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for attending our Common Schools, as he would be if payment were demanded of him for walking in the public streets, for breathing the common air, or enjoying the warmth of the unappropriable sun. Massachusetts has the honor of establishing the first system of Free Schools in the world ; and she projected a plan so elastic and expansive, in regard to the course of studies and the thoroughness of instruction, that it may be enlarged and perfected to meet any new wants of her citizens, to the end of time. Our system, too, is one and the same for both rich and poor.” p. 105.
This is the true policy in respect to Common Schools, and is at once both democratic and noble. We hope to see no other permanently adopted in South-Carolina,-a State distinguished for the intelligence and public spirit of her sons.
There appears to be a nearly unanimous opinion,—as far as it can be gathered from the documents before us,-that the present Free School system of this State is defective and inefficient. The chief objections to it are very fully and clearly stated by Mr. Bellinger, as follows:
“1. The money appropriated is not sufficient, if the present system is continued.
2. The money is not distributed among the several Districts and Parishes, according to any reasonable ratio. The A. A. 1811, allows $300 for each member. But this is very disproportionate, since St. Bartholomeus sends as many members as Barnwell.
3. Under the present system, after twenty-seven years trial, it has been found impossible to procure satisfactory returns of the expenditure of the money, or the benefits resulting.
4. The Teachers are, for the most part, incompetent-not even examined.
5. There is no uniform or judicious system of instruction. 6. The whole system is withdrawn from the public eye.
7. The efforts of the State, in the cause of education, however great, have been too diffused-not properly concentrated. 8. We want good School Books and a course of instruction.
9. The officers charged with the execution of the system are not paid.
10. There is no efficiency in the execution of the system. Although not perfect in itself, yet if it had been carried into effect, the State would have spent less money and educated (well) more scholars.
11. But I think it is a radical defect in the present system, that every citizen of the State is entitled to send his children or wards to any Free School in the District, free from expense. We have legislated for both rich and poor indiscriminately. The poor have not been benefited—the State has not been enlightened.
Hence, your Excellency will perceive that, in my opinion, a remedy must be applied to three evils.
1. However the State may, and ought, indirectly, to promote education among all her citizens, she should pay for the Tuition of none
but poor orphans, and the children of indigent and necessitous parents ;' each of whom should be educated at the expense of the State.
2. The money should be distributed so as to meet the wants of the several Districts and Parishes; which wants are not indicated by representation.
3. By some change of executive officers, we must give efficiency to the system, so as to insure its execution. At present, it is a paper system, and a very expensive system.
I have pointed out several other objections; but I regard these three as essential matters.” p. 30.
It is scarcely necessary for us to repeat, that what Mr. Bellinger considers one of the chief defects in the present system, we regard as its principal recommendation, viz: that it is popular in its plan, and extends the benefits of education to all citizens without distinction. Any change in this particular we should consider a decidedly retrograde movement.
Notwithstanding the numerous objections to the present system, which are generally recognized and acknowledged by the commissioners, there is a strong disposition to retain the system itself, as the best that can be devised under the circumstances, and to apply only a curative and reformatory regimen to existing evils. We should greatly prefer, we must confess, to see the whole system demolished, and a new one organized on a broad and liberal basis. Reforms are always slowly adopted, and are usually entered upon under very serious apprehensions, that the knife of the operator, which removes a diseased limb, will ultimately destroy life. In the present instance, several years have elapsed since the commissioners have resolved that amputation was necessary, and yet no solicitude has been manifested to proceed resolutely with the operation. The very respectable committee, to whom the Reports of the commissioners were referred, came to the comfortable conclusion, that however much was to be done some time, nothing was really to be done at present, and that the Legislature had nothing to do but meditate and compare notes,-a course of proceeding which reminds us strongly of the conduct of that spirited youth, immortalized by the pen of Lucian, who, under the apprehension that he would come to his death by drowning, heroically swore, that he would never touch the water until he had learned to swim. We very much fear that our Legislature is hampered, and is not free to act. When it begins to act in this matter, and to act with the energy that the im
portance of the subject demands, we shall then, and not till ihen, be relieved from these melancholy apprehensions. Liberty is power, and the power to act, whether morally or civilly, results only from action. If a people say that they are free, let them vindicate their liberty by their achievements!
But what is to be done? Shall we adopt the Prussian system ? Professors Elliott and Thornwell have decided against it, but we hope their decision will not be sustained by an enlightened Legislature,—by which remark we do not intend to reflect, in the least, upon the intellectual acumen of those distinguished gentlemen; but it is not given, we believe, to all wise men, to be equally wise at all times, and, in the present instance, we have sought in vain to discover the real grounds, upon which the objections which they have raised to that system derive force or application from the peculiarity of our condition. What are these objections ? “We have neither,” say they, “the dense population, nor the civil authority, nor the money, nor the teachers which it demands.” In respect to the first objection, we would remark, that the Prussian system is one of intellectual culture merely, characterized by peculiar modes of teaching, which are surely quite independent of the sparseness or density of population, and that the same argument may, if it have any force at all, be urged with equal pertinence against any system of education that can be devised for this country. As to civil authority, it will be readily admitted, that the governments of the two countries are essentially different in their features, but, at the same time, it will not be pretended, that the State of South-Carolina has not ample power to adopt, and carry out into successful operation, any system of instruction which, in its wisdom, it may deem most promotive of the public interests. But she has not, it seems, money enough! We would like, then, to be informed, whether the particular method of teaching adopted in our elementary schools, has any special connection with the higher or lower rates of tuition which prevail in them, and, if so, what that special connection is. We have never heard that the Prussian schools are expensive establishments, and we are satisfied, that, in our own country, good instruction can be procured on as reasonable terms as poor instruction; or, if it cost more in the first instance, that it will be found to be far cheaper in the end. This objection seems to have very little weight, and the last one, that we have no competent teachers, who are able to carry out the plan, may be met and obviated by procuring such teachers. The complaint as to the want of suitable qualifications in teachers, in the majority of our common schools in South-Caro. lina, is very general. The commissioners insist upon it, with almost united voices, as a great, a crying and an acknowledged evil. We must, then, have more competent teachers, whatever system is adopted. The true question at issue,—the only question, in fact, which, sooner or later, must engage the attention of our Legislature, is,—Which is the best system? Which will be most conducive to the welfare and advancement of the rising generation, and to the diffusion of sound learning, correct principles and useful information through our country? Which will be most congenial with the spirit of our free institutions ? Which best adapted to the nature of the human faculties, and to the laws which control all mental operations, and to the laws of moral and intellectual progress ? That system, whatever it may be, and from whatever quarter in the wide republic of letters it may have emanated, is the system, and the only one worthy the attention of an enlightened and patriotic people, engaged in the task of legislating for the highest and holiest interests of the human intellect. For our own part, after having examined the nature and bearings of many systems devised by sages and governments for the proper training of the mind, we are free to confess, that the Prussian system of education, with the single exception of the forcible inculcation of a religious creed, is, all things considered, the best system ever devised by the wit or wisdom of man to accomplish these great ends,-the most practical in its character, the most simple and luminous in its principles, the most diversified in the application of principles, and altogether more consentaneous than any other that can be named, with the present state of civilization throughout the world. At a period, therefore, when the public attention of the State is about to be called to consider and act on the great and paramount interests of education, we have thought it our duty to place this noble system, in all its length and breadth, in as clear a light as possible, before the public eye, in order that it may be thoroughly scanned and impartially estimated according to its merits.
The next best system to the Prussian, is doubtless that adopted by the Northern States of this Union, but its excellence, in our judgment, in nearly every case, results from its near approximation to the Prussian system, and where it is defective, the defect arises from its falling short of that high standard. There is nothing peculiar in the Northern system which recommends it to public favor, which may not be found even in greater perfection in the Prussian schools.
We should be very happy to see the State of South-Carolina take the whole business of education into its hands, and, regardless of difficulties, which are rather imaginary than real, proceed resolutely and promptly to the organization of a system of education for the entire State, of a broad, li. beral and expansive character, suited to the wants of our people and the demands of the age ;-one whose benefits should be extended, not to a single class, but to all classes in the community, without distinction as to poverty, moderate circumstances or affluence,-a system founded, in a word, on a purely democratic basis, and embracing all kinds of useful scholastic establishments, from the lowest elementary school up to the college. We should wish to see that admirable principle of a proper division of labor, which has been attended with such happy results in the European schools, engrafted upon the school system of this Siate. There should be a sufficient number of teachers appointed for the different branches of instruction taught in each school, to secure an equitable distribution of tasks, and, with a special reference to this end, as well as to the health, comfort and convenience of pupils, school edifices should be suitably constructed, and supplied with proper apparatus and furniture. As no system, however beautiful in theory, can be sustained without competent and efficient teachers, and persons not educated with a direct view to the profession, are often quite inadequate to the task of teaching which they undertake, we think the establishment of seminaries for teachers, first introduced into Prussia, and subsequently into several of the States of this Union, and attended hitherto with the most signally beneficial results in the large numbers they have supplied of thorough, able and accomplished instructors, cannot be too highly commended, or too earnestly urged upon the attention of the Legislature. We were happy to learn, a day or two since, that the Legisla