photo by EfrankE

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Second Grade, We Learned to Knit

I could push a pin through the starting point on the graph where the deplorable state of modern American education became personal.

Whereas pre-war America had operated under a consensus regarding the importance of thorough schooling in the “Three R’s” I grew up under the tutelage of the “new math” (intuitive math replacing logical math), social studies (replacing American history) and, rounding out the curriculum, knitting.

Digging through old piles of stuff recently, with the goal of tossing most of it, I ran across a piece I wrote as a second grade reporter for the school newspaper describing the progress our class had been achieving. Whoever typed it up must have corrected my spelling and cleaned up the syntax because this far exceeded my capabilities at the time.

From the March 30, 1961 edition of the West Viewer:

In our room we have been studying about wind. We have found material in our science books we had at home and in library books.

We saw some movies and strip films and listened to some special radio programs. In class we tried some of the experiments we saw in the films and some we found in the books. We were to try an experiment at home, then write up the results and bring the paper back to school.

We used several kinds of thermometers, hot water, ice cubes and fans. When those of us that tried an experiment about evaporation are able write up the experiment we will finish reading our reports to the class. Some of us had to wait several days for the evaporation experiment. We found out that a larger opening on a jar or pan can speed up evaporation.

We have been weaving and knitting in our room. We took turns using the looms and helped one another. Some of us put designs on our mats. After we finished a mat, Miss Bennett said she would teach us to knit if we wanted to learn knitting.

We practiced on some small lengths of yarn. Now we have started scarves for ourselves. Guy C----- has made a scarf and sent it to a friend in England for a birthday gift. He made a nice design by using two colors of yarn. Michael F-----, Donna M-----, Phyllis T----- and Andy W----- have finished their scarves.

Now some of us are making slippers. Carla P------ and Michael F----- have almost finished with their slippers.

Miss Bennett puts the stitches on for us and now we do most of our knitting at home. Miss Bennett picks up the dropped stitches before classes start in the morning, at recess, and after school. We are keeping her and her mother busy doing the crocheting part at home. Some of us can do spool knitting.

After Miss Bennett teaches some of us, we try to teach someone else so that Miss Bennett can have time to cast on stitches for someone else to start another piece of work.
–Miss Bennett’s 2nd grade

That was my report, published on legal size paper in purple mimeograph ink. The story was buried on page 4, I believe because reports of other events going on at the school were judged to be more noteworthy than a tally of knitting accomplishments by Miss Bennett’s second grade class.


  1. That's actually pretty impressive for a Grade 2 student...even if somebody did a bit of correction. Have you seen the total lack of anything much in Grade 2 nowadays? Knitting would be a great asset... although, they may want to begin with the 3 Rs.. Most of them can't read, can't spell, and can hardly print their own names.....it's sad to see. I have my report cards still, and my printing on my Grade 2 envelope is pretty darn good if I do say so myself, ....and I do!

    In Grade 2, I was in a double class...with Grade 4 ... because there was not much room in the school I guess....and they did double up some classes... so probably a total of about 40 in the class..most classes were about 30... 34..teachers today would cringe...but, we had to be quiet and behave in the olden days so it was not as horrible as it would be today when nobody pays attention to the teacher. Teachers were God in those days.... there was absolute silence when they glared at us. I remember being singled out to read to the Grade 4 class instead of doing my own Grade 2 stuff ... and some of the Grade 4 students hated me because they thought I was a "smart aleck" ... in reality...my Mom taught us all to read when we were about 4 or 5...

    Now, Math... I wish I had been able to learn that..... that was my big stumbling block....

  2. Yes, in spite of cutting class size by 25-30%, test scores have fallen drastically beginning from around 1962. Several reasons probably, but the loss of respect and orderliness is an undeniable change in classroom environment in most regions.

    I suspect math is a tough challenge for many people with strong artistic abilities and personalities. The required eight hours of calculus in college nearly derailed my architecture aspirations.