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California State Teachers' Institute
IN SESSION IN THE
CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO,
From Monday, May 27th, to Saturday, June 1st, 1861.
MONDAY, May 27, 1861.
In response to the call of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a large number of Delegates from all parts of the State, consisting of Teachers, School Officers, and the friends of Education generally, assembled in Tucker's Academy of Music, in the city of San Francisco, on Monday, the 27th of May, 1861. At ten o'clock, A. M. the State Institute was called to order by Hon. Andrew J. Moulder, Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is, by law, ex officio President of the Institute.
In explanation of the object of the Institute, the President delivered the following
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :
We have all long felt the need of such an Institute as that we this day inaugurate. Many of you have, doubtless, participated in the exercises, and experienced the benefits of similar Institutes, in the Atlantic States. You have there seen their valuable uses and their fruitful results.
For many years the State Superintendent has earnestly appealed to the Legislature to authorize the holding of State Institutes, and has vigorously pressed the reasons in support thereof.
It was necessary to explain again and again the objects and benefits of the Institute; for many were ignorant of the very meaning of the term.
The first bill introduced on the subject, a few years ago, was voted down, because, as the Superintendent was afterwards told, many of those voting thought that the Institute proposed, was a sort of social club, which was to be fitted up in club style, with luxurious lounges, carpets, and mirrors, where Teachers might assemble to while away an hour, or two, of lazy leisure each day, and, as one member expressed it, "to have a good time generally."
At the next session of the Legislature, the Superintendent again urged that the object of the convocation of the Teachers and School Officers-technically known as a Teachers' Institute-was to instruct and improve them in their vocation-that
similar Institutes were regularly held by the State Superintendent in almost every other State in the Union, in which a good and efficient system of education existed, and that they were there looked upon as invaluable aids to the Public Schools. It was stated that nearly eight hundred Teachers were employed in the Public Schools of California-that conceding they possessed the requisite scholastic attainments, not all clearly understood how best to impart their knowledge-not all comprehended the art of teaching.
In all other learned professions, in all trades, and crafts, a long apprenticeship is considered necessary.
But many imagine they are fully competent to teach, without any preparation. They think that the Teacher, like the poet, "is born, not made."
Hence, many undertake to teach according to their own crude notions. They have never had an opportunity of comparing their own lifeless and fruitless mode of instruction with that of accomplished masters of the profession, who have had the benefit of the most perfect models, of the world's experience, and have thereto superadded, a life-long study of their vocation.
The Teachers' Institute is intended to furnish them with the opportunity of making such a comparison, of profiting by such models, such experience, and such study. The advantages that must result to the children of the State, are incalculable. In another respect the intelligent, but uninformed, Teacher, must derive great assistance from such an Institute. His acquaintance with text-books is oftentimes limited; limited, perhaps, to those he was accustomed to use when himself a pupil. He has had no opportunity of examining the vast improvements that each year brings forth; he knows not the facilities and appliances, experience and science are every year placing at his disposal for the instruction of the young. The improvements made during a few years past have wrought as great a change in the labor of teaching, as the cotton-gin, or the spinning-jenny, in manufactures; and it would be about as wise for the modern Teacher to disregard, or reject, the former, as for the planter to return to hand-picking, or the manufacturer to the primitive spinning-wheel. A Teachers' Institute should make all who attend, familiar with these improvements, and the best mode of putting them in practice, and thereby greatly augment their usefulness and the value of their services.
By such arguments as these did the State Superintendent urge upon the Legislature the necessity of giving him authority to convene such Institutes. Those arguments were at length successful, and you are this day assembled by virtue of an act passed April 28, 1860.
In the history of our young State, there have been two Educational Conventions held, but this is the first legally recognized State Teachers' Institute.
And now, for what have we met? For what have the many intelligent ladies and gentlemen who have come from far distant localities, assembled here?
The answer is, in brief, to improve themselves in the art of teaching. You have not come here to learn any new facts in Geography, or History, or Grammar, or Philosophy. All our exercises will be based upon the presumption that every Teacher who has charge of a Public School, in this State, is already familiar with the facts of the sciences he is called upon to teach.
Our purpose is to ascertain, by the instructions of competent gentlemen, and by comparison of views in free discussion, the best modes of imparting those facts, the best modes of stimulating the reasoning and reflecting powers of pupils. I have already announced that it is proposed to attain our object by distributing our exercises between two organizations; the one, the State Teachers' Institute proper, the other, a State Educational Convention. They are, in effect, one; in form, divided, for more systematic work.
For the Institute, the Superintendent has made ample provision. He has marked out and arranged the exercises.
For the Convention, you, ladies and gentlemen, must consult your own wishes in the arrangement and transaction of business.
The Institute will be opened at ten o'clock, A. M. each day. For each day the services of an intelligent and accomplished Instructor have been secured. Steadily keeping in view the object of the Institute, those instructions will relate to the true principles of teaching, the most approved methods of cultivating the reasoning faculties, exciting the interest, holding the attention of pupils, and finally, of imparting, with greatest facility to the Teacher, and least toilsomeness to the scholar, all those facts and principles which constitute useful knowledge.
The exercises of the Institute will not continue later than twelve, or half-past twelve, o'clock.
I then propose to adjourn the Institute for the day, take a recess until two o'clock and at that hour, call the State Educational Convention to order. The Convention will elect its own officers, provide for the appointment of standing committees, arrange the order of business, and do such other acts within the range of its purpose, as it may think proper.
The law authorizes the State Board of Education to recommend a uniform system of text-books for use in the Public Schools throughout the State.
After consultation, the Board of Education resolved to postpone the selection of these text-books until the Teachers and School Officers in Convention assembled, had had an opportunity to examine, discuss, and pass upon, their merits.
They considered that this was a compliment due to those who had practical acquaintance with the subject matter, and who were chiefly to be affected by any changes recommended.
The Board desire, therefore, the Convention to recommend what, in its opinion, is the best text-book in each of the principal branches usually taught in our Public Schools.
While such recommendation will not be positively conclusive, it will have controlling weight with the Board, so that any book recommended, will be adopted, unless-what is not anticipated-special objections should be discovered.
The selection of these text-books will, therefore, be one of the most important duties of the Convention. It will require great care and deliberation, and no expedient should be neglected to secure a careful examination of all the text-books published, relating to each branch of study.
It has occurred to me that the best and most expeditious mode of transacting this business, is to provide for the appointment of a committee, consisting of three, or five, as the Convention may deem best, upon each branch, with instructions to examine and compare all books relating to that branch, and report the result of their deliberations to the Convention, with the reasons, as far as practicable, which may have influenced their decision.
It will be for the Convention, then, to discuss the merits of all books upon the given subject, and adopt the report of the committee, or a substitute therefor.
We shall thus have a standing committee upon Geography, Grammar, Arithmetic, History, etc. whose province will be a careful comparison of the merits of all works on those subjects, with a view to their introduction into our schools.
By this means no special merit of any book will escape the attention of the Convention.
In some instances it may be well, in case two books upon the same subject are found to possess very nearly equal value, for the committee to recommend one, with an alternate.
In Convention, each day, the subject of the morning instruction in the Institute will be open for discussion. In this way, the views, the information, and the experience, of all the members may be elicited, and thereby all be more, or less, profited by the full light thrown upon the subject.
I would further recommend that a Standing Committee on Amendments to the School Law be appointed, whose province should be to examine all resolutions recommending desirable amendments to existing laws, and report thereon to the Convention.