« ПретходнаНастави »
characters and standing of those gentlemen are therefore made with the more freedom. It will be borne in mind that, at its organization, it was not, (as it is not now,) an office of profit or emolument. There was not even a provision for the payment of the actual expenses of the members. They accepted the offices under the expectation that they were to work for nothing and find themselves. With this fact standing before us, we need hardly refer to the educational standing of those gentlemen, or their great interest in, and their devotion to, the system of Common School education. This simple fact is worth a thousand eulogiums. Every where we find men anxious for office, but it is for office, clothed with honor and enriched by emolument. The instances are few where eight gentlemen, many of them poor, have been willing to labor not only without pay, in the service of the public, at their own expense, but also with nothing except the conviction of doing good as the compensation for their labor.
Before we refer to the practical results which have followed the establishment of the Board of Education, let us go back to the time of its establishment and see what the Legislature could have better done to answer the great objects which they had in view. How else could they have accomplished the results ' named in the 2d and 3d sections of the act? How else could they have collected and diffused the educational information, contained in the Abstracts and Reports, and how else could they have thrown the flood of light upon all the details of the Science of Education which has been shed upon them in the reports and in the addresses of their Secretary.
It has been urged that all this might have been done by Institutes of Instruction, by scientific teachers, and by the numerous friends of Common Schools throughout the Commonwealth. As to this suggestion, we may be allowed to add, without the slightest personal disrespect to the persons making it, that those very persons themselves were competent to the work. It is perhaps a sufficient answer for us to make, that none of those persons actually performed, or ever offered to perform, what the original members of the Board did do. If they had done so, there would have been less, and perhaps no need of its es
tablishment. But all experience has shown, that in a Commonwealth like ours, where the peculiar friends of Common Schools are scattered from town to town throughout the whole extent of our territory, the greater part of them poor, and depending upon their daily industry for, often, a grossly inadequate compensation, unacquainted with political men, and with each other, and debarred by their very pursuits from the stations and influences by which Legislatures are to be incited to action, but little reliance is to be placed upon them as the organized pioneers in an undertaking of this character. No matter what intelligence we may allow them, there would be, in the absence of concerted measures, a want of harmony in their operations,and we may safely say of them, that however devoted they might be to the object, their cause would be clogged with their own private difficulties; and, however united in this great common object, their progress would be retarded by division.
At all events, their recommendations, with the public, would lose the effect of the opinions of a body of men, selected from the various religious sects and political parties, and uniting with perfect harmony in improving and in perpetuating that great education-spreading institution, which originated with, and has been handed down to us from our fathers. Let it not be inferred that there is any disposition among the members of the Board to undervalue the labors or the services of the friends of education, whether acting by themselves as individuals or teachers, or combined into associations for scientific purposes. On the contrary, they have ever been regarded by the Board, as the steadfast and efficient friends of the cause, as strengthening and encouraging them in their progress, and coöperating with them in this great national object.
For ourselves, we are at a loss to perceive any more wise or judicious course than the enactment of the provisions of the statute establishing the Board ; and we are of the opinion that this will be manifest by a reference to the means by which the end was to be accomplished.
All the evils, which we have referred to, as having been, and as still being, incident to our system of Common School education, are properly attributable to two causes. The first is an
erroneous opinion, as to the mode in which children are to be educated, and the second is the apathy of the people in relation to the general subject. The first can only be corrected by a careful and thorough examination of our educational system, and a recommendation of such measures as are best calculated to increase its usefulness. The second is, by constantly holding up to the popular mind, the intrinsic advantages of popular education, and by an earnest appeal to the people, to be faithful in the discharge of their duties towards all the children of the State. To ensure the first object, a body of men supposed to be, and, speaking of the Board as originally constituted, who were fully competent to the discharge of the high trust, was appointed, who, after a patient and minute inquiry, were to make an annual report of their proceedings to the Legislature, accompanied by an exhibition of their views upon the subjects of their charge. They were also directed to employ a Secretary, competent to the task, who should devote to the subject of education his whole time and talents, and report annually through the Board to the same body, the results of his reflection and experience. These opinions, both of the members of the Board and of the Secretary, were entitled to no other consideration than the confidence which might be reposed in them, as coming from men who had considered the subject of which they were to speak, except so far as their suggestions and opinions should be enforced and maintained by the soundness of the reasons by which they shouid be fortified. Here, then, provision was made that these reports of the Board and of the Secretary should be brought home annually to at least four hundred representatives of the people, from every county, city, and town in the State. The suggestions in these reports were proper subjects of legislative action. As they were to treat of matters of momentous interest to the State, they could not but excite a deep moral interest in the breasts of the four hundred representatives of the State. But the information accessible to the people stops not here. Provision has been annually made to circulate these reports through the towns and school districts, and thus to excite a spirit of inquiry in the remotest hamlet in the Commonwealth.
We think that it may safely be said that the tendency of this diffusion of information among the people, upon a subject so interesting to every parent, indeed, so interesting to every inhabitant who feels a just pride in the character of our, ancient Commonwealth, or who looks forward with hope to the perpetuation of our free institutions, is to arouse the people from their apathy upon this all-important subject. In fact, the lamentable want of interest which has hitherto existed, is rather the result of a want of attention than of a want of feeling. The politician has neglected the subject, not because he has not deemed it to be important, but because he has had matters of more immediate, and, as he has erroneously thought, of greater importance, pressing upon him. The philanthropist has failed to give it his attention, not that he has not deemed it to be the great measure for the realization of his hopes in ennobling and improving the character of man, but because he has confided to those who have children the care of an institution, the encouragement of which is at once an interest and a duty. The parent has been engrossed with his own private business, and has left the public schools, to be managed by the public functionaries. And too often the teachers, from the small amount of their wages,
, and the want of apparent interest in the schools, have seemed to feel that little was expected of them, but to serve out the time for which they were engaged; and hence they have labored only to fulfil what they considered the public expectation.
To awaken these classes of individuals to the consideration and the discharge of their duties, the Board know of no agency but the dissemination of intelligence. Upon any subject of intense importance, zeal and efficiency are always sure to follow in its train. Our very government, founded as it is upon the virtue and intelligence of the people, depends, for its continuance, upon the voluntary action of that people; and surely in providing for the security of those foundations, no means can be so efficacious as an intelligent appeal to the feelings of public spirited men, who, however alienated by party divisions, or estranged by religious prejudices, unite with a cordial good will in the promotion of a permanent and sacred interest.
To accomplish these results, has been, from the commence
ment, a favorite object of the Board, and while our feelings are clouded with regrets that so much yet remains to be done, it is still with a spirit of pride and exultation that we contemplate the favorable and cheering influences which the labors of our predecessors have shed upon the aspect of our Common Schools. By their assiduous efforts in engaging the coöperation of the friends of education, by recommending and by assisting in the formation of county conventions and associations for educational improvement, by personal interviews and extensive correspondence with teachers and scientific men throughout the Commonwealth, and by eloquent addresses before popular audiences, they have enkindled a zeal which will burn brighter and brighter with the increasing intelligence of our children.
We may, perhaps, be allowed, in this connection, to refer to the mass of information, which, in one form and another, has proceded from the act of 1837. Eight annual reports have been made by the Board, detailing their operations, during each successive year, and accompanied by such suggestions as were deemed important in aid of the cause. Eight reports also have been made by the Secretary of the Board, in which he has discussed with great particularity and ability, the defects in our educational system, and suggested their appropriate remedies. Six volumes of abstracts from the reports of the school committees of the various towns, have been prepared by the Secretary, with great labor, in which the most valuable information as to the defects to be remedied, and the progress which has been made in the conduct of the schools, as verified by experience, is rendered available to the whole people of the Commonwealth. Other educational papers have been prepared and circulated at individual expense, in aid of the legislation which originated in the act of 1837, which it is believed have exerted a favorable influence among the Common Schools.
An educational Journal has been conducted by the Secretary for the space of six years, without personal compensation, which has had an extensive, though considering its value, a too limited circulation among the friends of education. As a repository of the reports of the Board, and of the Secretary, and as a vehicle for the communication and the dissemination of the