Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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EDUCATION, Bureau of. The government of the United States, prior to 1867, had no concern with the education of the people, further than was evinced in several acts of congress giving public lands to the states for the promotion of school education. A summary of these land-grant provisions, with the amount of land thus located in each state and territory, will be found elsewhere.


—Numerous propositions to establish a national university by act of congress have been made, from the time of Washington to this day, but thus far without practical effect. A national bureau of education, however, was created in 1867, in pursuance of a bill reported by a select committee of the house through its chairman, James A. Garfield, who took a leading part in urging its passage. By act of March 2, 1867 (14 Stat. at Large, p. 434), a department of education, with a commissioner and three clerks, was organized. "to collect statistics and facts showing the condition and progress of education in the several states and territories, and to diffuse such information respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems, and methods of teaching, as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems, and otherwise promote the cause of education throughout the country." The following year the office of education was converted from an independent department into a bureau, attached to the department of the interior (15 Stat. at Large, p. 92). The commissioner of education is appointed by the president and senate, with a salary of $3,000, and is required to make an annual report to congress of the results of his investigations and labors. These annual reports (of which thirteen bulky volumes have been issued from 1868 to 1881) cover a wide field, and, with the "circulars of information" occasionally issued in pamphlet form, embrace many subjects not directly connected with education. The annual reports, which have more recently assumed a systematic form, are in great part devoted to abstracts of the official reports of school officers of the various states and territories. These are followed by statistical tables in detail, summarizing, by states and territories, the numbers, attendance, instructors, expenditure, etc., in the primary schools, kindergärten, normal and higher schools, commercial colleges, universities, schools of science, theology, law, medicine, etc., throughout the United States. To these are added tabular statistics, also arranged by states, of institutions for the deaf, dumb and blind, charity schools, orphan asylums, industrial and reform schools, museums of art, natural history, etc., and (occasionally) of libraries. The commissioner of education also published in 1876 a valuable "Special Report on Public Libraries in the United States of America, their history, condition and management," a volume of over 1,200 pages. The circulars of information of the United States bureau of education have embodied much miscellaneous intelligence regarding education in foreign countries, with many monographs upon special topics.


—The functions of the bureau of education, though most largely concerned with the collection and diffusion of knowledge respecting educational methods, and the statistics of institutions of learning, have become quite diversified, and its annual expenditure has grown from the insignificant sum of $9,400 in 1868, to $50,000 in 1882 (exclusive of printing). Its special reports, of much extent, relating to education in the District of Columbia (1871), and to the public libraries of the United States (1876), have been highly valued, and the bureau has become a recognized and widely useful medium for the diffusion of intelligence respecting all the varied interests and business of education in this country, as well as in foreign lands. Among topics treated in its circulars of information have been rural school architecture, the teaching of chemistry and physics in the United States, instruction in the countries of Europe, Asia and South America, college commencements, the legal rights of children, foreign universities, compulsory education, the spelling reform, proceedings of the national educational association, etc.


—The commissioners of education since the creation of that office, have been Henry Barnard, March 16, 1867; John Eaton, March 16, 1870.


—There has been collected a valuable though not complete library of works on education, elementary text-books, catalogues, etc., and an extensive series of illustrations of school buildings, school apparatus, etc., forming an educational museum of great interest.


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