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and Barnard, of Emerson and Potter, of Page and Mansfield, of Mayhew, of Holbrook, of Ogden and Orcutt, and of Bates, and Wells, Sheldon, Wickersham, and others, contain much of value to teachers, while the able reports of State and city superintendents abound in valuable hints and statistical information.
Let us pass to consider very briefly some of the good results of the several efforts to which allusion has been made, and ascertain whether, upon the whole, such efforts have been of a compensatory nature. Progress in any department is usually slow, and day by day there may seem to be little or no real gain. This may seem to be the case with those who are engaged in the work of teaching, and looking back over a day, month, or quarter, no very great change may be perceptible; but if years or tens of years can be considered at a single view, the changes will appear great and important.
1st. The public mind has been greatly aroused and enlightened in relation to the general subject of popular education. We are well aware that there is now even much reason to complain of the apathy and neglect of parents and citizens in relation to school matters, but there is far less than there was twenty years ago. At the time of Mr. Mann's election to the secretaryship of the Massachusetts Board of Education it was no easy matter to secure a respectable gathering of citizens to listen to a lecture on education. The subject itself was almost repulsive to the minds of the people, and in allusion to this Mr. Mann once remarked “that the surest and quickest way to disperse a mob was to announce a lecture on education.” I need not tell you how it is now. The largest churches and halls in New England have, time and again, been densely filled with attentive listeners to lectures and discussions on the subject of common schools.
2d. As a result of the preceding, thousands and tens of
thousands of old and uncomfortable school-houses have forever disappeared, and all over the hill-sides and valleys of the North and West we may behold neat and attractive edifices which at once testify to the increased interest and intelligence of the people, and open a pleasant prospect to the eye and mind of the child as he commences the ascent of the hill of science.
Another evidence of the increased interest in common schools may be found in the more general attendance upon them in many communities. The city of Boston affords a striking proof of this. From a recent quarterly report of Mr. Philbrick we gather the following facts: “In 1817, fortyfive years ago, there were eight public schools in the city, educating two thousand three hundred and sixty-five pupils at the cost of about twenty-two thousand dollars. At the same time there were two hundred and sixty-two private schools, supported at the expense of the parents. The number of pupils in these private schools was four thousand one hundred and thirty-two, and the expense of them fortynine thousand one hundred and fifty-four dollars. Thus it appears that the number of pupils in the private schools was one hundred and seventy-four per cent. of the number of those in attendance on the public schools, and the cost of the private schools was more than two hundred per cent. of the cost of maintaining the public schools. At the present time the number of pupils educated at the public expense is twenty-seven thousand and eighty-one, an increase of more than eleven hundred per cent. in forty-five years, — while the number of pupils in private schools is only fourteen hundred, -- or thirty-three per cent of the number in 1817,— and only five per cent. of the number in public schools. ... Fortyfive years ago the annual cost per scholar in the public schools was about ten dollars, and in private schools about twelve dollars; — now it is fifteen dollars in the public and eighty dollars in the private. Thus it will be seen that while within the last forty-five years the cost of instruction in public schools has increased only about fifty per cent., the same in private schools has increased upwards of six hundred per cent. And what is true of Boston would prove true of any other city or town which should make equally liberal and judicious arrangements for the support of free public schools.”
The increase of school apparatus is a striking proof of progress in educational matters. Until about the year 1830 the amount of chemical and philosophical apparatus for schools was very limited, and nearly all that was used was imported from abroad. In 1830 the manufacture of such apparatus was commenced in the city of Boston, and for some time the annual sales did not exceed six hundred dollars in each of the two establishments in which it was made. Now the annual sales are not far from seventy-five thousand dollars.
In 1837, or twenty-five years ago, less than nine hundred dollars were appropriated for apparatus in all the schools. The value of apparatus, maps and charts now in the schools of Boston, cannot be much less than twenty thousand dollars, or more than twenty times the amount in all the schools in 1842, or twenty years ago.
Again. There has been a great advance as to range of studies, covering a much higher and wider field. On this point I need not dwell.
Another result of the efforts which have been made may be seen in the improved discipline of our schools. We believe that there has been very great progress in this direction. There is now far less of severity and arbitrary despotism in school government than there was thirty years ago, and a discipline far more mild and moral as well as effectual has been adopted in our best schools. If we compare the schools of the present with the schools far back in olden times, we shall find the difference in favor of the present far more marked. An obituary notice in one of the journals of Germany thus speaks of a deceased teacher: “During the fiftyone years and seven months of his official life, he had by a moderate computation inflicted nine hundred and eleven thousand five hundred and twenty-seven blows with a cane, one hundred and twenty-four thousand with a rod, twenty-one thousand blows and raps with a ruler, one hundred and thirtysix thousand seven hundred and fifteen blows with the hand, ten thousand two hundred and thirty-five blows over the mouth, seven thousand nine hundred and two boxes on the ear, one million one hundred and fifteen thousand raps on the head, twenty-two thousand seven hundred and eighty-three nota benes (knocks) with the Bible, catechism, and singing-book(thus combining lessons in morals and music.) He had seven hundred and seventy-seven times inade boys kneel on peas, and six hundred and thirteen on a three-cornered piece of wood; he had made one thousand seven hundred and seven hold the rod up, not to enumerate various more unusual punishments which he contrived on the spur of the moment. He had about three thousand expressions to scold with, of which he had found two-thirds ready-made in his native language, and the rest he had invented.” Can any community in our day furnish a case so striking ?
3d. Another result gained is the improvement of teachers, together with a better appreciation of their services by the public.
We would not say, nor would we admit, that all the teachers of the past were inferior to those of the present. It would be no easy matter to find teachers at this time superior to some who were in active service a half a century ago,but we now have a larger proportion of good teachers.
Normal schools, teachers' institutes, and educational associations, have done much in awakening professional feeling and disseminating true views of the teacher's calling, - and if we could have the same individual effort for self-improvement on the part of teachers, added to the increased facilities and aids, the profession of the teacher would be far in advance of what it now is.
But I will not enlarge on these and kindred points, but simply say that during the last twoscore years the improvements which have attended the cause of education and of common schools have been as great as those secured in any other department.
As, then, the teacher of to-day is called to labor with increased facilities and under more favorable circumstances, it becomes him well to consider the responsibilities which rest upon him. He cannot live for himself alone, and be guiltless; he cannot fold his arms and slumber; he has a duty to perform. It is his to carry on the great work which has been so well commenced and so far advanced. It cannot remain stationary. It must either advance or retrograde. It is a noble cause, and is worthy of the best efforts of the best men, and of the devoted labors of her whose mission is nearest to that of the angels. And, my friends, never were we called upon more loudly and more clearly to act than now, “ in the living present.” We are living at a fearful rate and at a momentous time. The great struggle between slavery and liberty, light and darkness, is now going on; and though at times the powers of darknesss seem to gain the ascendency, and liberty almost falls bleeding and mangled at the feet of the despot and demon slavery, yet we have never been left in utter darkness and despair. But as sure as to-morrow's sun shall dispel the darkness of the coming night, and with its cheering rays impart light and heat, so sure will liberty and educa