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tration of to-day may have for its immediate and specific duty the completion of some great enterprise of internal improvement, the reorganization of the judiciary, or some other department of government, or the revision and codification of the laws of the State; but these duties are temporary and occasional, and pass away with the doing of them. But the paramount obligation of the State to provide for the education of each and every succeeding generation, grows out of an imperative and never-ending duty. If the ground and reason of this duty be demanded of us, we have only to answer, that it arises out of the correlative right possessed by the State to do, and require to be done, whatever is necessary for its orderly development and its highest good. And for these purposes the State is clothed with powers which it cannot omit to exercise, without moral guilt, any more than the individual citizen can neglect to employ the facilities with which he is endowed for his own welfare, and that of those with whom he is associated in the various relations of life. Now, it is among
the commonplaces of the subject to remark, that education tends to diminish or prevent vice and crime and consequent poverty, three formidable evils which imperil the safety and welfare of the State. And therefore, from the simplest application of the law of self-defence or self-preservation, arise the right and duty on the part of the State to provide for that kind and degree of education which will most effectually guard the State from the consequences of these primal and destructive evils. But the right and duty of the State to furnish the means of education to the people are not to be measured and limited by the law of self-preservation alone. It is not enough to teach the child to avoid vice; he must be taught what virtue is, and how to practise it. That would be a very defective system of education which should
expose the wickedness of crime, but fail to make manifest the beauty of loyalty to the State, and the duty of willing obedience to its laws, and a ready acceptance and performance by every citizen of his share of the burdens and responsibility of carrying the State forward in every virtue, and to all perfection.
Let us, then, proceed to consider what that education is, or should be, which it is the right and duty of the State to provide for, and in what manner that right is to be asserted and the duty performed.
It is, I think, no longer regarded as an open question in any of the States of this Union, certainly not here in New England, that primary education should be provided for in public schools, supported by equal taxation, or by a permanent fund supplied by the State, or in part by both.
But passing beyond the primary schools, we come immediately upon what some regard as debatable ground; for there are those, even among the professed friends of popular education, who deny the right to maintain by general taxation, or other appropriations of the public funds, high schools, technical schools, academies, colleges, and universities, which, though open to all alike, are never entered, it is said, except by comparatively few.
And now, leaving that part of the subject which is not a matter of controversy, to wit, the right and duty of the State to maintain schools for primary education, I affirm, first, that it has been the settled and prevalent policy of these States, as well as of the general government itself, to grant State or governmental support to schools of every grade, from the primary up to and including the university; and, furthermore, that this was the accepted theory and practice of the colonies before the States were organized as they now exist. And, secondly, I shall contend that this policy should not now be abandoned; but, on the contrary, should be continued and extended to meet the growing necessities of the greatly-enlarged and ever-expanding field of human knowledge and acquisition.
I should not feel justified in consuming the time of the Association, this morning, by reading the numerous extracts I have made from the laws and constitutions of the several States, and of the United States, in support of my first proposition. I shall, therefore, content myself with presenting only a small portion of the proofs from these ample sources of evidence. But first let me call attention to the large and liberal views upon the subject in hand, of some of the first minds who laid so deep and broad the foundations of these States, that no madness of faction, nor lawless spirit of revolution, has yet been able to overthrow them.
These wise builders of empire foresaw that the welfare and continued existence of the State demanded, not only that a knowledge of a rudimentary character should be widely diffused among the people, but that public provision should be made for the acquisition of those higher ranges and degrees of knowledge, without which the State can never attain that mighty growth and stature of an honest man, embraced in Milton's just description of what a State should become.
In his work on government, John Adams declares that “ the instruction of the people, in every kind of knowledge that can be of use to them in the practice of their moral duties as men, citizens, and Christians, and of their political and civil duties, as members of society and freemen, ought to be the care of the public and all
who have any share in the conduct of its affairs. The education here intended is not merely that of the children of the rich and noble, but of every rank and class of people, down to the lowest and poorest. It is not too much to say, that schools for the education of all should be placed at convenient distances and maintained at the public expense. The revenues of the State would be applied infinitely better, more charitably, wisely, usefully, and therefore politically, in this way, than even in maintaining the poor. This would be the best way of preventing the existence of the poor.”
Again, he says in the same work: “ Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant."
"A popular government,” says Madison, “ without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps to both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.. No error is more certain than the one proceeding from a hasty and superficial view of the subject : that the people at large have no interest in the establishment of .academies, colleges, and universities, where a few only, and those not of the poorer classes, can obtain for their sons the advantages of superior education. It is thought to be unjust that all should be taxed for the benefit of a part, and that, too, the part least needing it.
“If provision were not made at the same time for every part, the objection would be a natural one. But besides the consideration, when the higher seminaries belong to a plan of general education, that it is better for the poorer classes to have the aid of the richer by a general tax of property, than that every parent should provide, at his own expense, for the education of his children, it is certain that every class is interested in establishments which give to the human mind its highest improvement, and to every country its truest and most durable celebrity.
“ Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.
“But why should it be necessary, in this case, to distinguish society into classes according to their property ? When it is considered that the establishment and endowment of academies, colleges, and universities are a provision, not merely for the existing generation, but for succeeding ones also, – that in governments like ours, a constant rotation of property results from the free scope to industry, and from the laws of inheritance; and when it is considered, moreover, how much of the exertions and privations of all are meant, not for themselves but for their posterity,
there can be little ground for objections from any class to plans of which every class must have its turn of benefits. The rich man, when contributing to a permanent plan for the education of the poor, ought to reflect that he is providing for his own descendants; and the poor man, who concurs in a provision for those who are not poor, that at no distant day it may be enjoyed by descendants from himself. It does not require a long life to witness these vicissitudes of fortune." The views of Jefferson
the same subject may found clearly expressed in a bill early prepared by him for the Legislature of Virginia. It provided for a sys