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Private schools in Cambridge.

The high character of the public schools in Cambridge is a reason why there have been a small number of private institutions, though, of course, this very quality in the public schools has made it necessary that those private institutions that have been established here should be of an unusually high grade of excellence. The movement in this direction has, therefore, not [209] been so strong as in many other communities, but the reasons for it are the same everywhere. ‘The multiplication of private schools of a high order is not to be accounted for,’ writes Mr. Charles Dudley Warner, ‘by an undemocratic reluctance to submit well-bred children to the associations of the popular schools. What is wanted,’ he continues, ‘is an institution under individual management; not for mere experiments, but for development founded upon experience, and suited to the capacities and the positions of the great variety of scholars.’ It may be added that in some instances it is a wish on the part of the parent to place the child under school influences that are emphatically religious or denominational. In whatever direction the training is desired, the parent wishes that it may distinctly ‘raise the ideal of life.’ Many a one seeks a school of smaller size than he can find among those supported by the State, in which the course of study can be adapted more particularly to the need of each individual pupil.

Professor Agassiz's School.

The mind reverts at once, when the subject of private schools is mentioned in Cambridge, to that notable one connected with the name of the great Agassiz, which was opened in his residence in 1855 and closed in 1863, during a portion of those years when the professor was stimulating scientific study in a way that no other single master has ever stimulated it in America.1 It is interesting to read of the enthusiasm with which the great teacher entered upon the labor of this school. It was in the winter of 1855, when his physical energy had been exhausted by work, in order to add to the scant income of his college professorship, that ‘it occurred to his wife and two elder children, now of an age to assist her in such a scheme, that a school for young ladies might be established in the upper part of the new and larger house’ which Harvard College had just built for him. ‘If successful, such a school would perhaps make good in a pecuniary sense the lecturing tours which were not only a great fatigue to Agassiz, but an interruption also to all consecutive scientific work. In consultation with friends these plans were partly matured before they were confided to Agassiz himself. When the domestic conspirators revealed their plot, his surprise and pleasure knew [210] no bounds. The first idea had been simply to establish a private school on the usual plan, only referring to his greater experience for advice and direction in its general organization. But he claimed at once an active share in the work. Under his inspiring influence the outline enlarged, and when the circular announcing the school was issued, it appeared under his name, and contained these words in addition to the programme of studies: “I shall myself superintend the methods of instruction and tuition, and while maintaining that regularity and precision so important to mental training, shall endeavor to prevent the necessary discipline from falling into a lifeless routine, alike deadening to the spirit of teacher and pupil. It is further my intention to take the immediate charge of the instruction in Physical Geography, Natural History, and Botany, giving a lecture daily, Saturdays excepted, on one or other of these subjects, illustrated by specimens, models, maps, and drawings.” ’2

Jules Marcou, in his life of Agassiz, says that ‘Mrs. Agassiz had the whole management of the school; everything was referred to her as director. She took the directorship of Agassiz's school in a masterly way, and succeeded admirably. She herself did not teach, but everything regarding the teaching came under her supervision. As the fees were high, the school was a very select one, and pupils came from different parts of the United States, even from as far west as St. Louis. It was considered a great privilege to be taught by such a naturalist as Agassiz, and all the girls whose parents could afford it were anxious to join the school. Of course, the great attraction was Agassiz. . . . The girls' parents often came with them, and sat down in the schoolroom to listen to the lectures, which were so clear and so entertaining that every one followed with the greatest attention the subjects brought up by their great teacher, however difficult they might be.’3

Mrs. Agassiz says that Mr. Agassiz ‘never had an audience more responsive than the sixty or seventy girls who gathered every day at the close of the morning to hear his daily lecture; nor did he ever give to any audience lectures more carefully [211] prepared, more comprehensive in their range of subjects, more lofty in their tone of thought. . . . It was the simplicity and clearness of his method that made them so interesting to his young listeners. “What I wish for you,” he would say, “is culture that is alive, active, susceptible of farther development. Do not think that I care to teach you this or the other special science. My instruction is only intended to show you the thoughts in nature which science reveals, and the facts I give you are useful only, or chiefly, for this object.” . . . Agassiz had the cooperation not only of his brother-in-law, Professor Felton, but of others among his colleagues, who took classes in special departments, or gave lectures in history or literature.’ Among these additional instructors was Luigi Monti, the Young Sicilian of Longfellow's ‘Wayside Inn,’

In sight of Etna born and bred,

who was at the time teaching in Harvard College.

Mr. Kendall's School.

Mr. Joshua Kendall's Day and Family School to fit young men for Harvard College was begun in the fall of 1865, its nucleus being some pupils whom Mr. Kendall had taught at his own home, and some others whom he had had with Professor William P. Atkinson, before that gentleman accepted the professorship of English and history at the Institute of Technology.

For several years, Mr. Kendall was assisted in his work by Mr. John H. Arnold, until that gentleman left to be librarian of the Dane Law School.

Since that time, the school has been carried on by Mr.Kendall and Mrs. Kendall, assisted from time to time, in special departments, especially in laboratory work in physics, by competent teachers, easily procured in the vicinity.

No attempt has been made to establish a large school. The aim has always been rather to lead the pupil to get a lasting interest in his studies by doing thorough work for himself in them, than a superficial interest gained by talking or lecturing.

As the number of pupils is small, the teaching is done in part only by classes, in large part by oversight of each one's work or perplexities separately. At whatever point in his preparation a new pupil is found to be, from that he is pushed farther on. [212]

Believing that boys intended for a liberal course of study should be early initiated into that course, whenever he can the principal is glad to have them begin with the elements of Latin or French, with algebra and inventional geometry at the age of nine or ten years.

This school has had its measure of success in training boys in knowledge and righteousness; good results have been reached; patrons have generally, after trial, approved of it. Three professorships in as many of the leading universities in the country are now filled by its graduates, while others hold high positions of different kinds. This shows that some of them get a right start at least on the road to higher learning in this school.

Mr. Lyman R. Williston opened a school for girls, on Irving Street in 1862. It was removed the following year to its present situation. It is called ‘The Berkeley Street School’ from its location. Mr. Williston conducted the school with success until 1870, and then transferred it to his brother-in-law, Mr. Justin E. Gale, who, in turn, passed it over in 1881 to Miss Margaret R. Ingols, who still carries it on.

The Browne and Nichols School.

In the fall of 1883, at the suggestion of Professor Child, Professor Norton, and others interested in the establishment in Cambridge of a school for boys which should effectively meet the demands of the new education, the Browne and Nichols School was founded at No. 11 Appian Way. The principals had graduated from Harvard only five years before, and they therefore brought to bear upon the problem fresh experience, both from the student's and the teacher's point of view. A radical change in the traditional course of study was immediately adopted: four departments, language, mathematics, science, and history, were organized; and while a high standard was maintained in the classics and mathematics, much more time than usual was devoted to modern languages, science, and history.

By keeping the classes small, and thereby adapting the work to the individual needs and capacities of pupils, the teachers were enabled from the first to give not only excellent preparation for the university and the scientific school, but also thorough training in branches not required for the entrance examinations. [213]

The success of the school was immediate, and its growth rapid. In 1885 more commodious quarters were found at No. 8 Garden Street. In 1887 the gymnasium was built. In 1889, in order to increase the economy of time and effort that their peculiar organization had already effected, the principals added a preparatory department, and were thereby enabled to lay out a continuous course of eight years, almost exclusively under the same instructor in each subject, for pupils beginning at the age of nine. The wisdom of these principles has been amply justified by experience. The teachers have generally been Harvard men, and the most interested patrons have been Harvard professors. In spite of the distractions of university-town life, this community of interest and familiarity on the part of the teachers with college methods and aims have enabled the school to give its graduates a preparation for college, not merely for examinations,—a preparation characterized not so much by high marks on the entrance examinations as by excellent continuous work during the college course, and by high standing at the end of it,—as is shown by the uniform record of its graduates, and by the voluntary testimony of college patrons, who are best qualified to judge. A school that fulfills this function is obviously capable of giving an excellent education to boys who do not go to college.

The present school building was built in the summer of 1894, under the supervision of the owners from their own plans, and is therefore specially adapted to their particular needs. The rooms are large and high, finished in natural ash throughout, and the walls are tinted a soft buff. The windows were constructed on the principle that it is easier to keep light out when it is excessive, than to get it in when it is deficient. The heating and ventilating is of the most approved kind,—a gravity system, with indirect radiation. An upward current is established by steam coils in large ventilating ducts leading to the roof from the level of the floor of each room; and fresh air from out of doors is drawn over single or double steam coils in the basement up through iron ducts opening into each room through large apertures eight feet from the floor. A constant supply of over fifty cubic feet per minute of warm fresh air for each pupil is thus kept in gentle circulation without draught. The heating of the ample halls and the conservatory is reinforced by direct radiation. The plumbing, baths, and sanitaries, which [214] are ventilated into an independent system, are of the best design, and, like all the other appointments, have most successfully stood the test of two years experience.

The school is pleasantly situated opposite the Common, near the Washington Elm, next to Radcliffe College. It attracts not only pupils from the neighboring towns, but also families from distant parts of the country, who come to Cambridge to live during the education of their children.

The Cambridge School for girls.

The Cambridge School for Girls, which now occupies the building numbered 79 on Brattle Street, was opened in October, 1886, in the house numbered 20 on Mason Street, formerly the home of Professor Peck of Harvard College, and has therefore just completed its tenth year. The number of pupils at present is about one hundred, but it was not at first intended to include so many. Mrs. Arthur Gilman, whose interest in the higher education of women had led her to induce her husband to make the plan which resulted in Radcliffe College, wished to have a small class for the instruction of her own children, and it was only when she found that there were many other mothers who wished to send their daughters of various ages to the same teachers, that she relinquished the scheme, and Mr. Gilman took it up.

The house on Mason Street was bought for the school, and there it remained until three years ago, when the present edifice was erected and ready for occupancy. During this period, the original building had been constantly enlarged as the numbers increased, and when pupils began to come from a distance, a residence was erected at No. 21 Chauncy Street, and prepared for them. This was named for the wife of the first governor of Massachusetts, Margaret Winthrop Hall. When this became too limited in accommodation for the demand upon it, the residence of Mr. William D. Howells was obtained, and opened for the same purpose. By this plan the school remains a day school, and the residences are real homes.

It has been a part of Mr. Gilman's plan to have no instructor living in the residences, so that the pupils and teachers are separate, and come fresh together at the beginning of the school-day. The heads of the residences are chosen for their ability in forming a home, and in giving to young women that cultivation [215] which is not to be learned from books. The plan is an expensive one to carry out, but Mr. Gilman's faith that it is the best for the young woman gave him great confidence in it, and experience in carrying it on has shown its advantages.

A visitor from New York writes of The Cambridge School as follows:—

There has always been a special inspiration in the air of Cambridge, and in the impress which has been made upon the town by many of its citizens. In the living present there is no lack of the same spirit. To be the home of Harvard University should be honor enough, but more falls to the lot of Cambridge, and in no small measure to the school about which we write. Nor is this an exaggerated statement when we consider the importance of the proper education of our girls, and the unique characteristics of this particular school. To give to girls and young women thorough and well-ordered instruction is the aim of The Cambridge School. Individual need is the gauge, that each pupil may receive the training best calculated for a well rounded development of talents and general character. . . .

The Cambridge School occupies three buildings in the best part of Old Cambridge. Two of these are residences for young ladies who come from a distance; the third is the school building proper. Here are the class-rooms, study-rooms, dressing-rooms, book-room, laboratories, and office. All these are arranged in the best possible manner to serve the object in view, namely, teaching. The residences are entirely separate from, although near to, the school building itself, and they are arranged for their own peculiar use. In this arrangement lies the special and distinctive feature which Mr. Arthur Gilman, the director of The Cambridge School, emphasizes most particularly. The teachers are supreme in their own departments under the director, who is not a teacher himself. Out of the schoolroom the girls are under the charge of four experienced ladies, two in each residence. Their duty is to “ make a home” for the pupils, and they study how to bring this about with as much pains as do the teachers their own part. Thus the social and home life of the students as well as their actual school life is developed at the same time in all legitimate ways. Such a plan approaches as nearly as possible to the ideal. Of course, the teachers and the house-mothers, as we may not inaptly call the ladies in charge of the residences, have frequent opportunity [216] for conference and consultation regarding the interests of the pupils, and they work together in perfect harmony toward the one great end. . . .

Too much emphasis cannot be put upon the all-important feature of home life. Pupils go to school primarily, of course, to study, but even learning may be bought at too costly a price. The curriculum at The Cambridge School embraces all that is needed either to fit a young lady to enter college, if she is destined so to do, or to send her home the possessor of a finished education. It should be borne in mind that The Cambridge School is not simply a preparatory school, but one where scholars of any age can find all they need without looking forward to a future educational course. The home and social training go on hand in hand with the school life. The ladies in charge of the residences do not teach. They do watch over the girls in their care. Being ladies of high social position, the pupils have all the advantages afforded by Cambridge and Boston. These ladies are responsible for the out-of-school conduct of the girls, but they do not bind them by irksome rules. They care for each resident pupil as an individual. The character of each is made a special study, and suggestion and help are always forthcoming. High ideas of womanliness are constantly held before the pupil, and the cultivation of the social graces and courtesies of family life is ever insisted upon. With all this, however, the greatest possible liberty consistent with strict propriety is allowed.

The course of study is thorough and comprehensive. In addition to this the advantages of situation are as rare as they are notable. The neighborhood of Harvard with its atmosphere of learning and its literary influence must act as a stimulus to any student. Longfellow, whose house at Cambridge stands near the school, most truly said:—

Lives of great men all remind us
We may make our lives sublime.

Cambridge has been the home of many great men in the realms of literature and art. Here during the college terms, and indeed throughout the year, are gathered men who are facile princeps in their own peculiar fields of work. The patriotic spirit is stirred by the daily sight of the Washington Elm, under which Washington is said to have drawn his sword when he took command of the American army. Upon this favored [217] town have descended in especial force inspiring influences from the patriot Washington, the gentle and sweet-spirited Longfellow, the genial Holmes, and the broad-minded Lowell. Thus an atmosphere is created which is calculated to sustain the studious spirit.

Fitting School for boys and girls.

In 1879, Miss K. V. Smith was encouraged by Ezra Abbot, John Fiske, Charles Eliot Norton, and Francis J. Child to open a private school for boys and girls at 16 Ash Street. It was removed the next year to 5 Phillips Place, and again changed to 54 Garden Street, and in 1887 to its present high and sunny locality at 13 Buckingham Street.

The school aimed to give an education broader than usual, by methods tending toward intellectual independence, anticipating thereby a large number of the suggestions of the recent educational committees and conferences.

The daily session is short, and only for recitations, responsibility for study hours at home being a part of the disciplinary value of the school. In place of any systematic marking in lessons or in conduct, the school has been controlled by a spirit of honor and an enthusiastic interest in work,—the legacy of the first class. The class-rooms have been opened freely to the parents and to friends of education. These educational departures won from the first the support and sympathy of the best patronage.

This school was the first private co-educational institution for college preparation in Cambridge.

Besides the private schools mentioned, there are several others. Miss Jeannette Markham has one for girls on Buckingham Place, and Miss Elizabeth Manson established a kindergarten in October, 1887, which at present occupies the house No. 46 Concord Avenue, near the Harvard Observatory. It will be apparent that Cambridge is well furnished both with public and private schools of a high character.

1 See Scientific Cambridge, by Professor Trowbridge, p. 74.— editor.

2 Louis Agassiz, His Life and Correspondence. Edited by Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1886, pp. 525-529.

3 Life, Letters, and Works of Louis Agassiz, by Jules Marcou. New York and London, 1896, II. pp. 60, 61.

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