9/17/08 - groton

In today's excerpt - Groton, the Massachusetts preparatory school established in 1884 whose first thousand graduates included one president, two secretaries of state, two governors, three senators and nine ambassadors. Groton's early practices reflect the vast differences in both curriculum and corporal punishment, compared to today's leading preparatory schools:

"Groton was the creation of Endicott Peabody, 'the Rector,' whose powerful presence was inescapable. ... Although Peabody admired the English public school system, he was careful to modify its traditions to American ways. There was no 'fagging,' whereby older [English] boys held the younger ones as virtual slaves and were allowed to cane miscreants. ... [At Groton] boys were given 'black marks' for misconduct. ... Peabody's system required a boy to work off each black mark with some assigned task, such as shoveling snow or mowing the lawn. ...

"There was, however, a method of punishment that was not officially sanctioned but was nonetheless permitted. When younger boys were deemed to have broken the Groton code—by cheating, for example—or were considered too 'fresh,' physical punishment was inflicted. There were two ways of doing so: the less severe, 'boot boxing,' consisted of being put in a basement locker assigned to each boy for boots he wore outdoors. While in the box, the culprit would be painfully doubled up for as long a time as he was forced to remain in his tiny prison.

"The second and more terrifying punishment was 'pumping.' This consisted of having one's face shoved under an open spigot in the lavatory for as long a time as it took to induce a sensation of drowning. If a boy was consistently out of line, two or three pumpings usually sufficed to curb any outward expression of his rebellion. ...

"The curriculum reflected the classical training of the English public school system. Latin was required, Greek optional with a choice between it and extra mathematics, physics, or chemistry. In history, Greece held two and a half years, Rome one year, western Europe and England each one year; the United States was restricted to half a year. French was not taught after the sophomore year ... and German was taught the last two years. English was required throughout, but there was no geography, no biology, no music or art, no manual training. There was, of course, sacred studies, taught by the Rector."


James Chace


Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World


Simon & Schuster


Copyright 1998 by James Chace


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment