When I was a young girl, living in the San Diego area (Escondido, CA), my maternal grandmother was devoted to making sure I had a healthy view of the world. Not only that, she was adamant that I learn culture and that I be exposed to it. She was also extremely keen on my being politically aware. All of the above passions, I can proudly say, she passed along to me.
On one of our usual excursions, she took my mother and me to Old Town San Diego for the day. There I experienced a step back in time, to another era, and another America really. I recall being stunned by what I found. Not the room or the desks, but what was nailed to the wall is what burned into my memory and my mind. What am I referring to? The framed Expectations of a Teacher and the Punishment List which featured the exact consequences poorly behaved attendees would face.
Long before I would attend night school to become a credentialed teacher myself, I learned that educators of yesteryear, and our country, were now a far cry from the schools I knew of even my day. In that early pioneer environment, however, there was not a lot of flexibility or room for discussion, as we will see below.
It’s hard for us to imagine, when you review the 1872 Instructions for Teachers, that someone would commit their life to that standard. But they did. Inspite of what folks today might cry out as “horrific” or “abusive,” amazingly, we as a nation survived, and evolved, and the rural students who attended got some good educations.
It’s even harder still to imagine, in the world of today, that those mean, cruel teachers would actually carry out the punishments that were tacked to schoolhouse walls without parents screaming for them to step down or be removed. But they didn’t. They supported the teacher.
Now, that being said, I don’t condone the teacher who slapped my paternal grandmother’s hand with a ruler because she used her left hand! Thank the Lord we have moved past that bizarre mindset.
If you don’t know what I am referring to, and if you haven’t had a chance to visit a place like the Mason Street Schoolhouse, here is a quick sharing of what I am referring to….
1872 INSTRUCTIONS TO THE TEACHERS
1. Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks each day.
2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day’s use.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of children.
4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings if they go to church regularly.
5. After ten hours in the school the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible and other good books.
6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7. Every teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reasons to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.
8. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay — providing the Board of Education approves.
1. Boys and Girls Playing Together: 4 lashes
2. Fighting at School: 5 lashes
3. Quarreling at School: 5 lashes
4. Gambleing or Betting at School: 4 lashes
5. Playing at Cards at School: 10 lashes
6. Climbing for Every Foot Over Three Feet Up a Tree: 1 lash
7. Telling Lyes: 7 lashes
8. Telling Tales Out of School: 8 lashes
9. Giving Each Other Ill Names: 8 lashes
10. Swaring at School: 8 lashes
11. For Misbehaving to Girls: 10 lashes
12. For Drinking Spiritous Liquors at School: 8 lashes
13. Making Swings and Swinging on Them: 7 lashes
14. For Waring Long Finger Nails: 2 lashes
15. Misbehaving to Persons on the Road: 4 lashes
16. For Going to Girls Play Places: 3 lashes
17. Girl Going to Boys Play Places: 3 lashes
18. Going to School with Dirty Faces and Hands: 2 lashes
19. Calling Each Other Liars: 4 lashes
20. For Wrestling at School: 4 lashes
21: For Weting Each Other Washing at Playtime: 2 lashes
22. Scuffling at School: 4 lashes
23. For Going and Playing about the Mill or Creek: 6 lashes
24. For going about the Barn or doing any Mischief about the Place: 7 lashes
It truly is interesting to revisit and reflect upon our history. And too, to review it against where we are today. What parts of what we see are good and worth keeping, and what areas might need a refresher course or gentle reminder of things that are better or best? Whereas our country was more on the same page in those “olden” days, and seemed to fall in step, in today’s world, we have moved more to personal truths—not a core or foundational truth shared by the masses. So, I guess, this conversation would be more objective these days.
Whatever the case, taking stock personally is where it all should, and actually does, begin.
In the coming week, let’s challenge each other to view what part of this history lesson encourages us, inspires us or lights up our passion. If you would like to share, I’d love to hear….firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, just leave a comment!
With that, just my thoughts.
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