As surprised as I was to read this morning’s article that the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is requiring all its school teachers, Catholic or not, to sign an agreement affirming a number of Catholic beliefs, there was also something familiar about it. (You can read this morning’s article here.)
When I was working on my book The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma (Sasquatch Books, 2000), I found a document in what had been the Alexander Valley Schoolhouse and is now a guest cottage at Alexander Valley Vineyards. Back then, a teacher’s life seemed to be subject to much more examination than we can imagine now.
I think today’s article is shocking in part because, despite social media, reality television and confessional memoirs, we really do have more privacy, more personal options and less social judgment than in the past, much to the chagrin of certain segments of our culture. The Catholic Church is not the only organization that would like to turn the calendar back a few decades.
What’s my point, you ask? Just that history provides perspective and that perspective is always a good thing and almost always really interesting, too.
Here’s the document, which was framed and displayed in the cottage:
Rules for Teachers, 1872
from the Alexander Valley Schoolhouse
1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.
2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s sessions.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.