APRIL, 1889. No. 2.
THE IOWA SCHOOL SYSTEM.
BY T. S. PARVIN.
"I will find where
is hid, though it were hid indeed
within the center.—Shakespeare.
"Truth crushed to earth shall rise again."—Bryant.
In a previous paper we both asked and answered "Who
taught the First School in Iowa?" Berryman Jennings, October
to December, 1830, at Nashville, Lee County.
We shall in this article discuss the query, "Who is
the Founder of the Iowa School System?" or, as another writer
puts it, "Who is the Father of Free Schools in Iowa?" Rather
we shall not essay to answer who, but prove that the Hon.
Horace Mann, whom both writers claim is,
In that paper we transcribed one
of the articles which has run the gauntlet of all our leading
papers of the state, for the purpose of putting in a denial of
all the essential points stated, as we wished to reach the
public ear at an early date. Now we will present our proof.
The IOWA HISTORICAL
RECORD is the official organ of the Iowa Historical Society,
and therefore the proper place for both the history in whole
or part of Iowa when written, and also the preservation of
of that history, to be written
some future time. The points presented by his
admirers,—we say "injudicious"
because we are a sincere and honest admirer of the man and
1. That Horace Mann "was selected by a committee of the
2. "To prepare a law embodying
ideas of a public school system;
which he did,"
3. "Providing for the township as a unit in school
4. For "Teachers Institutes;" and
5. "Normal Schools for Teachers;" and
7. And that he "was the founder of the Iowa public school
(1). At the special
session of the General Assembly held at Iowa City, July 3d,
1856, Gov. Grimes in his message "recommended that
competent persons be selected to
REVISE all the laws on the subject of "Schools and School
Lands." Thus the General Assembly approved but did not
originate the idea. It passed a law July
providing that "there shall be
three commissioners appointed
by the Governor,
whose duty it shall be to revise
and improve the school laws of Iowa;" not as asserted to
ignore existing laws, and present a new law "embodying the
views" of any one man, nor yet of three men.
In his succeeding, and
last, message, Gov. Grimes reports December 3d, 1856, that
"had in compliance with law,
appointed Hon. Horace Mann, of Ohio; Mr. Amos Dean, of New
York, president (chancellor) of the State University, and F.
S. Bissell, Esq., of Dubuque, commissioners to revise the
school laws of Iowa. Here the first statement is proved wholly
incorrect and unfounded, and here we might rest upon the law
maxim—Falsum in uno,
falsum in omni. But we
will proceed with number
(2). The commissioners
were; 1—under the governor's recommendations; 2—under the law
providing for their appointment; 3—under the governor's
to "revise and improve" the
existing school laws of Iowa, and not prepare a new law,—new
system, "embodying the ideas" of Mr. Mann, one of the
commissioners, nor based upon the ideas of all the three.
1—The governor in his message July 3d, says to
all the laws on the subject of
schools." 2—The law reads: "It shall be the duty of the
commissioners to revise
and improve the school
laws,"—of what? not Mr. Mann's ideas, but "of Iowa." 3—The
governor reported that "commissioners had been appointed," how
and for what ? "under the law, to revise the school laws,
etc." Nay more. The commissioners in their report, December,
1856, say in the first sentence: 4—"The undersigned,"—two of
the commissioners, Mr. Mann and Amos Dean— "appointed to
revise the school laws of Iowa." Again they say: "They found
the previous legislation of this state, upon this great
subject, in the main, judicious in its provisions, etc."
Clearly then Iowa had
already a school system, and some man or set of men must have
been its "founder" unless like Topsy, it had no maker. Neither
Mr. Mann nor Mr. Dean ever claimed to have created a new
system but only to "revise" the old. The revised law, not
new one, presented by the two commissioners it is claimed
contained Hon. Horace Mann's "ideas of a public school system"
in that the two, not one, commissioners embodied in that law—
(3). "The township system
as a unit of school administration.
4.—Teachers Institutes. 5.— Normal Schools for Teachers.
Each and all of these three had been recommended and two
of them practiced in the Iowa School System for years. Gov.
Lucas, Iowa's first executive, in his first (and indeed
subsequent) message recommended this wise provision and in
language quite as plain and unmistakable as that used by the
two commissioners. Hear ye him. Message, November 12, 1838,
the Governor says, and it was the first "subject" he
treated upon, "The subject of providing by law for the
organization of townships * * * I consider to be of the first
importance. Without proper township regulations it will
be extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to establish
a regular school system." Again further on he
"emphatically calls the attention of the legislature at the
commencement of our political existence to a well digested
system of common schools, and as a preparatory step toward
effecting this important object. * * * I urge," he repeats,
"upon your considerations the necessity of providing by law
for the organization of townships." Bear in mind that he,
Lucas not Mann, did this in November, 1838, and not December,
1856, or almost two decades later. Horace Mann and Amos Dean
recommended and so did Lucas, and so did several
governors and superintendents of public instruction, between
the years 1838 and 1856, recommend "the township system as the
unit of school administration." All they did, all they could
do, was to recommend, for both in 1838 and 1856 the
legislature neglected, to use a mild term, to enact into an
act their wise, wholesome and important suggestions, upon this
and other topics also. It would take too much space to follow
up this, the first, with other later recommendations of the
successors of Gov. Lucas and the several superintendents upon
this vital —as we regard it—point. It has not even yet been
made universally the unit of administration, because the old
and imperfect district system still prevails and obtains among
us. Moreover, "Teachers Institutes" had been held, both county
and state, since 1849, April, and June, 1856. So the law was
the outgrowth of, and engrafted upon the system in use and not
the reverse—better keep the horse before the cart. They
had been held every where, and became bone of the bone and
flesh of the flesh of our system; only the state from the
beginning had not provided the means to defray the expenses of
holding the same till after Superintendent Benton had
recommended and urged the measure.
Again "Normal Schools for
Teachers," no more than Teachers Institutes, originated with
Mr. Mann or Mr. Dean, for the State of Iowa had by law
provided, in 1849, for the establishment, and did establish
"Normal Schools for Teachers" at Andrew and other places. And
again in 1855, the state opened a distinct "Normal Department
for Teachers" in connection with the State University; which
was free to all, largely attended, and made most efficacious
in the work of education in the state. These two
measures—"Teachers Institutes" and "Normal Schools" were seven
years older than Mr. Mann's appointment, recommendation or
bill, and had already become one, and inseparable from the
Iowa school system.
(6). Here is a new,
and the only new feature, as claimed by these false
claimants in the bill reported by Messrs. Mann and Dean—County
Superintendents. And we italicized it in our enumeration
of the several points because it was theirs not "his,"
nor indeed ours before. It was and is a most "important
addition" to the school system of Iowa; and most gladly do we
acknowledge its merits and give to them, not him, all credit
for its recommendation and incorporation into our system.
(7). A few words as to
whether Mr. Mann alone or Messrs. Mann and Dean are the
founders of the "Iowa Public School System." It was a joint
commission; the two labored together; the two submitted
their report; the General Assembly praises them alike for
their service. Is there a man in his senses who would assert
that Amos Dean, chancellor of the State University of Iowa,
would share with Horace Mann equally in the compensation if he
had not equally shared in the labor? Thus why and wherefore
ignore Dean and give all the credit to Mann for their joint
labors. Yet more, Hon. J. B. Grinnell, who was the chairman of
the committee in the Senate—a warm personal and political
friend of Hon. Horace Mann; selected for that work by Gov.
Grimes, himself to have in special charge the bill of the
commissioners, says distinctly personally to the writer at the
recent State Teachers' Association in December, 1888, and by
letter dated January, 1889, that the Hon. Amos Dean was
entitled to share (half and half indeed) the honors of that
report, and the authorship of the bill reported. Moreover, he
writes that in later years when in Congress, Mr. Mann was his
colleague, and in a conversation had at Washington with him
upon this subject he (Mann) generously gave to Mr. Dean full
credit for his share of the work. Why then, in view of these
facts, omit the name of Mr. Dean in all reference to that
Iowa became a state in
December, 1846. The constitution provided for the office of
superintendent of public instruction. Hon. Thomas H. Benton,
Jr., a classical teacher of experience, was elected and served
in that capacity six full years before the revision of the
school laws by Messrs. Mann and Dean. Is it presumable, on the
contrary is it not the absurdity of folly, to suppose for a
moment that the great and growing state of Iowa, full of
people and legislators born, raised and educated in the older
and earlier states with school systems of long date, and with
such an educator as Benton could and would remain all the ten
years without a school system? That it would "watch and wait"
'till Mr. Mann should come along and give our people the bread
of life—an educational system, without which no state can grow
into greatness or even exist as a government? It is time, high
time, that these libelers of men, and of truth, be silenced
and made to hide their brazen faces in shame.
The Iowa school system
has no one or even two men for its "founders." It was not
created at one time, nor did it have an author at one period.
It is a growth; a development from the beginning in 1838 and
through all the years 'til 1858; a period of a full score of
years. It has grown much since, and will continue to grow,
improve and develop with the years, and the wants and the
demands of the people and the age.
To Messrs. Mann and Dean
great credit and honor is due, and we who knew them and were
in office in the state at the time of their appointment and
labors, most gladly give to them the credit their due of a
most thorough "revision" and improvement of the previous
school legislation of our state. But to others, especially to
Hon. Thomas H. Benton, Jr., is due in a larger measure and a
greater degree, the honor of having left the impress of his
educated mind and experience and character upon the school
system of Iowa.
Neither Hon. Horace Mann,
nor Amos Dean, nor the two jointly "were the founder of the
Iowa public school system," nor are they or he (Mann) "the
father of free schools in Iowa." "The truth makes us free" and
there is no truth in the claim so absurdly and falsely set
forth by these writers that to Horace Mann belongs this honor.
In conclusion we will
quote from an address delivered by Hon. Geo. G. Wright,
ex-chief justice and ex-U. S. Senator, October 13th, 1886,
before the Tri-State Old Settlers' Association, at Keokuk, who
knew whereof he affirmed, being an old settler himself:
"The pioneer lawyers, farmers, merchants, ministers, men of
business from all the eastern states, and from the lakes to
the gulf, made our laws, framed our constitutions, * * *
organized our school system, * * * and what we are to-day
is largely due to them. We owe them a debt of gratitude, which
grows with the years and without the possibility of