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If these views are correct-if such is the place and such the sphere of the College its importance becomes at once manifest.
We patronize with public and private munificence those institutions that tend to increase the valuable productions of the country-the excellence of the stock, the growth of grain, the yield of the mines, or the profits of trade. But here is an institution that augments the nobler power in the land—the intellect, the mind; an institution that redoubles the force of manhood, and cultivates and refines the character. Can any institution out-rank this in importance? The College is an institution in which youth, making a just use of their advantages, become men-men in mind, in heart, and character-men ready to learn any profession, or enter upon any pursuit. What institation can be more valuable to the public than this?
By some concessions and popular adjustments, we maintain our system of Common Schools at the expense of the public Treasury; and no money, of all that passes through that Treasury, goes more directly to promote the public welfare and sustain the noble framework of our institutions. But there must be something besides Common Schools to educate the Teachers for those Schools-not that all Teachers need this extensive culture to fit them to discharge well the duties of their positions; and still there are none who might not be the better for it, and to some either this or qualifica tions that are substantially equivalent are indispensable.
Those Schools diffuse education among the whole people, and this is their true glory; but if they are to keep pace in improvement with other things, there must be liberally educated men trained up for their service in College. And you have only to inquire for those States where the best Colleges exist, to find, at the same time, the best common Schools. There must be those who can write School books, as well as those who can teach with them.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women, perhaps, have taught boys and girls Webster's Spelling Book in times past, but a College was necessary to make a Noah Webster. And so of most of the authors, editors, and compilers of our best Common School text books now in use. They are men who have gained the ability to make the elements of knowledge plain and clear to the young, by means of familiarity with its general principles, acquired in the wide researches of a liberal education.
And so in every other sphere of life, the College must be the fountain ; and just in proportion to its excellence, to the elevation of its scholarship and intellectual training, will be the streams of mental culture and popular learning all abroad through Seminaries, Common Sohools, and society generally.
Take the Ministry, for example. Those were wise men—the founders of Harvard College, in the old Colonial days--for they toiled, and saved, and worked through their lives to build that institution, “ dreading," as they said, “ to leave an illiterate Ministry to the churches, when our Ministers shall lie in the dust!” And may we not wisely imitate their pious example, that the time may not come on these shores when there shall be here a race of unqualified Ministers, or Teachers, or Lawyers, or Doctors, or Editors, or Judges, or Legislators, or citizens in any calling.
Our system of education is one, and no branch or member thereof can say to any other, “I have no need of thee.” The Common School is indispensable in its sphere, and so is the College in its sphere ; and the former cannot advance in improvement without the latter. Without the Common School to teach reading and writing, and the elements of knowledge required by every one, to the masses, we could not exist as a nation. In these Schools the youth of the country, whatever may be their nationality or their religion, are blended into one people, and are prepared harmoniously to act as such through life. In these Schools they breathe the spirit of patriotism, and learn something of the history and laws of our Government. Here they become quali
fied to be voters, jurymen, and bearers of all the ordinary responsibilities of citizenship. And here in these Schoolhouses all over the land, are awakened that hunger and thirst for knowledge in individual youthful minds that cannot be justly denied the opportunities of liberal or College education.
So the Common School, in a sense, creates the necessity for the College-itself to be in due time nourished and lifted up by means of it.
Ladies and Gentlemen : Let me say in conclusion that this subject of systematic education in this State—and I may say in this whole family of Pacific States—is one of most weighty importance. I have presented the field which the College occupies—and it is one of crowning moment—the whole educational experience of our country proves it to be sv; and so are the other departments of our system important, and on the energy and force with which they are worked, depends the future of this noble country in which we live.
It is the mind of the people that is to constitute the people's character.
It is not the climate, or the fertility of the soil, or the richness of the mines, or the magnitude of its commerce, but it is the intelligence, cultivation, morality, and mental force of the people that are to make us great, respected, and happy, if we ever become 80.
We are liable to depend too much on the affluence of our material resources. A State may be truly great without them, and it may be very far from being great, though it possesses all of them.
“A few simple commanding traits, a dignified aim, a high conception of the true glory of a State, with a little land and water to work with, and you have a great nation."
Some of the most enlightened peoples of the world have wrought their great deeds within the limits of small territories, where they earned their bread by tilling unproductive soils, beneath unfriendly skies.
Remember Athens—for instance, Attica : “her area was not quite so large as our own Rhode Island, her mountain steeps sprinkled with dwarf oaks and fir trees, her sunburnt vallies covered with meagre herbage, her wintry torrents dried up in summer, her olive trees with their pale leaf and pliable branches ;" this was Greece ; but a people dwelt there of that “flexible, brave, and energetic character-so prompt and full of resource—that curiosity, perseverance, and fire, that love of Athens and glory, that subtlety of practical understanding, that unrivalled elegance of taste, that teeming and beautiful fancy-that they won for her in her own time the place of the first power of the world, and seated her, with a more rare felicity, on an intellectual throne from which no progress of the species may cast her down."
If so much has been accomplished by a single people, in an early age of the world, with narrow resources, without the aid of science or pure religion, (and this is by no means a solitary example,) how much may be justly expected of us, surrounded as we are with all these, the very choicest advantages that have ever been conferred upon any people! With our great territory, our unrivalled climate, the riches of our material resources of every sort, with a youthful people blest with self-government, free speech, freedom of conscience, Free Schools, and free labor-what height of excellence can be imagined to which a people, starting with such advantages, ought not to aspire !
Furthermore, it should be remembered that in these initial years the foundations must be laid, if ever, for superior public excellence.
We are liable to overlook this. But the gauge of public virtue and the standard of intellectual attainment are soon set; and when once they are acknowledged and pass into habit, they are hard to change.
Now, therefore, is the deciding time of the most important matters.
Mr. Choate, in speaking once of the characteristic settler of the Atlantic coast, said : “ He was, he felt himself to be--and here lay the felicity of his lot—he was in the very act of building up a new nation, where no nation was before. Every day it was changing its form under his eye, and under his hand. Instead of being born ignominiously into an established order of things, a recognized and stable State, his function he felt to be that rarer, more heroical-to plant, to found, to construct a new State upon the waste of Earth. He felt himself to be of the conditores imperiorum ; all this seemed to such a man, as he awoke in the morning, to depend appreciably on what he might do, or omit to do, before he laid his head on his pillow that very night!”.
And if there are characteristic settlers worthy of our time amongst us, the day will come when very much the same will be said of them.
We may not see it now. We may be too busy in the midst of the vexatious details of daily life to take into view the whole bearing of what we may and ought to be doing; but it is nevertheless true that it is our lot to be living when and where it is our business to “plant, to form, to construct.” We, also, are called to be of the “ conditores imperionem," and it is true, whether it so “seems" to us or not, that something of this work depends appreciably on what we may do, or omit to do, between our awaking in the morning and laying the head upon the pillow at night, on any and every day!
And it is true, if for no other reason, simply because it is ours to “plant," to “ found," and to shape the institutions that are to determine the character of this forming State. The choices that we make in matters of permanent moment cannot be changed in aftertime. The plans we form cannot be, set aside by and by, and replaced by others. They can only be worked out, perhaps with modifications, but in substance the same.
This applies to every thing that goes to form our civilization, but it applies to nothing more emphatically, than to our system of education.
The time was, for example, when it was a sharply debated question, whether this city should or should not adopt the system of Free Common Schools.
You can see, to-day, very plainly, what vast interests hinged upon that decision. The whole educational policy of the State, as it is now developing, was substantially determined then.
It is so far settled, that it does not now seem as if it had ever been in debate ; but some of us remember well when it was so, and that in earnest. Now, since our system of education with respect to Common Schools is chosen, and has passed into the acknowledged acceptance and habit of the people, it has only to be worked out, improved, and perfected.
But the business of choosing and determining hitherto has been a work characteristic of the time. We are doing similar things continually. We are surveying the routes, and fixing the grades, and laying the tracks on which the trains of future progress must run !
And it is plainly true, that those who are working directly on the mind of the country as educators, and are founding the institutions of learning that are to determine the standard of our future intellectual attainment, are employed upon that which enters into the very life of the public welfare.
It is instructed, purified, virtuous, ennobled mind alone that can use the great resources of this coast aright-turning them to Christian, patriotic, and philanthropio purposes—not yielding to the tendency which the very affluence of these resources constitutes, to awaken an inordinate desire for individual wealth and personal aggrandisement.
Therefore, let this work be pushed to the utmost. Let us not only refuse to suffer
ourselves to be behind in intelligence and cultivation, but let us resolve to open the way for these States to become foremost in these things.
Let us carefully shape our system of education, perfecting it in all its departments Primary, Academic, Collegiate, Professional, and Scientific-let us build the necessary institutions, and co-operate with a generous liberality for the accomplishment of our grand undertaking; and the work we thus commence will be taken up by those who come after us, and, borne on as the State matures, till this whole Pacific slope shall be . inhabited by a refined, intelligent, and Christian people.
CONCERNING COMMON SENSE IN TEACHING.
DELIVERED BEFORE THE CALIFORNIA STATE TEACHERS' INSTITUTE, ON TUESDAY, MAY 5TH, 1863, BY JOHN SWETT, SUPERIN
TENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.
It is one of the highest compliments we can pay a man to say that he possesses good common sense. The article in question is certainly one of the most important qualifications of a successful Teacher. Call it “tact,” or “knack,” or “faculty,” or “gift," or whatever you please, it implies always a clear conception of things as they exist, and an adaptation of means to the end sought.
In broaching this subject, I feel that I may place myself in the situation of the learned divine, whose third and principal division of his discourse was “concerning that of which we know nothing." We do not propose to treat of a course of instruction for graded Schools, where children are presumed to be in regular attendance for a series of years, and where provision is made for a specifio course of learning for all the faculties of the mind; but to consider briefly those Schools remote from cities, and continued only a part of the year. What are they expected to accomplish, and what view should the common sense Teacher take of his field of labor? Many of our Pub. lic Schools, in the sparsely settled districts of the State, are kept less than six months in the year, and even then the attendance is irregular and inconstant. Pupils may be expected to attend School from the age of six to fourteen ; and allowing six months attendance in each year--a high average when one-fourth attend only three months of the year—the actual time at School will be reduced to four years. The question propounded by common sense is : What course of instruction will impart the greatest amount of useful information, and best fit the children for the duties of common life ?
Now, hardly any course of study or mental exercise can be sought out which shall be utterly useless. The driest and dullest style of memorizing musty text books, and the most parrot-like verbatim recitations, involve some thought, and are not without some advantages. The thoughtful man of wealth, who, in order that his son should not grow in idleness, compelled him to wheel a huge pile of stones from one part of his garden to another, and then wheel them back again, and so kept him wheeling them back and forth each day of the year, was wiser than the parent who allows his son to do nothing. But it would have been more sensible in the man of wealth had he set his boy at work upon some useful labor, which would have interested his attention, instead of keeping him engaged in unprofitable drudgery.
I cannot help thinking that sometimes in our Schools we set the boys to wheeling