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or parts of townships in each county. The money due the townships was to be distributed in proportion to the number of days of school that were actually taught.
The method of distribution of the state school fund, which benefited the poorer sections as well as the richer districts was a powerful argument in favor of free schools. They were democratic; they were the means by which children could be educated at home; they were located where they were needed; they were inexpensive. On the other hand, the successful academies had superior teachers; they were better equipped; they had more extensive subjects of study. Thus two sharply defined groups existed in the State; the one favored the common school, the other favored the academy. At one extreme, the free school was placed in a class with free negroes; at the other, it was eulogized. How the common school supplied some of the secondary education of the time follows.
The Beginnings and Characteristics of the Free Public High School of 1860.
The high school as a separate institution was not usually so designated, and thought of, until quite a while after the passage of the free school law of 1855. The academy had long been the means of secondary education, but the common school had even before 1850 begun to usurp the province of the former institution. The academy was the chief means of providing education for the aristocracy of society. The common people had no way to gain similar advantages for their children. The academy was open to them, but tuition charges, the cost of sending children to live away from home combined with the inaccessibility of the academy, kept the common children at home. But the working men were imbued with high ideals. Their children must have advantages provided that the parents missed. The common school was the only way open. That humble institution struggled along until we see it occupying the center of the stage of political and educational thought. Though it was called the common school, by 1860 it came to mean both the elementary school and the high school. "The high school and the common school are part of the same system. The one is the head, the other the heart. One is the branches, the other the root."1
One of the chief ways by which the high school came to be the upper part of the common school system was through gradation. The very first mention of that idea, applied to the common schools, was the suggestion of that subject in an article for contribution to the Common School Advocate, in 1837. A year later, the Sangamo Journal printed an article on the system of schools in the State in which gradation was suggested.
1 Ill. Teach., v. 8, p. 49.
"In addition to the primary schools. we must have academies or high schools and colleges. The first finishing the education of many of its students whose means will not permit them to pursue it farther, and only the more thoroughly preparing others to enter the second, where alone their scholastic pursuits can be closed." 2
The Prairie Farmer in 1844 advocated the establishment of a school system with three departments, because it deprecated the growing influence of the academies. "And what shall be the remedy? We do not expect a community justly appreciating education, and desirous of affording to their children the means of procuring the higher branches, will rest passive with inferior schools, neither would we desire. any such lowering of the standard of education. But instead of creating independent select schools, we would have a plan something after this sort adopted. In the first place, the district should be large, and as the school increased, instead of dividing districts, sending large and small children to the same school, the school should be divided, classifying the scholars according to their progress. Where the number of scholars would admit of it, there should be at least three grades of schools. For the small children, say under ten years of age, female teachers should be employed, and the schools should be as numerous as possible, to facilitate attendance. For the next grade, the instruction and number of schools should depend upon circumstances. For the highest grade, there should be but one school within a circuit of at least three miles diameter, no matter how thickly settled the town if under ten or fifteen thousand inhabitants, and generally there should be but one such school to a township, and occasionally but one in a county."
Next, educational conventions discussed the merits of gradation and advocated the adoption of such a scheme in their resolutions. "Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to school officers to establish such a classification of studies and gradation of schools as will prevent the great waste of time, effort, and money, to which our schools are now subject; and that experience proves the feasibility and profit of the following system of gradation:"
2 San. Jr., Apr. 21, 1838.
State Supt. Rep., 1885, p. 160.
First. Primary schools, in which as many of the youngest pupils shall be taught in the full rudiments of education as one female teacher can instruct."
'Second. Grammar schools, both male and female, in which the elementary and common English studies shall be pursued, viz. Geography, Written Arithmetic, Grammar, Reading, Spelling, and Writing; the number of these schools being smaller and the number of pupils larger than the lower grade".
"Third. One high school for each large town or city, in which the higher English branches and Languages shall be taught; the pupils to be admitted by examination from the Grammar schools, and those of Grammar schools in the same manner from the Primary schools."
From the above typical citations, the first scheme of gradation included three departments, namely, primary, grammar, and high. Now, a territorial basis was also necessary. More primary than grammar schools should be established, and one higher department serving for many of the others. To carry out that idea, the policy of joining districts grew up, and the name, union, or union graded schools, became somewhat common.
The idea of establishing union districts by law was slow in developing. The law of 1825 provided that there should be at least fifteen families in a school district, but the amendment of 1827 said that there must be at least eighteen children going to school or subscribed, and the amendment in 1829 made the size of a district a purely voluntary affair. The legislature, in 1841, provided for the appointment of township trustees who were to establish districts within the township as suited the convenience and wishes of the people; as many schools could be kept in a district as the people desired. Six years later an additional amendment provided, "that districts may be altered at any time by said trustees to suit the wishes of a majority of the inhabitants in the districts interested,"" and that children might be transferred from one district to another. By 1853, the practice of creating union districts had grown considerably so that the legislature occasionally legalized the action of some directors:
Prairie Farmer, v. 8, p. 273.
"Sec. 3. Said district shall be called Union School District, and shall have, enjoy, possess and exercise all rights, powers, privileges, advantages and immunities of other school districts, shall be entitled to its equal and joint proportions of the school funds, and shall be organized, regulated, controlled and governed by the laws of the state now in force, or that may be hereafter passed.”
The free school law, two years later, provided for the establishment of union districts: "Whenever it may be desirable to establish a school composed of pupils, residents of two or more districts, or two or more townships, it shall be the duty of the respective boards Education of each of such townships to transfer such number of the pupils residing in such townships as the boards may deem proper to the school so established in the township in which the school house is or may be located; but the enumeration of scholars shall be taken in each of such townships as if no such transfer had been made; and such school funds of the respective townships in which the pupils composing such school shall reside, and from which they shall have been transferred; and the board of that township in which the school house where such school is located shall have the control and management of such school; and the boards of each of such townships so connected for school purposes shall each pay its respective share of the entire expenses of every kind incurred in the establishment and support of such school, to be computed in proportion to the number of pupils residing in each of such townships composing such school; and each board of the townships from which pupils are transferred shall draw an order on its township treasurer, signed by its president, in favor of the township treasurer whose board shall have the control and management of such school, as the case may be, for the amount of its share of the entire expenses aforesaid of such school, and the board of the township having control and management as aforesaid of such school shall pay out of its treasury the whole amount required for the establishment and maintenance of such schools, in the manner as provided in this act for the establishment and maintenance of other schools; Provided,
Sess. Laws, 1853, p. 186.