The Advent of Lowell’s High School in 1834

Meeting on 3/10/1834

Present:   Theodore Edson, Pastor and School Committee

President

Messr’s. Barnaby, Graves, Merrill, Case, Haven

and Austin

The School Committee voted for Mr. James M.

Graves as Secretary

The School Committee’s business ended with the vote for Miss Esther Lew’s as the Instructress at the Lawrence Primary School in Lowell.  Edson and Austin were given the task of being “a  committee to  make the necessary arrangements.”  Clearly this group was bent on controlling education in early Lowell.  “The town voted to choose a general superintending School Committee to consist of seven (men) and Theodore Edson, James Barnaby, John W. Graves, Joshua Merrill, Eliphalet Case, and Samuel F. Haven were chosen on Tuesday the 4th. day of March.  William Austin was elected to fill the vacancy on the board.”  Samuel A. Coburn, Town Clerk.

In this important meeting, they “Voted that a third grammar school be established, (and) they “adjourned to meet in the Selectman’s Room on Monday next at 2 o:clock. ”  They bought books on 3/17/1834.   Third Grammar School elected Mr. D. Healey Master and Mr. James Whittier as Assistant Master.  At the North Grammar School they elected Mr. James Bean as the Assistant Master to fill out Mr. Healey’s term.

In important news, they appointed “Miss Abigail B.M. Barnaby Assistant for the North Grammar School.”  There were many female teachers in the One Room Schoolhouses of  Lowell, but this was the first female administrator in the town.  It was not yet a city.  They also appointed Miss Mary Sawyer as Assistant for the South Grammar School.”  Finally, they appointed Miss Martha B. Davis as the Second Assistant for the South Grammar School.  Two female appointees for the same school.  In that day, a woman could not be married and serve as a school teacher, much less an administrator.  That was because a married woman was believed to be in danger of getting pregnant and the school district did not want to explain pregnancy to the general public, especially the children.

They agreed to meet “tomorrow morning.”

At that meeting, they appointed “Mr. Austin as the Committee to Provide a Stove for the Third Grammar School room.”   He was supposed to “Make the necessary arrangements for its commencement.”

“They voted that the third Grammar School commence on Wednesday March 24, 1834 at the North Grammar School House.”  They also “voted to proceed to the election of teachers for the Primary Schools.”  Those schools consisted of the “Irish, Suffolk, Swamp Locks, the Baptist Meeting House, Central Street, Hamilton,  Power District, Chapel Hill.” schools.

They also voted at that meeting that the Committee proceed to the appointment of the salaries for the several Instructors.”  A School Master made $600.00 per year, while Assistants made $350.00 per year, female teachers made $175.00 per year, while the mysterious Writing Master made an elegant $400.00 per year.

They appointed Mr. Edson to supervise the North Grammar School, Pound District, and the Merrimack Primary Schools.”  Others were also appointed, while Belvidere  exercised its influence by getting two new schools (Primary) in its geographic area and having their charter state that graduates of the Primary Schools in Belvidere could attend the Grammar and High Schools but they had to make the High School in the Concert Hall on Merrimack Street.

Speaking of high schools, Lowell did not have one at this time.  The Committee was destined to make up for that oversight.  “Resolved as the sense of the Committee that it be expedient to establish a high school according to the laws of the Commonwealth and we will establish such school as soon as practicable.  Adjourned to Friday, April 11th. at  2 o:clock.  It had been a busy meeting and Belvidere got its two schools.

“Voted that Messr’s. Edson and Barnaby be a committee to receive of instructors in the High School.”

In the meeting on 4/14/1834 they fired Mr. Bean and replaced him with Joseph L.J. Crane.  They found that coal for the entire district for the last winter had cost $29.53.  They had to order blinds for the school houses.  Invoices for paying for the teachers salaries were paid for $35 teachers.  The town was growing.

They voted to “suspend the Irish School.”   That occurred on 8/3/1834 and was probably partially due to the insistence by Irish parents that their children attend Catholic schools.

They appointed Mr. Egan as subcommittee of the high school.  They started, in 1834, centralized testing and “That the Secretary publish the time of examinations in the Papers of the Town.”  Then they adjourned.

When they met again they stated that “Each of the above examinations will take place at 2 o:clock PM.”  There were ten Primary Schools  examinations.  The Irish School was back but it was relegated to hold its rent stipend to $80.00 per year and not to exceed that amount.  They voted that the High School room in Concert Hall on Merrimack Street “be used for no other purpose than for the High School.”  They even paid a carpenter named Mark Rogers for desks and seats at the high school.  The high school was not lightly dealth with.  “William D Dauncey be admitted to (give) examinations for admission to the high school.”   Custodians at the high school were paid fifty cents per week  “for sweeping and cleaning the stoves in the high school.”  In curriculum, “Approved rhetoric and review be used in the high school.”

The high school would become a major educational magnet in certain circles.  It was noted by the board that there were seventeen schools requiring twenty eight instructors.  In comparision Charlestown had 9,400 inhabitants wheras Lowell had 14,000 inhabitants.  Charlestown had 1,581 students to Lowell’s 2,300 students.

Lowell petitioned in early 1834 with the state to certify their new high school which was located in the Concert Hall on Merrimack Street.  Massive work was done to the Concert Hall to make it into a high school.  At one point the School Committee was forced to admit that “The High School had been closed since January last for lack of funds…to open the High School as soon as they should be able to save money enough to carry it through the year.”  {John W. Graves – Secretary Lowell School Committee, July 23, 1834}.

Again, you can check my conclusions by taking out the School Committee Minutes from 1834 to 1838.  It is available in the Memorial Library Research Room.  In my opinion, and based on my readings, the High School did not exist until 1834.  There was a three year high school educational program  which might have explained a graduation late in 1834.  All you needed at the time to be a teacher was a 7th. grade education.  A High School education was frosting on the cake.  A college education was unheard of at the time.  Even lawyers were not required to go to college.  They  just studied under other lawyers.  Thus, we have come a long way.

Cawley Site Makes No Cents

I spent twelve years working as an auditor and accountant.  I took accounting courses at UMASS-Lowell, as well as Suffolk University.   I do not talk about it because I loved teaching, but did not care for my previous work.  But I think I can use my experiences to make a simple statement about the Cawley site.  It makes no sense.

We have a useful building for a high school.  The 1922 building by itself is worth millions of dollars if used as an academic building.  The 1893 building further accents the argument.  It is in very good structural shape, and is a useful academic building.  The problem is that we are, if we choose another site to build on, throwing out the baby with the bath water.  Now, that saying comes from an old Pioneer custom, hot water on the Plains was hard to come by, so the first bath went to the head of the household.  After he was done, the second bath went to the mother.  As the water slowly cooled down the third bath went to the oldest child, and that continued until the water was so dirty that the baby was the last one washed in it.  It was easy to lose the baby in the muddy water.  He or she was the last one to use the by then, muddy water.  Losing the baby in the bathwater was a real possibility.  Thus the saying.

The baby in the high school argument is the 1980 building, it is perfectly useful but not currently in great shape.  That will come if we choose the right option.   It  will end up empty if we choose the Cawley option.  The 1922 building is the mother using the father’s dirty water.  She has to be utilized or the bath was a waste.  Finally, there is the 1893 building.  It can handle students but gets closed down while being perfectly useful in its handling of students.  The Freshman Academy is just out there.  Nobody wants to move it but it cannot, with the Cawley option, stay in the educational loop.  Each building can be used, we have just given up on them.  I know more about the history of those buildings than most people.  There is no logical reason to throw them out.  They are useful and pragmatic.

We are asking too much of the Cawley building.  It cannot do all of the things the current high school can do.  It will be too small and we are going to have to put in multi-millions of dollars to make it useful.  As is, it is too small for a swimming pool.  We have to be prepared for the building failing.  Millions are going to be spent to keep the aging building, and it will be aging in just a few short years.  It will not be new for long, because the constancy of  being like the 1980 building is great.  Leaky roofs are probably being factored in by the earliest architects. The Cawley will have problems from the beginning.  John McDonough  has a bunch of sheets on which are the need for maintenance of every school, including the newest ones, and the list is massive.  The Cawley building will be old before its time.  That is not being pessimistic, that is being realistic.

We have a full campus at the existing high school.  If you placed an educational value on the current high school, it would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Let’s say 250 million dollars.  If you add the 336 million dollars offered by the state, we could have one heck of a building adding those two sites together and keeping the Freshman Academy where it is.  The minimal value would be 586 million dollars.  We would have a new high school for slightly over a half a billion dollars.  That means that the new building, which will cost approximately 336 million dollars, will be one heck of a building.

As I said, I was an auditor at Wang.  I once, working by myself for a day, found one million dollars for the corporation in maintenance costs which were not being billed.  That is one million dollars per year.  If Wang was still in business, and simply had that one audit intact, times twenty years since the inception of the audit, Wang would have an extra 20 million dollars.  We have some City Councilors who pride themselves on being able to add and subtract.  They should spend a lot of time adding and subtracting the cost of having Cawley as the high school.  I think that they would  be as surprised as I  was when I decided to determine the cost of not using the current buildings.  It is very sobering.

That is just my take on it.   I am using life experiences to come up with my arguments.  But they are good experiences.

I Am Tired of the President at This Time

I have had it with Donald Trump.  Charlottesville was my final spot.  “The many…” outdistanced the few.  Pence got it right the next day when he said that the United States was too grand for neo-Nazis, and racists.  Trump said no such thing.  According to his book, Konrad, Heiden stated that Hitler realized he was speaking to “The Aryans and anti-Semites of France.” {Der Furhrer” by Konrad Heiden, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston  in 1944.}  At some point this President has realized how important to his political future are those who espouse facism.  His reluctance to condemn an act that was horrific was hopefully based on the idea that the act was vile and murderous, but it says an awful lot about where this man is emanating from, and how far he will go to maintain his power base.

A year ago, I got the chance to watch Trump in action at a rally in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.  Our camera was there capturing Trump as he worked a crowd estimated at four thousand for one and  one-half hours.  Much of what he said was repetitive, to the point that my editor threw out an hour of his recording.  When I irately asked why he left so much on the edit room floor, he told me that he was just leaving that recording that was a repetitive statement by Trump.  In other words, my editor took it upon himself to leave an hour’s worth of Trumpisms on the floor.  What was Trump calling for at that time?  A wall in America paid for by the Mexicans.  He did not ask the Mexicans if they would pay for it.  He just assumed that they would.  He wanted to beef up our defensive strategy and that played well in a town that had had losses to defense contracts.  He said anything he could to get the largely blue-collar audience to cheer for him.  By sixty minutes, I was also pretty tired of the repetition.

I think the thing that people do not understand is how frightening the Russian hacking, if it in fact took place, was to the voting patterns in the United States.  No one would argue that Hilary Clinton was hurt by her own mistakes.  But, if there was collusion with the Russians and Trump knew about it, and we have no proof currently that he did know about it, he should be impeached.

Mr. Trump has a nasty habit of speaking down to his audiences.  The press, when he disagrees with it, which is a daily occurence, is guilty of spreading “fake news.”  But he speaks at a fourth or fifth grade level.  We are trying to “Make America Great Again,” but great for who?  I think the United States of America is pretty great presently.  We have a nation that states that natural-born Americans are equal to anyone else in the country in multiple ways.  Ways that are sometimes off of the spectrum.  I did not believe the Republican Party was able to do it but they have succeeded in separating White from other ethnic groups.  Two-thirds of America’s white men voted for Donald Trump.  Over one half of the white American women voted for Donald Trump.  How that could happen with that tape on the bus is well beyond me.

I have a sticker with a picture of former First Lady, Hilary Clinton which has two words on it which show how misguided she was in her effort.  That saying is “Madame President.”  Just a little premature, wouldn’t you say?  Hilary Clinton lost this one because of plenty of mistakes.  Included in those mistakes was the assumption that she would win, and kissing off the battle-ground states of Michigan and Ohio.  Another mistake  was not allowing her strong Democratic foe, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, to speak to his supporters at the convention.  He could have delivered a marvelous speech ending with his promise to support Hilary Clinton.  His people would have brought their incredible skills and practices to the election.  How do I know that?  Well, I am Senator Paul Tsongas’ brother-in-law and in 1992, I was asked to speak at various functions, and at the end, when we had clearly lost, Bill Clinton called Paul Tsongas to tell him that he would not have him  speak to his supporters at the convention.  Paul played hard-ball and told Clinton that he would be activating his delegates to vote for Tsongas  on the first vote.  They would force Clinton to win on the second vote, a major embarassment.

That would have placed Clinton in the unenviable spot of being the presidential candidate who could not control his delegates.  He quickly changed his mind and allowed Paul to speak to his many delegates.  Niki stood at his side as he spoke.  I watched on television.  Paul was a better man than Clinton, I believe.

So, Hilary Clinton made the mistake her husband did not make.  She shut out Bernie Sanders.  That was her major mistake.  Her other major mistake was not taking on James Comey, the FBI Director who shot her campaign through the chest and nobody was there to demand the man’s resignation.  Obama should have done that, but the assumption was that Trump could not win and the shot was not mortal.  It was mortal.

Those are just my opinions on the mistakes of Hilary Clinton.  I have a card in my wallet that I keep just to maintain my composure.  It says, “2016 Presidential Leader” with a picture of a smiling Hilary Clinton.  That is obviously not how it worked itself out.    Too much was assumed.

“Fake News” is now in our lexicon.  We say it.  It was started by Mr. Trump to excuse poor press releases.  He even coaxed, apparently, the American people to overlook bad press.  He wanted, it is said, loyalty.  As a Democrat, I refuse to be loyal to a man who denies the maxim of fairness.  He was said to have stated that the Boy Scouts of America praised him in some way.  The Boy Scouts denied it.  He was said to have stated that the Mexican President gave him credit for some act.  The Mexican President said that the conversation never took place.  In this case I believe the Mexican.  In most cases, I would believe the American, but the Boy Scouts are supposed to be sworn to telling the truth.

I believe that Mr. Trump is  sorry that he won.  Why does he keep on sending out “tweets” when his top five advisors have left him?  Why use “tweets” anyway?  Is it the Trump equivalent of FDR’s “Fireplace Chats,” given every Saturday morning on the radio?  I believe it might be in that genre.

I do not believe that this man thinks that beating up his own party supporters is a good idea.  But he seems to do it, especially to John McCain.  The two are not friends.  But, if I was not a Democrat I would be voting for Mr. McCain when he ran for President.  A man with his track record and time spent in the Hanoi Hilton, deserves respect and quiet admiration for his contributions.  The fact that Trump is attacking him as he is ill is not even American.  My mother and father taught me to respect those who are ill.

My father used to take me to the Veteran’s Hospital in the city next to ours.  There I saw Veterans in wheelchairs and guerneys brought to morning Mass.  The image of those WWII and Korean veterans still is etched in my mind.

Well, I have pretty much said what was on my mind.  I am scared for this country.  We are at a crossroads, and we have to live by the Constitution and its Amendments.  It is very difficult to get an Amendment through, so we should not be afraid of Amendments.  Obamacare is no longer and I am taking lethal medication for five ailments.  My drug prices are on the rise, thanks to Donald Trump who obviously had no idea how to fix Obamacare.  But blame it on the Democrats and the media.  The visceral, or deeply embedded, sensations will overtake you.  I do not watch CNN, or WNBC.  I come to my conclusions on their own.  I am very bothered by this President, and I remember having high hopes for him.  His conservation stance is enough to rattle me.  His other stances will apparently not pass the Congress.  We have a lame duck President who could serve eight years.  It is scary.

Steam Engines and Other Facts

Back about 1957, when I was three years of age, I was visiting my grandfather and grandmother in Barnum, Iowa next to the tracks for the Rock Island Railroad line.  One day I heard an awful noise coming from down the tracks.  I was so scared I started to cry.  My father, on the other hand, was taking me by my hands and pulling me towards the railroad tracks.  He was not trying to kill me, he wanted to teach me a little history.

The noise was so great that I continued crying.  He told me to stand next to the tracks and watch what was coming down the tracks.  I looked to my left, because that was where the awful noise was emanating from, and I was frozen in sheer terror.  To my left coming down the tracks, was the largest black machine I had ever seen.  It was, as I said, amazingly loud.  It was a steam engine, progressing under its own power towards the spot that I stood next to, and it scared me to death.  It passed extremely slowly, and blew its whistle to  tell us to stay away.  I learned about the fact that train’s whistles meant something, stay away was the sound of this one.

I was frozen in my spot, having no desire to get hit by this massive machine.  It spewed black smoke.  It was, my father later told me when I had gotten a little older, a working locomotive going to Omaha, Nebraska to be melted down.  It was the last steam engine I ever saw on that line.  I was still scared but my father gave me some courage by speaking of it in logical terms and telling me it was going to Omaha.  It was the last steam engine, he said, that we would see and it indeed was the last one we did see.

I never got the chance to thank my father for letting me stand and watch that engine go on its way.  Later, he took me to a steam engine tractor pull, and the weighted steel wheels on those old steam tractors tore up the ground.  Those engines were much less loud and driven by their farmers who were vying for a monetary prize.  But nothing could match that steam  engine.  It was monstrous.

Years later I rode in a tractor picking corn.  We stood, a couple of my buddies, my brother, and I, in the wagon where the shelled corn was being thrown.  It was fun.  Much later than that, I climbed to the top of a five story corn container.  It was filled with soybeans and we ate soybeans and told stories about school, and hunting, and fishing.  That was enjoyable too.

Years later, I ended up in Lowell.  No corn cribs, no soybeans, no stories of charcoal burnt pigs.  We were in the settled part of Massachusetts.  Little did I know, but one of my best friends was a farmer.  We raised pigs, grew raspberries, and walked through his barn, which one day collapsed while no one was in it, including no animals either.  We butchered the pigs at Blood Farm in Groton one morning.  It was hard work, and kind of gruesome but it taught me how hard farmers worked to bring their wares  to market.  We stopped after a couple of years because you grew too close to the pigs.  They were very smart animals, as you learned in “Charlotte’s Web.”

Another steam engine story happened right in downtown Lowell, and I believe that no one remembers this one because I was alone with my small son.  Lowell was given the steam engine that occupies the railroad tracks at the National Park Service.  The newspaper kept  telling everyone how heavy that engine was, and I have a picture of the crane next to the steam engine, which hopefully I printed in this blog.

The engine arrived a little early and I had my  entire family lined up to see it.  The problem was that the crane had to drop it exactly in place on the rails and it kept missing the rail.  By a quarter of an inch, they said in one case.  It was heavy and the crane strained to control it.  It kept landing, all day until dark, on that rail and it was not going to drop easily into place.  The remarkable thing was the brainchild of an elderly worker who had been there all day until dark.  I stayed until dark.  I could not leave, it was so fascinating.  Engineers, the slide ruler kind, could not get  that crane to properly place that train.

Finally, the elderly worker was asked for his advice.  He told them that he could place the train but he needed some pieces of wood.  They looked at him like he was crazy, but they got him the wood.  He proceeded to build a tower from the rail to the top of the wheel, and it stood there, doing nothing.  Then the elderly worker asked for one last piece of wood, placed it on top of the wooden pile and jacked it into the space between the rail and the rim.  He asked for a sledge hammer, complaining that the railroad wheel was off by one quarter of an inch.  He proceeded to pound that last piece of wood into the space between the tower of wood and the engine wheel.  On his last swing, the piece of wood caused the engine to lift itself and push itself over by one quarter of an inch.  The train fell onto the tracks, placed there by  a force of wood strategically placed in the wood pile.  I cheered, but I was the only person still watching and the story seems incredible.  I know it happened.  The man responsible is probably with his Maker now.  But he leveled that train on the rail.

You can believe that if you want to, you don’t have to if you do not want to, the fact is that it happened and it was only witnessed by myself, my son, and a small cadre of workers.  The man did what the crane could not do.  He personally saved that project.  There is no one left to tell his story except me.  So that is the story.  I hope you believe it because is happened exactly that way.  But I know there are skeptics.  And, if I did not see it myself, I would have never believed it.  It did not make the newspaper, because it was just an old man with a better idea.

So that is the story of the steam engines.  What most people do not realize was that the steam engine put the water power wheels out of business.  Next to the Market Mills is what is left of the steam building.  You can still see where the poor overworked individuals shoveled coal all day under that vat of water which was steam controlled by a company.  The advent of steam was the end of the use of the waterwheel.  That happened in the 1880’s and steam was used for years thereafter.  I remember it hissing and appearing in the tubes going towards what used to be Sullivan Brothers Printing.  But that is another story.

I can sell you pictures of the steam engine and the heavy crane, but they are 8″ by 10″ and that is too big to put in this space.

The Real Start of Lowell High School

For my entire life, the starting year for Lowell High School has been 1831.  Even the cup I use for my coffee has the year showing the start of the high school as being 1831.  While doing research for a book I surmised that that date was incorrect.  In fact, the starting date, or starting year, is 1834.  Where do I come up with that date?  It was in the 1834 School Committee Minutes.  The starting date for the high school was 1834.  Specifically, the Minutes state that it is “expedient to establish a High School according to the laws of the Commonwealth; and that we (Lowell) will establish such a school as soon as practicable.”  (Spelling dictated by the Minutes).  After making that incredible observation, the School Committee “Adjourned to Friday April 11th. at 2 o:clock.”  Before they adjourned however, they passed a raise for the school teachers salary. (Minutes – Page 139)

The School Committee was determined to have influence over the Irish Catholic community at this time.  The Reverend Barnaby was commended for running the “Irish Primary School.”  “Miss Hanrah Dyar (will) be appointed teacher for the Irish School.”  It is fair to say that few of the Irish immigrants sent their children to the Irish School.  The problem would exist for the next twenty years as more and more Irish mothers saw their children attend Irish Catholic Schools run by nuns and priests.  Their lack of completion of the children in the public school system spoke volumes to the desire of the Irish to educate their own.

In other business, in 1834, the School Committee voted that “two Primary Schools  be established in Belvidere Village, with the right of such scholars to attend the Grammar and High School, once it was accredited by the State House.  In other business, Messr’s. Barnaby, Merrill, and Graves chose Mr. Barnaby Chairman Pro Tem.”  It was their duty to make certain that Belvidere Village got its two Primary Schools.

This was a controlled School Department.  It was controlled by the School Committee.  In one vote it saw a motion passed that “No book or apparatus but such as the Committee approve be used in any of the schools.”  That one passed on 3/18/1834.

The Committee did not have a place to carry on its business so it met in the Selectman’s Room, much as it does today.

Chairman Theodore Edson went out to observe the North Grammar School; the Pound District; and the Merrimack Primary School.  I have not found out what his reactions to his observations were as of now.  I intend to find out.

I encourage others interested in the school system at this point to check my understanding of the actions of the School Committee, especially as it pertains to the establishment of the high school.  It is possible that the year of 1834 was the first year for graduation, which puts the starting year in 1831.  But this is the oldest book I have seen on School Committee Minutes, and it is very exact on its observation of the start of the high school.  The high school, according to the minutes of the year 1834, states that the high school was not even recognized by the State government in the first part of 1834.  It was a very interesting observation and I hope to be doing more reading on it in the immediate future.

Interesting Facts About Lowell’s School System over the Past Century

I thought I would record some interesting facts about Lowell’s unique educational system.  I am privy to some interesting facts about the system due to my review of items of interest in the period from 1826 to 2017.   That seems like a better use of my time than what I have been doing.

The course of study for Primary Schools shows that the grammar schools were supposed to use Munroe’s Charts and Franklin First Reader.  “Begin with words written upon the blackboard, using the names of familiar objects, and words expressing familiar acts.”  Thus read the “Course of Study for  Primary Schools.”  “Spell the words in columns, by sounds.”  That seems pretty much the same thing as that which happens now.  In addition, it was said that the teacher should, “Develop the idea of number to ten, by the use of objects.  Count to one hundred on the numeral frame,” which was, I believe, a chart that showed all of the numbers from zero to 100.

“Teach the construction of letters and figures…using slate and blacboard.”  It was pretty clear that the teacher was supposed to teach the students according to the patterns used in the ‘Course of Study.’  There was not much room for interposition.  In the Second Half of the year you again were supposed to use “Munroe’s Charts,” again and “spell by sounds.”  You were supposed to write words or groups of words and sentences upon the blackboard, and “require the pupils to copy upon the slate.”  The slate was a small, handheld blackboard which each student had.  Students were supposed to have familiarity with numbers up to “L.” (fifty)

By the time they were in the Second Grade, they were supposed to be able to do Roman Numerals up to “M.”  And you were to “Practice Object Teaching,” using objects that are familiar to the child.  Again, there is very little room for spontaneity.  You were doing “Enunciation Exercises daily.”  You were learning the simplest form of script letters.  You were learning Arithmetic orally.  You continued the enunciation exercises in the last half of the second year.  You were still doing Roman Numerals up to M.

In Arithmetic, in the Second Grade, you were to teach the multiplication tables to 8 x 8.  Your progress was only measured by your determination and desire.  Obviously, parents had to be part of the learning process.  By the time you got to high school you were immersed in American History, although not that dealing with the Native Americans.  Your grammar schools included:

Ames Street

Central Street

Chapel Street

Charles Street

Training School

and

Cottage Street

and that also included the

Edson School on the corner of Favor and Summer Street.

This was standard for the school system in 1881.  The School Committee included Chairman Frederic T. Greenhalge; Charles H. Allen as Vice-Chairman; and Charles Morrill as Secretary.  The current Greenhalge School was named after Frederic T. Greenhalge.  He was also the Mayor, who, by his assumption of the title was bound to be the Head of the School Committee, a practice used until the present day.

Spelling was taught using Worcester’s New Pronouncing Speller.  During the first half of the year, they went to page 29, or so it was dictated; while by the second half of the year they went to Page 47.   Arithmetic in the Fourth Grade included multiplication tables up to, but not to exceed one million.  They were supposed to do their mathematics from dictation, including the practices associated with numeration and notation.  In Division they could not exceed the Divisor of 25.

By the Seventh Grade they were supposed to  be reading the Franklin Intermediate Reader, “with drill on exercises to secure distinct articulation and correct pronunciation and expression.”  They were also supposed to know their Geography, History, and Mental Arithmetic.

They started high school in Grade 10.  As it is now.  They were to do “Algebra, Outlines of History, English Lessons, English History, and English Lessons.”  The inclusion of English Lessons may have made it clear that the United States, from the 19th. Century on, was English Speaking.  By the end of the Second Year, they were supposed to know Geometry, Natural Philosophy, Physical Georgraphy, and French.  Inclusion in the second semester saw Chemistry, and English Grammar.  French was continued as a pre-requisite.

It is interesting to look at salaries, which were determined by the school district and the School Committee.  The High School Principal (not a Headmaster yet), made a sweet 2,200 dollars.  Male Assistance made 1,800.00.  Female Assistants made $600.00 to $800.00.  Primary School Principals made 1,800.00 dollars.

The Principal of the Powell Street School made a meager $600.00.  The Middlesex Village Principal made an even less fair $500.00.  William S. Greene, the master of the Moody School made $1,800.00 in 1883.  No woman could touch that amount.  Mr. Greene was expected to be in charge of the primary schools in his area, as an assistant Superintendent per se.  He fulfilled the role given to him and took care of the Primary and Grammar Schools in his pervue.

There is a lot of information about the Middlesex Village School, the Moody Grammar School, the Pond Street School (which remained a school until the 1970’s), the High Street School, the Fayette Street School, and the Pawtucket Grammar School – as well as others too numerous to mention.  The Varnum Grammar School had its $1,800 Master and ten teachers.  The days of the one room schoolhouse were numbered.

On Kirk Street, the new high school was destined to be built.  It was a commanding building, three stories tall and the third floor was one large room, that was there when I moved here from Illinois.  It was literally one large room with seating for up to 1,000 students who were expected to study for courses under the eye of one lone teacher who occupied the raised dais.  The Worthen Street School used to stand on Worthen Street, down the street from the famous pub, between Market and Broadway Streets.  That would place it close to the Whistler House.  It is no longer there.

The Franklin School, between Middlesex and Branch Streets is still a well-used building.  Most people do not know it as the Franklin School however.  It is the building between Pailin Plaza and the grocery store.

The Lowell Training School had a woman who was Principal and she was well-paid at $1,500.00 per year.  Her name was Julia M. Dewey and she lived at 12 Middlesex Street in Lowell.  The school was located on Charles Street, close to Lawrence Street in South Lowell.  She had a staff of fifteen teachers.

The Greene Grammar School had been next to a tannery for years and it was finally moved due to parental complaints.  It smelled disgusting.  It was moved across from what would be the City Hall and the Memorial Library.  Not the Pollard Memorial Library because that did not exist.  It was named the Memorial Library after those men from Lowell who had lost their lives in the Great War.

The High School had Frank F. Coburn as Principal, not Headmaster.  The term Headmaster is relatively a recent phenomenon.  Getting rid of it should be easy.  Mr. Coburn made $2,200.00 per year, and was the highest paid Principal.  He had a Language, Science, Mathematics, Literature, and other curriculums to tend to, with a total of fifteen paid teachers.  Many doubled as Mathematics and Language teachers.  Their pay was high, by the standards of the day.  Most were paid $700.00 per year.  A few made $600.00.  The high school was definitely the jewel in the crown of the School Department.

What do these facts tell us.  Well, first is that the curriculum was close to what it is today.  The most popular foreign language was French, and the most popular English language was Literature-based.  Grammar was insisted upon, as it is now, and the most used language  was English.  No matter where the immigrants working the mills came from, their children in school learned in and of English.

I will have more facts and figures for you in later blogs.  Have a good week.

A Few Thoughts on Historical Items (Including the Constitution)

I had the opportunity to mull over some books of a historical nature.  I found them to be very interesting and possibly of some importance.  I like to learn strange historical facts, and I found a good source in a book “Topics in American History” which was published when I was five years old.  I used other books too, but this one just kind of stood out.  Let us look at the formation of the Constitution first.  Everyone says that the Constitution would be better understood if everyone could meet the framers of it and ask them questions on thorny issues.  Well, that has already been done.  James Madison was a young delegate to the formation of the Constitution, and he delivered  his notes to the people at the Constitutional Convention.

What does that have to do with what the Constitutional fathers  put into the mix?  He wrote all of the arguments in his journal, so we know what everyone said.  Suffice it to say that he kept arduous notes, with quotes from everyone, except the leader of the Convention, George Washington.  Washington was reticient.  He had little to say, probably because he did not want to be the person who framed the actual document.  Other than that, delegates were free to espouse their ideas.  And Madison wrote down exactly what they said.  So we have the written arguments that the Forefathers made on behalf of themselves and their states.

In the beginning, there was no call for a Constitution.  People were sent to Philadelphia to fix the Articles of Confederation.  No one wanted, although many saw the need for a document, to frame a Constitution.  They just wanted to fix the existing plan.  But, it became evident that this was going to be larger than that, it was going to unite the states, who saw themselves as individual nations.  Massachusetts had slavery for instance until 1802.  Each state had their own money, and there was no plan to rescind that.  They just printed their own money and gave it value.  If another state did not agree with their sense of its value they just ignored the difference or fought it out.  New Hampshire money probably was not as valuable as Massachusetts money.  Just my educated guess, but that is probably the fact.  The more established states had bigger purses.

Thus, there was a need to work over some differences, although some delegates left when they came to the conclusion that this was a convention that would make the Articles of Confederation obsolete.  Not everyone agreed, and no one had cast a vote to make a Constitution.  It is that which defined the entire meeting.  The delegates agreed with their need for a Constitution.  The people did not.

So what is our Constitution?  Well, to me, it is a series of votes on the efforts of man (and women) to solidify their place in the history of their own kind.  I often carry a copy of the Constitution because we are at a crisis point in our democracy.  If I hear an argument or point made that seems especially foreign to me, I look for the answer in the Constitution and its Amendments.  The answer is often difficult to find, but the document is cloudy enough to allow you to find a passage that seems to be geared towards an answer.  Now, back to the original book mentioned earlier.  The author describes the make up of the Electoral College.  The Electoral College is there for a purpose: the original founders thought that the great majority of the voters would be uneducated and probably unable to read or write.  They did not want these types to have something to do with electing a poorly educated man who could share his thoughts, and possibly be able to read himself, but who  can ignite a fire under the average person, who may or may not be educated.

The other reason was that the largest states could control the Presidency.  They would have the population to dictate the type of government that would take over.  The smaller states would be able, through the Electoral College, to have a say in the election that would not have been possible under a vote based on population.  Actually, the forefathers had a point.  In Jefferson’s first election to the Presidency, the average voter voted for Aaron Burr.  The vote was tied in the Electoral College and decided by the House of Representatives.  Of course, Jefferson won with enemy votes stirred up by Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton could not run for the presidency himself because the Constitution clearly stated that the President had to be a person born in the United States.  Hamilton had not been born here but he garnered the votes to swing the election to Jefferson.  Aaron Burr would become one of two Vice Presidents to openly kill a man, Hamilton became Burr’s victim.

Aaron Burr lost, but he became the Vice President because that was how the Constitution was written.  An Amendment was needed, passed during Jefferson’s term, that stated that the second-place finisher would not become the Vice President.  Aaron Burr and John Adams had  both been second-place finishers.  John Adams became President, but Aaron Burr did not and even tried to take part of the Louisiana Purchase and form a nation out of it with himself as leader.  That one did not work for Burr either.

So the Electoral College, passed because the majority of Americans could not read or write, works like this:  It is the indirect election of Presidents.  Few, but two in most of our lifetimes, have become President by winning the Electoral College.  They are George W. Bush and Donald Trump.  The author of the book states that this is one of the undemocratic features of the original Constitution.  It allows for the indirect election of a President.  There was also the indirect election of United States Senators, using the same logic about the uneducated not being important enough to vote for the Senator.  For the first one hundred years or more, the Senator was chosen by a vote of the State Legislature.

Other areas of concern included slavery.  But that is another story.  The Electoral College is equal to its number of votes in the Congress.  If New York, as an example, has 47 Congressmen and 2 Senators, then they have 49 votes in the Electoral College.  It is not a law that a member of the Electoral College must vote for the person who won their state but it is expected that the Electoral College will do just that.  They will vote for the person who won in their state’s presidential balloting.  Sometimes one or two people may choose not to vote for a winner, or a loser, but usually it comes out that way.

So, that is the story of the Electoral College, a Constitutional effort perhaps, but one that can fly in the face of the winner of the popular vote.

Keynesian Economic

This is one of my favorite subjects because very few politicians follow the requirements of it.  The idea behind Keynesian Economics is that of one buying on credit.  In the past, you were expected to balance your budget at the end of every fiscal year, whether that year ended on June 30th. or December 31st.  You were not supposed to carry the balance onto the next year.  You were supposed to balance your budget.  Keynes changed all of that.

The British were borrowing heavily in World War II in order to pay for the damaging war.  They tried every year to balance their budget until Economist John Maynard Keynes came up with a brilliant “out.”  What he proposed was a credit line which could last the entire war.  He said that Britain should borrow the money it needed to continue the war until it was won.  He said, “We have shown that, quite apart from war increases in rates of wages, the earnings of the country as a whole should increase by as much as 825 million pounds merely as a result in output and employment.” (Page 20; “How to Pay for the War.”)

“By the end of January 1940, wholesale prices had risen by 27%, the cost of living (seasonally corrected) by 10%, and wages by perhaps 5%; which means that the aggregates I am using should be increased by nearly 10% to conform to the wge and price levels current at that date.)”  The question became how to align those different areas and pay for the war while not upsetting the economy.  His solution was to float the deficit.  He questioned whether the “working class need to be asked to make any sacrifice.  Admittedly,” he said, “they will work harder.”  The trick was to keep the working class working, which meant that they had to get paid, and there was not a tax to ensure their payment.  So, Keynes said, you would pay the average worker with money you had not gathered yet.  You would have to pay them on credit.

Interestingly enough, he said that “If we drift without a comprehensive plan, not this but shop-shortages will result.  And inflation, as we shall see, will be to the clear advantage of the richer class and result in this class bearing not more, but less than their fair share.” (ibid.)  This would result in a class war.  So Keynes was basically saying that, in order to not have a class war, the working class would have to somehow be paid.  And the way to do this was to pay some war expenses on credit.

He said that the national income would be distributed between different income groups which he admitted, was a matter of “first importance.” (ibid.)  So we had countries buying on credit for the first time.

Why was that important?  Because this was a new idea, flying in the face of current reason, it did not take hold immediately.  It took awhile.  It also took the approval of the United States of America, which was floating most of the loans incurred by England and had the most to lose.  Fortunately, President Franklin Roosevelt saw the beauty of the plan.  He even used it to float loans to diminish the effect of the Great Depression.  So it was instituted to the point that, today, we cannot balance the budget if we try to do it.  That is why we are trillions of dollars in debt.  And that is also one of the possible reasons that no administration has been willing to try to balance the budget.

We keep having to raise our “debt ceiling,”  and seldomly does either side of the aisle make much of a ruckus about the debt.  We just continue to raise the “debt ceiling.”  I believe that it is time to pay off some of that debt.  Keynes never said that this was supposed to supplant the idea of a balanced budget.  That could be culled from the  lack of effort to pass laws that could balance the budget.

Keynes said of the burgeoning debt, that “taxation on this scale would involve such wide-spread breaches of existing contracts and commitments that the taxable income themselves would be largely reduced.” (ibid.)  In other words, it would be necessary to offset the debt by paying against it.  That is something that we in the current United States do not seem to be willing to do.  It does not matter which income-level we reported in or at, payment is a problem.   When Bill Clinton was President, I heard his Vice President say that we did not have to worry about Social Security because it would not become collectible until 2037.  I raised my hand, and explained that my young daughter, who was sitting with me would be one of those most affected by the carelessness of the current administration.  I joined the budget cutting group called the “Concord Coalition.”   I have been a member ever-since.

Trump seems as unwilling to balance the budget as Obama was, and that is a problem.  As Keynes said, the deficit has to be trimmed by payment in good times.  We cannot just continue to let it grow as a deficit.  There has to be an effort to tame it.  No more “Debt Ceilings.”  We are opening ourselves to a lack of respect for the United States of America and that is not a good thing.  We cannot allow the Chinese to be the lienholder on our debt.  We should, I believe, pay against the Chinese liens.  We are no longer in the days of Keynes.  We have to pay our debts.  And we have to discontinue trying to augment our economy by floating loans.  As Keynes said, the rich are the only ones who benefit by being in debt.  The rest of us have to eat it.  So let us discontinue that practice and pay on our debt.  It is the only logical thing to do.  Whether it is because of Trump or Obama, does not matter.  It has to be paid.

 

An Opinion on the State of Lowell’s Schools

I have been substituting for a few weeks now and have visited and worked on classes in a number of schools.  This week I got the chance to see the insides of a new school and the oldest currently in use.  This week  I had the chance to visit the Moody Elementary and Bailey Elementary.  Both schools have an incredibly dedicated staff and administration.  I worry about the Moody Elementary because it is older and I do not want anything dire to happen to the last of the “jewels” constructed in the 1880’s.  I also want to protect the Washington Elementary in the Highlands.

The Moody staff is dedicated to their school.  They hold teacher’s meetings when a crisis needs to be averted.  They use the most professional and timely curriculum everyday.  The kids are loved, as they are at the Bailey.  The spotlight in the school system is shining on the students, the children.  The Moody knows the architectural history of their school, and they are very proud of it.  The old third floor is used for gym and events.  They have a real realization of the history of their school.  The Moody has a solid history.  When it was in its prime, it housed the best window lighting system in the city.  That is why  the school has such large windows.  They were built around the idea that the sun would hit certain rooms at different intervals.  The large windows predate electricity.  They were placed to maximize exposure to the sun in the winter months.  You could not use the school during winter after about 3:30PM.  There wasn’t enough light.  So the architect built a massive window system to allow light into the school.  It works.  I noted it when I was with the Kindergarten at the school.

The Moody School was one of a batch of “jewels” in the early years of the school system.  Other schools in that category included the Pawtucketville Memorial, which was dedicated to those who died in the Civil War, the Bartlett School, the Butler School, the Lincoln School, the Green School in downtown, and others built in this time period.  Principals in these new schools were expected to take over the Superintendent’s duties and become superintendents of their own.  The pay for a principal of a new school was $1,800.00 per year.  The Pond Street School had a female principal, her salary was a small $600.00 per year.  One room schools paid even less.  There were over seventy one room schoolhouses at one point.  Many were turned into homes.  Existing structures include two in the Acre.  Those two still exist and I will be taking pictures of them for a later article.

The other school I was in this week was the incredible Bailey School in the Highlands.  I went up two one way streets in the wrong direction looking for the teacher’s parking, but other than that there were no problems.  They chose not to give me tickets, which I deserved.  I had a Fourth Grade class, and the students were great, with maybe one exception.  We did Math, English, Cursive Writing, and Social Studies.  We also watched a great school play but I never got the name of the play from the other teachers so you will have to go see it this week.  You can get the name.

There was alot of education going on in the school last week.  Students were busy learning cursive, which is a major hurdle for me, I wanted them to learn cursive.  Otherwise, how would they know how to write their own signature.  The Math was concentrated on Multiplication, the English on free writing practice, the Science seemed to be on sediments.  The Social Studies was on learning the location of the states of the Union.  That is something we all need to reteach ourselves, especially when the Electoral College defines an election like it did this year.  I mean, I have a good idea of where every state is located, but it is interesting to learn it again.  I want to thank the students for helping me get the work out to them so they could work on it.  They did a marvelous job.

On Friday, we had Field Day.  That was a lot of fun.  They played all sorts of enjoyable games and had a popsicle afterwards.  Then it was back to Math and Social Studies.  I told them a story that was a legend in the 1800’s.  Two Native Americans from opposite sides of the Merrimack River met and developed a deep love.  They planned to escape the restrictions placed on them by their Pentucket and Pawtucket nations and form a new place to live further down the river.  They learned that the Pawtucket’s had told John Smith, the Puritan minister, that they named the river  the Merrimack, or “Strong Place.”  Some of the students made an arm and said that the reason it was called “The Strong Place,”  was because it looked like an extended arm and that signaled strength.  Two students tried  to wrestle with their arms and see who was most like the Merrimack.  I do not know who won, but only one opportunity existed for that demonstration of muscular finesse.

So, I had a very good week with some outstanding students.  One boy noticed that not every button on my sport coat was buttoned.  He asked me if I would button all three buttons.  I agreed that it was a good idea so I buttoned all of them.  Later, I let them back out, but he was satisfied.

Some great learning is happening in Lowell.  The Department of Education at the state level is proctoring new ideas into every school often.  I think the state could take it easy, because the schools seem to be policing themselves, and that is a good thing.  But the state seems to be determined to being in the middle of the curricular nuances of each school system.  Maybe they are just protecting their financial input into the school systems.  Or perhaps they just like to have something to do.  Time will tell.

So that was my week this past five days.  I hope your work was as rewarding.

Ancient Facts About the Lowell Public Schools

Alright, it is not like I have not ventured down this highway before.  I have often written about teacher preparation and curriculum from the beginning of the school system and I have uncovered some important facts.  I noted at one point that the curriculum is academic and it is still usable and used.  I compared the current Fourth Grade curriculum as spelled out in the Core Curriculum with the Fourth Grade requirements inherent in the 1850’s and 1860’s spelled out in the School Committee Minutes from that period of time.  But, there is always room for adjustment and there was a time when the Lowell Public School system was stellar and noteworthy.

We believe we have invented the current situation.  In fact, the early Superintendents were far and away mentionable in their accomplishments of their day.  One of the biggest problems we had was the need to continually supplement our curriculum by bringing the best speakers and curriculum experts to the teachers for their benefit in the classroom.  One Superintendent enlisted the best minds of the day to further teach the required courseload to the individual teachers.

“The Superintendent has taken great pains to bring to the attention of the teachers during the year by means of addresses from distinguished educators, some of the new methods of teaching.” (Lowell School Committee Minutes, 1857).

We currently have to lock down the schools because of terrorist and other threats.  But that many years ago, the many doors they built on the high school were there for a reason, “Visits by outsiders to the schools were encouraged,” cited one source. (ibid)

In short, the average visitor from outside the school was welcomed as a distinguished visitor.  He could be the local blacksmith, but he was welcomed to share his stories with the students.  There was even an evening school that met nightly and allowed the students up to the high school level to take courses towards their diploma.  The blacksmith might end up teaching steel manufacturing in Manuel Training classes if he was desired.

One of the largest school building programs in our city’s history occurred in the 1880’s.  The Butler, the Moody, the Bartlett, and the Pawtucket Memorial Junior High Schools were funded by the city in ten short years.  Most of those schools were still in use as late as the 1990’s.  I have pictures of many of those schools, both inside and outside the buildings.  They cost a mint.

The Moody Junior High School had “…electric call bells, (and) speaking tubes.”  Those tubes were just hoses, as the telephone had been invented but were not readily available for inner school usage.  They supplemented the many other improvements in each school.  It made the Moody School the “finest (grammar) school building in the city.”  The Moody School had a series of enhancements that make it useful right to the present day.  The building was placed on a strange angle because it was attempting to fully utilize the sun’s light during the day and early evening.  The massive windows were designed to milk the light from outside and place the sunlight directly over each student’s desk.  Teachers, as they are wont to do, wanted the worst children sitting near the teacher and damned the architect’s irresponsible placement of the desks.  So the teachers unscrewed each desk in some rooms from the floor, and placed them in different areas where they could better keep a view of the classroom’s behavior problems.  They just screwed the desks down in a more advantageous spot.  The students had to look more closely for their lessons, but the teachers were vindicated.  The principal, who was an Assistant Superintendent, had to report to the Superintendent what the teachers had done to make their control of the classroom tighter.

The first high school doubled as a junior high school in some instances.  It was opened in 1831 and had a stellar first graduation class.  Two state governors came from the class.  “Lowell’s first high school was opened in 1831, in a cottage house on Middlesex Street, and after several migrations, found permanent quarters in a new building erected for the purpose on Kirk Street in 1841.  This building…was finally outgrown and taken down in 1891.” (School Committee Minutes – Page 35)

The newer building was larger and on the same spot – it was occupied in 1893 and still stands on its spot at the current time.  The first floor was seven school rooms, while Stage II was upstairs and had eight rooms.  The third was named Coburn Hall and was in its original place with a sitting capacity of 1,200 students to one teacher.  It actually worked.  Students who caused problems in any of the rooms were likely to have their tenure at the high school cut and have their position in the school replaced.  High school was an honor, not a given.  They could easily be tossed out.  And they were.

I will write more on these interesting teaching practices in my next article.