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gers and delaorse rather thecurity, to trustshow or by
s wilderhe party leavent of his house to the sche, exposed
a north-easter blowing, which makes it doubtful whether the day is to be characterized by sun, by snow or by rain. He is advised, for better security, to trust himself to the back of his horse rather than expose himself to the dangers and delays to which any vehicle would be exposed in the uncertain paths which lead to the school house. Yielding to the judgment of his host in these matters, he starts. The party leaves the road and enters the boundless wilderness of pines and bogs in which the temples of science are located. As they pass by the log houses which lie on either side within view of the path, our reformer has some unpleasant visions of childish faces peering at him through the embrasures of the houses, intended for windows, and his suspicions are occasionally converted into certainty by the sight of a lad of fourteen or fifteen, who stands at the door of the house and looks listlessly at the party, with a gaze of curiosity that cares not to be satisfied. It is perhaps well for our philosopher that these premonitory symptoms have presented themselves to his notice. otherwise his equanimity may desert him when he views, on his arrival at the school, a beggarly account of empty benches, and finds in the teacher's annual return so appalling an account of time lost.
The scene which we have thus endeavored to pourtray in advance is no sketch from fancy, but one the reality of which will be recognized by every one who knows any thing of the middle and lowland districts.
In a great number of instances the larger children are kept at home to assist in providing for the necessities of the family, and when this is the case, the younger members, who can give no aid in that department, are likewise detained, because they need the protecting presence of their elder brother or sister in their long and dreary walks to the school house. An excuse like this can hardly fail to be accepted as valid, even by a philosopher. But in addition to this, it is a notorious fact that children do not want excuses to stay at home. The slightest reason is sufficient to excuse their attendance on school. Parents cannot be taught the importance of regularity. It is useless, therefore, to have any system, unless the parent can be made to co-operate with the teacher, and we know of no process short of actual coercion which can effect this co-operation.
If our reforming superintendant has not struck too deeply,
the failure of his system may be so gradual, his theories may fade away so imperceptibly, that he will liardly be conscions of it, and our schools may still remain to us. This, however, is the only favorable side of the picture. The schools have no foundation in public opinion. They are marks at which every politician aims his shaft; every governor calls the attention of the legislature to their inefficiency and recommends that they be placed under a course of improvement. And while some advocate an improved system, there is a numerous class who are not unwilling to abandon the system altogether. Our fears are that failure will increase this class. We fear the effect on public opinion of that revulsion of sentiment which an acknowledged failure may create. In the heterogenous character of that class of people for whom our schools are intended, any system which is intended to be general must fail. If the superintendant be not inordinately wedded to his theories, if he have the sense to perceive that the system which works well in Anderson or Pickens is wholly impracticable in Horry or Williamsburgh, all may still be well. But woe to the schools if our superintendant be a mathematician, or if he have large organs of order and of system. Such a one may observe, for example, that in the district of York the State pays at the rate about four dollars per head for the education of the childreu, that in St. James, Santee, the same sort of education is furnished at a cost of more than thirty dollars, in Charleston at a cost of eleven dollars, and in St. John's, Colleton, at a cost of fifty dollars per head. Facts like these are great provocations to philosophers. All would alike repudiate the idea of allowing fifty dollars for the yearly instruction of each child in the State. Some would insist on on the lowest practicable rate, and adopt the standard of York ; while others, with that calmness and impartiality which is the characteristic of true philosophy, would reject all existing standards, and by comparing all strike an average for a new one. The principle of the bed of Procrustes would therefore be applied, on philosophical principles, to every portion of the State, made to operate with the most unrelenting severity on those portions, perhaps, where the liberal aid of the State is most wanted in consequence of the poverty and the paucity of the inhabitants, and the
whole system of instruction smothered under the weight of a philosophical and statistical principle.
We are referred to other States, to Massachusetts and New-York, for examples of success crowning the labors of superintendants, and it is urged upon us to follow their example. In New-York the superintendant is the Secretary of State; he appears to be a sort of comptroller general of the school fund and to be vested with appellate jurisdiction in cases of collision between the local commissioners. In Massachusetts, excellent schools were common throughout the State long before the idea of a superintendant was ever entertained. By a fundamental law of the State, every town which contained fifty families was required to maintain a common school-if a certain additional number of families lived in the town it was required to establish a grammar school. Let it be observed here, that much as the people of that State valued education, their practical good sense taught them the futility of any attempt to make a legal provision for it so long as the population fell short of about ten to the square mile. It is entirely forgotten that the white population of South-Carolina does not now exceed that ratio. And it was not until the population of Massachusetts had swelled to one hundred to the square mile that a superintendant was appointed to give security and direction to the course of education. It would be hard to believe that under such favorable cir cumstances a failure could have been experienced-and yet, we are informed by Mr. Allston that Mr. Barnard, who was superintendant of schools in Connecticut, retired in disgust from his office. It is, indeed, insinuated that Mr. Barnard's rules were too stringent for the disbursing officers who had managed the fund before his installation. But does this appear? Were those disbursing officers guilty of peculation ? If so Mr. Barnard's course would have been an easy and straight forward one. But he resigned. It is more than probable that he resigned in disgust, because he found that the system which worked well in Hartford would not succeed in some of the more remote and less densely peopled townships. It is more than probable that the disbursing officers, by their pertinacious adherence to an old system, which had worked pretty well, opposed his plans of uniformity and of order. At all events, Mr. Barnard resigned, and no one has been
appointed to succeed him. He now fills a similar office in Rhode Island, a State better situated for the development of a system than even Connecticut or Massachusetts. But he has not distinguished himself since his appointment by any of those reports which have lately tended so much to the glorification of school commissioners.
Whatever may be the excellence of the school system of Massachusetts, it is to be attributed partly to that respectable trait in the character of the early inhabitants which led them to attach a just value to learning, partly to that characteristic trait in that branch of the American family which induced them to settle always in a phalanx of townships, and thus secure to themselves at all times the blessings of social life, (a trait widely different from the principle which governed the early settlers of the South and West,) and partly to the increase of the population under the influence of natural laws. The schools of Massachusetts were fostered by local boards, and it is rather unfair that late in the day a Mr. Horace Mann should come in, and, as Secretary of the Board of Education, carry off all the honors of an institution which had been developing itself for two hundred years.
Another objection to the appointment of a superintendant has been anticipated by Mr. Allston, without any provision being made to meet it. The local boards of commissioners, whose labors are now altogether gratuitous, will naturally regard with jealousy any one whose acknowledged duty it shall be to superintend and direct their actions. Nor can the matter be mended by the proposal to pay the commissioners. No amount of pay which the State could afford to give would ever induce any one qualified to discharge the duties of the office to accept it, and no fear of losing the stipend would influence any one in the manner of the performance of his duties. The commissioners now act under that high sense of moral obligation which so eminently characterizes our country gentleman. A paid controller or a salaried board would convert this obligation into one of law purely. We would thus have the mortification of seeing one of our most respectable associations reduced from the elevated position of gentlemen discharging a duty, not only gratuitously but lovingly, as a right inherent to their position, to a body of stipendiary ministers; nay, those who, from their position and character, ought to occupy places at the board, may retire, in order that others may sit there to whom the stipend is an object. Thus would perish the whole moral influence of the commissioners.
It is a pity that our reformers cannot profit by the lessons of experience. In every attempt to organize the militia of the State, whenever the executive has endeavored to make any system of universal application, disappointment has invariably resulted. In the upper districts, where the population is dense and offices eagerly sought as stepping-stones to others more important, any system may work well. But any system which may be stringently applied to the lower division would impose intolerable burthens. One of our executive military officers, who had the good sense to be aware of the difficulty of carrying out a general principle into every district of a territory so varied in physical characteristics as South-Carolina, goodhumoredly consented to review a regiment in the piazza of a tavern. Another, who was determined to make his system work through thick and thin, galloped contemptuously by the regiment which was drawn up in line to receive him, and passed it as if in search of the military body which he had gone to review. And we have never been able to discover that the military education of the people was more advanced under the latter than it had been under the former of those inspector generals.
The last objection which we shall make to the appointment of a superintendant will apply with equal force to the other contemplated improvement—the establishment of normal and model schools. We object to them because they are in perfect harmony with all those developments of modern politics which tend towards the erecting of a great central power. We abhor centralism, wheresoever it may be found. We repudiate it in our federal relations, as being opposed to federalism or independent State action. We object to it in our domestic relations, as opposed to individual liberty. We have always attributed the powerful influence which the South, in spite of her numerical inferiority, has always exercised in our confederacy, to the fact that here the mind enjoys perfect liberty of self-development—that it is not made to bow abjectly and bend itself to a certain set of rules and of opinions, but that it is rather encouraged to independence of thought and of