Remembering John Kennedy, educator who shaped Batavia’s school system


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John Kennedy was born in England on September 17, 1846. He was one of a family of 14 brothers and sisters. He moved to a farm in Iowa in 1875.  John served in the Civil War; after the war, he became superintendent of an Iowa school district.

In 1890 the Batavia School District asked Mr. Kennedy to come to Batavia and serve as superintendent for the village school system. He served as superintendent for 23 years. His system for the village school was known as the Batavia System. He believed that if children were stimulated, they could educate themselves. 

John Kennedy was also a famous author and had many books to his name. His book, The Genesee Country, was published in 1895, during his time as superintendent from 1893 to 1913.

John was a writer with quite a descriptive flair. The chapter I found very interesting was called “Patriot-Not Financier.” In this chapter, John Kennedy was distraught. He did not want Robert Morris to be remembered as a financier of the American Revolution. In John Kennedy’s eyes, Robert Morris was a patriot who wanted America to be independent. He wanted the American government to stand with the firmest foundation. To achieve this, Robert Morris put everything in jeopardy: his good name, his life, and his fortune. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He rescued George Washington’s troops in 1777 and prevented the army’s dispersion by raising $50,000 of his own money for the war.

In Kennedy’s opinion, if Morris had not appeared on the scene or had died during the struggle, the revolution would have collapsed.   It is upsetting to read that Robert Morris died in debtor’s prison in the United States of America within a few years after the adoption of the Constitution, which he helped frame.    

We have a Constitution and a Union primarily because George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Morris sat in the convention that devised our great document.

As John Kennedy ended his chapter on Robert Morris, he said, “We are living here on his beautiful farm, the famous Holland Land purchase, and more famous still by having had for its first owner the patriot Robert Morris.” 

John Kennedy and Robert Morris are still remembered today, with the John Kennedy Intermediate School on Vine Street and the  Robert Morris Primary School on Union Street. What is impressive is that John Kennedy had the foresight in the 1800s to write about Robert Morris’ legacy in the hopes that he would be remembered as a true patriot.  

John Kennedy has to be acknowledged not only for the many books to his name but for his outstanding reputation as the school superintendent for the Village of Batavia. His system emphasized individual instruction of students, which was copied by school districts nationwide.

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