Tribute to the One-Room Schoolhouse

Monday, September 26, 2011

My mother and her mother attended the same one-room school: District No. 1 in Danville, Iowa. This picture was taken in 1977, long after Mama's school days. By that time, the building had been decommissioned as a school and converted into a house.

When Grandma went to No. 1 in the late 1800s, it was a true one-room school. By the mid 1920s, when Mama started, the big room had been partitioned into two. But since the smaller room was merely a foyer, the students still shared a single classroom.

For those of us who never went to a one-room school, there is something romantic about the idea, and my mother has good memories of her early school years. Still, I'm not sure I want to go back to the days of coal stoves and kerosene lamps and outdoor toilets.

Although Grandma never went farther than her classes at No. 1, she got a good education there and excelled in arithmetic and algebra. My grandfather attended a different rural school until he was twenty and left after eighth grade. That was a common situation for farm boys, whose duties often kept them out of school. But their persistence shows how much they valued education.

So why am I reminiscing about this now? Mostly because my mother recently received an inquiry from the current owner of No. 1, who wanted to know what the building looked like when it was still a school.

There is another reason, though. Mama believes she got a good education at her one-room school, where teachers cared about teaching and students were willing to learn. (Mama went on to high school and college and eventually became a teacher herself.) In contrast, my husband teaches in a "modern" city school and frequently complains that some teachers don't teach and many students don't want to learn.

Of course, the old rural schools didn't always do the job well, either. Teachers could be hard to find, especially for the small schools in isolated areas, and students didn't always pay attention in class. Still, there were fewer distractions, and the pupils went to learn rather than to play football or basketball.

And sometimes I wonder if this country wouldn't be better off with a few more one-room schoolhouses. 

1 comment:

Kath said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, which searching for pics of this former school - which is now MY home with my husband!! The school/home looks very different now, though the outhouse remains!! A previous owner added a 2 story addition and this past June, we added a sunroom, mudroom, new deck, windows, and new siding on the newer parts of the house. The portion that was the former school, we choose to keep the cedar siding and just paint it a cedar color. The front porch in your photo is gone now, its just an open porch.

I want to thank you for writing this. I have enjoyed reading it and seeing the photo.

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