16 August 2011

School Then and Now

1995 Graduating Class. Nora, second row on the end.

Kids went back to school this week here in West Virginia. All the ads for school supplies and new clothes made me think of one of my favorite possessions. It is the 1911 Yearbook from Manson High School in Manson, Iowa.

My father's family was from Iowa. He was born after his brother's and sister were grown, an accidental baby. My parents were older when they had me, so I never met my grandparents. My father's aunt's and uncle's were mostly gone when I was born. I knew my great-aunt, Nora for a brief period, but she was quite formidable, approaching 100 and still the most fun a kid could ever want.

Nora, in the middle.

She attended Manson High and was in the class of 1895. She went back to Manson to teach. Later she traveled by horseback as Superintendent of Schools in Montana.

There is much discussion about the failure of American schools. today. It is interesting to look back and see what high school was like in 1911. To graduate from Manson High, your four years of study included:

Four years of English

Four years of Latin

Two years of German

Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Arithmetic and Physics

English history, Ancient Greek and Roman history, U.S. history, Civics, and Economics

Botany, Geography, and Book-keeping.

In addition all pupils were given vocal music and spelling.

And when they said vocal music, they meant all out, costumed operettas and pageants.

Rhetoricals were required for graduation. One had to be able to stand before one's peers and speak cogently on various topics of the day. I am sorry Nora is not around to give remedial classes in rhetoric to our politicians.

And in their free time, they played sports, long before Title IX.

I am quite sure that the average student at the finest institutions of higher learning who receives a Master Degree in 2011 would not be able to graduate from Manson High. Nor would they have the ability to construct their own costume for the operetta. Time marches on...


  1. Nora was very special. That is curious how you compare graduation from Manson High to a Master's Degree today. That is quite sad but I tend to agree with you. I knew someone who through circumstances had to leave school at 12 yrs of age, who was one of the more learned people I know. He was a voracious reader and had a tremendous respect for learning.
    He would return from the library always with a smile on his face and saying can you image I can learn so much from these books and it is all for free.
    Thanks for prompting this memory of Pete Kane, who incidenentally had a sister called Nora.
    Helen xx


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