Black Lives Matter

I spent one and one-half hours last night trying to convince my best friend of over fifty years, that I did not live in a town that could be considered to be bigoted and racist. This morning I realized that I might just live there. I concluded that being White (or as I call it, European/American) in America is a blessing. Its blessing just comes to you.

Being black in America means that you have to prove that you are worthy every day. Being black in America means that you have to fight your own battles, but that sometimes you have to fight your own kind. In my conversation last night, my friend, who is black and has been very close to me for over fifty years, as I said. Chicago is a problem. I told him that people in larger citieshave to fight one another to live a good life. I moved to Lowell and my friend moved to Kentucky. Oftentimes, blcks have to prove their right to live peaceably. Whites do not often fight one another. Whites live largely peaceably. There are many social reasons for this phenomonon. Blacks must find ways to live peaceably together. And, they do.

Awhile ago, a group of blacks came up with a new way of stating the obvious. « Black lives matter » maintained a serious approach to blacks intending to live peaceably amongst each other. Some whites have had a fit. I, as stated, looking at the sentence, « Black Lives Matter, » which became the mantra for people of color. It was not meant to exclude Whites. It is meant to say « ENOUGH. » No one is saying that the majority of persons should not be protected equally. It is meant to state the obvious. That is that police have no right to kill a person based on the person’s race. That seems obvious. My friends who are white have had a fit. As stated, I spent one and one half hours talking to one of my best friends, who dates back fifty years, and is Black. He and I met in South Chicago, during my teenage years and, over those years we became best friends. So I wanted his input. He was the only usher at my wedding. He will be the best friend at my funeral. He sees « Black LivesMatter » as a mantra, not a racist statement.

I see it as the same thing that he does. It is a very carefully written statement. It appears to many in our lives and it is deeply understood. It does not say, and he and I agree on this, that other lives do not matter. They do. It is simply stating that people live according to their beliefs. It is saying, not that Lowell or most police districts are violent, but that police, and it is geared towards our police, do not have the right to kill black men and women. That is a tenet of the organization and there is a group watching police groups and make sure that they do not kill innocent black people. It has nothing to do with the blue versus the black. Obviously, police would almost never kill a black man. The members of the organization are, in some cases, a group of Socialists and even Communistic in nature. Those people need to be pushed out of the organization. They are an anamoly. Their beliefs are not real in their beliefs for this group.

I recently had a group of whites argue that « Black Lives Matter » was aimed at the average black man. It is not. It is aimed at those four white men in my group today aimed at the average black man. It is not about Socialist and Communists taking over an organization. It is about George Floury. He was killed for no other reason than he was a black man. It was a crime. And, the police officers involved are going to court.

It is good that being a black man in this country is usually not a death sentence. Sometime, however, it is. One of the men in today’s discussion brings up abortion. He believes, and he is right, that abortion kills more people than police in the worst of their times. I am Catholic, and I believe if there is a an abortion it is the killing of a person. In my opinion, the man has a point, and that point is that abortion is a death. I strongly believe that. Abortion, as a movement, should be regulated closely. It needs a mantra, a statement that has something to do with its relevance.

« Black Lives Matter » is the truth. All lives matter, but blacks are in the spotlight. We need to be working together to make sure that killing is not directed at a small group. No Socialistic or Communistic level of cooperation should be part of our society. Let us work to get our world at a level of commitment that exercises control. Policemen, if they are not, should be committed to letting life continue on. I once told my wife that a difficult parent would come in with a gun. He did, he came in total uniform, he was a policeman. He came in with a gun. I thought he was ridiculous.

Everyone has a right to live. There should not be that someone does not have a right to live. I think that will mean that everyone has the right to live. There cannot be a level of acceptance that permeates their right to carry a gun. I greatly enjoy an English police show that does not allow the local police to wear a gun. They even had to borrow one for one show.

Anyway, there need to be changes in the Black Lives Matter discussion. « Black Lives Matter, » does not mean that white lives do not matter. Both practice the best of what is relevant. We have to work together. We have to have fifty year relationships. Abortion has to be looked at. We need a mantra that is as effective as BLM in the case of abortion. But, we cannot blame blacks for coming up with a good mantra. I applaud them.

A Few Suggestions on the Civil War Reading List

One of my favorite Civil War books is « Don’t Know Much About the Civil War » by Davis. I also enjoy Bruce Catton’s books on the war between the North and the South. Abraham Lincoln was probably one of the least prepared Presidents and he took over the war. He had very little experience, but he said something like « I walk forward slowly, but I never walk back. » I heard of that one in his talks from 1862. I think it says a lot about the man.

One of my favorite people writing about the Civil War is Bruce Catton. He is a good writer, he intersperses real conversations into his writing, and he knows the acts of the generals and the President. He has written a number of books on the Civil War. He is a better writer than I am, and he is better than even Lowell’s Dick Howe, Jr. So I would suggest buying his books at used book stores. That is mostly where he is now sold.

Catton describes people at what is often the most important period of their lives. If he was going to describe Lowell’s Ladd and Whitney, he would hone in on their one great contribution, their deaths and burial in Lowell, Massachusetts. They were the first two soldiers killed in the war. Their legend is well-known and well-written. Hundreds of thousands of others would die, but they were the first two to do it. And, therefore, they are good targets for Catton.

Generals were one of Catton’s favorite targets. But if he missed some smaller events he would have forgotten why he was writing about the Civil War in the first place. When Lincoln walked to Jefferson Davis’ house when the North had occupied Richmond, he bowed to a crying African-American in a moment that defied the entire momentum of the war, and continued walking forward, not back. « The President removed his own hat and bowed in silence. It was a bow which upset the forms, laws, customs, and ceremonies of centuries of slavery. » (Don’t Know Much About the Civil War by Kenneth C. Davis.)

Obviously, Kenneth C. Davis knew something about the war. « So ended the Civil War, » he observed. It was an incredible moment. The President was reacting to an event that could have seen him killed on the spot but he handled it. He was eventually killed but not until the war had ceased.

There is one thing I want to say that no one else has said, to my knowledge. This Coronovirus Pandemic has happened because, without it, there would have been a civil war. With it, there are too many deaths, too few acts of kindness. That is my opinion and I am going to stick to it. I mentioned it to a friend of mine, who is the direct opposite of everything I am; and he said, « Of course, you are right. » That made me feel good.

So back to the real Civil War. There is an awful lot of detail in the many books written about that time period. Catton has at least, by my count, five books on the subject. Some were on Abraham Lincoln, and I have read Carl Sandburg’s « The Prairie Years. » It is the hardest book I have ever read. I have read many on the Civil War but that one was on Lincoln, and he was not an easy man to discern. Slavery was just one subject he discussed, he also talked about secession, some thoughts on death, and other thoughts that were uniquely his own.

There is currently a strong effort to get rid of statues of those people who supported, or appeared to support, slavery and secession. We should allow those statues to stand. The men who lived during those times were very strong individuals whose statues capture their humanity. Robert E. Lee was an incredible commander who worried more about how to find socks for his men than worried about wins or losses on the battlefield. (The Wartime Papers of R.E. Lee by Clifford Dowdey, published by the Virginia Civil War Commission; Bramhall House: New York 1865)

There are statues throughout the South of some good, and some evil, generals in the War Between the States. I personally do not care for Nathan Bedford Forrest, who started the Klu Klux Klan, with all of its sins. He was, I believe, an evil man. Others were not so bad. Baseball founder Abner Doubleday was an officer at Fort Sumter on the Union side, and at Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, he was only famous for one day, July 1, 1863. But baseball made him into his own character on the « Field of Dreams. » Not a movie character, but a character in the background.

Winfield Scott, the overweight head of the first Army of the Republic, and George McClellan, the well-loved commander of the same army, were basically incompetent, not like the members of the Confederate Army. Those generals taught our generals how to be successful by keeping them incompetent for three years. Lincoln was comparing himself to a soldier who could not stay on their horse crossing a stream. Only with the advent of General Grant and General William Techumseh Sherman succeeded in teaching our men how to fight. It would be good to make a statue of one of the commanders at Gettysburg and keep him on his horse. General Lee was depicted at his real height and his horse, Traveler, was the size of the horse buried next to Lee. Yes, Lee had his favorite horse buried next to him. That is human.

Lincoln thought, with limited military training, that Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan was too mild. None of us hold Lincoln responsible for turning over a plan that would have cut the southern tier in half early in the war. Lincoln is allowed to make his mistakes. On April 19, 1861, Lincoln implemented the plan. He was right. It was too mild and did not work.

First things first. This should not be ignored, the North did not start the war. The South did that. And, slavery was a Southern institution. There are many who say that the North was as mean to their workers as were the owners of the slaves. But how do we excuse Thomas Jefferson’s multi-family transgressions and multiple children while he was President. Not after he retired. Ultimately, we cannot excuse it. The « Boston Globe » a few years back reported that Jefferson had two families in or around Kentucky. One was named Jefferson and was white, and one was named Jefferson and was black. They could not test Jefferson because he was President. They tested his brother for DNA. They found that Jefferson’s black family was closer to Jefferson than his white descendants. Actually, those who knew of the slave known as Elizabeth knew that Jefferson kept his wife, who was a slave by that name.

She was going back to the states as a slave when a French man told her that she could go back as a slave or stay in France, which did not have slavery, as a free woman. She opted to go back as Jefferson’s slave, which shows how strong their love was. She gave up personal freedom for him. She had six children by Jefferson. She negotiated with him that her children would be free upon Jefferson’s death. To be fair, Jefferson lived a long time, dying fifty years after the Declaration of Independence on the same day that his friend, John Adams, died. The rest of his slaves were sold before he died. It is said that Jefferson loved Elizabeth because she was the half-sister to Jefferson’s late wife. That cannot be necessarily stated. It turns out that slightly similar color matching her sister’s hair and it is said that the shade of black skin was very slight. In short, it is said that she looked like her late sister and Jefferson fell in love with her.

Jefferson invented ice cream. He was a superb inventor, especially with wood. He was probably one of the most intelligent Presidents and, on the night before his inauguration, John Kennedy looked across the limousine and said to a friend that Jefferson’s speech was better than his. It was hard to believe but it was what he said. Jefferson made up for his insecurities by exercising his brilliance. We should probably not take down a President’s statue because they were slaveowners, but if we were going to, Jefferson would be a logical person. He was not, by today’s standards, a hero. But in a life of slavery, he manages. He sent his children of Elizabeth’s to freedom. Most of his slave children were with him until his death, long before they chose to leave. He did not keep them by his side throughout his life. I think he would have been for Elizabeth’s choice.

So, that is Thomas Jefferson, warts and all. He was appointed War Governor of Virginia during the Revolution. He made a study of running away from the British during his time as War Governor. Now, it would have been preferable to our history if Jefferson’s Vice President had not murdered Alexander Hamilton. We literally paid for that mistake for over one hundred years. Hamilton was a much better financier than Jefferson was President. That is possibly excepting the Lewis and Clark incident. George Washington excelled in pointing out that slavery was a continuation of genteel civilization. Washington excused his slavery practice by citing this « fact. »

So, I have a few other facts to discuss. There is a lot of wrong right now. Black men are getting strangled by white policemen. George Floyd will be remembered possibly forever. And, he deserves it.

Thinking about civil rights is a good thing too. Spend some time thinking about your great-great-great-great grandfather who was either a slave or indentured servant. They were deprived of their right to make money. Think about that and see what that means to you. My greatgrandfather was an indentured servant and could not make a free life for himself for nineteen years running. That was strange to me and made me question my family history. Eventually, it had a bearing on my knowledge of slavery. African Americans and Irishmen were bound to a lack of freedom. At least the Irish had the opportunity to become free. The African American had to fight for it.

Thomas a Beckett and Henry II

I have a friend who does not like my fascination with history. On the local television show, he constantly asks me if I am in which century, the 19th. being the furthest-back he wants to travel. Most reportable history occurred prior to that. Most history was played out before that time, and for today’s story I travel back to the 1100’s, the time of Henry II, one of the most notable kings in English history, and Cardinal Thomas a Beckett. Both were notable, partially for their lifestyles, and partially for their deaths. After Henry II was successful with his murder of Saint Thomas, he subjected his body to multiple tortures at his own command. In addition to his tortures, he spent a long time having himself whipped by a real whip designed by the Roman Catholic church for use on monks who were somewhat errant. They were whipped on command, and Henry II had himself whipped on his own command in retribution for his crime of having his favorite Cardinal murdered by three somewhat misguided nobles.

Thomas a Beckett was a nobleman himself before he was named a Cardinal. In their famous dispute, Thomas was elevated from the King’s favorite nobleman and the Chancellor of England to being a deacon, which is not a place for the ordained of the church, to a Cardinal, whose position was bought by the King. The King, who had high hopes for a good relationship with the new head of the English church, instead found that the person he had elevated to the head position of the English church, was going to be difficult to manuever around. Thomas took his church duties with the same intensity he had given to his secular ones.

First, my interest in this struggle was augmented by the movie of the 1950’s, « Beckett, » starring Richard Chamberlain and Richard Burton. The two acted out the famous dispute incredibly well. Pieces did not review the chaos totally evenly, but the essence of the problem was there. Beckett was a powerful man who took into his charge his love of the clergy. He spent six years in abeyance, trying to avoid the end that seemed to be made especially for him. Henry II showed that he was indeed the King of England and he took it upon himself to rid himself of the pesky Cardinal. In a moment of drunken stupor, he gave his nobles the necessary permission to end Beckett’s life. Beckett was the most popular of all the clergy in England at the time, and the net result of the end of the famous feud was that Henry had to subject himself to severe punishments. The reported result of the feud was that Henry had to give himself up to the church for his crimes. It was not common for the monarch to submit his body and soul to the church for his crimes. But Henry, misguided about the severity of the role he had assumed would play over himself, subjected himself to incredible punishments. In some ways his body would never get over the punishments.

An interesting story, which can be treated as an aside, was the fact that people who worshipped at the Canterbury Cathedral, the church where Beckett was stabbed to death, cited a story that the church had a rivulet of blood that changed into water when the bloody mess went under the front entrance. People took the water and used it for bathing aching parts of their bodies, and many had old aches disappeared. A secular group of people formed a congregate, listening to these remarkable stories. The most inexplainable one was about a man without eyes. His eyes had been removed years before on the order of the King. There was documentation which cited his punishment of blindness for his previous crime and, looking at his eyes, it was determined that he did not have any. But he stated that he could see the men formed by the King. He looked around the church and started to describe anything that was new to the church, including those people who were washing in the stream started as a response to Beckett’s bloody death.

The civil authorities had to admit that the man could see, without eyes. This miracle was attested to by the men sent by the King. Another miracle was formed one hundred years to the day that Beckett was killed. A very human nightman saw a spirit in robes of a man with the rank of a Cardinal, approach the front door of the prison of the Tower of London. According to the nightman, the spirit rapped three times on the gates of the Tower, spoke something in Latin, and the entire Tower fell in the Thames River. He swore that his testimony was true. Exactly one hundred years later, another nightman looked up while he was standing next to the Tower, and heard a similiar spirit approach the gates of the new Tower of London, speak in Latin, rap three times on the gate, and the new Tower fell into the Thames. People thought it was the late Cardinal a Beckett and they prayed to him.

e King Henry was to have a relatively miserable life. His three sons, Lionel, the Prince; Richard the Lionheart; and John, who became one of the worst kings in English history; fought their father. He was against them in his own army, when his bastard son forged forward to their father and said that he would join him. In one of the most quoted sayings in English history, Henry looked at him and said, « You are the real son, the others, they are the bastards. »

So that is my lesson on Henry II. He died eighteen years later, very unhappily. Sorry to go back to another century, but this one was interesting.

A Few Good Words About a Good Man

I have spent years joking about my father, Dr. Wayne R. Peters which is not fair. George Anthes once pointed out that I poke fun at Dad and tell stellar stories about him on « City Life » television. George had a point, and much of that is true. Dad and I used to talk about his father, my grandfather, Albert Frederick Peters, and he was a very successful blacksmith with a second grade education. And that was true. But Dad always pointed out that his father was a better man than he was, and Dad relished the chances he had to talk about his father. There is a picture of my grandfather on my mantle with the inscription on the back, which says « He was a great blacksmith. » Despite his second grade education, his family was very proud of him, And I am very proud of my late father.

In the past few months I have written about my father, but not often enough. When he left Harvey, Illinois, which is next to South Chicago, to be in Lowell, he had an incredible career. Lowell diminished his record a bit. What mattered is that he came to Lowell with specifics that made his three year time period in Lowell important but Lowell tarnished his record. Dr. Joel Boyd, EdD. wants to serve more than the three years my father was given. He seems, to me, to admire Superintendent Vinnie McCartin more for his thirty years than he does for his record. When my father took over he had some huge problems to make the system credible. Close to one-third of the faculty consisted of Permanent Substitutes, including some wives of School Committeemen. Strangely, my father later became good friends with some of them. It was not uncommon to see these people at my house on Pine Street.

Dad had to rid the system of those Substitute Teachers who refused to return to colleges. It took him two years and cost him the Superintendency, But he did it, knowing he was never going to be a lifetime Superintendent like Vinnie McCartin. The Lowell « SUN » backed him for tenure but he never got tenure. The School Board uniformly dismissed it. He got some modicum of revenge, He was elected to the School Committee. I want to spend a little time talking, not poking fun at, Dr. Wayne R. Peters. Everybody called him Doctor.

I personally remember him visiting Lowell High School to find additional classrooms, to take pressure off of the classrooms. He found, as I recall, thirty three total. In two buidings.

Lowell’s educational system was in dire need of reform. One thing I remember clearly. My father was looking for classroom space and he stumbled on an overnight bedroom for the custodians. They were supposed to be cleaning up the building for the daily usage. What he found was a room used for sleeping by the custodians. The room was supposed to be used for an office. He had the beds ripped out that very day and reported what he had found.

He was doing the best he could, which was very good. He found over one hundred thirty uncertified teachers. School Committee members watched him try to get teachers certified by having them take part-time courses at local colleges. Many did not want to go back to college. He offered to help get certification and keep positions open if he could, but some Substitute Teachers just did not want to go back to school and he replaced them with teachers who had certification at the state, not the city level.

Many refused that avenue, and most wanted him to turn the other way when certification was the issue. The current Superintendent does not have to worry about one-third of his teachers being uncertified because of Dr. Wayne R. Peters. It cost my father his job, but he was very proud of his tough stand on this important issue.

I can say, if Dr. Boyd had to clean house to get rid of uncertified teachers. it might have altered his desire to be in Lowell. No Dr. Boyd, no Paul Georges, no UTL, and no state certification. The pressure on the Superintendent was incredible.

In his words, let’s look at what he did. In 1972, Wayne Peters notified this School Committee that his proudest moment was getting every teacher fully certified.

He wrote in his assessment, « …in the Lowell schools of which I am particularly proud,

  1. Complete certification of all Lowell teachers by September of 1972. Beginning in 1936 and until 1969 more than 130 uncertified, ill-prepared, and therefore illegally employed « permanent substitute » teachers worked in the Lowell School system each year, » His state contact was David Fitzpatrick of the Bureau of Certification at the Massachusetts Department in Boston.
  2. He wanted the rehabilitation of thirteen school buildings. The great majority of working school buildings were over one hundred years old. He wanted then demolished and replaced. You may not remember them, but I do. I have pictures of some of them. The person driving this at the state level was Mr. Lawrence Fitzpatrick, no relation to Mr. David Fitzpatrick above.
  3. He wanted to see the lowering of pupil-teachers ratios « throughout the Lowell School Department. »
  4. The adoption of a Ten Year Building Plan calling for the construction of an addition to Lowell High School,

This was a Superintendent who realized that the funding for the ten year building plan was not going to be paid for by the state, It was the responsibility of the school system at that time. He did not want to see the school system ‘break its bones’ on a building plan that was solely the responsibility of the city. He was only in Lowell for three years as Superintendent, but as a School Committee member he saw the state take baby steps in the massive building plan. I can say, as a father and Superintendent, he was very careful about money.

I remember one incident that infuriated the custodians. He enlisted a group of citizens, as volunteers, to rebuild the Library from scratch. I had the opportunity to help build that Library; and we did such a good job that it lasted through the superintendency of Dr. Karla Brookes Baer. The state gave the money to move the library to the basement of the 1893 building. Later, it moved to the current location. That is in the 1983 building, where one room is named after Dr. Wayne R. Peters.

So that is a somewhat small microcosm of the system. Dr. Wayne Peters was denied tenure despite the fact that the Lowell « SUN » endorsed him. He moved his superintendency to Holbrook, MA. He stayed there for seventeen years. It was Lowell’s loss. He commuted to Holbrook and lived in Lowell. He ran for School Committee, garnering a tremendous 5,000 vote total in front of the second-place finisher, Mrs. Kay Stoklosa. Kay and my father met frequently at our Pine Street house, as I recall.

I think Dr. Joel Boyd, EdD should not be inclined for Vincent McCartin’s thirty year legacy. McCartin was basically a politician, not an educator. Dr. Boyd should shoot to be like Wayne Peters, not surprisingly, but I believe that Peters did more in three years than McCartin did in thirty. I lived through those days and answered the phone when Mr. McCartin called my father to tell him he got the job in Lowell. It was a time of great excitement. I love going through my father’s papers and knowing his legacy. He was very special and he was right for Lowell.

Whaling and Other Observations

I find it is part of my blog’s task to talk about observations made as a child.  I saw a lot of things, including a steam-driven tractor pull of old steam driven farm tractors.  They pulled against each other in a field from which we got to see the event.  The wheels on the tractors were  made of steel, manufactured by blacksmiths back in the 1920’s.  They had cleats on them too.    There must have been twenty tractors, kept in mint condition by the farmers that had saved a little bit of history for those of us watching the event.  I was about 6 or 7 years of age when I attended the fair in Iowa where it was held.  Now, think of people who maintain old  automobiles.  This was a little different, it was all steel tractors.

Moving on to Massachusetts, my father was a fastidious keeper of the small rowboat.  We always  had  one.  This one was bought at Sears for one hundred twenty nine dollars at Sears, on the spot where Target is now, in Lowell.  We took the rowboat to Gloucester, where we put it in the harbor.  People were very friendly, which puzzled my father as we went up and down the moorings.  Finally, he said, « I know what it is!  They are nice to us because they think we are motoring to our yacht. »  I do not know if that is true but it is certainly a unique observation.

Anyway, I noticed a boat, huge with an opening in the back the size of a garage door.  I could not determine what it might be.  Finally, it struck me.  This was in 1969 and the United States was still a whaling country.   I was looking at a whale ship.  The door was to be opened to pull the dead whale in and slaughter and butcher it.  I just thought it was important to write about.  No one under my age is going to be able to say that they saw a working whale ship docked at the fish factory in Gloucester.  We do not do whaling anymore, thank God.  We get our oil in other places.  Now, granted, Nantucket was the whaling capitol of the world, but that moniker died out with the almost extinct whales.   Except for the children of the President, shooting nearly extinct game in Africa at a high price, we try not to shoot large animals anymore.

Anyway, my environmental beliefs notwithstanding, I root for the whale.  It is a marvelous animal and the largest in  this history of animals.  The dinosaur was tiny compared to the whale.  So let’s keep Greenpeace funded so they can protect the whales of this world.  I pay them every year.

I remember, when the fishing industry observed a three mile limit, the Russian fleet fishing on Georges’ Bank.  I was angry, how could they get that close to United  States’ property.  They could because they did not expand the fishing limit.  There was no reason to get the Soviets upset.  Finally, we put in a twelve mile limit and that helped a little.  Not much because twelve miles on Georges’ Bank is not very much protection.  But it was better than three miles.

I wrote my Bachelor’s Thesis on Hugo Grotius and the Law of the Sea.  Peru has a two hundred mile limit, and a lot of smaller countries wanted to have a two hundred mile limit.  The United States had to look askance at that one.   We fish a twelve mile limit off the coast of the Soviet Union near Alaska.  We could not comfortably be hypocrites.


I like English History.  Wyman Trull, truly the best teacher I ever had, fostered that love in me.Thanks to him, I became an expert on the long strange line of monarchial succession.  I know, because of Mr. Trull, that there is a person in London who is truly the direct descendant of King William the Conquerer.   The  Plantagenet line exists.  The Windsor line is without legitimacy.  The Queen should not be the Queen.  I do not want to tell that to Prince Harry, since he has been defrocked of his offices.  This Queen is good at protecting herself.

I can prove the lineage but I am not going to do it today.  This paper is about Plantagenet King Henry II, one of the strongest kings in English history.  He had a bit of a scrape with Saint Thomas a Beckett.   His story became a major motion picture.  It starred Richard Harris as King Henry II and Richard Burton as Thomas a Beckett.   It was a huge hit when it came out in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  That is what I want to write about today.




Home and Rural Schooling – Is It the Answer?

The current Pandemic is incredibly brutal and deadly.   We are all scared, and someone who says they are not scared is lying.  I long for the earlier days, when I had simple deadly diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and Pulmonary Embolisms.  Stuff you can fight.  We have not learned how to fight Coronavirus or COVID 19 yet.  I think we are making remarkable strides, however.

One of the things that is going to change is our relationship with school.  I think it is fair to say that parents will never look at a simple cold the same as they did a few weeks ago.  I have a friend who is convinced that Moms will be the main source of educational excellence in the future.  He is advocating the implementation of Home Schooling.  Is it possible to have a two parent structure after Coronavirus?  I believe that most people will do what I did, which was a mutual agreement by my wife and I to open a homebound business.  We did, and do, drapes and window hangings,  My wife is extremely talented on the sewing machine and she used that talent to pay our excessive bills.

She also worked at a bank part-time.  Like many banks of the 1980’s,  it went under so it was back to draperies and window hangings.  My brother-in-law said that she was Lowell’s Laura Ashley.  It was a high compliment.  She can turn anything into  a drape.  I can install any wall-hanging.

We dabbled in education, until she got her Bachelor’s, her Master’s, and her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study.  She is more educated then I was.   Then she finally became a teacher.  We still do some window hangings but they are farther and farther in-between.  It is a good business and we do not want to let it go.

My point is that everyone is going to have to change how they approach family-life and business.  Right now, millions of people are productively working at home.  No big office buildings, no huge inline computer systems.  Things have changed.

Education is going to change.  I see a great many people keeping their children at home.  People who espouse home schooling are going to be a major part of the educational system.  Curriculum will have to be written for them.  They may have to pay for some of it out of their own pocket, but that is a small  price to pay.

There are two areas to look at in this massive change.  The first is the successful implementation of home learning.  The second is looking over stresses besetting the rural school movement.  We look at rural schools as being built for the farmer.  We forget that these « hicks » participate very strongly in their children’s education.  We will still have a school system that has parents going to work, but we might have fewer students.

So, I had a mother next door to me who educated her children at home.  She was incredible, she had five children and  she  educated all  of them at home.  They were heads and shoulders above what my wife and I saw in our public school.  She took my daughter, and incorporated her in her lessons.  My daughter recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s.  She excelled in all of the areas that this next-door-neighbor taught her.  We saw home-schooling first-hand and it was incredible.

Home schooling is safe.  Run by a caring parent, it excels.  I remember being a child, and my father was the local Superintendent,  one of his best parents did not send her children to him, but rather had a small classroom built in her home.  Her students were her children, and like my neighbor, she excelled in teaching the curriculum to her students.  They all did very well in standard testing.


Rural schools are a lot like standard Home Schooling.  The tallest child is commonly heads  taller than the teacher, so discipline is a consideration.  It is a major consideration according to those teachers who are eclipsed by his height.    The information is the result of an appraisal of the rural school problems in « The Rural School From Within » by M.G. Kirkpatrick, B.S. Ph.D.  It is an older text and contains a chapter on « Managing Boys. »   The author says that, « the teacher is (often) a non-resident. »  The rural school teacher can live in the classroom but he or she is probably not the most aggressive in the room.  The large son of a large father dictates some of the practices of the room.  The teacher knows that he or she has to win their efforts by persuasion.

The teacher is often discouraged in a rural school.  His or her efforts are not rewarded.  I lived in a rural town of 27 people, including one priest and eight nuns.  My father was the Superintendent, the youngest Superintendent in the state.  The state was Iowa.

My father fired a teacher who could not maintain discipline.  He moved onto a bigger district and rehired the woman because discipline was not a major problem in his larger school district.  The district was more controlled.

The author talks a great deal about how religion is part of the rural landscape.  He learned that there were two books to be lent to skittish teachers, and one was the Bible.  Now, the Bible was the reason that the Puritans taught their children to read.  But a good rural high school needs reading material and he took it upon himself to order it.  Home-schoolers have, usually, access to some books.  The woman living next to us introduced anti-abortion books to her children.  But it was a book.

Rural schools are largely a thing of the past.  But the lessons are good.  Holidays are part of the rural education experience.  The school Christmas tree is described as « Nearly all Christmas trees are wonderful and this (one) differed in being very wonderful. » (Page 143)  To teach money handling and business acument, they set up a lemonade stand.  It worked.  The students got something out of it.

So that is basically it.  I think that how we handle our children who have been scared out of their skins recently, will determine whether there is a strong movement to diminish our teaching staff.  Rural school patterns, and Home Schooling will grow as a result of our inability to handle the Pandemic.

A Few Notes on Education Including the High School History

Lowell High School has an interesting and erroneous history.  It was not formed in 1831 and it did not locate itself first on Middlesex Street.  Take out the School Committee Minutes from 1834 to 1838.  It is available in the Memorial Library Research Room.  It is my opinion, bound by fact, that the High School did not exist until 1834.   That is when the State Department of Education recognized it.  The school would come to be known as being something special.  Of the first eleven graduates, one would be a special surgeon, there would be one Governor of Massachusetts in it, and one Governor of New Hampshire.

There was a three year high school educational program in 1834 that might help to explain the mistaken date of inception as 1831.  In 1834 there was a graduation.  Where those students, which included Benjamin Butler, came from is a mystery.  It does help to explain the 1831 date though.  There was a three year program that existed and that Butler and his 10 fellow students might have been following.  However, the State Certficate for the high school did not exist until 1834.

At the time, a high school education  was « frosting on the cake. »  A college education was very attractive, but not really  heard of at the time.  Even lawyers, like Abraham Lincoln, were not required to go to college.  Lincoln had no degree.  Neither did many other lawyers.  They studied as apprentices to or under other lawyers.  It might be said that we have come a long way.

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

Lowell petitioned in early 1834 with the state to certify that their new high school would be located in the Concert Hall on Merrimack Street.  Massive work was done to the Concert Hall at the incredible price of ninety-five dollars, to make it a high school.  At one point, the School Committee was forced to admit that the « High School has been has been closed since January last for lack of funds. »  It was their goal « …to open the High School as soon as they should be able to save money enough to carry it through the year. »  The High School was closed intermittently during bad weather.  Often the closings were for a year or  so.  (John W. Graves – Secretary of the Lowell School Committee, July 23, 1834).

At the time, all you needed to become a teacher was a seventh grade education.  High school teachers had tougher requirements, but could become teachers with a less than stellar education.   They were not to require a college education.

A long, long time ago, as Don McClean says in his iconic « American Pie, » I was born to a teacher who made sure that his family was adhered to education.  My father, at the time,  was getting himself in educational trouble for writing against Joseph McCarthy’s views on Commies in the government.  It did not endear my father to his professors.  This was at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was a very brave stand to take at the time.

After obtaining his Master’s Degree in Administrative Education, he became the youngest Superintendent in Iowa.  He was twenty-six years of age.  He took over the rural school in Cosgrove, Iowa.   Cosgrove was mostly a town which catered to the surrounding farms.  There were twenty-six people populating the town.  Television was a brand new invention so it did not cover a small Iowan school district.  We had a television which was basically useless, and because we were so far away from the station, I grew up without television.  It has never been my favorite thing to watch.

I learned a lot from my father.  He made special wooden toys for us, and we greatly admired him.  He even taught me how to properly clap my hands to make the loudest  noise.  He used to cup his hands to make a louder clap.  His was louder than the other men’s claps in Cosgrove.  I was a young boy there in Cosgrove, and enjoyed the idea that among the population were eight nuns and one priest.  They were part of the twenty-eight.  I was very proud of my father when he brought home a rowboat that he had built himself.  I thought it was beautiful, and it was.

Growing up was kind of difficult with the Superintendent of Schools as my father.  Every new idea that he learned at the University of Iowa doctoral program was practiced on me.  When he got his Ph.D. we had the best party I have ever been to; it was monumental.  During the party one of my friends stole a cigarette from his father.  I learned how not to smoke that  night.  One neighbor, a psychiatrist, burst into laughter as we burned ourselves trying to light up.  Fortunately I never did learn how to inhale, or smoke cigarettes.  It was one of the lessons of my young life.   It happened on the day my father became Dr. Wayne R. Peters.  It was quite an accomplishment for a man whose father had always been a blacksmith.  And, one of his sons wrote, « a damned fine one. »

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(s).  They were exciting.  Years after Cosgrove, he made a big difference near Chicago, in Harvey, Illinois.  That was a diverse community and I learned there that there were people I had nothing in common with but I had to adapt.  I still do adapt.  When Lowell got its Cambodian influx, a local hardware owner posted in his door « No Cambodians here. »  I was excited to see the Cambodians and even today they are many of my best friends.

The high school became a major winner of the downtown area.  It carried heavily in the vote on its location.  The fact is, that Lowell High School will always be at the core of education in the city.  And, its location is at the core.  That should come as no surprise to anyone.  It is the same mindset that first located the high school on Merrimack Street in the downtown.

This is an invigorating school and it will always direct the city.  It is possible for a pre-K student to start school and go on to his or her doctorate while just being in Lowell for life.  There are, of course, other reasons for living your life in Lowell.  Some people do it.  Some of us will always be blow-ins.

Lowell’s population is always fluid.  We are basically conservative, but Democratic.  There are some Republicans, but we try not to let them bother us too much.  Our major political fights are for  City Council or the School Committee.  Both are difficult to ascend to.  State Representative, State Senate, and Congressional seats are won by those who Paul Tsongas categorized as « the luckiest. »  I used to ask him how he did so well and his response was always, « I was lucky. »  That assessment is what I take from Lowell.  I will be buried here.

Update on the Magna Carta

I am a student of history, and I love English history.  I recently spent time reading about Thomas a Beckett and Henry II.  It was fascinating and possibly a new blog at some point.  But today’s blog is about the Magna Carta (Latin for Magnificient Charter).  It was called that because it  was such a long document.   What you may not know is that there existed major parts of the document which we will discuss as four parts.  Historians broke it down into the four sections.  I am going to list those four sections here.  They were very succinct.

As some of you may remember from your History books, the meeting at Runnymede Field was not just attended by the nobles, but also by the wealthy merchants who were paying for King John’s incompetence through high taxes.   They were as taxed as the nobles.  Runnymede was fifteen miles from the main castle of the King.  Just as a way of showing how incompetent he was, I have to mention that he was running from his brother, and he took the original Crown Jewels. This included the crown itself, which had been in the family since William the Conquerer, and the jewels fell  into the Thames River at its deepest part.  They were never recovered and have been covered by silt for centuries.  The current crown of Queen Elizabeth is not the original.

Runnymede is preserved as it was at the time, to allow the field to be as it is currently and show how desperate the King had become.  It is important to history and to the average person for four major reasons.

  1.     The way in which the document was gathered and signed was significant.  The major points were not given willingly or freely.  They were coerced from the incompetent king, King John.  He was probably the least effective king in English history.  King Richard the Third was, albeit not for Shakespeare,  incredibly good comparitively.   These proposals were forced by the most active people, acting in a united fashion.  They were not going to dismiss their weighted concerns.  The document was signed and it showed, incredibly, that if the King did not rule as the people wished, he could be made to do so.  That term in the contract made John decide to ignore this part of the Magna Carta  in the future.   He was not allowed to ignore it by the people who forced him to accept the giveaway.
  2.      It kept feudal « principles of government » from being superseded by the principles of an absolute monarch.  John had been an absolute monarch in his early reign.  He could give them good government if he in turn gave them good service.  It was believed, rightly, that the King had no right to break this contract.  It showed that the tenants had the right and power to limit the King and his account.
  3. The Magna Carta was bound to be a disappointment.  It did not form a new government, but, instead, was nothing as much as it was a return to old customs.  Many of the provisions were insignificant and temporary.  It protected the right of the prisoner, in much the same way as the least important of us are now protected from tyranny.  It literally said, « To no one will we sell, and to no one will we deny or delay right of justice. » (Magna Carta)  In the future, in our time, these obstructions would form the rights in our own Constitution.  Prisoners of the time, and currently, are still protected by the law.
  4. It was a definitive statement of the « rights to refer. »  (Edward Cheyney; the History of England).  King John scoffed at the rules and declared that he did not intend to keep these rights.  However, the people and the Pope convinced him that the days of Henry I, II, and  King Richard had passed.  It sufficed as a clear promise of good government.  King John would have to live with it, as would each successive monarch, including those sitting on the throne of Britain today.  Students of English history, and those of us who are relatively uneducated  in the ways of the Magna Carta live with it tenets everyday.  Pope Innocent III had excommunicated the King and left England outside of the protections of the Catholic Church.  That was a major reason why the King had burned through his power.  An interesting and logical surmise.  And it is today’s blog.









The Beauty of Human Effort

I am a student of history.  In order to tell the stories that result in the telling of this history, sometimes I have to tell you something that is historically accurate but not always well-known.  This story is about someone (me) who saw history being made by some of the most unhistorical men or women in our lives.  This story is true.  I have pictures of the original moment in history and the use of the heavy-duty crane.

This is the story.  In the 1980’s or so, the City Fathers, of which my father was one, planted the coal train that is across from the diner near the Old Worthen.  Now we have plenty of information on the Old Worthen.  It was a favorite stop for the famous Edgar Allen Poe of Baltimore.  What you may not know is that the coal train was given to us by a quarry in Westford.  Lowell was glad to get it.  It did not fit, but it was appreciated.

What do  I mean by « it did not fit? » Well, the wheels could not be lowered onto the railroad track that the coal train was supposed to rest on, accurately, according to the historians in the crowd.  The wheels were approximately one quarter of an inch to wide for the track.  The track had not been accurately measured.  For the entire morning, afternoon, and evening, the engine was lifted, relifted, and refit onto the recalcitrant track.   The track could not be moved.  The engine simply had to fit.  It didn’t.

The college-trained engineers could not make that locomotive fit onto that track.  It was the summer, so it was getting dark later, and the group next to the train under the canopy tried every angle they could think of and some solutions that they probably had never thought of before.  I watched with great interest, stopped for supper, and returned to my spot near the locomotive.   Almost everyone except the workers had left.  The few workers left continued everything and anything that might work.  I had, and have, to give them credit.  They did not seem to miss a trick.  The crane had even gone home.  I have a picture of the crane and it was a tough little tool.

I was about to leave myself, but I went to the men under the canopy.  Curses, mostly, sounded in the dark night.  Finally, an old man went up to the men and said he could get that locomotive into its bed.  They all laughed at him.  They asked him how he woud do it.  « Get me some wood, » he said.  « Small pieces, rectangular or square. »  Some disbelievers did exactly as he said.  They brought over some rectangular pieces of 2 by 4’s and 4 by 8’s.  At his own speed, he gently put each new board leaning against the locomotive.  Slowly, the pile of wood reached up onto the space between the track and the culp.  Culpability was the question.   The old man continued in his task, there was no culpability.  He continued in his effort and built a sandbox tower, the type of thing you might see in the making of a child’s toy.  It was almost up to the rim of the locomotive wheel.

No one was really paying attention to him, I noticed.  He asked for a final board, and placed it at an angle under the rim.  Then he asked for  a sledge hammer.   He used the sledgehammer to pound the last piece of wood under the wheel rim.  I was the last person on his side of the locomotive.  With a jolt I heard the locomotive settle onto the track.  He had completed successfully placing the train on the track.  He had done it with the simplest of tools, a hammer and a wedge.  Under pressure,  the wood pile fell onto itself.  He had won.  Age had defied his intelligence.  The men left in the canopy came over to look at the wheel.  It had moved fractions of an inch onto the track and he had done it.  I left there thinking that I would never question an old man’s intelligence.  My grandfather had been a blacksmith and lifted heavy horse feet up to put horseshoes on horses.  I looked up and said to the dark, « Nice work, Grandpa. »  I think he heard me.

That is my true history story for today.  And it happened in Lowell, and it is true.

Markey and Kennedy – Different Approaches

I heard this as a rumor.  From individual people, but, the intent is obvious.  The intent seems to be to force the election before the caucuses.  Whether or not it will happen is up in the air.  Both candidates have to get fifteen percent of the caucus results.  It just appears to me that the fifteen percent rule dates back to another time and is not necessary in the Democratic Party.

When my brother-in-law, Senator Paul Tsongas, was wrestling with his campaigns, there was no fifteen percent law, and he was known to say that, if there had been, he would never have been a United States  Senator.  The fifteen percent include the people who take the time to attend the caucus.  Paul observed that he could never have gotten fifteen percent.   He meant it.  Fifteen percent is a great many votes by the citizenry.  It is  a law that is overdue to be dismissed.  It helps the incumbents, not the challengers.   Challenge is the purpose of politics.  It is up to the people to decide, not the few incumbents who can control, through their masses of supporters who voted for the person who got them their job, the fifteen percent.  I am saying that there is potentially a pattern there.

The rumor, and it is not supported by a large group of people, is that Senator Markey’s strategy  is to commandeer the fifteen percent needed by Congressman Kennedy,   by loading the caucuses with his supporters and denying the Kennedy people the fifteen percent that they need.   I hope that there is no truth to the rumor.  This should be a straight two man Democratic race.   That is what the people want and that is what the people deserve.

Fifteen percent has nothing to do with reality.  It is an arbitrary figure.  It could be twenty-five percent, it could be twenty-three percent.  It is not based on law, it is « discretionary,  capricious, (even) despotic, » according to Webster’s « Oxford Dictionary. »    My contention is that it is based on fictitious rules.

The fifteen percent rule is based on fictitious rules that make it impossible for a person as relevant as Paul Tsongas to successfully run for the Senate.  It just keeps the incumbent in incumbency.  A friend of mine once told me that there were two parties, not Demcratic and Republican, but Incumbent and Non-Incumbent.  With this approach, I have to  wonder whether or not he was right.

If you have an interest in democracy, get to the caucus at 1PM on Saturday and vote for your candidate.  In Lowell, it is happening at 1PM but no later than 1:45PM.   That’s another rule that  makes it more difficult to vote, but we will handle that one later.

I hope to see you at the caucuses.