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- The French in the Heart of America - 50/57 -

class for another--charity schools; they are the natural meeting-houses of democracy, with as little atmosphere of pauper or class schools as the highways, on which even the President must obey the custom which controls the humblest.

And let me say in passing: there is no body of men and women in America more useful to the State, more high-minded, more patriotic, than the army of public school-teachers--our great soldiery of peace.

They are a body six times the size of our standing army--more than a half- million in number (547,289)--recruited from the best stock we have and animated by higher purposes, more unselfish motives than any other half- million public or private vocationalists of America. The total expenditure for the common schools is but four and a half times the appropriation for the standing army, though the number of teachers is six times (which intimates how little we pay our public school-teachers relatively-- seventy-eight dollars per month to men, fifty-eight dollars to women teachers). These men and women, who take the place of father, mother, adviser, and nurse in the new industrial and social order--receive about one and a quarter cents a day per inhabitant, man, woman, and child--a little more than two sous per day.

It is this two-sous-per-day army that is our hope of to-morrow. It is primarily upon its efficient valor that the future of democracy depends. For it is they, rather than the parents, especially in the great cities and in communities of large foreign elements, who have its making in their hands. Without them the nation of to-morrow would be defenseless. She would have to increase her standing army of soldiers, and even then, with the multitudes of individual ignorances, malices, selfishnesses growing in her own valleys and being disembarked by millions at her ports, she would be powerless to defend her ideals.

One whom I have already quoted as speaking so disparagingly of Chicago said that the most touching sight he saw in America was the marching of the phalanxes of the nation of to-morrow past one of the generals or colonels of that standing army of teachers. It was not in Chicago, but it might have been. This particular phalanx had not been in America long. They were singing "Sweet Land of Liberty" as they marched, swishing their flags, and then they paused and repeated in broken speech:

"Flag of our great republic, inspirer in battle, guardian of our homes, whose stars and stripes stand for bravery, purity, truth, and union, we salute thee! We, the natives of distant lands who find rest under thy folds, do pledge our hearts, our lives, and our sacred honor to love and protect thee, our country, and the liberty of the American people forever." [Footnote: H. G. Wells, "Future in America," p. 205.] A little florid, you may say. "But think," said the English visitor, even as he passed out into the filthy street, "think of the promise of it! Think of the flower of belief that may spring from this warm sowing!"

And what gives most promise now is that this tuition has assumed a more positive interest in the nation of to-morrow. The pioneer school was a place of discipline, a place of fraternity, and it had the cooperation of the home discipline and of the discipline of the primitive industrial life in which the boy joined even during his school years. But that tuition was in a sense as unsocialized as was the democracy of that day. It was assumed that this meagre training would equip the boy with all the tools of citizenship. Being able to read, write, and cipher, his own instincts and interests would somehow procure good government and happiness. Whatever patriotic stimulus his school gave him, as I recall out of my experience, was through a history which engendered a feeling of hostility toward England. That is being succeeded by a positive programme that thinks very definitely of the boy's fullest development and of his social spiritualization. The schoolhouse has become, or is in the way of becoming, the civic centre of the nation.

But on top of the eight years' training of the elementary school, which was considered at first the full measure of the obligation of the community, the State in that region came to build additional years of discipline--the high schools, first to equip young men for colleges or universities and then to fit them for the meeting of the more highly complex and specialized problems of life. These schools multiplied in the upper Mississippi Valley at an extraordinary rate after the elementary schools had prepared the way. In the northern part of that valley alone sixteen hundred were established between 1860 and 1902. And there is hardly a community of five thousand inhabitants that has not its fully organized and well-equipped high or secondary school; while even towns of a thousand inhabitants or less have made such provision.

Near the site of the village of the Illinois Indians, the village where Père Marquette went from hut to hut in his ministries just before his death journey; where La Salle gathered about his rock-built castle his red allies to the number of thousands and attempted to build up what La Barre, in his letter to Louis XIV, characterized as an imaginary kingdom for himself--there is a beautiful river city, bearing the Indian name of "Ottawa," and in the midst of it a large building that was for me the capital of an imaginary kingdom, my one-time world, though it is called a township high school. I speak of it because it is typical of the instruction and influence that have come out of the long past, and that are looking into the long future, in thousands of the towns and cities that have each about them as many aspiring men, women, and youth as La Salle had savage souls about his solitary castle in the wilderness.

These are the new Rocks St. Louis, these the eagles' nests of the new Nouvelle France--I have visited scores of them--at Peoria, that was Fort Crèvecoeur; at Joliet, where is now one of the best-equipped schools in the valley; at Marquette, upon Lake Superior; at Chicago, where I spoke one day to four thousand high-school boys and girls, for in most of these schools the boys and girls are taught together. The valley has one of these schools every few miles, where are gathered for the higher, sterner disciplines of democracy those who wish to prepare themselves for its larger service.

Their courses are four years in length, and, though varying widely, have each a core of mathematics, English, foreign languages, and either science or manual training or commerce. In some large cities the schools are differentiated as general, manual training, and commercial. But the States of that valley have not stopped here. With the encouragement of national grants--again from the great domain of Louis XIV--they have established universities with colleges of liberal arts and sciences, and schools of agriculture, forestry, mining, engineering, pharmacy, veterinary surgery, commerce, law, medicine, and philosophy. There is not a State in all that valley that has not its university in name and in most instances in fact. They admit both men and women and there is no fee, or only a nominal fee, to residents of the State. These are the great strategic centres and strongholds of the new democracy. A little way back from Cadillac's fort on the Detroit River is one, the oldest, the University of Michigan-- founded in 1837--with 5,805 students. A few years ago I addressed there, at commencement, over eight hundred candidates for degrees and diplomas in law, medicine, pharmacy, liberal arts and science.

A little way from the Fox-Wisconsin portage is another, the University of Wisconsin, with 5,970 students. A few years ago I sat in that beautiful seat of learning among men from all parts of the world offering their congratulations at its jubilee. And they sat in silk gowns only less ornate than Nicolet's when he came over the rim of the basin to treat with the Winnebagoes--whom he had supposed to be Chinese mandarins. I heard, too, the graduates receive their degrees on theses ranging from the poetry of a lesser Greek poet to the "pancreas of a cat." I spent a month in its library at a later time and found it superior for my purposes to any other in America.

No higher institution of learning in America is more strongly possessed by the spirit of the ministry of scholarship directly to the people. It needs sorely advice of the arts that centre in Paris, as most of those universities do. It needs advice not of industry but of the indefatigable disinterestedness of the French.

Behind the Falls of St. Anthony in the Mississippi River, first described and named by Father Hennepin, is the University of Minnesota, with 6,642 students. The principal deity of the Sioux was supposed to live under these falls, and Hennepin, the priest of Artois, speaks in his journal of hearing one of the Indians at the portage around the falls, in loud and lamenting voice haranguing the spirit to whom he had just hung a robe of beaver-skin among the branches of a tree. The buildings that are and are planned to be on this site would tell better than a chapter of description what a single State has done and is purposing at this portage of St. Anthony of Padua, where hardly more than a lifetime ago the savage was sacrificing beaver-skins to the god of the Mississippi. There are many great laboratories and academic buildings upon that high shore at present, but a score more are in prospect for this mighty democratic university of letters and science, law and medicine, that will house in other centuries perhaps not merely the appeased spirit of the Mississippi but such learning as is in Paris or was in Padua, whose saint is still remembered by the falls; for the university has the necessary means. When the Église of the Sorbonne, which Richelieu had consecrated, was being built, the French priests out along the shores of Superior were preparing the way for this new-world university. Certain lands in that iron region which they first explored were given by the nation as dowry to the university. These were not thought to be valuable, as at the time of the grant the most valuable timber and farming land had been sold. Fifteen years ago, more or less, a train-load of iron ore was brought down from that region to Allouez, a town on the lake named in memory of the priest of St. Esprit-- and now the lands of the university are valued at from thirty to fifty millions of dollars. [Footnote: "Forty Years at the University of Minnesota," p. 243.]

One might follow the River Colbert all the way down the valley and trace its branches to the mountains on either side, and find in every State some such fortress: in Iowa a university with 2,255 students; in Illinois one with 4,330; and so on to the banks of the river in Texas where La Salle died--and there learn that the most extensive of all in its equipment may some day rise. These, besides the scores of institutions of private foundation, but compelled to the same public spirit as the State universities, tell with what thought of to-morrow the geographical descendants of France are doing their tasks of to-day, where Allouez and Marquette, Hennepin and Du Lhut, Radisson and Groseilliers, and the Sieur de la Salle wandered and suffered and died but yesterday,

Their paths have opened and multiplied not only into streets of cities and highways and railroads but into curricula of the world's wisdoms, gathered from Paris and Oxford and Edinburgh and Berlin and Bologna and Prague and Salamanca, even as their students are being gathered from all peoples. Perrot spoke truer than he knew when he said to the savages of Wisconsin, "I am but the dawn of the day"; and the Indian chief who first of human beings welcomed Europeans the other side of the Mississippi River spoke in prophecy when he said that the earth had grown more beautiful with their coming.

The common school, the high school, the college and university--the common school compulsory for every child; the high school open to every boy and girl, without regard to race, creed, or riches; the university accessible to every young man and woman who has the ambition, the endurance, to make his way or her way to the frontiers of the spirit and endure their hardships! For I think of these universities as the free lands that were out upon the borders of that valley, except that this frontier of the mind will never, never find its limit. There will always be a frontier beyond, for new settlers, new squatters, of the telescope which makes the universe smaller, of the microscope which enlarges it, of the written word, the spoken word, the unknown quantities, the philosophies of life. Do we not

The French in the Heart of America - 50/57

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