing for instruction in common schools. The large fund appropriated to that object has produced a complete organization throughout the state; and although the system has had to encounter all the obstacles to a new enterprise of such magnitude in its operations and objects, yet it has been well seconded by public zeal and liberality: Its imperfections may receive some correction from legislation, yet more is to be hoped from individual exertions, to carry the design of the legislature into effect within the several districts.”
From the annual report of the Superintendent, for this year, it
appears that the whole number of districts was 9,062, from 8,630 of which reports had been made in accordance with law; that the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen, residing in the several districts from which such reports had been received, was 497,503; and the number of children taught therein during the year reported, 499,434; being an increase of 19,333 over the number so taught the precedceding year. The aggregate amount of public money received and expended in the several districts, for the payment of the wages of duly qualified teachers, was, $239,713.00; of which $100,000 was paid by the state from the common school sund; and the residue derived from a tax on the several towns, and from local funds. In addition to the public money, there was paid by the inhabitants of the several districts, on rate bills for teachers' wages, $346,807; making a total of $586,520 paid for teachers' wages alone. The average annual increase of the number of scholars instructed in the common schools, during the preceding eleven years, was 20,000.
The productive capital of the common school fund, amounted at this time to $1,696,743.66; and the revenue actually received into the treasury, on account of this fund, during the year 1830, exceeded the sum required for apportionment among the seve
ral districts by $678.60; it being the first year in which the revenue had produced the sum requisite for this purpose.
The Superintendent in this report, examines and discusses at considerable length the various plans for the education of teach ers; and recommends the conversion of the several academies, equal in number at that period to the counties in the state, into seminaries for training teachers. On this subject he remarks: “ The state has done much for these schools, and something in aid of the cause of the common schools may reasonably be expected from them; and if the required information to fit a person for teaching can be obtained in the present institutions, sound policy and good economy are in favor of relying upon them for the training of teachers.” He adverts in this connection to the proposition presented to the legislature at its preceding session, by a committee of the citizens of Rochester, for the establishment of a state seminary for the education of teachers, and a town central school in each town in the state, as a document exhibiting “much research and attention to the subject of common school instruction." In this memorial (legislative documents, 1830, volume iv. no. 387,) the committee, (Messrs. Penney, Comstock, Brown, Ward and Norton,) after recapitulating the prominent defects in the existing condition of common school education, submits a plan, designed
“1. To furnish a competent supply of well qualified teachers.
“2. To diffuse the benefits of good teaching, at an early period through all the districts in the state, and to accomplish the intention of the law as to an efficient inspection.
“3. To secure such a degree of respect and compensation to teachers, as to induce men of good talents and qualifications to make teaching a profession for life; and
“4. So to organize and govern the whole system of common school education as sufficiently to protect this great interest from every kind of abuse, and to cherish it for the various useful ends it may be made to serve.
“ It is proposed to effect the first of these objects by the establishment of, say three state seminaries, for the education of teachers; the second, by promoting the erection of one central school of the most approved description in each town, having the duties and services of its teacher sô connected with all the other districts of the town as to secure the object of good teaching to all, and gradually to qualify good teachers for the whole.” The particular details of the plan were also presented under the five following general heads: “1. Of the proper qualifications of a teacher.
"2. Of a state seminary for ellucating teachers-its govern ment-its course of instruction-admission of students—their diplomas and privileges.
"3. Of the town central schools—their government, &c.
“4. Of an annual meeting of the faculties, and report on school books, &c.
'5. Of the government and general superintendence of the whole."
The great length of this document precludes its insertion here. It is, however, well worthy of a deliberate and attentive examination, in the present advanced stage of educational science; and its sound suggestions and practical views commend it to the favorable regards of all desirous of elevating and expanding to their utmost practicable limits, the capabilities of our unrivalled system of public instruction. The condition of the common school fund at the period when these views were presented, interposed an insuperable obstacle to the adoption of the plan proposed. This objection has now to a great extent disappeared; and it is believed that a sound and enlightened public sentiment would sustain the public authorities in carrying into execution, with such modifications and improvements as experience has subsequently brought to light, the recommendations and suggestions of the memorialists,
at least so far as a state seminary for the preparation of teachers is concerned. The Superintendent, in his report for the present year, also examines and discusses the question, how far the expenses of supporting and maintaining the common schools, and supplying them with competent teachers, may advantagequsly be provided from the public funds of the state, and to what extent they may safely and successfully be committed immediately to the inhabitants of the several districts. He compares the operation of our system, in this respect, with those of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, and other states, in the two former of which the public funds were exclusively approprinted to the benefit of the children of indigent inhabitants of the several districts, and in Connecticut, were lavished with an indiscriminate profusion, furnishing ample means for the gratuitous instruction of all classes.
“Our system” he observes, “is well calculated to awaken the attention of all the inhabitants to the concerns of the district school. The power given to district meetings to levy a tax, to a limited extent, upon the property of the district, excites a direct interest with all the taxable inhabitants to attend the district meetings, whether they have children requiring school accommodations or not. The wealthy are thus prompted to act as trustees, and to watch over the concerns of the district, in order to see that its affairs are conducted with care and economy; and much of the intelligence of the district is put in requisition by the peculiarity of our plan, which might be wholly lost to the districts if the whole expense of the tuition was provided by a state fund.” “ It bas been urged,” he remarks, in another place, « that the amount distributed from
our fund is too small, and that an increase of the fund would, of itself, raise the standard of the common schools; but an increase of the school moneys would be much more likely to decrease the contributions of individuals, than to elevate the standard of the common schools.” At this period the amount of public money apportioned by the state for the payment of teachers' wages in the several districts, was $100,000; while the amount raised on rate bills was $316,807. The annual report of the Superintendent for 1814 shows that while the amount of public money received from the state treasury applicable to the same purpose, was $220,000, the amount paid on rate bills was $509,376.97 only; being $254,000 less than a proportionate amount under the increased fund contributed by the state.
On the subject of a proposed uniformity of text books in the several schools, the Superintendent remarks, “no man or set of men could make out a list of class books for the instruction of half a million of scholars, which would give general satisfaction; and there is great reason to believe that the experiment to produce uniformity would do more harm than it promises to do good. In view of all the difficulties which surround this subject, the Superintendent b lieves that it is best to leave the selection of class books to the intelligence of the inhabitants of the districts and towns.” In support of these views le refers to a very able report of the literature committee in the assembly, made the preceding year, and which will be found in the fourth volume of the legislative documents of that year, (No. 431,) of 1830.
In conclusion, the Superintendent observes:
“ The immense importance of elevating the standard of education in the common schools is strongly enforced by the fact, that to every ten persons receiving instruction in the higher schools, there are at least five hundred dependant upon the common schools for their education. In urging the importance of common schools, it is not designed to depreciate the great utilityof those of a higher grade. In the discussions on the subject of popular education, it has in some cases been urged that academies and high schools were injurious to the common schools, by withdrawing from the aid of the latter, the patronage and care of those who are able to send to the former schools. There is nothing in our experience which should induce us to look with disfavor upon the higher schools, and the patriot and philanthropist, in estimating the means which are io contribute to the perpetuity of our happy form of government, will regard all our schools and seminaries as parts of the same useful and valuable system, from the university to the infant school.”
In 1832, the number of school districts had increased to 9,333, from 8,835 of which reports were received. The whole number of children between five and sixteen years of age
residing in the several reporting districts, was 504,685; and the number taught during the preceding year, was 497,257; being an increase of 7,463 since the last report.
“ The school system of New-York,” remarks the Superintendent, “ has been formed by combining the advantages of the different plans of supporting common schools which prevail in the New-England states. Connecticut has a large fund which produces nearly or quite the amount paid for teachers' wages, and they have no local tax. Massachusetts and Maine have no public fund, and the wages of teachers are provided by a town tax. Our system happily combines the principles of a state tund and a town tax; enough is apportioned from the state treasury to invite and encourage the co-operation of the districts and towns; and not so much as to induce the inhabitants to believe that they have nothing more to do than to hire a teacher to absorb the public money. The tax authorized upon the property of the town and district has a most salutary effect in awakening the attention of the inhabitants to the concerns of the common schools. The power of district meetings to raise money by tax, induces the inhabitants to attend the meetings, and to overlook the interests and proceedings of the district; when, if the whole expense was provided by a state fund, they would allow the trustees to receive and expend the money, as if it was a matter which did not interest the great body of the inhabitants of the district. Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the best mode of providing for the expense of giving instruction to all the children of the state, the success which has attended our system warrants the conclusion that a public fund may be made eminently useful in organizing a system of universal instruction. The apportionment of a few dollars is often the immediate inducement for neighborhoods to establish schools where none existed before, and for prompting new settlements to erect school houses, at an earlier period than they otherwise would have done, in order to participate in a fund, however small, which they know is enjoyed by other districts in their town."
In relation to the “vexed question” of text books, the Supe.. rintendent renews the expression of his opinion “ that the adoption of a particular set of class books could be of no-advantage except to the favored authors, to whom the monopoly of supplying the scholars should be given. Towards all other authors, who have devoted their time and talents to the preparation of books, as well as publishers who have embarked their fortunes in particular works, it would operate proscriptively and with manifest injustice.”
In his message at the opening of the session of 1833, Gov MARCY thus adverts to the subject of common schools: