Monthly Archives: September 2016

Curriculum Changes in the Late 1800’s

In the 1880’s, school principals were asked to become Superintendents of their own small districts, largely consisting of small schools located in specific districts.  Catholic Schools were included in this grouping.  The Primary Schools reported to these men, who earned a lofty 1,800.00 per year as compared to the $600.00 earned by the women who were Principals of the smaller schools.  The Director or Principal of the Moody  School had, among other schools, the Pond Street School on High Street.

Some need existed for close scrutiny of the schools.  A new Kindergarten program was instituted in 1892.  That, coupled with the demands of running a school made for difficult coordination of the curriculum.  There was one supervisor for the Kindergarten, and that was the multi-talented Miss Deveraux.  Courses taught in the Kindergarten were listed as those related to Military Instruction and Physical Culture.  Miss Deveraux had her hands full.  She was assisted by various teachers in the Kindergarten program.  She was paid $600.00 per year.  That was the normal female amount if you were a supervisor.

The curriculum was interesting.  So was the pay scale for the high school teachers.  Starting with the latter first, the Principal of the High School received a  $2500.00 salary.  Teachers at the high school level received $800.00.  Keep in mind that the workers in the mills received less than $.25 per hour when they were covered by the FDR Minimum Wage.  This educational system paid well,

Curriculum was always a challenge.  Current curriculum was similiar to the curriculum of the day,  They took English Grammar, History, Physical Activities, Arithmetic, Greek, German, French. and Latin.  They also had books on Astronomy and Physics.  Listed below are the courses taught by the Kindergarten through Eighth Grade.  They included:

 

Nature Study

Physiology

Geography

Reading

Writing

Spelling

Language

Arithmetic

These eight courses made up the gist of the curriculum of the 1880’s and 1890’s.  Add Computer, and the curriculum was close to that which we offer today, with the exception of Greek.

For the record, there were in reality six high schools.  They included Lowell High School, the Bartlett, the Butler, the Morey, the Moody, and the Varnum.  Superintendent Hugh J. Molloy had his office at City Hall downtown.  The Business Director was housed in a “school supply room” in City Hall, literally a closet.

The School Committee, consisting of eleven members (all men because women did not have the right to vote) met at 7:30PM once a month.  The forty-seven schools of the 1860’s were dropped down to 12 Grammar Schools, 34 Primary Schools, 20 Kindergarten Programs, and the high schools.  A teacher at this time could be certified with a complete seventh grade education.

As is the case now, there were Specials.  They included, although not in every school,

Drawing, Music, Reading Expression, Sewing, Physical Studies, Penmanship, Elementary English, Dental Clinic with two dentists on staff, and School Hygiene with one Medical Doctor.  The Lowell Vocational School had Boy’s and Girl’s Departments.  Lowell felt that it had to offer a superior curricular experience because it was, after all, the third city established in the State.

By 1930 there were Kindergartens in every school.  St. Joseph’s, which I listed as the largest school in the Catholic Church system, was a College in 1917.

I wrote a note to myself in my Master’s Thesis that we, Lowell, were, between 1832 and 1890, an educational system that was the best in the state, and, if accurate records had been kept, possibly the best in the nation.  I read recently that Massachusetts was going to monitor the MCAS test for the new program in History.  I took a history test as a History teacher.  It was a test designed for the Eighth grade.  I did not score perfectly on it, and I can attest to the fact that it was a  hard test.

At another time, I will write about the schools built in the last century which could last another one hundred years.  Some have been torn down, some exist currently, and some are still in use.  The Moody School was built at a cost of less than fifty thousand dollars.  Interestingly, its strange angle on its site was the result of careful architectural planning.  It sits on a hill, which looked down at the famous Concord River.  It exists on an extremely strong foundation and during the Cold War parts of it were supposed to be able to resist a nuclear blast.  There is cost-saving construction on the third floor, which was designed for Physical Activity and use as an Auditorium.      The original specificationns called for an all-purpose room on the third floor.

It was designed as a large study hall.  One teacher could watch hundreds of students studying in the study hall.  Since the seventh and eighth grade students could be teachers themselves, they were expected to behave, and they did.  Coburn Hall in the 1893 Lowell High School, was designed partially for the same purpose, except it could hold, according to the architect, up to 2,000 students with one regulatory teacher.  It had myriad uses, and was made into offices by my father, Dr. Wayne R. Peters in the 1970’s.

The Moody School’s peculiar angle was the result of there not being electricity in the building.  The huge windows provided light, and the angle meant that the students could work well into the afternoon.  There was a “method to their madness,” as Shakespeare wrote.

Teachers jeopardized the directives of the Superintendent.  They moved the desks around for optimum class control.  When the Superintendent had the desks screwed into the floor, teachers took screwdrivers and moved the desks back for, again, optimum classroom control.

That is my article for today.  We are closing in on the nineteen hundreds.  People were excited about what they were doing, and no one, in 1900, could envision airplanes, or World Wars, or even workable replacements for horses called cars.  We will talk more about that later.  Have a good week.

 

September, 2016, Meanderings

There is so much going on in my world, that I am having difficulty accepting it all.  First, my health, which has been bad, is getting better.  Second, my family is doing well.  Third, my television shows are going well.  Fourth, I have 90,000 responses to my blog and all of them are pretty good.  Fifth, I am working on finishing a book I have been working on for a couple of years.  Sixth, I have come to peace with some of my inner demons.   And, seventh, my extended family is healthy.         Starting with the first thing, I have had a deadly disease, one of a few, and it is going away.  Exercise and a mission are my guesses as to why it is going away.  I walk about five miles a day, and that helps.  The second is that my immediate family, my wife and my children, are doing well.  They all have interesting jobs, and caring friends.  They could be doing far worse, but they don’t allow that to happen.  Third, I have three cable television shows, one of which is shared, and we have an attentive Lowell population.  So, I start one day a week at six o:clock in the morning, and I enjoy the give and take of the show’s guests.  A candidate I was supporting won his primary partially as a result of going on this show, and I was pleased about that, even though I did not have anything to do with his winning.  Another show is about a person of character, not a character, but a person with fortitude and a good demeanor, who is sharing his/her characteristics to make a better world.  The third show is about my principles, which are reflected in my opinions.  That features a new person once a week with whom I have a certain belief system that is reflected in the show.  Right now, I am five weeks behind in episodes recorded for my show.

My blog is next.  I have over 90,000 people who have taken the time to write responses to my blog and most of them are about being a distinguished blogger.  I do not feel distinguished or special.  I blog because I enjoy it.  But, I recently had to pay more to Google because so many people were responding to my blog.  Fifth, I have been writing a book on a local piece of history and it is in publication.  I just rewrote half of it.  I thought I had to, given the assignment, which is about a local boat club’s history.  That comes out in a couple of weeks.  I do not know how many copies I will sell, but I take comfort in the fact that Henry David Thoreau’s first book left him with over two hundred copies pushed under the bed, in the cabinets, and other places in his little cottage next to Walden.  I recently read “Walden” and it was a good read.  Not as formidable as Abraham Lincoln’s biography by Carl Sandburg but interesting, nonetheless.  Abraham Lincoln’s book has left me in the 19th. Century.

Just a few days ago, I came to peace with my inner demons.  I have come to the conclusion that there are many pieces of my soul that fight whatever I deem as my God.  I believe that there is not much I have not pursued, I go to church daily, basically, and I still have problems with nagging doubts and problems with my psyche.  I have come to the realization that I am not accepting my life.  So I came to the conclusion a couple of nights ago that I am fighting myself, and that I am not allowing peace to reign in my soul.  Therefore, I will start allowing myself to take advantage of the peace that is around me.  Thoreau taught me part of that.  He spent two years as a hermit, and, like St. Francis of Assissi, he learned to watch the smallest of creatures and come to grips with them.  He was truly inspirational.  Everyone should read St. Francis’ biography, in which he describes watching a holy man ascending into heaven, and Thoreau watches and describes the deadly fight of two different types of ants and ponders on their motives.  Each is recommended for your reading enjoyment.

Finally, my satellite family.  I have an older sister who is writing children’s books featuring children who believe in God, and about their belief system.  They are very interesting stories.  My big brother, who has run 27 successive Boston Marathons, is also inspirational.  I have no interest in doing that.  But he does, and he does it, every year.  One of my little sisters owns a bed and bath in Machias, Maine.  I see her infrequently because of her commitment to her business.  She took over a decrepit mansion and refurbished it in the style of its day.  My other little sisters has worked at the same company since she was about twenty-five, and she is the most enjoyable person.  Then I have another little sister (do you see a pattern here?) who helps children who cannot be educated easily get an education.  My final little sister runs her own work-out place with Zomba as a major component.  Finally, I have two younger brothers.  One is an ammonia refrigeration expert living states away, working for one of the largest companies in food distribution.  The other is a technical guru who helps build robots at work and entertains in a band at night.

I marvel at these brothers and sisters because they are so accomplished.  I mean, twenty seven Boston Marathons, making him a man in the 25 Club in the best marathon in America.  My accomplishments are small in comparison.  But, they are my accomplishments and they make me well.

This country needs to see that there are large families like mine.  My mother is well and has nine children.  We need families like this to carry the nation forward.  Most of my family are very interested in this Presidential election.  Most of us are cancelling each other’s votes out, but the woman running probably has the edge.  Just my guess.  But a good one.

Thus, that is where I am emanating from.  Reading is essential.  I intend to write about reading and cursive writing in further blogs.  Without cursive and homework, both of which are under attack, how do we write our signature or learn while at home overnight?  Massachusetts has the most well educated children in the nation.  Whatever we are doing we must be doing right.  But, like always through our history, Massachusetts is her own worst enemy.  We have always led the nation, we just do not always know which direction we are headed.  The Pawtucket Indians (Native Americans) believed that death left them heading to the southwest.  One of my sisters headed that way recently.  Maybe she knows something I do not.

 

The Richardson Hotel Fire

The Richardson Hotel was built in the mid-1800’s and was next to the local train station. Please see the postcard photograph attached. It was a marvelous hotel. It consisted of five stories and it lasted a long time. It held, as you can see from the picture, many guests. In 1906 it burned down. The loss of life was significant, although the local newspaper does not mention how many guests died in the fire. In fact, the gist of the comments made by the rescuers, were about how awful the Fire Department was with the fire. It is an interesting story.

A five story building today would be eminently manageable. In 1906, they were still fighting fires with horse-drawn carriages. They did not have extended ladder trucks, nor did they have good attendance by the firemen. In fact, that is cited as the reason so many people died. The firemen that they did have were ill-trained to use a new invention, the human safety net. Here is what happened.

It was difficult to get professional firemen, and most of the Fire Department consisted of volunteers. One witness was quoted as saying that the fire carriages were not well manned. He said that there were not enough firemen at the Richardson Hotel site. Citizens did their best to help save the victims.

First, the pieces of apparatus…were very poorly manned,” complained one eyewitness. {Lowell SUN, pg. 8, 1/29/06}. The firefighters who were there were supposed to use the net to catch victims jumping out of windows during the fire. The problems abounded. There were no trained firefighters on the ground, according to other eyewitnesses. Firefighters did not know how to operate the nets, to the point that they did not know that the net was supposed to be held above your head in order to take the brunt of the weight of the person falling. They held the nets at the waist, and many people falling into the net hit the ground. When they did, they died. The second major problem was that the people holding the nets were not large enough to completely hold the weight of the victim. Sometimes a net was being held by two firefighters, and the people hit the ground and died. Finally, a group of eyewitnesses grabbed some of the human nets and helped by raising them over their heads, and saved some of their jumpers. The scorn for the firemen was great, however.

If it was not for valiant citizens grabbing the net, the loss of life would have been much greater. It took twenty minutes to raise ladders to the window, and by then the building was consumed. As a cautionary measure, ropes were thereafter mandated for fire escapes and windows.

In other news, Chicago was at the time in the middle of a series of murders. Apparently, things do not change in some cases. “Chicago Crime List is Growing,” said the newspaper. There had been another murder in Chicago overnight. Also, a man, “crazed with liquor,” shot three times at a woman, Mrs. Ida Pirington at Shaw Hosiery. I know the Shaw Hosiery building because it is right down the street. He missed with each shot, and Mrs. Pirington did not hold it against him. So saieth the newspaper.

In other news, Mr. Rogers sued the Textile School, now UMASS-LOWELL. He said it could not be used for a “drawing school,” for some reason. I wondered what happened to Mr. Rogers. Finally, schools closed down one-half day in honor of Lincoln Day by order of Governor Guild. In other news it was noted that Lowell had the largest parochial school in the state. The St. John de Baptiste School held 2,322 students. The nearest competitor was Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Roxbury with 1,988 students. Speaking of fires, there was a Blacksmith Shop fire on Hurd Street downtown. No loss of life in that fire.

The public schools continued their supremacy, but the Catholic schools were holding their own. There was a large Catholic population, and it was not all Irish. It included people from Poland, Lithuania, and Italy, as well as others. In 1909, St. Peter’s Parish was built and it was designed to rival the Immaculate Conception Church. When it was built, the parish contained St. Peter’s School, and there are still many Lowellians who remember attending that school before it closed its doors. The bulk of the stained glass windows in St. Peter’s found their way to St. Francis Church in Dracut. They are there today,

Well, that is about it for now. Have a great Labor Day weekend.
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