Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Voting Practices of Indiana and the Soviet Union

We are at an important point in our city’s history. Fewer voters came out to vote in the preliminary election than has probably ever happened before. Let me tell you two stories. One comes from the time of Andrew Jackson, while the other comes from the Soviet Union. Here’s how they were told:

In the 1830’s Texas was trying to become a state, to the delight of both President Andrew Jackson, who had retired, and President Samuel Houston, who was the leader of the nation of Texas. A vote was approaching on the statehood request of Texas, and neither House of Congress could decide the answer to the issue. Former President Jackson was pushing hard for statehood and so was President Houston. They saw what few could see, the Manifest Destiny of the average American to live in a country that bordered both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. That’s right we were not there yet.

In Indiana, a tight Representative race saw one State Representative winning by one vote. Someone got curious, could they determine who the man was who voting as the markedly sure voter who placed that State Representative in office. At the time, the public could not vote for the U.S. Senator but the State Representative could. That was because the founding Fathers thought the average voter could not be trusted to vote for the most educated, best man. The State Legislatures voted the Senators into office.

What happened was this. The state representative from Indiana embroiled in the controversy was a Jackson man. He wanted Texas to join the Union. His opponent was against the acquisition of Texas. He, the Texas-leaning state representative, voted in the legislature for a pro-Texas Senator elect. That Senator won the State Representative house by one vote. In the meantime, they discovered the identity of the most likely voter to vote for Texas statehood. The Jacksonian State Representative was elected by one vote- the vote of the man in Indiana who was so sick that his children, against their better wisdom, put him on a bed in the carriage and carried him nine miles to the voting booth. He got up walked to the booth, and voted for the pro-Texas representative. That man won by one vote, the old man died on the trip home, and his last act was to vote for the state representative who went on to vote for the U.S. Senator. The U.S. Senator won by one vote, the State Representative’s.

The U.S. Senate had to vote on the Texas issue. It carried by one vote, the Senators, from Indiana. Thus, Indiana handed Texas its statehood, by one vote. The vote of the old man who died on the way home from the election booth.
(Manifest Destiny). Now, not all was beautiful. Texas was one of the eleven Confederate states a few years later, but we would not have Texas as a state is it had not been for that one vote by that one old farmer.

The second story is just a measure of facts. In the 1930’s the Soviet Union wrote the best Constitution available up to that time. It took care of women, it took care of health concerns. It was perfect. Except for one thing. It refused anyone who was not in the Communist Party the right to vote. That meant that, at the outset, fifty percent of the people could not vote. So it was an egalitarian society. Only the few would be allowed to vote.

Cut to America. While anyone can vote, a full fifty percent of the voting populace is not even registered to vote. Of the remaining fifty percent, fewer than half of the remaineder vote. That means that, like the Soviet Union, less than fifty percent vote. In a local election, we are lucky to get twenty five percent of the people registered. We all have our reasons for not voting, but we do not know that Russia is better at getting its voters to the ballot box than an American election. As a Democrat I cringe that George Bush beat, but not in the popular vote, Al Gore. Al Gore won by over 200,000 votes but because of the Electoral College, also put in place by the Founding Fathers because they thought we were too uneducated to vote for President. Surely, we would mess it up they thought.

I hope that you read this entire article because it is true. The state of Texas was brought into the United States by one vote, the old man who traveled nine miles on his deathbed, the State Representative who voted for the U.S. Senator, who voted for Texas. That is a historical fact.

It is also a historical fact that the Soviet Union had more people going to the polls as members of the Communist Party than we have in our elections.

Get to the polls this year and vote even if it’s an effort. Remember, it is not as much an effort as it was to that Indiana man who voted Texas into the Union.

This is the type of thing I taught my students in History.

Meanderings

I do not have alot of time to write tonight because the Patriots are battling the Indiana Colts, is it? I constantly tell anyone who will listen that it is a good week if the Patriots win. And, so it will be, if we do. (We won, so it will be a good week).

I often tell people that there are four sources of good quotes. They are Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and the Bible. Not necessarily in that order. Today I looked up Lincoln quotes, which just proved me right. My favorite Lincoln quote is “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” I have other Lincoln favorites but none come close to that one in depth and observation.

Abraham Lincoln, in my estimation, was a Manic Depressive, or in current terms, bipolar. He had to hide in the second floor of the White House with the curtains drawn to not allow sunlight in, and he stayed in a depressed state periodically for days. At other times, he could be absolutely manic, and get things done at a feverish pace. I just have always believed, that based on the history of his early life, he was Bipolar.

Mark Twain said, “Repitition is a mighty power in the domain of humor.”
I try to be humorous and fail terribly, but I get up and try it again, and sometimes I get a smile from someone. Another great stand-up philosopher was Albert Einstein. He is often quoted.

I cannot make sense of the world today. I listened to Donald Trump give a talk the other day and everything he stands for is black and white. There is no room for color there. Do you disagree with the 14th. Amendment on the rights of immigrants, then get rid of the 1858 amendment. Forget that it is a part of our history that allowed our own grandparents the right to settle in the United States. If you are born here, you are a United States citizen. That seems reasonable to me but to the Donald it breeds an illegal opportunity to become American. In his book on immigration, President Kennedy said that this was the way that our grandfathers and grandmothers became citizens. I recently went to my daughter-in-law’s ceremony when she became a United States citizen. It was beautiful. She was beautiful, both in appearance and demeanor. Becoming a citizen was a big deal for her.

Trump basically said that the immigrants in the United States were all illegal. He did not make excuses, like the fact that babies are adopted here from China, or Japan, or South America. My daughter-in-law was from South America. She was a member of an American family. She had been here since she was a little girl. What would Trump do? Apparently expedite a plane ticket to get her back to a land she is not familiar with, and rob her of her right to become an American citizen.

Kennedy said that denying the right to immigrate to America is tantamount to denying all of us whose parents came over, in my case from Ireland, the right to be citizens. Kennedy was very open about his heritage. When word came out that Kennedy was the derivative of a word that was meant to be “helmet head,” he quickly told his staff not to tell anyone that that was his name in Ireland.

Democrats stand up for legal immigrants. They applaud those who do well in the United States. But the 14th. Amendment makes it difficult. Who is going to take the time to be childless so we can expedite their dismissal? The problem with the Democratic Party is that it refuses to look back on its history. We Democrats have a good record. Who can forget the crash of 2000? Obama had to spend money we did not have just to keep the economy going. Keep in mind that the dreaded 14th. Amendment was written by, and passed by, a Republican President and Congress. The Democrats had little to do with it.

His task was not pleasant. We are slaves to Chinese products. One store up in the Northeast that sells Cape Cod paraphernalia has every product it sells except maple syrup made in China. You pick up a trinket that says Nantucket on it and look on the back and it was made in China. We buy these things. We buy Chinese goods. We currently have something like a 17 trillion dollar debt. Our spending is up, but we buy Chinese instead of American. Ford is building a plant in Mexico, thanks to NAFTA. We are going to buy Mexican cars unless Ford stockholders get the gumption to threaten Ford with a stock sale unless they change their ways.

John Maynard Keynes developed an economy based on debt. He wrote about it in his book, “How We Pay for the War.” It was published in 1940. They balanced their budget then. Now, in order to get the average American to buy: Chinese, Mexican, or American, we have to deal with a large debt. That was the fault of the Republican induced stock market crash of the early part of this century. Obama did what Roosevelt did. He spent to get the economy back on track. There was no way to avoid Keynsian economics. He had to use it. If he had not done that, the country would have gone through a greater Depression than the one in the thirties. Obama and the Democrats avoided that.

Trump should be scary to the people. His solutions, like the great wall of Mexico, are simplistic and sophomoric. Democrats should be ready to debate him, and if he is the nominee, which it looks like he will be, then that debate has to include everything the Republicans did to start this economic disaster.

Beginning of the Carney Medals

In 1859, the School Committee was larger than it is today and very active. There were Committee activities, meetings, teacher hirings and firings, and many of those items that we still have the school committees do. One of those was the writing of a specific Lowell curriculum. Another was the testing of teachers to see if they were competent in their fields. Sometimes, little changes.

On January 3, 1859, the Board elected M.G. Howe as the Secretary of the Committee. In the way of listing the concerns of the Committee, it should be pointe out that there were fifty-one schools in Lowell. Three of the Committees were in:
1. Instructors
2. Reports
3. Books

The Superintendent was elected by a Committee of Three. The Committee could not immediately hone in on any one individual, so they asked for “further time.” Members of the Committee included, Mssrs. Hinckley, Abbott, and Stevens. Among other tasks, the School Committee had to deal, on January 17, 1859, with problems in the heating in the Grammar schools. In the same meeting, M. Pople was fired as a French teacher.

On January 31, 1859, “Worcester’s Pronouncing Spelling Book” was purchased to replace the “Tower’s Speller.” In the same meeting, Mr. William Southworth stepped down from the School Committee, leaving an absence that had to be filled. There was a plethora of requests for changes in sitting committees. Also, the Committee asked for information as to what the basements of the Edson and Green Schools were used for, a report was requested. Over in the Common Council Room, Mr. Southworth’s vacancy was attempted to be filled. Artemas S. Brooks was selected for the slot.

Further troubles followed the committee. Mr. Hinckley resigned effective at the end of his term. However, the Evening School program was cited for excellence. A certificate was filed to find qualified teachers to teach in the school. In the meantime, Sister Desiree, was petitioning the board to teach in a private school (a Catholic school). Her case was referred to the Committee on Teachers, one of the many committees spoken of prior to this action.

Today, there are seven members of the sitting School Committee, in that time there were thirteen members. The thirteen voted that it was “not advisable” for the Teacher’s Institute to hold meetings in Lowell for “the coming spring.” They did not give a reason.

In the meantime, the High School on Middlesex Street was studying “Crosby’s Greek Grammar, Tables and Lessons.” There was also the text “Lessons to Xenohan’s Anabasis.” Either because they liked him, or were keeping a close eye on him, the new Superintendent voted that the School Committee room be used as the office of the new Superintendent. The Committee resolved that the Moody and Franklin schools be remodeled on the plan of the Bartlett, Edson, and Varnum schools. In good news, it must be said that Sister Desiree was installed as a teacher.

Some of these changes took place in March. On March 28, 1859, twenty three new teachers were installed. It was voted by the committee that “Aforesaid votes be communicated to the City Council by the Secretary of this Board.” Now, this is interesting because I stated in earlier blogs that the City Council had, by 1877, no say over the School Committee, that the committee was autonomous. In addition, it is also interesting that the state passed a law on books to be used. This at a time when all education was being paid for by the individual school departments in a given town. The law was passed on by the committee to a “Committee on Books.”

There was a subcommittee on teachers which dealt with the hiring and firing of teachers. In addition, a Report of the Superintendent on Recording of Children Going to the Mills was adopted. Also, Primary School #25 on Chestnut Street was vacated and moved to a new house on High Street.

Other motions voted to make brick walks at all schools and to notify the Superintendent of the action. They also wanted “…a uniform system of writing books be introduced in all the schools and no others allowed.” This was to be part of the “Committee on Examinations of the Public Schools.”

My favorite part of this year was on July 17, 1859, when it was “Voted – to recomend to this Board to distribute the Carney Medals among the Senior Class, only to the High School selecting there to receive the honor, according to the wishes of the donor, three young ladies and three young gentlemen, who stand highest in character and scholarship.” (All quotes are from the School Committee Minutes of 1859). Mr. Curley moved to accept this recommendation. It is important to note that this was decades before women would be allowed to vote. But, in Lowell, on an equal basis with the gentlemen, they could be a Carney Medalist.

The Carney Medalists were chosen at least one week before the end of the school year by their teachers, and approved by the Subcommittee. Thus, we have one of the most advanced medals given to any team of ladies and gentlemen in any city in the United States. In 1859 they were slated to get awarded for their scholarship. Imagine what Malala would think about that.

The Start of Lowell Schools

In 1826, the town of Lowell was formed. It did not have many amenities, it was purposefully for the creation of cotton weaving and machine manufacturing. There was, Kirk Boott said, no reason to have an educational system. Women would be trained to weave and work the machines and there would be no reason for implementing an educational system, since their time would be so regimented for seven days a week. There were those who disagreed with him. Among those was Dr. Edson, with whom Boott would have an issue right up until the day he died, standing before the church, which was St. Anne’s Episcopal downtown. Boott had started that church, but Dr. Edson ran it and complained to the mill owners about their treatment of the first generation of women working in the mills.

Kirk Boott, legend has it, on his dying day, as his last acknowledgement of the church, stood up in his buggy and raised a fist in front of the church in defiance of Dr. Edson’s teachings. Dr. Edson, the pastor, taught the young women about, among other things, fairness in the workplace. Legend has it that Kirk Boott rode by the church, raised himself up with his arm lifted in defiance, went a few feet, and died in front of the church. I read about it in a biography of Kirk Boott. It seems fantastic, but it did happen that he died in his buggy while passing the church.

The issue of the educational system that was going to be needed for the new town was primary in the discussions of the day. “In ancient times the principle of education was recognized by free and democratic states,” according to the “Illustrated History of Lowell, Mass.” which has been referred to previously. (No pubisher is mentioned but it was printed in about 1893). “Sparta based her safety and prosperity upon the proper education of every child in the community.” (Actually, Sparta was not a democratic form of government, to my recollection. Athens was and only for about 100 years).

In 1824, the Merrimack Mills introduced a school for their operatives. The Reverend Theodore Edson, Dr. Theodore Edson, was the head of this school. The town of Lowell was incorporated in 1826, and, at the first town meeting, a school system was established. It consisted of five school districts and a committee of five men. The first men were Oliver M. Whipple, Warren Colburn, Henry Coburn, Jr., Nathaniel Wright and John Fisher. The committee separated the town into five school districts. The schoolhouses were located where the Green Schoolhouse is located currently (across from the library), at the Falls, where St. Joseph’s Hospital once stood, near Hale’s Mills, and on Central Street near Hurd Street. A sixth district was added later.

It was stated at the time that this system was too unwieldy. It was “unsuited to the needs of the community. (ibid.)” The town needed a system, and started one, with the Reverend Theodore Edson at its head. In 1832, a new system was put into place and a new school system was born out of the ashes of the old one. This phoenix led its charge by putting two additional school houses in place. “The proposition met with strong opposition from Kirk Boott and other mill representives. (ibid.)” Part of the problem may have been that the Rev. Edson made it necessary for the mill owners to build the new buildings out of brick. In addition, many of the wealthy persons in the town were vehemently opposed to an increased expenditure for schools. (ibid).

Benjamin Butler, who would be among the first of the new high school’s graduating class, said years later that most of the expenditures would be at the hand of increased funds given to the school district (there was only one now) by the manufacturers and the Proprietors of the Locks and Canals. “Mr. Boott declared that this “could not and would not be done.” Education was desired by the masses, but its existence would not be happening at the time if it was up to the mill owners (not all, as stated the Merrimack Mills had classrooms for the children of its operatives).

Mr. Boott was so opposed to Dr. Edson’s ideas that he stated that he would withdraw from his church and from attendiing “upon his ministration.” The two men became enemies, despite the fact that Boott had been supportive of the Reverend Edson in the beginning. “All support,” it was stated, “of St. Anne’s in any way by the manufacturing companies would be gone (ibid.)”

Dr. Edson, virtually by himself, introduced the expenditure for the two schools in the face of some very vitriolic grandstanding, passed the bill by a margin of eleven votes. It is unsure whether that vote took place at that time, or at a later meeting, but it passed. It seems that a second town meeting was called after the voting happened, and the mill owners tried to rescind the vote. They even hired attorneys. Instead of having the desired effect, the vote increased the number of persons supporting the schools by thirty-eight, not the original eleven.

Dr. Edson said that a prominent member of the town stated that “…You have gotten your schoolhouses, but you will never get the children into them.” (Ibid)
That person became a follower of Dr. Edson’s, and recanted at a later date.

Thus, you have the story of the start of the Bartlett and Edson Schools in early Lowell. Education was of supreme importance and Lord Brougham, on January 29, 1828 said “The schoolmaster is abroad and I trust to him armed with primer, against the soldier in full military array.” (Famous Speeches; Fords, Howard, and Hobarth, NY, NY; 1887)

Lowell’s first school teacher was Miss Anna W. Hartwell, of Littleton. She received thirty four dollars and seventy five cents for teaching seventy five “scholars.” The second day she received a visit from the superintending committee in regard to the books that would be required. They set aside $100.00 for school expenses, not including salaries. (ibid)

“At the close after three months, the committee examined the school and expressed their satisfaction with their progress.(ibid, Pg. 655)

Meanderings

I am meandering tonight. I was just reading part of Tedy Bruschi’s autobiography because we both suffered from strokes at an early age, and I was taken by a conversation he had with his Physical Therapist, and his Doctor. He had regained his control of his body, which took me some time to do, and his doctor explained that, “I am trying to empower you two (his wife and himself) here,” he said. “Education is a very powerful thing.” (Never Give Up,” by Tedy Bruschi and Michael Holley). The doctor knew that Mr. Bruschi wanted to play again, and felt it was his job to highlight both sides of the issue.

So, he put himself in the middle of the argument, telling them the good and the bad. Tedy Bruschi could play again but perhaps not as well as he did before the stroke. He reiterated that the opportunity to play could tax Tedy. But he compared the stroke to having your tonsils out. It was in the past tense, he said, and he painted a picture of Tedy Bruschi going out and living with he injury. It no longer was in the path of Bruschi’s rehabilitation.

I found that type of support similiar to what had happened to me. I had some long-range problems which still affect me. I am on the blood thinner, Warfarin, which keeps me from being too prone to blood clots. I cannot remember things in the short-term. If I am introduced to someone, I know that I will not remember their name. It was one of the reasons I had to leave teaching. I had lost my short-term memory. Tedy Bruschi was given a sheet of paper which listed why he should go on playing football, and a second sheet listing why he should not. Obviously he voted to play, but he had to build himself up again, and wait for his heart to catch up to his head. I had to do the same thing, especially since I was partially blinded by the stroke.

Inevitably, Tedy Bruschi went back to the Patriots. He played a couple of years and retired. I went back to teaching, but found I was teaching with one hand tied behind me. Sometimes that was how it seemed. I retired. In my final year, I had had difficulty understanding some of the many state-induced memorandums on what should be taught, how it should be taught, and what preparation was required. I could not remember things from one day to the other. It was a terrible feeling, going from teaching almost off of the top of my head to out of the book. I knew it was time to go. The Retirement Board agreed and that was that.

I find aging to be difficult. I still think I am in my early twenties, except the forgetfulness. I remember almost everything now. Names still throw me, though.
I have exposure on three LCT shows; “Peters’ Principles,” because I do have them – “This Town’s Character,” about someone unseen who is doing a great deal for the average person. We just covered Gerry Durkin, the former School Committeeman and City Councilor who has spent 37 years getting students into the safe confines of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell – and special duties as the Co-Host of “City Life,” with John McDonough and George Anthes. George likes to hone in on my supposed mistakes as a teacher. I defend myself as best I can.

My mother tells me not to mention my illnesses, but I have so many I cannot talk about myself without mentioning them. I have Diabetes (II), Hardening of the Arteries, non-Hodgekins Lymphoma, Heart Disease, and other things. They do not stop me. I look at them as something that I must beat everyday. And, I do. One doctor asked me how I get up in the morning, but I just addled by my Parkinson’s, and told her that every day I could open my eyes is a good day. She liked that.

I learned with great sadness of the death of Attorney and City Councilor and former Mayor Dick Howe. He was a good man, a good friend of my father, and always pleasant. His son, I said to someone, was Lowell’s Historian of the Year. This year, Dick Jr. has started his popular walking tours in the downtown. He has published a book, he continues on with his tours of the Lowell Cemetery. He is quite a guy. He has agreed to be one of this town’s characters, not as in he is a character but as in he has character, respect and all.

So, those are my meanderings for tonight. I hope this chronicle of my meanderings is interesting. My next blog will be on the Lowell School system, for grades 1 through 12 starting in the post-war years of 1865. See you then.