Back to School (Two Centuries Back)

By Katherine Dalton for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Ah, September.  The enervating heat of August is less, and school starts up again with all the hopefulness and energy of a new academic year.  I still feel the year begins in September.  For those of you with children, and those of you called to profess, here is a bit from Margaret Coit’s 1950 biography John C. Calhoun: American Portrait—for use next time someone complains of his homework load.

Before going to Yale (which Calhoun entered as a junior in 1802), he studied for two years at the “log academy” of his brother-in-law, Dr. Moses Waddell.  The boys lived in cabins, survived on a diet of cornbread and bacon, were roused by a horn at dawn, and studied from sunrise till nine p.m. seven days a week (with debates on Friday nights and some time for hunting on Saturdays).  “[T]hey studied their grammar and syntax, their Vigil and Homer, with intensity,” Coit writes.  “A hundred and fifty memorized lines a day would be the quota for the slower pupils; over a thousand, for the brilliant ones.”

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