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perhaps, hardly qualified to teach school themselves. Now which one or two among them all shall decide on the qualifications of teachers ? Why let every one decide on the qualifications of the instructers employed in his own parish. This is very plausible, but not at all practicable. The different parishes are made up of families from every part of the town; whereas the several school districts are, and necessarily must be, laid out without any reference to them. The same school district, therefore, may, and probably will, contain families, many or few, from every parish in the town. Then some one of the six ministers may decide upon the qualifications of instructers for the whole town, which those belonging to other parishes than his own would certainly not agree to; or each must be clothed with that power for the whole. What! will you allow the itinerant preacher, who has only stopped for a few sabbaths, or for a few months, to license instructers for the whole town? This is a result, which it seems must followi.
But the minister must be " settled.” Then comes the question what is a 6 settled” minister ? When we are not in the heat of controversy, we can understand such ambiguous language. But the laws do not define what constitutes a settled minister. The “ Cambridge Platform” is not the acknowledged law of the land, upon this subject. The parish, and any thing is now a parish, may define the mode, in which the relation between them and their preacher shall be solemnized. And who can interfere, and say that a preacher 6 settled” only by a vote of uplifted hands is not a minister within the intention of the school-law of 1789. The looseness of this law has, already, led to difficulties in some places, and the only reason it has not in more, is, that there is too much indifference to the subject of schools and teachers generally, to induce men to quarrel about them. We have a law indeed and a bench for justice ; but we have no judge, or rather any one judges, who chooses to do so.
Other considerations readily suggest themselves to all, who are acquainted with the relation subsisting between country clergymen and their parishes, why they should be relieved of the responsibility of deciding upon the qualifications of teachers. Experience has long since proved, that their decision does not ensure to the public competent instructers, which alone is sufficient reason why the duty of selecting them should be imposed upon others. The clergy were once the only learned profession and almost the only learned men in New England. Now, there are others. The task of deciding upon the qualifications of teachers is invidious, and those should perform it, whose usefulness depends least on popular favour.
The young man, who lays down his axe and aspires to take up the “ rod” and rule in a village school, has, usually, in common with other young men, a degree of dignity and self-complacency, which it is dangerous to the extent of his power to disturb. And when he comes to his minister, sustained by his own influence in the parish, and that of a respectable father and perhaps a large family of friends, and asks of him the legal approbation for a teacher, it is a pretty delicate matter to refuse it. A firm and conscientious refusal of approbation to a school-master, has led, in more instances than one, to a firm and conscientious refusal to hear the minister preach. And, by the parish difficulties growing out of so small an affair, he has found himself at last “ unsettled" and thrown with his family, perhaps in his old age, upon the world to seek and gain his subsistence as he may. This is truly martyrdom. And martyrs in ordinary times are rare. Even good men can make peace with their consciences on better terms. So much for the literary qualifications of instructers.*
It is the intention of the school-law to secure good, moral characters in the public instructers by requiring the approbation, as to this qualification, of the selectmen of the town, where the school is to be taught. No doubt selectmen are as good judges of morality as any body of men, which could readily be appealed to. But either we are a very moral people, or they are not very discriminating; for instances are rare, indeed, of refusal of their approbation on this ground. If a young man be moral enough to keep out of the State-Prison, he will find no difficulty in getting approbation for a school-master. These
* Since the original publication of these essays, in 1824, an act has passed the legislature of Massachusetts, which provides among other things that a committee of not less than five persons shall be chosen annually to superintend the schools of each town, and decide upon the qualications of teachers. So that the clergy, whether they happen to be of the committee or not, are now virtually relieved from the embarrassing duty which they have hitherto been obliged to perform.
things ought not to be so. Both the moral and the intellectual character of the rising generation are influenced more by their instructers, during the period of from four to twelve years of age, than by any cause so entirely within our control. It becomes then of momentous concern to the community, in a moral and religious, as well as in political point of view, that this influence should be the greatest and the best possible. That it is not now so, every one, I trust, who has followed me through my preceding essays, is convinced. And if something be not done, and that speedily, to improve the condition of the free schools, and especially the primary summer schools, they will not only fail of their happiest influence, but in a short time of all influence which will be worth estimating.
If the policy of the legislature, in regard to free schools, for the last twenty years be not changed, the institution, which has been the glory of New England will, in twenty years more, be extinct. If the State continue to relieve themselves of the trouble of providing for the instruction of the whole people, and to shift the responsibility upon the towns, and the towns upon the districts, and the districts upon individuals, each will take care of himself and his own family as he is able, and as he appreciates the blessing of a good education. The rich will, as a class, have much better instruction than they now have, while the poor will have much worse or none at all. The academies and private schools will be carried to much greater perfection than they have been, while the public free schools will become stationary or retrograde ; till at length, they will be thrown for support upon the gratuitous, and of course capricious and uncertain efforts of individuals; and then, like the lower schools of the crowded cities of Europe, they will soon degenerate into mere mechanical establishments, such as the famous seminaries of London, Birmingham, and Manchester of which we hear so much lately, not for rational, moral and intellectual instruction of human beings, but for training young animals to march, sing, and draw figures in sand,-establishments, in which the power of one man is so prodigiously multiplied, that he can overlook, direct and control the intellectual exercises of a thousand ! And this wretched mockery of education, they must be right glad to accept as a charity, instead of inheriting as their birthright as good instruction as the country affords. ESSAY VI.
OUTLINE OF AN INSTITUTION FOR THE EDUCATION OF TEACHERS.
I have now pointed to a few of the defects in our system of popular education. I have remarked upon the policy of the legislature of the State, in regard to it, as having the obvious tendency to depreciate the character of the free schools. I have also shown the looseness and confusion of our laws upon the subject, in a manner, which I trust has produced conviction, that they are now perfectly nugatory ; both as it regards the literary and the moral qualifications of the teachers. We have outgrown them as we outgrow the garments of our childhood. They might have fitted very well forty years ago, but they certainly look very awkwardly now. And it is high time they were thrown off, and something adopted, which may be more suited to the taste and character of the age. I have made some remarks upon the teachers of the free schools, both male and female, and it was my original purpose to go more fully into detail in the examination of their characters and qualifications in connexion with their duties. But I must now forbear, and take for granted, what it will be very easy to show if it should be necessary, their incompetency to govern and instruct the schools, so as to bring from them the happy results, which these same schools under better management are capable of producing. With these remarks I leave the business of fault-finding, which is sometimes a necessary, though always an invidious task.
The more agreeable, though perhaps more difficult part of my plan, remains, viz : to suggest remedies for supplying some of the defects, and correcting some of the abuses, which have been already pointed out. This part of the subject, too, “ branches out into an infinity,” which puts it quite beyond my power to go into detail. But, it is apprehended, this is not now necessary. It was necessary, however, to dwell at some length upon a few of the moraland political advantages of a correct system of education; and it was necessary to point out, somewhat in detail, the defects and abuses of our schools, in order to show that a reform was required,-a thorough and radical reform. But I am not visionary enough to suppose for a moment, that a change involving such important interests and consequences,--a change requiring such bold innovations upon established usages, as a new organization of our system of public instruction, however desirable it may be in inself, can be affected suddenly. I know that it cannot. It is a sound maxim, that reforms on all moral and religious subjects are slow and progressive. Political changes, too, unless they are affected by violence and revolution, are also slow. And there is no reason to suppose, that a reform in the organization of our schools, or in the principles of government and instruction adopted in them, is an exception to the general rule. But I am persuaded, that some changes and improvements in our schools are most necessary; and I trust they have been proved to be so. In order, therefore to complete the design, which I proposed to myself to accomplish in these essays, it only remains, to sketch in a very concise manner, how and where, as it seems to me, we should begin a reformation; the future being left to take care of itself. There will, no doubt, be opportunities to pursue the subject more at length, hereafter.
In this view of the general subject of popular education, all that immediately concerns us, is reduced to a very small compass. Two objects embrace the whole. First, to provide competent teachers; and second, to secure to the public their employment as such. Indeed, the latter of these objects is so entirely subsequent to the former, that we may fairly say, that we have, at present, to attend to but one single object, and that is, to provide competent teachers.
The character of the schools, and of course their political, moral, and religious influence upon the community, depend, almost solely, upon the character of the teachers. Their influence is strong or weak, just in proportion as the instructers are skilful or ignorant-energetic or feeble ; it is in this direction or that direction, just as they are imbued with one or another principle. So that whatever is done