« ПредишнаНапред »
testant maxims of the sufficiency of the Scriptures, the right of private judgment in religion, and individual responsibility, are recognized and acknowledged by Protestants of every denomination, the forcible inculcation of any particular creed, in our public schools, would operate the grossest injustice, and the teaching of many creeds would introduce the wildest confusion. We consider that the sentiment of the American people on this subject has been ascertained, and that it is fixed. Wherever there has been an expression of opinion on the subject, and there has been a full one in all those States where public schools have been established at all, it has been nearly, if not quite, unanimous against the introduction of sectarian theology into them. In the Reports of the state of the schools in Michigan which lie before us, the question is propounded by the superintendent to the commissioners and principal citizens throughout the entire State,-“ Are you in favor, in your district, of the inculcation of a religious creed in the schools ?" and the answer from hundreds of individuals, entertaining a just and enlarged sense of the advantages of public education, and, indeed, from every individual to whom the question is put, in substance is, “We are opposed to the adoption of any such measure. It is impolitic, it is unjust, it is contrary to the genius of our institutions." But, in all instances in which this opinion is expressed in the most clear and forcible manner, the importance of moral instruction, and even of religious instruction, so far as it embraces the doctrines of a superintending Providence and human accountability, is rigidly insisted on, as forming an indispensable branch in any system of popular instruction, which has a proper regard to the permanent welfare and happiness of the rising generation. The judicious and religious teacher,mand every teacher should be a religious man,—may, without inculcating particular sectarian opinions, direct the minds of his pupils, with a fixed and steady purpose, to the great aims and ends where all religious knowledge should terminate. It is his high and responsible office, to unfold, step by step, to the opening mind of his pupil, the laws under which God has placed the universe, -in other words, to inculcate truth in relation to every thing that he teaches. Now, all truths, even those which are of an apparently inferior and earthly order, have a multitude of religious connections, not obvious at a superficial glance, but which tend to elevate the mind above the earth and sensible objects to the great Author of all things. It should be the aim of the pious instructor, in his teachings, to consider all truths, whether they relate to heaven or to earth, to the past, the present or the future, to man or to his Maker, to the mind or to the body, in their divine aspects,—their religious connections,—the only method by which dry and abstract principles can be endowed with a living power and energy,-be brought home to the affections of the soul, and be made to shed, over all the paths of duty, grace, attraction, light and joy. Under the domestic roof, at the parent's knee, in the house of God from the pulpit, in the lessons of the Sunday school, or in the denominational school or college, sectarian opinions may be properly taught, but the public sentiment of the country is clearly opposed to their introduction into the common schools, where parents, belonging to various conflicting sects, send their children, as to a kind of university, to be instructed in matters that are quite independent both of sects and clime.
Some dissatisfaction has been felt and expressed in Massachusetts, in respect to Mr. Mann's Report. It has drawn forth a reply from the Boston Teachers, which we have not seen, but from those who have seen it, we learn, that the impression at Boston is, that Mr. Mann has unnecessarily lauded foreign institutions, while he has not done full justice to the excellent ones that are to be found at bome; and that some of his views on important topics are rather fanciful than sound. It is very certain, that some of the best features of the Prussian system, and of other European plans of education, were long since engrafted upon our American schools, particularly those of New-England, and more recently those of New-Orleans, but it cannot be denied by any who are acquainted with the state of education throughout the coun. try, that Mr. Mann, on his recent visit to Europe, acquired much new and important information that may be turned to profitable account; and, if he have not paid a tribute to the vanity of the Bostonians, for the advances they have made in education beyond every other civilized people, it may be because a higher regard for truth than for popular favor, has caused him to be sparing of his praises. We think that no fair critic, who will candidly review this pamphlet, can justly say, that the views of its author are not, in the main, eminently practical, and enforced with great strength of argument. It is true, there are some unnecessary repetitions of leading ideas, and some of the topics do not occupy the place they should hold in a regular and logical arrangement, but, upon the whole, it is a noble Report, quite a scholarly production, equally thorough and satisfactory upon the prin. cipal matters of which it treats. We are glad to see that Mr. Mann no where reiterates and sanctions by his authority the fanciful idea, which was gravely announced some years since at Boston, as a rare discovery,-viz: that "education is a science;" or that other speculation, nearly equally amusing, that "a whole science is wrapped up in that mysterious thing, the infant mind!" Notwithstanding whole sheets of rhetoric, on these interesting topics, were read before “the American Institute," we are not aware that the world has been rendered a whit the wiser by these curious additions to the circle of the sciences.
The “Reports on the Free School System to the General Assembly of South-Carolina,” which form the second title placed at the head of this article, are documents of great interest and value, embodying, as they do, the opinions of many of the most distinguished citizens of South-Carolina on the great subject of popular education. Several of the Reports are very able. We presume they contain the best opinions of their respective authors, adopted after much reflection, and patient and thorough inquiry into the merits of the question. We are sorry that we cannot concur in the conclusions to which some eminent gentlemen have arrived, in respect to the principles upon which a system of common schools should be founded. We regard the policy of this State, in respect to the organization of her Free Schools, as seriously faulty from their very commencement. The distinguishing feature of the school system of this State, upon its first establishment, was the provision which it made for the education only of orphans and poor children. The State was a dispenser merely of charity to the destitute; and although, in the year 1811, the bounty of the State, as it is very properly called, was philanthropically extended to the children of all citizens, yet there is a strong inclination, on the part of influential individuals, to withdraw this boun. ty, which has been seized upon with an eager grasp by those who needed it least, and to distribute it again among the poor only,--a policy which would reduce the schools established by an enlightened and sovereign State of this Union, to the condition of mere pauper establishments. We have always entertained a very different idea of the nature and objects of these excellent institutions. In our apprehension, Free Schools, properly so called, should not be confined to a particular class, and that class, in every point of view, the least reputable and worthy, but should be free and open to every class in the community, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, and not less so to that large and respectable class which constitute the strength and dependence of every community, or what is usually called its “bone and muscle,”— we mean the middle class, including artisans, tradesmen, manufacturers, mariners, farmers, professional men with small incomes, and, in fine, all those persons, of whatever rank or calling, who derive an honest subsistence from the fruits of their own industry. Of the 6,762 scholars who, on an average, are annually sent to school, at the public expense, in this State, not more than 1000, or about one-seventh part,—as we learn from the Report of Mr. Bellinger,—are the children of necessitous parents ; and yet this gentleman recommends that the annual appropriation of the State for purposes of education should be increased to the sum of Forty Thousand Dollars, and be applied henceforth directly to the education of “none but poor orphans and the children of indigent and necessitous parents," which would give to every such child the sum of forty dollars per annum for his education. The annual expenditure of so large a sum in charity to the destitute, would certainly be an evidence of rare philanthropy on the part of the State, but would seem to be somewhat unjust to the citizens at large, from whose pockets the money is drawn, without any special benefits resulting to themselves except what might arise from the indulgence of humane and benevolent feelings. Nor would so lavish an expenditure of the public money be likely to meet the approbation of the people, when it is perfectly apparent that the judicious employment of four or five thousand dollars annually, would be amply sufficient to give to all the poor children in the State the advantages of a plain elementary education, provided they do not exceed the number estimated, viz: one thousand children. We are inclined even to think that this number is an over-estimate, and that, upon a strict inquiry into the circumstances of parents, it would be found that very many of those who are disposed to avail themselves of the charity of the State, are every way able, from their own means and resources, to educate their children without such assistance. In some portions of the State, where we should expect to find them in as large numbers as in any other, there are apparently few or no poor children. The present teacher of the Dorchester Free School receives the sum of five hundred dollars per annum, and a house to live in rent free, for the tuition of a single beneficiary; and although the commissioners, with a becoming degree of solicitude to carry out the intentions of the founder, (for it is an endowed institution,) have sought for proper objects of the charity, they have found none to share it with the isolated individual. Should the State return back again to the policy of mere charity or poor schools, she will be the only State in the Union whose provisions for the education of her citizens are predicated on so narrow and illiberal a basis. It is true that a somewhat similar plan of education for the children of the poor prevailed for a long time in Virginia, the education fund being derived from escheats of land, and militia and other fines, and lands forfeited for non-payment of taxes, but the good sense and enlarged views of the citizens of that noble commonwealth, have long since suggested the inadequacy and injustice of such kind of educational arrangements, and they have now adopted a system of Common or Free Schools, properly so called,-schools free and open to all, and making invidious distinctions as to none. Wherever, indeed, Common Schools are established at all in our country, they are founded on a purely democratic basis, recognizing the great American doctrine, that the advantages of intellectual culture should be freely extended to all citizens,-that all individuals, of whatever class or position in society, should have an equal opportunity to rise by their merits to eminence and distinction in the republic ; and we should sincerely regret that a State possessing the large resources of South-Carolina, and distinguished pre-eminently among her sister States by her attachment to democratic principles, should, in the organization of a system of schools for the rising generation, adopt maxims utterly at war with the principles of American liberty and singularly hostile to the liberal spirit of the age. We regard the Free Schools of Massachusetts as admirable models, which may be safely and advantageously followed by all the States in the Union :