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PLAN AND SCOPE OF THE PRESENT REPORT.
Past experience had proved that the scheme of the Annual Reports, as established in the practice of the Office for fifteen years, could not be combined with prompt preparation and early printing of the document. The task which the devoted and experienced organizer of these Reports had found so increasingly difficult of execution, appeared to me to be yet more difficult when his guiding and informing care was no longer available. A revision of the plan upon which the future Annual Reports of the Office should be made became, therefore, imperative.
I need hardly say that it was my earnest wish to preserve, as far as practicable, the spirit and essence of the labor, even if changes in its form became desirable.
I felt deeply responsible to the great body of American educationists with whom the Office held and holds such intimate professional relations, and tried to keep in view the objects in which they took an interest or about which they desired information. At the same time a due regard for the economical and ready presentation of facts made it possi. ble to avoid repetitions, to omit unimportant items, to consolidate related but hitherto separated facts, and to unite the discussion of statis. tical conditions with the tabular statements wherein they appear. By these means space has been saved. This fact has permitted the fuller discussion and presentation of special topics whenever such a course seemed advisable. Perhaps a short description of the first appendix in this volume will explain the foregoing remarks more effectually than any other form of statement.
The appendix in question presents statistical tables respecting the public school systems of the States, organized Territories, and the District of Columbia, with illustrative text wherein various points and topics are discussed and explained. The substance of these tables is in most parts similar to that shown in Table I of former Reports issued by this Office; but now an attempt has been made to apply some simple but useful statistical rules and methods for the purpose of supplementing and displaying the facts that are to be considered in order to facili. tate comparison of one State with another, and of this country with other nations.
Then follows a résumé of the general condition of public schools in the several States and Territories, drawn chiefly from the printed reports kindly supplied by the superintendents thereof. The appendix concludes with a somewhat elaborate abstract of the public school laws of each State and Territory, based on the latest editions and amend. ments obtainable.
The other appendixes in this volume are made upon the same plan, so that the facts, summaries, and discussions respecting any form of institution, or any grade of instruction, may be examined in connection with each other and studied together.
In Table 9 is given a summary of Table 8 by geographical divisions, and also a general summary for the United States. These sammaries enable one to see at a glance the principal features of the educational systeins of the different sections of the country brought into juxtaposition with each other, thus furuishing material for the study and discussion of educational questions in a more complete and general form tban has been before attempted by this Office. Care has been taken in working up these summaries to obtain the most accurate results which the imperfect data at the disposal of the Office permitted. It is my intention to have this mode of treatment of the returns received from the correspondents of the Office continued and extended from year to year, thereby furnishing to future educators and statisticiaus a ready means of tracing, so far as it can be done by statistics, the growth of educa tion throughout the country.
THE PEABODY AND SLATER FUNDS.
Some account of the sums disbursed by the agencies established by the late George Peabody will be found in Appendix VIII, page 651.
The results of the work undertaken by the trustees of the John F. Slater Fund, and other information relating to the education of the colored race, are given in the saine appendix, pages 650–654.
The condition of secondary instruction, its true province, its appropriate purposes, and the means by which these may be best accomplished, are at this time among the most prominent topics of inquiry and discussion in countries that take the lead in education.
Material collected during the last fifteen years enables this Office to present in systematic order the provision made for this grade of instruction by private schools, seminaries, and academies. It is, how. ever, impossible to set forth the ideal of secondary instruction which exists among us, to show how far this ideal corresponds with that of other countries, or how much the secondary schools of the United States are contributing, or are prepared to contribute to the solution of problems relating to this grade of instruction, without a fuller presentation of the public high schools of the country than has heretofore been attempted. Special efforts will be made for securing this additional information for use in the next Report. In this effort I hope to have the hearty co-operation of the school officers and teachers engaged in this particular department of public school work.
THE STATUS OF SUPERIOR INSTRUCTION. Seldom in the history of the United States have superior institutions of learning occapied so large a share of public attention or given signs of such vigorous and fruitful life as at the present time. In the category specified must be included not only the classical colleges and professional schools, but also schools of science,“ pure and applied," which have greatly increased the provision for superior instruction, extended its province, and borne an important part in the adjustment of its processes to the demands arising from the extraordinary increase of scientific knowledge and its applications to the leading industries of modern times.
A careful analysis of the work of individual colleges and universities, as set forth in their catalogues and in answers to special inquiries sent out by this Office, shows a gradation of functions not unlike that represented by the gymnasia, real schools, and universities of Germany, or by the great public schools, universities, and professional schools of England.
The union of professional schools or departments with colleges of arts and science is a characteristic feature of the organization of superior institutions in the United States. This relation operates, in some measure at least, to check the tendency of students to rush into professional training without the previous preparation of disciplinary study and liberal culture.
The theological profession exerts the largest influence in favor of thorough scholarship. The lack of this influence in the other professions is deplored by their ablest representatives, who are in hearty sympathy with the efforts made by the presidents and faculties of aniversities to raise the standard of professional training. The chief obstacle to the success of these efforts appears to be the length of time and the increased expense to the student involved in the more extended course. This difficulty, as repeatedly observed by the presidents of colleges and of professional schools, would be measurably overcome by endowments for the latter, which would make them less dependent upon tuition fees, and by adaptations of the undergraduate or graduate curriculum. The possibility of such adaptation is discussed by President Eliot, of Harvard University, in his report for the current year, as quoted in Appendix VI, page 471.
Efforts directed to the elevation of law and medicine are not, however, likely to effect any very decided improvement in these professions, unless the laws regulating admission to practice operate to the same end. As regards medicine, the present status of these laws is set forth in Appendix VI, pages 561-569.
Provision for special lines of study bearing upon the requirements for a high order of medical and legal service is a feature of university development in the United States.
Of equal importance, as touching one of the vital interests of national life, are the chairs of didactics, or pedagogics, whose influence is gradually but surely penetrating to every grade of instruction, imparting clearer conceptions of educational principles, inducing freer and sounder methods of instruction, and raising the ideal of popular education.