Passenger Education


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sashka pozzetti

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This thread is to discuss the education of all Titanic passengers, and any related interest.
 
May 3, 2005
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This is just my general opinion and perhaps Mr. Standart and the other experts might enlighten us.
(I use the term "expert" in a flattering manner and with a great deal of respect for Mr. Standart et. al.)

I would think that the education of all Titanic passengers ranged from those in Steerage who were illiterate and had little or no education...some of the reports seem to indicate that many of them could not speak or understand English, for example....possibly there might be some traveling in Steerage who had more education but were traveling in that manner for economic reasons.

The "upper classes" in First and possibly Second Class most likely had at least some "Finishing School" for the ladies or University or College Education with perhaps some or many of the ladies and gentlemen who had achieved the Doctorate level. In 1912, the education of the ladies might have been more limited than the gentlemen, of course ?

Just IMHO.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
My own understanding is much the same as Roberts. The Upper classes and even the middle class...such as it was...could afford the luxury of a complete education but for those in the lower or "Working Classes" the story would have been very different for economic reasons. The sooner you could go to work, the better and that made for a lot of people going to work at a very young age.

That doesn't mean that upward mobility wasn't a possibility. Thomas Andrews got his start as an apprentice, and Senator Smaith...who was a very accomplished trial lawyer...got his start selling popcorn.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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We might assume that late Victorian and Edwardian women, even those from affluent backgrounds, were poorly educated. But this was not always the case. Edith Pears and Elsie Bowerman were both pupils at the prestigious Wycombe Abbey School which then, as now, maintained a very high academic standard. Elsie went on to study Languages at Cambridge and was admitted to the Bar in 1924.

To cite another example from first-class, Alice Leader was a qualified physician. Although I know next to nothing about her, I assume that she too had been extremely well educated.

In general, there remained a strong prejudice against the 'blue stocking' in high society - debutantes coming out as late as the 1950s found that a reputation for being 'clever' could easily deter potential suitors. And, as I have pointed out on another thread, the concept of an 'all round' female education was most eagerly embraced by the more progressive members of the middle class. Smart girls would either have been trained in traditional feminine accomplishments (the arts, foreign languages, a little history and geography) by a governess at home or they would have attended a small, select and decidedly unacademic seminary with a handful of similarly well bred contemporaries.

On a different note, Robert wrote:

'I would think that the education of all Titanic passengers ranged from those in Steerage who were illiterate and had little or no education...some of the reports seem to indicate that many of them could not speak or understand English, for example....'

I know what you are getting at, Robert, but I wouldn't necessarily see the lack of English on the part of some third-class passengers as evidence of their illiteracy. I've been through school and university but I can't speak Syrian or Swedish! Under different circumstances, and by their own standards, I've no doubt that there were many individuals travelling in steerage who were surprisingly well educated.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Now then, you nautical gents. Belay the idea of illiterate and ignorant masses. You might find plenty of those on cruise ships today
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, but back in 1912 the industrial nations were well aware of the need for a well-educated workforce. It had not passed without note that the rise of Germany as a commercial and industrial force to be reckoned with had been based in its excellent and progressive system of State education for all. I cannot speak for the education systems of all nations in 1912, but a review of the system for England and Wales will serve as an example. This had been much influenced by the German system, and was fairly typical of that of other European nations at the time.

All children were required to attend elementary schools (free of charge) from the age of 5 to 13 (soon to be raised to 14). The State schools were administered by Local Education Authorities for each County and Borough, which were in turn guided by a central Ministry of Education. The basic curriculum was still the 'three r's', in which the standard of attainment was, if anything, higher than that of most school-leavers today. To this were added a basic grounding in science, literature, history (of the British Empire, naturally!), health and citizenship, along with physical education and practical skills (generally woodwork for boys and domestic skills for girls). Most schools provided a 'senior' class in which the best pupils were worked harder and provided with extra subjects (sometimes even foreign languages) to prepare them for scholarship examination and progress to secondary education. Most if not all of the pupils in the senior class would have been boys. In 1912 there were around 4,000 secondary schools in England and Wales, but only 1 in 8 of them offered any places to girls.

Unlike the elementary schools, secondary education was neither free nor compulsory. Anybody whose family could afford to pay the fees could gain entry to these schools, so the majority of pupils in secondary education were the children of middle class fathers like clerks, shopkeepers and skilled artisans. The government had decreed that at least 25% of the places in secondary education should be reserved for subsidised 'scholarship' pupils - ie working class children of proven ability. Not all of the scholarship winners, however, were able to take up the offer of several more years of free education. Their parents still needed to feed and clothe them, and would also of course be deprived of their contribution to the family income as paid workers. But for any ambitious young person who was forced by economic circumstances to leave school and start working, there was still the possibility of continued education through the use of the public libraries and evening classes (in both technical subjects and liberal education) which were available in every town in an age when self-advancement was greatly encouraged.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the basic educational standards and opportunities for the masses in 1912. Not an 'equal opportunity' system by any means (and certainly not for girls), but not quite so far removed from the present system as many of us might suppose. It must be said, however, that many of the older passengers and crew on the Titanic would have been at school at a time when standards were less advanced, so it's the younger adults and the children who would have had the best education.
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Mar 20, 2007
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Bravo, Bob! A truly masterful insight into the state of education for the masses during the Edwardian Era.

For anybody who'd like to know more, I'd heartily recommend Flora Thompson's exquisite memoir 'Larkrise to Candleford' which contains detailed information about the kind of education given to working class children in an Oxfordshire village of the 1880s.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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My father's family were beneficiaries of the UK State education system between 1911 and 1925 (7 children). Their parents, my grandparents, were from labouring people, although my grandfather had already worked his way up through the Sheffield steel works to a foreman position by then (which he lost in the Depression). They were completely absorbed by the idea of educating their children. Of their 7 children, all were well educated through the elementary system, and the older boys all went on to Matriculate and then get degrees. The older girls did not because money was short (for the clothes, books etc.), but the youngest girl did. All, however, gained or married into middle-class lifestyles, and all their children went on to Universities.

My own father, keen to become a doctor, made a chemistry laboratory in the cellar of their terraced house, which his mother strongly defended in the name of his education, even after an experiment in producing hydrogen sulphide resulted in a Sunday tea-party, including the Methodist Minister, being abruptly interrupted by a terrible stench rising from below, embarrassing all the guests who thought one of their number was responsible. Grandfather was furious, but in the end (grandmother got at him) meekly just built a baffle over the air brick in the cellar and told my father to warn them in future when he was making noxious gases.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Martin - thanks!

Mike, the aims were generally similar, but of course a country with a less successful economy would have had less to spend on education. If you look at East European countries like Bulgaria or Romania, for example, at first sight their education systems were not unlike that of England. A school in every community, and elementary education was both free and compulsory for all. But the average amount of spending on each child's education was about half to two-thirds of the UK figure. The elementary systems were quite adequate, but there was less provision (and arguably less need) for secondary and higher education, which was not in any case of the same high standard. Wealthy families preferred to send their children to technical schools or universities in Paris rather than to establishments nearer home. I obviously don't have the background information to go into detail about every country, but hopefully that gives some idea.
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Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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Dr. Leader's travelling companion, Mrs. Swift, had a law degree from NYU (New York University). I did not know this until rereading some of the contemporary news coverage linked to her ET bio recently.

What interests me are the American passengers who got degrees from non-Ivy League institutions. Richard White graduated from the small but prestigious Bowdoin College in Maine. Richard Mock went to Susquehanna University, of which I know nothing. Kornelia Andrews and the Chaffees all went to Oberlin in Ohio, though I'm not sure if any of them got degrees (their ET bios say). Today, this is a quite respected school with sort of a funky reputation (though it made the mistake of rejecting yours truly). I'm not sure how it was rated in the nineteenth century.

Lucian Smith went to the University of West Virginia, which seems an unlikely choice for a young man with rich Philadelphian roots.

Eleanor Widener dropped out of Vassar to get married, and I'm sure other first class ladies attended this school.

In terms of what Americans call prep school and the British call public school, Colonel Gracie went to St. Paul's and Gretchen Longley went to the Windsor School in Boston. Both of these schools are still flourishing, but I've never hard of Briarcliff, where Olive Earnshaw, Margaret Hays, and Helen Newsom went. The Baxters went to Montreal Catholic schools.

This is all that comes to mind just now.
 
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sashka pozzetti

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Were there Titanic passengers who had been to school together at all? and as was mentioned before has anyone on ET been to a private school or similar, and could explain what the benefits are that continue after you have left??
 

Brian Ahern

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Colonel Gracie mentioned a school connection in his account. Perhaps he had gone to St. Paul's with the husband of one of the Lamson sisters?

I think Jack Thayer and Richard Norris Williams were later at Harvard together.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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Major Peuchen was educated in private schools in Montreal, up until 1871 when his family decided to move to Toronto. I have not been able to find out which schools he went to here, but I'm assuming it would have been the same. I don't see why his parents would switch him from a private school to a public one.

As far as private schools go nowadays, I can't say as I went to a public school for two years. Then my parents and I moved, and I went to Catholic schools for the rest of my education.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
Although Bob Godfrey has clearly refuted the suggestion that British Third class travellers would have been illiterate, it should perhaps be explained that education in the UK was still very much in the hands of the churches and, more especially, the Anglican church. In Oxfordshire, for example, the vast majority of elementary schools were C of E schools, rather than local authority schools. Church schools in England and Ireland were sometimes called "National" schools.

Grammar schools were, similarly, dominated by the church - the Act of Parliament by which my own school was governed stated that the headmaster should hold the degree of MA and be ordained (although that requirement had been dropped long before 1912). Many grammar schools offered free places to "foundationers" from their respective towns, whereas outsiders (who were often boarders) had to pay fees.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Jonathan is correct - Colonel Gracie and Clinch Smith had been pupils together at St Paul's, the smartest of American public schools. And, as I've mentioned above, Edith Pears and Elsie Bowerman were contemporaries at Wycombe Abbey. I can't think of any other first-class passengers who had been school fellows but there might well be more.

The English contingent in first-class was relatively small and I believe that the overall number of passengers who had come in for full public school 'treatment' was low. We've established that Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon was an Old Etonian whereas Bruce Ismay had been to Harrow. I don't know where Christopher Head and Tyrell Cavendish studied but, given what we know of their backgrounds, I imagine they had been to public school too.

Looking at the next generation, so to speak, one or both of the Cavendish boys were pupils at Stowe. This would have been a very new establishment at the time they were there (it opened in 1923) but it has long since taken its place as one of England's most exclusive and prestigious public schools. Clarence Moore had a son at Eton and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Noelle Rothes sent her sons there too. Interestingly, I believe that Lucile Carter (the daughter) was sent to Wycombe Abbey - perhaps a rather 'jolly hockey sticks' environment for a fledgling Newport belle?

I'm sure that there were several second-class passengers who had been to public school, although maybe not in the premier league. Lawrence Beesley was a master at Dulwich College which today has an excellent academic reputation. At one point in his account of the disaster, Beesley recalls an enjoyable conversation he shared with Reverend Carter, in which they discussed the merits of their respective universities - Oxford (Carter) and Cambridge (Beesley).

Sashka has asked how many ET board members attended public school and what benefits this might have conferred upon them. I can't help thinking that this question is very hard to answer. Either one DID go to public school or one DIDN'T - in neither case is judgement likely to be objective!
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I forgot to add that Briarcliff Junior College, which Olive Earnshaw, Helen Newsom and Margaret Hays all attended, was a super-smart school for girls in Westchester County. It was often referred to as 'Debutante U' and one former pupil recalled that, for many of the older girls, it was no more than a place to rest between parties!
 

Bob Godfrey

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"Either one DID go to public school or one DIDN'T". So now you know, Sashka! For an accurate portrayal of life in a typical English public school, see the TV documentary Tomkinson's Schooldays. :)
 
Dec 29, 2006
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It might be useful if we could define what is meant by the term "public school" - how, for example, did a public school differ from an endowed school in 1912? In practice, the many of the schools which are now regarded as "Head Masters Conference" (HMC) schools, such as Eton, are successful grammar schools, while others, such as Lancing and Clifton, are Victorian creations that emulated the much older grammar schools.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Stanley, good point about the Church schools but in practice of course it didn't change the situation as regards quality of education. The LEA's (and the School Boards before 1902) built new schools only in areas where the existing provision was inadequate, which was a sensible policy as the Anglican and other Church schools (notably Catholic) were doing a perfectly good job. But as the education process became increasingly more complex (and costly) the denominational schools could no longer maintain their standards without funding from the taxpayers' pockets. This was the cause of controversy. The State schools provided non-denominational religious instruction which in practice was little different from that received in the Anglican schools, but there were particular objections to the public funding of Catholic schools ('Rome on the Rates').

Following long and heated debates in Parliament over the 1902 Education Act, the outcome was that all elementary schools received funding, but on the understanding that the standard curriculum and the guidelines of the LEA's would be observed, that pupils (and teachers) of all denominations were admissable, and that any who wished to opt out of the denominational elements could do so. Of course there was resistance, particularly from the Catholic Church which culminated in parents being threatened with excommunication if they exercised their right to send their children to a non-Catholic school!

In practice, schools which were doing a good job were generally allowed a certain amount of leeway if they failed to obey the letter of the law, but the Government had achieved its primary aim in ensuring that all children received the same standard of elementary schooling whatever type of religious instruction might be on the menu. Stanley is right in his assertion that there were areas (particularly rural) where the Anglican schools were dominant in numbers, But the role of the Church in dictating the content of education was by then minimal.

I started my own education at a tiny village school which was probably Anglican, but hard to tell (and that's the point). I moved on to a large Catholic elementary school in London, then to a non-denominational secondary school. All seamless transitions. The 'dual system' in the elementary sector still exists, and denominational schools (including now Islamic) are actually on the increase after a long period of decline. But this has little if any effect on the quality of general education received.
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