Thursday, July 31, 2014


A catón printed in Manila in 1919
(School books for the Marianas were shipped from Manila so it wouldn't be surprising at all if some books used in our schools were printed in Manila)

Guam's schools under the Spanish administration in the late 1800s, though limited in number and student population, did use textbooks, of a sort!  Documents survive from the Marianas reporting the titles and quantities of these books used in the schools of Guam, Luta and Saipan.

Along with maps, large pictures and mathematical tables, school books were also used. The basic subjects taught were the Spanish language (reading, writing and grammar), the Catholic faith, arithmetic and geography.

For the teaching of religion, the catechism of Father Astete and a book of Bible stories (Historia Sagrada) were used.  These books were in Spanish. Father Ibáñez's few books in Chamorro (El Verdadero Cristiano Instruido/Y Magajet na Quilisyano Manaeyac, for example) were also used while supplies lasted.  Ibáñez was a long-time Spanish priest in Hagåtña and spoke Chamorro.

Another standard text used in classrooms in the schools of the Marianas was the catón.

A catón was an elementary guide to pronunciation and reading, including multiplication tables, basic catechism and short stories often having a moral lesson to them.

Although to our eyes the catón seems rather simplistic, it was a great aid to the very young in learning how to enunciate and how to pace their public reading. 

Religion was always incorporated even into secular subjects.  Here, the seven precepts of the Church are listed.  The dashes are there to help the reader clearly enunciate the different syllables.

Chances are your great-grandparents or grandparents used a catón very similar to this one.

Sometimes we don't realize just how educated our great-grandparents were, thinking, as we do, that our islands were remote and ignored.

A Spanish verse says :

"La niña buena, aprende Catón,
y escribe los palotes sin ningún borrón.”

("The good girl learns the catón,
and writes the strokes without any smudge.")

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