to Mr. Fish.
St. Petersburg , February 16, 1874. (Received March 11.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose to you a copy of a rescript of the Emperor addressed to the minister of public instruction on the 25th [Page 810] December (6 th January) last, in which ihe places the primary schools under the special charge of the nobility in order to preserve them from corrupting and pernicious influences. I also inclose to you several of the addresses of the nobility in reply to this rescript.
The reasons for the issuing of this rescript are not thoroughly understood. By some it is supposed to be an insidious blow at the whole system of popular instruction, and to be the beginning of a retrograde step, with the idea that it would almost forbid the employment as teachers of young men who have just completed or are now finishing their education, the most of whom are viewed with some suspicion by the government. It is understood that there exist in Russia secret leagues and societies for the purpose of diffusing enlightenment among the masses. Others, taking the rescript in connection with the address of the nobility of Moscow, look upon it as a step toward calling the nobility as a class to a new order of services to the state. But the Moscow nobility, perhaps the most patriotic and enlightened body of men in the empire, always in their addresses very strongly hint at their desire for a constitution and a representative assembly, and the rescript taken by itself only speaks of the nobility as the representatives of the intelligence of the country.
The course of the ministry of public instruction for the last few years has been most singular; more attention, and almost as much money, having been spent on the manner of instruction and the inspection of the schools than on the instruction itself. In 1861 the ministry brought in a project to transfer all the common schools to the holy synod, on the ground that their inspection and the instruction given in them would be better if intrusted to the clergy. Although this project was not approved, the state of the common schools was not decided until, four years after, a system of inspection was resolved on by which they were confided to the ministry of public instruction, with assistance from the clergy and the ministry of the interior. Immediately afterward it was proposed to establish teachers institutes.
In 1866 Count Tolsboy became minister. The most of his attention has been devoted to remodeling the gymnasiums and higher schools, by which a classical system of education has become obligatory on all who wish to enter the universities. Schools especially founded for instruction in the Eastern language have been turned into classical schools, and practical trade-schools (real-schulen in Germany) have been almost abolished. A change took place also in the views of the ministry with regard to the primary and people’s schools. It was thought that there was no need of teachers’ seminaries; that the best places for educating teachers were the theological seminaries, and that the best teachers would be the clergy and young theological graduates waiting for places. At the same time the inspection of the schools was to be retained in the hands of the minister, and centralized as far as might be; and as little share as possible in this work was to be permitted to the provincial diets or municipalities, which were, however, obliged chiefly to pay for the support of the schools. It was with this idea that the regulations of 1871 and 1872 were made. For perfecting the inspection it was thought necessary to spend 800,000 rubles a year, and only in view of the financial condition of the country it was resolved to limit the expenses of inspection to 300,000 rubles in addition to the 68,000 already spent, and to appoint only one hundred and forty-two new officials. In the budget for 1874 this idea is maintained, and of the sum of 1,098,701 rubles set apart for people’s schools, (the whole educational [Page 811] budget amounts to 13, 135,089,) nearly the whole of the increase over last year, 337,464 rubles, is devoted to the expenses of inspection.
We now learn from the rescript that the foundation of teachers’ institutes and seminaries has been ordered by the Emperor. Such institutes already exist, but founded either by the provincial assemblies or by private persons. The expenses demanded for new inspectors will probably be saved to the treasury, as the representatives of the nobility will serve without pay. Another thing the rescript shows us is that the system of inspection has proved useless, as, in spite of it, the corrupting influences” have increased instead of diminishing.
It is hoped that much will be done for popular instruction by the new military law. The regimental schools have already done much. In the regiments of the guard for some years past one-half, and in some cases three-fourths, of the soldiers can read and write, while the percentage of recruits able to read and write is only 11 per cent. What great influence these schools will have when the whole army is renewed once in five years! But more than-this, a premium has been offered to education by shortening the terms of military service for those who have received instruction. For those who have finished the course of the universities or other schools of the first class, the term of actual service is fixed at six months, instead of six years; lor those who have passed through the sixth class of the gymnasium and real-schule, or the second class of the theological seminary, the service is a year and a half; for those who have finished the course of the progymnasia, or schools of the third class, two years; and for those who have a certificate of knowledge of the course of the common schools, as fixed in 1864, four years. Attendance at the common schools thus shortens the service by one-third. Voluntary service shortens the period of service still more. It is curious that the minister of public instruction had the same period of service fixed for the graduates of the sixth as for the seventh class in the gymnasia, (and attendance in the seventh class is obligatory for entering the university,) thus giving a premium for leaving school and volunteering service before finishing the course of instruction. A majority of the council of the empire was at first opposed to these alleviations of service for school attendance as being too great, especially the ministry of public instruction, who insisted on young men who had received the higher and academic course of instruction serving in the ranks for a far longer period of time than was thought necessary by the ministry of war. The imperial will, however, sided with the minister of war, to whom belongs the credit of having invented this great incentive to education.
But unless speedy measures are taken for increasing the number of national schools, they will be found far too few for the needs of the country.
I have, &c,