Изображения страниц


[The following considerations respecting the character and advantages of a school of the highest grade in a system of public instruction in cities and large villages, were first presented to the public in 1838, when there was not a single institution of the kind out of Massachusetts. They are still widely applicable in every State.]

By a Public or Common High School, is intended a public or common school for the older and more advanced scholars of the community in which the same is located, in a course of instruction adapted to their age, and intellectual and moral wants, and, to some extent, to their future pursuits in life. It is common or public in the same sense in which the district school, or any lower grade of school established and supported under a general law and for the public benefit, is common or public. It is open to all the children of the community to which the school belongs, under such regulations as to age, attainments, &c., as the good of the institution may require, or the community may adopt. A Public High School is not necessarily a free school. It may be supported by a fund, a public tax, or an assessment or rate of tuition per scholar, or by a combination of all, or any two of these modes. Much less is it a public or common school in the sense of being cheap, inserior, ordinary. To be truly a public school, a High School must embrace in its course of instruction studies which can be more profitably pursued there than in public schools of a lower grade, or which gather their pupils from a more circumscribed territory, and as profitably as in any private school of the same pretensions. It must make a good education common in the highest and best sense of the word common-common because it is good enough for the best, and cheap enough for the poorest family in the community. It would be a mockery of the idea of such a school, to call it a Public High School, if the course of instruction pursued in it is not higher and better than can be got in public schools of a lower grade, or if it does not meet the wants of the wealthiest and best educated families, or, if the course of instruction is liberal and thorough, and at the same time the worthy and talented child of a poor family is shut out from its privileges by a high rate of tuition. The school, to be common practically, must be both cheap and good. To be cheap, its support must be provided for wholly or mainly out of a fund, or by public tax. And to justify the imposition of a public tax, the advantages of such a school must accrue to the whole community. It must be shown to be a common benefit, a common interest, which cannot be secured so well, or at


all, except through the medium of taxation. What, then, are the advantages which may reasonably be anticipated from the establishment of a Public High School, properly organized, instructed, and supervised ?

First. Every thing which is now done in the several district schools, and schools of lower grade, can be better done, and in a shorter time, because the teachers will be relieved from the necessity of devoting the time and attention now required by few of the older and more advanced pupils, and can bestow all their time and attention upon the preparatory studies and younger children. These studies will be taught in methods suited to the age and attainments of the pupils. A right beginning can thus be made in the lower schools, in giving a thorough practical knowledge of elementary principles, and in the formation of correct mental and moral habits, which are indispensable to all sound education. All this will be done under the additional stimulus of being early and thoroughly fitted for the High School.

Second. A High School will give completeness to the system of public instruction which may be in operation. It will make suitable provision for the older and more advanced pupils of both sexes, and will admit of the methods of instruction and discipline which cannot be profitably introduced into the schools below. The lower grade of schools—those which are established for young children,-require a large use of oral and simultaneous methods, and a frequent change of place and position on the part of the pupils. The higher branches, especially all mathematical subjects, require patient application and habits of abstraction on the part of the older pupils, which can with difficulty, if at all, be attained by many pupils amid a multiplicity of distracting exercises, movements, and sounds. The recitations of this class of pupils, to be profitable and satisfactory, must be conducted in a manner which requires time, discussion, and explanation, and the undivided attention both of pupils and teacher. The course of instruction provided in the High School will be equal in extent and value to that which may be given in any private school, academy, or female seminary in the place, and which is now virtually denied to the great mass of the children by the burdensome charge of tuition.

As has been already implied, the advantages of a High School should not be confined to the male sex. The great influence of the female sex, as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, companions, and teachers, in determining the manners, morals, and intelligence of the whole community, leaves no room to question the necessity of providing for the girls the best means of intellectual and moral culture. The course of instruction should embrace the first principles of natural and mechanical philosophy, by which inventive genius and practical skill in the useful arts can be fostered ; such studies as navigation, book-keeping, surveying, botany, chemistry, and kindred studies, which are directly connected with success in the varied departments of domestic and inland irade, with foreign commerce, with gardening, agriculture, the manufacturing and domestic arts ;


such studies as astronomy, physiology, the history of our own state and nation, the principles of our state and national constitutions, political economy, and moral science; in fine, such a course of study as is now given in more than fifty towns and cities in New England, and which shall prepare every young man, whose parents may desire it, for business, or for college, and give to every young woman a well disciplined mind, high moral aims, refined tastes, gentle and graceful manners, practical views of her own duties, and those resources of health, thought, conversation, and occupation, which bless alike the highest and lowest station in life. When such a course is provided and carried out, the true idea of the High School will be realized.

Third. It will equalize the opportunities of a good education, and exert a happy, social influence throughout the whole community from which it gathers its scholars. From the want of a public school of this character, the children of such families as rely exclusively on the district school are isolated, and are condemned to an inferior education, both in quality and quantity ; they are cut off from the stimulus and sympathy which the mingling of children of the same age from different parts of the same community would impart. The benefits, direct and indirect, which will result to the country districts, or poor families who live in the outskirts of the city, from the establishment of a school of this class, cannot easily be overestimated. The number of young men and young women who will receive a thorough education, qualifying them for business, and to be teachers, will increase from year to year; and the number who will press up to the front ranks of scholarship in the school, bearing away the palm of excellence by the vigor of sound minds in sound bodies, of minds and bodies made vigorous by long walks and muscular labor in the open air, will be greater in proportion to their number than from the city districts. It will do both classes good, the children of the city, and the children of the country districts, to measure themselves intellectually in the same fields of study, and to subject the peculiarities of their respective mamers, the roughness and awkwardness sometimes characteristic of the one, and the artificiality and flippancy of the other, to the harmonizing influence of reciprocal action and reaction. The isolation and estrangement which now divide and subdivide the community into country and city clans, which, if not hostile, are strangers to each other, will give place to the frequent intercourse and esteem of individual and family friendship, commenced in the school-room, and on the play-ground of the school. The school will thus become a bond of union, a channel of sympathy, a spring-head of healthy influence, and stimulus to the whole commnnity.

Fourth. The privileges of a good school will be brought within the reach of all classes of the community, and will actually be enjoyed by children of the same age from families of the most diverse circumstances as to wealth, education, and occupation. Side by side in the same recitations, heart and hand in the same sports, pressing up together to the same high attainments in knowledge and characler, will be found the children of the rich and poor, the more and the less favored in outward circumstances, without knowing or caring to know how far their families are separated by the arbitrary distinctions which divide and distract society. With nearly equal opportunities of education in childhood and youth, the prizes of life, its best fields of usefulness, and sources of happiness will be open to all, whatever may have been their accidents of birth and fortune. From many obscure and humble homes in the city and in the country, will be called forth and trained inventive talent, productive skill, intellectual taste, and God-like benevolence, which will add to the general wealth, multiply workshops, increase the value of farms, and carry forward every moral and religious enterprise which aims to bless, purify, and elevate society.

Fifth. The influence of the annual or semi-annual examina tion of candidates for admission into the High School, will operate as a powerful and abiding stimulus to exertion throughout all the lower schools. The privileges of the High School will be held forth as the reward of exertion in the lower grade of schools; and promotion to it, based on the result of an impartial examination, will form an unobjectional standard by which the relative standing of the different schools can be ascertained, and will also indicate the studies and departments of education to which the teachers in particular schools should devote special attention. This influence upon the lower schools, upon scholars and teachers, upon those who reach, and those who do not reach the High School, will be worth more than all it costs, independent of the advantages received by its pupils.

Sixth. While the expenses of public or common schools will necessarily be increased by the establishment of a school of this class, in addition to those already supported, the aggregate expenditures for education, including public and private schools, will be diminished. Private schools of the same relative standing will be discontinued for want of patronage, while those of a higher grade, if really called for by the educational wants of the community, will be improved. A healthy competition will necessarily exist between the public and private schools of the highest grade, and the school or schools which do not come up to the highest mark, must go down in public estimation. Other things being equal, viz., school-houses, teachers, classification, and the means and appliances of instruction, the public school is always better than the private. From the uniform experience of those places where a High School has been established, it may be safely stated, that there will be an annual saving in the expenses of education to any community, equal to one half the amount paid for tuition in private schools, and, with this saving of expense, there will be a better state of education.

Seventh. The successful establishment of a High School, by improving the whole system of common schools, and interesting a larger number of families in the prosperity of the schools, will create a better public sentiment on the subject than has heretofore existed, and the schools will be regarded as the common property, the common glory, the common security of the whole community. The wealthy will feel that the small additional tax required to establish and sustain this school, if not saved to them in the diminished tuition for the education of their own children in private schools, at home and abroad, is returned to them a hundred fold in the enterprise which it will quicken, in the increased value given to property, and in the number of families which will resort to the place where it is located, as a desirable residence, because of the facilities enjoyed for a good education. The poor will feel that, whatever may betide them, their children are born to an inheritance more valuable than lands or shops, in the free access to institutions where as good an education can be had as money can buy at home or abroad. The stranger will be invited to visit not only the institutions which public or individual benevolence has provided for the poor, the orphan, the deaf mute, and the criminal, but schools where the children and youth of the community are trained to inventive and creative habits of mind, to a practical knowledge of the fundamental principles of business, to sound moral habits, refined tastes, and respectful manners. And in what balance, it has well been asked in reference to the cost of good public schools, as compared with these advantages, shall we weigh the value of cultivated, intelligent, energetic, polished, and virtuous citizens? How much would a community be justified in paying for a physician who should discover or practice some mode of treatment through which many lives should be preserved? How much for a judge, who, in the able administration of the laws, should secure many fortunes, or rights more precious than fortunes, that might else be lost? How much for a minister of religion who should be the instrument of saving hundreds from vice and crime, and persuading them to the exertion of their best powers for the common good ? How much for the ingenious inventor, who, proceeding from the first principles of science onward, should produce some improvement that should enlarge all the comforts of society, not to say a steam-engine or a magnetic telegraph ? How much for the patriotic statesman, who, in difficult times, becomes the savior of his country? How much for the well-instructed and enterprising merchant who should suggest and commence the branches of business that should bring in a vast accession of wealth and strength ? One such person as any of these might repay what a High School would cost for centuries. Whether, in the course of centuries, every High School would produce one such person, it would be useless to prophesy. But it is certain that it would produce many intelligent citizens, intelligent men of business, intelligent servants of the state, intelligent teachers, intelligent wives and daughters, who, in their several spheres, would repay to any community much more than they and all their associates had received. The very taxes of a town, in twenty years, will be lessened by the existence of a school which will continually have sent forth those who were so educated as tu become not burdens but benefactors.

These results have been realized wherever a Public High School has been opened under circumstances favorable to the success of a private school of the same grade,- wherever a good school-house, good regulations, (for admission, attendance, studies, and books) good teachers, and good supervision have been provided.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »