Indiana. General Assembly.

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their salaries. What is the extent of the States obligation to her
youth in the premises, is a question of peculiar pertinence and
force in this connection. This obligation, whatever it may be,
should be met as promptly, cheerfully and fully as the semi-annual
payment of interest on our State debt, whatever may be the sac-
rifice. It is a prior claim, a paramount obligation, and rendered a
debt of both duty and honor, by the fact, that constitutional im-
pediments have been thrown in the way of the townships making
the requisite provision. Educational obligations to posterity are
as complete, perfect and imperative, as the pecuniary claims of



451

foreign bondholders. The former should not be ignored, nor the
latter repudiated.

If education be the debt the present generation owes the future,
as it was beautifully expressed by the great American Banker in
London, who accompanied the sentiment, offered as a toast at an
educational celebration in his native town, with a donation of
twenty thousand dollars, and subsequently increased it fifty per cent,
as an expression of his views of the validity of the claim, what
then should be the response of a Legislative Body sworn to sup-
port a constitution, whose language on this point is both clear,
unequivocal and peremptory, to a claim of such unquestioned
justice? In accordance with this constitutional obligation, the
present school system was established and revised by the wisdom
of the two preceding General Assemblies of Indiana, and a def-
inite monetary power given it to demonstrate, by its results, the
extent of the pecuniary provision necessary to be made in order to
realize all just and reasonable expectations. A one mill tax on
the property and a fifty cents assessment on the poll, have been
levied by the aforesaid Assemblies, not indeed with the most dis-
tant expectation that their proceeds, with the income of our educa-
tional funds, would be sufficient to meet our necessities, but evi-
dently from the conviction that there lingered in the commonwealth,
the remains of ignorance, the relics of prejudice and the traces of
selfishness, which would require both %rae and patience to elimi-
nate. Knowing that there were thousands, who would be taught
by no one but old master experience, they deemed it wise and
prudent to proceed cautiously, and furnish such adult pupils with
the requisite time and means for a liberal education, before they
made sufficient provision for the juveniles. As the former have
already enjoyed the advantages of a four years course, it is but
reasonable to conclude that they will soon be ready to graduate,
and be thoroughly prepared to enter on the practice of a profes-
sional life of enlarged and liberal views and a corresponding action.
If that point has been reached and their policy has accomplished
its mission, then the educational wants of our youth, in all their
extent and magnitude, may justly claim the earnest consideration
of the law making power. It will prove as much to our credit
for patriotism and self-respect, to honor Young America's educa-
tional drafts, as capitalist's coupons. It will not lessen our reputa-
tion with foreign bankers to pay promptly our childrens tuition
claims, and it will certainly prove far more disadvantageous, disas-
trous and dishonorable to shave their paper fifty per cent, than to
meet, with similar discount, any other claim. Had we embarked,
twenty years ago, in as magnificent an enterprise of intellectual
development, as we did in internal improvement, we should have
had something more substantial and remunerative to show as its
results, than half finished roads and half completed canals. While
we are paying for one whistle, let us not foolishly buy another,
Let it not be forgotten that wise, permanent physical progress will

1DJ.— 33



452

always keep pace with thorough intellectual development and cul-
ture. Had we adopted the aforesaid policy even ten years ago,
the ratio of adult ignorance would have been reversed rather than
advanced, lessened rather than increased at the last census.

We have now reached the appropriate point for the introduction
of .another question of great practical importance, which justly
claims a serious consideration, a wise and prompt decision. How
long should the schools in the rural portions of the State be annu-
ally taught? The almost universal answer, coming from cabin
and cottage, the mansion of the rich and the dwelling of the indi-
gent, would be from six to nine months. We will take the shortest
period named, and compare it with the average term of instruction
in the rural sections of the commonwealth, for the last three years.
The general average length of the free schools in 1854 was two
months and fifty-four hundredths. In 1855 it was two months
and eighty-five hundredths. In 1856 it was three months and
three-hundredths.

The above statistical facts disclose a picture by no means flatter-
ing to our self-complacency, and indicate the extent of our educa-
tional delinquency. It is manifest, that even the best we have done
for our youth, for the last three years, is but a shameful discount
on their just claims. It should not be forgotten, that while the
policy of former Legislatures to provide for a thorough training of
adult scholars, even to graduation, under that old time honored
professor, may perhaps be regarded as wise, prudent, and ultimate-
ly economical, yet the cost of their education, which has been no
inconsiderable sum, has in fact, been deducted from the children's
school funds for the said period, an evil that, it is to be hoped, the
present Legislature will deem it their duty to bring to a perpetual
end. Even a three month's school annually is most emphatically
a homoeopathic dose of literary culture, and its administration at
intervals of three months, renders it an educational tincture of
almost inexpressible weakness. It is no wonder that such doses
do not stop the chills of ignorance, nor break the fever of passion
and self-conceit. The literary zeal and ardor awakened by a three
months school, evaporate before half of the recess has elapsed, and
the intellectual attainments of the period, suffer a sad depreciation
in their market value, before the annual revolution of the earth
brings around a like golden age of letters. It is no marvel that
the mental growth and development of our youth should be slow,
defective, and even dwarfed, considering the brevity of the period
of its culture and the protracted recess that intervenes. It is also
evident, that we do not, on the basis of the present provision,
receive in return a full equivalent for the funds expended. If the
three months of instruction, now enjoyed, were immediately
followed by a similar period, much of the first term's attainment,
which under present circumstances is lost, would become perma-
nent capital. The last four weeks of a three month's term are
generally worth as much as the first eight, for a very simple and



453

obvious reason. The intellectual momentum, acquired during the
first two-thirds of said period, will carry the pupil more rapidly
and more pleasantly over the last third, and consequently the
literary progress and mental development of these unequal portions
of time will often prove to be nearly, if not substantially, similar.
By parity of reasoning, the last two months of a six months con-
secutive term would be almost, if not quite, as good as the first
four.

When it becomes an admitted fact, that a six months school is
the least that will meet the wants of the rural portions, satisfy the
necessities of our youth and fill the reasonable expectations of the
masses, then the natural and legitimate enquiry is, what amount
of additional means will be necessary to secure this desired result.
On the assumption, which will elsewhere be demonstrated to be no
presumption, but an illuminated fact, that a one mill supplement-
ary assessment on the property will be sufficient to accomplish the
desired object, we will proceed to the statement of a proposition,
which, however paradoxical it may seem on the mere announce-
ment, is nevertheless true and susceptible of rigid mathematical
demonstration. It is this, a six months free school will be cheaper,
in dollars and cents, to almost three-fourths of the tax-payers of
Indiana, than a three months free school. The process of proof is
simple and direct. If we must have nothing short of a six months
school every year, and only the first three of them be a. free school,
then the supplementary three must be a subscription school. Few,
if any, even in the rural portions of the State, can get a child taught
for less than two dollars, and more frequently it will be two dollars
and a half per quarter. The lowest figure named subjects the
parent, with one child to educate, to the expense of two dollars to
eke out the shortcomings of the commonwealth, and give his child
the minimum amount of education that it annually requires. On
the parent or guardian of half a dozen pupils, this supplementary
tax imposes the burden of six times the weight of the above named
levy. There are thousands of parents in Indiana at this time, who
must either meet such unrighteous demands, or their children's in-
tellectual culture must be greatly curtailed, and their mental and
moral training correspondingly suffer, just in consequence of the
State failing hitherto to meet fully her constitutional pledge to
educate her youth. It will be seen from the classified exhibit of
the tax-payers of Indiana, contained in the Appendix, that almost
three fourths of them pay on $1000 worth of property and less,
and that almost five ninths pay on $500 and less. On the basis of
a supplementary one mill levy, no one of the said three fourths
would pay more than one dollar, yet the tuition of one child for a
single quarter, would be twice the amount of the maximum of the
aforesaid levy, and more than half of the tax-payers would not be
assessed more than one fourth of the cost of one pupils instruction
for three months. These are facts drawn from the Auditors dupli-
cate, and therefore perfectly reliable. All can see their bearing,



454

appreciate their relations to the subject under consideration, and
calculate the results to himself and fellow-citizens. While the
adoption of the course suggested would be a real substantial relief
to thousands of parents, and also prove a rich blessing to tens of
thousands of our youth, it would in reality burden no one. If the
State constitutionally monopolizes the business of educating her
youth, then let it be done to an extent somewhat commensurate
with the nature and demands of the case. A three months free
school is but a mockery of hopes, and what adds bitterness to the
disappointment, is, that being the public school, it is to thousands
the only term of instruction they enjoy. In many localities it
becomes a serious impediment in the way of supplementary sub-
scription schools. One half of a district may, from poverty or
parsimony, utterly refuse to render any aid to establish a supple-
mentary school, and the other half deprived of their co-operation
be unable to sustain said school. No one is satisfied with the
present modicum. The universal expression of opinion on this
subject, that has reached this department, whether oral or written,
by parents, citizens, or trustees, is, "give us a six months school
and we will cheerfully meet the expense." This sentiment is pecu-
liar to no section of the State, but common to all. The tax nec-
essary to secure the aforesaid period of instruction, would be
cheerfully paid by all, who pay any school assessment with a good
grace, for every intelligent man can see that it would be more
economical to double the tax and treble the proceeds of a free
school, than to stereotype a policy that dwarfs, belittles and brings
into general contempt what, under the operation of liberal views,
might expand into a generous, efficient and popular system. The
following is a specimen of the written expressions of opinion on
this point, from a Township Board in Harrison county, a true
reflection, also, of the sentiments of many others:

"We and our fellow-citizens generally are in favor of a higher
tax for tuition purposes, to any sum not exceeding twenty cents
on the hundred dollars valuation of property. Our schools are
entirely too short to be beneficial to the scholars."

The question recurs, what is the evidence that a one mill sup-
plementary levy will be sufficient to give us a six months school,
on an average, throughout the State ? On the supposition that
the present one mill tax on the $300,000,000 of property will net
$275,000, and the net proceeds of the fifty cents poll tax will be
$75,000, and the average net receipts of interest on the school
funds, both special and common, will be $150,000, then the aggre-
gate $500,000, being about $15,000 more than was probably real-
ized last year from these sources, becomes the monetary represen-
tation of the three months school reported for the last year. If
that average period for the whole State costs $485,000, then a six
months school will require double that sum.

It is estimated that the property of the commonwealth, on
re-valuation, will not fall short of $400,000,000. if it does not con-



455

siderably exceed that sum. On that basis, the present mill tax
and a similar supplement would give $800,000, which, after a cor-
responding deduction for delinquencies, would exhibit a net result
of about $744,000. Add to this, the same net amounts from
interest on school funds and poll tax, $225,000, and we have $969,-
000, the pecuniary exponent of a six months school. This estimate,
in round numbers, is sufficiently approximate to the truth for
hypothetical purposes, and redeems the pledge heretofore given.

The purpose of the classified exhibit of tax-payers of the com-
monwealth was not to institute invidious comparisons between
classes, but to show what burdens the majority of our citizens
would be required to bear on the basis of a supplementary one
mill tax. If, on the basis of the aforesaid assessment, three fourths
of the tax-payers would not be required to pay only from one cent
to one dollar; and five ninths of them would be taxed only from
one to fifty cents, then all can see, without the possibility of distor-
tion or doubt, that there will be no oppression, no real cause of
complaint in the proposed supplementary school tax. If the man
possessing five hundred dollars worth of property will not be bur-
dened, nor feel himself unreasonably assessed, then the owner of
five thousand dollars worth of property cannot complain. The
fifty cents tax of the former will require just as large a proportion
of his capital as the five dollars assessment of the latter will dimin-
ish his five thousand. The question is not, shall property and polls
be taxed for educational purposes, but how much shall they be
assessed? Taxation for such purposes is a foregone conclusion.
Every man who voted for the new constitution, virtually assessed
himself for school extension. The constitution on the subject of
education is very clear, explicit, outspoken and liberal. Better pay
a two mill tax and have a good school, a sufficient length of time,
than discount the period of tuition fifty per cent, and the quality of
the instruction seventy-five per cent. Such would be the result,
the natural consequence of the present starvation policy.

A resort to first principles will bring us to the same conclusion.
In a state of nature every man protects himself and property and
is untaxed. In civilized relations, government protects his person
and possessions, and he pays taxes. In the former neither person
nor property is secure. In the latter, property acquires most of its
value, and there also exists a consciousness of individual security.
What is the value of real or personal estate, where there is no gov-
ernmental protection? "What is the certainty of exemption from
personal violence, and even loss of life, where the broad aegis of
law does not overshadow the individual? A property assessment is
nothing else than a premium, that wealth pays for its protection.
A poll tax is a similar levy for personal security. The former is
variable according to the amount covered by the policy ; while the
latter is uniform, and appropriately represents the native equality of
man, in a government like ours. In one respect, the rich man has
the advantage of his less wealthy neighbor, in the fact, that he has



456

a larger amount of property insured at a low premium, while the
latter is one of the underwriters. The poll tax recognises their
political equality, and on that basis, the wealthy cannot say to the
poor, I pay a large tax for the education of your children, and are
you not ashamed to take my property to defray the expense of
their instruction? That poll tax enables worthy indigence to reply
to the proud and haughty insinuation of his rich compeer, I pay
just as large a tax to educate your children as you do to instruct
mine, as a man, a citizen, a sovereign, I claim to be nothing less, and
I fancy that you will pass for nothing more. If you pay a larger tax
than I, it must be because you are the possessor of more property.
If you deem that a misfortune, it will not be difficult to find both
cordial sympathy and prompt relief in your distress. Let not
wealth provoke any such withering retort, nor ignorance institute
any such invidious comparisons between individuals or counties.

The Executive, Legislative and Judiciary departments of the
governmental machinery are sustained and kept in motion at the
common expense of the property and polls, irrespective of corpor-
ation lines; and why should not educational privileges be secured
to all, without distinction, on the same general principles? The
dispensation of justice is not more essential and vital to the wel-
fare of the body politic, than the development of the intellects and
the cultivation of the morals of the masses. The State pays the
judges, and the counties builds the court houses and jails, and pays
the jurors, while the clerks, bailiffs and sheriffs subsist mainly at
the expense of those caught in the meshes of the law. So in
education, the State pays the tuition of the youth and the salary
of the superintendent, and the townships build the schoolhouses,
provide furniture and fuel, and compensate the Trustees for their
services. The cases are so parallel and analogous, that consistency
requires that the opposition should include the judiciary and educa-
tional departments in the same category, and either abandon its
hostility to the latter, or join issue with the former.

One man complains that his county pays a much larger amount
in school tax than it receives on the pro-rata distribution of the
educational funds, and says that the balance of their money goes
to the poor counties and newly settled portions of the State. This
is all true, and is it not likewise a fact, that the same rich counties
contribute a correspondingly larger share to the general expense of
other co-ordinate departments of government than the aforesaid
poor counties? Have not the old counties some social and pecu-
niary interest in the development of the native resources of the
new counties of the commonwealth? It would not be strange, if
the same patriotic objectors themselves should be the owners of
some extra eighty acre lots of land, or have some children or remoter
relatives in those new counties. He may find, perhaps, on closer
examination of the merits of the case, that he is more interested,
both pecuniarly, socially and politically, in the rapid growth and
development of the new counties, than he supposed, and therefore



457

be induced to abandon his opposition to the school system. One
county of the State, in 1855, paid more than Jive thousand dollars
for the apprehension, incarceration, trial and execution of a band
of villains. Were not the townships, adjacent to the one in which
the crime was committed, interested in the detection and punish-
ment of the perpetrators of the arson and murder? Most assuredly.
But might they not, with equal propriety with the aforesaid object-
ors, say, why should we be taxed to defray this enormous expense,
incurred solely through the crimes and villainy of the citizens of
another corporation? We have never had a criminal case, origina-
ting in our township, in court since the organization of the county,
and why should this burden be imposed on our property? The
pertinence of the illustration and the dilemma of the objector are
manifest. He need not, indeed, go beyond the bounds of his own
county, for which he so patriotically pleads, to discover the fallacy
of his premises. There may be, as there often is, as great inequal-
ity between the school tax paid and the school funds received on
the final apportionment, by the townships of his own county, as
exists between the counties, of which he so eloquently complains.
The answer is in fact at his own door, and may be contemplated at
his leisure. We need no more tabular exhibits of county gains and
losses of educational funds to enlighten the path of legislative
duty. Why furnish the means for invidious comparisons between
counties in educational, any more than in the judicial or legislative
department? Some may, perhaps, think that the aforesaid objec-
tion, or complaint, does not merit the attention and consideration
it has received. In reply, it may be remarked, that it exists in some
localities, is honestly entertained, and has a plausibility and weight,
with some minds, that do not take the trouble to trace it to its
legitimate results and perceive its inconsistency with their action
in other cases of parallel character and admitted justice.

While the general principles on which our educational system
rests are unquestionably sound and correct, the efficiency of their
action has been very materially marred by the impolicy of some of
the details. It has been in operation a sufficient length of time
for a partial development of its capacity for good, as well as a like
disclosure of its deficiencies. To increase the former and dimin-
ish the latter is the legitimate mission and duty of each successive
Legislature. To point them out and suggest the appropriate-
means of correcting its errors and omissions, and increasing its
efficiency, is one of the prominent objects contemplated by the
requisition of an annual report from this department. The facts
and suggestions already presented, will commend themselves to
the careful consideration of all interested in perfecting our school
code. Nothing has been so much a source of disappointment and
dissatisfaction to the friends of the cause of popular education, as
the inadequacy, of the pecuniary means. It has, in no slight degree,
paralyzed effort, discouraged even the most zealous, and been to the
foes of the system, a theme of derision and triumphant taunt, that



458

has brought more discredit on our educational code than any other
thing that can be named. Unsustained by the hope of the adop-
tion of a more liberal policy in this respect hereafter, the friends of
common schools would have long since given up in despair, but
beneving that they understood the reason of the former action, and
appreciating the motives that governed the framers of our educa-
tional code, they have toiled on in confident expectatation that the
day was not far distant, when funds adequate to the necessities of
the case would be provided. The Superintendent has heard but
one expression of opinion from all parts of the commonwealth, on
the question of the period during which our schools should be
annually in operation. Connected with this expression of desire
has generally been the voluntary declaration, " we will cheerfully
meet the expense," which shows it to be not a mere idle, unmean-
ing remark, but a sober conviction of the judgment, a firm and
settled purpose of a noble, generous and patriotic spirit. With
this full and frank statement of the comparative results of the
township and State action in their respective spheres, the cheering
prospect of a speedy accomplishment of one of the important
objects of the former's peculiar mission, and the universal convic-
tion of the sad deficiency in the cardinal duty of the latter, we will
proceed to note some other points, to which the experience, obser-
vation and suggestions of the last four years naturally lead us.

A system of popular education, sound in its fundamental prin-
ciples, simple, yet complete in its details, harmonious, yet effective



Online LibraryIndiana. General AssemblyDocumentary journal of Indiana 1856, part 1 (Volume 1856, pt.1) → online text (page 34 of 53)