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No.

6.

LEGISLATURE, 1855.

ANNUAL REPORT of the Superintendent of Pub

lic Instruction.

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OFFICE OF THE SUPT. OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION,

Lansing, Dec. 31, 1854. To the Legislature:

It is a source of gratification to every friend of American Institutions, that changes of power in the political departments of the government bring with them no diminution of interest in relation to the instruction of the rising generation. Education is a subject of paramount importance with all differences of opinion existing only as to the modes by which the widest blessings may be bestowed, and the most enduring results secured. It is a peculiar characteristicof the American people, and more especially of that portion from whence, for the most part, the States of the North-West are settled, that they have ever bestowed of their means, whether scanty or ample, for the benefit of education, with a liberality and zeal which deserve our gratitude, and which will forever deserve the gratitude of posterity. To diffuse such benefits most widely, the early settlers of our common country were willing to stint themselves, and submit to every hardship incident to their settlement on the shores of new world—that by these means future generations of men might find no excuse for the encroachments of ignorance and vice and despotism, in consequence of their neglect to provide for the means of

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universal free education. It was the sagacity and forethought of such men, which, as early in the history of our country, as 1785, laid broad the foundation, upon which the people of Michigan and of the Northwest, have built their educational superstructures, in the munificent appropriation of the one-thirty-sixth part of the public domain, for the i use of schools, forever. There were none at that time, in the vast region we now inhabit, who could be the recipients of its benefits. The wild beast and the savage shared its deep solitudes together, and this great wilderness then gave no promise of settlement and progress and greatness, such as we witness here to day. The strong arm of the General Government, had not then thrown 'around the settlement of the country, the great Ægis of its protection. The ordinance of 1787 gave to it its first impulse, and infused into it, its first vitality, respect- ! ing the provisions of the grant of 1785, and declaring further, that as “Religion, Morality and Knowledge were necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of education should forever be encouraged.” It was not until 1824, more than a quarter of a century afterward, when the people who had then settled in our Peninsula, had for the first time elected their own local Legislature, that any steps were taken to secure the benefit of the grant, which at this day amounts in value, to a million of dollars, and the interest of which is distributed to every portion of the State. At that early period, two of our most venerable and distinguished citizens, who have reached the highest honors which the State can confer, and who still live, gave their attention to the subject of the grant, and to the establishment of a University. The attention of the local Legislature and of Congress was called to the preservation of the former, and its ultimate application to the uses so nobly designed by the Fathers of the Republic. The circumstances of the country had been peculiar. The population was small, and ancient private land claims existed, unsettled and ill defined. No surveys were made until after the war of 1812, and it had till then been impossible to give effect to the grant; but as the prospects of the Territory began to be changed, the fertility of the soil developed, and the influx of emigrants from other States com. menced, it was the earliest work of the first Legislature of the Territory to secure for themselves, for us, and for posterity, the benefits it was de. signed to afford.

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The history of early legislation may now, perhaps, be considered a matter of no practical importance. But to know the difficulties which embarassed it, is to increase our appreciation of the value of the blessings we derive from the grant, and make us estimate more highly our educational privileges. Much of this history has been developed in former Reports from this Department. Reference to it will show, what an object of constant interest, education has been to the inhabitants of Michigan, from its earliest settlement to the present day. In the Journals of the Territorial Legislature, in the Articles of admission into the Union, in its first Constitution as a State, in the messages of its successive Chief Magistrates, in the Acts of the Legislature, and in the efforts of the people, will be found ample proof that under all changes and circumstances the subject of Public Instruction has been of the first importance. And while in its first constitutional provisions relative to education, Michigan was in advance of the older States, progression has

marked every act of legislation, till it is safe to say that there is no sysitem in the old States of the Union which works with greater equality of

taxation, or with better hopes of success, in aecomplishing the education of all the youth of the State at present or in the future. Our system

is, without doubt, based upon the surest principles of improvement and s success, the division and subdivision of duties and powers, and due re

gard to all interests, both local and general, with a constitutional and proper head. Older States had made the education of the children of the State a part of their public policy, and provided for the appointment of officers to manage the affairs of the schools, but it does not appear

any of them adopted the idea of a system of Public Instruction such as was contemplated by the framers of our Constitution. The idea that every State should have its general officer of Public Instruction, was derived from the Prussian system. The creation of such an officer was the great and only feature which the Constitution engrafted from that into our own educational system. Such an officer had not been before appointed in the Union. Other States had Superintendents of Schools, whose official positions in the State were subordinate, and whose duties extended only to that class of schools which we have in this State wisely denominated Primary," not “Common." There was no officer charged with the general supervision of Public Instruction, who stood at the head of the entire system, as the represen

that

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tative of that whole subject, on the part of the sovereignty of the State, and the people of the State. It was not the business of the Superintendent of Schools to superintend the whole system of State Education, but it was designed in Michigan to create an officer who should in substance and in fact, have the general supervision of public instruction ; who should stand as the acknowledged head of the system, supervising every educational interest, whether it pertained to the University, to the Normal Schools, to the Primary Schools, or to any other educational institution in the State.

The Revised. Constitution, in accordance with this idea, expressly declares; that he shall have “general supervision of Public Instruction." This supervision being general, the various Institutions of the State are placed nevertheless under the immediate and special control of local authorities, all of which were created and designed to work with harmony and in unison, each with the other. The University is under the control of the Board of Regents; the Normal School, under the Board of Education; the Union and the Primary Schools, under the immediate supervision of the people in their municipal capacity. Each have their appropiate sphere of duties. It is the business of the Faculty of the University, both literary and medical, to instruct the youth under their charge, and govern the internal affairs of the Institution; of the teachers in the Normal School, to instruct and govern in the same way. It is the province of the Superindent to have general supervision of Public Instruction, as the head of the system. Thus each acting in his own appropriate sphere of duties, without infringement upon the powers and duties of the other, the system is harmonious in theory and ought to be so in fact. The Superintendent is, by the Constitution and law, the head of the system. To recognize any other principle than this, is to destroy the unity of the system, and to thwart the design of the Constitution and law. Unless such a supervision is recognized by all the Educational Institutions of the State, there will be misunderstanding and jealousy, rather than mutual confidence and good will between the Educational forces of the State, and danger to the success of every scheme for the promotion of the great cause of Popular Education.

To give greater perfection to this idea, and to enable the Superintendentto give greater efficiency to his labors, it is indispensable that there should be

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