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group; such editors as Judge Hall, John S. Wright, and Charles E. Hovey; the missionary circuit riders, and resident ministers; state superintendents; legislators; state agents, and a few nationally prominent men in the persons of Jefferson, Clinton, Mann and Barnard. 2. Many of the newspapers of the State, The Illinois Monthly Magazine, The Common School Advocate, The Prairie Farmer, and The Illinois Teacher, were the literary means devoted to the cause of the common school. 3. Some of the institutions that increased the general intelligence of the people, and created a desire for better educational opportunities, were: The Ladies' Aid Association for the Education of Females; working-men's organizations; public libraries; Sunday schools; and academies. 4. Enthusiasm, harmony, and co-operation among the friends of the common school in the interest of enlightenment, were developed by educational convention.
The legislature partly followed the advice of the Peoria Teachers' Convention by creating a State Superintendent of Common Schools in the person of the Secretary of State, and allowing a tax to be levied for the support of common schools in any district where two-thirds of the legal voters so decided. The constitutional convention provided, in the first draft of the constitution, for the levying of a tax for the maintenance of free schools, and appointment of a separate Superintendent of Common Schools, but the final draft of the constitution of 1847, was singularly silent on the subject of education.
The demands became so urgent that the governor, in 1854,' appointed a state superintendent whom the legislature charged with the duty of providing a bill for the reorganization of the entire common school system. The bill was passed in 1855. A state tax of two mills was levied on every dollar of property and the income added to the common school fund; a local tax was levied by the trustees of both township and district to help maintain at least one free school in every district for six months in the year. The state common school fund was distributed in such a manner that two-thirds was given to the county on the basis of the number of white children between the ages of five and twenty-one years; the remaining one-third was distributed on the basis of the number of townships, 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.
* See foot-note following reference 13, Chapter XI.
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. Such institutions were democratic; they were the means by which children could be educated at home; they were located where they were needed, and they were inexpensive. Nevertheless, the successful academy had superior teachers; they were better equipped, and 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.
The common school was passing through the process of grading in the period under consideration so that it was being divided into primary, grammar, and higher departments. More of the first were needed, less of the second, and still fewer of the last, to serve the educational requirements of a community. To facilitate the process of grading, which provided better opportunities for the children, the practice of joining districts developed in which a higher department could serve the entire union territory. The legislature recognized the right of unionization in legalizing the action of certain directors, who had joined their districts, even before the free school law made a general provision for grading.
The high school, usually designated as a part of the common school system, thus had one root of its origin in the common school. Sometimes, the city council, as in Chicago, created a high school as a part of the common school system, but for a few years the highest part of the elementary schools,
a overlapped the lowest part of the high school. Neither had yet defined entirely its sphere of action. The other main root of the high school was in the academy. The latter institutions that were especially strong dominated the secondary field for several years, even after the free school law was passed because they were already in existence, because the conservatives hated to forsake them for the common schools, because many people objected to paying a tax for the education of other children than their own, and because they were better equipped with superior teachers, apparatus, buildings, and a more suitable program of subjects. The weaker academies were glad of the chance to reorganize as free schools because the means of support was at hand. In the long run, however, the academies failed to hold their own with the free public high school which was under way before the Civil War.
A second proof that the common schools were providing some secondary education is found in the examination of the character of their subjects of study. What were usually designated as elementary subjects were taught in the common schools, but many instances existed where higher branches received equal and even more emphasis. The explanation is found in the fact that the academies supplied a great number of common school teachers who naturally taught the subjects that they had learned in the academy. Moreover, the common school took the academy as its pattern; what was considered the means of a cultural education in the latter, were equally appropriate for the common man's children. Hence the free public high school based much of its subject matter on the academic program, which was the current secondary practice, and which had a distinct philosophy underlying it.
By 1860 the common schools, as had been suggested in the process of gradation, considered that some subject matter was more difficult than other material. Before passing to a higher department, the next lower one must have been completed. Hence the high school required the passing of more or less formal examinations as a condition of entrance.
The law of 1825 which provided for free schools was repealed a few years later; a second effort was made in 1835, for free common schools. After several previous efforts, the first relatively permanent free school law was passed in 1855 by which taxation was mandatory. The common school system, with its upper part, the high school, was supported at public expense.
For a considerable period of time before the passage of the free school law, townships were incorporated for educational purposes under the control of elected trustees whose duty it was to district the township to suit the wishes and convenience of the people. The law of 1855, as amended in 1857, 1859 and 1865, provided for the union of districts which were to be under the control of a publicly elected board of trustees. Since high schools were very likely to have been created when districts united, the third distinguishing characteristic of the free public high school was that it was controlled by a public board.
However, several years elapsed before the high school in Illinois had defined its sphere of action, and before it had grown into the affections of the people. When the Supreme Court decisions, between 1875 and 1879, had settled the constitutionality of certain sections of the school law relative to the common school and the high school, the latter institution may be said to have been firmly established. The gap had been bridged between secondary and common school education. No longer was the academy the institution that provided the elementary and secondary education for the wealthier people; nor was the common school the institution of the poor man alone. Instead of the continuation of the beginning of a parallel system of class education, democracy in Illinois had made a vertical system in which a ladder extended for all from the primary grades to the university.
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