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January 1876

Education

by The Editors

"In all the Western States, except Ohio," says the national commissioner of education in his report for 1873, "there prevails a nearly uniform school system, in which county superintendents, subordinate to a State superintendent of public instruction, oversee schools graded up from elementary to a respectable secondary training, a State university crowning the whole with its scientific and classical departments. Illinois has to a certain extent stood apart from others in this last respect, but the State Industrial University, of great proportions, is putting her substantially in line with them, especially as regards scientific studies."

In perusing the school reports of the West, one is struck with the overshadowing prominence of the reports of the State as compared with those of the county superintendents. We have remarked that even in the Middle States the local officers were less discriminating in their criticisms than those of Southern New England. In the West they may almost be said to disappear, so brief and merely statistical are their communications. The State superintendents, on the other hand, seem to be abler men than those who in general fill the office in the East, or at least they are more alive to the problems before them, and more earnest in trying to solve them. They all quote much from one another and from Horace Mann, and to come upon the same thing in report after report does not say much for the extent and variety of their pedagogical reading. The apology for this, however, is that the office-work of the position in most States is altogether too oppressive, and the compensation too small, to permit those who fill it to devote themselves to the study of the science or to the perfecting of the art of education, as they otherwise could and probably would do.

At present, the Western education is no doubt in a very crude and rudimentary state, but the broad foundations of it are being laid so that time cannot but bring to it a magnificent culmination. While the high-school system does not exist in all its plenitude, i.e., has not penetrated into the smaller towns to the same extent as in Massachusetts, yet high schools are in operation in many Western cities, and very large sums are often spent upon the buildings appropriated to them. But, better than this, the authorities of the universities of three leading States, Michigan, Wisconsin, and California, have opened their doors without further examination to the graduates of all high schools which will grade their classes to the college standard, and they have appointed committees from their faculties to visit these schools annually. Michigan was the first to initiate this union between her high schools and her university, and the State superintendent thus sums up its benefits: "Such a policy cannot fail to prove a stimulus to our high schools, and lead to the adoption of better devised courses of study. That exclusiveness, too, which bred indifference in days gone by, has given way to a freedom of intercourse between the instructors in the university and the public schools which predicts a happier condition for each. The president of the university becomes the presiding officer of the State teachers' association. He strikes hands with the superintendents and principals of our Union schools at the educational meetings. A free interchange of views is had, which results in a better understanding of the wishes and wants of the university, and in a practical unanimity of feeling and action." In Wisconsin, "the effect of the new measure," says the State superintendent, Rev. Samuel Fellows, "has thus far been most beneficial. All over the State, students are preparing in the graded schools near their homes for the university. As might have been anticipated and desired, the number of students in the preparatory department has diminished, while that in the college classes has increased. Other States are making efforts to connect their graded schools with their universities in like manner, and in some places denominational colleges are opening their classes to students similarly prepared." Mr. Fellows took office in 1870 for the express purpose of trying to bring, by this measure, free education throughout the State into a consistent whole. "The vital bond," he said, "between the university and the common school is the high school," and he disapproved of the preparatory school of the university as tending to make citizens slow to develop high schools in their own neighborhoods, and as taking away the pupils too early from their homes. How important this movement is to the Western colleges will appear from the fact that they themselves are obliged to prepare eighty-three out of every hundred students who enter their classes, while the New England colleges are burdened with the preparation of only one in a hundred, so that the Hon. Newton Bateman, of Illinois, as well as the superintendents of Michigan and Missouri, concurs with Mr. Fellows in the desirableness of "bringing the higher instruction to the very doors of the people, in order to save the expense and the moral and social risks incidental to boarding-schools and other institutions remote from the salutary restraints of home." This is the reverse of much thinking that we find in high educational quarters in the East. Our national commissioner, for example, General John Eaton, finds it "desirable that in addition to the public high schools there should be a class of endowed and chartered schools,...for the sake of variety of means and modes of education, and of the mutual influence of schools differently organized in competition for excellence....The high school is usually the home school. It is often a great advantage to the young student to be thrown during some portion of his secondary schooling into new scenes and associations;...narrow, home-bred fancies are dispelled, and he perhaps receives his first impressive discipline in manliness and self-control." This sounds well, but the moral evils of boarding-schools, so forcibly indicated by the philosopher Locke, remain just as true to-day as when he wrote them apropos of Eaton and Harrow in England two hundred years ago. Of two evils a good boarding-school is better than an unhappy or ill-regulated home, but that a good day-school, whether public or private, is the best of all schools is the true dictum of American belief and experience.

The earnest support given by the Western superintendents to their collegiate system is in such marked contrast to the silence of the Eastern superintendents upon the same subject, that we cannot refrain from one or two extracts as specimens of their spirit. The superintendent of Indiana says, "The university is not independent of the common schools, nor are they independent of the university. They are natural aids. The latter supplies the common schools with teachers, and in turn they supply it with students. No jealousy should exist between them. All are integral parts of the same great educational system....It is the very highest interest of a State to provide facilities for an extended education. While her prosperity is in great measure dependent upon the general intelligence of her people, there is at the same time a most imperious demand for men of a high order of culture and scientific attainments. Who can calculate to a country the real value of a Columbus or a Fulton, of a Newton or a Franklin? The university that gives to the world only ONE such man repays the public a thousand fold for all expenditures. Without the universities, the sciences are practiced; within, they are created. Books are read without, but written within. These are the fountains whence issue the streams of thought, and they sustain a relation to our common schools like that of the ocean to the lakes, pools, rivers, rivulets, and springs." The Hon. Newton Bateman, of Illinois, the most experienced as well as the ablest State superintendent of the West, thus answers the question how far a State should undertake to provide for the education of its children at public cost. "I would see every American State add to the elementary school, the grammar school; to the grammar school, the high school; to the high school, the State university; and to the State university I would see the American Congress add a national university, as a fitting top-stone to the whole magnificent edifice. And I would have the whole FREE--every door flung wide open, and the invitation repeated along the whole line from one end of it to the other, 'Whosoever will, let him come'...A portion of the public domain surrendered during the last ten years to the rapacity of monster monopolies...would have reared in every State of the Union a free university....Meanwhile, the little that was saved in better days and consecrated to the education of the people is often grudgingly allowed; the free universities and colleges are crippled for means, and a determined effort is made to force the States to call in their advanced free-school out-posts, close their high schools and colleges, and retire within the elementary lines of fifty years ago.

Besides the affiliation of the high schools with the Western State universities, Western superintendents and teachers are now urging the inauguration of a normal department in the latter, wherein those who intend to engage in teaching can go through a course and receive a special degree in pedagogy and psychology. In their opinion, this would do much to secure for teaching a public recognition as a profession, since all other liberal professions have their appropriate college degrees. When this is accomplished, so that the principals of schools shall be college-bred men and women in at least the same proportion that doctors and lawyers and clergymen are so; when, too, the high-school system thoroughly permeates the whole community, so that all the assistants shall be high-school graduates, the necessity, as we cannot but think, for those make-shifts, the "normal school" and the "teachers' institute," will disappear. The very conception of a school where the teacher is to learn precisely what he is to teach is stultifying, and if from the first the progress of education had been sought by connecting pedagogy with the universities as law and medicine and divinity are connected, instead of organizing mills called normal schools where teachers are ground out by the dozen, the whole question of public-school instruction would have been in a very different state from its present one. Such a degree now inaugurated by the Western colleges would act as a needed stimulus and encouragement to that sex which seems in our country to have found in teaching its special vocation. Apropos of the presence of women in colleges, the testimony from the West seems to be universal that there is none of that falling behind the classes, of that breaking health, or of those improprieties and immoralities that are so much dreaded in the East should like educational privileges be opened to them here. We regret extremely, however, that in the report upon the University of Michigan the recommendation is made that, from reasons of economy, there be no longer any separate medical classes for the men and women students. We most emphatically believe that to instruct the sexes in each other's presence upon subjects over which nature or training--or both--has drawn a veil of reserve would be a most disastrous mistake, and would in the long run lead to both intellectual and moral degradation.

--We took occasion, a few months ago, when noticing a volume of the Clarendon Press series of English authors, to speak of the need there was of good and inexpensive editions of English and American classics for the use of schools, and of the help that such books would afford in the study of English literature, now beginning to assume its proper place in courses of education. The little volume of Oliver Goldsmith's Select Poems [see Endnote] just put forth by Mr. Rolfe, who has already edited certain of Shakespeare's plays, comes very near to our ideal of what such a book should be. He has taken The Traveler, The Deserted Village, and Retaliation, prefixed an introduction, and appended notes. The introduction contains Macaulay's Life of Goldsmith with omissions, and selections from other memoirs by Thackeray, Forster, Irving, George Colman the younger, and Campbell. By this means he has not only given different views of the poet, but also used the reflective interest which proceeds from the comments of one eminent author upon another. The notes take a wide range of explanation and suggestion, and can hardly fail to be helpful to both teacher and scholar. We have been interested in comparing them with those by Mr. Hales, who has prepared a similar edition in England. Mr. Rolfe has acknowledged his indebtedness to the English author, but his use of Hales's work has been both honest and discriminating, The American edition is much better adapted to use in our schools than the English, since it draws its historical and literary illustration from a wider range, and confines its philological notes more distinctly to those authors, ancient and modern, whom the American reader has been likely to read, or to whose works he has access. Perhaps it was expedient to introduce the illustrations; we are glad to see the portrait and Foley's statue, but could well spare the imaginative pictures, if we could have in place, room for a portion, say, of the thirteenth chapter of Boswell's Johnson, getting thus not only glimpses of Goldsmith's personality as it was seen by Boswell, but a taste of a remarkable book which ought to be introduced to the young reader by such means. The volume is still too expensive, even at its moderate price, to serve the best purposes of a school edition, but probably we shall have to work toward cheap and scholarly editions by degrees, and our complaint in this case is rather based on the supposition that this is one of a projected series of classics.

[Endnote: *Select Poems of Oliver Goldsmith* Edited, with Notes, by WILLIAM J. ROLFE, A.M., formerly Head Master of the high School, Cambridge, Mass. With Engravings. New York: Harper and Brothers. 1875.]


The Atlantic Monthly; January, 1867; "Education"; Volume 14, No. 111; pages 126-128.
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