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thority. Of course it is implied that the schools shall be under laws that are general, in the same way as the laws of roads, records, and military service; that no distribution shall be made, in a way of exception, to schools that are private, ecclesiastical or parochial; that whatever accommodations are made to different forms of religion, shall be so made as to be equally available to all; that the right of separate religious instruction, the supervision, the choice of teachers, the selection of books, shall be provided for under fixed conditions, and so as to maintain the fixed rule of majorities, in all questions left for the decision of districts. The schools, in other words, shall be common, in just the same sense that all the laws are common, so that the experience of families and of children under them, shall be an experience of the great republican rule of majorities—an exercise for majorities, of obedience to fixed statutes, and of moderation and impartial respect to the rights and feelings of minorities-an exercise for minorities of patience and of loyal assent to the will of majorities—a schooling, in that manner, which begins at the earliest moment possible, in the rules of American law, and the duties of an American citizen.
And this, I undertake to say, is the institution which we are not for any reason to surrender, but to hold fast as being a necessary and fixed element of the public order, one without which our American laws and liberties are scarcely American longer; or, if we call them by that name, have no ground longer of security and consolidated public unity.
In the first place, it will be found, if we closely inspect our institutions, that the common school is, in fact, an integral part of the civil order. It is no eleemosynary institution, erected outside of the state, but is itself a part of the public law, as truly so as the legislatures and judicial courts. The school-houses are a public property, the district committees are civil officers, the teachers are as truly functionaries of the law as the constables, prison-keepers, inspectors and coro
We perceive then, if we understand the question rightly, that an application against common schools, is so far an application for the dismemberment and reorganization of the civil order of the state. Certain religionists appear, in the name of religion, demanding that the state shall be otherwise constructed. Or, if it be said that they do not ask for the discontinuance of the common schools, but only to have a part of the funds bestowed upon their ecclesiastical schools, the case is not mended but rather made worse by the qualification; for in that view they are asking that a part of the funds which belong to the civil organization shall be paid over to their religion, or to the imperium in imperio, their religion so far substitutes for the civil order. It is as if they were to ask that the health wardens should so far be substituted by their church wardens, or the coroner's inquest by their confessional, and that the state, acknowledging their right to the substitution demanded, should fee the church wardens and confessors, in their behalf. If an application that infringes on the civil polity of our states, in a manner so odious, is to be heard, the civil order may as well be disbanded, and the people given over to their ecclesiastics, to be ruled by them in as many clans of religion as they see fit to make. Are we ready, as Americans, to yield our institutions up in this manner, or to make them paymasters to a sect who will so far dismember their integrity?
This great institution, too, of common schools, is not only a part of the state, but is imperiously wanted as such, for the common training of so many classes and conditions of people. There needs to be some place where, in early childhood, they may be brought together and made acquainted with each other; thus to wear away the sense of distance, otherwise certain to become an established animosity of orders; to form friendships; to be exercised together on a common footing of ingenuous rivalry; the children of the rich to feel the power and do honor to the struggles of merit in the lowly, when it rises above them; the children of the poor to learn the force of merit, and feel the benign encouragement yielded by its blameless victories. Indeed, no child can be said to be well trained, especially no male child, who has not met the people as they are, above him or below, in the seatings, plays and studies of the common school. Without this he can never be a fully qualified citizen, or prepared to act his part wisely as a citizen. Confined to a select school, where only the children of wealth and distinction are gathered, he will not know the merit there is in the real virtues of the poor, or the power that slumbers in their talent. He will take his better dress as a token of his better quality, look down upon the children of the lowly with an educated contempt, prepare to take on lofty airs of confidence and presumption afterward; finally, to make the discovery when it is too late, that poverty has been the sturdy nurse of talent in some unhonored youth who comes up to affront him by an equal, or mortify and crush him by an overmastering force. So also the children of the poor and lowly, if they should be privately educated, in some inferior degree, by the honest and faithful exertion of their parents; secreted as it were, in some back alley or obscure corner of the town, will either grow up in a fierce, inbred hatred of the wealthier classes, or else in a mind cowed by undue modesty, as being of another and inferior quality, unable, therefore, to fight the great battle of life hopefully, and counting it a kind of presumption to think that they can force their way upward, even by merit itself.
Without common schools, the disadvantage falls both ways in about equal degrees, and the disadvantage that accrues to the state, in the loss of so much character, and so many cross ties of mutual respect and generous appreciation, the embittering so fatally of all outward distinctions, and the propagation of so many misunderstandings, (righted only by the im. mense public mischiefs that follow)—this, I say, is greater even than the disadvantages accruing to the classes themselves; a disadvantage that weakens immensely, the security of the state, and even of its 'liberties. Indeed, I seriously doubt whether any system of popular government can stand the shock, for any length of time, of that fierce animosity, that is certain to be gendered, where the children are trained up wholly in their classes, and never brought together to feel, understand, appreciate and respect each other, on the common footing of merit and of native talent, in a common school. Falling back thus on the test of merit and of native force, at an early period of life, moderates immensely their valuation of mere conventionalities and of the accidents of fortune, and puts them in a way of deference that is genuine as well as necessary to their common peace in the state. Common schools are nurseries thus of a free republic, private schools of factions, cabals, agrarian laws and contests of force. Therefore, I say, we must have common schools; they are American, indispensable to our American institutions, and must not be yielded for any consideration smaller than the price of our liberties.
Nor is it only in this manner that they are seen to be necessary. The same argument holds, with even greater force, when applied to the religious distinctions of our country. It is very plain that we can not have common schools for the purposes above named, if we make distributions, whether of schools or of funds, under sectarian or ecclesiastical distinctions. At that moment the charm and very much of the reality of common schools vanish. Besides, the ecclesiastical distinctions are themselves distinctions also of classes, in another form, and such too as are much more dangerous than any distinctions of wealth. Let the Catholic children, for example, be driven out of our schools by unjust trespasses on their religion, or be withdrawn for mere pretexts that have no foundation, and just there commences a training in religious antipathies bitter as the grave.
Never brought close enough to know each other, the children, subject to the great well known principle that whatever is unknown is magnified by the darkness it is under, have all their prejudices and repugnances magnified a thousand fold. They grow up in the conviction that there is nothing but evil in each other, and close to that lies the inference that they are right in doing what evil to each other they please. I complain not of the fact that they are not assimilated, but of what is far more dishonest and wicked, that they are not allowed to understand each other. They are brought up, in fact, for misunderstanding; separated that they may misunderstand each other; kept apart, walled up to heaven in the inclosures of their sects, that they may be as ignorant of each other, as inimical, as incapable of love and cordial good citizenship as possible. The arrangement is not only unchristian, but it is thoroughly un-American, hostile at every point, to our institutions themselves. No bitterness is so bitter, no seed of faction so rank, no division so irreconcilable, as that which grows out of religious distinctions, sharpened to religious animosities, and softened by no terms of intercourse; the more bitter when it begins with childhood; and yet more bitter when it is exasperated also by distinctions of property and social life that correspond; and yet more bitter still, when it is aggravated also by distinctions of stock or nation.
In this latter view, the withdrawing of our Catholic children from the common schools, unless for some real breach upon their religion, and the distribution demanded of public moneys to them in schools apart by themselves, is a bitter cruelty to the children, and a very unjust affront to our institutions. We bid them welcome as they come, and open to their free possession, all the rights of our American citizenship. They, in return, forbid their children to be Americans, pen them as foreigners to keep them so, and train them up in the speech of Ashdod among us. And then, to complete the affront, they come to our legislatures demanding it, as their right, to share in funds collected by a taxing of the whole people, and to have these funds applied to the purpose of keeping their children from being Americans.
Our only answer to such demands is, “ No! take your place with us in our common schools, and consent to be Americans, or else go back to Turkey, where Mohammedans, Greeks, Armenians, Jews are walled up by the laws themselves, forbidding them ever to pass over or to change their superstitions; there to take your chances of liberty, such as a people are capable of when they are trained up, as regards each other, to be foreigners for all coming time, in blood and religion.” I said go back to Turkey—that is unnecessary. If we do not soon prepare a state of Turkish