Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

there be discord and strife, the clear, sweet tones of song will restore harmony and peace.

I greatly desire to see more attention paid to music in our common schools. It ought to occupy a prominent place among the branches of a primary education.

ADDITIONAL BRANCHES OF STUDY-LONGER TERMS, &c., &c., I said in my last Report that we need, for an increase of interest and substantial profit in our public schools, an addition of studies to those usually pursued, In other words, we need for the attainment of the highest object of the District School, that the course of instruction therein should be more thoroughly practical in its character-fitting those who go out from such, so far as may be, for the callings and employments of active life. To this end I would be pleased to see added to the list of studies which the law specifies as essential to be taught in our common schools—that of Natural History, embracing at least the elements of Botany, Chemistry, Zoology and Geology. Agriculture might with great propriety be added to this list.

A knowledge of the natural sciences, to no inconsiderable extent, may be imparted even to the youngest pupils in our schools, by means of familiar lectures, with specimens and experiments for their illustration. Such knowledge would be important to them through life, and ever a source of pleasure and profit. “I am thoroughly convinced,” says Dr. Hoy, a distinguished naturalist, “that natural history should be studied in every school, and taught even to the young. Children learn to perceive differences in form, texture and color with remarkable facility, and even to classify, bringing into action their faculties of observation, comparison and classification, operations of the mind of the first importance. They should be taught how to collect and preserve minerals, plants, shells, insects, fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals; and encouraged to deposit them in the school room. By this means each good school would soon have a collection of the flora and fauna of the neighborhood; then, by mutual exchange, each school would accumulate a valuable cabinet."

I will add here, that studies ought to be pursued in our schools embracing the obligations and privileges of citizenship. Hundreds and thousands there are who go out from our common schools, to take part in the management of our political institutions—to wield a portion of the sovereign power of this Union—with no other preparation for the enjoyment of Republican rights and the discharge of Republican duties, than those schools furnish them. Is it not of the highest importance, therefore, that in those schools should be imparted a knowledge of political economy—a knowledge of the Constitution and laws of the State and of the United States ?” “To be ushered into life without this knowledge, is to embark on the ocean ignorant of navigation, and at the risk every moment of making shipwreck."

Nor must the study of Anatomy and Physiology be overlooked. This, too, should have its place on the list of studies required to be pursued in our common schools. The importance of these Sciences cannot be well over estimated. Could our children be taught to know something of the laws and principles which govern their physical nature, and by which it should be regulated, it would be of incalculable service to them.

Morals, too, should be made a study in our schools. We need something more there than the mere training of the understanding—the heart must be made better. As a class book on this subject, I would recommend Cowdery's Moral Instruction, which is full of the choicest instruction for the youthful heart.

I said that morals should be made a study in our schools—a study required by law. Too much attention cannot be paid to the development of the moral natureBetter that less care be bestowed upon the intellect, than that the moral sentiments and the affections should slumber or be debased. There are needed more good men-the State wants more, and the world wants more. Let, then, our public schools, of every grade, be nurseries of goodness as well as of learning. Let Moral Science have its place in them, as well as Arithmetic or Grammar.

By requiring these additional branches of study to be taught in the common schools, we materially aid in raising the standards of qualification of teachers. They will be compelled to set about the work of superior preparation, if they would find employment. A knowledge of a few elementary branches will no longer avail to place them at the head of a common school. Superior attainments are demanded, and along with these we have a better disciplined mind, and other essential qualifications in a good and successful teacher. It is to be expected that teachers, in numerous cases, will conform to the standard of requirement adopted by the State-it ought not to be expected, surely, that they will rise above it. And is not our standard quite too low when we say, that if an individual sustain himself in an examination embracing his knowledge of Reading, Arithmetic, Geography and Grammar, he shall be entitled to a Certificate, so far as learning is concerned, endorsing him as qualified to teach a common school? And yet this is what we saythis is the standard we have adopted. I leave the subject to be disposed of by the Legislature as its assembled wisdom shall deem best for the promotion of the interests of right education.

Another subject seems to demand intervention on the part of the law-making power,—that of requiring districts to maintain only a three month's school during the year, to entitle them to their proportion, severally, of the public monies. Taking the advantage of this requirement, many districts will have a school for only three months in the year, just long enough to meet the demand of the law, and secure the funds for the payment of a qualified teacher. And yet do they receive as much, perhaps more, aid from the State, as districts that subject themselves, in addition, to a heavy tax for the maintainance of a school six and ten months in the year. This would seem to be wrong-unequal it certainly is. Let the legal requirement make a six month's school necessary to the apportionment of public money to districts, and this inequality will be obviated. Those whom the State helps, will at the same time be compelled to help themselves, even though a sense of duty should not prompt them to put shoulder to the wheel.

Still another change in our school laws, or modification to our school system, do I regard important to be made. It is with respect of the provision for the assessment and collection of district taxes. The complaint is very general that the system established by it, is inconvenient, perplexing, and in every way works badly. The former system, I cannot but believe, would be greatly preferred by the mass of our people.

In this connection I would suggest that districts be allowed, in certain cases, as when a school house has been burned, or an insufficient tax has been voted at an annual meeting,—to call a special meeting for the purpose of voting a tax, and that they be authorized, by their proper officers, to assess and collect the same.

I would also ask for the enactment of a provision of law, in substance like this: That the City Superintendents of schools, in all cities of the State where local systems have been established, shall be subject to such general rules and regulations as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may prescribe—that appeals from their acts and decisions may be made in the manner, and with like effect, as in cases now provided by law—that they shall make annually, to the State Superintendent, at such times as shall be appointed by him, a report in writing, containing the whole number of schools within their several jurisdictions, to a certified copy of the reports of their Boards of Education to the Common Councils of their respective cities, with such additional information as the State Superintendent may require.

I give as a reason for this request—that the office of City Superintendents, equally with that of Town Superintendents, should be placed within and made subject to the jurisdiction of this Department. No doubt it is so without special provision of law. It is well, however, that its duties, as above, should be clearly defined. Then, when information respecting the condition of schools and the progress of education within its jurisdiction is repeatedly asked for, it may possibly be obtained.

CONDITION OF THE SCHOOL FUND, ETC. The monthly Reports of Commissioners of School and University Lands, which are submitted in the Appendix, together with an Abstract thereof, will show what is the condition of the School Fund, and also the transactions of the School Land Office. Tabular statements likewise will be found in the Appendix with reference to the condition of the Common Schools——the expenditures of the School moneys, &c.. together with the Apportionment of the income of the School Fund for the present year.

CONCLUSION. I bring this report to a close by again commending our Common Schools to the fostering care of the State. While legislative aid is employed in promoting other and important interests,-while improvement is encouraged in the departments of Agriculture, Mining and Commerce by affording ampler facilities, and bestowing liberal and wise grants—let not the great interest of Popular Education be overlooked and passed by without its just share of attention. Other interests may be neglected with less of hazard to the highest good of the State. The nearly two hundred thousand children and youth now within its borders, are to decide the character of its future—whether, by our neglect, growing up ignorant and vicious, they shall curse it with barrenness and desolation, or by our thoughtful and provident care they shall bless it with unfading greenness and beauty. “Travellers inform us that in some of the vast deserts of the Eastern Continent, the course of the wayfarers across the trackless waste, is marked by the bleaching bones of mighty Caravans that had perished on their way, in traversing the desolate expanse. Spread out upon the arid sands, or heaped in mounds, these relics of the dead give

warning of the dangers by which they had been overwhelmed. The pilgrim troop, or merchant company, as they pass along, and behold these eloquent memorials of others' fate, are admonished to press on with vigor, that they may reach the place of safety. Even thus, along the track of time, for thousands of years, do historic memorials,-like vast monumental piles, upon the right hand and upon the left,make known to us the causes of the decline and fall of ancient and of modern republics. They fell through the ignorance and debasement of the people that composed them.” May we lay the lesson to heart, and be wise. Two hundred thousand children are soon to be invested with a portion of the sovereign power of this republican State, and to mould the characters and decide the destinies of the generation that shall come after them. How shall they wield this power, and what sball be the character and results of their influence ? This shall depend upon what they are-upon what we make them. Righteously or unrighteously shall they exercise this power-transmit light or darkness they must. If trained to be intelligent and virtuous they shall fill the State with prosperity and gladness, and conduct the next generation to all that is wise and good; while if deprived of present means and opportunities for obtaining a right education, and their intellectual and moral culture be neglected, they shall stay, if not turn back, the current of progress, and bequeath to their children an inheritance of shame. Much has been done on the behalf of education—the time has come when we must do more. "Now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation.”

A. CONSTANTINE BARRY.

[blocks in formation]

COMMUNICATIONS

FROM

TOWN AND CITY SUPERINTENDENTS.

COMMUNICATIONS ON THE CONDITION OF SCHOOLS AND THE

PROGRESS OF EDUCATION.

WAU KESHA. In compliance with your request, I undertake to acquaint you with the present condition of Education in the town of Waukesha, Waukesha Co.

The excellent Common School System, of which you are the guardian in this State, is gaining many friends in all quarters, especially with property-holders, who have heretofore regarded it as the cause of a hateful tax upon them for the support of something of no possible benefit to them. Overlooking the fact, that the morals of a town, and the condition of society in a community, affected the value of homes in that community, they have, in times past, grudgingly lifted their hands in support of schools for the people. But as they have seen commodious buildings erected, and schools conducted in them snitable for all classes, brought about by the trifling tax paid by each individual, and as they have seen their property increase in value, because in the vicinity of these schools; they have not only cheerfully contributed, but have raised their voices in support of them. It is necessary now that the friends of the Common School cause be more watchful—that they labor more zealously to increase the efficiency of the system, to raise the standard of qualification of teachers, and to add largely to the inducements for competent men to enter permanently the profession.

There are ten schools in this town-in nine of them male teachers are employed during the winter, and all but two are accommodated with good houses. I will not mention these exceptions, as new buildings are to be erected in the Spring. All these schools are now in successful operation.

Previous to their commencement, I visited the several districts in which they are located, and found the Clerks prepared to pay salaries 30 per cent. above those of any previous year, and demanding teachers whose qualifications were one hundred per cent. better. This exhibits the right spirit, and the consequence will be that we shall have honorable schools, which will meet with the hearty support of all the people in the town,

Besides these schools, the citizens of Waukesha village have, since the last report of the State Superintendent, erected a spacious stone bnilding at a cost of seven thousand dollars; in which there is organized a Graded School consisting of three departments,—the highest completing the steps to the College. This elegant school edifice is appropriately furnished and decorated, the principal room being carpeted.

As an evidence of the habits of the scholars I will state, that, though the building has been in use nine months, there is not yet a pencil mark, cut or stain upon the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »