Is it All the Same, or is Schooling Different Through the Ages?

Recently, I found myself wondering if there was any noticeable difference between curriculum in the fourth grade in the 1800’s and 2017.  I had concluded that there was a very small difference and I asked the Lowell Curriculum Office for current curriculum to be compared to the 1800’s curriculum requirements.  Too often, I believe, there is a tendency by parents to think they are as educated as the average teacher or administrator because they went through school themselves.  I ran into a couple of ancillary articles that spoke to our situation in current times.  One was entitled “Educating Latino Students in an Age of Uncertainty.”  That one was covered in “The American Educator” magazine.  But even that one was tainted by the realization that Japanese students in the 1940’s (I should say Japanese-Americans, I think), and the Native American students throughout the history of European presence in North and South America.

There was a major push in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1800’s to incorporate Irish Catholic children into the public school system.  It was called Article 7.  It was designed to mix the English-speaking Irish into the Melting Pot of Education.  The result was exactly the opposite of the intent.  Most Irish ended up paying extra for tuition in a Catholic school than send their children to a free public school classroom.  It was said that the mother in the Irish home kept hold of the money made during the week and sent their children to school with the money to pay tuition.  Such familial ties were hard to break.  But the nuns could do no wrong, and the priest was next to God Himself.  So the Irish went to Catholic School.

That is one difference.  Latinos often go to public school now, even if they are Catholic.  Let’s take time to see what they were learning back in the 1880’s.  In the grammar schools, they tackled the “4th. Reader,”  the “Intermediate Reader” for better students, and the “5th. Reader” for superior students as well as those going on to the 5th. grade.  In Grade Four today Reading Standards from the Common  Core Standards for that Grade level require the teacher to  “Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.”  In other words, read the lesson carefully and be prepared to explain it.  “Key Ideas and Details: RL4.2” requires the teacher to “Determine a theme of a story (something that was required in the 1800’s) drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize (I believe this is an instruction for teaching) the text.”  As in the 1800’s, the heaviest weight fell on the individual teacher.

The next instruction is to is to “Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (a character’s “thoughts, words, or actions).”  RL4.4 states that the teacher is to determine the words and phrases as used in a text, including those that allude to … “characters found in mythology,” giving as an example the word “Herculean.”

We are at a bit of a loss here because no copy of the 1800’s reading manual with its instructions, can be found.  It is not outside the realm of possibility, however, that instructions for those students included “drawing on specific details” and “Determining the meaning of words and phrases.”  The final instruction is to “Compare and Contrast” the point of view of a major figure  in the text.  I have a few old texts that lend themselves to being compared and contrasted.

The fact is that the teacher today is laden with instructions made by the Common Core State Standards that integrate meaning into a text.  The reality is that probably, those Standards were required in the 1800’s too.  It is known that the Superintendent required the teachers in that time to go to a class he personally held every week on Saturday, and study “White’s Pedagogy.”  Now pedagogy is a fancy word for Webster’s definition which is “the art, science, or profession of teaching.”  In other words, they tried to instill a practice that allowed students to be recognized for their inherent abilities within the parameters of what they knew about their own curriculum.  I am not saying that in the past century or two, teachers taught the way they do now, but I am saying that there was not a huge difference between their preparation in today’s Common Core 4th. grade and their preparation in earlier days.  And, certainly, making a visual is nothing new.  Students in the old days were required to make visuals of their studies.  Art was a firm requirement.

Now, we have made it harder, although I had the opportunity to see a standard 8th. grade Social Studies Test a few years ago, and it was brutal, even for me.  Of course, history changes but the requirements for these students was incredibly difficult.  MA. 8.A tells today’s students to “Locate and analyze examples of similes and metaphors in stories, poems, folktales, and plays, and explain how these literary devices enrich the text.”  In other words, apply what you have learned.  A metaphor is “a figure of speech,” in which a word or phrase “denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness.” (Webster’s)  A simile is figurative language.  It shows a comparison.

The goal of the Common Core is to “read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the (requisite) grades for 4th. and 5th. grades.  Text complexity proficiently, saith the Common Core instructions.  Thus lies the 1800’s 4th. and 5th. grade reader.

I have to say, that reading on the text is difficult.  In the 1800’s three books taught you how to read.  Today, there are stories, not necessarily textbooks.  Computers are a major drain, but they heighten accessibility.  In the past, that task was dependent on books.  Whether or not the computers do it better is a question.  Chaucer can be equally difficult in a text as in a computer screen.

As we go through this lesson, we will see some similarities, and some differences.  What was required of Grammar Schools in the previous centuries is still required to some degree today.  We will glance at those instructions that seem to be similiar and those that seem to be different.  Hopefully, we will see a pattern emerging that will explain differences in philosophy if not in practices.  Surely, the argument will be made that “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  But that does not mean that today’s children are being short-changed.  In fact, Massachusetts is in first place in the United States in testing results.  Something must be working.


Education in Lowell, MA – The High School

I was listening to a song whose title escapes me, so if any of you recognize the lyrics, send me the name of the song.  Anyway, the song contains the line, “Battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”  We are having something of that type of battle in Lowell, MA. currently.   Last night, some of it came to a head with a motion that was passed with some exceptions.  The Mayor and another friend of mine, voted against the proposal.  They were excoriated.


There is a proposal in the city to build a new high school.  Where to place it seems to be a question.  Also, construction and transportation of students seem to be unanswerable questions.  The strange thing is that the current high school is performing up to standards as it is currently.  I heard a song today that describes the imbalance; “Battle lines are being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”  That is kind of where we are now.  People from the wealthiest part of the city are vying for construction, while most of the rest are in favor of enhancing the current high school.  It is up to the City Council which hit the skids last night with the Mayor basically telling people that the cost of the new construction will be fifty million more than reconstruction of the old building.  Really, there are three old buildings.  One was built in 1893, one in 1922, and one in 1983.

The 1893 building had the best construction.  It still lasts.  The 1922 building had an asbestos problem back in the 1990’s and six million dollars was spent on ridding the building of the problem, according to a high level retired official.  The 1983 building is the problem.  The building is new, but the construction is not good.  The roof leaks in the gym.  Problems exist with the swimming pool.  That area is basically the problem.

Another song describes the way the problem was handled for years.  I do not know the name of the song, but many of you probably do.  It goes, “Dream on, dream on, dream until your dream comes true.”  If you could tell me who wrote that song I would be happy.  I do not know, I just remember that part of it from the radio.  Anyway, Lowell has sunk some money into the new building, to no avail.  We are basically dreaming until our dream comes true.

The first question I asked in all of this was why we did not sue the 1983 contractor?  That did not go over well.  Millions have been spent on that building and fixing it has never happened.   I pointed it out to John Glenn with pride when it was 1984.  It bombed quickly.  I probably should have asked Senator Glenn for help, but who knew what would happen?

Anyway, as stated, the 1983 building just leaked.  The air conditioning never worked, the heat was a problem, but the building itself handles thousands of students a day.  It looks, smells, and acts like a high school.  I could fit four hundred books into the book racks on the side of the classroom and have thirty five desks for my students.

The one thing I never noticed about that building was that the Chemistry Department did not teach, from my perspective, in the lab rooms.  The lab rooms were not used for laboratory experiments.  People have taken this to be a problem with the labs.  They  seemed fine to me, and I was across the hall from them.  They were used as academic classrooms.  Not as laboratories.  Now, that may be the one lab room across from my homeroom, but I just observed it.  I have no idea if things happened earlier or later.  But one of the reasons for a new high school was the lack of lab time.

I am not certain that the high school needs to be new entirely.  Some problems were intrinsic to the building.  Some were man-made.  Some were caused by outside factors.  Like the lack of air conditioning.  Or the problems with heat in the winter.

I am not totally convinced that Lowell needs a new high school.  I think it does.  But it is not always using the best of the existing structure.  I taught in the 1983 building and I loved it.  I worked almost all of my time in the building and received almost entirely rave reviews.  Perhaps one middle-of-the-road one, but virtually all superior.

It was terrible when I went to see a basketball game in the Fieldhouse and the snow leaked through the roof.  The students could not play.  But that was a symptom, not the disease.  The high school is a high school.  It is big, it needs construction, and it can hold the entire sophomore, junior, and senior classes.   The freshman class takes place in the Freshman Academy.  All of my kids went to Lowell High School, as did I.

The point I am trying to make is that the high school, despite all of its problems, does not need three hundred thirty million dollars in repairs.  It can expand onto land taken in eminent domain cases.  It needs a tunnel to the parking garage.  Three of my fellow teachers got hit by cars trying to cross the walkway and they and the kids need a tunnel.  They need air conditioning, they need adequate heat.  They need a new fieldhouse.  But this is a poor city, with a large immigrant population.  We cannot afford all of the perks being tossed about by the City Fathers.  We cannot afford the fifty million dollars difference in taxes on a newly constructed school.

Finally, Amazon recently put up their world headquarters and it is going to cost an estimated fifty million dollars.  For the entire complex.  We are saying this school should  be made for 350,000,000.00 dollars.  Let us find out what Amazon did.  Maybe we can learn something.

My final word is that we cannot afford to use up any more green space to make school buildings.  If you need a school building, buy the lot and build on the lot, like UMASS-LOWELL does.  We do not have to eat up green space, and we do not have to spend millions of dollars we do not have.  I just paid off my mortgage, and I am looking forward to excessive taxes from this effort.  I was looking forward to a respite, but Lowell does not give them.  The City Council just raised the taxes by 5%.  That is enough of  an increase.

John Glenn’s Visit to Lowell, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


Meanderings on Dr. Khelfaoui, Ph.D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constitutionality and James Madison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lowell School System Budget for 1921

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

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

Junior High Schools:              $167,227.01

Primary and Mixed Schools: $194,580. 47

Kindergartens:                        $41,908.63

Special Teachers:                    $45,407.38

Substitutes:                             $12,577.00

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

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

Average number of persons in a class:

LHS:   31

Junior High School   36

Grammar School     42

Primary School        47

Special or Mixed      39

Kindergarten            45

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


Teacher’s Salaries:         $53,858.40

Salaries of Night School  $4,899.05

Total Vocational Salaries $86,520.08

Tuition Charged:               $25,297.29

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

Five years of age and under:  $3,307.00

Seven years of age & under:  $15,217.00

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

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

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

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

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

The Case for Fixing the High School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updates of the Lowell Public Schoos in the 1800’s

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

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