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The difference in the two methods lay in the fact that, in the first, the tax was to be levied on each district in proportion to the number of pupils therefrom and the care of the school rested in the hands of the directors where the school was located. By the second plan, the directors were the trustees of the entire union district with the power to levy taxes on all of the property in the union district. Finally, the school was under the control of the directors representing the whole district.
By these provisions, private institutions could become" public. Whether they did or not must be proved by investigation, although the state superintendent said, "that nearly two-thirds of all the private Academies and Seminaries that existed in the state have thrown up their organizations and reorganized under the Common School law." 11
A list of Illinois High Schools in Existence at the Beginning of the Civil War.
The ordinary conception is that few free high schools were in existence in the United States before the Civil War. But investigations in Massachusetts, Ohio and Illinois have shown that an unexpected number were in operation. Certainly those institutions were not our present day high schools any more than early Harvard and Yale were the universities we know today. The characteristics of the high schools in Illinois before the Civil War were clearly enough marked out to warrant the use of the term-high school.
Then, we shall give a few examples to show how we have concluded that the free high schools were established as given in the table below. First, let us take Chicago. The legislature, March 1, 1839, gave the city council power to tax for schools.
"Sec. 3. The Common Council of the City of Chicago shall have power to raise all sufficient sums of money, by taxing the real and personal estates in said city, for the following purposes, to wit: To build school houses; to establish, support and maintain common and public schools, and to supply the inadequacy of the school fund for the payment of teachers; to purchase or lease a site or sites for school houses; to erect, hire or purchase buildings suitable for said
"As an example of reorganization, see the special act allowing Crystal Lake Academy to reorganize. Sess. Laws, 1857, p. 1223.
school houses; to keep in repair and furnish the same with necessary fixtures and furniture whenever they may deem it expedient; and the taxes for that purpose shall be assessed and collected in the same manner that other city taxes are or may be." 12
Therefore, a free high school could have been established in Chicago. About 1840, the schools of the city were reorganized and the board of inspectors in their annual report said "Had we the means, the establishment of a High School, with two good teachers, into which might be placed a hundred of the best instructed scholars from different schools, would remedy this increasing evil."' 13
The school committee, in 1844, advocated a high school for advanced pupils. "The lower story to be divided into two rooms, one for small boys and another for small girls, the upper room to be so divided as to give necessary recitation rooms for a High School, so that one Principal Teacher and two or three assistants shall be able to conduct the several schools, and thus give it a High School in which may be placed the more advanced scholars." 14
Again, in 1846, the inspectors called the attention of the common council to the need of "at least one school where the ordinary academic studies may be taught." 15
The school committee, the next year, in its report said, "In reference to a High School, they are of the opinion that there are insuperable objections to the establishment of such a school, independent of the inability of the city at the present time to build one.
However, a special committee reported a plan to the city council for the establishment of a high school, and gave the reasons why the city should have such an institution. There upon, Dec. 11, 1854, the city council "Ordered, That the Committee on Schools be directed to prepare an ordinance for the establishment of a High School in connection with our Public School System."
"Ordered, That said Committee recommend a site for said School, and that the Superintendent of Public Schools
be requested to furnish an outline plan of a building for the accommodation of said school." "
Jan. 23, 1855, the common council passed an ordinance establishing a high school, which institution was opened in a building erected for it, Oct. 1856.
Next take Virginia. The law of 1845 made provision for the levying of taxes in any district where two-thirds of the voters decided to tax themselves for schools. This village took advantage of the law and a year later had a high school department in operation as appears from this quotation: "We have a common school of grades in Virginia, commenced in July, conducted by two teachers, in separate departments, with eighty scholars, in which a thorough course of instruction in the English branches of Education, in Mathematics, in Latin, Greek, and French Languages, and in the ornamental branches, are ably taught. We have a third department in the same building, liberally granted by the county commissioners' court for a nominal amount approved by the people, which will be fitted for use when the number of scholars justifies the employment of additional teachers This school district and Beardstown * ** voted in May last the highest rate of taxation under the law." 18
Similarly, a union school, with a high school department was in operation in Rockton in 1851: "In the afternoon of the same day, we visited the Rockton Union School, under the Superintendence of Mr. Seely Perry, *** In this school are realized more fully than in any other district in the county the advantages of a division of labor. There were about 160 pupils in the school, embracing classes in all stages of progress, from the alphabet up to the highest branches of classical and natural science taught in our best academies." 19
Finally, communications, and the reports of the state agent who travelled for the establishment of free schools, showed that high schools were opened, many relatively permanent, and some whose existence ended with the decay of the villages from economic conditions. The following table, perhaps, has omitted some high schools that were in existence,
17 Chi. School Rep. 1879, p. 50. 18 Prairie Farmer, v. 6, p. 86. 10 Ibid., v. 11, p. 160.
but it shows that the free high school had a good start by
Since the common school included a high school department in numerous instances, it is to be expected that second
ary subjects of study existed along with elementary subjects. Either high school subjects were contemplated, or they were being taught in some common schools before the permanent free school law was passed. The county superintendent of Stark county hoped to have the common schools so perfected, "as to be able to teach, in the most approved manner, all that our children need to learn in order to fit them for the ordinary avocations of life. They not only need to know how to read and write and cipher, but to have some knowledge of History, Natural and Mental Philosophy, Political Economy, Chemistry, Physiology, Geology and Meteorology. All these may be profitably taught in our common schools." 20
However, in those communities where the town charter had given the common council the right to impose a tax for the support of schools, or in those places where the people were willing by a two-thirds and then later a majority vote to tax themselves for education, or where the schools were graded, there, subjects of an advanced nature were taught. Chicago common schools in 1847, were teaching, besides such subjects as reading, writing and arithmetic, Townes' Intellectual Algebra, Baley's Algebra, Preston's District School Book-keeping, Physiology, Gales' Philosophy and Gray's Chemistry." 21
In the Rockton Union School, subjects were taught "from the alphabet up to the highest branches of classical and natural sciences taught in our best academies.' '22 In Virginia, Ill., the common schools were graded so that in the upper division there was a "thorough course of instruction in the English branches of education; in mathematics; in Latin, Greek, and French Languages, and in the ornamental branches. '23 A union school at Freeport taught, besides the common branches, mathematics, natural and moral sciences, French, Greek and Latin." At Carrollton, German, French, Latin, Greek and Spanish, in addition to the common branches, were taught in the common schools.25 The county superintendent of Peoria county reported that chemistry,
20 Prairie Farmer, v. 12, p. 236.
25 House Reports, 1853, p. 179.