CHAPTER XXIV. THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

New York stands at the head of all American cities in the excellence and extent of its system of public education. It has one free college, fifty-five ward or grammar schools, forty primary schools, and ten colored schools. The ward schools are divided into three departments, primary, male, and female, and the others into two, one for each sex. The buildings are generally of brick, tastefully trimmed with freestone or granite, and are amongst the handsomest in the city. They are commodious, and in every respect equal to the demand upon them. The rooms are large, airy, and neat. The building is well warmed and ventilated, and every care is taken to render the teachers and pupils as comfortable as possible. The number of teachers is between two thousand five hundred and three thousand, and the number of children is near three hundred thousand. A janitor resides in each building, and is responsible for its cleanliness and healthfulness.

The course of study is most thorough. Pupils enter the primary classes, and pass through the various grades of the primary and grammar schools, until the course is finished. Then the college of the City of New York is opened to all who desire to enter it, who have passed regularly and honorably through the lower schools. In this institution all the branches of a thorough and complete collegiate course are taught. Horace Webster, L. L. D., is the president of the college, and the faculty embraces some of the most learned men in the city. The institution grants diplomas, confers degrees, and is entitled to and exercises all the privileges of a first-class college.

The whole system is free to all the children of the city, whose parents choose to avail themselves of it. Books and everything needed are furnished without charge, and no pains are spared to render the course as thorough and beneficial as possible. The pupil is put to no expense, whatever, but is required to maintain habits of cleanliness and neatness. The sexes are provided with separate apartments, and enter the building by different doors. In some localities night schools are provided, for those who cannot be present at the day sessions, and are well attended. Many cash and errand boys and clerks, porters, drivers, and others gladly avail themselves of this means of acquiring knowledge.

The cost to the city of this magnificent system, is between two and a half and three millions of dollars annually. It is a heavy tax upon the municipal treasury, but it is gladly borne, for it saves the metropolis from those hordes of idle, ignorant men and women which are the curse of all great cities. The very poorest men or women can thus give to their children the priceless boon of knowledge, of which their youth was deprived. Profiting by the advantage thus acquired, these little ones, in after years, may rise to fame and fortune. Thus not only the metropolis but the whole country reaps the blessings of this magnificent system of free education.

The best proof of its excellence lies in the fact that, a short time since, a Committee, appointed by the authorities of the city of Boston, for the purpose of inquiring into the public school systems of other American cities, with a view to improving that of the "Hub," stated in their report, that they regarded the system in practice in the city of New York, as the best in the world, and recommended that the school system of Boston be modeled upon the same plan.

Ample as are our means of diffusing knowledge, however, they must still be increased. They must be made to reach those lower portions of humanity, in behalf of which the Mission Schools of the great city are doing such noble work. Not until this is done, will the system be perfect.