1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 18:
“We will open the normal school next fall.” Mary Simpson, sitting in the conference room of the Magdeburg offices of the Leek family’s new down-time IBM corporation (manual typewriters and mechanical adding machines), put only the slightest emphasis on the word “will.” “Teacher training is a project that we just have to get started.”
Vanessa Clements nodded; so did Livvie Nielsen. Carol Ann Washaw, who was trying to acquire a library for the project, looked more doubtful. She was universally addressed as “Tiny” by the Grantvillers, a nickname which derived not from her present comfortable girth but rather from the size of the preemie she had been back in 1934.
“There isn’t any money to open the normal school next fall.” Carolyn Rush, Ben Leek’s daughter and office manager, shook her head. Carolyn brought a lot of perspective to this project—fifteen years as an administrative aide in the Marion County public school system on top of an undergraduate degree in American history. “Normal schools just aren’t glamorous. You can excite the upper nobility and rich merchants about opera, about ballet, libraries, even about these new women’s colleges at the Damenstifte. Those have eye appeal. What’s the prospect of getting them excited about re-treading hundreds or thousands of middle-aged widows and one-legged or one-armed soldiers into grade school teachers? Zilch.”
Mary Simpson shook her head. “There are some. I just need to talk to the right ones. Preferably, in person. Look, Carolyn, you have been working on this long enough now to have gotten over the idea that all of the down-time wealthy get their kicks out of being oppressors of the oppressed.”
“I still don’t think that we’re going to get money for this one, Mary. Definitely not any tax money.” Carolyn shook her head. “Even a lot of the people back home in Grantville think that it’s the wrong way to handle the problem. Once we get past the crunch of these first few years, they’re thinking of college-age kids; of full university educations, like the medical school in Jena. A lot of them lived through the years when the school reformers forced women who just had the two-year normal school degree out of the system. There are women in Grantville who were forced out of the system that way. They see it as a step backwards; not just gearing down, but giving up and saying that we’re not going to make it; admitting that we really won’t be able to make this work.”
Vanessa spoke up. “It’s not, really, a lot different than the teacher training program they’re starting at the middle school, now that they’ve finally faced up to the fact that their existing teachers aren’t immortal and they’d better start getting some new ones into the pipeline.”
“Notice that they aren’t calling it a normal school. There’s a lot in a name,” Tiny answered.
“Well, then.” Mary smiled sweetly. “Think of another name. That’s the next assignment for the marketing department. That’s you, Livvie. Community college; teachers’ college. Pick it. Just make sure that the curriculum stays aimed at turning out grade school teachers, K-8. And plan to open on a shoestring. Get Otto Gericke to let you use any unfilled space in the new building for the Magdeburg Gymnasium next year. Admit more people than he gives you space for, to show that the demand is there. While you do that, I’m going to find some money. Real money.”
“Where do you intend to get it?” Carolyn raised her eyebrows.
Mary smiled. “From the Wettins; or, at least, through the Wettins, since it appears that we can’t get it from parliament. Through the right Wettins. I’ve been talking to William Wettin’s uncle, Duke Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. He’s been very much involved with education reform projects for twenty years or more. Some of them went all the way up to the Reichstag, the Imperial Diet.”
“And he,” Carolyn pointed out, “couldn’t ever get any money appropriated for them, either.”
“He says that William might be some help, at least with the publicity. The two of them can get the members of their Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft—in spite of ‘by their fruits ye shall know them,’ why does a name like “Fruit-bearing Society” strike me as hopelessly absurd?—to write letters and poems and such. Newspaper articles. Create a favorable attitude among the intellectual elite.” Mary Simpson was not easily swayed.
“Intellectual elites are not noted for having large amounts of excess capital to donate to worthy causes.” Carolyn smiled, but it didn’t take the sting out of her words.
“They’re tutors to the children of people with excess capital; private secretaries to people with excess capital. Atmosphere helps, too. It will contribute to creating the milieu in which the normal school becomes a charity with eye appeal.”
“Let’s create a milieu in which we have enough money to pay the faculty their first month’s wages.” Carolyn had a relentless sense of the practical.
Mary pulled another letter out of her purse. “Yes, let’s. I just heard from Veronica Dreeson. This summer, she is going to the Upper Palatinate to try to retrieve anything that she can from her first husband’s estate. The regent there, Duke Ernst, is William Wettin’s brother. Everything that I’ve been able to find out about him says pretty much one thing. For all his life long, the slightest whiff of chalk dust acted on him like the aroma of Chanel No. 5. He was attracted to proposals for educational reform the way moths are attracted by mating pheromones.”
“Let me guess,” Carolyn said. “Ronnie Dreeson is afraid that if she goes on this trip by herself, Duke Ernst will want to keep her in Amberg to discuss early childhood education rather than letting her get on with the project of getting her money back. She has invited you to come along and talk schools.”
“Precisely. And I’m going. As I told my husband John, there’s absolutely no reason to expect any problems. Everybody says that the action this year will be to the north, against the League of Ostend.”