The following excerpt is from the Superindentent’s Report to the School Committee, which was printed in the School Committee Report for 1906 and reprinted in Beverly City Documents for 1906. It was written by a group of concerned Beverly citizens.
There are still those that look upon music and literature as mere frivolities. But does not the poet and the musician in revealing the human heart record the realities of life more truly than even the historian who often records merely the appearances of life? In this age as perhaps never before, the burden of training aright the emotional and moral sentiments of the child has devolved upon the public schools. In music and literature we have our two most powerful means to this end.
Drawing, including the study of color and design, has been decried sometimes in the past as a fad but its cultural as well as its money value to every carpenter, machinist, or other artisan, and to every milliner, modiste, shop girl or housewife is so self-evident that today its value has been almost universally admitted, and state laws now require the teaching of both free-hand and mechanical drawing in all public day and evening schools.
Nature study was at first called a fad, but it is now generally recognized that rightly taught it awakens in the child a life-long interest in the observation of his natural surroundings, affords a healthful and morally safe occupation for leisure hours, and lays a foundation in experience for the understanding of the various natural sciences that underlie the processes involved in nearly all of the great American industries.
Hygiene, medical inspection and physics culture have been looked upon as unwarranted innovations by some who saw in them only a useless expenditure of time and money. But if we consider how completely productive industry depends upon health and physical vigor if we estimate the vast expense and loss of production through sickness and deaths due to needless spread of contagious diseases and the expense and loss through other prevent-able defects, illness and deaths, the value and pressing need of such work in the schools becomes very apparent.
Commercial penmanship is not a new subject, though comparatively new to Beverly. Its purpose is to teach a method of penmanship that is equally legible and much more rapid than the ordinary style. It saves the pupil’s time in all his written school work and in all his writing in business or social functions, and adds materially to his wage-earning capacity in any position where writing is required.
The various forms of manual training are the latest subjects to be branded as fads. Yet nothing taught in the schools has a more direct and practical relation to every day life. A Beverly professional man of wide experience remarked recently that sewing was one of the most useful things taught in the schools. He might have added that it is one of the least expensive. The entire cost of sewing last year was five hundred dollars for the teacher’s salary and fifteen dollars and thirty-two cents for all supplies. This was a trifle over two cents a lesson for each pupil. While it is quite possible for girls to be taught to sew at home, as a matter of fact this is rarely done. Few mothers have, themselves, been systematically taught to sew and consequently few are capable of teaching their girls to sew properly. The busy mothers of today have little leisure and continuality put off teaching their daughters to a more convenient day with the result that the girls are not taught at all, and, indeed, finally “pick-up” sewing as most of their mothers did in a haphazard fashion to their life-long inconvenience and expense.
It is also true that children do not as a rule learn as well from parents as they do from professional teachers. The acquirement of sewing by girls is of great economic value both for the “penny saved ” and for the ” penny earned.” Every girl should be able at least to make simple garments that do not require skilled trade work, to darn and patch neatly, and to use patterns skillfully. Making over and repairing often save the cost of new materials. Dr. H. M. Wiley of the United States Department of Agriculture says: – “The art of cooking does more for the happiness of the human race than all the other arts put together.” Owen Meredith says facetiously but truly in Lucile:
“We may live without poetry, music and art-
We may live without conscience and live without, heart.-
We may live without friends, we may live without books, but civilized man cannot live without cooks.”