Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

charge their duties, maintain and administer the laws, and to retain their constitutional rights. All nations recognize the necessity of educating the governing classes. In a Government like ours, either we must have officers unqualified for their duties, or we must be ruled by an educated and privileged aristocracy, or we must provide a system of public instruction which shall furnish a supply of intelligent citizens capable of discharging their various official trusts with honesty and efficiency.

If left to their own unaided efforts, a great majority of the people will fail through want of means to properly educate their ck ildren ; another class, with means at command, will fail through want of interest. The people, then, can be educated only by a system of Free Schools, supported by taxation, and controlled directly by the people.

The early settlers of our country recognized this vital principle by providing by law for Free Schools, and by making Schools and taxation as inseparably connected as taxation and representation.

It was reserved for the stern Puritans of New England to first recognize and carry into effect the right of every child to demand of society an education as the inalienable birthright of a freeman. And it is not inappropriate here to briefly revert to the early history of our American School system. Says Daniel Webster:

New England may be allowed to claim for her Schools, I think, a merit of a peculiar character. She early adopted and has constantly maintained the principle, that it is the undoubted right and the bounden duty of Government to provide for the instruction of all youth. That which is elsewhere left to chance, or to charity, we secure by law. For the purpose of public instruction, we hold every man subject to taxation in proportion to his property, and we look not to the question whether he himself have or have not children to be benefitted by the education for which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police, by which property and life and the peace of society are secured. We seek to prevent, in some measure, the extension of the penal code, by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an early age. We hope to excite a feeling of respectability and a sense of character by enlarging the capacity and increasing the sphere of intellectual enjoyment. By general instruction, we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere, to keep good sentiments uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. We hope for a security beyond the law and above the law, in the prevalence of enlightened and well principled moral sentiment. We hope to continue and prolong the time when, in the villages and farm houses of New England, there may be undisturbed sleep within unbarred doors. And knowing that our Government rests directly on the public will, that we may preserve it, we endeavor to give a safe and proper direction to that public will.

We do not, indeed, expect all men to be philosophers or statesmen, but we confidently trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government rests on that trust, that by the diffusion of general knowledge and good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as well against open violence and overthrow, as against that slow but sure undermining of licentiousness.

The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay had just escaped from a government which provided only for the education of the higher classes; which declared in the words of Charles the First, that “ The people's right was only to have their life and their goods their own, a share in the government being nothing pertaining to them;" and in nothing does far-seeing sagacity of those self-reliant men appear more conspicuous than in the wise forecast which led them to provide for the general diffusion of the elements of knowledge as the basis of a principle which is expressed in the Constitution of Massachusetts, as opposed to the declaration of Charles the First, in the following words : “ The people of this Commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent State."

A section of the Massachusetts Colony. Laws of sixteen hundred and forty-two, reads as follows:

Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Commonwealth ; and whereas, many parents and masters are too indulgent and negligent of their duty in that kind ; it is ordered that the Selectmen of every town shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbors, to see, first: that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to teach, by thenselves, or others, their children and apprentices so much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, upon penalty of twenty shillings for each neglect therein.

In sixteen hundred and forty-seven, this law was followed by another, to the end, in the words of the statute, " that learning may not be buried in the grave of our fathers in the Church and the Commonwealth,which required every town of fifty families to provide a Teacher to instruct all the children of the town in reading and writing, and every town of a hundred families, to set up a Grammar School, with a Teacher competent to fit young men for the University ; the expense of these Schools to be borne by the town, or by the parents, as the town should determine.

In sixteen hundred and ninety-two, the law provided that these Schools should be supported exclusively by tax levied on all the property of the town.

The Colony Laws of New Haven, sixteen hundred and sixty-five, provided that the “ Deputies of the Court" should have “a vigilant eye" over all parents and masters, “ that all their children and apprentices, as they grow capable, may, through God's blessing, obtain at least so much learning as to be able duly to read the Scriptures, and other good and profitable printed books in the English tongue, being their native lan

guage."

If this law was not complied with, the delinquent was fined ten shillings ; and if after three months, the offender failed to comply, the fine was doubled ; and then the magistrates were empowered to take such children and appretices, and place them till they became of age, “ with such others who shall better educate and govern them, both for the public conveniency, and for the particular good of said children and apprentices.”

In sixteen hundred and sixty-nine, the Colony of Plymouth passed the following laws:

Forasmuch as the maintenance of good literature doth much tend to the advancement of the weal and flourishing state of societies and republics, this Court doth therefore order, that in whatever township in this government, consisting of fifty families or upwards, any meet man shall be obtained to teach a Grammar School, such township shall allow at least twelve pounds, to be raised by rate on all the inhabitantå.

· The following is the old Colonial Connecticut Law for “ appointing, encouraging, and supporting Schools :"

Be it enacted by the Governor, Council, and Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the Authority of the same: That Every Town within this Colony, wherein there is but one Ecclesiastical Society, and wherein there are seventy House Holders or Families, or upwards, shall be at least Eleven Months in each Year Provided with and shall Keep and Maintain One good and sufficient School for the Teaching and Instructing of Youth and Children to Read and Write, which School shall be steadily Supplied with, and Kept, by a Master, sufficiently and suitably Qualified for that Service.

And, also, there shall be a Grammar School Set up, Kept, and constantly maintained in every Head, or County town of the several Counties, that are, or shall be Made in the Colony, Which shall be steadily Kept by some Discreet Person of good Conversation, and well Skilled in and Acquainted with the Learned Languages, Especially Greek and Latin.

For the support of these Schools, a tax of “Forty Shillings" upon every “Thousand Pounds in the Lists of the Respective Towns," was levied and collected.

Many of the wealthy counties of California levy, this year, a smaller School tax than was paid by the hard.fisted colonists of Connecticut.

The following preamble to an Act shows the germ of our national policy of reserving certain sections of Public Lands for School purposes :

And Whereas, the several Towns and Societies in this Colony, by Virtue of an Act of this Court, made in May, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-Three, Received by their Committees Respectively, for that purpose appointed, considerable Monies, or Bills of Public Credit, Raised by the sale of certain Townships, Laid out in the Western lands, then so Called, to be Let out, and the Interest thereof, Improved for the Support of the Respective Schools aforesaid, for Ever, and to no other Use: Be it Enacted, etc.

Connecticut now has a School Fund, derived from the sale of her Public Lands, of two millions of dollars.

In seventeen hundred and eighty-five, an ordinance respecting the disposition of the Public Lands, was introduced into the old Congress, referred to a committee, and passed on the twentieth of May, which provided that the sixteenth section of every township should be reserved “ for the maintenance of Public Schools."

The celebrated ordinance of seventeen hundred and eighty-seven, which confirmed the provisions of the land ordinance of seventeen hundred and eighty-five, further declared, that “ RELIGION, MORALITY, and KNOWLEDGE, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools, and the means of EDUCATION, shall be forever encouraged.

As the results of this noble policy, more than fifty millions of acres of the Public Lands have been set apart for the purposes of Education.

These few references to Colonial laws show how early in the history of our country these two fundamental principles were enuciated and adopted : That it is the duty of a Republican Government, as an act of self preservation, to educate all classes of the people, and that the property of the State should be taxed to pay for that education,

Simple propositions they seem, yet they have never been accepted in any other country but our own, and only in a part of that.

Other nations have National Schools, partly supported by Government, but with rates of tuition which virtually exclude the poorer classes.

Ours, only, has a system of Schools controlled directly by the people, free to all classes, without partaking of the character of Charity Schools. Even in our own country, the growth of this system was comparatively slow. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, only three States had made any constitutional provision for the support of Free Schools.

It was only a few years ago that the State of New York dispensed with rate bills, and made her Schools free.

California has not yet reached the liberality and democracy of the Colonial settlers of New England, for not one half of her Public Schools are Free Schools.

But within the last twenty years, all the great loyal States in the North and West have been perfecting their School systems, and making liberal expenditures for educating their citizens.

The army of the nation, now in the field, is mostly made up of the young men who have been educated in these excellent Schools.

The apathetic and lukewarm conservatives, troubling the Government at home, belong to the class who learned to read and write before the regeneration of the Public Schools.

Let us consider more particularly the first axiom : That it is the duty of a Republican Government, as an act of self preservation, to educate all classes of the people.

In a representative government, all forms of constitutional law spring from the people, and are changed at will by public opinion. If that is demoralized, public officers will be bad, and the Government will be bad. If public opinion is ignorant, demagogues will warp it to suit partisan purposes. The fountain cannot rise higher than its source; and the administration of the laws will not rise above the level of the morality of the masses.

Consider for a moment the various civil duties a citizen of the State may be called upon to perform. First and highest is the duty which is attached to the right of elective franchise. Intelligence must preside at the ballot box, or it becomes a partisan machine. The elector is virtually a tool and slave just so far as he is ignorant of the questions on which he votes. If ignorant voters elect knaves to office, the State pays the just penalty of neglecting to educate her citizens. Every citizen is liable to be called to the jury box. Are those light questions which twelve men are called upon to decide ? Questions of life or death, of character or reputation, of fortune, of real estate? Can ignorance and prejudice decide those questions legally and equitably? Would the real estate owner, with a hundred thousand dollars at stake, on which, perhaps, he has unwillingly paid a School tax, choose to trust the verdict to an illiterate jury in preference to one educated in the Schools which his property has in part maintained ?

Consider, again, all the minor official trusts which an ordinary citizen is called upon to fill—district, township, and county offices. Taken together, they make up no small share of the administration of government.

In the legislative department, is it safe to elect men poorly educated to frame the laws ? Any citizen may aspire to and reach the place, and the only safeguard is the general education of all citizens. And it must be borne in mind that while laws may remain unchanged, the intellectual and moral qualifications necessary for the discharge of the duties of a citizen of the State cannot be transmitted, like property, from father to son. They are personal, not hereditary, and must be taught anew to each generation. The work of the Schools is never done, and property can never escape continual taxation. This general education of the citizens of the State can only be secured by Public Schools. The rich will be educated under any circumstances ; education gives power-power, an aristocracy.

But the Public Schools must be of a character which will attract the children of the rich as well as afford an opportunity to the poor. Such Schools prevent the formation of castes and classes in society. The only aristocracy which they recognize is that of', talent-an aristocracy which always commands respect and wields power. Said a Boston Teacher, once, to a visitor : “That boy who has just received the first prize for scholarship, is the son of a wood-sawyer; and the boy who has won the second prize is the son of the Governor of Massachusetts."

It is often objected that Public Schools cannot educate high enough. Dr. Bushnell says:

The chartered privileges of education furnished by our Colleges can be more highly valued by no one than myself. But still it should be understood that an educated man is a MAN ALIVE. Many a boy who does not know Latin from Dutch, and has never seen any University but his mother's and the District School, having attained to the distinction of a living soul, is, in the highest sense, educated. Could this, which is the only just view of the case, be once established in the public mind, it would do much to encourage attempts at self-education, and would greatly endear the system of Common Schools.

Many years ago, in an obscure country School in Massachusetts, an humble, conscientious, but industrious boy was to be seen, and it was evident to all that his soul was beginning to act and thirst for some intellectual good. He was alive to knowledge. Next we see him an apprentice on the shoemaker's bench, with a book spread open before him. Next we see him put forth, on foot, to settle in a remote town in this State, and pursue his fortunes there as a shoemaker, his tools being carefully sent on their way before him. In a short time he is busied in the post of County Surveyor for Litchfield County, being the most accomplished mathematician in that section of the State. Before he is twenty-five years old we find him supplying the astronomical matter of an almanac published in New York. Next he is admitted to the bar, a selfqualified lawyer. Now he is found on the bench of the Superior Court. Next he hecomes a member of the Continental Congress. There he is made a member of the Committee of Six to prepare the Declaration of Independence. He continues a member of Congress for nearly twenty years, and is acknowledged to be one of the most

useful men and wisest counsellors of the land. At length, having discharged every office with a perfect ability, and honored, in every sphere, the name of a Christian, he dies regretted and loved by his State and Nation. Now this Roger Sherman, I maintain, was an educated man. Do you ask for other examples ? I name, then, Washington, who had only a common domestic education. I name Franklin ; I name Rittenhouse ; I name West; I name Fulton ; I name Bowditch ; all Common School men, and some of them scarcely that, but yet all educated men, because they were MADE ALIVE. Besides these, I know not any other seven names of our countrymen that can weigh against them. These are truly American names, and there is the best of reasons to believe that a generous system of public education would produce many such. Let them appear, and if they shall embody so much force, so much real freshness and sinew of character as to decide for themselves what shall be called an education, or shall even be able to laugh at the dwarfed significance of College learning, I know not that we shall have any reasons for repining.

To this roll of honor we might add a long array of public men and of scholars whose first impulse to self-education was received in the Public School: Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Stephen A. Douglas, Lewis Cass, Abraham Lincoln, N. P. Banks, Elibu Burritt, Horace Mann, and many others.

The second proposition is : that the property of the State should be taxed to educate the children of the State. The only just ground for taking any man's money for a public purpose is that the public good requires it. But, says some stiff-necked tax payer, “I have educated my children at my own expense;" or, “I have no children to educate; why should I be taxed to pay for educating the children of others ?"

But children arrived at the age of maturity belong, not to the parents, but to the State, to society, to the country. Government calls on them for the defence of the Constitution and the laws. Take the half a million of men now in the army; what are they doing but defending the property which has been taxed to educate them ? Without them, what would property be worth ?

Again: every able-bodied laborer adds to the wealth of the community; for the real wealth of a State lies in its amount of productive labor. Educated labor is more productive than ignorant labor. The testimony of all the mills, factories, and workshops of the world is, that intelligent artisans are far more profitable than ignorant ones. Raise the standard of education among working men, and the productive value of property is increased. Ignorance and idleness are companions; vice and ignorance are companions. Experience shows that the education of the masses affords better protection to good morals, and more security to the rights of property, than all the criminal enactments that can be made or the prisons that can be built. Intelligence makes labor respectable and honorable. Brute labor—the labor of the menial-is no more honorable to-day than when the unwilling millions toiled on the Pyramids of Eygpt. The intelligent brain gives dignity to the toil-hardened hand. But we may base the necessity for general education on still broader grounds. Every man born into the world to enrich it by his labor, claims an education as an inalienable right, as much as liberty, food, air, or light. Civilization is the result of the labors of all generations which have existed upon the earth. Our laws, our institutions, books, arts, sciences, and inventions, are mostly the product of generations which have preceded us. What a child-like generation ours would be were the printing press and steam power swept out of existence! The generation now living strikes its roots deep into the mental strata of the globe, and draws its nutriment from all past generations. As the miners gather the mineral wealth of our State, upheaved by the convulsions of great geological epochs which thrust up the broken ribs of the earth through granite crusts, so do we enrich ourselves with the wealth of past time uplifted by the convulsions of nations. Having been educated by the labors of preceding generations, we cannot escape the responsibility of educating those who are to succeed us. Every man who is indebted to society for an education, is in duty bound to discharge that debt by educating the child who is to succeed him.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »