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5. ADDRESS BY THOMAS STARR KING.*
This audience, representing the mothers and fathers, the official forces and the rising life of this young, strange city, are to be congratulated on the event and occasion that calls us together. We welcome you to the service here with pride and joy.
The corner-stone of any important representative edifice is laid with elaborate ceremonial. It is well to foster public interest in such forms. And it seems to me that it would be as fitting to recognize, with public rejoicing, the completion of a noble building, the moment when the workmen lay the last stone of the turret, the apex of the spire, the final tile on the dome. It was when the cornerstone of the earth was laid, that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Can we believe-though we have no record or hint of the hallelujahs-that there was less jubilance amongst the holy hosts when "the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them," and "God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good?"
We are here to rejoice in this completed work. There is very little in the building itself, though it is commodious and cheerful, to awaken any enthusiasm. But as a school-room-a new structure to befriend civilization, in a State where the forces of good and evil meet in a more open and demonstrative wrestle, probably, than upon any other equal area on the globe-it does invite us to be glad, and to express our joy that it is added to the landscape of the city, and has sprung out of a deepening popular faith in the worth of education.
And yet it is not simply a new schoolhouse that we are to consecrate to its noble offices. It is the symmetry of an educational system in the city that we complete and establish. It is truly the top-stone, the crown, of an ideal edifice, whose co-ordinate parts are the excellent common schools of the city, that we now lift to its place with rejoicing. If there were any influence to be exerted by the establishment of this High School, in drawing away the public interest from the Grammar Schools, the public pride in them, the public readiness to be taxed to sustain them, there would be no occasion for gratitude in the completion of this building. This would be an unfortunate service and hour. The Grammar Schools are the true fountains of health and power in a community. Whatever tends to slight them, or reduce their efficiency, or throw the shadow of public indifference upon them, is to be deplored, and to be strenuously resisted. The city and state are far more deeply interested in the general diffusion of the elements of knowledge than in the concentration of learning in a small percentage of the youth of our community. We want to equip tens of thousands for the toils and struggles of life, not to polish a few hundreds for a better chance to seize its prizes and wear its honors. We must never forget this. And if the erection of this High School into perma
* Delivered September 19, 1860, at the dedication of the High School building, Powell street. From The Bookseller, the first educational journal published in the State.
nence threatened to abate the importance, or lower the dignity, or drain the energy of the Grammar Schools, this building, though it were a hundred times more elegant, though it were seemly in proportions as the Parthenon of Athens, would be a mistake and a disaster.
I cannot but think, however, that we strengthen the ordinary schools of the city by confirming this one, and leading the community to regard it with more favor and pride. Not only is the standard of a free education raised, but the earlier removal from the Grammar Schools of the scholars who wish to pursue a higher grade of studies, concentrates the interest and energies of the teachers there upon the progress of the average of students. The ordinary schools can hardly fail to give more thorough training in the elements of English education, by relieving the teachers from the responsi-bility of carrying small upper classes through a range of studies far above the average lessons; and the ambition that is excited to enter the High School must be felt, after awhile, as a very serviceable stimulant throughout the ranks of the scholars below. Wherever the plan has been tried of projecting schools on the system of Primary, Grammar, and High, it has been found that each grade helps the one beneath. No New England cities now, I am sure, could think of parting with their High Schools. They would account it deliberate mutilation of the symmetry of the educational system, and treason against the mental rights of the scholars who can spare two or three extra years for instruction and discipline.
And we must not fail to take into account the needs and rights of the hundred and fifty youths, of both sexes, in our city, who are ready and willing to postpone their entrance into practical life, for the sake of a more generous culture. The free-school system has duties to them as manifest and binding as to the lowest class in a Grammar School. Let us rejoice that we can fulfill them in entire harmony with our duties to the mass of the children whose education is intrusted to us. Let us rejoice that we can see that all jealousies are unwise. Let us be glad and grateful, to-day, that we strengthen the whole structure of our teaching organization by this crowning school to which we here devote an excellent building. The masons lay, strong and compact, the stones which make the floor of the porch to an edifice after the Grecian style. They rear column after column along its front. But when the beautiful entablature is lifted aloft, to rest on the pillars, there is not only completed proportion, but more strength. Each column is firmer; the base itself is fortified; and the edifice stands in harmony with the force of gravitation. So, we believe, it is here. We send strength into the important schools below, the pillars and pavement of our public welfare, by the import of this service of dedication. And I believe the whole system of education would attain final symmetry, and be still stronger in all its parts, if we had not only High Schools in our cities and large towns, but a free and largely planned University besides, in every State, in which the sons and daughters of the poorest could obtain the best training which the resources of the State might afford, free of cost. When we get this, we shall have the majestic dome overarching and strengthening our intellectual temple. But very likely in all this I am speaking needless words. Perhaps
I have done wrong to assume or hint that there can be any question, in any quarter, of the value of the school whose home we consecrate here, or of its advantageous relation to the other schools of which we are justly proud. Let us turn to other considerations that should awaken grateful joy here.
It is now, throughout this State, the time of rejoicing in the harvest. We have been reading in the papers glowing accounts of many district agricultural fairs. This very day the yearly State fair is to be inaugurated in the Capital. What interest is felt, throughout the State, in the improvements of stock, in the new varieties of fruit, in the production of more efficient and economical machinery for planting, reaping, threshing, stacking! The man who refines a breed of sheep; the man who brings from his ranch a calf or colt, perfect according to its type; the man who displays the noblest yoke of steers; the cultivator who offers to view the soundest and sweetest plums, the most lovely and savory peach, the weightiest cluster of grapes, or who can say the wisest word about preventing the curled leaf in peach trees, the rust in wheat, the "foul brood" among bees; yes, the man who produces a mammoth pumpkin, a monstrous sweet potato, a beet that will half fill a barrel, a watermelon as ample as Daniel Lambert in girth, is heard of throughout a county, perhaps throughout the limits of the State.
What interest in education can we bring yet into competition with this scientific enthusiasm for vegetable and animal products? What would the honest answer be, taking the State through, if we should ask which the people of the State were more concerned about, a better type of calves or a higher grade of children; more efficient grazing-grounds or more thorough school training; vineyards that should double their profits, or methods of education that should equip pupils twice as efficiently for noble success in life; the reclaiming of tule lands, or the gathering of twice as many youth, who now receive no instruction, into the intellectual folds where they may have a teacher's care? Alas! we know what it would be. If one tithe, or one hundredth part, of the watchful, patient, cultured and strenuous exertion that has been expended by the general community on peach-raising, short-horned cattle, the perfecting of horses and bee-culture, during the last five years, had been devoted to the training of children, and fitting them to be competent masters of their fathers' colts, and meadows, and carrot fields, the State, to-day, would be immeasurably advanced, beyond its present attainment, in civilization. We should not read such sad statistics as are forced upon us now, showing that hardly more than a third of the children of the State attend regularly any school.
There is really some danger that we shall be pulled down, materialized, half-barbarized, by the very advance and splendor of our scientific control of the elements of agricultural opulence. One of our poets tells us that now
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind."
It behooves us to be a little careful lest we cultivate beeves and racers to such superiority over ourselves that they shall get the upper hands, and we find ourselves, after a generation or so, in
which animals rise and children sink, yoked and harnessed, owned by our Durhams, and Alderneys, and Morgans, and perhaps fatted for their advanced and dominant appetites.
The spiritual forces must be started soon in States like this, and trained to ten times their present vigor, or we shall be unable to wield the majestic armor and implements of our science and materialistic culture. And this building, which lifts the torch of education higher, as a beacon to the State, which will turn out nobler specimens of young manhood and womanhood, invites us, by peculiar fitness, in this harvest-time, to rejoice in its completion, and to express our gratitude by elaborate ceremonial and reverent prayer. And we should rejoice also to be here, to-day, in order to pay a conscious and deliberate tribute to the service of teachers in our civilization. Every time I enter a school-building I travel back to the time, twenty years ago (when I was a young man), when my name was enrolled in the army of instructors. During the three years of service appointed to me in that department, I learned so much of the difficulties and responsibilities of the office, that the stepping into a pulpit seemed like passing into an easier sphere of duty. It is not on abstract grounds and observation, but on trials which gave me my first knowledge of what serious responsibility is, and of how closely moral forces must be allied with intellectual ones in every successful school, that my own reverence for the teacher's call and duty is based. And from that day to this it has been widening and deepening.
We do not pay our social reverence wisely as yet, even in our most advanced and thoughtful communities. The men who do the most for the world are those who work scientifically upon the land, increasing its productiveness without exhausting its fertility-and the men who increase the mental and moral forces of the State. These classes are the fountains of lasting power, and the true conservators of public health and vigor. In a truly ordered society, these classes would receive the heartiest and most stable honor.
But as yet, alas, even in the most Christian districts of society, the question is scarcely raised, as a condition and gauge of respect, what the relation is between his employment and the permanent benefit of the community-what the moral aroma is of a man's gold and position. And so the best men work with very little recognition. The most useful ministers are those who work through years of quiet fidelity, encouraging good purposes in the village circle, warning with sincere and uneloquent unction, the humble and steady friend of humble people, threading the life of a small community, through more than the years of a generation, with a golden influence of charity, and fortunate in not having to see their names in half the issues of the newspaper press. Some of the purest pages of heroism might be copied from the long careers of country physicians, who spend themselves without the patronage and solace of cultured society, and cross the line of old age without a competence.
In the case of teachers, however, the fact is peculiarly striking. Think what an influence, during the past ten years, has been exerted upon the intellect and character of the best portions of our country, by the ambition of teachers to be more efficient in their work, by the establishment of journals of education, by county, district and
State conventions of instructors, not sunned by public applause, not paid for by the public either, in which the wisest unfold the best results of their experience, and the youngest are stimulated by the contagious enthusiasm of the leading masters of the profession! "Profession," did I say? No. Here is the injustice; here is the proof of the marvelous infidelity of our public as yet to the service which can hardly be surpassed by any other type. American liberty and hopes are based on comprehensive education-mental and moral-and we do not yet recognize the teacher's calling as one of the "learned professions." There is the degree of M.D., a title of respect for every one who enters the ranks of the healers by the regular door. Every clergyman has his prefix of "Rev.," which floats him sometimes like a cork upon waters where he could not swim. "D.D." is conferred, every year, upon many a man who is no scholar in Christian history or dogmatics. I have known cases where LL.D. has been affixed, by prominent colleges, to the names of men who could not have told what the two L's, with a period after them, were the abbreviation of. But there is no title for teachers. And I am ignorant of the fact if any University or College has yet sought out an eminent, consecrated, thoroughly efficient teacher, to confer upon him or her any title of honor as an acknowledgment of personal service to society, or the rank of the calling to which he or she is pledged.
We must do what we can to repair this injustice-we who know the value of the office, the grand proportion of the gifts that are so often brought to it, and the nobleness of the spirit in which those gifts are frequently dedicated.
Let us make this festival time, in the consecration of this building, a season in which we pledge ourselves to greater interest in the school cause in this city and State. It is not in the structure we are interested, so much as in the edifice of education itself, which has been erected here by faithful, far-seeing men, against the opposition of lazy wealth and skeptical hearts. It is not the porch and hall and seats and roof that we are grateful for, so much as the wise management and skilled instruction, which, so successful in the past, are to have a better inclosure for their operation in years to come.
Would that the services of this day might be more joyous and welcome by the appearance here of the philosophical apparatus that is needed by the teachers, and would be in various ways a benefit to the community! The $3000 which it would cost ought to be contributed by the wealth of San Francisco the next week, and would be, if we were not still in our public life so blind to the immense meaning and value of public education. And let us cherish a deeper respect for the office and influence of every good teacher, as we recognize here anew the solid truth of a noble American poet's words:
"The riches of the commonwealth
Are free, strong minds, and hearts of health;
The cunning hand and cultured brain.
She heeds no skeptic's puny hands,
While near her school the church-spire stands;
While near her church-spire stands the school.”