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An Old Town by the Sea 5

OLD STRAWBERRY BANK by TB Aldrich (continued)

Down to 1696, the education of the young appears to have been a rather desultory and tentative matter; "the young idea" seems to have been allowed to "shoot" at what ever it wantcd to; but in that year it was voted "that care be taken that an abell scollmaster [skullmaster!] be provided for the towen as the law directs, not visious in conversation." That was perhaps demanding too much; for it was not until "May ye 7" of the following year that the selectmen were fortunate enough to put their finger on this rara avis in the person of Mr. Tho. Phippes, who agreed "to be scollmaster for the towen this yr insewing for teaching the inhabitants children in such manner as other schollmasters yously doe throughout the countrie: for his soe doinge we the sellectt men in behalfe of ower towen doe ingage to pay him by way of rate twenty pounds and yt he shall and may reserve from every father or master that sends theyer children to school this yeare after ye rate of 16 s. for readers, writers and cypherers 20 s., Lattiners 24s."

Modern advocates of phonetic spelling need not plume themselves on their originality. The town clerk who wrote that delicious "yously doe" settles the question. It is to be hoped that Mr. Tho. Phippes was not only "not visious in conversation," but was more conventional in his orthography. He evidently gave satisfaction, and clearly exerted an influence on the town clerk, Mr. Samuel Keais, who ever after shows a marked improvement in his own methods. In 1704 the town empowered the selectmen "to call and settell a gramer scoll according to ye best of yower judgment and for ye advantag [Keais is obviously dead now] of ye youth of ower town to learn them to read from ye primer, to wright and sypher and to learne ym the tongues and good-manners.'' On this occasion it was Mr. William Allen, of Salisbury, who engaged "dilligently to attend ye school for ye present yeare, and tech all children yt can read in thaire psallters and upward." From such humble beginnings were evolved some of the best public high schools at present in New England.

Continue OLD TOWN BY THE SEA

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