Educational philosophies do not vary much from one decade to the next. I wrote before about some of the educational philosophies of parts of the 1870’s and 1880’s. Now I will try to augment them. Some of my favorite ones were about teaching the child like you would have liked to have been taught. I was shopping in a department store that was going out of business recently and I heard a conversation in the aisle to my right. The father was clearly the father, but the child was at least two individuals, I was convinced. The children kept asking the father what he would do if they wanted this item or that item. He patiently, but clearly was losing that patience, responded. Finally, one voice asked what he would do if they insisted on getting a toy they had picked out.
What would you do, he was asked, “if I did take this toy?” “I would give you a spanking, does that answer your question.” I had never spanked my four children. I had been on the receiving end of too many spankings in my short childhood. A psychiatrist asked me once how often I hit my children? “I never hit them,” I countered. “Well, you broke the pattern then.” I was told I should be proud of myself. All of my children are college-educated and have good relationships with their children. I never hit them.
I wanted to see how many children were in that aisle, and I looked. One child, no others. She had mimicked voices to stay out of trouble. I was shocked. They went on their way, I went on mine. It is amazing how children can mimic to alleviate sterner measures. The 1880’s was noted for the kind philosophy that children received from people we would think to be beneath us.
Education in Lowell, Massachusetts was paramount. Books were picked and hand-picked for compliance with the standards of the curriculum. “Allen and Greenough’s Latin Grammar” was one book picked for early high school aged children. “Fisher’s Easy French Readings” was another. “Eaton’s Practical Arithmetic” was well-liked. In addition they had “Curnow’s History of England,” as well as “Gray’s Botany,” and even “Upton’s Military Tactics” existed for the boys. The first half of the first year was involved with “Munroe’s Charts” and “Franklin’s First Reader.” Teaching was very specific. “Combine words into groups and sentences.” That was one directive. “Teach the construction of letters and figures, and the simplest form of script letters, using slate and blackboard.” That was the final directive for the first half of the year.
The second half continued old methods which were in place when I was a freshman. “Teach Roman numerals to L,” was one directive. Finally, one of my favorite directives, “Practice object teaching, using such objects as are familiar to the child,” it says. There is a firm directive to make it interesting to the scholar, or child. Primary schools were specifically listed, 47 schools in all. The major ones were the Bartlett, the Moody, the Butler, and the Pawtucket Memorial.
The Superintendent listed the whole number of children with books as of the beginning of the year. Not all children had books, they had to share in some instances. The Edson Grammar School, named for the first priest of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, and a leader of the School Committee for approximately thirty years. Feeder schools for the Edson included the Eliot and the Howard Street Schools. The Eliot is still standing.
The list of the schools available was strictly kept. The list of School Committeemen, and there were no School Committeewomen because women did not have the right to vote, is a list of schools currently named after these men. Frederic T. Greenhalge was the Chairman, Charles H. Allen was the Vice Chairman. School Committeemen were listed by Wards. Those from the dominant Wards controlled the votes. Schools in upper crust parts of the city got better treatment. That has not basically changed.
Grammar schools in the Fourth Year had Reading, Spelling, and Arithmetic, as well as Language, Geography, History, and “Mental Arithmetic.” By the 7th. year, there was Reading, Spelling, Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography, and History. Pretty much what passes for classes and curriculum now. Of course, they did not have computers, but “Mental Arithmetic” sounds fairly close.
Again, High School was for those who did not want to be teachers in their first year of eligibility. In 1880, a child who finished the seventh grade was able to be a full-time teacher. A person going on to high school was considered to be a scholar, not a student. Courses taught in the second year included those already listed plus, Geometry, Natural Philosophy, Physical Geography, French, and the addition in the Second Term of English Grammar. The teaching of certain classes was rewarded more for men than for women. While Marietta F. Crowley was the principal of the Lakeview Avenue School and was paid a whopping $600,00 for the year, the City “Teacher of Penmanship” who was a man was paid more than double that amount. He was paid $1250.00.
Substitutes were paid $3.00 a day if they were male. Female teachers were paid $1.75 a day. Marietta Hill of the Pond Street School was paid $600.00 a year. Her rival up High Street was paid $1,800.00. His name was William S. Greene. He lived in a nice house in the Highlands section. He lived at 195 Westford Street.
Principals who received 1,800.00 per year were all men. They all lived in the better parts of the city. They were all reviewed based on the excellence of their teaching and management skills. 1,800.00 dollars was alot of money. No female principal made over $600.00. In addition, as I have written previously, no woman could stay in school employment if they got married. The Committee did not want to explain to the class why Mrs. Who was getting larger during her pregnancy.
Not exactly a philosophy of education, more a listing of what was and what should not have been. Perhaps there is a philosophy of education in there after all.