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Governor Ellsworth introduced the subject of common schools in his message in 1838, in the following language:
It may be important, in the first place, to collect and lay before the public more statistics in relation to this subject; should this be done, liberal provision ought to be made for the purpose by the State; it will be seed sown for an ample and generous harvest. I believe it will be found that great improvements are called for in the construction and accommodation of our school-houses, in the qualification of teachers, the modes of instruction, the books used, and the general regulations and superintendence of schools.
We have a public officer whose special duty it is to watch over the pecuniary interests of our common schools, would it not be wise, if the General Assembly should in some suitable way, exercise a like supervision over instruction in those schools, at least so far as it relates to collecting information, and imparting knowledge, while the power of acting in view of these, is left as at present, with the parents and guardians of those who are instructed? Large sums are annually expended in providing private instruction, which practice has an unhappy effect upon public schools by dividing funds, which, if united, would help to sustain those schools where the children of the poor receive all the instruction they ever obtain.
At this session, information respecting the condition of the common schools was, laid before the Legislature by the Comptroller, in the form of returns from 104 out of 211 school societies in the State. As the particular attention of the General Assembly had been called to this subject by the Governor in his annual message, a select committee on the part of the House and Senate was raised, to whom these and other documents were referred. Among these documents were complete returns respecting every school society. and district in one county, and letters from school visitors, teachers, and friends of common schools in 105 towns, embracing nearly all which had made no returns to the Comptroller. In addition to this documentary and written information, one member of the committee had spent one month in visiting schools, and conferring with teachers and parents in three counties previous to the meeting of the Legislature; and several gentlemen interested in the improvement of schools presented their views to the committee.
With these sources of information before them, the committee came to the following conclusions as set forth in their report to the Legislature
That parents exhibit generally little or no interest in common schools by attending examinations, or otherwise ;
That school visitors and school committees, in some school societies, were not faithful in the discharge of their duties as prescribed by law;—
That poorly qualified and inefficient teachers were employed in the schools, and that the rate of compensation, viz., $14 50 for males and $5 75 for females, per month, exclusive of board, was
* Henry Barnard, member of the House of Representatives from Hartford.
not adequate to their deserts, or equal to the rewards of skill and industry in other fields of labor;
That the diversity of school books was an evil of alarining magnitude, there being not unfrequently in the same society 5 different kinds of spelling books, 24 reading books, 9 geographies, 7 histories, 6 grammars, 11 arithmetics, 5 philosophies, 10 miscellaneous books ;
That school-houses, in respect to location, structure, warming, ventilation, seats and desks, were very much overlooked;—
That many children of the proper age to receive instruction, did not attend any school; that this number, in 1837, was not less than 6000; that it could no longer be said than a native of Connecticut, of mature age, who could not read or write, was not to be found, for it was ascertained that several of the inmates of the State-prison at Wethersfield, and more who had been discharged from the county jails, on giving their notes for fine and cost of prosecution, were natives of the State, and yet could not sign their name, or read the word of God, or the laws of the State; and that there was reason to believe that there were more than one thousand persons over 16 and under 21, in 1837, whose education had been thus neglected.
In addition to these alarming facts, it appeared that private or select schools, of the same grade with the district schools, were established in almost every town in the State, and that in these schools less than 10,000 children of the rich and the educated were receiving the advantages of a better instruction, at an expense exceeding all that was appropriated for the other 60,000 or 70,000 children.
With these facts before them, the committee unanimously recommended a bill for a public act "to provide for the better supervision of common schools," which was passed into a law by the unanimous vote of the Senate, and with but a single dissenting voice in the House.
An Act to Provide for the better Supervision of Common Schools.
1. Be it enacted, &c. That his excellency the governor, the commissioner of the school fund, ex-officio, and eight persons, one from each county in the State, to be appointed annually by the governor, with the advice and consent of the senate, shall constitute, and be denominated the board of commissioners of common schools,
2. The board of commissioners of common schools shall submit to the General Assembly an annual report, containing, together with an account of their own doings; first, a statement, as far as may be practicable, of the condition of every common school in the State, and of the means of popular education generally; second, such plans for the improvement and better organization of the common schools, and all such matters relating to popular education, as they may deem ex
pedient to communicate, and said board may require the school visitors of the several school societies, semi-annually, returns of the condition of each common school within their limits; and they shall prescribe the form of all such returns, and the time when the same shall be completed, and transmit blank copies of the same to the clerk of each school society; and said board may appoint their own secretary, who shall devote his whole time, if required, under the direction of the board, to ascertain the condition, increase the interest, and promote the usefulness of common schools.
3. The school visitors in the several school societies, shall lodge with the clerks of their respective societies, such returns of the condition of each common school within their limits, in such particulars, and at such times as the board of commissioners of common schools may specify and direct, and said visitors shall on or before the first of April in each year, lodge with the clerk of their respective societies, a written report of their own doings, and of the condition of their several schools within their limits, for the preceding season of schooling, with such observations as their experience and reflection may suggest, who shall submit the same to the next meeting of said society, and said visitors may require of the several teachers to keep a register of their schools, in such form as may be prescribed by the board of commissioners aforesaid.
4. The clerks of the several school societies shall transmit to the board of commissioners of common schools, on or before the tenth day of April in each year, such returns as the school visitors may make, in pursuance of the provisions of the preceding section.
5. The school society committee shall not certify to the comptroller of public accounts, that the schools in their respective societies have been kept according to law, unless the provisions of the third and fourth sections of this act have been duly observed.
6. For the compensation of the secretary, provided for in the second section of this Act, the comptroller of public accounts is directed to draw an order on the treasurer for such sum as the board of commissioners of common schools may allow for his services, provided the same does not exceed three dollars per day, and his expenses, while employed in the duties of his office, to be paid out of any moneys not otherwise appropriated.
We can not close this rapid, but faithful sketch of the progress of the schools and school system of Connecticut from 1800 to 1838, with the same gratifying summary of results, which the former period presented. The schools had ceased to command the confidence of many intelligent citizens, and were no longer the main reliance of the whole community for elementary instruction. Private schools, not only for the higher branches of an English education, and for preparation for business, or college, but for the primary studies, were established in every town and society, and liberally supported, not only by the rich and educated, but by many who could only afford to do so, by making large sacrifices of the comforts and almost the necessaries of life, rather than starve the intellect and impoverish the hearts of their children. Taxation for school purposes had not only ceased to be the cheerful habit of the people, but was regarded as something foreign and anti-democratic. The supervision of the schools had become in most societies a mere formality-and the whole system seemed struck with paralysis.
IX. KARL CHRISTIAN WILHELM VON TÜRK
[Translated for the American Journal of Education, from the German of Karl von Raumer.]
KARL CHRISTIAN WILHELM VON TURK, was born at Meiningen, January 8, 1774. He was the youngest son of Chamber-president and High Marshal von Türk, who was of a noble Courland family, and in the service of the duke of Saxe-Meiningen. At his mother's death, when a boy of six years old, he was transferred to the family of his mother's brother, Grand Huntsman von Bibra, at Hildburghausen, where he was brought up with his cousins under a strict tutor. At seventeen and a quarter years old, without having attended any public school, he entered the University of Jena, where he found in his elder brother Ludwig, who had already been studying there a year and a half, a true friend and a pattern of industry and good conduct; and where he contracted a close friendship with several cotemporaries, amongst whom were T. von Hardenberg, known as a poet under the name of Novalis, and von Bassewitz, afterward Chief President and his own official superior.
After completing his legal studies, in 1793, he offered himself for an office under government in Meiningen, which had been promised him while his father was Chamber-president and his brother a government official, notwithstanding the strictness of the examination. What, however, his knowledge and capacity did not enable him to attain, he secured by means of a very ordinary social talent. During a visit in Hildburghausen, the Prince, then Duke Karl of Mecklenburg, father of Queen Louise of Prussia, found that he was a skillful ombre-player; and he took so strong a liking to him that afterward, upon receiving the principality by the unexpected death of his brother, he determined to fix him within his dominions. Accordingly, in the very next year, 1794, he appointed von Türk chancery auditor, and two years later, chamberlain and chancery councilor. In 1800, his official senior von Kamptz, afterward well known as Prussian minister, was appointed to a public station in Mecklenburg, and von Türk was appointed in his stead to take the oversight of the school system, with his judicial employments. The inquiries which his new place suggested to him drew his attention in such directions that he became gradually estranged from the occupations to which he had been earlier devoted.
In 1804, von Türk took a furlough for six months, visited various
schools, and made the acquaintance especially, of Olivier, Tillich and Pöhlmann, then distinguished teachers of the day. In the same year, he remained during some months, at Pestalozzi's institution at München-Buchsee, and made himself acquainted with his views, and with J. Schmid's system for geometry and mathematics. . He published the results of his stay with Pestalozzi, in his “Letters from München-Buchsee" (Leipzig, 1808); one of the most practical and useful accounts of Pestalozzi's method.
After his return to Mecklenburg, he could not resist his impulse to become a teacher. He gathered together a troop of boys, instructed them two hours daily and made teachers acquainted with Pestalozzi's method. During his educational journeys he had become acquainted with the prince of Oldenburg, and at the end of 1805, he was appointed to a lucrative office as Justice and Consistory Councilor in Oldenburg, with an annual salary of fourteen hundred thalers, (about $1050.)
In his new place he experienced the same impulse to exertion as a teacher and educator. Here also he gathered a troop of boys whom he instructed two hours a day; and he received into his house a number of young people, and gave them a complete education. These operations however did not meet the approval of the duke, who intimated a wish that he should devote himself wholly to the duties of his judicial station, and refused his request to be employed wholly in educational matters. This, together with the condition of Oldenburg (then threatened by the French,) which caused him much pecuniary difficulty, decided him to resign his place in Oldenburg and to give himself up entirely to the business of education.
In 1808, with some pupils, sons of a Bremen merchant, he went to Pestalozzi at Yverdun, and for some time instructed in that institution. His work, "Perception by the Senses," (Die Sinnlichen Wahrnehmungen,) is a fruit of his labors at that time in Pestalozzi's institution. But the situation of affairs there was unfavorable, and an increasing difference soon grew up between him and Pestalozzi. This decided von Türk to leave him and to establish an educational institution of his own at the castle of Vevay on the lake of Geneva. Here he lived amongst a small circle of children, but happily progressing in knowledge under his love and zeal. The financial results did not, however, answer his expectations, and he finally in 1814 transferred the care of the school to Latour de Peilz, at his castle not far from Vevay. Having offered his services to the Prussian monarchy, he was in 1815 appointed royal and school councilor at Frankfort on the Oder.
The course of instruction which he gave here in September of 1816