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Prayer by Rev. Jeremiah Day, LL. D., the venerable Ex-President of Yale College — 93 years of age.
O Lord our God, we would acknowledge Thee in all our ways. Thou fillest heaven and earth with the manifestations of Thine excellent greatness. We would praise Thee for the wise arrangements of Thy providence. From Thy throne in the heavens Thou art continually dispensing blessings to the world which Thou hast made.
We thank Thee that we are permitted to assemble on the present occasion. Grant us Thy presence and guidance; may our discussions be guided by the wisdom which is from above, may we be preserved from envy and prejudice, and may the arrangements which are made for the promotion of education be in the right direction.
Wilt Thou grant Thy blessing upon the literary institutions of this country; may those who are concerned in their instruction and government be faithful to their charge, and may they have the satisfaction of seeing the youth under their care make rapid advances in useful knowledge. May the youth be fitted to do extensive good in the stations to which Thou, in Thy providence, shalt call them; may they be under Thy protection and guidance; may they be educated for this life as well as for that which is to come; may the interest of religion have a place in their hearts above every other interest. May wisdom and knowledge be the stability of our times.
Wilt Thou bless our country with righteousness and truth and peace; abundantly grant us the presence and influence of Thy Spirit. Look in mercy upon the nations of the world; send abroad the knowledge of Thy salvation, and may Thy word be extended through the world. May all false religions be effaced from off the earth, and the kingdom of the Prince of Peace be established, and all Thy purposes be accomplished. And to God only wise be glory forever, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
QUESTION: The Free High-school System. Hon. Joseph White, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, was called upon to open the discussion on the above topic, and spoke as follows:
Mr. President, the announcement of the question upon the order of exercises sent to me was not confined to Massachusetts as a free high-school system; though, naturally enough, those from Massachusetts who talk about it, talk from their own stand-point. If we are to talk about the free high-school system or free high chools, it is natural ugh to inquire what we mean. And here I shall be pardoned for giving my idea of a high school as I find it existing in the better towns in my own State.
In the first place, it is supported from the public funds, by the people of the towns, precisely in the same manner as the ordinary common and primary schools are supported, and for the benefit of all the people of the town or city. It is an annual school, ordinarily its sessions occupying about forty weeks full long enough too, I think. It has a local habitation also, as well as a name. The experiment has been tried of making them, in some sort, peripatetic; for a part of the year in one part of a town, and for the rest of the year in another part. But this failed. It must be a fixture, and it must be in the centre substantially, so as to give the greatest good to the greatest number. It implies an appropriate edifice; it ought to be a handsome one. I use the word “handsome,” because it is a good word — with its audience-room, lecture-rooms, and recitation-rooms, its library, its cabinet of minerals, and specimens of natural history and of the better works of art, as some of our schools have. This school should be presided over by an able, thorough scholar, who has experience in the art of teaching, because he has made it a profession, and expects to get his living by it. No school can flourish without the whole energies of the teacher and a good corps of assistants, their number being proportioned to the requisites of the school and the liberality of the town. It implies further, admission to the school by rigid examination, of the same sort which is given in order to admit to college, and an arrangement of the studies in an orderly and logical course, embracing sometimes three, and sometimes six years, as in Boston schools, the classes entering and passing on precisely as they do in a college curriculum. This is the high school, as I speak of it.
What are some of the benefits of the high school-system ? My first reply to that is, that it gives a good education, in the cheapest possible manner, to all the pupils in the town. On any other system, the education acquired at the high school must be obtained by sending out of town, subjecting the parent or guardian not only to the expense of the school-taxes, but of board. Suppose a town has twenty scholars to be educated as the high schools of New England educate them, and they are sent out of town; it will cost, on an average, two hundred dollars per scholar for a year— more than that, probably, now. There are four thousand dollars; that four thousand dollars will support a first-class high school in a town of six thousand inhabitants, and educate sixty children in a year. It is cheaper, then.
And I think the education obtained there is better. My first position is, that it is better to educate children living at home than it is to educate them abroad — better morally, better physically, and ordinarily better intellectually. Our children are to come on life's stage, and perform life's duties ; and there is no such school as the family for this purpose. The Christian home is the place to educate children. There, if temptation comes, the wise counsels of the father and the tender love of the mother aid to push off temptation, and to raise the fallen if they do fall. Hence, I say, the high school is better than the school abroad, because children are educated at home. Indeed, I would have the study and the play and all the cares of the family go on together. I have seen children educated in that way, and I like it. I am perfectly well aware that there are families in which children cannot be well educated at home. It is sad that it is so. Some families are ignorant, and some are wholly devoted to the vanities, fashions, and ambitions of life. In such cases, let the children go from home; and the farther they go, and the longer they stay, the better. But as the whole responsibility and cares of the father and mother rest upon the children day after day and night after night till they go forth to take on themselves the duties of life, let the parents emulate the eagle, that takes its young on its wings, and teaches them to fly.
I say, ordinarily and generally, the intellectual education obtained at home is better than that obtained abroad; because the children come into schools where the town has the power, and does actually grade the pupils, as students are graded in colleges.
Again, I hold that one of the best things connected with the young men's education in our colleges is the attrition and comparison of mind with mind; and this we have in the high school.
Again, I hold that a better education is obtained where the boys and girls go to school together; better certainly for the boys, and I hope no worse for the girls.
Again, in high schools supported by the town, the eye of the town is upon the school. Every family that has a boy or girl in it is interested. It is therefore under a better supervision than that of any Board of Trustees. It is under the
supervision of anxious fathers and mothers, and a community proud of their position with regard to schools. This gives. an impulse which is not obtained elsewhere. Facts have borne out the statement made years ago by Dr.
that no pupils have entered our colleges better prepared than those who were fitted in the high schools. At Middletown, the other day, of those who graduated, the three best scholars, by far the best, were sent from high schools.
The influence of these schools is powerful upon the lower grades of schools, and therefore a benefit. And this is in two directions. In the first place, where they do not exist, and where the wealthy and upper classes, as they are termed, send their children out of town. What is the effect? It produces indifference with these people with regard to the public schools ; and where there is to be a vote on the subject of raising money for the schools, they vote for the smallest sum.
There is then indifference, if not opposition, to the schools of the town. Now plant a high school and then make it a good one, and the children of the rich and poor
will come together, and the rich and poor will alike have an interest in the school; no sum of money which is necessary will be withheld.
But there is a better influence than this. It is the direct influence upon the children themselves. Go into any town where the schools are graded, and you
will see the effect upon the pupils in the lower schools, who are looking up towards the high school as children used to be represented in the old Webster's Spelling Book, travelling up the hill, and looking to the temple of fame, on its summit. There is no need of whips in such schools, or any incitements. This is the influence that comes from the high school. If I had time I could read you sentence after sentence, from the supervisors of