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IX. STATE NORMAL SCHOOL OF NEW YORK, AT ALBANY.
THE STATE NORMAL SCHOOL at Albany, was established by an Act of the Legislature of New York in 1844, "for the instruction and practice of Teachers of Common Schools, in the science of Education and the Art of Teaching." Like similar institutions in other states and countries, it originated in the demand of the more advanced teachers, educators, and statesmen, for opportunities of special preparation as a pre-requisite for the delicate and difficult work of a schoolmaster.
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT. 'n AMONG the earliest and most earnest advocates of legislative provision for the professional training of teachers, stands the name of Governor De Wit Clinton. In his message to the Legislature in 1825, he recommends to their consideration, the education of competent teachers;" and in 1826, he again adverts to the subject in the following language:
“Our system of instruction, with all its numerous benefits, is still, however, susceptible of improvement. Ten years of the life of a child may now be spent in a common school. In two years the elements of instruction may be acquired, and the remaining eight years must either be spent in repetition or idleness, unless the teachers of common schools are competent to instruct in the higher branches of knowledge. The outlines of geography, algebra, mineralogy, agricultural chemistry, mechanical philosophy, surveying, geometry, astronomy, political economy and ethics, might be communicated in that period of time, by able preceptors, without essential inteference with the calls of domestic industry. The vocation of a teacher in its influence on the character and destiny of the rising and all future generations, has either not been fully understood, or duly estimated. It is, or ought to be, ranked among the learned professions. With a full admission of the merits of several who now officiate in that capacity, still it must be conceded that the information of many of the instructors of our common schools does not extend beyond rudimental education; that our expanding population requires constant accession to their numbers; and that to realize these views, it is neces. sary that some new plan for obtaining able teachers should be devised I therefore recommend a seminary for the education of teachers in those useful branches of knowledge which are proper to engraft on elementary attainments. A compliance with this recommendation will have the most benign influence on individual happiness and social prosperity.” 15:54
And again, in his message in 1828, Governor Clinton urges the subject on the attention of the Legislature.
« It may be taken for granted, that the education of the body of the people can never attain the requisite perfection without competent instructors, well acquainted with the outlines of literature and the elements of science.” He recommends with this view, “a law authorizing the supervisors of each county to raise a sum not exceeding $2000, provided
that the same sum is subscribed by individuals, for the erection of a suitable edifice for a Monitorial High School, in the county town. I can conceire of no reasonable objection to the adoption of a measure so well calculated to raise the character of our school masters, and to double the powers of our artizans by giving them a scientific education."
In 1826, Hon. John C. Spencer, from the Literature Committee of the Senate, to whom the message of Governor Clinton for that year had been referred, made a report, recommending among other plans for the improvement of common schools, that the income of the “ Literature Fund” be divided among the academies of the State, not in reference to the number of classical students in each, but “to the number of persons instructed in each, who shall have been licensed as teachers of common schools by a proper board.” He thus introduces the subject:
"In the view which the committee have taken, our great reliance for nurseries of teachers must be placed on our colleges and academies. If they do not answer this purpose, they can be of very little use. That they have not hitherto been more extensively useful in that respect is owing to inherent defects in the system of studies pursued there. When the heads of our colleges are apprised of the great want of teachers which it is so completely in their power to relieve, if not supply, it is but reasonable to expect that they will adopt a system by which young men whose pursuits do not require a knowledge of classics, may avail themselves of the talent and instruction in those institutions, suited to their wants, without being compelled also to receive that which they do not want, and for which they have neither time nor money."
"In 1827, Mr. Spencer, from the same Committee, reported a bill entitled 'An act to provide permanent funds for the annual appropriation to common schools, to increase the Literature Fund, and to promote the education of teachers,' by which the sum of $150,000 was added to the Literature Fund. And the Regents of the University were required annually to distribute the whole income of this fund among the several incorporated academies and seminaries, which then were or might thereafter become subject to their visitation, 'in proportion to the number of pupils instructed in each academy or seminary for six months during the preceding year, who shall have pursued classical studies, or the higher branches of English education, or both. In the report accompanying this bill, which, on the 13th of April, became a law, the committee expressly observe, that their object in thus increasing this fund is 'to promote the education of young men in those studies which will prepare them for the business of instruction, which it is hoped may be accomplished to some extent, by offering inducements to the trustees of academies to educate pupils of that description. "In vain will you have established a system of instruction; in vain will you appropriate money to educate the children of the poor, if you do not provide persons compe tent to execute your system, and to teach the pupils collected in the schools. And every citizen who has paid attention to it and become acquainted practically with the situation of our schools, knows that the incompetency of the great mass of teachers is a radical defect which impedes the whole system, frustrates the benevolent designs of the Legislature, and defeats the hopes and wishes of all who feel an interest in disseminating the blessings of education.' 'Having undertaken a system of public instruction, it is the solemn duty of the Legislature to make that system as perfect as possible. We have no right to tride with
the funds of our constituents, by applying them in a mode which fails to attain the intended object. Competent teachers of common schools must be provided; the academies of the State furnish the means of making that provision. There are funds which may be safely and properly applied to that object, and if there were none, a more just, patriotic, and in its true sense, popular reason for taxation cannot be urged. Let us aid the efforts of meritorious citizens who have devoted large portions of their means to the rearing of academies ; let us reward them by giving success to their efforts; let us sustain seminaries that are falling into decay; let us revive the drooping and animate the prosperous, by cheering rays of public beneficence; and thus let us provide nurseries for the education of our children, and for the instruction of teachers who will expand and widen and deepen the great stream of education, unul it shall reach our remotest borders, and prepare our posterity for the maintenance of the glory and prosperity of their country.!"
The legal provision for the better education of teachers rested on this basis until 1834, when an act was passed, by which the surplus income of the Literature Fund over twelve thousand dollars was placed at the disposal of the Regents of the University, to be by them distributed to such academies, subject to their visitation as they might select, and to be exclusively devoted to the education of teachers for the common schools, in such manner and under such regulations as they might prescribe.
In pursuance of the provisions of the act of 2d of May, 1834, authorizing the Regents of the University to apply a part of the income to the Literature Fund to the education of common school teachers, a plan was reported on the 8th of January, 1835, by Gen. Dıx, from the committee appointed for that purpose, to the Regents with the view of carrying into effect the intention of the act. This plan was approved and adopted by the Regents; and one academy was selected in each of the eight Senate districts, charged with the establishment of a Department specially adapted to the instruction of teachers of common schools. To support these departments, each academy received from the Literature Fund, a sufficient sum to procure the necessary apparatus for the illustration of the various branches required to be taught; the sum of $191 to be appropriated to the enlargement of the academical library; and an annual appropriation of $400 to meet the increased expense which might devolve upon the institution in consequence of the establishment of the teachers' department.
In his annual Report for 1836, the Superintendent (Gen. Dix) again adverts to the fact, that in the adoption of this system the Legislature has merely provided for the more complete execution of a design long entertained. so far as respects the employment of the academies for this purpose. The propriety of founding separate institutions," he continues, "upon the model of the seminaries for teachers in Prussia, was for several years a subject of public discussion in this State. It was contended, on the one hand, that such institutions would be more likely to secure the object in view; and on the other, that it might be as effectually and more readily accomplished through the organized academies. After again referring to the act of April 13, 1927, he concludes:
“ Thus although the plan of engrafting upon the academies, departments for the preparation of teachers, may not have been contemplated at the time, yet this measure is to be regarded only as a more complete development of the design of the Legislature in passing the act referred to."
“By the 8th section of the act of April 17, 1838, appropriating the income of the United States Deposite Fund to the purposes of education, &c. the sum of $28,000 was directed to be annually paid over to the Literature Fund, and apportioned among the several academies of the State; and by the 9th section, it was made the duty of the Re gents of the University to require every academy receiving a distributive share of public money, under the preceding section equal to seven hundred dollars per annum, to establish and maintain in such academy, a department for the instruction of common school teachers, under the direction of the said Regents, as a condition of receiving the distributive share of every such academy' Under this provision eight academies, in addition to those designated specially for this purpose by the Regents, established departments for the education of teachers.
Desirous of knowing the practical operation of the departments thus organized, the superintendent (Mr. SPENCER) during the summer of 1840, commissioned the Rev. Dr. Potter of Union College, and D. H. Little, Esq. of Cherry-Valley, to visit these institutions, and report the result of their examinations to the department, accompanied by such suggestions as they might deem expedient. Prof. Potter in his report, after enumerating the various advantages and defects which had presented themselves to his observation in the course of his examination, observes in conclusion:
The principal evil connected with our present means of training teachers, is, that they contribute to supply instructors for select rather than for common schools; and that for want of special exercises, they perform even that work imperfectly. I would suggest whether some means might not be adopted for training a class of teachers, with more especial reference to country common schools, and to primary schools in villages and cities; teachers whose attainments should not extend much beyond the common English branches, but whose minds should be awakened by proper influence; who should be made familiar by practice with the best modes of teaching; and who should come under strong obligations to teach for at least two or three years. In Prussia and France, normal schools are supported at the public expense; most of the pupils receive both board and tuition gratuitously; but at the close of the course they give bonds to refund the whole amount received, unless they teach under the direction of the government for a certain number of years. That such schools, devoted exclusively to the preparation of teaching, have some advantages over any other method, is sufficiently apparent from the experience of other nations : and it has occurred to me that, as supplementary to our present system, the establishment of one in this State might be eminently useful. If placed under proper auspices and located ncar the Capitol, where it could enjoy the supervision of the Superintendent of Common Schools, and be visited by the members of the Legislature, it might contribute in many ways to raise the tone of instruction throughout the State.'
From an examination of these reports, the Superintendent comes to the conclusion that these departments ought not to be abandoned, but sustained and encouraged, and the means of establishing a large number in other academies provided. They, with the other academies and cok leges of the State, furnish the supply of teachers indispensable to the maintenance of our schools. He recommends the extension of the public patronage to all the academies in the State, to enable them to establish teachers' departments; and in those counties where there are no academies, the establishment of normal schools. One model school or more,' he thinks, "might be advantageously established in some central parts of the State, to which teachers, and those intending to be such, might repair to acquire the best methods of conducting our common schools.'
By a resolution adopted by the Regents of the University, on the 4th of May of the same year, eight additional academies were designated for the establishment and maintenance of teachers' departments; and the appropriation to each of the institutions in which such departments had been organized by the Regents, reduced to $300 per annum. At this period, including the academies which were required, under the act of 1838, to maintain such departments in consequence of the receipt of a specified portion of the Literature Fund, the number of academies in which departments for the education of teachers were organized was twenty-three, and the number of students taught in them about six hundred.”
The above facts and extracts have been principally gathered from a * Report of the Committee on Colleges, Academies, and Common Schools," to the House of Representatives in 1844, of which Mr. Hulburd, of St. Lawrence, was chairman, and the author of the able document referred to. The Committee, on passing to the consideration of a State Normal School, remark:
“ From this recapitulation, it will appear that the principal reliance of the friends and supporters of the common schools, for an adequate supply of teachers, has, from a very early period, been upon the academies; that the inability of the latter to supply this demand, induced, in 1827, an increase of $150,000 of the fund, applicable to their support; and this for the express purpose of enabling them to accomplish this object; that the Regents of the University, the guardians of these institutions, characterized this increase of the fund as an unwonted and “extraordinary » act of liberality on the part of the State towards them; explicitly recognized the condition, or rather the avowed expectations on which it was granted ; accepted the trust, and undertook to perform those conditions, and to fulfill those expectations; that, to use the language of one of the superintendents, the design of the law was not sustained by the measures necessary to give it the form and effect of a system ;' that to remedy this evil, one academy was specially designated in each Senate district with an endowment of $500 to provide the necessary means and facili. ities of instruction, and an annual appropriation of $400, for the maintenance of a department for the education of teachers; and soon afterwards the sum of $28,000 added to the Literature Fund from the avails of the U. S. Deposite Fund, while eight additional academies were required to organize and maintain similar departments; that, finally, the number of these departments was augmented to twenty-three, and every exertion put forth to secure the great results originally contemplated in their establishment; and that in the judgment of successive superintendents of common schools, the Regents of the University and the most eminent and practical friends of education throughout the state, these institutions, whether considered in the aggregate or with reference to those specially designated, from time to time, for the performance of this important duty, of supplying the common schools with competent teachers, have not succeeded in the accomplishment of that object. Having, therefore, to revert again to the language of the superintendent before referred to proved inadequate to the ends proposed, may not now a change of plan be insisted on without being open to the objection of abandoning a system which has not been fairly tested ? And have the academies any just reason to complain, if they are not longer permitted to enjoy undiminished the liberal appropriations conferred upon them by the State for a specific object; an object which they have not been able satisfactorily to accomplish ?"