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But, in presenting their Report on the subject, the Committee declared, that, in their opinion, the Essay was a production of the very first order, and one which could not fail to be highly instructive to all teachers, and friends of Common Schools, in our country. From the intelligence of the Committee, who awarded the prize, there cannot be a doubt, that their opinion will be fully verified.
Immediately on becoming entitled to the right in the Essay, the Directors of the Institute transferred it to the Hon. HORACE MANN, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Under his direction, it is published; and, for the sake of giving to the work the widest circulation possible, the Publishers have come under an engagement to him, that, as soon as it is ready for sale, its exact cost shall be estimated by three disinterested men, and that it shall then be offered to the public, at “just cost price.”
My main objects, in the present Treatise, are fourfold :
I. To show the inequality, inefficiency, and wastefulness of our present system of education : or, to use the words of the motto to the title, to show that it is a mere “dead letter,” and cause it to own itself dead, and drop, piecemeal, into dust,” so as to enable its “living spirit, freed from this, its charnel-house, to arise on us, with new healing on its wings.”
II. To show that an equal, complete, and efficient, system would be productive of an immense saving, both of time, and money :
First, by dividing the schools into two classes, so as to have all the primary schools kept permanently, in place of for short terms, and the central, or high schools, during the Winter.
Secondly, by thus providing situations for a body of permanent, experienced, female teachers, looking solely to their profession for a support, who should take the place of the inexperienced, young girls, who now have recourse to teaching, for mere temporary purposes.
Thirdly, by the establishment of Normal Schools, the time and resources of which should not be squandered in teaching what can readily be acquired elsewhere ; but which should confine their attention to real desiderata, and be discontinued, as totally unnecessary, as soon as good models should be spread over the land.
Fourthly, by providing libraries of school-books as well as of books for circulation, and by establishing a system of exchanges among the districts.
III. To examine, thoroughly, the whole system of education, going into the most minute details, wherever it is found defective or injurious, and passing, more rapidly, over such parts as require little or no amendment.
IV. To make a commencement on the hitherto-neglected subject of Morals, for primary schools, and to place Discipline on its proper foundation, the CONSCIENCE.
Many other topics are treated of, incidentally, such as the division of towns into Districts, the laying out of School lots, erecting, lighting, warming, &c., of Schoolhouses, town and county Conventions of Teachers, &c. ; the whole being designed to present a complete and liberal System of Education, suited to the wants of a Free People, in whose hands the whole system of government may be safely entrusted.
For many years, I have been in the habit of entering, in a commonplace book, my own thoughts, as well as extracts from the publications of the day, on the subject of Education. As this was commenced, long before I had
any intention of writing on the subject, I have seldom used any discriminative marks, between my own ideas and those of others. It is not improbable, therefore, that, in this Essay, in which, of course, I made free use of my commonplace book, I may sometimes unconsciously have used the words or ideas of others, without giving them proper credit. Should this prove to be the case, in a few instances, I trust the writers and the public will accept of this apology.