E. A. (Edward Austin) Sheldon.

Autobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon online

. (page 11 of 18)
Online LibraryE. A. (Edward Austin) SheldonAutobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon → online text (page 11 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Dr. ANDERSON, Pres't of Rochester University, New York ;
J. W. BULKLEY, Superintendent of Schools, Brooklyn, N. Y. ;
S. S. RANDALL, Superintendent of Schools, New York City;
GEO. L. FARNHAM, Superintendent of Schools, Syacuse, N. Y. ;
S. W. STARKWEATHER, Superintendent of Schools, Rochester,

N. Y.;

Prof. E. L. YOUMANS, New York;
JAS. CRUIKSHANK, Ed, N. Y. Teacher;
J. D. PHILBRICK, Supt. of Schools, Boston, Mass. ;
DAVID N. CAMP, State Superintendent of Schools, Conn.;
WM. F. PHELPS, Prin. of State Normal School, N. J. ;
THO. H. BURROWS, Supt. of Com. Schools, State of Pa.;
J. S. ADAMS, Sec'y Board Education, Vt. ;
W. H. WELLS, Sup't Schools, Chicago, 111. ;
Dr. RYERSON, Supt. Public Instruction, U. C. ;
Hon. HENRY BARNARD, Hartford, Ct. ;
Rev. B. G. NORTHROP, State Agent, Bd. Education, Mass. ;
Prof. HERMANN KRUSI, Lancaster, Mass.;
HENRY B. WILBUR, M. D., Supt. of New York State Asylum for

Imbeciles, Syracuse, N. Y. ;
W. D. HUNTLEY, Prin. Exper. Dept. State Normal School, Albany,

N. Y.;
THO. F. HARRISON, Prin. Greenwich Av. School, New York

Miss L. E. KETCHUM, Prin. of the Experimental Dept. State

Normal School, Bloomington, 111.,
and others.

We shall be happy to welcome you to the hospitality of our
citizens during your stay with us, and afford you every possible
facility to further the object of your visit. We shall also be pleased


to have you associate with you such other persons as you may

We adopt this course for the purpose of calling public attention
to what we regard as a great improvement in the methods of
primary instruction usually pursued in this country, with the hope
that it may result in promoting a reformation which we deem of
the highest importance to the cause of education.

We shall endeavor to have such papers read before the com-
mittee as will give a clear idea of the essential features of this
system; also, illustrate fully the methods of teaching, and give an
opportunity of seeing its practical working in the school-room. We
hope the committee will take ample time to make a thorough and
satisfactory examination. We think it will require not less than
three or four days. This, however, will be left to the option of the
committee as the extent and method of the examination will be

left entirely to them

Very respectfully yours,

E. A. SHELDON, Secretary.

At this meeting the following persons were present and acted on
the committee :
S. B. WOOLWORTH LL. D., Sec'y Board of Regents, Albany,

N. Y.;

EMERSON W. KEYES, Deputy Supt. Pub. Instruction, N. Y.;
Hon. DAVID N. CAMP, State Sup't Schools, Conn., and Principal

of the State Normal School;

GEO. L. FARNHAM, Sup't Schools, Syracuse, N. Y.;
S. W. STARKWEATHER, Sup't Schools, Rochester, N. Y. ;
HENRY B. WILBUR, M. D., Sup't New York State Asylum for

Idiots, Syracuse, N. Y. ;

Prof. D. H. COCHRAN, Prin. State Normal School, Albany, N. Y. ;
Prof. WM. F. PHELPS, Prin. State Normal School, Trenton, N. J. ;
W. D. HUNTLEY, Prin. Experimental Department, State Normal

School, Albany, N. Y. ;
Miss L. E. KETCHUM, Prin. of the Experimental Department,

State Normal School, Bloomington, 111. ;
THOS. F. HARRISON, Prin. Greenwich Av. School, New York

W. NICOLL, School Commissioner, Suffolk Co., N. Y. ;


JAS. CRUIKSHANK, Editor New York Teacher, Albany, N. Y. ;
Dr. M'CLELLAN, Clerk of the Board of Education, Patterson, N. J.

The following gentlemen were appointed a special committee to
prepare the report :

Prof. W. F. PHELPS,

Prof. D. H. COCHRAN,



H. B. WILBUR, M. D.,

W. NICOLL, Esq.,


The committee spent three days in this examination

At the close of the convention, Prof. Phelps, in behalf of the
committee, read a lengthy and able report which has been pub-
lished under the direction of the Board of Education, by Harper &
Bro., New York, in connection with a full and detailed report of
all the lessons given and exercises had, together with the papers
read by Miss Jones and Mr. Calkins, and therefore need not be re-
peated here. We will simply quote the conclusion of the report:

1. That the principles of that system are philosophical and
sound ; that they are founded in, and are in harmony with the nature
of man, and hence are best adapted to secure to him such an educa-
tion as will conduce in the highest degree to his welfare and happi-
ness, present and future.

2. That the particular methods of instruction presented in the
exercises before us as illustrative of those principles, merit and
receive our hearty approbation, subject to such modifications as ex-
perience and the characteristics of our people may determine to be
wise and expedient.

In conclusion, the Committee beg leave to present in the form of
resolutions the following recommendations :

"Resolved, That in the opinion of your Committee, the System
of Object Teaching is admirably adapted to cultivate the perceptive
faculties of the child, to furnish him with clear conceptions and the
power of accurate expression, and thus to prepare him for the prose-
cution of the sciences or the pursuits of active life; and that the
Committee do recommend the adoption of the system in whole or
in part, wherever such introduction is practicable.

"Resolved, That this system of primary education, which sub-
stitutes in great measure the teaciiers for the book, demands in its


instructors varied knowledge and thorough culture; and that at-
tempts to introduce it by those who do not clearly comprehend its
principles, and who have not been trained in its methods, can only
result in failure."

All of which is respectfully submitted.

(Signed) WM. F. PHELPS,

Special Committee on Report.

Approved by the General Committee, and read before the Con-
vention, in Doolittle Hall, on Thursday evening, February I3th, 1862.

From several gentlemen who were unable to meet with the Com-
mittee, very interesting letters were received, manifesting their lively
interest in the movement. The following are extracts from two of
them :

Hartford, Ct, Feb. 3, 1862.

DEAR SIR It would give me great pleasure to attend the exer-
cises, illustrative of the system of Primary Instruction introduced by
you and the Board of Education into the public schools of Oswego.
I have no misgivings as to the result of your experiment if that
can be called an experiment which has been so long, and so widely,
and so successfully done elsewhere.

I have in various ways in my report to the Board and Com-
missioners of Common Schools in Conn, in 1840 in the Connecti-
cut Common School Journal in my volume on Normal Schools in
England in my National Education in Europe, and in the American
Journal of Education in my volume on Pestalozzi and Pestaloz-
zianism and in my Papers for the Teacher, second series by
repetition of the same ideas, principles and methods successfully
applied by the Home and Colonial Infant and Juvenile School
Society in London tried to make them known and living realities
in our own school-rooms.

Your way of indoctrinating teachers and training them to the
methods, is the best way, and I should be very glad to witness


your exercises ; but my engagements for the month will prevent. I
shall be happy to help give circulation to an account of your doings,
and to receive your reports.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

To E. A. Sheldon, Esq.

Boston, Feb. 6, 1862.

your circular, dated Dec. 2, 1861, containing an invitation from the
Board of Education of the city of Oswego to several educational
gentlemen, myself among the number, to attend an examination
of the Primary Schools of your city, in reference to Object Lessons,
on the nth of this month. For this courteous invitation and for
the hospitality so generously offered by your citizens, I desire to
tender my sincere acknowledgements. I had hoped to be present
on that interesting occasion, but I now find myself compelled, on
account of illness, to forego the pleasure I had anticipated.

I entertain a high appreciation of the value of the Pestalozzian
principles of Primary education which have been so successfully
introduced into the schools of your city from the famous Training
School in London, by your efficient Superintendent, Mr. E. A.
Sheldon. I regard the proposed exhibition in Oswego as highly im-
portant, inasmuch as it will doubtless afford a better opportunity
than has ever hitherto been enjoyed in this country, of witnessing
the results of instruction on the Pestalozzian plan of developing the
faculties by means of lessons on objects, animals, plants, form,
size, number, color, place and drawing, together with various
physical exercises. I shall look for the report of the able Committee
on the subject with much interest. This movement will also be
useful in directing the attention of educators more especially to the
defects of Primary education, which are more grave, more numer-
ous, and more difficult to remedy, than those of any other department.

I sympathize with those who are endeavoring to diffuse more
just views among the people respecting the nature and objects of
elementary education, and I would give them my co-operation and
support. Still I feel that the greatest instrumentality for the im-
provement of Primary education, and that on which we must mainly
rely, is the professional training of teachers. Our theories may be
sound, but they cannot work out themselves. The Pestalozzian prin-


ciples have long been familiar to the leading educators in this
country and yet they have made little progress in our Primary
schools, for the want of teachers competent to apply them in prac-
tice. Not but that the teachers are well educated; but they have
not had the advantages of a professional training school, so that
they undertake their work with every preparation but that most
of all needed.

It is upwards of thirty years since efforts were made to engraft
the Pestalozzian principles upon the Boston system of Primary
instruction. Josiah Holbrook, A. B. Alcott, Prof. William Russell,
Joseph Ingraham, and others, labored earnestly in the cause. In
the "J ourria l of Education," edited by Prof. Russell and published
in Boston in 1829, we find some of the ablest articles on the subject.
Holbrook's apparatus, and specimens of natural history were placed
in some of our Primary schools, and indeed, at that time, and for a
considerable period afterwards, a cabinet was considered an indis-
pensable part of a Primary school apparatus. But after a time the
Object Teaching died out, because the teachers were not trained in
the system. In our recent efforts to revive the system to some
extent, I find where the teacher is not interested in it, the results
are far from satisfactory. But the same is true, indeed, with every

With the best wishes for the success of your exhibition, I am,
sir, Yours most truly,


During the past year, hundreds of letters have been received,
from every portion of the country, many of them of the most flatter-
ing character, showing a deep interest in these methods of instruc-
tion. It is evidently taking a deep hold of the educational mind of
this country, and it can but exert a powerful influence in reforming
our methods of teaching. It needs but to be understood to be appre-
ciated and adopted.

We may feel that we have cause for congratulations that these
methods have been so thoroughly embodied into our own schools.
Their effect is of the most marked and happy character. It seems
to awaken every sense, and every faculty of the child. Perception
is quickened, and observation is awakened and rendered accurate.
Language and the moral sense are carefully and admirably culti-
vated. We have never seen any course pursued with little children


which seems so thoroughly and completely to educate the whole
being, including the physical, the intellectual and the moral. Al-
though we are happy in the conviction that much has been accom-
plished during the past two or three years in the way of introduc-
ing improved methods of teaching into our primary schools, yet we
are far from supposing that all has been accomplished. We feel, in
fact, that only a beginning has been made a foundation begun, on
which a superstructure is to be reared. These methods are yet to
be carried up, and as it were, "dovetailed" into the various subjects
of study in the higher grades. This will require time. It must
grow out of further observation and experience. It is proposed at
the commencement of the next term to make a beginning in this
direction with the C. classes, junior, for which see course of study
in appendix. While, then, much has already been accomplished,
much remains yet to be done, and our aim and purpose must ever
be "onward and upward."

E. A. Sheldon, Sec'y- President.

The result of this educational meeting was most satisfactory,
and gave a decided impetus to the movement. From this moment
its success was assured, and it soon became famous. Educational
men from all parts of the country were drawn to Oswego to see its

Extracts from Twelfth Annual Report of Board of Education,
Oswego, N. Y ., 1865.

Moses T. Brown, Esq., at that time the Superintendent of Public
Schools of the city of Toledo, who spent several days in our schools,
having visited the schools of the leading cities of the country, in-
cluding those of New England, says in his annual report for 1861 :
"The best primary schools I have yet seen in this country are those
of Oswego, N. Y. I did not notice a single instance of that-listlessness
and stupefaction which is inseparable from our systems of rote teach-
ing. There was a constant activity on the part of the teachers ; the
the recitations were short, the longest being twenty minutes. Each
pupil seemed interested, every eye flashed with delight, each little face
was radiant, the movements were elastic. There were no dull, heavy
faces, each pupil seemed thoroughly awake. Was it not because the
teaching was sensible and natural, as well as philosophical?"


Another visitor says : "Since I visited your city I have visited
nearly all the schools of any note in Canada West, Western New
York and Ohio, and I must still hold my first impression, that none
are equal to those of Oswego in all the various departments of in-

Of such letters as these we had a constant inpouring during
these years, from all directions.

There now sprang up a demand for teachers trained in the new
methods, and we began to feel the loss of teachers drawn off to
other localities. In this way, it soon became apparent that we were
training teachers for other localities as well as our own.

Before Miss Jones left, arrangements were made with her for
such notes and manuscript as she might have in her possession, and
with her aid and that of Hermann Krusi, who came to help in our
work at this time, the "Manual of Elementary Instruction" was
issued, which was designed as a guide to teachers who might desire
to work out these plans. The "Lessons on Objects" soon followed.
About the same time, too, appeared "Calkins' Object Lessons."
While bringing out this book Mr. Calkins spent a few weeks in
Oswego, observing our work. These three books constituted, at
that time, the only literature on this subject, and had quite an
extensive sale. They did much toward forwarding the movement.





ON THE retirement of Miss Jones, Miss A. P. Funnelle,
the present principal of our Kindergarten Training Depart-
ment, was employed to assist as critic and method teacher.
We were now fully launched on the second year of our

The school was at this time transferred from the Fourth
Street School, on the west side of the river, to the Fourth
Ward School, on East Fourth Street. This was a much
'larger building, with much more ample accommodations
in every way. The school of practice embraced all the
classes of the primary school which occupied the first
floor. The training class was divided into two sections.
One section received instruction in the methods, while the
other was engaged in the teaching of the school of practice.
With this arrangement the sections alternated morning and
afternoon in recitation and teaching.

The faculty, as spread out on paper, looks more formid-
able that it really was. The entire time of all these
teachers was by no means given to the training class. The
principal was, at the same time, superintendent of the

*For a full report of the faculty of the school and other items of interest
see the Tenth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the year ending
March 31, 1863.



public schools. Mr. Krusi taught French and drawing in
the High school. Mr. Weller was principal of a Senior
school. Mrs. Smith was a teacher in the Senior department
of the school that occupied the same building with the
training class. Miss Seaver also held a position in the
same school. Only Miss Funnelle gave her entire time
to the class. The rest of us gave instruction at stated
hours along the lines indicated. The recitations were ar-
ranged to suit the convenience of all parties, and so as not
to interfere with other duties. To each room in the school
of practice was assigned a permanent teacher, and those
in training came in and taught under the criticism of these
teachers and Miss Funnelle, who had general supervision
of the whole.

At that early day we called the schools o'f practice
"model" schools, as each class had its permanent teacher,
selected with reference to her superior ability as teacher of
a class given her. The term was more appropriate than
at a later date, when all the teaching was done by the
pupils in training. At that time it was a school both of
observation and of practice in teaching.

It was during this second year of the existence of the
training school that application was made to the Legisla-
ture for money to aid in the support of the school. In
February, 1863, an appropriation of $3,000 was made, sub-
ject to certain conditions as to buildings and attendance.
Owing to some defect in the working of the law, no bene-
fit was realized from the appropriation during this year.
During the following year the law was amended, and on
May 5, 1865, $2,128.50 were realized, and on March 31,


1866, $1,781.67 were received.* To the extent indicated
by this act the school was now recognized as a State institu-
tion, subject to the supervision of the State Superintendent.

In 1865 the law making appropriations to the school and
affecting the reception of pupils and the general manage-
ment of the school was so amended as to make an appro-
priation of $6,000 for the school untrammeled by the con-
ditions of attendance which seriously embarrassed the pre-
vious appropriation, but conditioned on the provision of
suitable buildings and grounds for the school by the city
of Oswego. On the passage of this act, meetings of citi-
zens were called to consult as to the course to pursue in
order to comply with the provisions of this act.

A committee of citizens was appointed to cooperate with
the Board of Education, and the decision was reached to
purchase what is known as the U. S. Hotel property, mak-
ing such improvements and enlargements as might be found
necessary for the accommodation of the school.

The purchase was accordingly made, exchanging in
part payment a lot purchased for school purposes on West
Fourth Street. The balance paid for the hotel property
was $7,500. The contract price for repairing and enlarging
the building was $7,750, making the entire cost of the prop-
erty $15,250. To this must be added for furniture and
all necessary changes and fittings, $15,750; making the en-
tire cost of the building to the city $31,000.

The training school was transferred to the new building
on February 28, 1866. The public school took possession
at the same time, which was to constitute the school of

*A copy of the first act may be found on page 106 of the Annual Report
of the Board of Education for the year ending March 31, 1863.


practice and model schools. Provision was made for two
model schools as well as for the school of practice. One
of the model schools was made up of children from differ-
ent grades to represent an ungraded school, and the other
was a single grade to represent a graded school. These
were strictly schools of observation and were taught only
by paid teachers. To these, pupils in training went to
observe the best methods of teaching and managing
ordinary schools. The idea was a good one, but at a later
day these departments were crowded out for want of



THIS movement for the progress of educational reforms
and the establishment of a Normal School on a new basis
was not an easy-going one. It did not move of its own ac-
cord. As I was on my way to Albany to see what could be
done to the end of having our little training school incor-
porated as a State Normal School, my old friend, Mr.
Hamilton, who did not at the outset sympathize with me in
my educational ideas and plans, met me on the crosswalk
down town, and inquired where I was going with my grip-
sack. I frankly told him. He replied : "We do not need any
more normal schools; we have enough now." (We then
had but one, the Albany school.) Being of a different mind,
I was not deterred from my purposes. At Albany, I found
Hon. A. C. Mattoon in the Assembly and Hon. Cheney
Ames in the Senate. They most cordially co-operated with
me in my plans, and practically relieved me of any further
effort. Hon. V. M. Rice, the State Superintendent, was
also in sympathy with me in our methods and our move-
ment, and rendered us essential service by recommending
and encouraging our plans. These were strong forces and
enabled us easily to secure all that we asked.

For many years we had strong men and warm friends in
both branches of the Legislature ; such men as D. C. Little-
john, D. G. Fort, Benjamin Doolittle, George B. Sloan all



able men, with a strong influence in the Legislature, and
always able to secure for the Oswego school all necessary
appropriations. To these men the school is greatly indebted
for its success. Without them, in fact, nothing could have
been accomplished. Even to this day, if we want anything
of the Legislature, we depend on the influence of Mr. Sloan
to secure it for us.

The strongest opposition the school had to meet was from
the teachers and educational people. As I have already in-
timated, Mr. Hamilton, principal of the High School, was
not in sympathy with my ideas at the beginning, although
at a later date he became, as Superintendent, a hearty co-

Other prominent teachers manifested no very enthusiastic
interest in my work of reform, but so far as I approved of
them as teachers of commendable ability, I assigned them
work, and they all became warm friends and able workers.
All that was necessary was to understand the movement, to
approve it. In this way I carried with me my entire corps
of teachers.

The most active opposition to the movement sprang up
in the State and National Educational Conventions. The
first attack was made by Dr. Wilbur, Superintendent of the
State Asylum for Imbeciles at Syracuse, N. Y. It was at
the New York State Teachers' Association held at Roches-
ter, N. Y., in the year 1862. At that meeting, Dr. Wilbur
made a virulent attack on the Oswego methods. It was
characterized more by ridicule than by argument. At the
close of his address a committee was appointed to answer
his address at the next meeting, which was held at Troy,


N. Y. As chairman of this committee, I framed the answer.
This led to a very full discussion of the subject.

Prominent among those who spoke against the movement
was D. M. MacVicar, at that time principal of the Acad-
emy at Brockport, N. Y. He was an able man and a
vigorous speaker. At the time I reckoned him among the
strongest opponents that put in an appearance. The next
I heard of him, he wrote to know if I could send him two

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryE. A. (Edward Austin) SheldonAutobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon → online text (page 11 of 18)