I have always been partial to one-roomed schoolhouses, and I have two good, and very personal, reasons for my preferences. My first home was the deserted one-roomed school at the corner of my grandparents’ farm. Dad; neighbors; uncles, aunts and cousins; had all attended school there. Following the closure (to consolidation) of the school, the ownership of the building and land had gone back to my grandparents. My father had converted the building into living quarters prior to my birth and we lived there until my parents purchased a real house. The building was not long without the sound of children, though. Uncle Ross and his family moved in and lived there through the many years of remodeling that brought the building to its present condition — a home that few would ever guess was once a school.
I also love one-roomed schoolhouses because I spent the first three and a half years of my schooling in one. Never, in any of my educational experiences, during all of these intervening years, has any institution of learning been able to offer, or uphold, the educational standards set by Mrs. Beryl Beaudry. Mrs. Beaudry taught a large assortment of children, spanning grades K—8th. She handled the job alone, without benefit of principals, assistant principals, superintendents, school secretaries, or aides, and did her job well in that red brick schoolhouse. Mrs. Beaudry provided me with an educational foundation that is rarely matched; one that has served me well, and upon which I have grown intellectually and developed habits for lifelong learning.
Recently, while packing for our upcoming move, I came across, School Days Gone By, a small book written by Kathleen Curtis and Geraldine Sturdavant, published in 1998 by the Pioneer Group in Big Rapids, Michigan. The book contains photos, descriptions and histories of many of the seventy (70) one-roomed schools that once existed in just our county. I grieve at the loss of so many real schools; real local schools under real local control. I am especially disheartened when I consider the breadth of the loss for the nation, as a whole: 70 schools in just this county; 83 counties in my state; 50 states in the union. Those numbers alone represent a massive loss of local control. I believe that the Federal government uses consolidation as a weapon against the children and against the local taxpayers, and the damage to the nation is immeasurable.
I turned the pages until I found the township in which we live, then read some of the names, the ‘birth’ dates, the method of demise, for our once-upon-a-time neighborhood schools.
Dist. #1; Pioneer School; Section 18 (We live 2/3 mile from this one and when David was young, he used to beg me to go open up the building and teach there so he could attend a neighborhood school.); began operation in 1882 in a log building; in 1889 a frame building replaced the log one; It was voted to close in 1961; Consolidated with Marion Schools. Now used as a town hall.
Dist. #2; Highland Corners School; in operation in 1882; voted to close in 1946 and the students went to the Marion school; now used as a residence.
Dist. #3; Butler or Crocker School; in operation in 1880; Consolidation with Marion Area Schools took place in 1961; now used as a hall.
Dist. #4: Beebe Creek or Frantz School; built of logs in the 1870’s; following a fire in 1929, a cobblestone building was constructed; one of the most up to date rural schools with gas lighting, a modern heating system, and indoor chemical toilets. The district was annexed to Marion in 1960 and the building was torn down.
Dist. #5; 1882; the school closed in 1946 and consolidated with the Marion Schools.
Dist. #6; 1886; it closed in 1941 to annex with Marion.
Dist. #7; 1894; the district consolidated in 1944 with Marion.
Dist. #8; 1882; in 1958 the residents voted to send students to the Marion and McBain schools…
I turned to the list of schools in the township where my grandparents farmed, Dad grew up, I arrived at my first home.
Dist. #1; 1882; consolidated with the Marion Township unit in 1944.
Dist. #2; 1882; the voters voted to annex to Marion Township Unit in 1961.
Dist. #3; 1882; in the early 1950’s consolidation with Evart Schools.
Dist. #4; Williams School (My first home); Built in the late 1880’s by means of donated materials, labor and site. While the school was under construction, classes were held in the home of Enos Williams, the man who gave the land for the school — (yes, school was held in my great-grandfather’s parlor!) Consolidation with Marion was in 1942. The school was converted into a residence and still stands today. (See photo above.)
The listing of the seventy openings, consolidations and closures continued, with each a sad reminder of how, and how long, the Feds have manipulated our “local” schooling choices and standards. It is no wonder that our families and our communities have become fractured, weakened shells of what they once were, and that is where they even still exist as viable entities.
When local people make local decisions; when local people hold accountable those placed in positions of responsibility; local standards can be maintained. However, when the ugly, glaring, featureless face of consolidations and federal mandates arrive in a community, with the iron fist of the Federal government prepared to force local compliance, all pretenses must end. Local school boards and parents have no more power to make local decisions over local schooling than local voters have any power to make decisions over federal actions, regulations and wars.
I once would have read through the list of schools, bemoaning the foolishness of people who would vote in favor of closures and consolidations; to purposely act in such a way as to give up their children, their rights; their control. I once thought that local votes meant something, but I no longer believe that nonsense. On the day that I happened to discuss school consolidations with Becky’s father, my eyes were opened to a reality that I had never even considered.
We were all at a graduation party being held in an old gymnasium adjacent to a deserted two story rural schoolhouse in a tiny community by-passed by the highway. Knowing that Becky had come from that area, I asked her father if he had attended classes in that empty building. He nodded his head sadly and said, “Yes, and I hated having to come here to this big school.” (Big school? It was a rather small school, maybe four rooms at most, although charming to me since I am always missing and searching for the Past.)
He noted my reaction, so told the story of his life as a schoolboy. He explained that he had been happily attending a one-roomed school within walking distance of his home. However, the time came when the neighbors were forced to vote on whether to close the rural schools and consolidate into a larger district — being that one based in the tiny community in which we then sat.
Mr. Taylor is positive that his parents and their neighbors voted DOWN the proposal to close the one-room schools but that government authorities forced the consolidation, anyway. I believe that his recall is accurate. With justifiable bitterness, he described his unhappiness at being bussed to the consolidated school, far from his familial supports.
Now that “big school” sets empty and deserted because in Round Two of the federal plan to consolidate all schools into ever larger, ever more impersonal districts, the children of that rural area were forced to attend school in distant Cadillac, causing some children to ride nearly 30 miles to school, a practice that continues to this day. Many people are still angry and resentful about consolidations that were forced on them against their will, or for which they were tricked into voting by being assured that it was the “right thing to do for the children so that they could benefit from sports and music and a broader array of class offerings.” I only wish that more people were aware and angry. People all over America should be furious about the theft, the filching, of their local schools by the manipulating hands of the federal government.
This practice of over-riding the wishes of the people is not isolated to Michigan. After reading my article, “Crooked House — Crumbling Foundation“, Mike Javick of NE Pennsylvania wrote, “They took our small town schools in 1973…We petitioned, we tried, we cried, but we lost…I am still so angry about all of this. I told my parents at that time that this was just the beginning…we should have fought. I mean literally fought…Amerika wake up…you are in mortal danger…may God forgive us.” There are surely thousands of similar stories from all parts of America. However, the memories will cease to exist as the older generations pass on, until few will even understand how America’s 85,000+ school districts were reduced in number to a few thousand, with plans supposedly in place to eventually reduce that number to fewer than ten massive school districts, all run entirely by the federal government.
I believe that new and ever larger school districts are purposely planned in order to separate families; keep children from going home to lunch (which effectively allows mothers to work outside the home); force families to be dependent on government schooling and government busing; create a chasm, a Dead Zone, between what should, and what does, occur in public school classrooms. If children are isolated from their families, and the families are isolated from all knowledge of what goes on within the large, impersonal buildings, then brainwashing and state training can take place in those unwelcoming, secretive, and distant schools.
It is obvious to anyone who thinks at all about government schools, that — they aren’t working! But these one-roomed schools worked, and they worked well. In the little book about the local, rural schools of this, the county of my birth, Curtis and Sturdavant include a story, “Osceola County Schools: a story of progress” written by Evart Review Editor, Jim Crees. In this newspaper article, originally appearing in the September 10, 1997, edition of the paper, Crees quotes frequently from an 1875 report on the state of the county schools, written by M.A. Lafler, then county superintendent of schools.
Some of the statements from Mr. Lafler’s report provide insight into the attitudes and philosophies that helped these local schools be so successful in educating students to be leaders of their communities, their states, this nation:
“Another year of active official labor deepens the conviction that our public schools are essential to the well-being of our republican institutions and the progress of a Christian civilization.”
“…every patriot must be convinced that the proper education of our boys and girls will best secure to coming generations the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and every political economist must acknowledge that the material resources of the nation will be proportionate to the wealth of mind.”
“Education loses half its value if it does not include moral teaching.”
“Denominational preferences or distinctive tenets of a sect, are out of place in a public school; but the great moral truth, including the principles of uprightness among men, and obedience to our parents, are the elements of moral power, and are essential to good government, and should never be dispensed with, but always inculcated by ‘precept and example’.”
“Religion and theology may be left to be taught in the theological seminary but our teachers preparation must include all that will best qualify him to work where the web of life is woven with the intellectual warp and moral woof.”
“The whole number of school-houses in the county are forty-four. There are at the present time seventeen frame school-houses and for the convenience of arrangement and architectural beauty, are an ornament to their districts, and a true index of the intelligence and refinement of the people.”
“It is realized by many of ordinary apprehensions that the school house is, in a great extent, an educator. Physical objects, (such as school buildings), have proportion, fitness and beauty, and become standards of taste, and are recalled and copied in life after school.”
“Our prisons, houses of correction and reform schools are but the acknowledgement in brick and stone of our past blunders in educating our youth.”
Need I say more?
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.