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In conformity with the law of 1837, the Board of Education beg leave to present this their Twenty-Sixth Annual Report.
The melancholy event of civil war in our land has clearly developed three important facts. First, that in the midst of such a calamity, educational interests are liable, first of all, to suffer detriment. Second, that the true value of education to a community is revealed in a light not perceptible in ordinary times. Third, that the stability and prosperity of the State must be in proportion to the intelligence of its citizens.
When business is widely diverted from its ordinary channels ; and government, both State and National, is severely taxed to sustain itself; when in many States educational institutions are wholly, or in part, suspended, and their funds perverted to other purposes, the friends of human improvement will naturally inquire with increased interest, not to say solicitude, how far the cause of education has suffered in our own Commonwealth.
To answer this inquiry, we need to know the sentiments and action of the people for whose benefit the Public School System has been so long sustained, and by whose pecuniary contributions and continued interest in its prosperity it must be preserved. That no disturbing circumstances have caused a withdrawal of pupils from the schools, is shown by the report in relation to attendance, as exhibited in the “ Abstract of School Returns,” accompanying the Secretary's Report.
In 1860–61, the increased number on the whole attendance
over the previous year was, in summer, The increase was, in winter,
In 1861-2, the increased number was, in summer,
The increased number was, in winter, .
In 1861–2, the increased average attendance was, in
In 1860–61, the mean average attendance to the whole
number of children between 5 and 15, expressed deci
mally, was . In 1861-2, the mean average was
Not for many years, if ever, has the increased attendance over previous years been so great as during the last. The same is true of the ratio of mean average attendance.
Inasmuch as the support of the schools is dependent upon the voluntary contributions of the people, another point of interest is, to learn what amount of money they have furnished to defray the expenses of the schools for the current year.
From the “ Abstract,” it appears that,
In 1860–61, the aggregate returned as expended on
Public Schools alone, exclusive of expense of repairing and erecting school-houses and the cost of school books, was .
- $1,612,823 76 In 1861–2, the aggregate returned for the same was 1,637,376 13
Showing an increase over the previous year, of. 24,552 37
Five years ago (1857) the ratio of the mean average attend
ance to the whole number of children between 5 and 15, expressed in decimals, was
..70 The last year gives the ratio of attendance,
Showing an increase of six per cent. in attendance, in five years. Five years ago the sum raised by taxes for the education
of each child in the State, between 5 and 15 years of age, was
$5.82.9 The sum raised for the same purpose the last year, was
Then the country was enjoying the blessings of .peace, but suffering from a severe financial revulsion. Now we are in the midst of a fearful struggle to preserve our free institutions from ruin; we are taxed heavily in men, in money, in all supplies needful to carry on the war; yet the people press their children into the schools and freely furnish the means for their support. When the fact is considered that during this same year in which the citizens of Massachusetts have raised by a self-imposed tax the munificent sum of more than a million and a half of dollars for educational purposes, they have also contributed in aid of the Federal Government millions of dollars and scores of thousands of men to subdue an unrighteous rebellion, the evidence is positive that the people understand both their interests and duties, and will ever be found faithful to both.
The Board, in the performance of their duties, during the year, find other proofs strengthening their opinion that the interests of education have made gratifying progress. The Secretary of the Board, in the performance of his official duties, is brought into intimate relations with the leading educators of the State ; he is made familiar with the condition of the higher institutions, and the views of those under whose instruction and supervision they are placed in respect to improvements ; he holds frequent consultations with school committees in relation to all questions requiring authority or advice, not attainable in the immediate neighborhood where doubtful points originate; by visitation of schools he becomes acquainted with their modes of operation and the character and spirit of the teachers; in his attendance upon examinations of the Normal Schools, as also by occasional visits, in their daily processes, he learns the nature of their work and the power of their influence in the cause. His connection with the Teachers' Institutes, held in various sections of the Commonwealth, under his direct supervision, places him in contact with a numerous and important class of teachers, generally young and less experienced than a large proportion of the teachers in the State, for whose special benefit the Institutes were established. The opinion of the Secretary, formed from a survey of such a field of observation and from such a variety of sources, cannot fail to be valuable. His opinion fully confirms the favorable condition of the system of public instruction already expressed.
The Agent of the Board, Rer. B. G. Northrop, adds his favorable testimony. His sphere of action lies more particularly among the people at their homes; among the teachers in the school-room, and in their gatherings for mutual instruction. When not engaged in the exercises of the Teachers' Institutes, or lecturing in the Normal Schools, bis services are devoted to as many towns of the Commonwealth as he can visit during the year. He invites the teachers of a town to spend a day, in mutual consultation with himself, whereby he learns their methods, their excellencies and deficiencies; imparts to them such information as his experience and observation obtained elsewhere enable him to give. In the evening he invites the citizens to assemble, when he speaks to them on topics of general interest relating to the improvement of the schools, or enters into familiar conversation on local subjects proposed by those present. Thus employed he meets all classes, he sees the best and the worst sides of the school system, and gathers impressions and facts which no other individual can have so good an opportunity to obtain.
Mr. Northrop remarks that, “in no former year have I received so manifold tokens of sympathy and encourgement in my own peculiar work, from committees, teachers, and the people where I have labored."
Eight Teachers' Institutes have been held during the year; four in the spring and four in the autumn, in various sections of the State. Encouraging reports are received from them. The number in attendance has been larger than during any former year. The zeal and earnest spirit of the teachers present have been highly gratifying. These Institutes have been conducted by the Secretary and Agent of the Board, aided by an efficient corps of instructors and lecturers. It is made a prominent object, during the week's session of each Institute, to exhibit principles and their application, in the simplest, clearest manner possible, those relating particularly to the elementary branches taught in the Public Schools. Much general information is imparted also in relation to recent improvements and methods of teaching in the best schools. That the bounty of the State is wisely bestowed on