Fulton’s Various Rules: Making Boston College a Jesuit Institution

"The first two pages of rules Father Fulton created for the Boston College Faculty in 1864"

The first two pages of rules Father Fulton created for the Boston College Faculty in 1864. Register of Students, 1864-1914. BC2006-021, University Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1599, the Society of Jesus published the Ratio Studiorum and sent copies to their eight schools throughout Europe. The Ratio was essentially a rulebook for all the colleges operated by the Jesuits. The daily course schedule was outlined. Each year, the rector was to present awards to students “provided that this happens at the expense of well-known persons [and] scaled to fit the college’s size and scope.” Teachers must “obey the prefect of studies in matters that bear on studies and class discipline.” In the classroom, they needed approval to “introduce new articles for discussion in matters of any significance.” Such guidelines ensured that each Jesuit school provided the same educational experience, an experience quickly becoming world-renowned. In September 1864, Boston College opened its doors in the city’s South End and admitted its first students. Each school day followed a strict schedule, and students’ accomplishments were indeed noted with the public reading of grades and the bestowal of medals. Yet, to provide additional guidance at the new school, Prefect of Studies Robert Fulton, S.J., created thirty-seven “Various Rules for the Direction of the Teachers of B.C.” One of these rules–handwritten by Fulton–stated teachers must follow the Ratio’s ordinances. Otherwise, Fulton’s rules had three themes.

Father Fulton, undated

Religion was paramount, because “the chief result of education” was the student’s “religious information and religious training.” Fulton continued, “we do not teach a Catholic school unless we teach our boys to act in Catholic maxims.” Therefore, a teacher was to pray for his students and lead them by his “good example,” such as showing his students how to respond in Mass. Second, for behavior outside the classroom, teachers should have “some interest in the tidiness of the school, of the boys, and of their manners.” Teachers could punish students “only for good reason” because Fulton thought it “inhumane to punish for every offence.” Finally, in the classroom, Fulton’s rules explained how to teach. Students should not memorize too much in a single day, and those memory lessons should be shorter than translation lessons. The “art” of a teacher’s questions mandated that they “be clear, not suggestive of the answer, allowing fair time for reply, so constructed as to elicit desirable information.” Father Fulton used the Ratio’s guidelines but also built upon it to develop his own rules in order to create his own Jesuit school in Boston College.

  • Teddy Mitropoulos BC 2015  and Spring 2015 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit #WeWereBC, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Seth Meehan’s Spring 2015 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.  

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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