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Two news stories in The Lake County Times on July 8, 1916, caught my eye recently. They're both worth your attention, too.

The more serious story dealt with Gary school Superintendent William Wirt's "Gary plan" being discussed by the National Education Association in New York City that day.

Wirt's plan was practiced in Gary, but had spread to 12 public schools in the Bronx by then.

Oddly, the story didn't explain that plan. Encyclopedia Britannica, fortunately, does so. Simply put, this progressive school reform achieved more effective use of the school facilities by sending students to different parts of the school depending on what they were working on. Departmentalization became standard, rather than sitting in the same classroom all day.

Wirt's system, often referred to as "work-study-play," put students in different platoons to be shifted around the school for different activities.

But let's get back to the 1916 story.

"Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, advocated training in the schools for efficient work and the teaching in the schools of the doctrine of respect for the rights of the man who carries a dinner pail," the story said.

But not everyone had the same idea.

Fanny Fern Andrews, secretary of the American School Peace League, "insists that public school training must finally make for peace at any price." This was while World War I was raging in Europe.

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Across the Atlantic, however, not all news was about the war.

"Some Nightingale," said the headline of the second story I noticed in that paper published 100 years ago today. "They Are Even Affected By The Heat Across The Way And We Can Expect Any Kind of a Story Now," the subhead read.

I could describe it to you, but these four paragraphs really need to be read to get the gist of this article.

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"LONDON, June 20 — (By mail) — Mrs. Louis George's Indiana farm chickens which associated with sparrows so consistently that they have learned to hop instead of walk, have created discussion in a London newspaper as to the curious traits of animal life.

"Printing the Indiana chicken story, the London Star cites another strange freak which occurred in London, concerning a fish, a plaice, a flat fish peculiar to the salt water of the North Sea.

"The plaice was placed in a tank of salt water in a cool place. Its guardian extracted a spoonful of the salt water each day and replaced a spoonful of fresh water. Eventually, the water became all fresh and the plaice didn't notice.

"Then the guardian extracted the fresh water a spoonful each day until the fish became a dry-land fish. Then he put the fish in a bird cage and it began to sing," the story concluded.

Did I say you'd get the gist of it? Hopefully, you got the jest of it, too.

As for the relative importance of the two stories, all I can say is the fish story ran on Page 1 and the education story ran on Page 2.

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Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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