I don’t know if you go through the names of the graduates of Iredell high schools, but I particularly do the graduates of my alma mater, Mooresville High School. My best wishes go out to all the graduates of Iredell 2022.
In the class of 1966, we had about 130 graduates at Mooresville High. This year’s crop at MHS was 466, if I counted correctly, which would put the high school‘s student population – four grades – at more than 2,000.
First, let me make it clear that I am not making fun of, or making disparaging remarks in any way, about names, ethnicity, or country of birth. I’m just seeing the change.
The surnames of Mooresville students printed in the July 8 R&L were much more diverse than those of 56 years ago. In addition, their first names were much more creative. I noticed that a number of them had three names before their surname.
For example, if we looked at the names of students from Iredell County during the time of the American Civil War, we encountered as first or middle names of boys a large number of scholars named James, John or Robert, as well as lots of young men. with biblical names such as Abraham (or Abram), Gideon, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Mordecai, Nehemiah and so on, which are rare these days.
People also read…
The Civil War girl names were led by Mary, then comes Elizabeth. Sally was popular, as were Nellie and Ann (Anne). Two more popular biblical names were Ruth and Sarah. In the South, many girls had double names, like Mary Frances or Stella Mae.
In 1966, our graduating class was blessed with eight girls with the first or middle name of Judith or Judy (one of whom would be my wife), seven named Linda or Lynda, as well as several Susans.
Popular first names for the boys in our Class of 1966 included Richard (3), Robert (4), Ronald or Ronnie (4) and William (4).
In 1966, the Mooresville Graded School District had two high schools, Mooresville High and Dunbar High. Had the district been fully integrated, the addition of Dunbar School graduates to MHS in 1966 would have increased Mooresville High’s total. How many children starting school in a Mooresville freshman class walked across the stage at Roland R. Morgan Auditorium in June 1966?
I remember the district school board president giving me my diploma – I think it was Dr. Tyner, a veterinarian. I then walked past the podium and then shook hands with our principal, Max Nanney, who was standing at the foot of the stage steps on the auditorium floor. Think how humiliating, and possibly hurtful, it would have been to trip over the edge of your graduation gown and fall in front of classmates, parents, etc., on your very “last day of school.” “.
Mr. Nanney therefore served as a possible “receiver”. I don’t believe anyone needed to be grabbed by him that day, but it was safe to have him there, just in case.
I should mention a story. In 1959, Dr. James B. Conant (1893-1978) published a well-known and influential book on education, “The American High School Today: A First Report to Interested Citizens”. Dr. Conant had the academic qualifications to write his book. His doctorate was in chemistry.
He eventually became president of Harvard (his bachelor’s and doctorate were from there). Later he was our country’s first High Commissioner to West Germany and later still Ambassador. In his spare time, he has served as a senior advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation. He has also authored or co-authored at least eight books.
Dr. Conant recommended that secondary schools be limited to around 1,000 students. More than that, he thought, the students would be “lost” in the crowd.
He also believed that the needs of a democracy are best served when schools reflect the actual makeup of the community they serve. In other words, no magnet or specialized schools.
Dr. Conant felt that a high school with less than a thousand students would not have enough students to be able to offer advanced courses like Physics, French III, Advanced Maths, etc. students who plan to pursue higher education. The United States, it seemed, needed more college graduates, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and not so much in the liberal arts.
Why? In the late 1950s and early 1960s, America felt it had to catch up and overtake the Soviet Union in science and technology. The Soviets had set up “Sputnik” in October 1957, which streaked across the skies over America every few minutes.
Our sleek and beautiful rockets have too often exploded beautifully on launch pads. Russian rockets had the finesse of tractors, but got the job done. Watch the movie “The Right Stuff” and you’ll understand what I’m referring to.
America was apparently losing “The Space Race,” and our education system was partly to blame. Another book highlighting the shortcomings of our schools was “Why Johnny Can’t Read and What You Can Do about It” from 1955, by Rudolf Flesch (1911-1986), which attacked the way reading was then taught, which s called the “look-say method”.
Dr. Flesch, who had doctorates in law and library science, advocated a return to phonetics, and his books are said to have inspired 1957’s “The Cat in the Hat” and other works by Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as name of Dr. Seuss.
I wonder if Dr. Conant’s books or Dr. Flesch’s books are still read today. I know Dr. Seuss’s are.
OC Stonestreet is the author of “Tales From Old Iredell County”, “They Called Iredell County Home”, and “Once Upon a Time… in Mooresville, NC”.