the very best persons who can possibly be procured, are put in as keepers of that inestimable, unutterable treasure, the children of the district.

Another provision of the late law requires the committee of each town to keep a record, in a permanent form, of all their acts, votes, and proceedings; and, at the end of their official year, to deliver the record-book to their successors in office.

If the affairs of the pettiest manufacturing corporation cannot be systematically nor economically conducted, without a sworn clerk, and the registration of every corporate act, must not the incomparably greater interests of the schools suffer, if all the orders and regulations of the school committees have no other depository, nor means of verification in case of dispute, than the uncertainty of human memory, and the faithlessness of oral testimony?


A far more important duty imposed upon school committees by the new law,-one which will form an epoch in the history of education in Massachusetts, is that of making to the towns, annually, a detailed" report of the condition of the schools, "designating particular improvements and defects in the methods or means of education, and stating such facts and suggestions in relation thereto, as, in their opinion, will best promote the interests, and increase the usefulness of said schools." The significance of this provision lies in the word "detailed." The reports are to be specific, not general. They are to expose errors and abuses, and to be accompanied by plans for their rectification. They are to particularize improvements, and to devise the means for their attainment. The mere fact of knowing that a report must be made at the end of the year, will attract the attention of committee men to a variety of facts, and will suggest numerous considerations, which would otherwise elude both their

observation and reflection. We are so constituted that, the moment we have a fixed purpose in our minds, there arises, at once, a sort of elective affinity between that purpose and its related ideas; and the latter will come, one after another, and, as it were, crystallize around the former. Besides, no man ever comprehends his own views clearly and definitely, or ever avails himself of all the resources of his own mind, until he reduces his thoughts to writing, or embodies them in some visible, objective form. To make a "detailed report," which is based upon facts, which will be useful to the town, and creditable to the committee, will doubtless require great attention and forethought. But if school committees perform this duty with half that far-reaching sagacity, that almost incredible thoroughness, which is always displayed by those town-agents who are chosen to employ counsel, and hunt up evidence, in pauper-cases, such reports will be most invaluable documents. And yet the manner in which this duty is performed will settle the question prospectively, for many a child, whether he shall be a pauper or not,-not the question of the body's pauperism only, but of the soul's pauperism.

These annual reports of the committees are by law to be deposited with the town clerk. They are to be transcribed, and the copy forwarded to the office of the Secretary of State, for the use of the Board of Education. Each succeeding year, therefore, there will be placed in the hands of the Board, three hundred reports, describing the condition of the schools, in every part of the State, with more or less particularity and ability, according to the intelligence and fidelity of the respective committees. It seems to me that selections may then be made,-if the work is not too great, of the most instructive portions of the whole body of these reports. Let a volume con

sisting of these selections be transmitted to every town in the State. Each town will then receive back its own contribution, in a permanent form, multiplied by the contributions of three hundred other towns. Such a course, if adopted, will make known to all, the views, the plans and experiments of each. It will be a Multiplying-glass, increasing each beam of light, three hundred times. I venture to predict that, hereafter, no document will be found to transcend these, in value, and in the interest and gratitude they will inspire. Posterity will here see what was done for them by their fathers. Surely, the interest inherent in these records, cannot be less than that which has lately led the Commonwealth to publish those Colonial and Revolutionary papers, which trace out the very paths in the wilderness, through which, under the guidance of the pillar and the cloud, our fathers came out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage. Compared with the bondage of ignorance and vice, Pharaoh was clement and his task-masters merciful.

Another provision of the law requires that Registers, in such form as shall be prescribed by the Board of Education, shall be kept in all the schools. As a means of collecting accurate statistics, registers are indispensable. They will also reveal a fact, to the existence of which the public eye seems almost wholly closed. I mean the amount or extent of non-attendance upon our schools, and the enormous losses thereby occasioned. In the hand of an adroit teacher, too, the register may be made an efficient means of remedying that irregularity of attendance which it discloses. If the school is what it should be, the remark will be literally true, that every mark in the register indicating a vacancy in the child's seat at school, will indicate a corresponding vacuum in his mind.

But, before I go on to speak of other provisions of the law, perhaps there may be a class of persons ready to ask,-" Why all this interference? Why this obtrusion of the State into the concerns of the individual? Are not our children," say they, "our own? our own? Who can be presumed to care more for them than we do? And whence your authority," they demand, "to fetter our free-will, and abridge our sovereignty in their management?" The vagabond, the drunkard, the monster-parent who wishes to sell his children to continuous labor,-who, for the pittance of money they can earn, is willing they should grow up without schooling, without instruction, and be used, year after year, as parts of machinery,-these may cry out to the Legislature,-" By what right do you come between us and our offspring? By what right do you appoint a Board of Education and a Secretary to pry into our domestic arrangements, and take from us our parental rights? We wish to be our own Board of Education and Secretary also." Such questions may, perhaps, be honestly put, and therefore should be soberly answered.

The children, whom parents have brought into this world, are carried forwards by the ceaseless flow of time, and the irresistible course of nature, and will soon be men. They are daily gathering forces and passions of fearful energy, soon to be expended upon society. The powers of citizenship, which reach every man's home and every man's hearth, will soon be theirs. In a brief space, these children will have the range of the whole community, and will go forth to pollute or to purify, to be bane or blessing to those who are to live with them, and to come after them. On the day when their minority ceases, their parents will deliver them over, as it were, into the hands of society, without any regard to soundness or

unsoundness in their condition. Forthwith, that society has to assume the entire responsibility of their conduct for life;-for society, in its collective capacity, is a real, not a nominal sponsor and godfather for all its children. Society has no option whether to accept or to reject them. Society cannot say to any parent, "Take back this felonbrood of yours; we never ordered any such recruits; we know not what to do with them; we dread them, and therefore we will not receive them;"-but society must equally accept them, whether they are pieces of noblest workmanship, inwrought with qualities of divinest beauty and excellence, or whether they are mere trumpery and gilded pasteboard, impossible to be thought of for any useful purpose. Now, in those cases from which the objectors draw their analogies, the circumstances are totally different. If I make a general contract with my neighbor for an article of merchandize, the intendment of the law is, that it shall be, at least, of a fair, merchantable quality ;—and if it be valueless, or even materially defective, in stock or workmanship, the law exonerates me from all obligation to receive it. I may cast it back into the hands of the producer, and make the loss wholly his, not mine. So if, for a sound price, I contract with a dealer to furnish me a horse for a specified journey or business, and he, instead of providing for me an animal suitable for the object stipulated, sends me an old hack, whose only merit is that one might study all the diseases of farriery upon him,-there is not a court or jury in the country but would make the fraudulent jockey take back the beast, and pay smart-money, and all the costs of litigation. But not so, when parents deliver over to the community a son who carries the poison of asps beneath his glistening tongue; or a daughter, who, from her basilisk eye, streams guilt into whomsoever

« VorigeDoorgaan »