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Thursday, August 11, 2011

ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE TRADITION


ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE
October, 1940. Breathitt County, Kentucky.
Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration Photos
Mary Post Wolcott, Photographer


Tis the time for all young folks to parade back to school. There are different types of school choices today -- private, public or home schooling. 


Notice that none of these choices are the one room school house which used to dot our country's landscape during the latter part of the 19th century and into the earlier part of the 20th century. Primarily rural in nature -- they were located in the country and small towns. 


I have always appreciated the tradition of the one room school house. I thought it would be interesting to find some old photos of students attending one of these types of schools. Luckily the Library of Congress provided a couple from their archives.


As I am sure you know, the one room school usually held quite a few grades all taught in one room with one teacher. The usual school room scenario seemed to be first through eighth grade.


MOUNTAIN CHILDREN PLAYING
 MARBLES AFTER SCHOOL


October, 1940. Breathitt County, Kentucky.
Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration Photos
Mary Post Wolcott, Photographer




















These schools had a traditional social culture where everyone knew each other and you didn't compete by wearing fashionable clothes. Children learned from the students as well as the teacher, and most students assisted those who needed help.

Also, you usually walked quite a distance to school, sometimes brought your homemade lunch in a tin lunch bucket  and got time off to help with work chores at home -- these activities would keep children healthy and strong.


It was a tight school community onto itself. It was self regulated in a sense.

Today young folks are attending large consolidated schools where they do not know all the teachers or other students. The idea of "school community" has become a loosely knit phrase.


My question is -- are we going in the right direction with our school culture today?

28 comments:

  1. I sorta don't think so. I was appalled at what my kids didn't learn in school. Both of my parents -- who started out in country one-room schools -- were appalled at what I wasn't learning. It's really kind of sad.

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  2. My 15 year old son attends a homeschool resource center called Open Connections (OC) two full days a week that contains many of the components of a one room schoolhouse. OC is located on 28 acres in a rural area outside Philadelphia and contains a large stone farmhouse and restored barn where young people from age 5 to 18 gather to learn in an experiential and free way.

    The community is comprised of about 100 families which allows for strong connections to form between not only the young people attending OC but also between the parents. Regular dinners together, open mic shows, game nights and picnics bring the community together to form an intimacy hard to replace in today's fast paced impersonal world.

    I think we have stepped so far away from true community that many people no longer know what is feels like. They've never felt the warmth of being in relationship with many while being surrounded by those who care deeply for you and you for them. Real community brings tears to your eyes when you discover yourself in the embrace of it. The idea of a one room schoolhouse when employed today brings many benefits much like it did in the days of old.

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  3. I enjoyed this post. The first picture shows girls mostly working and boys mostly bored and not working. Hmmm.

    I don't know if we're going the right way with school. I have a gut level feeling that too much is being imposed top down [all those tests]. My daughter has worked for a highly academic charter high school for many years, and my grandchildren got good educations there although the brightest was very bored his senior year. I'm glad charter schools are another choice although I know there's a great difference among them as there is among other kinds of schools.

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  4. I like their bare feet.
    We attended meetings to keep our 4-room rural school open 25 years ago, to no avail. Perhaps rising gas prices will put the brakes on bussing kids farther and farther.
    Barbara, you might enjoy this book: When the School Horse Was King by John C. Charyk. You can see it at Google Books. Hope this link works:

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=0wZIGy1LimcC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=when+the+school+horse+was+king&source=bl&ots=J-Kq-BN2AY&sig=pp2iyeoxoV-rzFxjZvzR7eDC7L0&hl=en&ei=X95DTvXOKum0sQLgpNHlCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Sheri

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  5. Kay, Did you ever talk with your parents about their days at a one room school house. I take it that it was in Ohio. I wonder if it is still standing. My father's one room school house in upper Michigan is still standing and now is a home for a young couple. I have a photo of it somewhere. Thanks -- barbara

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  6. June -- I put charter schools in the category of private schools. I don't know if this is the right category for them. I know that charter schools have different curriculum's depending on the emphasis. I subbed in public schools after I retired and found that there was an extraordinary emphasis on standardized tests. In fact I could write a book about the curriculum that was served up to the children in the schools that I taught in. But I am sure there are good and not so good school in public as well as private. thanks -- barbara

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  7. No, we are not going in the right direction. With the mandates of "No child left behind," we are teaching to the test. The children are not learning the concepts of creative thinking. They are filled with facts to spit back, but have no real understanding of the underlying concepts.

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  8. My mom is from Wisconsin and I have no idea where either went to grade school. I'm pretty sure Dad's schools were somewhere in north central Ohio. When we lived in Wooster there was a really charming home down the road a piece that had originally been a one room schoolhouse. I always wanted to see the interior. I love old buildings!!! My current home is an old house from the 20s or 30s that was duplexed. I have nice-sized rooms, oak woodwork, and a big front porch AND great neighbors mostly. I did a series of posts on it and if you want the links I'll send them -- just drop me a note.

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  9. Those one room schools remind me of Laura Ingalss Wilders' books.

    School culture? I don't know what they do in schools today, except via my daughter who is supposed to work with learning disabled kids this fall. Whether there will be money for her salary depends on the economy. Connie loves the Title 1 schools. Whoops, she just got the call!! Dianne

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  10. "Tom" No answer. "Tom" No answer. One is Tom, another Huck. Where's Becky Thatcher?

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  11. Darcy -- O C is surely a community involving both parents and children. How fortunte your family is to be connected to this school. The setting sounds beautiful. I do support the idea of, "small is beautiful." There is a book titled, Small Is Beautiful, by E. F. Schumacher about humanistics economics -- it is wrote from the heart rather than the benefit/profit of capitalism -- which is the long run relates to a philosophy of living -- thanks -- barbara

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  12. Sheri -- I followed your link about the school horse. Nice that Google puts books online now. I bookmarked it for possible future reference.

    Unfortunate indeed that you couldn't keep your four room school house open. In my own personal experience I have not seen the benefits of consolidation.

    -- Thanks barbara

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  13. NCmountainwoman I would like to tell about an experience I had when subbing at an elementery school. The class had a special tutor that appeared in the classroom on several occasions to prep them on how to take an upcoming standardized test. Also, areas of knowledge to be tested were focused on by this prep teacher letting the kids know how to mark such questions. This was so important, not for the children mind you, but for the school system as funding was dependent on how well the school perforemed on the tests.

    One incident that I remember was that I was trying to teach this particular class (a public large city class) about food. I asked how many liked broccoli, no hands. I asked the class why -- they answered we don't know what it is. I ran down several more foods and several of them were unknown to them. Then I asked where do you get vegetables -- all said the grocery store. Asked again -- where do vegetables come from - again the store. Ok class where does milk come from -- again the class said the store. No I said a cow. They laughed and though I was kidding. This is a true experince of a second grade class that was being preped for a standardized test yet couldn't even handle basic food knowledge.

    Enough said -- Now, I'm sure you know my position on testing.

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  14. Birdman -- Oh boy -- they're off having fun -- as they should as children -- barbara

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  15. Dianne -- I admit I did not know what went on in schools either until I retired. Then I decided to sub in a large public school district -- lasted about four years and then collapsed in disillusionment. My thoughts are that every parent who has a child in school should spend a day a month in the schools -- and come unannounced. It was a rude awakening for me to see the rote style of learning and non-creative tasks that were assigned. I won't go on but whoa it's spooky out there. -- barbara

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  16. I worked with an elderly lady who had been a teacher in a one room schoolhouse. She used to tell me wonderful stories about her experience.

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  17. I can't speak to education today, because I haven't been near a classroom in 40 years. If it is, indeed, the way I hear, then I think it's just another way that we are in a downward spiral.

    I remember when I was in school, I went to a four room school for a year. It was different in that the school district was out of space and four of the fifth grade classes were housed in this old schoolhouse, which was re-opened and revamped for us. It served fifth graders for a few years, until more schools were built (these were the boomer kids in school years.) Even is a situation like that, it was different and special. There were just the four classes, we had our own teachers, and our own playground. The music and art teachers came in, one day a week, and, in the Winter, there was no formal gym class, just dressing up in snow suits and running around outside. The kids who went to that little school actually stayed pretty close, all through the rest of public school.

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  18. Louise -- Your memories of your four room school house are warm indeed. I am not surprised that you have long lasting friends as a result of this experience.

    There are quite a few problems in the educational system. This subject has been brought to the attention of educators and hopefully there will be fixes in the future.

    thanks for your comments -- barbara

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  19. Farmchick -- Thanks for the comments. About two years ago I was in the early stages of writing this blog. I had a lot to learn (and still do). Anyhow, I interviewed a one room school teacher and posted it at this link:

    http://folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.com/2009/09/one-teacher-one-room-school-house.html

    When I read it now I want to rewrite it but I guess it still resonates the community spirit of one room school houses.

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  20. I think the one-room school has maybe been over idealized. Yes, there were social advantages to the arrangement, and having older students teach younger students certainly helped both to learn. But they were also short on both depth and breadth of subject matter. They taught students who were growing into a much less complex world. Both of my parents attended such schools and they were well schooled in the basics, the 3 r's, but ignorant of more complex ideas that were readily available to students attending larger, more sophisticated schools of the day. Whatever the failings of schools today, I don't think a return to one-room schools will correct them. Jim

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  21. No, here in Oz so many smaller schools are closed then amalgamated with others to create a huge factory filled with thousands of students who don't get an education but are more shoved through the production line.

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  22. Jim -- Maybe we could capture the spirit of one room school houses and have smaller schools in areas that would be walkable for children. Maybe give schools more autonomy. Your thoughts are very much appreciated. -- barbara

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  23. Jayne -- It sure sounds similar to the problem here in the U. S. I mentioned to another commenter -- every parent should visit their children's school unannounced on a fairly regular basis to see and understand how the children are being educated and socialized. Eye Opener! Thanks -- barbara

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  24. I enjoyed your post and the pictures. My mom and my sisters attended a 2 room school at the foot of our holler. It closed before I was old enough to go to school.

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  25. Janet -- Thanks for the comments.
    So you probably went to a larger school? I imagine your sisters received the same type of education that you did at your new school -- barbara

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  26. When my father in law was out of college when he was 20 he taught in just this type of school in West Virginia. Have a photo of it somewhere.

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  27. A lot of people place blame on the school system but I think a large part has to do with parenting too. Everyone seems to be so much busier now working, watching tv and on the internet.

    I am in Spain right now and I can tell you that the overwhelming feeling of Europeans is that the US educational system is bad. But I tell them it really depends on the school and that the US is one of the most innovative, free spirited, can-do countries in the world. That comes from somewhere.

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  28. Lola -- I can only speak from my experience as a sub teacher in city public schools. I found it very non-creative, unimaginative, rote and chaotic. Can't speak to the whole of the educational system but there are lots of articles and books wrote on our school system. Thanks for stopping by. You are a long way from the U.S. but I'm sure enjoying it. -- barbara

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