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BUILDING



For the Children in the South.



BY



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BOSTON, 1884.



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From Educational, Nov. -Dec. No., 1884.



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EDUCATION.

An International Magazine.



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DEVOTED TO THE SCIENCE, ART, PHILOSOPHY,
AND LITERATURE OF EDUCATION.



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r



1884.] BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH. 143



BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH.

BY A. D. MAYO.

I propose, under the title, " Building for the Children in the South,"
to give the results of a four years' careful observation, through the
States beyond the Potomac and the Ohio, concerning the most prac-
tical and effective way of establishing

THE AMERICAN SYSTEM OF EDUCATION.
I

By the American system of education, I mean not one kind of
schools, exclusively, but all good schooling that has been found valu-
able in our country. The American system of education means, first
and foremost, the free common school for all children, supported by
public taxation, administered by experts who are chosen by the peo-
ple, in public education, as in Government, the final court of appeal
in this Republic ; the free secondary, normal,* technical, and higher
education, held as a matter of undoubted public right, to be exercised
in every State according to a high educational expediency, of which
the people are the final judge; both elementary and superior public
schools being kept as near the people in their local capacity as is con-
sistent with efficient administration ; even State supervision being
confined to things that are general and essential, and national aid in-
vited only at the most critical points, with the sole purpose to stimu-
late local effort, with no assumption of national supervision or control.

Of course, public education, thus defined, has its general function
in the elementary training of mind, discipline of character, and im-
parting of common information, which every wise man knows is essen-
tial to the humblest citizen and the loftiest statesman alike.

Of the six millions of American children and youth actually in
daily attendance, and the ten millions loosely enrolled in public, and
the three hundred thousand in private schools, nine-tenths will cer-
tainly turn their backs upon the school house door as early as the
age of fourteen. The first and ever-present concern in the American
system is to do the best thing possible for these millions of children,
whose average school-life, to-day, in the East does not exceed six, in
the West five, or in the South three full school-years. In the sec
ondary, higher, industrial, and normal departments, which deal with
the few hundred thousand youth in training for educational and social
leadership, the common school has its right, which the people have



144 EDUCA TION. [Nov.

unmistakably confirmed in every American State. But, in this upper
region of education, the people invite the cooperation oi every effect-
ive school. There is ample field for the display of individual genius,
of corporate enterprise, of home and neighborhood training. And
here the church, of every communion, has a field of operation so
broad and exacting that it may well limit its efforts to what it can
never half include, and provoke no conflict with the people on that
field where the people are bound to have their way, whoever goes to
the wall ; the maintenance, at public expense, of the free elementary
school, open to every child, unsectarian in religion though profoundly
moral and religious in the grain, unpartisan in politics, knowing no
distinction of race or sex or social condition, the people's university
of American citizenship for every American child.

More and more is it coming to be understood by all competent and
patriotic thinkers, that there is no necessary conflict of interests be-
tween these different methods of achieving the great result ; since
the most exclusive private or parochial school in our country must
finally adjust itself to the conditions of our peculiar American life.
And it will be a national calamity if, in the face of the invading host
of illiteracy now marching in solid rank to capture the public life of
every American city and State, the champions of the various depart-
ments of school-life permit themselves to be drawn into a side quar-
rel that shall for a moment divert the attention of the people from
the one American question that towers immeasurably above all present
issues of church and state, What shall we do with that American
barbarism which, disguised under any deceptive title, is the same hate-
ful thing, in New Orleans or in Boston ; in the wilds of the moun-
tains, or the slums of the metropolis ; in the blanket of the cow-boy,
or under the dress-coat of the senator ; the implacable foe of every-
thing which every true American holds essential to the existence of
the foremost republic in the world ?

I propose to tell how, under the present conditions, the whole peo
pie of the South, within the present generation, can fairly and firmly
place on the ground this American system of education. For I hold
that if the people of these sixteen States, with all the help that
Providence may vouchsafe, in a long generation, can establish their
final system of education, which shall be developed as the years go
on, it will have done the greatest work for the children ever yet ac-
complished in Christendom. And in this " Building for the Chil-
dren" I do not appear as an outside architect, flourishing an ideal
plan or insisting upon any local excellence of home or foreign celeb-
rity. Indeed, / shall speak of nothing which has not been actually



1884.] BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH. 1 45

tried, with complete success, under average conditions, in some part of
the Southland. So my discourse will only be an honest effort to
voice the achievements of Southern school-men comparing notes and
cheering each other around the corner of the mighty structure now
rising under their hands. I only presume to wield the baton of the
orchestra while it plays an overture which is but a series of variations
on this one theme, every strain and note caught and fixed in the
score as it has floated in from the solitary music breathed into the ear
of some little child.

THE AWAKENING OF THE PEOPLE.

The first condition of success in our Southern States is a great
and general awakening of all classes of the Southern people to the
appalling dangers of the illiteracy revealed, though half concealed,
by the startling figures of the national census of 1880. For, until
the whole people of the South honestly face this condition, there can
be no general or very effective development of educational reform.
The superior class of the Southern people, during the past fifteen
years, under circumstances that would have appalled any but an
American people, have put in operation, in every State, a sufficient
system of public schools, and have reconstructed and enlarged their
old system of the secondary and higher education. And I say, here,
if need be, in the face of disparagement from over the line, that no
body of superior people, so few in numbers, so overwhelmed in the
work of rebuilding society from the wrecks of civil war, has any-
where made an effort so heroic, with such a hopeful outlook, as this
people of whom I speak. This year the sixteen States once known
as Southern will spend not less than fifteen millions of dollars upon
the education of their children, and in every State there will be a
positive gain in every department of educational life.

But everybody knows that this is only the beginning, and is, at
best, so painfully inadequate to compass the result that it were well
to waste no time in congratulations, but press onward to the more
difficult work of a great awakening of the whole people of the South.
For here is the cause of the imperfect working, sometimes the dis-
couraging failure, of the best plans of " Building for the Children."
In every community there are men of wealth and influence not yet
really awakened to this mighty necessity of the people. There are
too many reasonably prosperous and respectable parents only con-
cerned for their own children, not even intelligently informed of their
demands. And there is the mighty army of those to whom educa-
tion is yet only a vague name, at best a name to charm with, who



I46 EDUCA TION. [Nov.

either care nothing for the school, or abuse it by ignorant interference
with everything wisely done therein. Now, in Europe, the method
of dealing with such a situation would be for a centralized govern-
ment to mature a plan, enact a law, place the expert in the school-
room and the policeman at the father's elbow, and enforce such
elementary instruction as it should deem expedient for a State gov-
erned by itself. But I need not say this is not the American,
especially is not the Southern American way in which any good
thing can be done. Nowhere in our country has a group of eminent
people so great influence for good as still in the South ; but, after all,
its power is only moral and its implement is only agitation. If any-
body in those States is deluding himself with the fancy that an effect-
ive system of schools for the masses can, in any way, be forced upon,
smuggled into, or insinuated among the people without their full con-
sent and hearty cooperation, his disenchantment is only a question
of time. Anybody can lead the horse to water, but all the world
can't force the horse to drink unless he is dry. Only when this great
mass of ignorance and indifference at the bottom of every State is
agitated, upheaved, and moved to its deepest depths, can anything
effective be accomplished in such a mighty work as I outline. Until
this is done our Southern school-life, from the plantation primary to
the University of Virginia, will be a vessel tossed on the stormy
waves of a treacherous sea. As this is accomplished, all schools will
improve, superior teachers will come into demand, and, in a thousand
ways now deemed impossible, money will flow in to help the building
rise towards heaven.

This great awakening cannot be achieved, to any large extent, by
laborers from without, but is the proper work of the whole superior
class at home Every State has its own favorite way of raising a
popular breeze. Every popular device not absolutely unsuited to the
case should be brought into requisition for the next ten years to
I arouse the people. The leading press of every Southern State is
now doing splendid service, and only needs to be told to keep on
doing the same thing, a little harder, every week. Every county,
village, secular and religious newspaper should be " roped in " and
made to blaze with the best columns that the ablest friend of the
children can indite. The pulpit should be summoned to speak out in
unmistakable tones for that general enlightenment, without which
every church becomes a dark cave of superstition where contentious
Christians squabble over dry bones of non-essentials, knowing not
the light of that love which is the " fulfilling of the law." Every
candidate for public office, from President down to policeman, should



1 884.] BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH. 147

be compelled to face the people and tell " what he knows about "
education. It will be " mighty " convenient, twenty years hence, for
the young lawyers and ambitious young men of the South to be able
to pull out of their pockets a "ringing speech " in behalf of the boys
and cnrls who will then pass in the ballots that decide their political
fate. And if great statesmen pose and ponder in uncertainty, and
mighty doctors have no opinions, and the stars of fashion "have no
use" for themes so common place as education in their drawing-
rooms, then let every earnest man and woman, every eager school-
boy and girl come to the front to plead, " in season and out of season,"
for the children. And if all other devices fail, perhaps the Lord of
Light will inspire even gouty, grizzly, ragged old Uncle Remus to
climb the nearest rail-fence and give his last shout, " God dress de
little children in de schools."

I know of what I speak when I say that the inward ear of the
South is now awaiting this mighty call, all ready to respond. Why,
even I, a stranger from the far-off land of snowdrifts and east wind,
a man of whom nobody had heard, with only a hundred dollars in my
pocket, and nothing in my carpet-bag but the New Education, have
been welcomed through the length and breadth of the great Southern
Empire in a way almost unheard of in the annals of American edu-
cational life. I have found no crowd of colored folk so humble that
they did not hearken like quiet children while I have talked of the
blessings of education. The most frisky colony of small boys on the
front seat of the opera-house becomes my most receptive audience as
soon as they find out I am talking for them. The wisest of Southern
men come to find out if I have any key to unlock any educational
gate now closed. The best people in a hundred villages tramp
through winter mud and storm to encourage my familiar talk. The
only drawback to my ministry is the fact that I know so little of what
I speak ; am a man of sixty, who lost his constitution forty years ago,
and is now living on the few remaining by-laws ; cannot be in a hun-
dred places at once, correspond with every teacher, and be the friend
of every smart boy and darling little girl between the Potomac and
the Rio Grande. I go to a town of ten thousand people, and find
the largest assembly hall thrown open, at noonday, crowded with
school-children and their teachers ; the gallery a rainbow of pretty
girls from the neighboring academy; the leading men of the city
on the platform ; all hungry and thirsty for the gospel accord-
ing to the children. I am invited to an Educational Barbecue,
where, after the mighty roast is consumed, the people gather in solid
mass around the most convenient stump, and close my hour of talk



148 EDUCATION. [Nov.

with a resolve to " go the whole hog " for education. I stand in a
college chapel, twenty years ago a hospital and a fortress on the
battle-ground in the rear of Vicksburg ; the old portholes yet re-
maining in its dilapidated window-shutters ; the house crowded with
the young people of two great schools, the sons and daughters of the
men we were fighting then, now cheering every patriotic word as
lustily as a music-hall full of Boston boys and girls. Now if I, a
stranger and nobody in particular, can do these things, what cannot
the foremost men of the South, in this home of eloquence, what
cannot those women before whose social power we all doff our hats,
achieve, if once moved by the spirit of the Lord as workers in this
great revival for the awakening of the people in the supreme cau^e
of " Building for the Children " ? Surely, to a people so magnetic,
susceptible, enthusiastic, and irresistible as this, one need not argue
or entreat to come forth once more in its might in behalf of those
who are dearer than life. The country wants the South not other-
wise than as God made it and the providential schooling of the past
has left it, and only demands that its people shall give themselves,
just as they are, in their own best way, to this glorious crusade for
light and love. Let South Carolina goon " eating fire" ; only follow
her splendid schoolmaster, Governor Thomson, eating fire in behalf
of education. Let the whole South become " solid " for the children,
and it shall become the corner " stone that cannot be broken," on
which shall rise the temple of liberty seen in vision by the fathers,
still the dearest hope of all her worthy daughters and patriotic sons.

LOCAL TAXATION POR EDUCATION.

The second condition of success in " Building for the Children "
is, to thoroughly arouse and iiiform the public mind on the radical im-
portance of general local taxation for the support of schools. The
average man always finds it difficult to take up one good thing with-
out dropping another. Our Southern States, for the next generation,
need every agency for the support of schools, individual, corporate,
local, and State, with all the aid that the National Government can
be induced to give. But it is very important that the people should
know where the real pinch must finally come, and who can justly be
held responsible for the success or failure of their new education.
A community that buttons up its own pocket and waits for private
beneficence, State or National aid, to educate its children, will cer-
tainly be disappointed and remain in ignorance. So, whatever may
be our individual opinion on the supplementary aids for. the public
school, all thoughtful men must agree in this, that the burden must



1884.] BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH. 149

finally be shouldered by the community whose children arc taught in
the schools.

I know the uncertain ground on which I tread when I press home
this point of local taxation. One of the most painful signs of
ignorance and selfishness in public affairs is the prevalence of the
notion that taxation, at best, is disguised despotism, and the com-
munity that gets off with the least is most to be congratulated. The
most fruitful field for the demagogue is a community demoralized 'by
this fallacy, for he has only to raise the cry of " reduction of taxes "
to carry a majority of deluded people, who, to save on the tax-bill,
will put the knife to the throat of every sacred interest and willingly
drift back to barbarism. The poorest speculation in financial affairs
is to knock out the brains of a community to save money. The Amer-
ican idea is, that taxation is a voluntary'assessment of the people,
according to their ability, to pay for things indispensable to the exist-
ence and progress of the community. And wisdom in public finance
consists in taxing most generously for the most radical public neces-
sity. The State or community that taxes bravely and amply for
public education will find itself more and more relieved from the
thousand perils of public dishonesty, public corruption, and the hate-
ful charge for crime and pauperism, and the manifold curses that,
like a flock of buzzards, hover over an ignorant people.

Whatever may be our theory of public finance, it must be evident
that the one place where local taxation can be most forcibly urged is in
bcJialf of the children. All men give money freely for what they
love best ; and surely the school-tax should have in it most of the
heart and mind of the people. There may be reasonable doubt con-
cerning the outcome of expenditure for many objects of public con-
cern. But no competent man, for a moment, will question the wis-
dom of the most generous investment in that education which is the
development of power and the training of every kind of ability that
will insure the highest prosperity of every sort in the years to come.
For public money wisely expended in a good school is money loaned
to the one creditor who always pays, who inherits what we must
leave, to whose charge must be committed everything for which men
toil, suffer, and fight in this world. The real treasury of every com-
monwealth, of any city or county therein, is the child. Every thing,
at last, depends on our success in making him intelligent, industri-
ous, refined, and good. The character of a town, a county, a genera-
tion hence, is the character we pay for by what we give to the upper
story of the child, to-day. To leave him in mental and moral dark-
ness, ignorant, superstitious, brutal, quarrelsome, and shut up to his



150 EDUCATION. [Nov.

own little narrow life, is the surest way on earth to blight the com-
munity to which he belongs. So every dollar wisely expended on
the child is " treasure laid up in heaven," and heaven always pays
compound interest, while hell was repudiation and bankruptcy from
the beginning. Whatever may be left undone by Nation or States,
no community that understands its own interest will evade or resist
the utmost possible sacrifice for that public education which pays
everybody as no other outlay does in this world. And the men who
should lead in this good work should be those whom God has blessed
with abundant means. The only safety for prosperity is found where
the mass of the people is competent to understand the relations of
capital and labor. Communism is the pit that yawns below every
State whose masses are groping through the perilous labyrinth of
mental confusion and labor without brains. Of all classes in our
country, the wealthy class can least afford to advocate a narrow and
selfish policy in public education.

And, further, we must insist that justice and interest alike demand
the most generous and persistent expenditure for education in the
very lowest strata of society. There is little danger that the chil-
dren of the well-to-do and superior class will not enjoy the best op-
portunities. But the one class no State can afford to neglect is that
for which the majority cares little, and which, so often, has no wise
regard for itself. To cast upon the ignorant mass of either race the
responsibility of educating itself is simply to declare that a State can
get on safely with* such an element perpetually increasing at the bot-
tom of society. It is like the foolish householder who should turn in
disgust from the foul cess-pool under his chamber-window, waiting
till it should purify itself, while he lavished his thousands on the
adornment of the drawing room and the luxuries of his table. In
due time a ghastly demon would arise from that neglected abyss and
stalk through his palace, smiting the dearest household treasures with
disease and death, and the glory of his mansion would be changed to
a charnel-house.

And we must realize that the most valuable education we can give
these ignorant masses, of every sort, is the most stringent training
in that intelligent industry, rigid economy, and public spirit which
will bring out their children upon the high ground of worthy citizen-
ship. It will be good for the Southern colored man to know that he
is not to remain the perpetual romance of Christendom ; less and
less, every year, will be bolstered up by charity from abroad, and
more, as the years go on, will be forced to take his own place and
make his way, in American style, toward the front. American citi-



1 884.] BUILDING FOR THE CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH. 151

zenship can not always mean prolonged childhood, or American suff-
rage the voting of ignorant masses onthe most complex problem of
government now set upon earth. The best friends of our colored


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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoBuilding for the children in the South → online text (page 1 of 3)