• U.S.

Education: Schooling

8 minute read

Six authors have made research on Character* They are headmasters of New England private schools. Their quarry is elusive, ideal, multiform. Like sensible men, each author has conducted that part of the work for which he is specially qualified. By this means a scheme of education for the modern boy is outlined thoroughly, authoritatively, in six chapters. The book recommends itself highly to parents and pedagogs.

Dr. Alfred E. Stearns of Phillips-Andover Academy wrote Chapter One. He has done no teaching in the 23 years he has been principal. His is a purely executive function. As the Phillips academies†have always eschewed the in loco parentis attitude, Dr. Stearns has had many dealings with parents whom he, more than most principals, may hold accountable for the early training of their sons. His chapter is on “Home Influence” and in it he remarks on the necessity for home discipline, the carelessness and lack of understanding of many modern parents, the large percentage of school derelictions due to discord, separation and divorce in the home.

Dr. Samuel S. Drury is rector of the largest U. S. church school, St. Paul’s (Episcopal), at Concord, N. H. His subject is “Religious Influence.” He frankly “talks religion,” insisting that religion is not “queer” or “forced” as a part of a boy’s education. He believes that schools have made a god of morality and been afraid of theology. He believes that boys are natural mystics, that the second decade is in all directions a romance. “Some colleges,” he says, “will not grant a degree unless the senior can swim 100 yards; the school might make one condition for its diploma: the ability to recite the Sermon on the Mount.”

Dr. Endicott Peabody is founder and principal of Groton, a school of English inspiration and atmosphere, which has “sedulously sought scholastic seclusion” during its 40 years. His subject, “Academic Influence,” leaves him free to compare the handicaps and advantages peculiar to public and to private schools. He urges continuance of the classical tradition, quoting many a notable. He believes U. S. boys begin school at least a year behind time.

Dr. R. Heber Howe Jr. was for 20 years a master at Middlesex School and has coached Harvard crews. In 1923 he founded and headed an elementary boarding school at Belmont Hills (suburb of Boston). His forte is athletics, and he lays down a 14-point code intended to simplify scholastic athletics, moderate their hotly competitive spirit, keep them within each school’s own walls.

Mr. W. L. W. Field, headmaster of Milton Academy, Mass., where many a Harvard man is schooled, lays out the fundamental studies boys must undertake to pass the college entrance examinations; urges parents and teachers to inculcate “independent foresight.”

The last chapter, “The Future Trend of the Private School,” comes from the desk of the Rev. William Greenough Thayer, headmaster of St. Mark’s School. His points are three: let the schools declare their independence of college examinations, for they have a prime obligation to make able scholars; the first call for able scholars is the call of politics; the second, the call of science.

Dr. Stearns is one of the best beloved schoolmasters of his time. Quiet, alert and understanding, he is remembered by Andover boys young and old as an unobtrusive force in their development. He was schooled at Andover himself, going on to Amherst, Yale (where 60% of all Andover boys have gone) and Andover Theological Seminary. Soon after he began teaching at the school in 1897, he coached the baseball team, an office which he kept up for eleven years of his headmastership. The founder of the school set forth that Andover was to teach “the great end and real business of living,” but many a boy who remembers both Stearns the coach and Stearns the friendly, gentlemanly, informal chapel speaker, will boil that long phrase down to diamond parlance: “There is no short cut from first to third. In the game of life, too, touch second base!”

Drs. Drury, Peabody and Thayer

conduct institutions conceived quite oppositely from Andover. These schools early assumed the parental relation with their boys and set out to see that each individual should have “such esthetic culture and accomplishments as shall tend to refine the manners and elevate the taste, together with careful moral and religious instruction.” They were schools founded (St. Paul’s was the model for St. Mark’s and partly for Groton) to accommodate wealthy and socially scrupulous families. All have anxious and extensive waiting lists. Among Bostonians at least, Groton may be said to have achieved the loftiest prestige of this kind. Its graduates, “Grotties,” are unmistakable. They boast: “A Groton man wires to Dr. Peabody as soon as his son is born. Others generally think a letter is quick enough.”

In a gentle, deliberate way, Dr. Drury has broadened and stimulated life at St. Paul’s in his 15-year administration. His personality has had a compelling and retentive effect upon the alumni, who are now organized and have assisted in the establishment of scholarships and an endowment fund. Tall and angular of frame, sandy-haired and lantern-jawed, he has the mien of an old school schoolman, beneath which lie the combined capacities of militant churchman, practical moralist and sagacious promoter. He is a familiar figure not only on his school grounds but in the colleges and offices of his old boys, with whom he keeps in closest touch.

Dr. Peabody has been described as “an American with an English school and university training . . . an all round athlete, and yet a churchman; a scholar and yet a very graceful and sophisticated man of the world.” Groton is his life-work as St. Mark’s is Dr. Thayer’s. The latter, “an accomplished churchman and a successful and tactful manager,” took his chair in 1894.

There are in the U. S. no twin peaks of secondary education like Eton and Harrow, whereon hang all the pedagogical law and whose masters are the prophets. There has been no legendary “Arnold of Rugby” or “Sanderson of Oundle”* in the U. S. nor will there be. So many of our larger secondary schools were founded contemporaneously, and they soon multiplied so rapidly that though each school developed along its own lines, the special character of none had time to impress itself upon the public mind as a national institution before the coming of the public high school system, which relegated private education to a special, a subordinate place in the democracy’s pedagogical program. It is most improbable that the appointment of a new headmaster at The Hill, Lawrenceville, Hotchkiss, Taft or Exeter would occasion the widespread editorial comment that greeted the appointment of Dr. Cyril Norwood, master of Marlborough College, as first lay master of Harrow, last month in England.

But Dr. Peabody seems justified in his opinion that U. S. schools and schoolmasters are gaining in prestige and appreciation as “dominant” influences upon the modern boy. The fact that more members of Harvard 1925 went into teaching than into law bears him out. And the younger men now going into teaching are men of ability. No longer can it be said that those who can, do; while those who can’t, teach.

The case of the youngest headmaster in the U. S. is in point. Twenty years ago Father Frederick H. Sill of the Order of the Holy Cross (Episcopal) procured an old farmhouse near Kent, Conn., enrolled 18 pupils and three masters, founded Kent School. The first night of school the headmaster cooked scrambled eggs which the boys served, the beginning of a regimen of self-help that has continued until today, when Kent is a flourishing school of 200 boys. Kent teaches self-reliance, directness of purpose and simplicity of life, in a quiet rural community.

As Kent’s waiting list grew in popularity, it was seen that another school of the same type would be welcomed. Instead of lengthening his waiting list, Father Sill called to him his two prefects of ’18, bought them another farmhouse at South Kent, five miles away, and helped them establish, not a twin, but an independent “younger brother” of his school. Twenty-four charter pupils were enrolled. Today, in its third year, this school (South Kent) has 51 boys, 7 masters and a waiting list of 100 or more boys, who will be admitted as fast as expansion can be effected. The headmaster of South Kent is Samuel Slater Bartlett, a 26-year-old New Englander now four years out of Lafayette College. Keen, vigorous, a young man of many interests and opportunities, he determined to make the school his career. His fellow prefect, Richard M. Cuyler, graduated by Princeton in 1923 with a high record, made the same choice and took the post of dean and registrar. Four other recent college graduates (Harvard, Lafayette and Princeton) soon joined them, and there is building today, not only a school, but another specific tradition of teaching that will reach out to other schools and back to the colleges.

*THE EDUCATION OF THE MODERN BOY—Six Headmasters—Small, Maynard ($3).

†Phillips-Exeter Academy (Exeter, N. H.) was founded in 1781 by John, brother of Samuel Phillips, upon seeing the success of the latter’s school at Andover, Mass. Andover’s first headmaster was Eliphalet Pearson, known as “Elephant,” sung as Great Eliphalet (I can see him now), Big name, big frame, big voice and beetling brow.

*The late Frederick William Sanderson, headmaster of Oundle School, Northamptonshire, from 1892 to 1922, brought to wide fame by Biographer H. G. Wells.

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