« PreviousContinue »
to the importance of this class of seminaries to be willing to endow and sustain them. The legislatures probably are not; individuals, therefore, must do the work.
The question may be asked by some, whether all the people in these states, in which these improvements are making, cordially approve of these educational movements? It would be very strange if they were. Men are always opposed to innovation, and especially, if it costs any thing. More opposition has been experienced in Massachusetts than in Connecticut, for the simple reason, that the latter state follows after, and, profiting by the example of her sister, avoids those points that excite the most opposition.
There have risen up in the Bay state three distinct classes of opponents. The opposition of one class is based on the expensiveness of the Board of Education. The whole expense, including the salary of the Secretary and extra printing, amounts to less than $2,000 annually. There is one town in the state that pays $1,000 to a man for superintending the schools within its limits. Who will say that it is extravagant for a state to pay $2,000 for overseeing the education of 180,000 children, at an expense of three-fourths of a million dollars? The second class of opponents are those who are fearful that it is a plan for subverting the religious sentiments of the rising generation, and for turning them away from the old paths. It has been my privilege to be somewhat conversant with the opinions and views of those men who have taken the lead in this movement, and I am fully persuaded that they honestly desire to improve the schools, and to furnish to all the children greater facilities than they now have for acquiring a useful education. I do not believe they will attempt to subvert the religious faith of the people, nor do I believe they can do it if they would. The third class of opponents comes from the book-selling interest. This brings me to a new topic, which requires some explanation.
Previous to the organization of the Massachusetts Board of Education, the legislature passed a law authorizing each school district to raise money for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a common school library and apparatus for the use of the children of the district; with a proviso, that no greater sum than $30 shall be expended the first year, nor more than ten in any subsequent year. The Board considered the law an important one; they say: “To what avail are our youths taught to read if no facilities exist for obtaining books ? The keys of knowledge are useless to him who has no access to the volumes to be unlocked.” They supposed some difficulty would be experienced by most districts in making a suitable selection for a library. It was foreseen that the publishers of books might get up their school libraries, and vie with each other in their efforts to furnish the schools, and that many useless, and perhaps pernicious books might fall into the hands of the children. The Board, therefore, felt themselves called upon to do what they could to facilitate the execution of that law. They accordingly made proposals to several publishers to ascertain on what terms they would furnish books of a given size, and executed in a given style. It was thought desirable to have the books well made and cheap. An arrangement was made with a publishing house in Boston, which pledged itself to manufacture the books, in the style prescribed, in sufficient quantities to supply the schools; provided that each book in the library should have the approval of each member of the Board on its first page.It may be thought by many readers of the Repository, that this detail is needless. I enter into these particulars, that it may be seen that the publishers of books have no reason to find fault; for if the books are once introduced into the schools, a taste for reading will be cultivated, and booksellers generally will be benefited by an increased demand for books. Why then should publishers look with an envious eye upon the firm that furnishes the school libraries? The state does not pay them a single dollar; nor have they any pledge of pecuniary aid from any quarter. They prepare the books at a great expense, to be remunerated by the small profits arising from the sale of books; I say small profits, for the prices of the volumes are fixed, by contract with the Board, at as low a rate as it was supposed they could be afforded.
The library when complete is to embrace “two series of 50 volumes each; the one to be an 18mo, averaging from 250 to 280 pages per volume; the other in 12mo, each volume containing from 350 to 400 pages.” About 40 volumes are already published. Among them are found the Life of Columbus, by W. Irving ; Paley's Natural Theology, in 2 volumes, with selections from Lord Brougham and Sir Charles Bell, illustrated with numerous cuts ; Lives of Individuals celebrated in American History, selected from Sparks' American Biography, 3 volumes; and Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons in 4 volumes, by Rev. Henry Duncan, D. D. It is unnecessary to name them
all; those I have mentioned are a fair sample of the whole. I have read most of them, and find in them much to admire and nothing to condemn. The Board did not consider themselves at liberty to select and recommend religious books; neither did they suppose that such were most needed. Most of the children in the commonwealth are supplied with books of a religious character from the Sabbath school libraries. It seemed more necessary that they should have access to works of information, to popular treatises upon natural and physical sciences, to memoirs, histories, and interesting miscellaneous publications.
The School Library is edited with great care and ability. Each volume has an index and glossary, in which every word in the book, not found in school dictionaries, is fully explained. Every quotation from other languages is translated, and the volumes are adapted to the capacities as well as to the wants of the young.
I need not say any thing by way of argument to show the importance of libraries in district schools. I do not know that any one denies that they are valuable. The time is probably not far distant, when a library will be considered as essential to the welfare of a common school, as it now is to the interest of a Sabbath school. The munificent appropriation made by the state of New-York is important testimony in their favor. * *
The great objection, that has been urged against school libraries in Massachusetts, is, that the Board of Education, in making the selection, will introduce books that inculcate the sentiments of some one religious sect, and exclude others. The majority of the Committee on Education, in the legislature of
1840, recommended that the Board be abolished; and one of the reasons was the following: “It is professed, indeed, that the matter selected for this library will be free both from sectarian and political objections. Unquestionably the Board will endeavor to render it so. Since, however, religion and politics, in this free country, are so intimately connected with every other subject, the accomplishment of that object is utterly impossible; "nor would it be desirable, if possible. That must, indeed, be
* The legislature of New York by two acts, passed in 1838 and 1839, have appropriated $110,000 annually for three years, for the purchase of libraries; which is to be divided among the districts, and any one may draw its share, if the inhabitants of the district will add to it an equal sum.
an uninteresting course of reading, which would leave untouched either of these subjects."*
I can hardly believe that the writer of that report seriously believed his own assertions. Is it essential to the interest and utility of every book, that it should dwell more or less upon religion and politics? Are not such books as the Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties, Buel on Agriculture, and popular treatises on Chemistry, Philosophy, Astronomy, Geology and the Arts, free from partisan views of religion and politics, and, at the same time, interesting and useful ? I suppose the writer of the above mentioned report presumed that the library was to be a religious and political library, and still contain nothing more favorable to one party or sect than to another. It is admitted that such a book, if it could be made, would do no good, but much hurt. I see no difficulty, however, in selecting a valuable library made up of books of information, to be used in a school composed of children from families differing widely in their political and religious opinions, which shall be useful and acceptable to all. Let not the objections, that have been made to a Board of Education, to school libraries and to plans for improving schools in Massachusetts, discourage the people in other states, and keep them from improving their common school system. A variety of circumstances have operated in this state to create some division among the people, and to awaken opposition. If the Board had been organized two years earlier or two years later, there would have been fewer objections urged against it. But it is well as it is; opposition has produced discussion, and I have no doubt that the people generally are better informed upon every thing pertaining to common schools, than they would otherwise have been.
It was my intention to have dwelt upon the subject of moral and religious instruction in the public schools in New England, but I cannot do justice to this topic without protracting this article to an unreasonable length. I have endeavored to present as correct a view of the common school system of New England, and as faithful a narrative of the improvements that have been made, as the brief space to which I limited myself would allow. Frequent inquiries are made by the friends of education in other states respecting the common school system of the eastern states. If I have succeeded in presenting the great outlines of the system my object is accomplished.
* Massachusetts School Journal, Vol. II. p. 228.
THE RABBIES AND THEIR LITERATURE.
By Isaac Nordheimer, D. P. Prof. Orient. Lang., Univ. of the City of New-York.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE RABBINICAL SCHOOLS IN PERSIA.*
AFTER the composition of the two Talmuds, the Jewish teachers, being no longer under the necessity of communicating the mass of their doctrines by means of oral tradition, confined themselves chiefly to the explanation of these written documents, by assigning for the precepts contained in them various reasons of their own, which were afterwards altered aud appended to the Talmud. These learned men were named Sopherim (699010), to distinguish them from the authors of the Mishnah, called Tenaim, and of the Gemara, called Amaraim. (See the former Article.)
The influence of the rabbies became gradually confined to the districts under their immediate jurisdiction; and the office of Resh Glutha, now grown more secular in its character, came to be an object of ambition to persons of wealth and importance, who farmed or purchased it of the sovereigns of the country. The Beth Nasi (x"w ), or family in whom it had for centuries been hereditary, was nearly extinct. One Rabbi Hanina, who had formerly been sentenced by the Resh Glutha to lose his beard, on account of some opposition offered by
* The first article of this series, on The Talmud and the Rabbies, (Bibl. Rep. Oct. 1839,) contained an outline of the his. , tory of the Rabbinical schools till the composition of the Talmud, with a brief summary of the contents of that work. This history we now continue to the time of Maimonides; and, although the obscurity and barrenness of the details, that have reached us concerning this period, may give the article a fragmentary character, the writer hopes it will not be found entirely destitute of interest and information. It may be affirmed as a surprising fact, that while almost every department of historical science has been cultivated with success, the history of this ancient and certainly interesting people has not