facts of yesterday – For the elevation of the popular classes

On March 28, 1882, the deputies definitively adopted the law making primary education compulsory for children of both sexes, aged six to thirteen. It could be dispensed “…either in primary or secondary educational establishments, or in public or free schools, or in families by the father of the family himself or any other person he has chosen”, as the Article 4 indicates. Eighteen sessions had been necessary, since June 1881, to draw up the text of this law, to the satisfaction of Jules Ferry, Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts.

1882 was for education a year to mark doubly a white stone, since in the Creuse, on November 5, was inaugurated the superior primary school of boys of La Souterraine. The law of 1833 creating higher primary education (EPS) provided for an establishment in all prefectural cities and those with more than 6,000 inhabitants. The EPS where education was free, unlike secondary education at the time, prepared in three years for the higher primary education certificate, the elementary certificate, the higher certificate (with two additional years of study). During the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th, the EPS played a role of social elevator by giving the possibility to the good pupils of the working classes to access the middle class.

A broad study program

In the months preceding its opening, the EPS of boys of La Souterraine distributed a prospectus indicating the program of studies, including the following subjects: French language, notions of literature, explained reading, history and geography of France, notions of history and general geography, moral and civic instruction, common law, notions of political economy, arithmetic, elements of geometry, surveying and levelling, commercial accounting and bookkeeping, algebra, line drawing and ornament, elements of physical and natural sciences, agriculture, horticulture, vocal and instrumental music.

The boys’ EPS was built on land purchased in 1878, where the city’s large cemetery once stood. A Parisian architect, Adolphe Bonnet, had drawn up the plans for this imposing building in 1880, which the journalist from the Courrier de la Creuse described, the day after the inauguration, with a few nuances only engaging him: “The building is very beautiful , although the two wings strongly resemble two sheds or stables; a very graceful campanile, in ornate cast iron, surmounts the main building; the peristyle and the staircase are very graceful, even too much for a building destined for the harsh labors of instruction”. However, no criticism was heard during the inaugural visit, at three o’clock in the afternoon, presided over by the rector of the Academy of Clermont-Ferrand, M. Bourget, bringing together MM. Ernest Javal, prefect of Creuse; Auguste Lacôte and Martin Nadaud, deputies; Alfred Vernadeau, Mayor of La Souterraine; etc., accompanied by Mr. Guillot, director of the new establishment.

This ceremony was a day of celebration for the whole city: 21 cannon shots were fired, bread was distributed to the needy and cakes to schoolchildren, the fireworks were applauded, people marched through the illuminated streets carrying torches behind the orpheon of La Souterraine and we danced. There was even an unprecedented attraction: the flight of a gas balloon, the “Lakanal”, mounted by two members of the Society of Aeronauts of France with a passenger from Sostran, Léon Favry, the fireworks were applauded. A technical problem having postponed it, the departure took place on Monday 6. The balloon landed in Châteaumeillant (Cher), nearly 90 km away. Today, the upper primary school of La Souterraine, amputated of its campanile by a fire in 1961, has become the Raymond-Loewy high school, known internationally for its training in design.

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facts of yesterday – For the elevation of the popular classes

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