|Author of " The Story of Jane Austen's Life," "A Dictionary of American Authors,'' "Post Laureate Idyll,'' The Archbishop's Unguarded Moment,'' etc.|
"Two things are ever with us, youth and death --
---Edward Cracroft Lefroy,
IN the pages that follow there has been no attempt at comprehensive accounts of the educational institutions named therein. Even had the requisite space for such treatment been available it would have been foreign to the purpose of the book itself. That purpose, briefly stated, was to supply a readable, though necessarily superficial description of nine American preparatory schools, touching but lightly on their scholastic side, yet giving within certain prescribed limits such impressions as the average observer would obtain in the course of a visit to each, together with some little account of their history in each case. The most of readers will probably find themselves more or less familiar with the history and customs of at least one school among the nine, but few persons, it is probable, are equally well acquainted with them all. To convey such information in as unaggressive, non-professional a manner as is consistent with furnishing it at all has, therefore, been the aim of the author. The book is not intended to take the place of separate volumes devoted to the schools in question, but rather to stimulate a desire for such monographs, while at the same time answering the more important of the queries likely to arise in the minds of many regarding these particular schools.
In the course of his work the author has experienced the greatest courtesy from the heads of the schools here discussed, and while he may not thank by name all who have thus materially contributed to his assistance he cannot, without seeming ungrateful, omit mention of the Reverend Simon J. Blum, the principal of Nazareth Hall; Doctor J. Milnor Coit, acting rector of Saint Paul's; Alfred E. Stearns, B. A., vice-principal of Phillips Andover; George D. Jefferson, Esq., secretary of Groton School; Harlan Page Amen, A. M., principal of Phillips Exeter; Reverend Simon John MacPherson, head master of Lawrenceville; and T. Dean Swift, the secretary of the last-named school, as having by their cordial cooperation with him, and ready sacrifice of time in his behalf, placed him under especial obligations. To them, as to the others whom he has not named, he desires in this place to express his sincerest thanks, as well as to acknowledge his further indebtedness to Mr. Elmer Ellsworth Brown's excellent recent volume, "The Making of Our Middle Schools."
New York City, May 1, 1903.
NOTWITHSTANDING their common language and literature, educated Englishmen and Americans occasionally find themselves at a loss as to the other's meaning in what appear like very simple matters indeed, and perhaps this occurs as often as anywhere with regard to the school systems of the two countries of England and the United States. The average untravelled American speaks glibly of public and private schools, of grammar and high schools, of Latin schools, and perhaps of English high schools also. Nor does he imagine that any meaning can be attached to these terms other than what he understands them to mean. The Englishman in his turn talks of grammar schools, of public schools, and, but less often, of high schools, nor does it readily enter his head that there can be more than one interpretation of the terms.
But let these worthy persons meet, and it presently becomes apparent to both that their common language is either less or more than they had fancied it was, for they have become involved in a tangle of misunderstandings while employing only the very plainest words, as it seemed to each. In time they may arrive at a mutual understanding by themselves, but the intervention of a third person rather better versed than either in the differences between "Englishman's English," and "United States English" may become necessary to set them again upon their conversational feat.
Through his friendly offices the American learns for the first time that an English public school is what he himself would style a private school; that an English high school, while occasionally in the midland towns corresponding to what he knows by that name, is more often a small private educational establishment of no especial significance; and that what in America is called a public school, Englishmen denominate a "board school," with just that amount of superiority in the tone that fixes their distance relatively from the class which depends upon the board school for the education of its youth.
The Englishman now learns that when the American speaks of a grammar school he does not mean to refer to an institution corresponding to those ancient foundations in English towns and villages where the grammar taught is that of Greece and Rome, and which may or may not be free (which is what the American supposes a public school must of necessity be), but to a certain grade of institution, corresponding to the "board school," where the grammar is of the English tongue. The "Latin school" of American speech he finds to be a classical school corresponding in some particulars, though by no means in all, to the grammar schools of Great Britain, but the exact scope of an "English high school" perhaps never makes itself quite clear to him.
Well is it for their mutual comprehension if the Englishman refrain from mention of National or British schools, and the American remain reticent as to academies and normal schools. Still, when the American has taken in the idea that such famous institutions as Rugby, Harrow, Eton, and Winchester, which the Englishman will persist in styling public, are in their intent, at least, paralleled here by the academies of Exeter and Andover, and the schools of Saint Paul's, Saint Mark's, and others of their type, he will not find much difficulty in translating his own phrase of "normal school or college" into "Training School for Schoolmasters," or "Schoolmistresses," as the case may be. And by the time the Englishman has perceived the points of likeness between certain American academies and Harrow or Eton, the American is prepared to receive with meekness the information that a National school is one supported by the national or Established Church, and a British school, which one might fancy to be even more "national," is one sustained by two or more bodies of nonconformists, in distinction from one supported by a single body, such as a Unitarian or Wesleyan school.
Speaking broadly, then, by the term "public school," the Englishman means to indicate an institution preparatory to the university, having Eton, Rugby, or some other famous name in mind. Schools parallel in their intent, and to some extent in their plan, have existed in the United States for considerably more than a century under the general term of academies in some instances, or private schools in others, but it is since the close of the American Civil War, in 1865, that they have become a more influential factor in American education. Where one such institution existed prior to that year, twenty may be counted now. The necessity for their presence, by no means generally recognized scarce a generation ago, is willingly enough conceded at present.
But the grammar school, as the Englishman knows it, was not unknown to the American of the Colonial period. The General Court of Massachusetts granted in 1659 one thousand acres each to the towns of Charlestown, Cambridge, and Dorchester for the support of grammar schools. In 1671, the former fine of five pounds levied on towns of one hundred families for neglecting to provide grammar schools was increased to ten, and in 1683 to twenty pounds in the case of towns of two hundred families. It was provided, moreover, in the latter year that every town of more than five hundred families should provide two grammar schools.
So ran the law, but it must be said that it was only with the utmost difficulty that the towns of the Commonwealth were made to live up to its provisions. Connecticut and New Hampshire followed the lead of Massachusetts in the matter of grammar schools, and no doubt their citizens had to be as frequently reminded of their neglect of duty. Maryland also established secondary schools of the same character, but here, again, legislation was invoked to hold the people to their obligations.
As the seventeenth century advanced the grammar schools showed evidences of declining. The frontier was being slowly but constantly pushed westward, and the newer towns, struggling for the bare necessities of existence, were opposed to compulsory legislation for the purposes of education, as the older ones became negligent in respect to it in many instances. The early Puritan settlers had been an educated, and, in the case of the clergy, a very learned body, even, while the generation immediately succeeding had been imbued with much of the same spirit, but, with increase of population, education ceased to hold the preeminence it had maintained in the first days of the Puritan colonies.
But, though dormant, the old love of learning was far from being dead, and it made itself evident in many directions. When William Dummer, who had been lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, died in 1761, he bequeathed his house and three-hundred-acre farm in Byfield parish, in the town of Newbury, to establish a grammar school. It was a noteworthy gift and noteworthy results were to ensue from it.
The first master of the school which the Dummer bequest made possible was Samuel Moody, who not only constituted a grammar school of the original type, principally concerned with fitting lads for college, but devoted much attention to the matter of physical exercise and was himself the leader and director of his boys in the matter of swimming. He was probably not the earliest New England schoolmaster to encourage athletics, and although Benjamin Franklin in his plan for an academy set forth in 1743 had strongly recommended the practice of sports, yet Master Moody furnishes perhaps the most eminent example of their encouragement from such a source in the colonies in the eighteenth century.
Dummer Academy, as Master Moody's grammar school came to be called later, sent many lads to Harvard College in those early years of its existence under his fostering care in the classics as in athletics, and of one of his pupils prepared by him for Harvard, Samuel Phillips by name, we shall hear more in a subsequent chapter.
However unfamiliar the term academy may now be to English ears in general, it was otherwise in the eighteenth century, when academies might be found in many a locality, both urban and rural. In the larger number of instances these were under nonconformist influence and aimed at giving to the sons of nonconformists, excluded from the universities, such instruction as should parallel that offered at the great public schools. The academy movement in England, then, was an outgrowth of nonconformity. In America the movement had a somewhat different genesis.
The grammar schools of the preceding century had not answered to all the expectations formed for them, partly through the growing indifference to classical education in the newer communities among the classes below the professional, and the small number of the leisure class then existing in Colonial life. A similar indifference appeared to be spreading in the older towns as well, evidenced by the lack of support the grammar schools were receiving. It was very apparent then, that if the wealthier colonists desired to have their sons trained for college or to pursue their education farther than the ordinary schools afforded the opportunity for doing it, schools must be established by private initiative. The school that presently became known as Dummer Academy was one of the very earliest examples of such initiative. So were Lower Marlborough Academy and one or two others which came into being in Maryland during the period of the Revolution.
The founding of the two Phillips Academies followed very soon, and to these succeeded Leicester Academy in Massachusetts, in 1784, with others soon after, till, ere the century's end, there were academies dotted all along the Atlantic seaboard, founded by private enterprise, each endeavouring to give an education in advance of the purely elementary, and in very many cases performing their task of preparing lads for college in very commendable fashion.
"The academy age," says a recent writer, "was, in fact, the age of transition from the partially stratified Colonial society to modern democracy. The rise of the academies was closely connected with the rise of the middle class. The academies were by no means exclusively middle-class schools at the start, and they became something very different from that at a later period." But from the dawn of the nineteenth century till its fiftieth milestone was passed, the academy was the dominant educational institution in America.
The academy as it was then has had its day and ceased to be, and the institutions that yet preserve the name are in most cases quite different from the average academy of two generations ago, with different aims and more comprehensive methods. The few great modern academies whose names come readily to the mind have approached year by year more nearly to the model furnished by the great public schools of England, and with them are classed such similar institutions in scope and general plan, as Saint Paul's, Saint Mark's, Lawrenceville, and some others that might be named in this connection. These various institutions agreeing in their central aim, that of providing a broad base for the university education that is to follow, have yet preserved a distinctive individuality, and, with many points of resemblance,. present as many, and perhaps as interesting and instructive, points of unlikeness, also. Of a few of these great middle schools it falls within the province of this volume to speak in more or less discursive fashion.