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can scarcely understand how Englishmen live without their local daily paper. Hackney coachmen waiting for a fare, storekeepers waiting for a customer, travellers by rail, by boat, by 'bus, are all reading newspapers. A necessary appurtenance to every railway train is a boy traversing the length of the cars, now with newspapers, now with periodicals, now with yellow covered novels. But Americans do not only read newspapers. Every village has its library, and “standard” books are not standards on its shelves. Mr. Fraser tells an anecdote hereanent. A Harvard student, home for the vacation, wished to finish the third volume of Motley's “ History of the Dutch Republic." Going in search of it to the township library—the scene lies in Massachusetts-he finds it in use; and pursuing the inquiry further, learns from the register that it has been taken out by his mother's washerwoman. He goes to the woman's house, and asks her, “Is she through with the book ? or, if not, can she spare it to him for just two days ?” “Well," said the good housewife, “I can't just do that, for I am mightily taken with the book; but I'll tell you what I will do : I'll just put off my ironing till to-morrow afternoon, finish the book in the morning, and then I'll send it to you." And newspapers and books are not the only educational appliances and stimulants which the Americans enjoy. Lecturing is quite an “institution ” in the States. In the chief New England towns all through the winter season lectures of a high class draw large audiences, and bring large pay to those who deliver them; in many a village winter courses of lectures are organized, the expenses of which are defrayed partly by local subscription and partly by money taken at the doors, and these are the means of generating a sort of intellectual atmosphere, and of bringing farmers and storekeepers and mechanics face to face with some of their most distinguished living countrymen. In Rhode Island a sum not exceeding 500 dollars is annually appropriated for providing suitable lectures and addresses in the several districts upon the subject of schools and education; and in Massachusetts there is a special public officer whose office it is to give lectures and awaken an interest in education. But people cannot read newspapers, nor enjoy books, nor appreciate lectures unless they have been to school, and it is the Common School system that is at the bottom of all the intelligence and much of the prosperity of America. It is one of the most cherished institutions of the Northern States, and it is their glory.
Little more than twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrim fathers from the Mayflower, the general court of the colony of Massachusetts enjoined upon the municipal authorities the duty of seeing that every child within their jurisdiction should be educated. The “select men," or, as we should call them,“ town councillors,” were required to “have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbours, and to see that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to endeavour to teach, by themselves or others, their children or apprentices so much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue and obtain a knowledge of the capital laws, upon penalty of twenty shillings for each neglect therein." Other five years having passed, in 1647 an Act passed the Massachusetts legislature which laid the foundation of the present system of free schools. By this law every township containing fifty householders was required to appoint a teacher “to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read," and every township containing 100 families was required to set up "a grammar school,” whose master should be “able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the University.” Penalties were attached to non-compliance with these requirements-penalties which were increased and made heavier from time to time by successive enactments, and the forfeitures appropriated to the maintenance of public schools. When the first educational law was made the population of Massachusetts did not exceed 21,000 souls; now it contains a million and a quarter of inhabitants, and it has 334 townships, every one of which has its common school, a great part of them a grammar school, and 99 of them a high school as well. It is imperative on every township, however small the number of families it contains, to keep a common school open for at least six months in the year, which every child in the township shall have a right to attend, and in which shall be taught, beside the three R's, English grammar, geography, the history of the United States, and good behaviour. Algebra, vocal music, physiology, and hygiene, may also be taught by lectures if the Committee think fit. Every township containing more than 500 families shall also maintain a grammar school, in which instruction is given in general history, book-keeping, surveying, geometry, natural philosophy,chemistry, botany, the civil polity of the American Commonwealth, and the Latin language ; while in townships of 4,000 inhabitants there is also to be a high school, in which Greek and French, astronomy, geology, rhetoric, logic, intellectual and moral science, and political economy shall be taught. If any one supposes that the education given in these schools is slight or small, let him read the samples of examination papers to be found in the appendix to Mr. Fraser's report, and he will be undeceived. In Latin and Greek the boys in our public schools would no doubt beat those of the American high schools hollow; but how many of them would be able to "frame a de
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structive conditional syllogism,” to “give an outline in full of the method employed in calculating the duration and number of digits eclipsed in the next eclipse of the moon,” to “ define the calculus of variations, and state the principles on which it is based,” to “describe the special effects of mania on each of the cerebral functions," to "explain the ways in which a man can ‘die of his own hands without committing suicide,” to "give the true test of moral responsibility in cases of homicide,” to "state Hume's sophism and refute it,” to “state what are the special circumstances by which, irrespectively of the influence of capital, the wages of labour are affected,” to “define isomorphism," to "describe the trigonal trisoctahedron, and show how it is obtained from a cube,” to “explain the principle on which Bourdon's metallic barometer is constructed,” to define catalysis,” to “describe the physical conditions in a locality which are attended by the lowest mortality from phthisis,” or to “mention the functions of the first, third, seventh, and ninth pairs of cephalic nerves.” By training of this sort the Americans are made a practical people with a general understanding of the universe, while they are not left without real mental training, and solid instruction in the higher branches of learning. It is said that sometimes a Western farmer will stop his plough to discuss a theorem in differential calculus with a passer by.
The interesting question for us is, how these schools, in which the operatives, tradesmen, professionals—nay, all the inhabitants of the North, except the very rich, whose foolish vanity is now leading them to take their children away from the common schools and have them taught in private “academies," obtain their education, are supported. In every State of he Union in which the system of common schools prevails, there exists a State School Fund, in most cases primarily received from lands which have been set apart as an endowment. In all new States one of every thirty-six sections into which each township is divided, is set apart as "the school section;" this is afterwards either sold or let, and the proceeds capitalized. In New York this capital amounts to four millions of dollars, yielding for schools about 165,000 dollars annually. In other States it is, of course, not nearly so large, and this fund nowhere defrays a very large part of the expenses of the schools. In a financial point of view this subsidy is little worth, but it has been so administered as to prove a great stimulant to the general interest in the schools, and its distribution enables the legislature to enforce returns which keep the public informed of the exact condition of the schools. They are mainly supported by local taxation, for school fees are almost unknown. The amount of this taxation varies greatly in the different States, and in different
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parts of the same State, for the voters greatly vary in their notions of what is necessary to constitute an efficient school. One township contributed at the rate of eighteen dollars annually for the education of each child in it between the age of five and fifteen, while the other contributed less than two dollars a year. As a general rule in the Eastern States the ratio of the school tax to the whole sum raised for local purposes is about one-third. In New York two millions of dollars were last year appropriated out of the taxes for schools out of eighteen millions raised altogether. In Boston more than an eighth of the whole amount of taxation is devoted to schools. That these heavy taxes are borne so generally without complaint, and, indeed, that the amount appropriated to public schools keeps growing considerably year by year, is, remarks Mr. Fraser, "a proof, if proof were wanting, of the value which Americans attach to their system of education, and of their determination that it shall be efficiently maintained.” The management and control of the schools are placed in the hands of a school committee elected by ballot at the annual meeting of the townships. The committee choose the teachers, visit the schools every month, choose the books, and provide all things necessary for the good working of the schools. They appoint a paid superintendent who acts under their instructions. The system certainly results in obtaining for the American children a cheap education, whatever else it may do. The only burden is felt in the tax on the householder. So far as can be ascertained the average cost of the education of a child in the common schools is about £2 10s.; in the high schools about nine guineas; but this is an outside estimate, and in some places the education of a scholar does not cost more than twenty or twenty-five shillings a year.
Mr. Fraser was particularly struck with the adaptation of the American teachers for the work. They do not stay long at their posts generally, for they are poorly paid, and Americans are aspiring and like to change their occupations. “They certainly have,” says he," the gift of turning what they know to the best account : .. classes are not likely to fall asleep in their hands. . . they are a very fine and capable body of workers in a noble cause.” “An American teacher may be inmoral, ignorant, and in many ways incompetent, but he, and particularly she, could hardly be dull. I saw in America many inefficient teachers, but the drowsy dulness of the teachers, and the inattentive habits of the children, which characterize so many an English school, I never saw."
The school committee are obliged to see that“ no book calculated to favour the tenets of any particular sect of Christians shall be purchased or used, and to require the daily reading of some portion of the Bible in the common English version.” Mr. Fraser evidently thinks that this is a very poor substitute for the teaching of the Catechism in Church schools in England. He was “ painfully” struck with the fact that in America “identity in religious feeling or unanimity in religious habits or opinions appeared to be very little estimated as a constituent of domestic happiness, and it was not therefore likely that he would be pleased to find everything like dogmatic teaching forbidden in the schools. “The disjointed, inconsecutive way in which the Bible is read-to-day a psalm, to-morrow a section from a Gospel, the day after a paragraph from one of the letters of St. Paul-in all cases unaccompanied by a single word in the shape of note, explanation, or comment-cannot and does not amount to anything that can be called systematic religious instruction.” The prayers, too, with which the schools are opened, as might be expected, were not to Mr. Fraser's taste, but he owns that the scholars were always decorous and reverential during these opening “ exercises," and he stands up stoutly against calling the American system irreligious, though he says that it is sending men out into the world without any such. knowledge of the Bible and of Christianity as is essential to preserve them from infidelity. The following sentences are but samples of the good sense and candour which characterize Mr. Fraser's report throughout:
A most important fact has to be borne in mind. It is to the discords of Christians, and not to the irreligiousness of education, that this, which is considered to be such, I admit to be the capital defect of the American system (i.e., the absence of dogmatic teaching) is due. It is a remarkable circumstance that the schools from which the reading of the Bible is wholly excluded are just the schools where the heat of religious controversy, or, at any rate, the heat of religious feeling, has been the intensest, and the exclusion is charged to the objections of the Roman Catholic clergy alone. Not in America, at any rate, has a belief in the power of Christianity to touch the heart and guide the life ceased to possess many minds. The problem that vexes the minds of all these enlightened gentlemen—I believe I might say of all far-seeing American educators—is how to infuse more of the influence of religious motive and of the indoctrination of religious truth into the system without compromising, without surrendering, without breaking it down. And I am afraid that so long as Christians maintain there is no common platform of belief and obligation on which they can meet and consent that their children shall be taught, so long as there are keen and jealous tempers, quick to detect the first attempt to lift young hearts to a consciousness of a Father who made, a Saviour who redeemed, a Spirit who sanctifies them, and to brand it as "sectarianism,” so long must the American Common School system labour under the reproach-however ill-deserved—that it shuts out religion from its walls.
Yet Mr. Fraser elsewhere says that, sorry as he should be to give