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respond with distinguished educators in Europe and in the United States, to procure information respecting schools.1
Charles Brooks, a man whose influence in Massachusetts was great, and who may be said to have prepared the way for the work of Horace Mann, did very much to disseminate knowledge respecting the Prussian system. He was primarily interested in establishing a normal school after the Prussian model, yet, during the campaign which he carried on for this purpose between the years 1835 and 1838 he did not limit himself to the consideration of the normal school alone, but sought to acquaint the people with the details of the German system of elementary education as well. His account of the return trip from England, which he made in company with Dr. H. Julius, of Hamburg, then on his way to America to study our schools, indicates the esteem in which he held the Prussian system:
A passage of 41 days from Liverpool to New York (with Dr. Julius) gave me time to ask all manner of questions concerning the noble, philosophical, and practical system of Prussian elementary education. He explained it like a sound scholar and a pious Christian. If you will allow the phrase, I fell in love with the Prussian system, and it seemed to possess me like a missionary angel.
When the doctor came to visit me at Hingham I told him I had been studying the Prussian system for six months, and that I felt called of God to try and introduce it into my native State. He rose from his seat, seized my hands, after the Hamburg custom, and said : “My friend, you are right; and I will help you all I can.” He consented to give an account of the Prussian system before the committee on education in our legislature. His delineations were clear and judicious, but so brief as led to no action.
I opened communication with M. Victor Cousin, the first scholar in Paris, with whom I had become acquainted in 1833. He approved most heartily of my plans, and sent me his histories of the Prussian, Hollandaise, and Bavarian systems of education, and especially normal schools. *
I studied his books thoroughly, and though I preferred the Holland system of governmental supervision, I concluded to take the Prussian system of State normal schools as my model and guide, and began my public lectures on the whole system in 1835.
Much depended on a right beginning. I knew that the common people would be more moved by one practical fact than by a bushel of metaphysics. I therefore wrote three enormously long lectures-namely, two hours each. In the first I described minutely the Prussian State system, its studies, books, classification, modes of teaching, government, rewards, punishments, etc.; a perfect catalogue of interesting facts. In my second I showed how this new system could be adopted in Massachusetts, and how it would affect every town, every school, and especially every family in the State; yes, I took it in my hands and carried it from house to house, showing the parents how it would benefit their son John and their daughter Mary. In my third I showed that all these great, practical Christian results could be realized by establishing State normal schools, and could not be realized without them; and therefore the proposed school reform must begin with introducing such normal schools.
1 Subjects and Courses of Public Instruction in Cities, in Special Report of the Commissioner of Education (1870), in Am. Jour. Ed., vol. 19, p. 509.
In his first public lecture on the establishment of the normal school Mr. Brooks made the following statement, which is in point: “From what I have learned, it is now my opinion that the Prussian system is to make a new era in the public elementary education of the United States.” And, again, in a review of the History of the Introduction of State Normal Schools in America (1864), Mr. Brooks concluded by saying:
The Prussian system, with its two central powers, a board of education, and normal schools, was not known in New England when I first described it, in public, in 1835; but on the 19th of April, 1838, Massachusetts, the banner State, adopted State normal schools by statute. Remembering well how the good leaven spread in 1835–1838, I say it was the Prussian system which wrought out the educational regeneration of New England."
Just at the time that Charles Brooks was laboring so diligently to incorporate in the Massachusetts system the results of Prussian experience, another man, John D. Pierce, in Michigan, also an enthusiastic believer in the preeminence of the Prussian organization, was laying the foundation for an educational system in his own State and building into it the best features of Prussian practice. It was mainly because of his suggestions to the chairman of the committee on education in the convention that framed the State government in 1835 that the article in the constitution respecting education was framed and provision made for the office of superintendent of public instruction. Mr. Pierce was appointed to the superintendency in 1836 and at once began the work of preparing a plan for a complete school system.
Before framing his recommendations, which were submitted in 1837 and which were approved for the most part, he visited the schools of New England, New York, and New Jersey. Prior to this, however, he had learned of the Prussian system through an English translation of Cousin's report. This report of Cousin's was first made known to the English-speaking people by Sir William Hamilton, who, in the Edinburgh Review, July, 1833, commended the report highly and quoted at considerable length therefrom. The next year (1834) that part of the report which treated of Prussian practice was translated into English by Mrs. Sarah Austin and appeared in London. A New York edition of the same translation was issued in 1835 and widely distributed. It was a copy of this edition which, falling into Mr. Pierce's hands, profoundly influenced him in framing the system he later submitted to the Michigan
1 For the foregoing extracts, and for his discussion in full, see Charles Brooks, “History of the Introduction of State Normal Schools in America." A pamphlet, printed 1864 (Boston), in Pamphlets on Education (U. C.), vol. 4, No. 4. Extracts given in Albree, “ Charles Brooks and His Work for Normal Schools ” (Medford, 1907).
2 Stowe, The Prussian System of Public Instruction and Its Applicability to the United States (Cincinnati edition, 1836) ; preface.
Legislature. In describing his entrance into public life Mr. Pierce speaks of this circumstance:
About this time (1835) Cousin's report of the Prussian system, made to the French minister of public instruction, came into my hands and it was read with much interest. Sitting one pleasant afternoon upon a log on the hill north of where the courthouse at Marshall now stands, Gen. Crary (chairman of the convention committee on education) and myself discussed for a long time the fundamental principles which were deemed important for the convention to adopt in laying the foundations of our State. The subject of education was a theme of special interest. It was agreed, if possible, that it should make a distinct branch of the government, and that the constitution ought to provide for an officer who should have this whole matter in charge and thus keep its importance perpetually before the public mind.'
Mr. Pierce's indebtedness to Prussia for many of the ideas which he worked out in the system which he organized is thus set forth by a later superintendent of the Michigan system, Francis W. Shearman, who, writing in 1852, said:
The system of public instruction which was intended to be established by the framers of the constitution (Michigan), the conception of the office, its province, its powers, and duties were derived from Prussia. That system consisted of three degrees: Primary instruction, corresponding to our district schools; secondary instruction, communicated in schools called Gymnasia ; and the highest instruction communicated in the universities. The superintendence of this entire system (Prussia), which was formed in 1819, was entrusted to a minister of state, called the minister of public instruction, and embraced everything which belonged to the moral and intellectual advancement of the people.3
In the same year in which Mr. Pierce was made superintendent of public instruction in Michigan (1836), the trustees of Girard College, Philadelphia, commissioned its president, A. D. Bache, “to visit all establishments in Europe resembling Girard College, or any others which promise to afford useful information in organizing it," and to prepare a report covering his observations. After two years spent in a careful examination of the schools of Great Britain and Europe, he submitted a voluminous report (1839). Those who were interested in such matters found in this report a wealth of detail relating to the educational practices of Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. Respecting the system of Germany, and particularly that of Prussia, he wrote:
Prussia is at present decidedly in advance of the other larger German States in the education of the people, especially in the manner and matter of instruction. As the various accounts which have been given of public instruction in Prussia have, in general, referred to the system more particularly than to the schools, I shall in this report touch more briefly upon the former and go more
1 Hoyt and Ford, John D. Pierce, Founder of the Michigan School System, p. 19. 2 Michigan Pioneer Collections, vol. 1, p. 38. 8 Shearman, Public Instruction and School Law of Michigan (1852), pp. 18, 19.
into detail in regard to the latter. By reference to their spirit and minute arrangements it is easy to see where they would apply as perfectly in a republic as in a monarchy.
In the same year (1836) the General Assembly of Ohio requested Calvin E. Stowe, professor of biblical literature, Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, who was about to visit Europe, to formulate a report upon the educational systems of the countries through which he might pass, and to present it to the general assembly. In accordance with this request his observations were laid before the thirty-sixth general assembly (1837), which ordered the report published and a copy sent to every school district in the State. In addition, the report was republished and extensively circulated by the Legislatures of Michigan, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The legislature of the last-named State alone printed and distributed 5,000 copies in the English language and 2,000 in German.? In this report, entitled “Report on Elementary Public Instruction in Europe,” particular attention was given to a description of the primary schools of Germany, especially to those of Prussia and Wurttemberg. It is interesting to note that at the time when Horace Mann and Henry Barnard were taking up their work of arousing the American people from their indifference toward the common school this report on the German plan of organization almost exactly sketches the American system as it subsequently developed.3
Henry Barnard in 1836 also visited Germany and spent several. months in the examination of schools. As commissioner of education in Rhode Island, and later in Connecticut, and also as United States Commissioner of Education, he did more perhaps than any other person to make known to the American people the fruits of the educational experience of European countries. Through his official publications, and particularly through the columns of his educational journals, he disseminated the facts pertaining to German practice very widely.
On account of his health Dr. Stephen Olin, later president of Wesleyan University, went to Europe in 1837 and spent three years in travel and in the examination of schools and other institutions. His journals and letters are filled with comments upon what he saw. Relative to the Prussian school system he wrote:
The Prussian system of education is certainly the most perfect in existence, whether the higher, the intermediate, or common grades of learning be considered.
In 1843 Horace Mann visited the schools of Germany and of other European countries. An account of his visit is given in his seventh
1 Bache, Report on Education in Europe (1839), pp. 6, 7. 2 See the Harrisburg edition (1838), p. 4. 3 This description is quoted, p. 36. 4 The Life and Letters of Stephen Olin, vol. 1, p. 324.
annual report to the board of education of Massachusetts (January, 1844). In this report he commended the organization and grading of the German schools in the following words:
I do not hesitate to say that there are many things abroad which we at home should do well to imitate-things, some of which are here as yet mere matters of speculation and theory, but which, there, have long been in operation and are now producing a harvest of rich and abundant blessings. Among the nations of Europe Prussia has long enjoyed the most distinguished reputation for the excellence of its schools. In reviews, in speeches, in tracts, and even in graver works devoted to the .cause of education, its schools have been exhibited as models for the imitation of the rest of Christendom."
And again he said, under the caption “ Classification":
The first element of superiority in a Prussian school, and one whose influence extends throughout the whole subsequent course of instruction, consists in the proper classification of the scholars. In all places where the numbers are sufficiently large to allow it the children are divided according to ages and attainments, and a single teacher has the charge only of a single class or of as small a number of classes as is practicable. I have before adverted to the construction of the schoolhouses, by which, as far as possible, a room is assigned to each class. Let us suppose a teacher to have the charge of but one class, and to have talent and resources sufficient properly to engage and occupy its attention, and we suppose a perfect school. But how greatly are the teacher's duties increased and his difficulties multiplied if he have four, five, or half a dozen classes under his personal inspection. While attending to the recitation of one his mind is constantly called off to attend to the studies and the conduct of all the others. For this very few teachers amongst us have the requisite capacity, and hence the idleness and the disorder that reign in so many of our schools, excepting in cases where the debasing motive of fear puts the children in irons. All these difficulties are at once avoided by a suitable classification, by such a classification as enables the teacher to address his instructions at the same time to all the children who are before him, and to accompany them to the playground at recess or intermission without leaving any behind who might be disposed to take advantage of his absence. All this will become more and more obvious as I proceed with a description of exercises. There is no obstacle whatever, save prescription, and that vis inertiæ of mind which continues in the beaten track because it has not vigor enough to turn aside from it, to the introduction at once of this mode of dividing and classifying scholars in all our large towns.
In John D. Philbrick, whose name will always be associated with the schools of Boston, of which he was made superintendent in 1856, the German schools had another influential champion. In 1847, as principal of the Quincy Grammar School of Boston, Philbrick organized, after the German model, what was probably the first city graded school in America. His reports as superintendent abound in references to German practice, and many of the innovations which
1 Mann, Seventh Annual Report, p. 21; also Report for 1843, in Life and Works of Horace Mann (Lee & Shepard edition), p. 240.
2 Mann, Seventh Annual Report, p. 84; also Report for 1843, in Life and Works of Horace Mann, pp. 302, 303 (Lee & Shepard edition); also in Am. Jour. Ed. (1860), vol. 8, P. 382,