Bethel built elementary schools very early on, in response to Massachusetts’ school laws and Protestant custom. Typically one room, one teacher, multi-grade at first, they taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and also punctuality and sociability. Attendance, for a few years at least, was soon the norm; illiteracy becomes a bigger handicap in an increasingly literate society. For farmers, tradesmen, and eventually factory workers, literacy was enough; craft was learned at home and on the job, books and newspapers increased their reach. Progressively consolidated into fewer, larger, and more sophisticated affairs, primary schools continue to see to the original basics. A portion of a growing population wanted more education; local leaders founded academies and high schools; eventually, the state contributed, then regulated. Gould, like many other such institutions, prepared students for college, professions, commerce, teaching, and civil society (political roles for elite gentlemen, largely social roles for ladies). The college-bound needed Latin and perhaps some Greek for admission; for many years most continued classical studies in college. As admission requirements altered, so did high school courses.

Many lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc., were trained through apprenticeship; secondary education equipped them with the preliminary requirements of advanced literacy and numeracy, perhaps a little science… Commerce required a similar education; the MBA lay far in the future. Potential teachers might add a modern language to the program, along with pedagogy; eventually high school became a preliminary to normal school, later teachers’ college. Civility and elite status called for such additions as music, dancing, history, politics…

Gould met Bethel’s education needs for over a century. But by the later 20th Century a high school education had become the universal norm, the minimum; the diploma a necessity. So secondary education has had to expand and diversify to address the needs, interests, and abilities of all young people. Gould and Bethel decided that the former couldn’t do all this; hence Telstar.

As secondary education grew, the high school diploma became, perhaps unreasonably, a certificate of intelligence and diligence, handy for employers and the public. When community college becomes free, perhaps fourteen years of schooling will be the threshold for a “complete” education, a good job. But higher education is another column.

David R Jones has taught the history of education to aspiring teachers, administrators, et al.

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