MARY BRASWELL: Looking Back, Aug. 3, 2014

HISTORY: Even though it is still summertime, students are returning to the classroom.

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Summer is far from over but students either already have or will shortly return to the classroom. Here is a look back at a hodgepodge of school-related history and fun facts.

History 101

— In the early 1600s, Puritan families established Latin schools to prepare sons of prominent families who were destined for leadership positions in the church, state or courts to learn Latin and Greek. Girls were not considered for enrollment.

— The ability to speak and read Latin and Greek were a prerequisite to be accepted to Harvard University, also established by the Puritans, in 1636. Harvard’s first president, Henry Dunster, taught all the classes.

— The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony decreed in 1647 that every town with at least 50 families should have an elementary school and that every town with 100 or more families should also have a Latin school.

— Benjamin Franklin helped establish the first English Academy in Philadelphia with a curriculum that included history, geography, navigation, surveying, and a variety of languages. The academy went on to become the University of Pennsylvania.

— In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a two-track educational system, with different tracks for “the laboring and the learned.”

— Completed in 1785, Noah Webster published “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language” consisting of three volumes. There was a grammar book, a reader and a spelling book. The speller later became known as the “Blue-Backed Speller” and has never been out of print.

— It was 1805, New York began free education of poor children. One school master taught hundreds of students in a single room. Emphasis was placed on discipline and obedience, traits factory owners wanted in their workers.

— The first public high school opened in 1821 in Boston.

— In Cheyney, Pa., in 1837, the African Institute, later called the Institute for Colored Youth, opened.

— The New York State Asylum for Idiots opened in 1851.

— It was 1856 in Watertown, Wis., that the first kindergarten in the U.S. opened.

— George Peabody funded the $2 million Peabody Education Fund to aid public school education in the Southern states in 1867.

— The Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision of the U.S. Supreme Court officially recognized segregation as legal and states began passing laws that required racial segregation of public schools.

— By 1918, all states had some form of mandatory school attendance law. By 1919, all states had laws that provided funding for transporting children to school.

— In 1925, John Scopes, a high school biology teacher, was charged and found guilty of the crime of teaching evolution. That decision was overturned in 1968.

— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill) on June 22 of that year. College population nearly doubled as 7.8 million WWII veterans entered college, essentially destroying the longstanding tradition that a college education was only for the wealthy.

— On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, overturned its separate-but-equal decision of 1896. This ruling was the foundation for desegregation in public schools.

— Federal troops enforced integration at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., as the “Little Rock 9” enrolled for classes in 1957.

— The year was 1963 when the U.S. Supreme Court officially removed prayer from public schools.


— By the time a child turns 10, he or she will have worn down approximately 730 crayons.

— Morton High School in Berwyn-Cicero, Ill., is the largest in the U.S. with over 8,000 students.

— Boston Latin School was established in 1635 and is the oldest operating public school in the country. It was not until 1998 that the school saw its first female headmaster.

— It would take roughly 506,880,000 regular-sized Post-it notes to circle the Earth.

— The namesake for Elmer’s Glue was the “husband” of Elsie the Cow, Borden’s advertising mascot.

— The Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox, manufactured by Aladdin, sold 600,000 units in 1950 for $2.39 each.

— James Pillans invented the blackboard in 1801.

— Considered the first of the baby-boomers, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling was born one minute after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946. She became a school teacher.

— Future Farmers of America (FFA) received a federal charter in 1950.

— The University of Phoenix established its online campus in 1989, the first to offer online bachelor’s and master’s degrees.


— A huge graphite deposit, which led to the making of pencils, was discovered in England in the 1500s. Those who found the deposit found the graphite useful in marking sheep. Thin pieces were easier to handle but broke easily so they were wrapped with string or sheepskin.

— The average No. 2 pencil can write approximately 45,000 words.

— John Steinbeck used as many as 60 pencils a day while writing “The Grapes of Wrath.”

— One million pencils are used on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange annually.

— Before erasers were invented, the best way to erase graphite was with a rolled up piece of white bread.

— A pencil will write in zero gravity, upside down and under water.

— Pencils were among the basic equipment issued to soldiers during the Civil War.

— More than 14 billion pencils are produced annually, worldwide.


— Didaskaleinophobia is the fear of going to school. Worldwide, about 2.4 percent of school-aged children suffer from this phobia.

— Among kids ages 12 to 17, 11 percent repeat at least one grade.

— Thirty years ago, America was a leader in quantity and quantity of high school diplomas. In recent years, our country has dropped to the No. 18 spot among 23 industrialized countries. Only one-in-four American high school students gradate college-ready in the four core subjects — English, reading. math and science.

— In sub-Saharan Africa, which includes such countries as Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique, there are 45.5 million children of primary school age who do not attend school.

— A survey of teenagers revealed that in any given month, 6 percent of high schoolers stay home because they feel unsafe at or on their way to school.


— When a teacher calls a boy by his entire name, it means trouble. — Mark Twain

— My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. — Maya Angelou

— Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. — Albert Einstein

— A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. — Vince Lombardi