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[No. 9.] Report of the Superintendent of public instruction, Office SUPERINTENDENT of l’ublic INSTRUCTION,
, } Marshall, December 30, 1841. To the legislature to be convened at Detroit, on the first Monday
of Januury, 1841: The superintendent of public instruction, pursuant to the requirements of law, has the honor to submit the following report:
The present being the fifth annual communication of the undersigned, and as the term for which he was last appointed is about in expire, it may not be deemed unsuitable, while reviewing the past, to suggest some things in regard to the future.
The constitution of Michigan was formed and adopted in 1835, and the state government fully organized under it, in 1836. This noble instrument lays a broad and permanent foundation for the instruction of all classes within the limits of this commonwealth. Our school system, which provides for the establishment of primary schools in every township, and a university, with a convenient number of branches, is based
The object is the instruction, the enlightenment, the colture, the elevation of the entire mass of the community. Most cer tainly, it is an enterprise worthy the highest consideration of an enlightened goverument; and in the prosecution and promotion of which, ail hearts and hands may engage and efficiently co-operate.
We must multiply our school houses, educate teachers, furnish books, procure libraries, and provide, indeed, all the necessary means of instruction for the whole population; or increase greally the number of our jails, penitentiaries, and standing armies; and then there be no peace or security to him who goes out or comes in. We must educate, or forge bars, bolts and chains. One system or the other, we must adopi-lhere is and there can be no alternative. Besides the experience of all the past-of all ages and nations, demonstrates that it is more economical, much less expensive, to educate the young and form them to high moral principle and honorable conduct, than to support paupers, restrain, imprison and panish aged criminals.
Besides, what a waste of mind, of intellectual and moral power, to suffer large nasses of people to grow up, ignorant of themselves, of their Creator, of their desiiny, of all that is noble and praise-worthy in a rational immortal existence. No matter when we look, or where we louk, man, without education, is degraded, is a slave, and rises but little in this life above
many of the lower creation. What were the living masses that followed Xerxes, or Tamerlane, or Brennus, or Attila ? They were human beings, but what did they know of their righis as men? Of their powers, obligations and duties, as free moral agents? In all ihose moving masses, and in multitudes of others in by-gone ages, there was little else than mere physical force. Hence they became, as they were fit for nothing else, the mere instruments of existing despotisms. They could kill, they could destroy; but they were not capable of leaving any other trace of their existence.
What a waste of intellect—what degradation—what poverty—what wretchedness!
If the people of Michigan, instead of bequeathing to their children the noble inheritance, derived from a high-minded intelligent, educated, moral and religious ancestry, wish to sce them cast down from that proud elevation on which they have stood, and become ignorant, debased and poverty-stricken, the dupes of a selfish priesthood, or the serfs of an avaricious oligarchy, or the fit instruments of an ambitious military despotism, they have only to dismiss their teachers, burn up their books and school houses, and abrogate all laws for the support of schools, and, in a few short years, the work is done.
As a state, we are but of yesterday; and on the day of our coming into being, we were thrown entirely upon our own resources and energies. We inherited no richly endowed esta. blishments or time honored institutions; all was to be formed, 10 be created anew. Besides paying a high price for our lands, we were obliged to build us houses, make roads, and do all else necessary to provide the means of subsistence. True, indeed, congress, evidently for the purpose of selling the balance, reserved from sale and granted to the state a certain amount of wild land for the support of schools. But whence its value? Inherently it has none, any more than the immense tracts of plain and forest adjoining the Rocky mountains. It is solely our capital-our labor, expended in the cultivation of the soil in the general improvement of the country—in the formation of republican institutions, and the support of government, which has given to that land. all its present value. Furthermore, the circumstances of the times have been exceedingly adverse. We commenced our career when the whole country was in the midst of the wildest scene of speculation, and have seen it sunk, in three short years, to the lowest state of depression.
Howbeit, for the time, much has been done towards promoting the great cause of education within our borders; more, indeed, than could have been expected. But though much has been achieved, much remains to be accomplished; and having put our hand to the plough, we cannot go back if we would. Vol. I.
If children, as is generally conceded, belong to the republic, then it is obviously the duty of the state to see to it that they are properly trained, instructed, educated. If so, then the property of the state ought to be held responsible for their education. They must either be qualified to take care of themselves, to procure, by their own labor, the means of subsistence, or the state must provide for them. This the state must do, if they cannot provide for themselves. But how can they do this, unless properly instructed in early life? In a pecuniary point of view, it is much cheaper to educate the young, than to support multitudes of paupers and an increased number of criminals. What a saving it would soon be to the British empire, were her pauper system exchanged for a system of primary school instruction, that should carry the blessings of education to every child in the kingdom. Few, indeed, are the men that have ever become paupers or criminals, who, in early life, were brought within the reach and under the sal tary influence of schools, books and teachers. It follows, therefore, that the property of the state ought to be held liable for the education of all within its borders, and on this principle every school system should be based.
As already intimated, much has been done; and it is perfectly obvious that the people of the state are determined upon the education of their children. This appears from their conduct. No sooner is a settlement formed, than a district is organized, and a school commenced. The reports of the present and last year, show that large sums have been voluntarily raised for the erection of school houses. True, many of them are built of logs, and might be taken by an unreflecting passerby from some of our large and wealthy cities, as evidence that little or no interest was felt on the subject of schools; but it is to be remembered, that these buildings, though rude they may be, are as good as the circumstances of a people in their infancy will allow-good, indeed, as their own dwellings. Though such school houses might justly be considered a disgrace to a long established and wealthy community, they nevertheless entitle the newly formed seitlements of our country to the highest commendation. They betoken a zeal worthy of all praise. Where did the primary schools of New England, whose system of instruction is now her pride and her boast, commence? In the rude cabins of our pilgrim fathers. Had they begun otherwise, though themselves educated, darkness would soon have settled down upon her hills, her mountains and her valleys, and gross darkness, long ere this, covered her people.
So with respect to ourselves as a state. The present popu- . lation are generally well educated; but how will it be with those who are immediately to take our places? who are soon
to succeed us in all the departments and responsibilities of life? Will they be fitted, intellectually and morally, for their respective stations? In regard to them, there is danger, owing to the peculiar circumstances and embarrassments of those who are now intrusted with their education. True, a good beginning has been made, but unexpected difficulties have arisen. These must be met and overcome, or we are thrown back in our own course, time only can tell how long. Should there be any relaxation of efforts, any suspension in the course of instruction, who can calculate the loss, or assess the amount of damages, to those immediately concerned ? Should a suspension, for a few short years, be urged for the purpose of providing the means of renewing the course with vigor, let it be borne in mind, that these few short years will suffice to bring the next generation upon the stage of life uneducated. Easy and short too, in this case, would be the descent to ruin; but to return, would require the labor and toil of many years. It depends solely upon us, upon our action at the present time, whether a race of men are to come after us, and occupy our seats, well qualified for a faithful discharge of the high trust which shall be committed to them, or be ignorant, debased and degraded.
Having taken high ground, it is of the utmost importance to maintain it. Patriotism, duty, humanity, our good name, and especially a due regard to the best interests of a rising race, and the perpetuity of our free institutions, all urge us onward. We have already gained a reputation, which it highly concerns us to preserve unsullied. The following highly complimentary notice of our educational plans and proceedings, is to be found in the “Introductory essay to the school library, published under the sanction of the board of education of the state of Massachusetts.” It says, “the young state of Michigan, which is pressing forward with such a vigorous march towards greatness, has secured the education of all her children by the provision of her fundamental law. The tenth article of the constitution of this state, directs the organization of a department of education, and appropriates the necessary funds. The fourth section of this article provides for the establishment of libraries. The legislature, with a praiseworthy promptness, have already, in the primary school law, made the provision enjoined upon them in the constitution.” However much we may have suffered in our credit, in a pecuniary point of view, if we can so move forward the great business of education, as to preserve our rank and character, which we have already gained, it will enable us, within a few short years, not only to regain all that we have lost, but to advance in our career of improvement more rapidly than any new state has ever yet done. If “education is the chief of our responsibilities, then duty forbids any cessation of efforts; and if
“ knowledge is power," then the furnishing the means of knowledge to the great mass of the people, is the surest way of enabling them to triumph over all ditficulties.
By reference to the last page of reports of school inspectors, it will be seen that the Elementary spelling book is used in 548 districts out of 626. The balance of the districts, 880, make no report of the kind of books used in their respective districts, but simply remark that the books in common use are studied. If the Elementary spelling book is used in the same proportion in these districts as in the others, it is used in about 1,335 out of 1.506 districts.
Out of 632 districts, Daboll's arithmetic is used in 304. Though this book may be correct in the main, yet the principle on which it is constructed is such that its use has little or no tendency to exercise and strengthen the reasoning powers of the youthful mind. Instead of developing the first principles on which the science of numbers is based, and which are of essential importance to be acquired, its teaching is merely mechanical. It lays down rules, and directs the pupil to solve his questions by a mere application of those rules, instead of so directing him as that he shall be able to institute a process of reasoning and know intuitively and certainly, when he is done, that his problems are correctly solved. This mode of instruction throws the young upon their own resources; gives them confidence in themselves; calls into exercise their thinking faculties; hence, whenever in the course of business, a question presents itself, independent of books and teachers, immediately a process of reasoning is instituted, and the answer obtained. Not so where the opposite mode of teaching is adopted. The youth who has been taught to solve questions by the mere application of rules, is forever after, dependent on his book and his rules. Whenever, therefore, in subsequent life, a question arises, the first thing for him to ascertain is, under what rule does this question come? If he guesses right-and certainly he has nothing else to depend on in this case but a mere guess—and has not forgotten any part of his rule, and proceeds in the operation according to the rule, he may find the true result; but he has no intuitive satisfactory evidence, as he proceeds step by step to this result
, that it is indeed the true one. The difference between these two methods of instruction, and their respective fruits, is as great as the difference between merely committing to memory and reciting, parrot-like, a mathematical demonstration, and understanding the proposition itself, and each step in the process of that demonstration. A young man who has studied thoroughly Colburn's first lessons, or some other mental arithmetic of the same extent, has a better knowledge of the science of numbers, and is better qualified to enter upon the active duties of life, than