John Glenn’s Visit to Lowell, Massachusetts

The John Glenn story was magical.  Paul Tsongas had cancer, but no one knew except family.  John Glenn did not know.   In order to keep up the facade Paul enlisted me to greet and bring John Glenn down Merrimack Street to Shattuck Street where we were to take the left and meet Paul next to the big wheel at the Mack Building.  I met Presidential hopeful John Glenn  in front of the SUN Building, the newspaper headquarters, not the skyscraper.  Somebody in the Fairburn Building, head stuck out a convenient window, yelled down to Channel 5 reporter, Mary  Richardson, “Hey Mary, you’re great!”  Other than that the initial crowd was very respectful and kind.

Suddenly, the Ohio Senator stepped out of a car, greeted me and we got ready to walk down Merrimack Street.  City Manager Joe Tully, had gotten the two block walk downtown bare of crowds.  John  Glenn was going to walk down an empty Merrimack Street with just me as company.  I was in heaven.  John Glenn was taller than I thought, or I was smaller than I thought.  We walked with purpose down Merrimack Street and I told the Senator the history of each building we passed, especially St. Anne’s Church.  At first, we did not talk, so I gathered it was my duty to tell him about the history of the area.  I told him about the death of Kirk Boott in front of St. Anne’s.  He was interested.  I pointed over to the high school.  I talked about the 1893 building and pointed out the new high school wing.  I also talked about the new and old City Halls.  He did not have many questions.  It kept going to my head that I was escorting an American Icon down the street.  Finally in front of Palmer’s Ice Cream, he asked about the mill girls and I answered as best as I could.

No one was on the street to take my picture with the first American to orbit the earth.  He did it three times.  I kind of regreted that, although there was, in the next day’s Lowell SUN, a picture of Mr. Glenn with my father directly behind him.  I concluded that my father was a photo hound.

Eventually, it was time to turn onto Shattuck Street and there was a huge crowd held back by a police line.  Paul popped out of the big wheel and smiled broadly, Mr. Glenn smiled just as broadly.  My solitary walk with John Glenn was over.  We went to the Market Mills, John Glenn pleased with the size of the crowd.  He stood on the ramp in front of the LTC and gave a speech.  I remember he said, “You know, I have to call members of the Senate ‘Honorable’ but there is one man here that needs to be called ‘Honorable’ and I mean it.  Paul Tsongas is honorable.  He is one of the few members of the Senate to be called ‘Honorable.’     Paul beamed.

We went into the Market Mills, with Paul and then it was time for Mr. Glenn to tour the Wannalancit Mills with his wife Annie.  Vicki and I were picked to accompany the solitary Annie Glenn throughout the newly fixed Wannalancit Mills.

I remember a man, unknown to me, handing the Senator the book, “The Right Stuff,” which Mr. Glenn did not like because he did not like the depiction of himself.  Still, John Glenn stopped and signed it.  That man died a few years ago, and his book is worth something now.

The thing I remember was that Annie Glenn’s famous stutter did not happen in the entire tour we gave her, and she was very talkative.  She was gracious and funny and lucid.  I really enjoyed her company.

That was a chapter out of the scrapbook I keep of Mr. Glenn in 1963 when he went into space.  I got to take him on a walk.  It was great to be related to Paul Tsongas, that was for sure.  The most famous pilot in history walked down the street with me and I was proud to be honored as his tour guide.

IMMIGRATION AND THE U.S.A.

I believe in open borders and greatly miss the Open Canadian/United States border we enjoyed when were younger.  Times pass, people change, and Illegal Aliens settle in the United States of America.  But, not every alien is an illegal and it is that dichotomy that causes us to hesitate on emergency acts in the country.  I did a major blog, which I have been willing to discuss for a year now, all without fruition, and we conveniently forget who we are and how we got here.

 

    John Kennedy said it best in his book on immigration.  He noted the large group of immigrants who moved here from Ireland, something like 47 million people in forty years during the 1800’s.  His great-nephew recently made the observation that he would not be allowed into the country now with the anti-illegal immigrant laws on the books.  Joseph Kennedy sounded wise beyond his age when he spoke on his rights as a citizen of the United States.  His uncle said, that “Each new wave of immigration helped meet the needs of American development and made its distinctive contribution to American character.”  Imagine how foreign Italian mafia lords must have looked to our great-grandfathers in the 1900 to 1940 range.  Imagine, people who shoot their own kind for profit?  How foreign was that?  We are scared now, but given what passed before us, how scared can we be?

 

    JFK said, “The Irish were in the vanguard of the great waves of immigration to arrive during the nineteenth century.   They had replaced England as the chief source of new settlers making up forty four percent of the foreign born in the United States.”  There is very little in common between the Irish and the English they replaced.  And what about those English?  They come here, fight the first immigrants, the Native Americans, and take over their inheritance settling millions on Native American soil.  In fact, the Native Americans cannot understand the idea that you can own land.  In their religion(s), land was like the sky.  It could not be owned.  Now we say that we can control even the sky.

 

    “They were mostly country folk, small farmers, cottagers, and farm laborers. My great great great ad nauseum grandfather traveled here from Ireland to escape the law in Ireland.  Not that he was a master criminal, he just did not believe that the English could control Ireland.  Now that is called a patriot.  He came over with his wife and four children.  Eventually, he and his wife would parent eleven children, most born in Canada.  That is where he served as a slave (indentured servant), to a Canadian who’s last name started with a “D.”  He had to put in so many years, nineteen of them, because he had to pay for his, his wife’s, and his four children’s passage to America.  Eventually he paid off his bill and he left Canada for the plains of South Dakota, taking with him his Conestoga wagon and his wife and eleven children for forty acres and a mule.  

 

    What we learn about our ancestors heightens us.  It makes us larger than life.  The first Lowell Irish were the only ones crazy enough to handle using gunpowder to dig the canals of rock.  The Irish eventually did safer things, but not what we would call “safe.”   They moved the canal rock to build an Episcopalian Church, St. Anne’s, in downtown Lowell.  Mill girls were a step above the Irishmen  who blasted the canals.  Imagine digging so many miles of rock, solid rock, in order to build a church you would never be invited to attend.  Religion was, as Karl Marx once alluded to, the opiate of the masses.  By working the girls for six straight days and taking them to Episcopal Mass on the seventh, the mill owners felt that they had their lives in hand.  Little did they know, to Kirk Boott’s astonishment, that the girls would be willing to go to school after work let out of the mills and on Sunday’s.  Boott felt it was just short of madness.  Theodore Edson, the Pastor of St. Anne’s Church, was the first publicly  elected school official in Lowell.

He spoke to the girls every Sunday, in ways that railed against the mill owner’s interests.  He was there when the girls went to school, and when they started the first girl’s bank in Lowell, the famous Lowell Institution for Savings.

 

    We are at an awful bend in the road of immigration reform.  We have often cleared out illegal immigrants.  We even took a group of Japanese-Americans and moved them into concentration camps because they were part Japanese.  It did not matter, as it does not matter now, that they were more American than Japanese.  We just felt comfortable with them out of the way in California.   So we moved them east, into large towns, often called concentration camps,  occupied by Japanese-Americans.

 

    The Irish played a brand of politics that we do not necessarily understand but laugh about today.  One example was the most intelligent piece of mayhem in American politics.  “Honey Fitzgerald,” JFK’s well-loved grandfather, was being challenged by a man who was urging people to write him on the ballot, since he had not had the necessary number of signatures on his paperwork.  “Honey Fitz” convinced the printer, who was his friend, to not put glue on the back of the stamps with the man’s name printed on them.  Each ballot was gathered at the election precinct and each ballot had the man’s name fall off of them.  JFK thought it was a good story about electioneering and how far the people would go to get elected to an office.  It was a good story about how far the third generation Irish would go to get their opponents off of the ballot.  Imagine how it played to those people whose forefathers had settled in the 1700’s.   It must have been a terrible breach of the election game.

 

    This entire immigration scandal is a terrible divide of the morality dictated by the forefathers.  Indeed, in the immigration question, no one is right and no one is wrong.  We have done it all before.  We cannot say that the Muslims have no right to settle here.  Mexicans, who are starving, are going to traverse our boundaries.  We have better homes and food than they can get in their native country.  We suffer under the assumption that everyone basically has a good heart and good values.  No matter how frustrated we get, we believe in the basic goodness of the people.  That does not necessarily mean that we believe in perfect goodness.  We have jails, courts and other processes.  If you really want to know how to handle the masses, go to a Registry of Motor Vehicles office.  There, no one is special.  Let people emigrate, let them immigrate.  That is how our forefathers did it.   And accept the fact that no one whether English or Irish, or Muslim or Greek, is worth more in the eyes of the law.    We have all had the  opportunity to make our mistakes according to the mores of the first people who emigrated to America.  And, in war or in peace, we have all had the opportunity to fix our mistakes.  Let’s allow those who have come after us to have the same protections we were allowed.

 

    That is basically my stand on immigration.  It is very close to the usual American beliefs.

 

Meanderings on Dr. Khelfaoui, Ph.D

A long, long time ago, as Don McClean says in his iconic “American Pie,” I was born into a family that was adhered to education.  My father, at the time, was getting himself in trouble for writing against Joe McCarthy’s views on Commies in the government.  This was at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  After obtaining his Master’s Degree in Administrative Education, he became the youngest School Superintendent in Iowa.  At twenty six years of age, he took over the rural school in Cosgrove, Iowa.  Now Cosgrove was mostly a town which catered to the surrounding farms.  There were twenty six people in the town, and television was a brand new invention so it did not cover a small Iowan school district.  We had a television but because we were so far away from the station, I grew up without television.  I learned from my father, he made special toys for us, and we greatly admired him.  I even learned to clap my hands from him.  He used to cup his hands to make a louder clap than the other men in town.  I was a young boy there in Cosgrove.  I grew up in a town with a small population – including eight nuns and one priest in the town.  They were part of the twenty-eight.  I was very proud of him when he brought home a rowboat that he had built himself.  I thought it was beautiful.

I grew up with a Superintendent of Schools as my father.  Every new idea he learned at the University of Iowa doctoral program  was practiced on me.  After years of trying, he got his Ph.D and we had the best party I have ever been to when he got his degree.  One of my friends stole a cigarette from his father, and I learned not to smoke that night.  A neighbor watching us trying burst into laughter as we burned ourselves trying to light up.  Fortunately, I never did smoke cigarettes.  However, it was one of my lessons of my young life. And, it happened on the day my father became Dr. Wayne R. Peters.  Quite an accomplishment for a man whose father had always been a blacksmith.

I was very proud of my father.  He was neat.  He gained a reputation as a reformer.  He instituted many changes in his school district.  It was exciting.  Years after Cosgrove, he became the Superintendent of Schools in Lowell, Massachusetts, a depressed milltown in the northern part of the state.  I think he was a magnificient superintendent.  He found thirty three classrooms not being used in Lowell High School.  He fought the two unions that then existed.  He started a Modified Open Campus to decrease overcrowding because he knew that Lowell could not afford new school buildings.  There was no tax base for that type of expenditure,  I believe there is no tax base for the “new” high school that can afford an estimated 100 to 150 million dollar expenditure.  I believe the existing building must be fixed and brought up to code.  But, that money will not necessarily come from the state, the city must spend a great deal of money getting prepared for the state’s largesse.  It will not be easy.

Now, that is how I feel about my legendary father.  The Lowell “SUN” stated that “The selection of Dr. Peters came after an extensive search for a highly qualified man.”  In its editorial on the movement to deny him tenure, the “SUN” said, ‘We believe that Dr. Peters has done a creditable job and, with greater cooperation could have accomplished more in the past three years.”   I agree with that assessment .

Where am I going with this.  It is really very simple.  I believe that Dr. Salah Khelfaoui Ph.D has also been doing a very creditable job during his short tenure thusfar in the city.  He is facing a School Committee that denied him a contract recently when Robert Gignac changed his promised vote to a negative one after promising the reformers that he would vote for the Superintendent’s contract.  This action reminded me of those people who voted against my father’s obtaining tenure.  It was the same type of mischief.

I told Dr. Khelfaoui that I firmly believed, and this is not to put anyone down, it is just an observation by a former teacher and administrator that he is the best Superintendent that we have had since my father learned how to play politics in Lowell.  His first year and one-half has resulted in a reintegration of the Citywide Parent Council, a slew of Parent Teacher Organizations, a review of the busing practices, a potential new High School, an effort by Robert Hoey to get fair pay for the para-professionals who act as teachers during the classroom teacher’s meetings, sick-days, Field Trips, etc.  Everyone, it seems, is aware of the fact that para-professionals are paid poorly.  Nothing is done to rectify the situation.

The teachers are paid far more equitably and get a living wage.  Para-professionals make far less, and many have four year degrees or are working towards them, in the field of education.  Dr. Khelfaoui is strongly aware of the discrepancies between what should be and what actually exists.  This man meets with me every month during “Peters’ Principles,”  We get a chance to talk a lot about education, something I have known about since I was about three years old and my father used to get me a carton of chocolate milk everyday.  Now, it is possible that that violated an Iowan law, but my understanding is that now we feed every child in the system.  Yesterday, the newspaper stated that Mr. Gignac and Mr. Hoey were examining the daily lunch for “quality,”  As one person said to me, what about taste?  Does the lunch taste good, as well as be of high quality?  Perhaps Mr. Gignac  can find out.

This is the best Superintendent since my father.  My father was so popular in Lowell that he got five thousand votes more than his second place challenger.  Mrs. Stoklosa was the second place challenger, and she was always gracious about that level of bullet-voting.  She never begrudged my father  his accomplishment.  She was a wonderful lady.

So, this is where I am coming from – First, Dr. Khelfaoui deserves a contract.  Second, the schools must give the man a chance, at least three more years, to institute his ideas for the curriculum.  Third, he needs the support of the most jaded School Committeeman or woman.  Finally, he deserves our respect for doing a tremendously difficult job with a staff that has been trimmed in order to save money on salaries.  Denying him a contract for no stated logical reason is the epitome of bad taste.  This man is essential to Lowell at this time and he is the person I want to see manning the wheel during a time when the city seems confused.  If, in the end, he cannot do the job, we at least must give him the chance to show his mettle.  Those Committeemen and Women who do not support him owe us an explanation as to why they feel that way.  He does not deserve to be denied a contract at the last minute for no given, or a sparsely legitimized, reason.

Constitutionality and James Madison

I keep a copy of the Constitution on my body virtually all of the time, except when sleeping perhaps.  The reason for this is because I spend a great deal of time with friends who are Republicans, and they are often wrong in their interpretation of a section of the Constitution I believe.  I read the actual document to them.  For instance, they all think the Second Amendment protects the ownership of firearms.  I generally point out that the Constitution protects the rights of the average man to own a gun.  But, it does not protect a man’s right to own a nuclear weapon.  There are definitely restrictions on certain automatic weapons, nuclear weapons, and chemical weapons.  I live in the state with the hardest law governing gun ownership.  It has not been overturned, despite its lack of allegiance to Article Fifteen of the Massachusetts Constitution, which also states that the right to keep and bear arms is sacrosanct.  Yet, despite that, Massachusetts residents have not appealed to the state courts to use Amendment Fifteen and free the right to bear arms.  It is not only protected by the state, it is protected by the U.S. Constitution.  And yet, we buy off on certain corrolaries to the law.

Here is what the Constitution says on the Second Amendment.  It says that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and that the gun can be used to ensure the formation of a local military regiment.  The gun serves a purpose, in the Constitution.  It is there to guarantee that the average man can protect himself in an organized way, as in the formation of a militia.  Hence, each city and town, or even persons interested in the right to keep and bear arms (that phrase is catchy, isn’t it?) can form a regiment to challenge the laws of the Federal government.  Shay’s Rebellion struck down much of that interpretation and people left the rebellion defeated.

We cannot possibly guarantee that every miscreant on American ground has the right to form a militia.  But that is exactly what is in the Second Amendment.  Specifically the amendment says that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security o a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The Fathers wanted to solidify the rights of the people to revolt against their government when the government became too overbearing.  The rights correlate with the right to protect your home from the government when it was too strong, or, as I said, too overbearing.

We often equate our right to keep and bear arms with the use of certain arms that are not legal in today’s society.  In the early 1970’s, a college student passed in as his dissertation, how he would use common materials to build a working atomic bomb.  He was visited by the FBI, the Secret Service, and persons from the military.  He had a working recipe for splitting an atom with sufficient force that it would do what the Hiroshima  bomb did to Hiroshima.  The government did not arrest him, if memory serves me right, but did make sure that he would do nothing further to exacerbate a dangerous situation.  He agreed not to share his plan, and not to build a bomb.  But Constitutionally he was within his rights to “keep and bear arms.”   He did not form a militia, he seemed like a normal student who guessed accurately how to make the most feared weapon ever devised by man.  And, I would argue that he was within his constitutional rights to do so.  There is no limitation on procurement or technology in the Second Amendment.

Enough about the Second Amendment.  It is well-reasoned that guns are legal.  That does not cover the Constitution, however.  There are now twenty-seven Amendments to the Constitution.  Some freed slaves, while others mitigated by an attempt to soften some of the laws in the Constitution, did other things that righted some of the oversights in the document.  Immigration policy was part of that movement, I believe.

Women were given the right to vote.  A right to vote was guaranteed to all citizens except those who were felons.  The Constitution was used to fix small but basic impediments to daily life.  The poll tax was deemed unconstitutional, I think.  Many items that we now take for granted were first espoused in the Constitutional Amendments.  It always puzzled me that the Equal Rights Amendment was given a time-line for passage.  Most amendments were not so laden.

Now, I am going to take a minute to make a twist in my thought processes.  So often, I have heard people lament that we have no record of what the original framers of the Constitution wanted to include, or omit, from the document.  I have been reading a book on the viability of the Constitutional Convention.  I have concluded that we know exactly what the forefathers wanted and we have it to the finest point in James Madison’s Minutes of the Constitutional Convention.  James Madison spent every day of the convention taking down elaborate notes which included precise quotes from the people who were writing the Constitution.  The only person he failed to quote was George Washington.  How could he make such a slip?  Washington did not speak to the Convention.  Other than that, Madison has everyone’s nuances.

I have a tome (book) called “Messages and Papers of the Presidents,” and in it Madison was one of the best writers of his time.   When describing the taking of American sailors off of their ships illegally, Madison says, “In this new posture of our relationships with those powers, the consideration of Congress will be properly turned to a removal of doubts which may occur in the exposition and of difficulties in the execution of the act above cited.” (Page 469)

I use that passage to prove that Madison could write, and do it well.  If we take time to study what Madison wrote about his fellow delegates, I believe we can ascertain what the forefathers were contemplating.  They had minor matters that took front stage, including the use of different money in each individual state.  There was discussion of that, although I do not believe it ever became an amendment.  There was a great deal of discussion of state’s rights, taxation, and slavery.  However, the slavery question was not as it would seem.  Massachusetts did not reject slavery until 1802.  It was a hot topic.

So let’s tell our elected representatives to take a few minutes to see what Madison wrote about the formation of the Constitution.  The answers are right there, staring back at us.  We can finally do what has not happened in America, we can interpret the Constituion based on its history.  That would be something.

I have had a few requests for some advertising here and there, so this is the blog with the advertising in it.  First, the Talbot House Inn (photo below) is a bed and breakfast of first class character and owned by my sister, Elizbeth Henry.  Not Elizabeth, her first name is spelled correctly.  She owns a huge building and a building down the street.  She is very imaginative and really rebuilt a declining old mansion and turned it into a wonderful overnight stay type of place.  She gets a lot of traffic so it is good to book your vacation early.  Anyway, the picture of the Talbot House Inn and the front of her brochure is found below.  It is an honor to have such a hard-working sister.  The house includes five rooms with private baths; Twin, Full, and Queen size beds and a full breakfast included.  The rates are very reasonable, especially when compared to a motel stay in a quiet Maine town.  There is a 15% military discount, probably because her husband was active in the Army and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel two years ago.  You can visit them on Facebook and TripAdvisor.  Enjoy yourselves!

talbothouse

Lowell School System Budget for 1921

I just went through the budget for 1921, and it was boring.  You may want to skip this article.  It does reflect education after the First World War.  Education continued through the conflagration.  I personally found the numbers interesting because they reflect pay  and other amounts of expenditures which also reflect the commitment of the city towards education.  This was in a time when the School Committee had fiscal autonomy.  They did not have to answer to anyone except the voters.  This system was in place until the 1970’s or 1980’s.  Then, the budget was trimmed and the role of the School Committee became to appoint the Superintendent and make sure he was doing a good job, which, if he was not, could land in his termination of employment.

In 1921, the total budget for teacher’s salaries for the academic high school was:  $200,411.44

Junior High Schools:              $167,227.01

Primary and Mixed Schools: $194,580. 47

Kindergartens:                        $41,908.63

Special Teachers:                    $45,407.38

Substitutes:                             $12,577.00

For a total for the day schools of $872,709.51,  This did not include the evening or trade schools.  The average number of students in the classroom was broken down to:

Average number of persons in the Day Schools, see the figures above:                                     13,917 students in day classes

Average number of persons in a class:

LHS:   31

Junior High School   36

Grammar School     42

Primary School        47

Special or Mixed      39

Kindergarten            45

In addition there were two hundred forty three students in Vocational Schools.  The Vocational or Trade School kept better track of invoices and reported on the total amount of money owed in 1921 by the vocational school(s).  The total amount spent by the Trade School was:

$180,464.70

Teacher’s Salaries:         $53,858.40

Salaries of Night School  $4,899.05

Total Vocational Salaries $86,520.08

Tuition Charged:               $25,297.29

They even kept track of students by age.  Those numbers included:

Five years of age and under:  $3,307.00

Seven years of age & under:  $15,217.00

The figures for the students older than seven are not clear in the Minutes of the School Committee so I cannot report on them.  The School Committee did report that students above the age of 14 and under the age of 19 garnered a payment of 163,691.00.

The School Committee had this to say about the inevitable expansion, “City will be called upon to spend reasonable amounts of money at a number of points, rather than a large sum at any one point.” (Superintendent’s Report).  The high school, which consisted of the 1893 building was “comfortably filled.”  They went on to say “Although by no means crowded.  This before they started constructing a large building in 1922.  That is when the cornerstone was laid.  They did note that the Junior High Schools including the Bartlett, Butler, Morey, and Varnum Schools “are filled to capacity.”

The School Committee put together a bill to pay for the 1922 building at the High School at this time.  The feeder schools to the high school was those in the junior high school category.  At this time, high school became part of normal schooling.  It was no longer just a bastion for those who wanted to further their schooling.  The Trade School was filled to capacity and it was in what is now the Clement McDonough School which currently is the Freshman Academy in the Lowell School system.  I know that sounds confusing and it is a little.

The gist of the history of the Lowell Public School system was how committed these immigrants were to their children’s education.  The entire town paid for its school system.  It was a center of the entire heart of the City.  1921 was just a microcosm of the years of sacrifices everyone put together for the children in the system.  They kept track of the money.  They hired new Superintendents.  They kept the best teachers.  It was a system which reflected hope.  You could do better than your parents, but even your parents could work a full  day and go on to school at night.  It was a vibrant school system.

I will cover WWI and WWII effects on the school system.  What is amazing is the sense of responsibility the parents and taxpayers had to the school system.  It is heartening.  The figures I included just show the level of commitment to the system.

The Case for Fixing the High School

We have been inundated with information about building a new high school.  Much of the frustration lies in the 1980’s building which is in severe disrepair.  We are floating amounts of money around that are incredibly high, up to five hundred million dollars according to some estimates.  A fair amount, according to some sources, is in the high two hundred million dollar range.  I went to Lowell High School and graduated before the 1980’s building was completed.  My father is cited on the wall which lists the current and past members of the School Committee who were responsible for the 1980’s building.  The Computer Laboratory on the second floor is named for him.

I firmly believe that the city cannot afford a 100,000,000.00 dollar bill for its part in building the new high school and I would like to propose that we build up on the current 1980’s building.  According to the Lowell “Sun,” we are looking at a $300 million to 330 million dollar bill from the state.  It may be me, but I do not believe that that money will come without some strings attached.  We cannot afford any attempt by the state to decrease the amount they will give to us.  And, I believe that is a real possibility.  The state is known for reneging on its promised amounts.

Let us look at the Cawley site.  Estimates for the building of a new high school reach in the vicinity of that 300 to 330 million dollar amount.   Even if we were able to build on city-owned land, the amount would require us to buy out at market rate any commercial building that was in our way.  That would be in the millions of dollars.  It is a state law, according to my sources.

I taught at the high school for fifteen years.  I got to be in the 1980’s building.  It was tight, and not air conditioned.  In fact, it was not that well heated.   But it was a working classroom that had enough room for a 400 book library.  I really enjoyed it, even when I had difficult students.  The books were stored in bookcases against the wall and were gifts of the City of Lowell Library.  They let us pick out relevant books after their annual book sale.  We got some great histories and biographies.  Across the hall were the never used, it seemed to me anyway, Science Laboratories.  People used those rooms for regular classes.  It was a misuse of the room’s relevance.  The room was built for science experiments.  It was not used for that.

They needed rooms for fluency in the languages that were taught.  They needed rooms for science experiments, they needed classrooms.  These were things that they did not have.  What they primarily needed and used these rooms for, was classrooms.  But, I was in a classroom and I taught U.S. History very comfortably.  I even got to talk about John Randolph’s  comment about Henry Clay, the best put-down ever used, “Like a mackeral by moonlight he shines yet stinks.”  Students loved that type of thing.

I am not convinced that all rooms in the high school are being used to the best of their planned usage.  I am not sure that building a new school would take care of the problems in Lowell High School.  I have the utmost respect and faith in Headmaster Brian Martin and his assistant, Dr. Roxanne Howe.  We need to expand the science and guidance areas.  We need to look for possible classrooms not being used as such step-by-step.  We need more classrooms, we do not need a new high school.

The Freshman Academy is doing well, and the STEM project needs to expand to its full size in the Rogers School.  That would take some of the weight off of the high school.  STEM is a program that works closely with the goals of a four year Science degree at UMASS-Lowell and Middlesex Community College.   Some students could take classes at Middlesex in their Senior year.  Some students could take required courses in conjunction with UMASS-Lowell.   That is not unthinkable.  Some students could intern with local politicians or Lowell City Hall.  Use of these existing projects could relieve some of the overcrowding.

I find Steve Gendron to be of great value in his ability to concentrate on building school projects to do things like taking care of parks and historic structures.  He did that in his years on the City Council and his pattern still exists in this city.  A volunteer group dedicated to the city would be highly treasured.

Lowell High School is not dead yet.  We can use the 300 million dollars to fix the leaking roof, put in the air conditioners in all of the existing buildings, and fix the heating areas.  According to former Headmaster, William Samaras, asbestos has been removed from the building.  That is a multi-million dollar project which has been done.

The fact remains that the high school is still a living, breathing entity.  It needs millions of dollars to bring it to fruition.  It should stay downtown because that is where the learning starts.  Under this high school administration, students are testing better, sports is still one of the most desired spheres, and good teachers teach students who go on to Harvard, and M.I.T., as well as other schools like Tufts.  I personally was accepted to study at Yale, Boston College, Boston University, the University of Iowa, and the American University of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem offered me full tuition reimbursement.  Convincing my parents to allow one of their children to study in Jerusalem was more than they wanted to handle, however.  I don’t know why.

The gist of this diatribe is to say that we do not need a completely new Lowell High School.  Thousands of our students want to attend LHS and walk to their school, which saves us tens of millions of dollars in busing transportation  each year.  We have a system which dates back for at least as long as I have been in Lowell.  The system works.  Some tweaks have to be implemented.  Let’s implement them and keep the high school where it is, doing what it is doing, which is educating our students.  I still have students see me on TV or listen to me on the radio and they still call me “Mr. Peters.”  The respect for the educational system drops down to the lowest financial level.  My students work, they shop, they are Lowell.  Moving them will exacerbate a difficult situation.  Lowell High educated seven of my brothers and sisters, and they are all doing well.  One went on to garner three Master’s degrees, many of us got Master’s degrees.  One owns a bed and breakfast in Machias, Maine.  One has been working as a computer programmer for an insurance company for thirty years.  She is brilliant.  I am doing well.  With all of these successes, shared by many families in this city, it is a puzzle as to why we need to totally reconstruct our high school.  It stands where it is, and like the 1893 building, it is perfectly fine.  I think it is too bad to see the newest building giving us the most headaches, but for  a few tens of millions of dollars, it can be fixed.  Let’s fix it.

Updates of the Lowell Public Schoos in the 1800’s

The Lowell School Department has been on the cusp of modernization since its inception in 1824.  The Dedham Historical Register for April of 1894 cited the activities of Warren Colburn in organizing a teacher’s organization.  Colburn, who had a hall named after him in the 1893 high school building, felt that teachers needed to pass on the best practices.  That is something that many people still try to do today.  It is amazing that Mr. Colburn tried to do it in the 1800’s.

     One of Colburn’s most ambitious projects was to dismantle the large one room schools and make them part of a larger school.  To do this he established primary and grammar schools for the lower grades.  He also formed what became Lowell High School in 1831.  For his efforts I believe he became the first Lowell School Superintendent.  As such, he wrote an arithmetic which was used for over fifty years.
     He appointed the first Headmaster of the high school.  He also appointed the Principals of the primary and grammar schools.  It was a common practice for people to pay Lowell public schools money to come to learn at the high school.  Part of that was due to a dearth of high schools in the region.  Importantly enough, the first student admitted to a profitable Lowell High School was female.  She graduated four years later, and although she was not in the first graduating class, she was in the first class to attend LHS for four years.
     According to the Lowell “Daily Courier” there were thousands of students in Lowell’s school system and a healthy funding base.  For instance, there were 12,552 students ages five to fifteen years old, Those were the Primary and Grammar School, as well as the Junior High School students.  They were in a kind of feeder system, completing 7th. and 8th. grade, and, if they desired, they were accepted into the high school after taking a series of tests to see if they had what it takes to be good high school students.
     According to the “Daily Courier,” there were funds for payment of teachers in the high school, the grammar, and the primary schools.  The personnel costs for the high school teachers was fifteen thousand eight hundred twenty six dollars.  (15,826.00); the grammar schools were higher, sixty one thousand thirty seven dollars and twenty four cents (61037.24);  the primary schools paid their teachers sixty thousand one hundred ninety nine dollars and ninety nine cents (60,190.99); and the cost of building the 1893 building was eighty seven thousand four hundred sixty two dollars and fifty two cents (87,462.52).  This was during the time that the four new large grammar and junior high school buildings were built for $201,451.57.  These schools included the Pawtucket Memorial School, the Butler School, the Bartlett School, and the Green School.
     Teacher certifications took a leap forward.  In the 1870’s, the certification grade, was after the seventh grade.  By 1893, you had to complete up to your Junior year in high school in order to be a certified teacher.  Abraham Lincoln had established public universities and colleges in 1863.  Among the colleges was Lowell Normal School, which became Lowell State College.  Mill owners necessitated the formation of a technical school at a college level.  That became Lowell Technical School, a university level school dedicated to the art of cloth.
     Lowell Normal School could graduate teachers, who now needed four years of college for certification.  Lowell Tech graduates went into mill work.
     I have had a few changes in my writing requirements lately.  In the first place, the ISBN # for this blog is ISBN978-1-5323-2801-5.  Secondly, I have received over 100,000 responses to my many blogs.  Therefore I am working with Google to admit advertising.  If you are interested in advertising to what  is estimated to be over 250,000 sightings per article, send an email to me with your specific needs.  Finally, I intend to write a blog about two of my five sisters projects.  One owns a bed and breakfast in Machias, Maine.  It is in a gorgeous mansion that was totally rebuilt.  In that blog I will submit photographs of the building.  It is incredible.  My other sister lives in Florida and teaches exercise activity to people visiting and living in the state.  So look forward to those blogs.  I am very proud of my little sisters.
     So that is it for this week.  I can be heard on Thursdays at 6PM on a show called Peters’ Principles on WCAP.com.  I can be seen on a number of television shows at LTC.org.  I also have a number of blogs written in the past floating somewhere in the cloud.

A Dickens Story

It is time to recognize Christmas in the United States.  We are divided between parties, we have some major problems to work out, but Christmas brings out the  best in us and I would like to start there.

     I have always loved the Christmas season, even though it takes place in a part of the globe, my part, that is largely dark early in the evening every winter.  I have a recognized and prescribed problem with winter nights.  I am supposed to be sitting in front of a group of flourescent lights designed to imitate the sun.  I have never gotten them to work right, so I stay in the best lit area of the house, my library, and work my way through winter’s darkness.  Christmas is the festival of lights and it is enhanced by gift-giving.  I would much rather give than receive.  That is not the way I was even a decade ago, but it is how I am now.
     I have been reading a Dicken’s book called “Stories for Christmas.”  I am currently reading a short novel on the “Holly Tree.”  In  it, a depressed, and Dicken’s was very good at being depressed in his writing, night before Christmas day.  Dicken’s character is waiting at a tavern with overnight stays, a motel of sorts.  He notices that the holly tree is outside the hostel, and he wants to write about it, so he does.  Many of his observations are  long paragraphs that lament his efforts to get to another town, and his forced, because of the weather, stay at the inn.  He is going to live his Christmas amongst strangers and he is not pleased about it.
     “The Holly Tree was fast reviving within me a sense of loneliness,” he laments.  “I began to feel conscious that my subject would never carry on until I was dug out.  I might be a week here, weeks!”    “Whoever slept in this room…always turned upon the subject of suicide; to which, whatever kind of  man he might be, he was certain to make some reference if he conversed with anyone.”  (Page 141)
     The occupant, he says, would come from that room sure of a dream that did not stick in his mind until morning.  He remembers gentle times fishing in the summer at a wonderful inn.  This would not be one of those times.  The holly tree would keep him sane as he spent the night in a haunted room, but it was not powerful enough to make his night tolerable.  He remembers his first Christmas tree, illuminated by balance candles lit dangerously on the Christmas tree.  He also remembers that the Christmas tree is not indigenous to England.  He calls it a German tree, which is where the first Christmas trees were started.
     I remember seeing a good many pictures of an English-influenced home in the 1880’s, that had plenty of holly but no Christmas tree.  The general public in England in the 1800’s did not have a Christmas tree in thos photos.  They had a great deal of pine boughs and strings of holly, but no trees.  I always wondered what Santa would have to say about such an omission.  He probably was a bit confused but saw the holly and read Dicken’s book about The Holly Tree.
     I love reading Dickens’ at Christmas.  I bought this book used, but I keep it in the Living Room all year.  I like to pick it up and polish off some great writing.  I learned that Dickens visited my town of Lowell in Massachusetts in 1842 and he stayed for a day.  He was pleasantly surprised to see people who seemed to enjoy their work, dressed well for the day’s work, and girls from the mills who were not hard on his eyes.  He did not say the part about being hard on the eyes, but he did say that the millgirls were very pleasant to look at.  When he visited Lowell, it was part of his tour to see how democracies in England and the United States were different.
     Of course, the book has Dickens’ best work, “A Christmas Carol,” in it.  I love some of the quotes in that book.  Who can forget the word, “Humbug,” which is probably a word Dickens made up.  He has other titles in the book, including the largely unknown “Somebody’s Luggage.”  And “Tom Tiddler’s Ground,” which does not seem to be about Christmas but was included.  He writes of Scrooge’s visit with the silent ghost of Christmas yet to occur or yet to come.  He says to the spirit, “You are about to show me the shadows of things that have not happened but will happen in the time before us, Scrooge pursued.  Is that so Spirit.”  He observes a nod from the spirit.  His legs are shaking despite the fact that he had already had time with  two spirits, and was basically, according to the author, used to spirits by this point.  This spirit scares him.  It is implied that he does not want to see his future.
     Of course, we all know the story of Scrooge.  He repents and becomes one who observes Christmas with a hearty belief in it.  In Isaiah 45 God says “I am the LORD, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness. (I guess I can take some comfort about winter darkness in that).
Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate so vibrantly, was tested once by two of his disciples and John the Baptist who asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  Jesus was probably a bit miffed because these disciples had seen him give sight back to the blind, cures lepers, and causes the deaf to hear.  But, I try to understand that this person was the One.
     So what is Christmas?  It is little bits of all of these things.  It is about Jesus, it is a time to look to friends and family for comradeship, it is a time to celebrate.  But, I always try to conclude that it is a time to put Christ back in Christmas.  Santa Claus is nice, but the real reason is Christ.

Meanderings

Former slave, Frederick Douglas, wrote in a speech given 1880, “The colored people (African Americans – language was a little different in 1880) have no reason to despair.  The fact (is) that we have endured wrongs and hardships that would have destroyed any other race, and have increased in numbers and public consideration, ought to strengthen our faith in ourselves and our future.  The forces against us are passion and prejudice, which are transient and those for us are principles, self-acting, self-sustaining, and permanent.”  {Life and Times of Frederick Douglas – an Autobiography – Crown Publishers}

     What is the point?  It is simple.  The African-American is an integral part of our history and the Obamas are not the only African Americans who will occupy the White House.  It was disappointing to see fewer African-Americans voting than did for Mr. Obama in 2012.  But they are a powerful bastion of voters who will eventually foment change in the electoral system in a permanent and different way.
     European-Americans, or, if that sounds too White, then let’s just call ourselves White, but we did nothing to help ourselves by electing Donald Trump.  It is a temporary fix.  We voted in incredible numbers to use an antiquated system of electing the President, which is called the Electoral College, and we lost the power of the popular vote.  The reason the Fathers voted in the Electoral College was because they thought the average man was too uneducated to elect the U.S. Senators or the President and Vice President.  The Senators they gave to the State Houses of Representatives while the President and Vice President were to be decided by the Electoral College.
     In the Constitution, the Senators were changed to public election in the 17th. Amendment.  The Electoral College has never changed constitutionally.  The Liberal Establishment, of which I count the Press as a unit, decried the voting of the non-college educated voters as being indicative of an inability to vote wisely.  That is what I believe they were saying in certain stations on the television, the radio, and in certain newspapers.  The reason Hillary Clinton lost was because  a plethora of uneducated white voters  voted for Trump.  That is what the Press was saying the night of the election.  This despite his inability to endear himself to women as seen or heard in his ramblings on the bus with Mr. Bush.  Women still voted for him, and the television stations made sure that you knew where they were coming from, which seemed to be from the less educated whites in America.
     I was not rooting for Hillary Clinton.  Our first pick for President should have been a woman with less personal baggage.  Hilllary Clinton did, however, win the popular vote by a large amount, over two million voters according to the press.  Hillary Clinton showed her true stripes fighting against Senator Bernie Sanders.  Now, in all fairness, Clinton should have acquiesed and allowed Sanders to address his hundreds of delegates and allowed him to give them a congratulatory speech.  She did not allow that courtesy and it really showed her real self.  Sanders had won impressive victories over many of our United States.  He deserved the right to speak to his friends.  In retrospect, I wish I had voted for Mr. Sanders.  If I had known that she would lose to a person like Trump, I would have cast the vote, even if it was spitting in the wind.
     The Democratic Party is in no worse shape than the Republican Party eight years ago, when the President and both Houses went Democratic.  We will rectify the situation and right our ship.  It is just a matter of time.  As President Obama said about the Obamacare bill, if Trump is as successful as he says he will be with the bill, Obama will be right there with the rest of us cheering.  But, he does not feel that will actually happen.  And, with the person Trump forwarded for Secretary of Health and Human Services, I doubt there will be much to cheer about.
     Back to Frederick Douglas, Mark Twain has a wonderful story about a former slave who was freed in the Civil War.  It is called “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It.”  It is a slave’s story.  It starts out, “We were sitting on the porch of the farmhouse, on the summit of the hill, and “Aunt Rachel” was sitting  respectfully below our level, on the steps-for she was our servant and colored…she was sixty years old, but her eye was undimmed and her strength unabated.” {The Unabridged Mark Twain;” Running Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania}  It goes on to describe her remembrances of being a slave and how she handled her duties and responsibilities.  At one point she says, “I knows all ’bout slavery ‘case I ben one of ’em my own self.”  She then describes, with Mark Twain emphasizing her accent, what it was like to raise seven children with a good husband, but, of course, he could not be her actual husband, and her seven children were property of the master.  So her life was considerably more difficult than a non-slaves.’
     There is no excuse for the institution of slavery.  Frederick Douglas and “Aunt Rachel” did not deserve to deal with it, be born into it, or be a part of it.  Frederick Douglas went on to become a famous man, while “Aunt Rachel” did to, somewhat because one of her young audience was to become the greatest satirist in  American history.  But neither of them actually needed to take that horrendous step back in our early history.  A friend of mine, really a good person, says of “Black Lives Matter,” “Why don’t white lives matter?”  I try to explain that black lives like Trayvon Martin’s, matter because more black men are being killed by law enforcement from a percentage standpoint than the percentage of white lives.  I would love to say that that line of reasoning works but it does not appear to.
     So, I do not know what works.  I know what I believe and I believe that racism is going to dictate matters of policy in this admnistration.  I am hoping that the basic strengths that Frederick Douglas espouses are true.  I lived for three years in a mixed town, racially.  I live now in a city that is 25% Asian.  I have always wanted the best for my friends, white, African-American, or Asian.  I like to think that I am fair, but, by virtue of my choice of topics tonight, maybe I am not.  Who knows?

     It is important to remember the 13th. Amendment which abolished slavery, and the 15th. Amendment which states that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”     That is a good place to stop.