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[E ] LETTERS.
OFFICE OF SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
Boston, April 7th, 1863. Hon. John Swett, Superintendent of Public Instruction of California :
MY DEAR SIR:- I have received the copy of your “Circular” calling a “State Teachers' Institute,” to be held next May, in the city of San Francisco, which you had the kindness to send me.
You are aware that this is not the first educational document I have received from your State. I am not ignorant of what has been doing in your educational field for the past four or five years. The State and City Reports have come to me pretty regularly, and I have read them attentively. I was especially interested in the full: and valuable minutes of the proceedings of the former Institutes; and through corres pondence with residents, I have obtained considerable information respecting the: interests of education among you. By these means I seem to have become, to some. extent, educationally acquainted with your State. When I look at the map, I see that a continent lies between us; but when I think what you are, and what you are doing, you seem to be next door neighbors. Certainly we ought to feel and act as neighbors. We are fellow citizens. We are of one country, and own the same national tie. We are of one nation, and one people, and one tongue. Are we not, indeed, bound together by that “close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal protection ?-those ties which, though light as air, are: strong as links of steel ?”'
I know not how it is, but somehow, your Educators and Teachers seem to me like friends and brothers. It is perhaps natural enough that I should sympathize with you in your efforts and struggles to establish a broad and liberal system of public education, considering that I have been all my lifetime engaged in similar labors. It has been my fortune to work here, where society is already fixed and settled, and institutions are somewhat crystallized, and the task is that of preserving, and improving, and reforming—a slow, tedious, and sometimes discouraging labor.
Let me congratulate the Educators of the new Empire State of the Pacific on their good fortune in being called to a grander work—the work of laying the foundations of things, of building institutions and systems. If your privations are greater, your labors more arduous, your reward is higher, and the glory of your achievements brighter and more enduring. If to build States is the highest of the honors and dignities of man, the next rank, certainly, must be accorded to the builders and formers of those Institutions which are the only hope and stability of all free Governments. Let the education of a State-physical, moral, social, and intellectual—be right, and everything else will prosper. With such views, it is natural that as a patriot, as well as an educator, I should appreciate profoundly your noble efforts to place your State in the front rank of the educating States of the Union, which is the same thing as to place it. in the van of the civilization of the Union..
But let me return to the “ Circular ;” and let me say that it is a document which would do honor to any State and the Superintendent of Education in any State. I like its sentiments, and views, and plans. Indeed, I may say that I have no recollection of seeing a more comprehensive plan of a State Teachers’ Institute ; and if your Teachers know their own interests, and the interests of the cause in which they are engaged, they will attend it in crowds, and do all in their power to contribute to its
profit and success. Let the Teachers be true to themselves and to their profession; · let them show that they are willing to make sacrifices to fit themselves for their busi
ness; that they are wholly devoted to their work; and they will hardly fail to be duly appreciated and rewarded by the public. At any rate they will not fail of that reward
-the highest and best-which accompanies the consciousness of endeavoring to do one's duty.
To my mind there is scarcely any character more interesting than that of an enterprising Teacher-one who is bent on the largest self-culture ; who regards nothing as , done while anything remains to be done ; who is bound to know what he is to teach, and much more; who studies his profession; who buys books on education and reads them, and can boast of an educational library, or at least the germ of one ; who is a subscriber to not less than one educational publication ; who is on hand at all educational meetings within his reach—not to show how smart he is in making the worse appear the better reason, to perplex and dash maturest counsels, but to promote harmoný, and good feeling, and good fellowship, imparting and drinking in what is good; who feels that he owes a debt to his profession, and is anxious to discharge it by promoting its interests; who aims at the highest excellence, not only as a Teacher, but as a gentleman and a Christian ; who believes it to be his chief duty to labor for the improvement of his own mind and heart, and for the benefit of his fellow men ; such a man, though in the humblest Schoolhouse in the land, I look upon with respect and reverence.
Female Teachers are, of course, and must be largely in the majority. They are so here. But few of them, however, expect to spend their days in Public Schools, and therefore they cannot be expected to make that long preparation for the work which the man does who devotes himself irrevocably to it. But they have a natural aptitude for teaching, and I have known many who deserve to rank among the first educators. We have some in our Boston Schools whom, to describe, would be to enumerate every imaginable excellence of the female character; and I doubt not that you will have at your Institute“ more of the same sort."
But I only took up my pen, in the hurry of my pressing duties, to thank you, and congratulate you, and wish you success, and all sorts of prosperity ; and have run on to the end of the second sheet, having only room to assure you of the high regard and esteem of
Yours, very truly,
JOHN D. PHILBRICK.
OFFICE OF SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
Chicago, April 15, 1863.
Franklin, in his thirst for knowledge, expressed a regret that he was not born after the world had made another century of progress. We are permitted to rejoice in the possession of that which he so strongly coveted, and it is the proud distinction of our generation that attention has been directed in a very marked degree to improvements
in the science and art of education. We have seen the dim and flickering light of the first Normal School established in the Old Bay State, and we have lived to see Normal Schools spring up and flourish in nearly all the Northern States of the Union, and in several of the Southern States. Teachers' Institutes, general and local, are already organized in all parts of the country. Not content with these important steps of progress, the friends of education are now endeavoring to render the foundations of our noble School system still more secure, by introducing important improvements in methods of primary instruction.
I have watched with admiration the rapid and healthy progress of education in your Occidental State, and find abundant food for reflection in the relation you bear to the other Western States, and in the relation of all the Western States to the Eastern. If the newer States have received important lessons from the older, they have also shown themselves capable of emitting light that is not borrowed, and they may yet prove themselves competent to impart valuable lessons to their Teachers.
It is time that the new States should realize and exercise their own strength. Standing, as they now do, on the threshold of ages that are to cover these hills, and valleys, and prairies, with untold millions, it is meet that they should feel the responsibility of laying wisely and firmly the foundations of their educational structure. The voice of coming generations calls to us to-day, and demands that we weigh well the question who are to be the Teachers that shall mould the character and decide the destiny-not of the West alone, but through her, it may be, of our great American Republic.
California, young as she is, occupies a position of peculiar interest and importance at this forming period in the history of States. God speed you, my brother, and your co-laborers, in the great and responsible work to which your lives are devoted. Illinois and the other States, both West and East, expect much of you, and I am confident they will not be disappointed. With best wishes for the success of your State Teachers' Institute,
I am, yours very truly,
W. H. WELLS.
[Extracts from a Letter of Professor J. S. Eaton, of Andover Academy, Mass.]
April 11, 1863. } , Superintendent of Public Instruction :
DEAR SIR :- * * * * I rejoice in the evidences that your State, young in years, but already more than respectable in population, and great in material resources and all the elements of prosperity, is taking so firm a position for the elevation of her Teachers; and, through them, for securing and perpetuating an intelligent, patriotic, and high minded people.
“ Like priest, like people,” is an unquestioned aphorism, but it is no less true that “As is the Teacher, so is the School.” Maps, Charts, Text Books, and School Apparatus may be carried to any degree of perfection, but the excellence of the School depends upon the living Teacher, and unless he is high minded, enthusiastic, “apt to teach,” all expenditures for costly houses and School fixtures are of comparatively minor importance.
After a careful preparation of the Teacher for the responsible duties of his office by a thorough education, there is nothing to quicken and encourage him, like social intercourse in the Institute and the Association, the interchange of thought, and mutual communication of plans and modes of instruction. * * * *
I would be most happy to be with you and engage in the labors and share in the benefits of the Institute ; but distance and pre-occupation forbid. * * * *
Text Books adopted by the State Board of Education, for use in the Public Schools of California, in accordance with the provisions of section fifty of the revised School Law :
The law requiring uniformity in Text Books takes effect on the first of September, eighteen hundred and sixty-three. The series of Text Books recommended by the State Teachers' Institute, held in San Francisco, May, eighteen hundred and sixtythree, has been adopted by the State Board of Education, with only a few slight modifications.' The State Board do not intend that the adoption of a uniform series of School books shall involve any unreasonable expense on the part of parents; the whole design of the law is to save to the State some thousands of dollars annually. They therefore recommend that
wherever a good series of books is now in use, such as Sargent's Readers, Thompson's or Colburn's Arithmetics, Cornell's Geographies, or Greene's Grammars, the Trustees take advantage of the proviso, and ask to be exempted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; but, whenever new books are to be adopted, they must conform to the State series; and in Schools where there is no uniformity wbatever, the Trustees are requested to enforce the adoption of the State series. Sudden changes of books are not recommended by the State Board ; let County Superintendents, School Teachers, and I rustees, act with good judgment, and the law will be found a salutary one, which will result in the permanent good of the Schools. The importance of a good series of Text Books in Schools cannot be over estimated. The flippant remark that it matters not what book a good Teacher uses, will not stand the test of a sober second thought. As well say that a good soldier can fight as effectively with a shot gun as with an Enfield rifle. The adoption of a uniform State series of School books will add greatly to the efficiency of the Public Schools of California.
State Board of Education. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION,
May 15th, 1863.