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The Tentacle


August 22, 2012

The More Things Change…

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In the final days before the new school year begins, parents are out shopping for school clothes and supplies and children are enjoying the last hoorahs of summer.

 

To state the obvious, “The educational experience of (previous generations) was quite different from that of today…,” observed historian Jay Graybeal in published research he undertook for the Historical Society of Carroll County.

 

“In 1882 the Frederick County school officials delayed opening schools until November 1,” out of a fear of the spread of contagious diseases, according to a Maryland Archives publication, The Archivist's Bulldog. Smallpox and the spread of communicable disease were very much on the minds of the school systems in Maryland in that era.

 

Author Pat Melville wrote in Reports on Education, 1869-1916, “In 1882-1883 many schools were closed for long periods of time because of the prevalence of contagious diseases, mostly smallpox and measles. The counties mentioning this factor included Harford, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, St. Mary's, Talbot, and Washington.”

 

Vaccination In Public Schools was the title of a public notice that appeared in a local newspaper on August 14, 1872; reminding parents and school children that summer was about to come to an end and soon it would be time to hit the school books.

 

Dorothy Elderdice, found the public notice in the Westminster newspaper, The Democratic Advocate, according to Mr. Graybeal. The public notice read: “At a meeting of the Board of County School Commissioners held on July 1st, 1872, the following resolution was adopted:

 

“Resolved that the Board will hold teachers responsible to the extent of a forfeiture of their certificate in the event that any pupil who has not been vaccinated shall introduce the disease of Small-pox into the public schools of this county. By order of the Board, J. M. Newson, Secy.”

 

Seven years earlier, on August 7, 1865, “after a bill had been passed by the state to provide ‘a uniform system of Free Public School,’ the Board of School Commissioners of Carroll County was organized,” according to “Schoolbells and Slates,” by Joan Prall.

 

Curiously, it is noted in A History of Public Education, written by Jackie Zilliox for Southern Maryland magazine, “In an extract from the Proceedings and Acts of the Maryland General Assembly in 1867 concerning education, the law states:

 

“It shall be the duty of all teachers, in schools of every grade, to impress upon the minds of youth…the principles of piety and justice, loyalty and sacred regard for truth, love of their country, humanity and benevolence, sobriety, industry and chastity…”

 

Ms. Prall wrote that in 1877 all the Carroll County school commissioners, “Reese, Hering, Zollickoffer, Prugh, and Dr. Reindollar, were present at the April meeting when it was decided that teachers’ salaries would not be diminished that spring term even if a lot of pupils were absent due to ‘contagious’ disease…

 

“Before August (1877) had ended, the commissioners had decided to pay teachers $50 for their first 15 students, $2.50 more for each additional student up to 25, $1.50 for each additional student from 25 to 35, and $1 for each additional student over 35.”

 

Ms. Zilliox reports that in Maryland, in the 1860s … “Teachers were required to be single; to attend to the students from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m., or when the classroom was clear of students and cleaned for the next day; to serve a 10-month term; and to provide for or prepare lunch for the entire class.”

 

As an aside it should be noted that in Carroll County, Ms. Prall reports, “For the school year 1928-’29, the School Board adopted a resolution barring married women from teaching (except special cases.)”

 

In 1871 there was one public high school in Maryland. According to Maryland's First's, by John T. Marck, “The first school in Maryland and Colonial America was established by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Bacon, rector of the Parish of St. Peter in Talbot County in 1750.”

 

However, perhaps the first reference to schools in Maryland occurred Thursday April 13, 1671, when the “Upper House” of the Maryland General Assembly “read an Act for the founding & Erecting of a School or College within this Province for the Education of Youth in Learning & Virtue,” on first reader.

 

The “Upper House” took the bill on Saturday, April 15, 1671, and passed the measure with several amendments. One of the amendments stipulated “that there may be two School Masters, the One for the Catholick and the Other for the Protestants Children.” However, in a tradition carried forward to this day, the measure was not funded.

 

As an aside, that afternoon – on April 15, 1671, the assembly also passed “An Act for the Encouragement of the Sowing and making Hemp…”

 

The Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 1693-1697 records that one of the first acts of Sir Francis Nicholson, under the “Royal Colony” form of government, was to summon representatives from the counties and “at once began to impress upon the members the importance of public education. He desired the doors of knowledge to be thrown open to the poor: the rich could open them for themselves; and what he wanted was a free school in every county.”

 

The “Proceedings” note that “this was a proposition to take their breath away,” and later described the governor’s actions as “he pushed and dragged and shamed them into liberality.”

 

In order to pay for this “liberality,” he taxed just about everything that moved or threatened to move. He coerced the counties to pay “45,000 pounds of tobacco” and dedicated “one- third of all vessels forfeited for violation of the navigation acts” and “the desire of Nicholson's heart was fulfilled” to building two schools in 1696 in Oxford on the Eastern Shore and what was to become Annapolis.

 

Thus begins a rich history and tradition in Maryland of “liberality” in Maryland state government and shaking down the counties to pay for it.

 

… I’m just saying

 

kevindayhoff@gmail.com

 



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