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trate the value and necessity of an education that will emancipate
the unfortunate victims of such thraldom. Let no one be dis-
turbed by opposition originating from such sources, such dust only
indicates the passage of the train of real progress and substantial
reform. Perseverance in a wise course of effort- will ultimately



443

correct all these misapprehensions, silence such cavils and convert
all, but the incorrigible, into staunch and reliable advocates of a
system, that demonstrates the soundness of its principles by the
efficiency of its action.

Sufficient time has elapsed, since the inauguration of our pres-
ent educational policy, to reach results that may be regarded as
reliable data, from which to ascertain both its true merits and real
defects. Information, of the most reliable character on these
points, has been obtained from personal conference with trustees,
gathered from the current correspondence of the department, elici
ted by special inquiry and inferred from divers points of reference
and appeal, as well as from careful observation. It is proper to
remark, in this conne tion, that results substantially similar and
of a satisfactory character have been reached in all parts of the
State, wherever the system has been subjected to a fair, candid
and consistent test, and that the difficulties, that may have arisen
and the failures and disappointments, that may have occured in
some localities, can be traced almost invariably to a manifest per-
version of the principles, or an utter disregard of the obvious spirit
and import of the provisions of the Statute. These gross depart-
ures from the true intent of its mission have indeed marred its
usefulness in those localities where they have occurred, but the
system is not properly accountable for such results however disas-
trous they may have been. The brevity of the period of tuition,
hitherto enjoyed in our schools, is not a necessary result of the
principles on which the system rests, but the legitimate conse-
quence of a failure to give them ample scope. Emancipate it
from the thraldom of a one mill tax, and it will not only vindicate
its claim to the confidence and support of the friends of educa-
tion, but it will also demonstrate its competency for the work
assigned.



CHARACTERISTICS AND RESULTS OF THE TOWN-
SHIP FEATURE.

The township feature of supervision and control may properly
be regarded as a fit corner stone of an efficient system of popular
education. Its happy results cannot fail to commend it to the
coniidence of all who desire to see our youth properly trained,
morally and intellectually, for their coming responsibilities. It is
justly responsible for no disappointment manifestly originating
from gross perversion of its principles, or an utter disregard of its
obvious purpose. In theory, it contemplates the educational inter-
ests of the township being committed to three of the most intelli-
gent, zealous and experienced individuals in the corporation, men
whose prompting motive will not be the per diem compensation,
but the impulsive power of whose administration will be seen to



444

be something higher, purer and more patriotic. Any lack of cor-
respondence in our experience with this theory, may be readily
traced to that pseudo economical blunder, committed in the outset,
and not corrected in the revision of 1855. It must be confessed
that our school code practically admits, and almost inevitably in-
volves, a serious departure from the aforesaid theory, by the union
of other municipal duties with the supervision and control of the
educational interests of the corporation. This fusion of functions
has proved anything but desirable, and the results of the past four
years prove anything but its wisdom and economy. It is nothing
short of a sad blemish, a serious defect, a radical oversight, which
cannot be too speedily erased from the Statute. Were this mis-
take corrected and the school trustees a separate, distinct and inde-
pendent body, charged with these interests solely, very different
results would be reached in many of our townships. Let the
municipal and educational trustees be distinct boards, and then
the people can select men to fill these offices with reference to
their fitness for the specific duties they involve. There is no
economy of either time or funds in the union, but often the reverse.
The spheres are very unlike and the duties are correspondent.
There is not much affinity between taking care of the poor and
employing a teacher. There is not such a striking similarity in
the duties of supervising the roads and the visitation of the schools,
or the erection of school houses, as to require the union of these
dissimilar responsibilities in the same board. With equal pro-
priety and wisdom might the functions of the justice of the peace
and the constable be condensed into one dignitary with capacity
enough for both. .

The suggestions on this point, made in the third report of this
department have lost none of their pertinence and weight, and
the experience of the two years that have elapsed, has only con-
firmed their wisdom, demonstrated their soundness and illustrated
the necssity of their adoption. Had those suggestions been carried
out in their practical bearings, and incorporated in the revised
school law of 1855, the unfortunate results of their disregard would
have been avoided in many townships. Men would not have
been elected school trustees, whose interest in education was of
such a negative character as to permit them to leave school houses
unbuilt, because they had not the firmness to levy the necessary
tax, compel districts to procure their own teachers, or go without
schools, in order to save themselves the trouble and labor of that
duty, apportion the school funds on the per capita principle, or
divide them on the horizontal basis of equality, in utter disregard
of the requisitions of the 27th section of the revised school law,
suffer the township libraries to remain in the county auditor's office
for years undisturbed, or shut them up in some obscure place and
permit them to be seen or taken out only once in two weeks.
There should be no statutory apology for such results, nor legal
contingencies for such disasters. These infelicities are not the



445

legitimate results of the township feature of control, but the ap-
propriate fruits of our superior wisdom in improving it.

Though the principle did not originate with us, its character and
wisdom having been thoroughly tested by the experience of several
townships in the Bay State for a series of years, during the first
half of this century, yet Indiana has the unquestioned honor of
being the first State in the Union to incorporate it into her educa-
tional code, and she has also had the satisfaction of seeing an older
sister imitate her example. The legislature of 1852 wisely con-
cluded that in giving statutory form and authority to the follow-
ing article of our new constitution, viz : " Knowledge and learning
generaily diffused throughout a community, being essential to the
preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the
General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, in-
tellectual, scientific and agricultural improvement, and to provide
by law, for a general and uniform system of common schools,
wherein tuition shall be without charge and equally open to all,"
they could not more happily and effectually embody the spirit of
that portion of the fundamental law of the commonwealth, than
by the incorporation of the township element into our new educa-
tional code. There is no one feature of our school system in more
striking and manifest harmony with the aforesaid article of our
constitution than the one under consideration. What nearer
approximation to uniformity could there be in this elementary
republic, than the supervision and control of its schools by a board
chosen for this express purpose ? What happier device could be
adopted to secure a wise and judicious selection of teachers and a
competent and reliable supervision of the schools? What method
more ju3t and equitable could be devised to ensure an equal par-
ticipation of the educational blessings provided by the State, on
the part of all the youth of the corporation, than the provisions of
the 27th section?

There is also a striking harmony and resemblance in the fiscal
arrangements of the townships and the State to meet their respect-
ive educational obligations. As the superior corporation, the
commonwealth, furnishes the pecuniary means for tuition irre-
spective of township lines, or county boundaries, so the inferior
body politic, the township, should provide the physical accommo-
dations on the same principle. If the tuition be furnished by a
tax on the property and polls of the State, wherever they be found,
and the proceeds of that assessment be disbursed, wherever the
intellects and hearts, to be developed and cultivated, may be
located, then the school houses, repairs, furniture, and fuel, should
be provided at the expense of the property and polls of the town-
ship, without regard to district metes and bounds.

These two cardinal features of our educational system are most
emphatically its crowning glory and excellence, challenging alike
the admiration and imitation of sister commonwealths. Under
their operation the odious rate bill, or individual subscription, be-



comes unknown; unequal burdens and unequal educational privi-
leges in the same township cease to vex and annoy. These sources
of complaint and dissatisfaction will be dried up, and these insepa-
rable concomitants of the district feature will be numbered among
the things that were and are not. The superiority of the present
over the former system, in the equity of its requisitions, is very
striking and manifest. Under the former system, districts, in the
same township, having an equal number of children, and conse-
quently needing school houses of similar size and accommodations,
would be very unequally taxed to erect these structures. The pro-
perty in one district would not be assessed for this purpose more
than fifteen cents on the hundred dollars, while the wealth in the
other must respond to the demand of not less than three times
that amount. Is that right, equitable, and in accordance with the
principle that demands equality of assessment for general interests
and common benefits, in the same corporation? Should such a
gross inequality of burdens be tolerated any longer? Should neigh-
bors, living in daily intercourse with each other, be subject to such
unrighteous levies ? The present system protects us against all
such inequitable assessments, and provides that each district shall
have, at the common expense of the township, a comfortable, com-
modious and tasteful house, whose associations shall be pleasant
and instructive. Such is the contrast, in reference to equality
of burdens, presented by the past and present educational codes of
Indiana.

An inequality of privilege, equally gross and manifest, existed
under the old district system, which disappears by the operation of
the township principle. Districts of equal geographical area in
the same corporation will often be exceedingly diverse in compara-
tive population at different periods of their history. One may
have twenty-five, another fifty, a third seventy -five, and a fourth
one hundred pupils. On the district system, the educational funds
were necessarily distributed on the per capita basis. These funds
converted into tuition, would be represented by one, two, three,
and four month's instruction. Should friends, perhaps even bro-
thers, living in the adjacent angles of the aforesaid districts, be
subject to such an inequitable participation of a common patri-
mony? Should the children of these families be so unequally
cared for by her who claims the name and assumes to be their edu-
cational foster-mother? Such palpable injustice was the inevitable
result, the legitimate sequence of the district system. Weak dis-
tricts seemed only the weaker by contrast with adjacent strong
ones. What could be more annoying to those thus situated in
the same township, citizens of that miniature republic, where we
first begin to govern ourselves politically, where are first awakened
those official aspirations which extend, perhaps, through a series of
coveted elevations till they culminate in the Presidency? Should
such a state of things be endured or tolerated? It has existed,
still exists, is deplored and lamented elsewhere. Our own expe-



447

rience attests the reality of the evil. Various prescriptions have
been suggested for the disease, termed weak districts, by distin-
guished physicians, but the honor of discovering an effectual rem-
edy for this wasting malady belongs to the Indiana faculty, who
have nobly made it patent to the world. It is found in the 27th
section of our revised school law, and reads thus, " The schools in
each township shall be taught an equal length of time, without
regard to the diversity in the number of pupils in the several
schools." It just meets the exigencies of the case, and will prove
an effectual and permanent correction of the aforesaid evil. It is
pre-eminently wise, just and honorable, for it secures an equitable
participation of the educational provisions furnished by the State,
as completely as human wisdom^and sagacity could devise. It in-
volves no injustice in the operation, for the commonwealth, pledged
by her fundamental law to educate all her youth, as a wise and
judicious parent, provides for the training of the twenty-five of one
district and the seventy-five of another during an equal period of
time. If she can give them only six months tuition annually, none,
enjoying that amount of instruction are wronged, because others,
numerically less, receive a similar favor. It is not money that the
State proposes to give her youth. It is something better, more en-
during, and pertaining to both worlds, mental and moral culture.
This she designs to distribute equally, and, by the aforesaid provi^
sion, effects as nearly as human ingenuity will admit.

Such in brief are some of the workings and such the character
of the township feature of our school code, in respect to the appor-
tionment of tuition funds and the erection of school houses. Its
justice cannot be successfully questioned, nor its equity be reason-
ably doubted. That it is acceptable to the people and commends
itself to the masses, it is only*necessary to state what has been done
in one department of its mission. The first year after the embar-
rassments, thrown in its way by the law suits commenced almost
simultaneously with its enactment, were removed, the trustees of
four hundred and thirteen townships levied a school house erection
tax amounting to the aggregate sum of $314,272. This was not
all that was done even that year, for it was subsequently ascer-
tained that many townships in the twenty-two non-reported counties
levied said tax. It appears from the tabular exhibit of this year,
being the second of the new era, that the trustees of no less than
seven hundred and twenty-four townships have assessed the prop-
erty and polls of their respective corporations for the same purpose
to the amount of $481,832. Such results are not only significant
indications of its efficiency and popular favor, but they also dis-
close the primitive condition, in which we found ourselves at the
inauguration of the new constitution, in reference to school struc-
tures. Many even of our large towns and cities had no respecta-
ble school structures belonging to the corporation at that date,
which have since erected spacious and tasteful school houses.
Though the picture, that met our eyes five years ago, was anything



448

but flattering to our corporation self complacency, yet even that
destitution was not without its incidental advantages, for there
was little or no necessity, on the reconstruction of the districts and
the inauguration of a new system, to sacrifice a large amount of
property in ill-constructed, ill-located and costly school houses.
The situation of the commonwealth in that respect was peculiarly
favorable and happy for the introduction of a radical change in
our educational policy.

It has been a source of great pleasure and satisfaction to the
Superintendent, in his county visitation travels, to witness the
signs of progress exhibited by the new school houses, both in cor-
porate towns and cities, and also in the rural districts. In the
latter, he has seen neat and spacious structures, indicative of the
enlightened views, generous policy and good taste of the trustees,
as well as significant of the presence and appreciation of the two
works on school architecture, which have been furnished each
township library since the last session of the legislature. The
wisdom of that provision is unquestioned, and the economy of that
appropriation is abundantly demonstrated by the results reached
in many corporations. The happy influence and connection of
these works, on the size, accommodation and comfort of our school
structures, will be seen and felt still more forcibly with the lapse
of years. Tasteful school houses will attract the attention of citi-
zens and township authorities, and provoke imitation. Liberal
views on this subject will beget and foster enlightened and gener-
ous sentiments, and lead to a physical embodiment of them, that
will rejoice the hearts of both teachers and taught. The educa-
tional power of a good school house, ample grounds, and tasteful
enclosure, is not yet fully appreciated. The time is not far distant,
when it will be seen and admitted that there is no money in those
miserable apologies, once called school houses. Cotemporaries
with the log cabin of the early settler, they have accomplished their
appropriate mission, and should not be permitted to loiter behind the
primitive domicil of the pioneer in their retirement from the public
service. While some townships have adopted a generous policy
in this matter, there are not a few where architectural taste and
improvements have not yet been displayed, nor the virtue of ven-
tilation been discovered. The old generation of school houses is,
however, gradually and silently giving place to other structures
more in sympathy with the spirit of progress. A novel and inter-
esting spectacle was witnessed in one of our new counties, illus-
trative of the above remark. A neat frame structure, painted
white, with grounds unrestricted by a quarter of an acre enclosure,
with a sufficient external display of taste to justify the expectation
of a corresponding internal arrangement, was seen standing on the
borders of a beautiful native grove, while its humble predecessor
stood at a respectful distance in the rear, bearing marks of hard
service, and a condition that indicated its claims to retirement on
a pension. It has been exceedingly gratifying, in traveling through



449

the rural portions of the commonwealth, to see in various sections
of it, school structures of such tasteful exterior as to warrant the
inference of a similar interior display of fixtures and furniture. The
upper sash of the school house windows, partially lowered, is suffi-
cient proof that the science of ventilation is understood, and the san-
atary virtue of a pure atmosphere is appreciated, and that "Gris-
com's Uses and Abuses of Air," or some kindred work, has been
seen and read in that locality.

A reference to the statistical portion of this report, and also of
its predecessor, will show "what is doing in the various townships
of the several counties reported. It will be seen that many of
them have engaged in the work of school house erection with a
zeal and liberality worthy of all commendation. One township
in Wayne county, built nine school houses the last year, at the
cost of $1000 each. These structures were of ample dimensions,
and of the most permanent materials, being 38 by 25 feet in length
and width, with ten feet story in the clear and built of brick.
Specimens of like taste and liberality may be found in other rural
portions of the State. Town and city corporations have also
engaged in the school house erection enterprise in various sections
of the commonwealth within the last four years, and many of them
are now enjoying the fruits of their wisdom, forethought and public
spirit. Among those may be named New Albany, Evansville,
Richmond, Lafayette, Indianapolis, Shelbyville, Madison, Rising
Sun, Michigan City, Delphi, Plymouth, Mishawaka, Edinburgh,
and Elkhart. Of these, Evansville is justly entitled to the palm
for the best school edifice, combining taste, convenience and
capacity, though several of the above named are worthy rivals.
Other corporations have more recently commenced and are now in
progress, of which Connersville, Fort Wayne, Franklin, Laporte,
Cannelton, Decatur, Muncie, Terre Haute, and Auburn, may be
named. There is also another class of towns of no insignificant
claims, which have been, and are still paying heavy school house
and tuition taxes. The tax payers are their own assessors and
collectors, and meet these levies in the form of diminished rents,
depreciation of real estate, deterioration of morals, and lessened
social enjoyment. How long this species of assessment will con-
tinue it is yet unknown. The economy of renting the streets for
school houses, employing gratuitous instructors, using store boxes,
oyster saloons, ball alleys and restaurants for text books, has not
yet been fully tested. The collateral bills for courts, judges and
jurors, for watchmen, sheriffs and jailors, for schools of reform,
jails and penitentiaries, have not yet all been audited. The experi-
menters may possibly find that school houses of the finest finish
and furniture, teachers of the highest attainments, richest experi-
ence, and largest salaries, and text books of sterling worth, will be
less expensive than the aforesaid system and its legitimate con-
comitants.



450 .

At the present rate of progress, all the school houses in a large
majority of our townships will be erected before the next Legisla-
ture assembles. This fact suggests the introduction and discussion
of the connection of township provision of school houses and state
provision of tuition. The line, virtually drawn by the decision of
the Supreme Court, between the township and State obligations
in educational matters, is so clear and distinct, that it is evident
there should be a correspondence in the progress made by the
respective parties to discharge their appropriate duties in the prem-
ises. The Court has said that, if there be school houses, the town-
ships shall build and furnish them. If there be schools the State
shall pay the teachers. The constitution makes it imperative on
the Legislature "to provide, by law, for a general and uniform
system of common schools wherein tuition shall be without charge
and equally open to all." There is no escape from the responsibil-
ity, no eluding the obligation. It is plain, positive and inexorable.
Encouraged and authorized by statuary provision, many of the
townships have gone forward and nobly met the claims of the
rising generation to the fullest extent, and provided the structures,
furniture and fuel. It will be seen by reference to the appropriate
tabular exhibit in the Appendix, that the Trustees of these corpor-
ations have taxed the property and polls of their respective town-
ships to the highest figure the statute admits, which, to more than
one half of the taxpayers, is equivalent to a three and a half mill
assessment on their property. Heavy as such levies may be, they
will be necessary only for a short time. This work once accom-
plished is done for the period of an entire generation, and therefore
the people are easily reconciled to the weight of the assessment.
Thus they have reached, at the same time, both the limit of their
necessities and the bounds of their obligations in the premises.
They can go no farther. As the aforesaid decision forbids town-
ship taxation for tuition, the question assumes at once the tangible
and definite shape, " Is not the Legislature therefore called on, as
the organ of the State, to make good her constitutional obliga-
tions by statuary provision of the requisite tuition funds?" Here
our youth say, we cannot have schools without houses. The town-
ships reply we have furnished them. The youth again say we
cannot have schools without teachers. The Legislature should
promptly respond we will provide ample means for the payment of



Online LibraryIndiana. General AssemblyDocumentary journal of Indiana 1856, part 1 (Volume 1856, pt.1) → online text (page 33 of 53)