Part I of ‘Schools” was my column for May 15, 2016. School II is a sequel to it as well as last week’s column, “Targets” on standards. Report Cards report how well students have met academic targets.

Part I of ‘Schools” was my column for May 15, 2016. School II is a sequel to it as well as last week’s column, “Targets” on standards. Report Cards report how well students have met academic targets.

One-Room Schools

One-room schools were the first schools built when the U.S. began as a sparsely-populated, rural country. When the industrial revolution began with the use of water wheels to power steam engines followed by mechanization, we morphed into an industrial nation. Farm hands emancipated by machinery moved to factory jobs in urban centers which depopulated rural areas. Mechanization increased the average size acreage per farmer and an exodus of surplus farmers, their school-age children, and their rural schools consolidating and closing in favor of larger schools in county-seat towns. One-room and small rural schools were the center of rural communities and their closure not only signaled the loss of the community but caused it.

In the picture here of Waldo School in 1937, there are 19 students of all ages and grades and one lone male teacher who had to be a jack-of-all-trades academically regardless of his academic preparation or abilities. Consequently, curricula focused on the subjects students had to learn and most teachers had themselves mastered --the 3 R’s reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Teachers came early to bring in the wood or coal in cold weather to get the stove lighted and the room warmed up. Students rode on horses to get to school. [For a time, my Mom rode to school with an old Indian on his horse.] Students heard lessons for students in grades above them and, learning advanced materials, were able to “skip grades.” [Mom was graduated at 16.]

1894 Fifth Grade Reader

This week I bought an 1894 fifth grade reader that provides a sample of what children in one-room schools studied back then. I gave it to two highly-experienced educators this week to compare it with current readers e.g., Dr. Jessie and Mrs. Susan Fields, he being the former principal of Sequoyah Grade School and she the current Principal of Horace Mann Grade School. Their conclusion was it is more advanced in reading than current texts but for a reason. Students back then emphasized English and reading because of the limited curriculum of smaller schools then. The world of work required generalists knowing the three R’s at a proficient level. I called my old high school in Enid and in some subjects they have classes at three levels of proficiency e.g., standard, advanced and Advanced Placement [college credit].

Report Cards

Shown here is a 1936-7 report card. Then a student had to be the bearer of his own sins and ignominy home to his parents every six weeks and endure the consequences. Notice students were graded not only on their academic work but also their ‘deportment’ or ‘conduct.’ It was straight out of the Bible e.g., “and you may be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num.32:23] Shawnee High School still has the digital version of periodic report cards if one can negotiate their web site. [Which I couldn’t!]

Notice that they graded both spelling and writing back then. In the seventh grade we were given 25 words every Monday and every Friday were stood up around the room for a spelling bee. If you misspelled the word you were given, you sat down. Last one standing won—making it clear who could spell—and who couldn’t. They also posted the results of achievement tests---sorted by scores from best at the top to worst at the bottom. If you were a bottom dweller, you knew it! We didn’t grow up under any intellectual delusions!

If you didn’t already know which girl in the class was smartest you surely found out in penmanship. One day in the third grade our teacher told us, “Tomorrow, Children, I’m going to teach you how to write with this muscle [pointing to the one under her forearm]. It turned out the idea was to not write by moving your fingers but by rotating your arm using that muscle. We began with holes in our desk for the ink bottle and those long wooden staffs with removable pen tips. Periodically we had to send off samples of our work to be graded by the Good Writers Club experts. Guess who never was admitted to that Club? Me! I figured that if the Lord had intended me to write with that muscle, he would have put my fingers there. I never did make that Club—even by using my fingers. To this day I practice my penmanship—still using my fingers

Ann Belle in Webbers Falls was never absent, tardy, or truant, earned all A’s and B’s in her course work and a B in “conduct” in spite of “wasting time” in November. She was passed from 8th to 9th grade in 1937. In my day before “social promotions”, they held students back if they failed which left some pretty big boys playing in our schoolyard games. I recall Walt, then 16 and only a grade ahead of me when I was ll. A year later he was crowned the Golden Gloves State heavyweight champion! Life then was harder for us kids.