Southern Teachers for the South
October 13, 1866
The Dispatch publishes an opinion editorial that says popular education is the key to true Reconstruction in the south, and that is even more essential for the people of the South to be taught by Southerners, not Northerners.
Southern Teachers for the South. There is no fact relating to the present condition of the South, and having the most important bearing upon our future, more striking or gratifying than the general interest manifested on the subject of popular education. At no time heretofore have there been so many announcements of schools, academies, and colleges through the press of the South as at the present moment. There may not be, in fact, a greater number of these institutions, but the advertisements of them are more numerous. The almost universal interruption suffered by these interests the last few years has awakened a general and eager anxiety for their restoration which is positive and imperious. The same spirit is shared by the freedmen at all our centres of population to a certain degree, and will gradually diffuse itself among the negroes to the remotest districts. If the desire for knowledge is not innate with him, it will be impressed upon them by artificial forces. To improve and mould and render beneficial this spirit, to direct its results, and to make them effectual for good to the individual and our city, requires southern teachers for the South. This is one of the primary and essential reforms in the future educational system. The South has never undertaken to make its own teachers, as a general thing; but has sent to the North for them, where they were made, like shoes, boots, hats, &c., by the wholesale. They are made for the purpose there, and are well made. They cannot be decried or underrated while so many of them have performed so admirably for us. It is nonsense to speak contemptuously of "northern schoolmasters and New England schoolmarms," while we are bound to confess their excellence as instructors. Few schools of the South have made reputation without some of them being employed. They often come to us with false or insufficient notions of our people and institutions; but despite these objections, and because of their proficiency as teachers, we have employed them, and are continuing to do so. We pay them our money, and when they behave themselves they give us value received. The only reason why we have heretofore done so is found in the fact that we have not furnished our own teachers from among our own people. Those who have enjoyed the advantages of liberal mental culture have refused to enter the school-room as teachers, preferring other pursuits. Besides, there is a difference between being a scholar, an educated person, and being fitted for the vocation of teaching. The North has made teaching a specialty in the business of life. The South has neglected it. In rare instances you find a gentleman who has devoted himself to it from youth to old age; but these are exceptions to the rule. The changes recently wrought in our social and domestic institutions, we trust, will bring changes in this matter. The indications are that way at least, and they ought to be encouraged. General Lee left the camp for the teacher's desk, as Jackson had laid down the ferule to take up the sword. General Custis Lee has just been chosen to a professorship in the University of Georgia, which we hope he will accept, while hundreds of Confederate officers and soldiers of less general fame are tending the fountains of learning at the country and village school-houses in many places in the South. A noble, battle-scarred Mississippi soldier is teaching a colored school in that State in the midst of threats to tear down the house and expel him from the country--while a young lady, raised in all the affluence of southern luxury and wealth, in the same State, with less opposition, teaches a primary school of her father's late slaves. The widow and daughter of one of the greatest of American soldiers, Albert Sidney Johnston, are teaching in her home on the Pacific, while the widow and daughter of the illustrious Christian hero General Polk is similarly engaged in our own State. Mrs. General Ransom, of North Carolina, announces the opening of a female institute in Wilmington. These are shining examples, and should inspire imitation throughout the southern States. Let the business of teaching be pursued as a vocation, and let the teachers prepare themselves lor it as such; and very soon there will be no occasion to bring teachers from other States, or to hold up to the public the importance of having southern teachers for the South.--Nashville Union and American.
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“Southern Teachers for the South,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 25, 2018, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/369.