Imagens da página

institutions out of which can be brought the vigor of thought, the breadth of culture, or the moral sensibility which should lie at the foundation of a good American education, whether for the pulpit or the rostrum, the shop, the counting room, or the field. And I doubt not that, whatever division of the scholars may hereafter be made, whatever changes in outfit and apparatus may be devised, a more compact, economical, safe, and convenient school building will mark the educational generations who come after us. For the health, the minds, the morals, and the safety of the children, let us have smaller school-houses, smaller schools, more teachers.

In conclusion, allow me to say that I have great respect for the academy and its system. As I compare the provisions it has made in times past and now makes to lead the minds of the young men of our land through the varied and changing landscape of general culture up to the point of special instruction for a definite object in life; the more I compare the academic system of training youth for a vigorous and manly step into the work of the world with the methods which have grown out of an ambition to perfect an imposing plan and perhaps out of the difficulties incident to a dense population, reluctant it may be to learn, the more I admire it as an American institution, capable of developing that mental and moral strength without which citizenship is a failure and the skill of the most expert is wasted and lost. I believe the academies have constantly and directly before them the object of preliminary American education, the preparatory culture which will fill our colleges and technical schools with strong capacity for special work. May not their principles, therefore, be ingrafted upon the system of common education in which you are all engaged, and new life be infused into the work to which you are devoted? To you who know so well the successes which inspire and the difficulties which surround the education of a free people for all their duties, I submit this question with confident belief that it will be properly solved.

Hon. JAMES A. GARFIELD, M. C., was introduced by President Wickersham, and, being called upon, spoke as follows:

Gentlemen, I am really not in a situation to say anything to this convention, for I do not know where you are in the course of your deliberations; but Dr. Loring has said some things that have awakened in me a very lively interest, and I will “rake after his cradling," as the harvesters would say. It is a matter of great gratification to me to meet gentlemen who are engaged in the work of education. I feel at home among teachers, and, I may say, I look back with more satisfaction upon my work as a teacher than upon any other work I have done. It gives me a pleasant home feeling to sit among you and revive old memories.

There is one thing to which I will venture to call your attention, and that is the great case, if I may speak as a lawyer, which is soon to be tried before the American people— the case of Brains vs. Brick and Mortar. That, in my judginent, is to be a notable trial, and until the cause is fully argued and rightly decided we shall have no end of trouble in our educational work. To insure its final and rightful settlement, the friends of our schools should unite to force the question to a hearing, and should go to the very bottom of the controversy. It has long been my opinion that we are all educated, whether children, men, or women, far more by personal influence than by books and the apparatus of schools. If I could be taken back into boyhood to-day, and had all the libraries and apparatus of a university, with ordinary routine professors, offered me on the one hand, and on the other a great, luminous, rich souled man, such as Dr. Hopkins was twenty years ago, in a tent in the woods alone, I should say give me Dr. Hopkins for my college course rather than any university with only routine professors. The privilege of sitting down before a great clear headed, large hearted man, and breathing the atmosphere of his life, and being drawn up to him and lifted up by him, and learning his methods of thinking and living, is in itself an enormous educating power. But America, I say, is running to brick and mortar. Colleges and universities are constantly receiving munificent gifts which the donors require to be built into walls inscribed with their names; but the real college sits starving under the stately shadows. Our Smithsonian Institution over here was, for a long time, engaged in this struggle between brick and brains. One of the first things done by Congress was to saddle it with a huge brick building. Another impediment we fortunately got rid of, the great library of the institution, which devoured $5,000 a year of the income; and we are now struggling to get off our hands the great museum, which costs still more. Museums and libraries are necessary and valuable; but the central purpose of Smithson, to encourage original discovery, was in great measure thwarted by the mere accumulation of materials. I hope the day is not distant when the income of that beneficent institution will be so liberated that every American who has the requisite genius and force can find there the help required for original inves tigations.

And so, in our schools, let us put less money in great school-houses and more in the salaries of teachers. Smaller schools and more teachers, less machinery and more personal influence, will bring forth fruits higher and better than any we have yet seen.

In this connection I will refer to the tendency in our primary sohools to overcrowd the children by giving them too many studies and thus rendering them superficial in all. The professors at West Point tell us that for more than forty years their course of examinations of cadets for admission has been substantially the same, and that the questions now asked in the several branches are the same as those propounded in the same branches forty years ago. Now these professors say that the percentage of failures to pass that preliminary examination has been increasing, especially of late, with alarming rapidity, and is very much greater than it was forty years ago. I understand that Professor Church says this fact does not arise from worse appointments, nor from lack of general information. Indeed, the young men who go there now have much more general culture than their earlier predecessors. Many of them, who have studied Latin, algebra, and physics, and other higher branches, utterly break down in spelling, penmanship, arithmetic, and grammar. In short, they know a little of many branches, but are thorough in none.

There is a limit of effort in a child; and if his culture is spread over too large a surface it will be thin everywhere. The ambition of our schools to do too much results in doing nothing well. Non multa sed multum is the old and safe rule. I believe, therefore, that the two great points which the educators of this country should aim at if they would succeed are, first, smaller schools and more teachers — remembering always that a teacher who is at all fit for his work is one who has the power of inspiring, who can pour his spirit into the darkness of the pupil's mind, and fill it with "sweetness and light;” secondly, they should cut off a large number of new studies which have been forced into the earlier course, and concentrate their efforts upon the old primary branches until these are thoroughly mastered.

Now, gentlemen, you who are conducting the educational affairs of this country cannot afford to rest under this charge of failure at West Point. You must answer by disproving the charge or removing the evil. Every conference among educators should be directed to these questions; and when they are settled you will have rendered one of the highest services that can be rendered to this country.

If I may refer to the national aspect of your profession, I will say we can never escape Macaulay's prophecy of the downfall of the Republic, unless we do it by the aid of the schoolmaster. Macaulay said that a government like ours must inevitably lead to anarchy; and I believe there is no answer to his prophecy unless the schoolmaster can give it. If we can fill the minds of all our children who are to be voters with intelligence which will fit them wisely to vote and fill them with the spirit of liberty, then will we have averted the fatal prophecy. But if, on the other hand, we allow our yonth to grow up in ignorance, this Republic will end in disastrous failure. All the encouragement that the National Government can give, everything that States can do, all that good citizens everywhere can do, and most of all what the teacher himself can do ought to be hailed as the deliverance of our country from the saddest of destinies.

Mr. PHILBRICK followed, commenting at some length on several points brought forward by the two preceding speakers, especially combating what Dr. Loring had advanced in favor of the old fashioned, ungraded academy and in opposition to the modern graded system of schools. He also assailed General Garfield's position that the standard of elementary education has not advanced, but has actually retrograded during the past thirty or forty years.

Mr. HANCOCK said that the standard of examination for entering West Point has been raised of late years by the addition of American history as one of the topics and that the examination is much more rigid. It is not a special aim of public schools to train candidates for the Military Academy; the schools try to teach children those things which will be of use everywhere and at all times. The progress of modern life and thought has been reflected in the public school curriculum in various ways. Must all this be abandoned, and must the schools return to the old academy studies? He could not see why teachers specially trained for the work of instruction are not as likely to possess broad minds and great souls as those who had been so lauded by the preceding speakers. On the contrary, he believed the modern graded school to be superior to the old academy in extent and methods of instruction.

Mr. HOLBROOK said that Dr. Loring's remarks had emphasized and even exaggerated defects in the existing public schools of which none are or have been more conscious than the public school teachers, and which are being mitigated and diminished by none more strenuously,

President WICKERSHAM pointed out the fact that candidates for West Point are usually selected by members of Congress without reference to their intellectual or other fitness. The late Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, dissatisfied with the ill success of candidates selected by himself, with Dr. Wickersham's help, instituted competitive examinations for nomination. The highest boy at the first examination went to West Point and graduated No. 14 in his class; the first boy at the second examination graduated as No. 2 of his class; a third, selected in the same way, graduated at the head of his class. These boys had been trained in the free public graded schools of Lancaster County. The public school boys would do well enough at West Point if the politicians would give them a chance to get there.

Mr. DICKINSON next addressed the Department in defence of high schools. In alluding to the proper place and functions of the public high school in a school system, he quoted approvingly Professor Huxley's remark that "no system of public education is worthy the name unless it creates a great educational ladder with one end in the gutter and the other in the university.” Mr. Dickinson continued as follows:

In some of the States pupils may pass from the high schools to the college or university with no other examination than that made at the close of the high school conrse.

Some think our high schools should form no part of a system of schools supported by the State, that the State should limit itself to the support of primary schools; the reasons given are —

1. That secondary instruction is not necessary to the well being of the State. 2. Only a small portion of the school population avails itself of the advantages of this instruction,

In answer to the first objection it may be said that the moral and social condition of a community of persons will be degraded in proportion as the products of their labor are inadequate to supply their spiritual and material wants. The history of all peoples shows that the products of labor to the laborer will be in proportion to the skill with which he labors. Labor will be skilled or unskilled in proportion to the high or low state of public instruction, directed first toward general culture, and secondly toward the arts which the laborer is to apply.

The truth of these statements accords with the experience of all nations in all times. A true and general culture of the people will exalt the state by laying the foundations for virtue and for skill in producing what will supply the wants of the body and gratify the taste. “I will thank any person,” says Everett, “to tell why it is expedient and beneficial in a community to make public provision for teaching the elements of learning, and not expedient nor beneficial to make similar provision to aid the learner's progress toward the mastery of the most difficult branches of science and the choicest refinements of literature."

It is true that not all the pupils of the elementary schools will attend the high schools, but the latter are open alike to all who choose to avail themselves of their advantages. There will be more educated people in a town maintaining a high school than there would be without it, and the more educated people there are the greater will be the development of material resources, the more perfect the security of property and of persons, the higher the civilization, and the more complete the facilities for the unmolested enjoyment of all the objects of our natural rights.

A further argument in favor of maintaining high schools at the public expense may be made by showing, first, that they serve to give increased efficiency to the elementary schools below them. From the fact that the higher education is within the reach of all, pupils in the lower schools are stimulated to remain in them until they have learned all that is required to be known and have obtained all the discipline of mind required as a preparation for high school work. “Experience has proved,” says Mr. Adams, of England, “ that elementary education flourishes most where the provision for higher education is most ample. If the elementary schools of Germany are the best in the world, it is owing in a great measure to the fact that the higher schools are accessible to all classes. In England not only have the aims of the elementary schools been educationally low and narrow, but an impassable gulf has separated the people's schools from the higher schools of the country. In the United States the common schools have always produced the best results where the means of higher education have been the most plentiful.”! The influence of one grade of schools upon another grade is from above downward, in so far as courses of study, amount of work done, and methods of teaching are concerned; it is from below upward just in proportion as that from above downward has succeeded in leading the elementary schools to prepare their pupils thoroughly for higher courses of study.

By the standards of admission to their classes which they establish, and the opportunities for a higher education which they offer, the high schools determine what the lower schools shall do, and they everywhere stimulate pupils to remain in the lower schools until what is required has been accomplished.

Again, the lower schools, on account of the age and attainments of their pupils, can only teach elementary knowledge, a knowledge of facts. If the high school is taken away, the opportunity to obtain free instruction in somewhat higher knowledge iz taken away also. The elementary and the high school courses are parts of one whole. No system of schools would be complete without both.

1 Free Schools of the United States, p. 211.


A knowledge of facts is of practical utility only as it lays the foundation for a kuowledge of general principles. Every pupil in our public schools should be taught a method of thinking and acting. This is of more consequence than any other acquisition that can be made, for with a good method of study and the training acquired by the activity exerted in acquiring the method, the student after he leaves school can go on alone. If the high school is open to all, that, in connection with the lower schools, will have a tendency to preserve a republican equality which is always disturbed when the advantages of a higher education are limited to the few.

The existence of the high schools in towns enables the boys and girls to remain at home, as they should, under the care of judicious and faithful parents during that period of their lives when their characters are formed.

From what has been said it appears that we must preserve our high schools, and there will no danger arise to our private or public interests if they are made as efficient as possible. The academies of Massachusetts have done a grand work for the State, by educating a few who have been an honor and a blessing to the country. A few only of these noble institutions remain. In the place of them high schools have sprung up to form the missing grade in our now complete system of popular instruction, which has for its object the culture of the mind and its preparation for the high duties of an American citizen. By means of these schools we can now offer to every child born on our soil or coming to us from other lands the unrestricted advantages of an elementary and higher education.

At the conclusion of Mr. Dickinson's remarks the following resolution was presented by Mr. Hovey:

Resolved, That, in the opinion of the Department of Superintendence, the high school is a useful and necessary part of the public school system : it serves to promote efficiency in the schools of lower grades, whose pupils have hope of reaching the high school, and it enables the poor boy to prepare for the college or the university or the higher pursuits of men, and thus it becomes a conservator of republican equality and an enemy of social caste.

On motion, the resolution was laid over for the present.
The Department then adjourned to 7.30 P. M.


WASHINGTON, December 12, 1877. The Department reassembled at 7.30 P. M.

Dr. J. D. KUNKLE, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then delivered an address on "The manual element in education." It is proposed, if circumstances will allow, to publish this paper, with the cuts necessary to elucidate it, in another pamphlet; it is therefore omitted from the present publication.

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES. At the conclusion of Dr. Runkle's address, Mr. Newell, chairman of the executive committee, was called upon for the reports which had been prepared for submission to the Department. The executive committee, with a view to the most expeditious and satisfactory disposition of the business assigned it, was on its appointment divided into several subcommittees, to each of which was allotted some particular subject to be brought before the Department. The executive committee, its vari ous subcommittees, and the committee on the Paris Exposition were composed as follows:

« AnteriorContinuar »