How about some cool school trivia?
Today, 23 April, 376 years ago, school was officially in. In 1635, Boston Latin School became America’s first educational institution funded completely by local government.
- The first headmaster was paid “fifty pounds and a house” from the public treasury.
- Its students were taught to “dissent with responsibility.”
- Five signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Robert Paine and William Hooper) received their boyhood training there.
- The main purpose was to teach Puritan values and bible reading.
Well, look at the school now. We’ve all come a long way, baby. But…
- School boards didn’t exist until 1837, so hiring practices were largely arbitrary (and often corrupt — *gasp*).
- School wasn’t compulsory until 1851, when Massachusetts voted to require all children to attend.
- High schools didn’t come about until 1820.
And schools, like countless other American institutions, changed with the times:
- African American children were allowed to attend segregated, “separate but equal” schools after the Civil War.
- The Smith-Hughes Act passed in 1917, and “tracking” was born. Students were pointed in vocational directions via “intelligence tests.”
- In 1954, Brown vs. Topeka precipitated the Supreme Court decision that “separate” was definitely not “equal,” and that segregation must be abolished. We all know how that went over in the South. Eisenhower had to call in the National Guard to keep the peace.
- In the 1980s, the first charter school popped up in Minnesota, and to some, signaled the renaissance of segregation.
And everything old is new again.
The agrarian school calendar has repeatedly come under fire. Personally, I think it would take a huge influx of cash and a systemic overhaul of union practices to pull off year-round schooling, so I don’t see it happening nationwide for a long time. And further, if you’re really a stickler for semantics, we don’t have a truly “agrarian” calendar. According to Dartmouth professor and researcher William Fischel:
The “agrarian calendar” was not the current calendar of fall-winter-spring. [C]ities in the late 19th century had school in the summer. Nobody had AC back then, so going to school or working in a hot factory was not a big deal. The real reason for the Sept to June calendar is the widespread adoption of age-graded schooling. Rural schools of the 19th century did not have age-specific grades, and so they could have a “term” of school whenever they wanted for as long as they wanted. But age-grading required coordination among different schools. You had to start and stop at the same time so the third graders could start fourth grade together with those from other schools.
Well isn’t that interesting. Teaching all these years, and never knew that. And if you’re still with me by now — did you enjoy this little Saturday lesson? Feels like school, no?
I think I’ll break with tradition and have some coffee this day. Resolutions, shmesolutions.