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The editor takes great pleasure in presenting this work to the public, as the first noteworthy attempt at a general history of education in the United States. It forms a tolerably complete inventory of what exists, as well as an account of its origin and development.
Ever since the Oracle uttered the admonition - Know thyself," civilized man has been slowly turning his attention to the importance of studying the deeds and institutions of his race. He finds in them a revelation of human nature altogether above and apart from the self-knowledge that comes to each individual through his own conscious
For in the history of deeds and institutions there stands out prominently the effigy of human nature in its essential outlines. In contrast to this the individual consciousness offers a picture in which the essential is obscured or obliterated by the complications of the passing moment, which assume undue importance.
Modern science has caught most fully the meaning of the Oracle It has become fully aware of the importance of knowing every object in the light of its history. How it began and how it developed must lead to a knowledge of what it is. The knowledge of a thing only as a dead result is very superficial. We learn what it is good for
by seeing it in the entire sphere of its action. This reveals its living force and character.
Practical knowledge, in the eminent sense of the word, is to be found in this study of history. The statesman or the teacher knows practically when he knows the trend of the system which he is to direct or manage.
As a mere inventory, the results of this history will at first surprise us. We see the broad scope of the educational idea—not merely its school course from the Kindergarten to the university, but its supplementary institutions, the library, the museum, the reading circle, the scientific association, the variety of special schools; the wide-spread impulse toward founding educational institutions, showing itself in all the colonies at the beginning, and increasing with the growth of the nation. All this becomes impressive only when seen in the solid mass.
But, more than all, the trend of the movement interests us as it becomes apparent through the contrast of beginnings with subsequent stages of unfolding :
1. We see everywhere a movement from private, endowed, and parochial schools toward the assumption of education by the State. The General Government, founded “to promote the general welfare," as the preamble to the Constitution recites, has fostered education from the beginning by extensive donations of lands. States first establish colleges and universities, and next free common elementary schools; and afterward gradually fill in intermediate links of the system, and then add supplementary institutions. By-and-by State systems of education for the unfortunates and criminal classes arise. Then special schools for the training of teachers, and the foundation and support of libraries and museums at public expense begin. Private endowment and religious zeal initiate new lines of educational experiment, and as soon as their utility to the general welfare is demonstrated they are adopted into the system of free education supported at public expense.
2. There is a trend away from isolated efforts and toward system and supervision. System has this advantage, that it makes supervision possible. It is the object of general superintendence to discover what is fruitful and promising in the work of individuals or localities, and to strengthen the whole system by making the adoption of these improvements universal. Each shall contribute something worth adopting by all, and, in turn, avail himself of their experience. In this lies the great significance of our national trend toward system.
3. There has been a trend in methods. This appears in several particulars, namely, in the adaptation of the matter of instruction to the mind of the child, so that he assimilates relatively more, and memorizes or stores up in an undigested form relatively less. This adaptation appears most noticeably in the instruction of the primary grades, and, next to this, in the advanced instruction in natural history and physics. The pupil is made to conduct his own researches, and is furnished the material for study. The methods also have improved, in the fact that they widen the investigation into collateral branches. Formerly each subject was isolated from its relations; now it is illuminated by light thrown on it from other provinces. The methods of discipline have generally improved. Corporal punishment has been very much diminished. The entire educational idea of the people has progressed in the direction of divine charity. The institutions for the education of women, together with the mentioned supplementary institutions for unfortunates (the deaf and dumb, the blind, the feeble-minded, etc.), and for the reform of criminals, the multiplication of means of education for the youngest children-all show this. Again, the opening of free public libraries, museums, and courses of lectures, shows the logical results of the democratic principle in the diffusion of knowledge. Teach the people how to read, and then furnish them what is best to read.
Our national Government bases itself on the ability of the people as people to govern themselves through the ballot-box. The history of education shows how it has seemed fit to make provision for the enlightenment of those citizens. It has grown clear in the process of ages that the only help which may be safely given to individuals or communities is the help that aids and increases self-help. All other help dwarfs the individual and weakens the State. Now, the only infallible aid to self-help that has been found up to this time is education which produces intellectual enlightenment and training in moral habits. This alone is a help that is good alike for sound and perverse. It improves the former and corrects the latter. This view of education has been seen by the fathers of the republic, and preached by the religious founders of our colonies. The conviction has become so generally prevalent that it has produced the joint action-private, national, State, and municipal—looking toward the foundation and encouragement of schools and supplementary institutions, recorded in this book. The patriotic will hope that the results reached are encouraging; at all events, whether gratifying or otherwise, the study of the facts is necessary and salutary to Americans interested in the welfare of their country.
W. T. HARRIS. CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS, May, 1889.
It is now generally recognized that any complete study of education must include the historical no less than the critical and practical phases. Neither can be left out of account. Wanting the theory, instruction becomes aimless; without knowledge of means, wasteful. But the teacher who presumes to work without an acquaintance with the record of his profession, is like a ship lacking log-book and compass-progress will be only a happening
And yet, of general histories of education, there are, in English, less than half a dozen, only two of which are more than primers. In these two, American schools receive the merest mention-eighteen pages in one, and two in the other. For the only other attempts at a notice of our State and municipal systems, we are indebted to foreign interest. Prominent among these are P. A. Siljeström's “ Educational Institutions of the United States” (1855); Rev. James Fraser's report to the Parliamentary Schools Inquiry Commission, on
The Common-School System of the United States” (1865); Francis Adams's “ Free Schools of the United States” (1874); and occasional statements drawn from educational exhibits and conferences at international exposi