Monday, September 27, 2010

"Beloved and Respected Teachers"

A lot a talk about improving education these days.  Here is something from the past regarding something perhaps missing in the modern education equation.

Boston English High school is listed as the oldest public high school in the United States founded in 1821.

Most notable among its alumni are J. P Morgan, financier, Louis Sullivan, architect, Leonard Nimoy, actor, Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam and two American Generals, William H.C.Whiting CSA, and Matthew Ridgway.

The school started out to give a practical no frills Yankee style education for those going beyond grade school in the early part of our republic. No frills meant that it taught English but no Latin as in a more traditional academic setting of the time.

I was not familiar with the history of the institution until I ran across some documents in a flea market. The penmanship alone of one bygone document overwhelmed me. I will shortly share some of the words attached to that bygone penmanship.

You can look back on your own education. You can look at the education your child is receiving. You see many discrepancies in how a newer generation is being taught and wonder what values taught to you have been discounted in the process of the progress of American civilization.

Your child's homework makes them busy. Assignments on the Internet and cardboard story boards that the parent should not but does invariably finish for the child seem the norm. But is the child being taught? What do teachers do these days besides measure your child in standardized tests and following the current flavor of the decade teaching modi operandi?

Let me step back and not take away from anyone's credentials or their attempt to educate in this bizarre new global existence.

I was taken aback by the Valedictory speech of a graduating student from "English High School" in July 1852. The words here say a lot about teachers and the gratitude that students should return to efforts made on their behalf. The following is an example of Yankee no frills education.


"The class of which I am a member, has now completed the usual academic course, in this Institution. We are about to separate and enter other spheres of duty. But before that separation takes place, one last office still remains to be performed. It is to take leave of our friends. It is to testify our gratitude to those who have helped us onward during our past lives and to encourage each other, in the onward path, which each of us may have chosen.

Beloved and respected teachers -To you, who have so faithfully attended to your arduous duties, we must first testify our gratitude.

You have endeavored to instill into our minds, those principles, and form in us, those habits, which would most securely stand against temptations and evils by which we may be assailed. You have instructed us on those things, which would qualify us for pursuing an honest and useful life. You have in all things, sought our good.

Nor, under Providence, shall your labor be in vain. If successful in our future lives, much of our success must be attributed to your aid. We are now to redesign your guidance and instruction. The happy hours we have here enjoyed, will never be repeated.

But though removed from your immediate influences, yet the lessons you have given, will still continue to teach us. We shall hear their echo, telling us what path of life and duty to choose. We shall feel their influence, continually urging us forward in all good deeds, and warning us to reflect, when temptations shall beset our paths. In more advanced periods, when we come to reflect upon our past lives, we shall refer to this portion, with pleasure. We shall recall the many pleasant hours we have here enjoyed, and the many valuable instructions we have received. Our teachers will be remembered with feelings of gratitude and respect.

We shall remember this devotedness to our happiness and welfare. We would say then, - go on in the work , the noble useful work, in which you are engaged.

Continue your endeavors to improve the young, and although your reward may not be immediate, yet it will be certain. And you, who are to continue your studies in this school, especially you, who are so soon to occupy our places in this room, we would exhort, to make the best use of your time, improve every opportunity and you will not regret it. Your advantages for obtaining a good education, are unusual.

Do not then, by neglecting them, bring regret and sorrow upon yourselves, in after years. Consider that, although one neglected advantage may seem but a small loss, yet it serves to swell, and may very seriously increase the aggregate of losses. Remember, that the cares of your teacher are very great. Do not, therefore, multiply them, by misconduct on your part, but rather alleviate them, by your attention to his instructions, and to your duty. And when, in future years, you come to look back upon your school days, may you be comforted by the reflection, that you have, in all things, endeavored to do your best.

Fellow Classmates, we now part with this school and with each other..."

Valedictory. Composed and spoken by C.F.Wyman, July 26, 1852, Boston, Mass.