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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

Extent of Common School Education

Extent of Common School Education.

It is not decided what is meant by a common-school education. It is anything from ABC up to a finished university course, including professional studies, except theology. President Grant restricts it to the rudimenta ry branches of learning. President Eliot of Harvard University, in the Atlantic Monthly of last June, makes this statement: "Suppose, for example, that the State requires of all children a certain knowledge of reading, writing, arithmetic and geography, such as children usually acquire by the time they are twelve years of age. It page 26 is not unreasonable, though by no means necessary, that the community should bear the whole cost of giving all children that amount of elementary training, on the ground that so much is necessary for the safety of the State; but when the education of a child is carried above that compulsory limit, it is by the voluntary act of the child's parents, and the benefit accrues partly to the State, through the increase of trained intelligence among the population, but partly also to the individual, through the improvement of his powers and prospects."

Many of the secular newspapers agree with the above authorities in limiting a common school education to the simplest elementary branches. Such a restricted education answers for rural districts in which a more extended course of studies is impossible. Tie down the curriculum of studies to the rudimentary branches of reading, writing, arithmetic and geography in villages, towns, and cities, and, in ten years' time the system of common schools will be abandoned. The ambition of all centres of population is to elevate the standard of common school education, until the town that cannot boast of its Grammar School, and its High School or day-College, drops behind its sister towns in the race for advanced education at the public expense. The Normal School, with its pretentious title, is another device for placing within the reach of large numbers, guiltless of any thought of following the teacher's profession, an education such as in former years could be had only in denominational academies and seminaries. To such an extent has this crowding out of academies and seminaries, generally under denominational control and supported by church organizations and private patrons, gone on, by the substitution of Union Schools, High Schools, Normal Schools, Free Colleges, living on the bounty of the common treasury, that many denominational institutions have ceased to live, and others are only gasping for breath.