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DEAR OLD GOLDEN RULE DAYS WEREN’T NECESSARILY GOLDEN

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Youngsters who recently suffered the agonies of returning to school may well be glad they didn't live in the 1830s. We learn from the Old Sturbridge Village children's newsletter that youngsters had to endure that trauma twice a year, when seasonal farm chores ended. School traditionally began in mid-May, ended in August, started again after Thanksgiving and ran through March. Here are some other facts about school days in the early 19th century:

- Attendance wasn't mandatory. (It became so in Massachusetts in 1838.) But parents usually made the youngsters go so they could learn at least enough to write a letter, read the Bible and trade wisely with a storekeeper.- In district schoolhouses, children ranging from ages 3 to 16 would be taught in the same room. Similar age groups sat together, with boys on one side of the classroom and girls on the other.

- Classes ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. There was an hour for lunch and 15-minute recesses in the morning and afternoon.

- When called to recite, boys bowed and girls curtsied.

- Bad behavior could be painful. Young miscreants might be "switched" across the fingertips with a birch branch. Older students could get a licking with a "ferule" of hard wood. Ah, but the bigger bad boys sometimes got revenge by locking or throwing the teacher out, or climbing onto the roof and blocking the stovepipe to smoke everyone out.

Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Mass., is a re-created rural New England Village of the 1830s - and it includes a district school of that era.