« AnteriorContinuar »
said academy may be situated; and the said trustees of said academy, shall receive from the school commissioner of the county, the same amount of money in the same proportion, and apply the same to such tuition in the same manner as other common schools are paid and kept; Provided, that the teachers or instructors, of said department shall be selected by the trustees and under the control of the by-laws of said corporation." 18
But the share of the common school fund that the academies received for maintaining a common school was not sufficient to pay the expenses of a very long term. The result was that the academies charged their common school pupils tuition at a little lower rate than was received for the higher branches, or reduced the tuition of all subjects by the amount that they expected to receive from the school fund, or kept the rate of tuition as high as possible, even when they received their share of public money, because there was no authority that required a standard rate of tuition.
Nevertheless, the proposed school bill of 1835 was an attempt by which one academy in each county of the State should be so regulated and supported as to be a direct benefit to the common school. Tuition for the graduates of the academy who were to be teachers in the common school, was to be paid by the State. At any rate, the academy and the common school were brought into a closer relation by some of the students of the former becoming teachers in the latter. The two institutions were again brought together, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the common schools, in the series of educational conventions that were held between 1833 and 1855. Before discussing the conventions, however, a study of the work of the sunday schools follows:
The Sunday school was very prominent in raising the level of general intelligence throughout the State. It had its origin in Europe, in the Wesleyan revival, beginning in 1738, and the humanitarian philosophy that just preceded the French Revolution. In England, the purpose was primarily concerned with the education of poor children, but independ
ent of the church. On the other hand, in the United States, 1. the first Sunday school, organized at Philadelphia in 1791,
19 Sess. Laws, 1841, p. 7.
was established for the purpose of giving secular and religious instruction. It was the accepted province of the church to give religious education, and the connection between the common school and the church had been so close that the Sunday school developed as a church institution. On the secular side, the Sunday school provided rudimentary education for the lower classes in the older states, while all classes in the frontier western communities received the benefits of that well organized body.
After 1831, the Massachusetts Sunday School Union became a parent of smaller organizations in Illinois, while the Illinois State Sunday School Union, composed of members of the principal religious denominations in the State, organized branches in nearly every county and smaller auxiliary branches, both, through the help of state agents, intelligent and devoted citizens, resident clergy and circuit missionaries.
Rev. Theron Baldwin gave this account as an example of bis work in establishing Sunday schools:
"The Sabbath School,—to establish which was among my first efforts here, commenced about the first of February with a good degree of interest
It numbers a little more than one-hundred. The library books have been read, and these in connection with the exercises of the school have evidently done much already towards creating a thirst for knowledge on the part of the scholars. Of the one-hundred five who have entered the school, only thirty-seven could read. I have made particular efforts in the Sabbath School, from a firm conviction that the minister of Christ can spend a part of his energies, at least, in no other way to so great advan
The following is an account of how Sunday schools were established: “It is often difficult to start a Sabbath school, there is so much ignorant prejudice and opposition. I have
I a way which does well, when many good efforts of another sort are lost. In my visiting about, I look out some house in the settlement where I intend to form a school, and one can generally be obtained in one way or another-and then without giving a word of notice, for that would awaken and combine opposition, I fill my saddle-bags with books begging
» Home Miss., v. 2, p. 59.
what I can, buying what I cannot beg, (for it is against the rules of the s. s. Union to give books before a school is formed) get on my horse and ride around with them to each family in the settlement, talk over with them the whole matter of the Sabbath School, and its benefits, persuading the parents, showing my books and interesting the children, giving to each, on the condition of their attending school, such a book as would be needed in it, at the same time telling them where and when we would begin to meet. In this way, the careless and prejudiced, who would not stir a step to hear ever so many addresses on Sabbath Schools, become deeply interested." 21
Sunday schools were established as early, at least as 1821, for the settlers of Lebanon formed themselves into a society and built a house where a seminary, library, a debating club and a Sunday school were conducted. About a decade later the records show how extensively the system was established in every section. Peck estimated that 375 Sunday schools with 2000 teachers, 17,000 pupils and 2000 volumes in their libraries, were in existence in Illinois. 22
Usually, two sessions were held on Sunday, in the morning and in the afternoon, where reading, writing and some very simple arithmetic were taught. The Bible, religious hymns and religious tracts were the principal texts. The youth, and occasionally their elders, were taught by the best educated men and women of the district and the local or circuit preacher opened or closed each session with an address to all.
These institutions made communities in several districts realize their educational deprivation which surrounded them with the result that in some instances, the Sunday school was continued as a permanent week-day school. Thus the inhabitants of Rushville first founded schools on Sunday, and then, “formed themselves into a School Association, for the purpose of keeping in operation a permanent school, to be taught by a competent instructor; of good moral and temporate habits.” 23
21 Home Miss., vol. 2, p. 59. 22 Peck, Gaz., p. 89. 23 Home Miss., v. 2, p. 194.
In considering the literary agencies in Illinois, Judge Hall characterized the value of the Sunday schools in this manner: “We view these efforts with unmingled pleasure. Apart from the important religious bearing of the Sunday School system, we consider it the most powerful engine, that this creative age has produced, for diffusion of knowledge. Its adaptation to the wants of a new country is peculiar. It brings instruction within the reach of thousands who have not the means of procuring it through ordinary channels; disseminates education free of expense; scatters books far and wide over the country; creates a taste for reading, and habits of inquiry among the young; and by its social character exercises a most happy effect, in promoting kind feelings, and cordial intercourse in society."24
Educational Conventions. The Vandalia conventions of 1833 and 1834 have been sufficiently discussed in the last chapter. However, those meetings were the first of a large number in the State and counties, to 1855. They created enthusiasm for the common schools; they brought the leaders and friends of education together, and made harmonious and concentrated effort possible.
The constitution of the Illinois State Education Society, organized at Springfield, Dec. 28, 1840, was an illustration of the purpose for which teachers' associations were founded: "The friends of education assembled in Springfield, believing that the perpetuity of our free institutions, and our political, social and moral well being, depend mainly on the general diffusion of knowledge among people; and that the wants of our rapidly increasing population strongly demands such an improvement in our common school system as will place the benefits of education within the reach of every citizen.
Its object shall be to promote, by all laudable means, the diffusion of knowledge in regard to education; and, especially, to endeavor to render the system of common schools throughout the State as perfect as possi
* III. Mo, Mag., v. 2, p. 103,
Sate Supt. Rep., 1885-6, p. 136.
From 1841 to the constitutional convention of 1847, much material was published on the creation of a State Superintendent of common schools. Petitions were circulated at the instance of educational associations, while editors of newspapers and journals urged their readers to sign. As a sample of the memorials sent to the legislature by teachers' organizations asking for the establishment of a superintendent of common schools, let us examine the one sent in 1841.
“Let a superintendent of common schools be appointeda man of talents, and yet a laborious and self-denying man; one who would go into all the dark corners, as well as the bright spots of the State, and labor day in and day out for the improvement of our common schools. Such a man would be a great use, not only in awakening the public to the importance of education, but by collecting facts for the information of your honorable body and the people. He would associate with all classes of the community, from the cabin to the mansion from the humble teacher of the humblest school to the most learned professor-and advise you of their feelings and views. He would note the practical operation of the system, and suggest for your consideration wherein it might be improved. He would (a matter of no mean moment to the success of the common school education) do much towards bringing about a steady and uniform administration of the law.
“Your memorialists would also suggest that, as a matter of economy, a man of established virtue—of much experience; one who is familiar with the habits and feelings of our people; a man whose mind is well disciplined-should be placed at the head of this department. The interests involved are so various, so momentous, that the best mind in the State should be set to watch over them. Should the right sort of a man be selected and paid out of the general school fund, he will save to the general and township funds, by looking after their interests (aside from all other benefits resulting from his labors), a sum at least equal to his salary.
“Your memorialists would also suggest, that if any regard is due to the experience and example of other states, who have found a superintendent necessary to the success of their efforts in behalf of common school education, you are