Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

whom I have conversed-Hon. HENRY BARNARD, among the number—that the Common Schools, Normal Schools, and State University, could best be managed, and all their aims and purposes more fully harmonized, by a single Board—a STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. Then there could, and would be, no clashing of interests, by the three departments of our educational system; and such a Board would, in all its action, study how best to subserve the general interests of the whole. Such Board should have all powers now conferred on the respective Boards of Normal and University Regents, with further power to select and approve suitable books for School Libraries, whenever so directed by law, and perhaps recommend text books for Common Schools, and advise with the State Superintendent, relative to the educational interests of the State, whenever desirable by the Board or that officer.

Under the Constitution, the State Superintendent would necessarily be made a member of such Board; the Chancellor of the University should be another; and, I should suppose, it would be eminently proper, that the Governor, and one or all of the Commissioners of the School, University and Normal Funds, should also be made ex officio members of such Board. And that six members, in addition, should be elected by the Legislature, holding their offices, after the first election, for six years, to be elected by classes, as the Legislature may designate—the Governor to fill all vacancies; and absence, from any cause, on the part of those members elected by the Legislature, from three successive regular meetings of the Board, to vacate their office. Pay should be provided for those members who would necessarily have to make journeys to attend the meetings of the Board; but it would be cheaper for the State to pay one such Board, than two, as is now the case with the Normal and University Regents. No geographical limits should be specified from which the Legislature should select the Board, except those embracing the whole State; for it would behoove the Legislature, in making such selection, to act wisely, and make choice of the very best men that could possibly be found in the State, without special regard to their locality.

The State Superintendent, at meetings of the Board, should bring forward matters for consideration relative to his department; the Chancellor of the University, relative to that institution, and the State Normal School Agent, relative to the Normal Schools under State patronage and supervision; and the Chancellor of the University, and State Normal Agent, to prepare the annual reports of those respective departments, for the approval of the Board, and submission to the Legislature.

With such a STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, neither too large

[graphic]

to be unweildy, nor too small to lose its prestige, I should hope for a marked improvement, and harmony of action, in the administration of the several educational interests of the State; and that each of these separate interests, would receive its share and only its proper share, of attention and encouragement. The Legislature would then feel, that whatever recommendations and suggestions might be made by the State Board, would have the merit of having been carefully matured, with a view to the general good of the whole educational system of the State, and not run the risk of advancing one interest at the expense, or to the detriment of the others. And never, perhaps, could there be a better time than the present, to inaugurate the new Boardwhen the Normal School system is just fairly going into operation, and the University is to commence its career under the administration of the newly chosen Chancellor, with a re-arrangements of its schools, or departments. Our educational policy needs to be fairly adjusted, and placed in charge of an able and experienced State Board, who should study how to give uniformity, stability and completeness to the system.

[ocr errors]

COUNTY OR DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT. In Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, each county has a Superintendent; in New York each Assembly District; and in Indiana Circuit Superintendents have been recommended, each circuit to embrace nine counties, or about ninety-four townships.

Hon. HENRY S. RANDALL, long the County Superintendent of Courtland county, New York, and subsequently Šuperintendent of Public Instruction of that State, has given us the result of his personal experience while County Superintendent; and his testimony carries with it the highest evidence of the great importance of such a school officer:

Speaking of the legal powers and judicial jurisdiction conferred on the State and County Superintendents, Mr. RANDALL remarks, that of the school system of New York, this was “the most important feature of the whole, at least that one without which all the rest amounted to comparatively nothing. You must clothe your school officers with authority if you wish them to have weight in the community and be looked up to; and then again, there can be no such thing as successful schools where any quarrelsome man in the State can plunge a school district into contention and litigation in the ordinary courts of law. Our laws did not prevent an aggrieved party in very many cases from going to a court of law.

“But it opened another class of courts to him where there were no lawyers, no costs or fees, and no wire drawn technicalities; in short, where a man familiar with schools, and who ought to be familliar with school laws—who ought to be above local excitements and paltry prejudices—acted as a judge, a jury—a court of conciliation-a court of law, a court of equity, and finally, as a firm and sensible friend of all the parties! Our County Superintendents answered to a county court, and the few appeals that went up from their decisions, went to the State Superintendent, who in school cases, (commenced before a County Superintendent, or before himself,) answered to a court of appeals.

“In our State the State Superintendent was and is an officer within his jurisdiction, the most absolute known to our laws. No Legislature, perhaps, would ever at once and directly have conferred such powers. It grew gradually out of circumstances, and out of the necessity of the case-unless the schools were to be swamped by litigation, and unless the vast machinery necessary to carry on nearly 12,000 schools,and to annually pay from the public treasury over a million of dollars, was to be left to fall into irregularity or inefficiency. And never have our people complained of the high and summary powers of the State Šuperintendent. In the few questions ever raised on the subject, they have invariably stood by him. Indeed, I hardly now recollect an instance of such a question getting to any extent before the public, unless in the case of my decision, in the case of Quigley vs. Gifford, on the subject of compelling Catholic children to read the version of the Bible used by Protestants, and to attend Protestant religious services.

“This is a question on which so much sensitiveness exists in the public mind, that my decision called out a few public murmurs, but the newspapers of the State, almost in a body, without reference to any party or sect, rushed to my defense and sustained me triumphantly. Our State Superintendent always has the flood-tide of public sympathy in his favor—and he must decide outrageously not to have the entire community at his side.

"I don't remember, and have no statistical table to show, before me, how many cases were appealed annually from the county officers to the State Superintendent, while we had County Superintendents. I know however they were very few. I can speak for this county, for the two terms in which I held its Superintendency. There was not a single case appealed during those two terms. Nay, there was scarcely a case carried out in form before me. When I found one was arising, I always asked the parties to wait until I could come on the ground and talk with them all face to face on the subject. In nineteen cases out of twenty they assented to this, and I have not a single case in

recollection where I failed to settle the matter to the comparative, and frequently the entire satisfaction of all. I presume this was very much the same over the entire State. I would not give a farthing for a system where the officers are not armed with proper powers. I do not mean with the mere power of advising, (if that can be called a power,) but with authority to enforce, by removals from office, by withholding the public money, &c. It is the sheet-anchor of any efficient system.

“Our County Superintendency operated admirably. No intelligent man will now deny this. When the law first went into effect, that very able man, John C. Spencer, was State Superintendent. Through his efficient deputy, Mr. Samuel S. Randall, he solicited able and public spirited men throughout the State to become candidates for the local Superintendencies. Many a man did so, and was elected, (by the Supervisors,) who

would not have looked at' what many at the time would have considered much more important offices. Many of them were or had been teachers, but they were not a band of opinionated, crotchetty pedagogues; they were of general information-of knowledge of the world-of standing. They were not men who could be sunk down into agents and puffers for book publishers! Two dollars a day (and no margin for roast beef,') paid their horse hire, and for their time and efforts they found their pay in the good which they daily saw themselves accomplishing! Oh, sir, I look back with delight to a period of my life when I was facing storms, breaking through winter drifts, going without regular meals, to bear what I may term the missionary cross among the hills and valleys of this county.

“How the 'new officer' was dreaded at his first approach by fossil school-masters and jealous town officers! They had some occasion to dread him. I remember well my first visit to the town of— to examine teachers. That was before we had Town Superintendents, and while we had three commissioners and three inspectors in each town. In the town of these were all my political and personal friends, and therefore came out very cordially to meet me at the examination. They were the leading men of the town; two of them decidedly its magnates. One of the magnates had a daughter, and another a sister, to be examined. Both of the young ladies had taught for several seasons, and were not aware that it was necessary for them to think of looking over their studies or “brightening up' for the examination. Their father's and brother's friend, -the man whom their fathers and brothers had supported for office,-reject them ? The idea was preposterous ! I prolonged the examination half an hour, revolving bitterly in my mind how I should perform my duty with any degree of grace. Seeing

no way to do this, I finally shut my eyes and took the leap. I rejected the entire class! Had a stunning clap of thunder broke from that clear April sky, there would not have been such a momentary look of surprise. The next instant, mortification and wounded feelings filled the room with sobs. I escaped; but then I had accepted an invitation to take tea and stay over night with magnate number one. Here was a new trial. I marched over, as cool (just about) as a soldier mounting the deadly im. minent breach,' with Hyder Ali or a Russian garrison on the other side. We got down to the tea table. The Squire evi: dently had a terrible choking sensation about the throat. Finally he thought he must relieve his mind, and he said— Randall, what did you reject

for ?' At that moment - entered the room, with eyes redder than another Niobe's. Said I, “You hear your father's question; can you answer it for me?' 'I suppose, sir, because I was not qualified,' was the reply. 'Exactly,' said I; Squire, be good enough to pass me the bread ?' « The next morning

and the two other rejected and dejected ones were started off by their parents for the Academy. I told them I thought with two or three weeks of rubbing up, they would pass muster. But no, they had made up their minds that they would be beholden to no man's lenity in future. They went to the Academy. They staid until they became polished scholars, and on two of them I afterwards conferred State certificates, as teachers of the highest grade of attainment and practical skill. Now for the moral of this anecdote. I knew that the law creating County Superintendents was terribly unpopular in the town of even before I came down on them like a wolf on the fold!'. They thought it a terrible thing in theory to clothe a central' officer with such powers, and certainly they had found it no joke in practice! So when a few months afterwards I turned my horses' heads into the quiet little valley of the I could not but reflect with what secret if not open aversion I should be received in the schools. However remembering "faint heart never won' anything worth having, I drove straight to the Squire's and put up. His nephew, a fine young man, was the new Town Superintendent. On I went for two or three days through the schools, calmly and firmly administering praise or censure as I thought circumstances demanded. The teachers quivered and blanched a little at the outset, but all were deeply respectful, and finally a good many of them got on pretty good terms with themselves and me before the examination of their schools closed. The Trustees and people turned out to meet me. They bore the rebukes I administered where I thought it necessary, for the bad condition of the school houses,

« AnteriorContinuar »