The District Schools 121
Generally the teacher was young, sometimes not more than sixteen years old; but if he was expert at figures, if he could read the Bible without stumbling over the long words, if he could write well enough to set a decent copy, if he could mend a pen, if he had vigor enough of character to assert his authority, and strength enough of arm to maintain it, he would do.
Pluck was indeed of superlative importance, for according to the old-time educational ideal, the lesson of all others to be impressed on the scholars was obedience, and there were pretty certain to be big boys among the pupils, whose love of knowledge was far exceeded by their love of mischief and spirit of insubordination. A muscular clash with them was all but inevitable, and the master who lacked courage or athletic vigor was likely to meet with ignominious disaster. When the boys had "put out" two or three masters in succession, the school got the name of being " hard," and the prudential committeeman was obliged to offer liberal wages and seek out a teacher who could overpower the young savages. That this warfare between the teachers and taught was common is shown by a record of over three hundred Massachusetts schools broken up in the year 1837 by the mutinous pupils or by the incompetence of the teachers.
Severity was held to be a virtue in a teacher rather than the contrary. Some parents were uneasy if the master was backward in applying the ro.d, and inferred that the children could not be learning much, The means the average schoolmaster em-