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BY JAMES W. TAYLOR,
AUTHOR OF THE
'EARLY HISTORY OF OHIO.'
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by H. W. DERBY & Co.,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United
States, for the Southern District of Ohio.
THE COMMON SCHOOL SYSTEM OF OHIO* has attained such proportions, and has assumed such features, as render it not only an object of vital importance to citizens of this State, but of interest scarcely inferior to the intelligent friends of education in other States.
An investment of upward of three millions of dollars in permanent structures, and an annual expenditure of nearly three millions of dollars — nine tenths of which sum last named is produced by taxation - is a financial fact of great significance; while the application of so munificent a provision, under the administration of thirty thousand school officers and twenty thousand teachers, to the education of eight hundred thousand youth, is a fact transcending all material considerations by its relation to the moral and political welfare of the people.
Ohio, on the subject of education, is, in a peculiar sense, a Middle State — holding a golden mean between the prejudices which incumber and obstruct the progress of the Atlantic States and the unavoidable privation or postponement of school advantages which the more Western States must sustain. Thus, while the attempt in New York to establish schools exclusively free, nearly produced a civil convulsion, Ohio, under the Constitution of 1851 and the Revised Act of 1853, quietly and without apparent opposition, abolished the collection of tuition fees, and rendered free every public school of the State- a reform from which no step backward need be apprehended.
* For the following introductory and explanatory remarks the Publishers
are indebted to the late active and efficient Commissioner of Common
Schools, at whose suggestion the work was undertaken.
The following pages from the pen of the State Librarian, purport to trace from its feeble beginnings, the successive steps of this imposing crusade against ignorance, whose host of directors, teachers and pupils are now marshaled within the limits of Ohio. Our legislation has been voluminous - presenting a proof of the solicitude of the people to frame the best system of measures for the great object of popular instruction. In its progress, a great variety of methods have been tried; and it is desirable that the present generation should be informed, not only of what the law is, but of the nature and results of former experiments. The latter are often brought forward, as proposed amendments, and consume the time and distract the attention of the General Assembly, when the fact of a previous trial and abandonment, if known, would be promptly decisive of their fate. The Historical Outline of School Legislation, now presented, will probably prove advantageous in the future discussion of the School Act--and, if so, it will be in the manner above indicated.
An attempt has also been made to preserve the recollection of those services to the cause of education by the early men of the State, which, in the natural course of events, have become unfamiliar to the younger portion of the community. It is high time that some effort was made to redeem our Ohio Biography, especially of the founders of our State institutions, from the obscurity of neglect.
A republication, in a separate form, of all the general laws relating to education, follows the Historical Narrative.
This embraces every statute, which controls the organization of Special School Districts in cities, towns, etc. The people have been furnished with the General Act of 1853, but not with those enactments “for the better regulation of schools in cities and incorporated villages,” which powerfully influence the School System of the State - constituting, as they do, the models for the imitation and emulation of the townships.
It is hoped that this history of the origin, progress and present condition of the School System of Ohio, may serve the two-fold purpose of preventing hasty and inconsiderate legislation, effecting radical changes in the system, and of indicating the educational spirit and tendency of the age. By exhibiting, in a condensed form, those enactments in relation to schools which have been fully and fairly tried and then repealed because they failed to accomplish what was designed, this compilation, it is believed, will tend to prevent the re-enactment of those provisions in former school laws, which, for the want of efficiency, have been thus rejected.
It will also tend to satisfy the public mind that the idea of universal, free education, is fast becoming the grand central idea of the age; that our System of Common Schools, to succeed in accomplishing its full and perfect mission, must be open and free to all the youth of the State, without distinction or discrimination ; and that wherever an individual exists with capacities and faculties to be developed, trained, improved and directed, the avenues to knowledge should be freely opened, and every facility afforded to an unrestricted entrance.
Formerly, it was believed that the cost of education should be regarded as a personal expense, to be defrayed by rate bills assessed upon those whose children attended school. This principle virtually excluded the children of the poor. To obviate this defect, the education of the children of those whose pecuniary means did not enable them to incur the expense of it themselves, was made to depend either upon public charity, or upon the