E. A. (Edward Austin) Sheldon.

Autobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon online

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teachers to take charge of a City Training School in Leaven-
worth, Kansas. He had been elected superintendent of the
public schools there, and wanted to start a training school
after the Oswego plan, for training the teachers of that
city. I sent him the teachers as he requested, who organized
the school and remained with him until his resignation. He
resigned to organize a Normal School at Potsdam, in the
year 1869.

At that time he came to Oswego and selected three
teachers to go with him to Potsdam and aid in the open-
ing of that school. Meanwhile we made no allusion to his
attitude toward my paper at Troy, and it was not till some
years afterwards that he said to me: "I suppose that you
must realize that I have changed my coat." I replied that
I supposed that something had happened, as he seemed to
have changed attitude toward the Oswego school. He be-
came one of the strongest advocates of objective and Pesta-
lozzian principles in the country. Since that time he has
written an admirable book embodying these principles.

The second attack* on the Oswego movement was made
by Dr. Wilbur before the National Educational Convention
held at Ogdensburg, N. Y., in 1864. At that meeting a

*"Oswego System of Instruction." Published In Barnard's Journal, 1865.


committee was appointed composed of some of the most
prominent educational men in the country, with Professor
Greene, of Brown University, as chairman, to report on
the subject.

Professor Greene came to Oswego and spent several days
in a careful examination into the practical working of the
Oswego system and presented his report at the next meet-
ing of the N. E. A. at Harrisburg, Pa. Several thousand
copies of this able report were ordered printed and cir-
culated throughout the country. At this same meeting some
lessons were given illustrative of the methods pursued in
the Oswego schools.

This report and the emphatic action of the N. E. A. ef-
fectually silenced all further public opposition in the edu-
cational conventions. To say that we had no further oppo-
sition to meet would not be true. That, indeed, will prob-
ably never come true. "Old fogies," they say, never die.
There is, doubtless, an endless line of succession. We
shall aways have them present with us. For the most part
the opposition that has manifested itself has grown out of
ignorance and prejudice ignorance of the true character
of the movement, and prejudice that is sure to arrive when
old customs and habits are invaded. The new movement
was quite revolutionary in its character. The ordinary pro-
cesses of education were reversed. From the old methods
of words first and ideas afterwards to the new ideas first,
words afterwards the change in the character of school
work was a marked one.

For a time little local opposition manifested itself. The
School Board seconded all my efforts most cordially. They
even passed a resolution giving me authority, carte blanche,


to purchase any material, books, pictures, or anything that
might be necessary to aid me in my work. I could not pos-
sibly have had more cordial support than was given me by
the Board, the teachers, and the citizens, for the most part.
In September, 1869, I resigned my position as Secretary
of the Board of Education, which for several years I had
held conjointly with the principalship of the training school.
About this time, or soon after, the character of the Board
began to change. By a division of the city into eight wards
instead of four, the number of members of the Board was
increased from eight to sixteen. This change brought into
the Board a number of ignorant ward politicians, who knew
little of educational movements and cared less. They cared
more to get their axes ground than to improve the schools
or methods of teaching. During my administration I had
introduced Guyot's Geographies into the public schools
a series of books very far in advance of anything that had
at that time been published. Soon after my retirement,
there came into the Board, a man who was distantly re-
lated to Miss Cornell, the author of Cornell's Geography
a comparatively puerile book, which could in no way be
compared with Guyot's for scientific construction and ar-
rangement of matter. This man, Wallace, conceived the
idea of introducing Cornell, and putting out Guyot. In this
movement he had, of course, the support of the publishers
of Cornell's, which meant a good deal, as they had one of
the strongest publishing houses in the State. When I found
out what was going on, I determined to do what I could
to stop the movement. I went before the Board, labored
with the individual members, and exerted all the personal
influence I could command to prevent the change.


Mrs. Smith, one of my teachers who had worked out
methods of teaching geography on Pestalozzian principles,
whose manuscript had been accepted by the publishers of
Guyot for the first book of the series, and who had worked
with Guyot from the beginning in making his book, came
before the Board to explain its merits. But all to no pur-
pose the membership of this Board was not so constructed
as to be able to appreciate the value of educational prin-
ciples. This was most amusingly manifested in the final
resolution presented by Mr. WallacCj a man, who, as my
'friend Johonot aptly put it, "Could swear better than he
could spell his oaths." This was a remarkable resolution
adopted by the Board as the summing up of the whole busi-
ness: "Resolved, that Cornell's Primary Geography be sub-
stituted for Object Teaching in the public schools of Os-
wego." This ended all argument, but not the animus that
had been aroused by my opposition to the proposed action of
the Board. The discussion got into the daily papers. Two
out of three of these papers opened fire on me, and at the
end pronounced me dead and buried, and "Object Teach-
ing" with me, beyond all possibility of resurrection. But
you know, truth (crushed to earth) will rise again, and the
movement has gone on until it has filled the whole land in
spite of the resolutions of the City Board of Education and
the funeral obsequies by the city papers. This was the last
serious local fight against the new educational movement.
Of course, individuals now and then, from that time to
this, raise a taunting cry against the new fads, but on the
whole, the ranks of the new education have grown greater
and its enemies fewer, and we have no more serious con-
tests to make.



MANY representative educators from different parts of
the country, and teachers from every grade were from time
to time visitors to the training school and the public schools.
Many of the most competent graduates of the school had
been invited to different cities to organize city training
schools on the plan of the Osvvego Training School, and to
State Normal schools to organize training departments in
connection with schools of practice.

Miss Jennie H. Stickney, who was a graduate of the
Salem (Mass.) State Normal School before she came to
Oswego, and who had already gained some reputation as
a teacher, went to Boston, on the strength of my advice, as
a sort of pioneer missionary for the new methods. She
was at that time teaching in one of the primary schools of
Oswego on a salary of three hundred dollars per annum.
She was offered five hundred dollars to go to some town in
the West, and at the same time a friend of mine, a Mr.
Clark, who had been to Oswego to see our work and be-
lieved in it, being principal of one of the grammar schools
of Boston, and desiring to introduce something of our new
methods into his school, offered Miss Stickney, whom I
had recommended to him, three hundred dollars as a pri-
mary teacher in his school. Miss Stickney came to me for



advice as to which position she had better accept the one
West at five hundred dollars or the one in Boston at three
hundred dollars. I advised her to accept the latter. I said :
"I want you to go to Boston to do missionary work." She
took my advice and went.

The Boston teachers had agreed among themselves that
they would not speak to Miss Stickney nor visit her room.
By the end of the year, however, they .had quite forgotten
their prejudices and united in making her a handsome pres-
ent, on which occasion they were frank enough to tell her
all about their agreement to ignore her.

For the next year Mr. Clark arranged to have Miss
Stickney take charge of a primary school in a separate
building, but in his district, at a salary of five hundred dol-
lars. It was while she was in this building that I visited
Boston. I went to the superintendent and asked him to
direct me to the best primary school in Boston. He sent me
over into South Boston. On my way I stopped at Miss
Stickney's school and took her along with me.

We found in this model school of Boston from fifty to
seventy-five children. The quietness of the room was al-
most oppressive. The ticking of the clock was very ob-
servable the sound of a dropping pin would have been
equally observable. A class standing on the floor had the
attitude of so many soldiers. They stood in a perfectly
straight line. They held their books equidistant from their
noses. When they moved, they moved as one body. Every-
thing was in military order and precision. The teacher
showed very marked magnetic power. She could do what
she pleased with the children. As we passed out, Miss
Stickney asked my opinion of the school. "It is the most


perfect automaton school I ever saw. Everything went on
like a piece of clockwork as if moved by some automatic
power," I answered. She replied, "This is the ideal school
in Boston. This is their idea of good order, and they will
not tolerate me." I said, "I think there must be some good
sense in Boston some who will appreciate the difference
between your school and this. You hold on, and I am sure
you will come out all right."

In Miss Stickney's school there was the hum of activity.
All were busy and interested in their work. There was no
idleness, interference, mischief or disorder of any kind
growing out of a lack of interest. All were busy at their
legitimate work. It was a school in every way to be com-
mended, and I felt sure that it would be appreciated, as the
sequel proved it was.

Soon after my return to Oswego, I received a letter
from a gentleman connected with the Boston Board of Edu-
cation, asking what I thought of Miss Stickney's qualifica-
tions to organize and conduct a training school for the pur-
pose of training teachers for the Boston public schools. I
did not hesitate to recommend her for the undertaking.
Her appointment followed soon after. Her salary was ad-
vanced to fifteen hundred dollars. She was given a leave
of absence to come to Oswego to make the necessary prepa-
rations for opening the school, and in September, 1864, the
Boston Training School was opened with Miss Stickney at
its head. She took with her Miss Sarah D. Duganne, a
recent graduate of the school, who acted as her assistant
for many years, and at a later period went to Cincinnati to
take charge of a training school in that city. The Boston
Training School grew into the Boston Normal School, with


Dr. Larkin Dunton at its head and Miss Stickney as as-

Miss Stickney gives a very pleasant account of the inci-
dent that led to her appointment in the training school.
She says, an old gray-haired gentleman, with a gold-headed
cane and his hat in hand, entered her room one day. She
asked him to be seated. He declined, saying that he could
stop but a moment, and asked her not to be interrupted but
to go on with her usual work. He stood some time and
then sat. He stayed on until time for dismissal, when Miss
Stickney said: "It is now time to close our school; can I
do anything more for you ? " He requested her to go on
with some other exercises which he indicated. She did as
he requested and she continued her session a half-hour be-
yond the usual time for dismissal. He very politely thanked
her and left.

This gentleman proved to be a member of the Board of
Education and a visitor for the district. He was so much
pleased with what he saw in this school that he related it
to the Board at their next meeting, and recommended that
they establish a training school for the training of the Bos-
ton teachers, and put Miss Stickney at the head of it. This
was the gentleman who wrote me inquiring into the fitness
of Miss Stickney for the position. In his letter he said
he was fully satisfied of her ability to take the position, but
he wrote for the purpose of having his opinion confirmed
before the Board of Education.

This training school had an important influence on the
educational methods of Boston and vicinity. The teacher
of the South Boston model primary school and its model
teacher, Boston's ideal, I have never heard from.


As already stated, when Miss Jones left, Miss Funnelle
was appointed to give instruction in methods and had
general supervision of the school of practice. Before the
end of the first year she was invited to take charge of the
model primary department of the Albany State Normal
School, at a material advance in salary, and Miss Matilda
S. Cooper was appointed to fill the vacancy a position
which the latter filled for many years with distinguished
success. Within a year or two Miss Funnelle was called to
Indianapolis to organize a city training school, an institu-
tion that still exists and flourishes. Not very long after the
establishment of this city training school, she went to the
State Normal School at Terre Haute, Ind., as teacher of
methods and critic in the school of practice. This position
she held for many years. When she resigned, she went
to Detroit to organize the city training school for that city.
Later she resigned her position in Detroit and went to Johns
Hopkins University for a year's study, then to Pratt Insti-
tute, Brooklyn, for one year, and finally spent one year in
special kindergarten study as a preparation for her present
position as principal of the Kindergarten Training Depart-
ment in our Normal School. I consider her the best teacher
in the country for the position she occupies. She is made
such by her original qualities of heart and head, her long
experience in training teachers, and her educational quali-

Miss Delia A. Lathrop was a graduate of the Albany State
Normal School and had charge of one class in Senior
School No. i in Oswego at the time Miss Jones was here.
At first she did not quite know what to make of the new
movement and stood aloof. As she saw its growth and in-


creasing popularity, she decided to make herself familiar
with its principles and methods, and entered the training
class as a pupil. She was of a strong character and be-
came a warm and able advocate of the new methods. After
graduation she was for a year or two principal of the Wor-
cester City Training School and later principal of the Cin-
cinnati Training School, which she organized, and con-
ducted with distinguished ability for nine years until called
to preside over the household of Prof. Wm. G. Williams, of
Delaware, Ohio.

Miss Mary V. Lee, a graduate of the New Britain, Ct.,
Normal School, came to us in 1862, a chosen delegate from
her State. On her graduation from our method course, the
same year, she, with Mrs. Mary A. McGonegal, went to
Davenport, Iowa, to organize a city training school, an in-
stitution that is still flourishing so far as I know. After
a few years Miss Lee was invited to the State Normal
School at Winona, Minn., while Mrs. McGonegal returned
to become State Superintendent of Missions. Miss Lee
proved herself a very strong, capable teacher and made for
herself an enviable reputation. She has written the most
sensible grammar I have yet seen published. After resign-
ing her position at Winona, she took a medical course at the
University of Michigan, that she might the better know
"how to teach young women how to live." On her gradua-
tion, she came to Oswego to take charge of the department
of physiology and physical culture in our Normal School
a position that she held at the time of her death.

I have spoken of a few of the early graduates who went
out to organize city training schools, but I have not time to
speak of all. Many city training schools were later or-


ganized by our graduates in different parts of the country,
notable among them Worcester, Mass. ; Portland and Lewis-
ton, Me. ; Paterson, N. J. ; Dayton and Cleveland, Ohio. Our
graduates also, as teachers, went into many of the Normal
schools of the country. The Cook County Normal School
had at first most of its teachers from our school, and when
Colonel Parker went to preside over this school, he took
with him Mr. and Mrs. Straight (two of our strongest
teachers), and a recent graduate, Mr. George Fitz, a very
promising young man who had done special work with Mr.
Straight. Miss Emily J. Rice, of the class of '72, had gone
there soon after her graduation, and has remained in the
school through all the changes in its administration. She
has been one of Colonel Parker's most valued helpers in
modifying and in carrying out his ideas; and he has de-
clared her "one of the best teachers of history and litera-
ture in the country."

In 1866-67 six additional state normal and training
schools were established in New York State, all on the
general plan of the Oswego school, only that the courses
of study were considerably enlarged. The year of pro-
fessional work and the school of practice were the same.
The principal change was the addition of the languages, a
change against which the Oswego school always remon-
strated, but as the Superintendent desired that all the new
schools should have the same curriculum, no choice was
left to us but to work with the other schools.

The Oswego school was organized on a different plan
from any other normal school in the country, in that it had
a full year of professional work with a large school of
practice sufficient to give an opportunity for all the mem-


bers of the graduating class to teach at least five months
under criticism. A few other normal schools had what they
called model schools, but they were largely schools for ob-
servation, and very little actual teaching under criticism
was done. The professional character of the school and its
stand for Pestalozzian principles and the new education,
were its distinguishing characteristics ; and upon these its
reputation was won.

As the new schools in the State were organized, gradu-
ates of our school were invited to teach in various depart-
ments, but especially in those of method and criticism.

From what I have said it will be seen that the Oswego
school has had an important influence on the normal school
system of this and other States. This influence was particu-
larly felt in western and southwestern States, notably in
Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and California.



IN THE organization of the school we were fortunate both
in the selection of the Faculty, and in the Local Board.

In Prof. I. B. Poucher we had not only a popular and
able teacher of mathematics, but a wise counselor, a capable
business man, one who made himself useful in many ways.
At the time of this writing, 1897, he is still at his post,
doing his work as well as ever.*

Miss Matilda Cooper, who had most of the professional
work and taught Grammar, was a woman of remarkable
power and insight into educational principles. She had
also rare teaching ability. I have never seen a teacher who
could accomplish so much in a given time. She made a
strong impression on all her pupils.

Prof. Hermann Krusi, a Swiss, was born, as it were, in
the school of Pestalozzi, his father having been associated
as a teacher with Pestalozzi from the beginning and for
many years. The elder Krusi later conducted a Cantonal
Normal School, one of the first established in Switzerland;
and here our Krusi received most of his professional train-
ing, and acquired some years of experience in the applica-
tion of Pestalozzian principles in teaching. Before coming
to Oswego he had been a teacher in the Home and Colonial

'Successor to Dr. Sheldon as Principal. ED.



Training College of London, and afterwards in a famous
private Normal School in Massachusetts. He had also been
a lecturer in teachers' institutes in that State. His subjects
with us were Philosophy and History of Education, Geo-
metry, French and German. He had a very clear insight
into educational principles, knew how to analyze a subject
into its simplest elements, and present it in a clear, logical
way. His assistance in interpreting the application of prin-
ciples to other branches than his own, was invaluable.

Dr. J. W. Armstrong, the science teacher, was a man of
profound scholarship, and of extraordinary skill in the
maniuplation of apparatus.

Mrs. Mary Howe Smith, a graduate of the Albany Nor-
mal School, teacher of geography, was a woman o'f rare
endowments. She had been associated with Professor
Guyot in the preparation of his geographies, and her oppor-
tunities for perfecting herself in her subjects, particularly
geography, had been unusual. As a teacher she had no
superior. Her moral and social influence also was of a
high order. These teachers were all strong in their several
departments and did much to make the school both popular
and useful.

The original Local Board was composed of the follow-
ing gentlemen : Gilbert Mollison, Abner C. Mattoon, David
Harmon, Daniel G. Fort, John K. Post, Samuel B. Johnson,
Benjamin Doolittle, Theo. Irwin, Alanson S. Page, John M.
Barrow, Delos Dewolf, Thomas S. Mott and Thompson
Kingsford. These were all high-minded men, who had the
confidence of the whole community. They were men of
excellent judgment, who acted wisely in all their decisions,
and did much toward putting the school on solid founda-


tion, besides affording it every facility for work. In all
their actions regarding it, they sought only its highest

With such a Faculty and such a Board, the school could
not fail to be successful. It increased rapidly in numbers
and popularity, and very soon outgrew the capacity of the
building for accommodating the pupils. In '78 an appro-
priation of $40,000 was made, to change and enlarge the
building. In 1880 an additional appropriation of $24,625.64
was made to complete the enlargement. In '85 and '86
appropriations, amounting in the aggregate to $9,460.97,
were made to replace the old wooden wing at the northwest
corner of the building with a substantial brick structure.
All these enlargements and improvements went on while the
school was in session, one section at a time being torn down
and rebuilt. The general form of the building remains the
same, but it is greatly enlarged, and its external appearance
is very much changed. It is now amply sufficient to accom-
modate 350 pupils, as many as should be congregated in any
normal school.

A distinguishing feature of our school from the beginning
has lain in our constant endeavor to emphasize the purely
professional side of the training, and to exclude, as far as
practicable, the academic lines of work. This has led to
much controversy, and occasional changes in our organiza-
tion. From the first, I objected to the opening of a clas-
sical department in connection with our school. The prin-
cipals and the State Superintendent disagreed with me, and
no choice was left us in the matter until, during the adminis-
tration of Judge Draper, in '91, consent was gained to drop
out this department. Some other changes were made at


the same time. My object in dropping the classical course
was to gain more time for work in other directions, that
seemed to me more important to the professional character
of the school. An additional year was thus gained for work
in history, science, psychology and teaching, and in higher
English. A year was also added for those who wished to
become superior primary and kindergarten teachers. A spe-
cial course was arranged for training critic and method
teachers. However, as the State Superintendent and the
diploma made no recognition of this course, very few ever

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Online LibraryE. A. (Edward Austin) SheldonAutobiography of Edward Austin Sheldon → online text (page 12 of 18)