19th century education



Education for all has been one of the grand causes of national progress. Less than a century ago comparatively few of the working folk could read.

One of the reasons for the growth of popular education has been the spread of democratic ideas and of the application of industry to science. It began to dawn upon the people how profitable it would be for each inhabitant of a country to be able to communicate with or receive communications from others through ability to read and write. This ability, once gained and used, would break down the barriers which cut off a large part of the people from the influence of the current of the intellectual life of the nation, and also in a measure would efface the inequality which is caused by the neglect to provide any kind of instruction for the masses. There were charity schools supported by the churches or other charitable organizations before the beginning of the last century, but these were few and far between. Whatever education was given was granted as a boon. To-day education is regarded as a right in a civilized country, and an enlightened government appreciates the fact that the illiterate cannot become good citizens. Mental development leads to moral development, and influences physical improvement.

Governments have taken measures to insure public education, assisted or free. If the United States was not the first, it has made the most progress, until now there are about 17,000,000 children enrolled in the common schools. The normal schools have multiplied fast. "These schools have trained the teachers to make the best of their opportunities for the education of the young, and nowadays the important duty of teaching is not left to men who can do nothing else, as was the case not much longer than a half-century ago. These normal trained teachers have brought the best methods to their aid in their work. The methods are so numerous that we cannot go into detail here. The comfortable, well-lighted school-room of to-day and the excellent school-books are among the results. It is difficult to make easily appreciable comparisons in a few words; but it may be said that the schools are more carefully graded, fewer pupils assigned to each teacher, much oral instruction, scientific study, and physical exercise introduced, so that, while the school year has been shortened, holidays multiplied, and the hours of school attendance lessened, yet in the short school year of to-day more than double the ground is covered that was covered in the long school year of the olden time. Colleges and universities have grown up in all quarters, not a few of them with very rich endowments.

Another development of the century has been the establishment of agricultural, commercial, scientific, and industrial schools.

Civil engineers had to go abroad to study before the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was established at Troy, N. Y., in 1824, with no dead or foreign language in its curriculum. In 1826, twenty-five students were registered there, while now more than 20,000 are attending similar courses in this country. The Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University was established in 1847, the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard in 1848, and the Chandler Scientific School of Dartmouth in 1852. The land grants of 1862 by Congress encouraged this system of education, and scientific courses were added to the State universities; while Columbia organized its School of Mines, Washington University of St. Louis its School of Engineering, and in 1861 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened its doors. In 1871 the Stevens Institute of Technology was founded at Hoboken, and the Green School of Science was established as a branch of Princeton College. The growth from that day has been steady, until now, in practical scientific education, the United States ranks with the best in the world.

Women were not admitted to university examinations in England until 1867, when the doors of the University of London were thrown open, and, in 1871, Miss Clough opened a house for women students in Cambridge, which in 1875 became Newnham College. Women were formally admitted to Cambridge in 1881, and somewhat similar privileges were given at Oxford in 1884. The two earliest women's colleges in the United States are generally reported to be Mount Holyoke, which dates from 1836, and was organized by Mary Lyon; but it had for its curriculum merely an academic course, and this is true of the Georgia Female College, opened at Macon, Georgia, in 1839. The first institution in the world designed to give women a full collegiate course was founded at Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1861, by Matthew Vassar, and it was opened in 1865. The first co-educational institutions were Antioch and Oberlin Colleges; but during the last generation co-education has met with growing favor, until now more than half the colleges of the United States admit women as well as men. Having gained a collegiate education the women sought admission to the professional schools, which they have gradually secured, until now women lawyers and physicians are quite common in the larger cities, and women legislators and mayors win public favor in Colorado and Iowa."

The colleges have their difficulties in the matter of discipline, there being a tendency on the part of students in some seats of learning to assert a degree of independence utterly at variance with the traditions of school-life. Exposures of childish and brutal "hazing" of juniors by seniors, inflicted generally by gangs upon individual victims, have aroused public indignation. Respect for authority will doubtless be re-established in these places. Another unpleasant feature in college discussion is the occasional discovery of an illicit sale of examination questions, procured in some surreptitious way through the printing office. It is reassuring to note that the majority of college professors agree in thinking that an appeal to the students' word of honor will effectually stamp out the temptation to cheat.





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