Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

“Aunt Sue, I’ve got to learn to swim wel...

“Aunt Sue, I’ve got to learn to swim well by Friday. You see, I have this date ... he’s really neat ... there’s this party at the lake and....” I said, “But Marian, I can’t do that by Friday!”

Here was a motivated pupil, talking to a willing swimming teacher and that should have been enough, but it wasn’t. Teaching requires more than just telling and showing. It takes time and patience and a different approach for different pupils. And in swimming, as in learning to read or do long division, the teacher hasn’t taught until the pupil has learned.

Before 1500 A.D., the average person had no need to read or write, but the invention of the printing press was an important turning point in the history of mankind. The reformers of the 16th century were responsible for “organized and centralized” education ... “and Luther was its Father.” It was the church that rushed education along when choir boys began to be taught to read so they could sing!

Scotland’s John Knox, insisted that there be a school in every parish. The effect of this was not immediately obvious, but people in other countries took notice when the common people of Scotland seemed more intelligent than those of other countries. Public education became popular. Boston had compulsory public schools by 1635 in order to prepare common people to be able to read the Bible.

In describing the Boston public schools of 1635, an early writer said, “The rooms were cold and dark, small and shabby. Teaching equipment included the rod, the cane and the raw hide.” Imperfect as early schools were, “it is doubted that civilization has given people a more precious boon.” It was soon considered the right and duty for the state to teach young people reading so they could read the Bible. A century ago -- Feb. 17, 1897 -- parents and teachers officially joined forces to improve children’s education.

One-room schools often had no electricity, running water, or school bus. School desks were bolted to the floor, limiting the amount of play space for rainy days. Toilets were three holers behind the school buildings, children living more than a mile away often rode ponies. Big boys filled the water bucket out of the cistern -- that most unsanitary hole in the ground that collected water from the school roof during a rain~. And everybody used the same dipper.

It makes a big difference when parents help teachers make education more effective and meaningful. I joined the Parent-Teachers Association before my children were old enough for first grade. Our wonderful teacher, Lucy Douglas, taught about 24 children from ages 6 to 14 -- in a one-room school. Because we were co~ncerned about her handling an accident or sudden illness, our PTA installed that school’s first telephone!

I recall asking a board member of Carlisle School if they shouldn’t hook on to the electric line. “Why, no.” he replied, “They only go to school in the daytime.”

We often forget the influence that fathers and mothers have as they work with their teachers to improve public education! On this 100th anniversary of the PTA, let’s renew efforts to work for effective schools, even if we have no school age children.

Today’s public schools are a far cry from “the rod, the cane and the rawhide.”


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