Page images


To the Legislature of the State of Michigan:

In obedience to the laws, the Superintendent of Public Instruction respectfully submits the following


While war is abroad in the land, compelling us to the most gigantic endeavors in defense of our national existence, it may seem idle, if not even unpatriotic, to expect any large measure of serious attention to the ordinary affairs of the schools. A mandate of Divine Providence has ordered us to the front rank of contending nations, and engaged us in a conflict which absorbs into its own terrible channels almost the entire currents of our industries and our ideas. A generation thus called upon to struggle for its life and liberties, might well be excused if forgetful for a time, of the generations coming after it.

But the grand march of humanity stops not in its course even for war. From tne cradle to the coffin, the crowding columns move on with lock-step through the successive stages of life. Childhood cannot halt in its progress for returning peace to afford leisure for education. On into the years—to manhood, to citizenship, to destiny-it rushes, whether learning lights its path and guides its steps, or ignorance involves it in error and conducts it headlong into vice. And if in peace the school is needful to rear our children to an intelligent and virtuous manhood, how much greater the need when war, with its inseparable barbarisms, is drifting the nation from its on


ward course of peaceful civilization, back to the old realms of darkness of brute force.

The high and heroic aims of this conflict will doubtless miti. gate the evils which necessarily attend an appeal to arms. To say nothing of the physical health and prowess that camp life and military discipline will develop, the love of country and love of liberty will rise again from mere holiday sentiments to the grandeur and power of national passions, and the Union, made doubly precious by the blood which its maintenance will cost, will attain a strength that no mortal force can shake or destroy. History.will grow heroic again, and humanity itself will be inspired and glorified with this fresh vindication of its God-given rights and duties, in this new incaruation and triumph of the principles of constitutional and republican liberty. The too absorbing love of money, which has hitherto characterized us, has loosened somewhat its clutch, and been won to acts of genuine benevolence, at the sight of an imperiled country; and the fiery demon of party spirit slinks away abashed before the roused patriotism which lays life itself on the altar of liberty.

But with all this, the barbarisms of war are too palpable and terrific to be forgotten or disregarded, and the wise and patriotic statesman will find in them a more urgent reason for fostering those civilizing agencies which nourish the growing intelligence and virtue of the people. Against the ideas and vices engendered in the camps, and amidst the battle-fields, we must raise still higher the bulwarks of virtuous habits and beliefs, in the children yet at home. We shall need the utmost stretch of home and school influence to save society and the State, from the terrible domination of military ideas and military forces, always so dangerous to civil liberty and free government.


Never indeed have the relations of the schools to the State urged themselves more emphatically upon the attention of statesmen and philanthropists; for never, in our history, has the State had such need of true and good schools.

Not merely as a State gratuity to little children, or a State aid to families or neighborhoods—a mere subordinate or side interest to the great, busy, trading, and voting body of citizenship—are the schools to be regarded. He must be grossly ignorant of true state-craft, and of all the laws of national growth and prosperity, who so considers them. They are the channels through wbich the State of to-day transmits its civilization-its ideas and institutions to the State of to-morrow. Nay, more; the schools are the coming State. The State that is to be is now forming and maturing into power in the schools. Not only the men who are to control the wealth and plan the business enterprises, to fill the professions, to hold and execute the offices, and to rule through the ballot box—and the mothers who are to make the homes and mould the social life-are now in the schools; but the very ideas and principles of the coming State are there taking root, and being nurtured into strength, the integrity or the meauness that will guard or betray the public trusts, the energy that shall shape and limit the commercial and industrial enterprises, the virtues that shall adorn and bless society, and all that body of civilization which shall ci aracterize, and glorify or debase the future commonwealth. The mind power of the people—the power that creates and controls all other powers—is largely the product of the educational agencies that nourish its growth. How

may the State best foster and maintain the Schools? and How may the Schools be made to accomplish most for the State ? These are questions full of meaning and importance to every far-seeing statesman and philanthropist. Grand as is our school system, I can not refrain the belief that it is yet in its infancy, and that there lies in it a power for good but little dreamed of . even by its warmest and wisest friends. Through a truer and wiser education of its children, must the State cement its institutions, and society solve the mighty problems of social evil, the terrible sphinx riddles, that now lie so heavily upon it.

Leaving the discussion of the second of the above questions for another place, I beg leave to submit a few suggestions in answer to the first, for the



In former reports, the Superintendent recommended several essential modifications of the school system. Although hesita ting to urge their adoption in times like the present, he deems it due to reassert their importance, and solicit the attention of the legislature and of the people to them.

1. A more effective supervision of the schools by means of of County Superintendents in place of Township Inspectors. The arguments in favor of this change will be found stated at some length in the Superintendent's annual report for 1860.

2. A juster apportionment of the two mill tax so as to furnish a more equal support to the schools in each township. Though this tax is a township tax, under the present law the proceeds are so distributed that each district receives so much thereof as happened to be paid on property lying within the limits of such district; and this without any reference to the number of children to be educated in such district, or the necessary cost of its school. Under this unequal system, some districts have annually a large surplus of funds, while others are heavily burthened with rate bills. A change is much needed.

3. A regular and sufficient support of the district libraries. As the law now stands, the appropriation for libraries is made, if at all, by a viva voce vote, at the annual town meetings. T not only leaves the districts, as such, no voice in the matter, but commits the decision of the question to those who possess no knowledge or interest in the case; for certainly the people of the township at large cannot know what are the wants of each particular school district in it. Some of the districts may need, and properly desire, a library appropriation, while others do not. The law should be so amended as to give each district the power to decide for itself the amount to be apportioned from its funds for the purchase of library books. A still wiser and more effectual amendment would be, to set apart by law, as formerly, a stated sum for the support of the school libraies. It is greatly regretted that the same year in which the township libraries were distributed into district libraries, the regular appropriation for these libraries was withdrawn. These useful and important agencies of education are now declining for lack of support, and will, in many cases, disappear altogether if a change is not speedily made in the law concerning them.

The importance and value of the school libraries have been fully discussed in the former reports of the Superintendent. I cannot, however, permit the opportunity to pass without urging again the absolute need of a supply of sound and whole. some literature to aid and perfect the work of our publio schools. It is the uniform and emphatic testimony of every School board and teacher, in the districts in which the library has been well kept, that its influence apon the minds and progress of the pupils of the school, was of the happiest sort and highest utility. No wise educator will ever consent to dis

pense with it.

Our present library system is, in most respects, admirable. It needs only some sufficient and regular means provided by law for the replenishment of books to render it eminently efficient and useful.


4. A provision for teachers' classes or normal departments, in some of the high schools and colleges of the State, under the management of the State Board of Education, Such classes now exist in many of these institutions, but their usefulness would be greatly increased if thus recognized and controlled. The supply of competent teachers for our primary schools demands the adoption of some plan like this. For details of the plan I would refer to the reports of 1860 and 1861.

« PreviousContinue »