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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BUREAU OF EDUCATION,
Washington, D. C., February 19, 1889. SIR: 1 have the honor to transmit the monograph on Federal and State Aid to Higher Education in the United States, prepared by Mr. Frank W. Blackmar, fellow in history and politics in the Johns Hopkins University, which represents the progress of the State idea in education from the foundation of the colonies. to the present time. It shows the' attitude of each colony and of each subsequent State toward colleges and universities, and recounts that part of the legislative and financial history which relates to advanced learning in the several commonwealths. The writer discusses the rise of national education, with its relation to local, and brings forward the opinions of statesmen and scholars concerning the duties and functions of the Government in public education. A brief history, accompanied by valuable statistics, is given of the various methods adopted by Congress to encourage and assist institutions of learning. But the main body of the work is devoted to the presentation in a condensed form of the plans pursued by the Legislatures of thirty-eight States in the treatment of higher education. The monograph represents a wide range of research, extending from the earliest colonial records and charters to the latest revised statutes.
Many inquiries of late coming from statesmen and educators for information on this subject, have created a demand for a work of this nature. There is a desire on the part of the scholars of each State to see what has been done in other States, that mistakes may be avoided by experience and the best plans and models followed. There is, likewise, a general desire for a closer study of school management and school systems, based on wider information and more careful comparison of methods and results. The financial and legislative history of education furnishes a foundation for such study and comparison. The successful management of the means of education is of prime importance; without this there is danger of complete failure. The control of the budget is the control of the State; this principle applies to institutions as well as to nations. State education has taken a strong hold, particularly in the South and West, but the problems pertaining to its management, its function, and its support, have not yet been fully solved.
To bring the results sharply and clearly before the reader, statistics have been used quite freely, while to bring the monograph in small compass much interesting and instructive material must be passed by which would find its way into a general history of education. Statistics and hard facts after all are the most enduring portion of history, and will remain, if collected with care and with a single aim to recount the exact truth whatever be the consequences, when the colored light that men have thrown on truth in the name of history has disappeared. "The statistician," says the Hon. Carroll D. Wright, "chooses a quiet and may be an unlovely setting, but he knows it will endure through all time." This monograph was written with an earnest desire to present facts, and not with a view to prove any particular thesis.
History of this sort ought to help us better to understand our educational work as it is; it ought to dispel illusions and fortify truth. As Americans we are accustomed to indulge ourselves in a largeness of sentiment that borders on boasting when we speak of our educational institutions. It is a favorite pastime with many to imagine that their particular local institution is the best in the State, or possibly in the nation, and that our system of higher education is equal if not superior to any in the Old World. The criticisms of men like James Bryce and the late Matthew Arnold, though strongly presented, are, in the main, true, and are exceedingly helpful toward a better understanding of our position. When applied to education they ought to goad us on to a higher culture and to a more elevated standard. It is idle to deceive ourselves by making our system appear greater than it is, while there are so many poorly endowed and half-equipped colleges and universities in our country, and so many thousand illiterate citizens among us.
To bring the work of the several States into comparison tends toward unity of sentiment and unity of design in education, and these make for patriotism and nationality. The influence of a single university, on the founding and organization of others, is well illustrated by such an institution as the University of Virginia or as the University of Michigan. A constant and persistent publication of the history of higher education in all of its phases will do more to harmonize our educational systems than almost any other thing. As a means of leveling local distinctions it is next to a university composed of men from all parts of the United States. Higher education needs to be centralized and harmonized.
One of the strongest inferences that may be drawn from this investigation is that in nearly every instance the foremost desire of the people has been for colleges and universities, rather than for schools of a lower grade. It was the opinion of the colonists and of the later settlers of the West and South that primary and secondary schools were essentially dependent for their existence upon higher institutions. This principle is borne out by the facts, for, then as now, wherever the best colleges and universities are, there will be found the best grade of pri
mary and secondary schools. It is not uncommon to hear persons speak of common schools and the university as if they were entirely disconnected, and what concerned one did not concern the other. Our fathers meant by a "common" or "free" school one that was open to all persons on equal terms, and not necessarily a school of low grade. The meaning of the terms has changed, but it would be well to return to their primitive signification, and consider all schools, colleges and universities, high schools, secondary and primary, whether State or nonState, as schools of the people; and to consider further that what affects one class affects all, and that to build up and strengthen higher learning is the safest plan for insuring the perpetuity of primary and secondary schools.
This monograph was prepared at the request of the Bureau of Education by the author, under the supervision of Dr. Herbert B. Adams, of the Johns Hopkins University, and is one of the series upon the history of higher education in the United States authorized by you. I respectfully recommend its publication.
Very respectfully, yours,
Hon. W. F. VILAS,
N. H. R. DAWSON,
Secretary of the Interior, Washington, D. C.