Indiana. General Assembly.

Documentary journal of Indiana 1856, part 1 (Volume 1856, pt.1) online

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in its action, is not the result of the concentrated wisdom and ex-
perience of any one body of savans or legislators. It is unwise to
expect it and unreasonable to demand it. Time and experience
will disclose many imperfections in this, as well as in other human
enterprises, and suggest divers modifications and improvements,
too valuable to be overlooked, too necessary to be disregarded,
and too pressing to be postponed. A more striking and obvious
mark of wisdom in a legislative body cannot be named, than
sagacity to perceive, candor to appreciate, and firmness to give
statutory form and authority to such deductions of the past. No
change in its fundamental principles is either needed, sought or
desired by the people, as far as their wishes have been ascertained.
So far from anything like a radical change in the essential elements
of the system being desired by the masses, there is throughout the
State a strong feeling, adverse to any revolutionary or retrograde
movement in the premises, which plainly indicates a general satis-
faction with its prominent features, and a conviction that the train
is on the right track. There is no disposition to change the loca-
tion of the route, but there is a very strong and decided preference
for the substitution of the T rail of a two mill tax, for the present
flat bar of a one mill levy. Educational snake-heads are deemed
far too hazardous to be tolerated any longer. In relaying the track
with more substantial materials, with reference to more extended
and permanent operations, in future, it may be well not to overlook



459

the wisdom and economy of ample machine shops, where both repairs
and construction may be carried on to the fullest extent of our in-
creasing necessities. Many of the company's engines need extens-
ive repairs, and its entire motive force should be greatly enlarged.

While there are minor points, in which the harmony and effici-
ency of the system would be materially improved by the introduc-
tion of some slight modifications and supplementary provisions,
it must be admitted that our code, in some essential elements, is
sadly defective, and at the best, on these points, can claim only the
possession of the merest germs of a wise system, which ultimate
success in our enterprise demands should be expanded into flower
and fruit as speedily as possible. A brief specification and con-
sideration of the former will conduct us to the statement and dis-
cussion of the latter.

The propriety and wisdom of making the township board,
charged with the supervision of the educational interests of the
corporation, a separate and distinct body, has been discussed in
another part of this report. Much more might be said in favor of
the change did space permit. It should not be forgotten, in the de-
termination of this question, that they are the most important
board of officials in the commonwealth, and therefore the greater
amount of wisdom, prudence, experience and firmness, that can be
concentrated in this office, the greater the benefits resulting to both
township and State.

A more full and explicit statutory specification of the education-
al duties of the township board, would relieve their minds of doubt,
and lead them to more prompt and decided action. Districts have
remained without houses, and children without schools, just be-
cause the trustees would not levy the requisite tax. In such cases,
the board should not be exposed to the temptation to exercise
any discretionary power, but the statute should be so clear and
peremptory as to leave no alternative but the necessary levy, or
resignation. Full, accurate, and prompt reports of the educational
interests of their corporation should be required, on the pains and
penalty of a pecuniary fine, that would be appreciated. Auditors
are not a little annoyed by the dilatoriness and neglect of the town-
ship trustees. This evil has its origin, to a great extent, in a want
of educational zeal. Let all such be relieved from these official
responsibilities.

The county auditors are very important functionaries in our
school system, and their educational duties are far more numerous,
onerous and responsible than those of the treasurer. On them de-
volves the labor of making the distribution of the school funds to
the town-hips, calculating the interest, adjusting the papers on the
loans and payment of the school funds, making reports to the
Superintendent of the educational condition of the several town-
ships, with materials often about as deficient in character and
amount, as those furnished the Israelitish brickmakers, answering
questions coming up from the township boards, responding to



460

circular calls from the Superintendent for statistical information,
receiving and distributing the township library books, a variety of
labors, sufficient to develop their peculiar idiosyncracies, test their
wisdom and tax their patience to an almost indefinite extent. It
is unreasonable to require the performance of such varied and
often harrassing labors without adequate compensation. Justice
demands that such time consuming and miscellaneous toils
should be compensated on a per diem basis, rather than a fee bill
standard.



SCHOOL EXAMINERS.

The statutary provision relative to the number, appointment and
duties of School Examiners is susceptible of improvement, and
the efficiency of that department might be greatly increased by
a judicious expansion and systematic action. The board should
consist of three members, and be appointed for the term of three
years, one being selected annually, after the order of retirement of
the first appointees had been determined. Experience, tact and
interest in the discharge of their important functions, would be
greatly increased by that number of members and the aforesaid
term of office. By an annual appointment of one member, the
board would never be without a due amount of experience and
wisdom. Said board should hold stated meetings, giving due no-
tice of the time and place, and issue licenses only as a board, and
on the basis of such examination. The judicious action of said
examiners would be no unimportant instrumentality in elevating
the character and qualifications of teachers, shielding the commu-
nity against ignorance, pretense and charlatanry, and encouraging
rising merit. Give dignity and consequence to the office, by charg-
ing it with the duty of endorsing the moral character and literary
attainments of those who aspire to the responsibilities, honor and
emoluments of the teachers profession, and results of the most
cheering character will ensue. The impulsive power of graded
certificates would soon be seen, either in impelling their holders to
a higher speed of intellectual progress, or switching them off the
track of the public service. Were the period, for which these cer-
tificates are granted, to be graduated by a regular series from three
months to two years, and then divided into six classes, and the
inflexible rule established that the holders of any one of the first
three classes of certificates could not receive a second of the same
grade, it would impart new life and activity to the calling. If our
temporary necessities require the toleration of a s#i-minimum
grade of qualifications in special cases, as the ambiguous phrase
"to determine what branches they desire shall be taught in such
school," in Sec. 105 of the Revised School Laws of 1855, seems
inferontially to imply, the question naturally occurs, would not
this discretionary power be more judiciously lodged with the board
of Examiners, than it now is with the majority of the sub-minimum



461

district. As such educational inclined planes are more or less haz-
ardous, it seems peculiarly unjust that a mere majority should
compel the minority to travel over them. In all such cases the
Examiners should be the sole judges of the character and safety
of the aforesaid grade, and those of the minority, not choosing to
risk the perils of the trip, should have tickets for the regular train
on a safer route. In other words, the minority in such cases should
be permitted to send to any other school in the township they
may choose for the current term. This seems to be the most equit-
able adjustment of the matter as long as the policy is tolerated.
Several cases of grievance, under this peculiar provision of the
statute, have been brought to the notice of this department, and
the investigation of them has awakened something more than a
doubt, of the wisdom of marring our school statute with such a
blemish. Give ignorance even temporary shelter and encourage-
ment, and it will soon claim toleration and right. Offer a premi-
um for dullness and there will be no lack of competitors for the
spoons. Let a board of Examiners, of the character and official
term above indicated, be established in every county, and it would
not be long before the dry bones of ignorance and indolence would
be in motion. Let our educational pilots be subjected to the scru-
tiny of a strict and searching examination, and though it may tem-
porarily diminish the number, yet it would correspondingly advance
their competency and compensation, and ultimately result in a
supply equal to the demand, and render our literary navigation
more secure and reliable.

These brief and passing suggestions bring us to the consider-
ation of some essential features of an educational system yet to be
incorporated into our school code. The time has fully come for
their introduction to the notice and consideration of the Legisla-
ture. The cautious policy, which has hitherto characterized our ed-
ucational movements, was doubtless wise and prudent. We have,
for the last four years, been sounding our way into the harbor of
wisdom and experience, but have not yet quite reached our moor-
ings. The public mind has became in some degree awake to an ap-
preciation of the necessity of efficient action, the wisdom of giving
the system its appropriate power and scope, and the economy of
ample means for competent instruction. As science and experi-
ence are dissipating the mists of prejudice, sundering the bands of
immemorial usage in the department of agricultural pursuit and
progress, and demonstrating the superiority of deep ploughing over
mere surface culture, and the economy of restoring the exhausted
energies of the soil by a judicious rotation of crops, and the rejuv-
enating power of clover; so they are also penetrating regions com-
paratively unfrequented and but partially explored, at least in the
department of Education. If improvement in agricultural imple-
ments and progress in the industrial arts, are worthy objects of
encouragement and reward, there surely can be no doubt of the
propriety and wisdom of corresponding effort and advancement in



462

intellectual culture. Let us subsoil the mental as well as the
physical fields. Deep ploughing in the former will prove far more
remunerative than in the latter. Turn up the intellectual subsoil
and expose it to the action of the frosts of thorough discipline, and
the disintegrating power of the copious rains of patient, intense
and protracted thought, and bring it under the mellowing influence
of the gentle dews of a cultivated taste, and the result will fully
realize all just expectations, and amply reimburse ail wise and
liberal appropriations. While large crops of vegetable productions,
improved stock, and superior domestic fabrics are legitimate objects
of ambition, awakened mind will be found no less advantageous
and productive, even in its pecuniary bearings.

The great cardinal duty of a State is to encourage and aid, by
all suitable means, the development of her mental resources, and
the culture of her moral powers. Undeveloped mind is, to a com-
munity or nation, in a financial point of view, little else than so
much dead capital, and in its moral aspect and bearing it is even
worse. Develop that intellect and the productive capital of the
country is correspondingly increased. Cultivate those moral
powers, in the right direction and to a proper extent, and the social
interests and welfare of society will be greatly enhanced. If, on
the other hand, these noble capacities are permitted to remain
dormant, and become paralyzed or perverted, disappointment, dis-
aster, and ruin inevitably ensue. The true glory of a land is the
intelligence, enterprise and virtue of its citizens, and therefore
whatever increases the one, developes and cultivates the others, is
worthy of the fostering care of legislation, and the cordial and
liberal support of the masses. These are the only reliable sub-
strata for permanent national prosperity. If these be secured,
there will be nothing to fear from without, nothing to dread from
within ; neither secret foe nor open enemy can permanently injure
such a people, too intelligent to be deceived, too wise to be misled,
and too industrious to be corrupted. There may be no more
original intellectual power or mental capacity in the individual
who superintends a railroad, or a manufactory, or commands a
steamship, than is possessed by many a one occupying a very sub-
ordinate station under him. The difference of their present po-
sition and executive capacity, is more the result of culture than
any original diversity of mental endowment. There may be more
native vigor and sprightliness among the coal-heavers at the furnace,
than is possessed by the man that walks the quarter-deck and di-
rects the noble steamer.

Are not the undeveloped intellects and the untutored hearts of
our youth worthy of more attention than our untilled soil? There
will be found even more wealth in the thorough mental and moral
culture of our youth, than can be realized from the most skillful
cultivation of our broad acres, or the most successful prosecution
of commercial enterprise. The former will accomplish far more
than the latter, either for progress or protection, developement or



463

defence. The reason is obvious. Awakened mind is never at a
loss for a sphere of action, an object of noble aspiration, an enter-
prise of praiseworthy achievement. Whether its field of generous
endeavor be the farm, the work-shop, the counting house or the
professional office, it is ever ready for the lists, ever sure of suc-
cess, or, at least, the consciousness of meriting it. Were those pro-
ducts of agricultural toil, those results of horticultural labor, those
evidences of mechanical ingenuity, those specimens of artistic
skill, those proofs of intelligent forecast, those fruits of a scientific
study of the laws of the vegetable world, those marks of a culti-
vated taste in the floral realm, those exhibitions of fidelity of
maternal training in the mysteries of the needle, the kitchen, the
laundry, the dairy and the loom, gathered at our State Fairs, no
index of the awakened intellect of the commonwealth ? No one
could have gone over those grounds, examined the congregated
fruits of the field, the orchard and the garden, regaled his eye with
the sight of the jellies and preserves, his palate with the butter and
honey, skillfully applied to the staff of life and graced with the ap-
propriate concomitants of the rich repast, applied his teeth to the
peaches and pears, the grapes and the apples, his hands to the un-
spanable turnip and beet, glanced at the lordly pumpkin and the
queenly squash, the golden carrot and the sunny yam, with its
nameless cousins, seated himself on the beautiful ottoman, or
stood entranced as the fairy fingers flew across the mystic keys,
reclined on the carved sofa, reposed on the elastic couch, surveyed
his manly form in the polished mirror, rode in the princely carriage,
passed through the magic gate in his swan-like buggy, viewed
those labor-saving machines, with which the farmer could reap his
harvest and cut his grass with horse power, load his hay with an
endless chain, grind his axe and shell his corn by a self-regulating
wind mill, seen the pigmy engine with its miniature train pass
with express speed on the endless rail, watched the patient toil of
that unrepining and sinewless laborer, propelling the mill-stone,
driving the saw, pushing the plane, turning the lathe, blowing this
man's bellows and spinning that man's wool, moving the trip
hammer, driving the pump and turning the cider mill, and by way
of amusement, converting his surplus energies into .ZEolian music,
without feeling that such results are not the products of iinaivakened
intellect, nor the legitimate fruits of torpid minds. With such evi-
dence before him, no one doubts for a moment, that that impalpa-
ble thing termed knowledge, has had a hand in all these results,
30 honorable to the State, so gratifying to the counties and so
agreeable to individuals.

The inventive genius of Whitney has added millions to the
value of the great staple of the South. The awakened mind of
Morse has given lightning wings and telegraphic speed to knowl-
edge. The disciplined intellects of Hoe and Adams have almost
converted the printing press into an Apocalyptic angel to preach
the gospel in every dialect of earth. Fulton and his coadjutors



464

have done more to develope the physical resources of the world,
as well as to revolutionize commerce and give new impulse and
facilities to social intercourse, than all the undeveloped intellects of
earth. Every labor-saving devise, from the thundering locomotive
to the humble sewing machine, from Cory's corn planter to Mc-
Cormack's reaper, evinces the reality and worth of intellectual
culture. No class shares more richly in the practical results and
pecuniary benefits of mental training than the Farmer. It gives
evidence of its power and presence in every implement he uses,
from the hay-fork to the gigantic thresher, from the plough to the
mowing machine, from the hoe to the cultivator, from the cider
mill to the corn sheller. Would not the agricultural products of
Indiana be materially lessened by a return to the primitive imple-
ments of the sickle, the flail and the hoof? Would our farmers
think that they had suffered no loss, were they compelled to
exchange the light, beautiful plough, with steel mould-board of
mirror brightness, for its original prototype, with which the
ancients scratched the back of mother earth, or even for its
uncouth and clumsy progenitor of modern times? The Mechanic
also shares richly in the results of scientific invention. Go into
any artisans shop, from the black-smith to the machinist, from the
shoe-maker to the saddler, from the cooper to the cabinet-maker,
from the carpenter to the wood-carver. Visit every artists office,
from the dentist to the daguerrean, from the watch-maker to the
optician, from the engraver to the photographist, and abundant
evidence will be found, in the mere tools of these trades, the im-
plements of these arts, of the all pervading presence and suggestive
aid of awakened mind. Are there not intellects in Indiana, as
rich in native power and inventive impulse, as can be found in
any sister commonwealth? Then let them be developed, culti-
vated and thoroughly trained, and no poverty of valuable results
need be feared, nor any inferiority in comparison with other States
be apprehended.

These episodical remarks are sufficient to indicate, in general
terms, the pecuniary value, the moral, social, and intellectual bear-
ings of an efficient school code, and may serve as collateral evi-
dence of the wisdom of perfecting our system, as speedily as
possible, in departments of acknowledged deficiency. As a people
of practical views and intent on securing corresponding results, by
the most direct method, we have taken the nut of other's experi-
ence, casting away the shell, and endeavored to start on our educa-
tional career on a par with our most favored sisters. It would be
strange indeed, if we had not committed some mistakes and been
guilty of some oversights. There have been, perhaps, more method
and design in what some would regard as blunders, than might be
visible, at first, to a casual observer. The education the people
desire, is one that will train their children to think, reflect and
reason; that will tax their intellects, enlarge and strengthen their
mental faculties, discipline their moral powers, and thus prepare



465

them for their future conflicts with mind and matter. Nothing
short of this will either meet their wants, or satisfy their wishes,
for they are well aware that such a training will not only increase
the dollars, but the social happiness, intellectual wealth and moral
stamina of the community, that has the wisdom, forethought and
liberality to provide the necessary means to secure it for their
youth.

Such results can be reached only through able instruction and
efficient supervision. These are the most vulnerable points in our
system, calling for wise and prompt correction. Let them be duly
considered and their claims properly met. It is vain to expect
that anything short of well disciplined minds and cultivated hearts
can properly direct and secure the mental and moral development
contemplated. What aid or sympathy can our youth expect from
ignorance, conceit and prejudice? How can they teach, who have
need themselves to be taught what are the first principles of even
the primary branches required ? No one, of sane mind and compe-
tent capacity, will question the correctness of the statement, that one
of the most serious obstacles in our educational progress is the
want of thoroughly trained, zealous, and devoted teachers. A jury of
school Examiners would have no occasion to retire for deliberation
on such a question, and their foreman might announce to the
court that their verdict was ready, without even leaving their
seats.

If the pecuniary means for a six months school in the rural por-
tions of the commonwealth are provided, (and there is perhaps no
question that, submitted to the people of the State on its own
merits, and disconnected with any sectarian or political consider-
ation, would receive a more cordial and general endorsement than
the aforesaid period of tuition,) then the propriety, necessity, econ-
omy and duty of making provision for the prompt removal of this
impediment to our educational progress may well challenge the
attention of Legislation. The propriety of it is too obvious to
require argument ; its necessity too manifest to need facts or illus-
trations ; its economy too striking and palpable to demand figures,
and its duty too imperative to admit of neglect or postponement.
Shall educational funds, thus nobly supplemented to the extent of
our minimum wants, be shamefully squandered and wasted on
incompetent, unsympathising, zealless and unawakened teachers?
This will inevitably be the case, unless some wise and efficient
means are adopted to dignify the employment and elevate the
calling to the rank and emolument of a learned profession. One
significant fact is sufficient to disclose the character and extent of
our delinquency in this direction. The State has not expended a
dime to improve her teachers, nor appropriated a dollar for the
intellectual and moral development and culture of those who are
to train her rising generation. The days of past negligence and
oversight may be winked at, but future delinquency in this matter
will be entitled to no such toleration. The responsibility of



466

inaction will be greater than that of prompt and decided action.
The evil sought to be remedied is one of serious moment and
increasing magnitude, retarding the progress and periling the suc-
cess of an enterprise, second to no other in which the State could
embark. To ignore or deny its existence, in the face of the testi-
mony of school examiners and the sad experience of township
trustees, will perhaps not be attempted, but to admit its reality,
and yet make no adequate provision for its correction and remov-
al, will reflect no credit or honor on those on whom this responsi-
bility rests. While the people in their township capacity have
nobly come forward and generously met their obligations in the
erection of school houses, and thereby challenged the State to a
similar liquidation of her tuition obligations, they will not cease to
demand corresponding progress and provision in the department un-
der consideration. There is both truth and logic, eloquence and em-
phasis in the interrogation, of what avail will be school houses and
funds, if an adequate supply of competent, enthusiastic and wide
awake teachers be wanting? The echo of that inquiry will con-
tinue to reverberate through the halls of legislation, till the object



Online LibraryIndiana. General AssemblyDocumentary journal of Indiana 1856, part 1 (Volume 1856, pt.1) → online text (page 35 of 53)