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TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICTS.
5. The substitution of the township school system in the place of the present district system. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, this system exists in whole or in part. In the first two States, the system is optional, and in Massachusetts 100 of the townships have abolished the districts as distinct organizations, and intrusted the entire management of the schools to the township school board. In the last four States mentioned, the school systems were completely re-organized to introduce the township system, after a trial had been made of the district plan.
In 1861, a bill was introduced into the Legislature of this State, authorizing the establishment of the township system in such townships as might desire it. The bill met with considerable favor, but, for want of time to perfect it, it was left among the unfinished business of the session. The plan proposed was simply that a township school board should be elected, consisting of six trustees, who should have the exclusive care and control of all the schools in the township, just as our city school boards have the control of all the city public schools.
The advantages claimed for the plan are chiefly these. Ist. The more equitable distribution of school privileges through. out the township which would be effected by a township board having the entire field to provide for. 2nd. The employment of better teachers. The township board would have more
. candidates to select from, and could better distribute the teachers employed, according to the character and wants of the several schools. 3d. The equitable apportionment of school funds, almost impossible under our present system, would be comparatively easy, as the whole amount would come into the bands of the township board and be expended by them for the general good. 4th. A more steady management and more stable support of the schools by a board so much weightier in influence and so remote from petty neighborhood quar
rels. 5th. The more effective supervision of schools possible under this plan. 6th. The convenience of organizing when
. needed, one or more central high schools for the township and the introduction thus of the graded system into the rural districts; and 7th. The securing of a uniformity of text books and teaching throughout the township.
Hon. Ex. Gov. Boutwell, late Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, in his annual report for 1859, speaking of Massachusetts, says: “It is unquestionably true that the best schools are found where the district system does not exist." " Nor is it true that more interest in schools is manifested where the district system exists, but the greater interest exists where good schools are found. The quality of the schools and the interest of the people act and react upon each other. A generous and intelligent public interest renders the establishment of good schools necessary and easy, and good schools are calculated to widen and strengthen and deepen the interest of the people. Therefore it is absurd in reasoning and false in history, to assume that a system under which poor schools are the rule and good ones the exception, is adapted to increase the interest of the people, in learning or in the institutions thereof.” To the same intent was the still earlier testimony of Horace Mann, in his 8th annual report as Secretary of the Board of Education, made in 1845. " Other things being equal, or, making due allowance for inequality in other things, the schools are now inva ably the best in those towns which are not divided into districts, but in which the school system is administered by the town in its corporate capacity."
Doubtless it were better, if this system is to be introduced into our State, that it should at once be made general; but no serious difficulty could arise from a permissive law like that of Massachusetts, which should authorize the townships so choosing, to make a trial of the plan.
5. There is another topic in this connection that is frequently brought to the notice of the Superintendent in the administratration of the school laws. It is the scattered and complicated condition of these laws. Passed by a succession of legisla. tures, in a long series of years, and confused by frequent and sometimes incompatible amendments and additions, made to meet the growing wauts of the schools, their original simplicity and harmony have been much impaired, and the administration of the school system under them has become much more difficult and uncertain. When it is reflected tbat this admistiation requires the co-operation of nearly fifteen thousand school officers, many of them inexperienced, if not positively ignorant, the necessity of some systematic codification of these laws will be evident. A revision and re-enactment of the whole body of the school laws is very much needed.
In making the “Statement of the condition of the University,” required by law, to be embraced in the annual report of the Superintendent, it is believed that the following brief history ol its origin and progress will exhibit, in the best light, the real prosperity of this institution. Our country can show no other instance of growth so rapid and grand as that which has attended this educational enterprise.
The University of Michigan owes its origin to a grant of lands, donated by Congress to the Territory of Michigan for the establishment of such an institution. As early as the year 1804, an entire township of land was reserved, by act of Congress, in that part of the Western Territory now constituting the State of Michigan, for the support of a University., This township was never located; and, in the year 1826, a new act was passed increasing the grant to seventy two sections, or two townships, of public lands. These lands were carefully selected, and from their sale has arisen the magnificent fund now amounting to $525,000, by which the University is chiefly supported.
In 1817, an ordinance was passed by the Governor and Judges of the Territory of Michigan, " to establish the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigan." It is not known
that any school was opened under this ordinance. In 1821, a new ordinance was promulgated by the Governor and Judges, repealing the former, and providing for the establishment of a University, to the support of which were devoted the township of land patented by act of 1804, and also three sections given to the College of Detroit by the treaty of Fort Meigs, made in 1817. Under this second law, a Lancasterian school and à classical school were maintained for some years in Detroit under the title of the University of Michigan. They were supported mainly by private subscriptions, and finally declined to the condition of private enterprizes, prosecuted on the sole risk and responsibility of the teachers. The University lands had not yet begun to yield any income, and the country was too new to sustain such an institution. On the establishment of the present University, the old one became the Detroit Branch, which, after surviving several years, finally fell with the other Branches.
The University of Michigan was not finally established till after the admission of this State into the Union. At the first session of the State Legislature, held in the summer of 1836, Rev. John D. Pierce was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction, and an act was passed instructing him to prepare a plan for a system of common schools, and for a University with its branches. A plan was accordingly prepared and presented to the Legislature at its next annual session, and on the 18th day of March, 1837, a law was approved for organizing and establishing the State University. Its government was vested in a Board of Regents to be appointed by the Governor and Senate, and it was made their duty to establish not only the University but also such branches thereof in the different parts of the State as the Legislature might authorize. An act, approved March 20th, 1837, located the proposed University at Ann Arbor, on a site of forty acres to be donated to the State for this purpose. But at this time only a small portion of the University lands had been sold, and the Regents were without
means to erect buildings or put the institution in operation. To remove this difficulty, a law was passed to authorize the borrowing of $100,000, on the bonds of the State, for the use of the University. With this sum added to its other means, the University buildings were erected, libraries and cabinets were purchased, and five branches (one each at Pontiac, Monroe, Kalamazoo, Niles and Detroit) were duly opened. For several years the attention of the Regents was bestowed chiefly upon the branches, additional ones being established successively at White Pigeon, Tecumseh, and Romeo. The University itself was not opened till September, 1842. For several years the institution labored under pecuniary embarrassments of a most distressing character. Frequent changes in the legislation concerning it, inexperience and visionary aims in its mauagement, added to the ordinary difficulties attending a new enterprise of such magnitude, conspired to render the infancy of the University as unpromising as its later growth has been surprisingly prosperous. The number of students reported for 1842 was only twenty-three; in 1843, it was fifty-three; in 1844, fifty-two. In 1850, in which year Dr. Tappan was appointed to the Presidency, the number had increased to seventy-two
The numbers reported in 1861 were as follows: In the College department, 273; in the Medical College, 242; in the Law School, 159; making a total of six hundred and seventy four. The attendance the past year was affected by the war, and instead of the large increase of numbers which was expected, the total number fell slightly short of that of the preceding year, being in all departments six hundred and fifteen.
The branches, after various fluctuations in numbers and prosperity, having exhausted the praises of all admirers of the plan, and nearly ruined the finances of the University, were finally abandoned in 1848, only four of the eight which had been organized, remaining in existence at that date.
The Medical Department was opened in 1850 In 1859 the Law School was added, and thus the University stood forth, complete in all the departments contemplated in the original