Monday, April 26, 2010

Growing in Knowledge (2)

Topic: The History of Education in New York City

The history of education in New York dates from 1629, when the West Indies Company, under whose charge the first Dutch colonists came to the city, enacted a law which required the establishment of sehools. Four years later the first school was opened, and in 1652 the first public school came into being, and was established in the City Hall. After the English obtained possession of the colony education suffered for a few years because of the conflict in languages, the Dutch adhering to the language of their mother country.

The English established many schools, and church and state united in their support. No charge was made directly for tuition. In 1704 a society for the propagation of the Gospel began the work of establishing schools in the English language, and in 1732 an act was passed to establish a public school in the city. Early in 1748 two schools were erected, one by Trinity, in Rector street, and another by the Dutch Reformed Church, in what is now Exchange Place. Many private educational institutions existed, some of them under the jurisdiction of religious bodies and depending on them for support. "It may be stated," says an authority, " that, so far from retrograding toward barbarism, the people of the colonies previous to their independence were securing for their ehildren more education than the people of any other contemporaneous country, and this was exceptionally true of New England, whose population was better educated then than any other in the world." In educational force New England antedated New York by nine years, as the first aet of the Plymouth colonists was to provide a meeting house for religious purposes and a schoolhouse for the children. In 1754 King's College, now Columbia University, was founded.

New York at first encouraged private schools, and when the Board of Regents of the University of New York was created, in 1784, its chief function for many years was to encourage academies and colleges. It is to the credit of that board, however, that it presented to the legislature many propositions for the founding of a school system which would tend to the establishment of common schools. In 1795 Governor Clinton urged the creation of the New England type of common schools, and through the legislature a fund was created for the successful carrying out of the scheme.In 1797 free schools were established in the State.

The progress of the free school movement toward New York City was slow, however, and old ideas of teaching only children whose parents were affiliated with the different religious bodies caused the education of many of them to he neglected. Public-spirited citizens desirous of providing means for the education of neglected children called a meeting in 1805 to consider the question, and shortly after petitioned the legislature for permission to incorporate a sociaty having for its object "the establishment of a free school for the education of poor children who do not belong to or are not provided for by any religious society." On April 9, 1805, the petition was granted by the legislature and the society duly Incorporated. Money was needed for carrying on the project, and was to be sought privately, so that it was not until May 19, 1806, that the society saw the fulfilment of its benevolent scheme, when apartments were rented in a house on what is now Madison street, and the school begun. So anxious were the people to take advantage of the work of benevolence for the education of their children that it was only a short time after the school's establishment when it was overcrowded, and larger quarters were sought.Through the generosity of Colonel Henry Rutgers, two lots in Henry street were given to the society, and a portion of the excise moneys was set aside by the legislature for the erection of a building on them. Pending the completion of the Henry street school, the corporation presented to the society a building in Chambers street, and donated 560 to put it in repair.

By 1809 it had become too small to accommodate the pupils, and a new school was erected in Chatham street. In 1810 the cornerstone of the Henry street building was laid.

The necessity for more schools became apparent, and in 1811 the Trinity corporation gave two lots on the corner of Hudson and Grove streets for a third school. In 1815 and 1819 two "African schools" were built, one on ground in William street given by the corporation, and the other by the Manumission Society on ground in Mulberry street, "which cost $2,400." At this time the population of the city was 119,657, and in 1820 had increased nearly 3 per cent, so that an impetus was given to the building of schools. In 1820 the Hudson street school (No. 3) was ready to receive pupils, and in 1821 No. 4, in Rivington street, corner of Pitt street, was opened. In 1824 No. 5, in Mott street, between Spring and Prince, was erected, and No. 6 was occupying the Almshouse. The following year No. 7, in Chrystie street, between Pump and Hester streets, was built, and in 1826 No. 8, in Grand street, between Laurens and Wooster streets, was opened to pupils. In 1827 three more schools were opened, one (No. 9) at Bloomingdale, one (No. 10) in Duane street, and one (No. 11) in Wooster street.

In 1825 the society that had done so much for the youth of old New York changed its name to the Public School Society, with the object of eliminating the idea of charity and giving to the citizens that education which was considered theirs by right.

Through the operation of the State law passed in 1805, by which the proceeds of 500,000 acres of land were to be accumulated until the income should reach the sum of $50,000, which should he applied to the uses of the schools of the State, new measures were adopted for extending the common school system of the State. In 1819 the fund had reached the sum of $1,200,000, and in 1822 a change of the constitution made the school fund "inviolable and inalienable to other purposes." In 1842 Governor Seward recommended to the legislature in his message that a law be passed extending the common school system of the State to the city,resulting in the forming of the Board of Education and the establishment of a wise system—the separation of church and state schools so far as the bestowal of State moneys went. The existence of the old Public School Society ceased in 1853, and all its rights and belongings passed to the Board of Education.

Bibliography: Cradle Days of New York (1609-1825) by Hugh Macatamney; New York-Drew & Lewis, Publishers 1909

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