Consolidation of schools and looking back to the one-room schoolhouse

The following article is reprinted from Lew Rockwell. In this article, Linda Schrock Taylor discusses the significance of consolidation and the loss of the one-room schoolhouse. Her comments are of general importance, and I wanted to be sure more people saw her analysis, so it is reprinted here.

The link is http://www.lewrockwell.com/taylor/taylor69.html

The Feds Filched Our One-Room Schools

by Linda Schrock Taylor
by Linda Schrock Taylor

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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?

June 28, 2004

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.

Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com

Linda Schrock Taylor Archives

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Birmingham Neighborhood Associations: Streamlined Zoning Requests

An effort is being made in Birmingham, Alabama, to “streamline” neighborhood zoning requests by essentially taking this business out of the hands of the individual neighborhood associations. This means that there is less public involvement in the zoning decisions that have been made. In the past, zoning issues involving re-zoning requests, liquor licenses, and requests to be exempt from zoning regulations — things that pertain directly to the life of the individual community — have been handled democratically in neighborhood meetings. This is an efficient, practical and streamlined way to handle democratic business. The decision to streamline means to take the issues out of local hands and to ensure that these decisions will no longer be made at the local level.

Free-market and the schools: Panel praises free-market choices

Panel praises free-market education choices

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/217428/

CONWAY — Free-market ideas are beginning to open Arkansas public schools up to competition, a panel of professors told an audience of University of Central Arkansas students Wednesday afternoon.

But the new options that families have because of charter schools and school choice aren’t enough, Loyola University economics professor Walter Block said. He thinks the free market would provide an education for all and public schools should be abolished.

“This idea that you need only public schools or only the aristocracy is going to get educated is erroneous,” he said. “To me there are two parts of equity and one is not forcing people to pay for other people’s education. That seems more like theft than equity.”

The panel was hosted by the public university and the Arkansas Policy Foundation, a Little Rock think tank that focuses on tax policy and education. Some 270 students and professors attended the panel.

The other panelists were UCA professor Roy Whitehead, who teaches business law, and UCA President Lu Hardin, who has previously served as the director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and as a state senator.

Block, who previously taught economics at UCA, advocated for the privatization of public schools from elementary through college. He said the public system isn’t moral because it requires childless people or people with children outside the public school system to pay for the education of others. He said private schools are also more efficient because they have more incentive to be efficient and to specialize in order to attract more students.

An all-private schooling system wouldn’t have to resolve issues like teen pregnancy and culture-specific curricula in every school because individual schools would become special- ized enough to deal with a variety of issues, Block said.

“If you had private schooling, different schools would find different choices on these issues and different people could be satisfied,” he said. “Just like we have many types of cars and many kinds of shirts, if you have a one-size-fits-all, you don’t satisfy consumers.”

A handful of students voiced objections to Block’s ideas, including Tasha Baker, a junior education major.

She said she owes her education to public schools; her parents were too poor to pay for private school tuition.

“Because of my intellect, I was able to get scholarships based on taxes,” Baker said. “If that system was not in place for me, I would not be where I am today.”

Block said a private system would also have scholarships provided by charitable organizations and foundations. He also said people shouldn’t hold public education beyond reproach.

“I’m not attacking goodness. [Public education ] is not good,” he said. “We shouldn’t be calling it public education; we should be calling it socialist education.”

Whitehead gave an overview of changes in education policy in Arkansas since the tiny Lake View School District in Phillips County sued the state in 1992 over disparities in funding public schools.

The ensuing changes in policies created more equitable curricula, facilities and financing in public schools, he said. Other changes, including school choice and creation of charter schools, gave families more choices in which schools they could attend, he said.

Seven new charter schools are scheduled to open this fall in Arkansas, bringing the total in the state to 17 conversion and open-enrollment charter schools.

Open enrollment schools are operated by nonprofit organizations other than school districts and conversion charter schools are run by traditional school systems.

Charter schools are public schools operated according to the terms of a contract with the state Board of Education and are exempt from some of the laws and rules that govern traditional public schools. In return for the flexibility, the charter schools are held to stricter standards for student achievement.

Hardin said charter schools are uniquely able to cut through the red tape of the state education system.

“I am not a fan of the bureaucracy that is choking our good, competent teachers,” said Hardin, who prefaced his comments with the declaration that he’s a “passionate defender and advocate” of public education.

Charter schools are not ultimately responsible to state employees, but to parents who have the choice where to send their children to be educated, he said.

Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Birmingham School Closings – Update: February 22, 2008

Barbara Allen, acting superintendent of the Birmingham City School System has revised the consolidation plan enough to allow Ramsay High School, a magnet school outside of Five Points South to survive as a high school–Ramsay High School dates back to 1930’s Birmingham. However, many other communities are unhappy about the changes. The consolidation affects a number of small neighborhood schools, but is being ordered by the Alabama Department of Education supposedly for financial reasons. The schools affected this summer alone will be Hayes High School, West End High School, McElwain Elementary School and Kingston K-8 School.

A number of people, according to the newspaper’s report, complained that the meeting ended and decisions were made before they were given a chance to speak. (Birmingham News, February 22, 2008).

Although the problems resulting in consolidation are supposedly financial problems, it is odd that so much building construction is going to be the result of the changes. Cutting back should mean cutting back, not building more expensive facilities. For example, they plan to create “a new Huffman High School, a new Brown Elementary School, complete renovation of Councill Elementary School, cosmetic renovations at Epic Elementary School and additions to Sun Valley Elementary School to make it a kindergarten through eighth grade school. Carver High School would get a field house and athletic fields and Jackson-Olin High School would get a field house” (Birmingham News, February 22, 2008).

Some people, such as Board member Virginia Volker, don’t plan to vote for the plan the way it is. She was quoted as saying: “Let the state take over,” (Birmingham News, February 22, 2008).

If the state has so little regard for the importance of local considerations, perhaps local people should abandon the state schools and work on other solutions. Charter schools may not be a reasonable solution, because they are “getting the ax” lately, once again, supposedly for reasons of funding. Private schools are reputed to be expensive, but they don’t have to be. A private school can appear in someone’s living room until a modest construction of bricks-and-mortar becomes available. Once you get over the idea that education means hiring people from thousands of miles away, and start realizing that educators are everywhere in your own home town, the situation changes a lot.

Birmingham City Schools – update

Superintendent Stan Sims has been placed on administrative leave as of yesterday. The story comes from The Birmingham News (Birmingham superintendent placed on leave; posted on al.com February 12, 2008 4:28 from an article by Marie Leech.) He is being charged with having distributed a report on the schools to the public having deliberately altered the document, leaving out four 1/2 pages in particular. According to the news: “But 4½ pages of the 24-page report were deleted before it was distributed to the public. The deleted pages contained 20 negative findings — such as “no evidence of coordinated planning,” “no sense of urgency or energy” and “middle management bulge.”

The report in question was put together by the Council of the Great City Schools “to provide a high-level management review of the district’s overall administrative structure and ascertain whether resources were being allocated in a way that would optimize operational effectiveness and efficiency. In response, the Council assembled a cross-functional Strategic Support Team of senior managers with extensive experience in finance, human resources, business operations,
and organization design and development in other large urban school systems across the country. ” The previous notes are taken from the report itself, 25 pages of which were published by The Birmingham News in the above-mentioned article. Review of Administrative Structure and Resource Allocations of the Birmingham City Schools by the Council of the Great City Schools, December 2007

This is reminiscent of the Gude Management report which recently suggested that 18 elementary schools in Birmingham be consolidated. However, the Council of the Great City Schools is focussing on consolidating the administrative structure of the school. Five pages of charges were made regarding the school’s administrative bureaucracy.  Most of the charges have to do with the fact that the people in question could not communicate effectively what they were supposed to be doing, and that there is not enough testing and evaluation.

Here is what the Council suggested. It would like to consolidate the structure of the system, and they are calling this an “Interim Organizational Structure.” The superintendent would have two people directly under him. One would be an “executive assistant” and the other would be a “legal counsel” which is described as “a new position.” This person would  “control and manage all outside legal fees.” The introduction of this legal counsel between the superintendent and the rest of the structure, consisting of Instruction, Finance, Human Resources and Operations, sounds like it could potentially become a situation in which the Superintendent, the Legal Counsel and the Executive Assistant, charged with providing information to the public, would form a triumvirate.  The operations of this triumvirate could easily turn out to be anything but transparent: the director, the person in charge of public relations and the legal counsel in charge of “outside fees.”
So, while the local system may show a lack of “strategic initiative” and “no coordinated planning,” the problems can presumably still be solved at the local level. If a group such as the Council of the Great City Schools comes in with a restructuring, who will the “legal counsel” be? Why will this person have so much power over the school system? Who is the Council of the Great City Schools? What is its track record? Is this a governmental organization? Who invited them to provide the review? I don’t know the answers, but I think they are worth asking.

Urban Standard & What’s On Second?

Birmingham has a wonderful new coffee shop/gift shop and near it an equally wonderful new antique store. Both are great additions to the community. The Urban Standard coffee is very good, the people that run it look like they’re having a good time, the food looks great and the place is spacious and very tastefully designed. They are utilizing the entire space available in the ground floor of the old building, having exposed the brick walls, and the lamps are wonderfully constructed. What’s On Second? is not too pricey, although there are also plenty of things to save for, if you’re so inclined, and it is a lot of fun, all two floors of it. The address of the Urban Standard is 2320 2nd Avenue North, and the phone number is 250-8200 and it has been advertised as a “Coffee shop / café / boutique catering to the working crowd of Birmingham’s Loft District.” Open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, and I think Saturday until 5 p.m. Closed Sunday.

“Not enough public in public schools”

Eighteen schools are threatened with closing in Birmingham, Alabama. Word came out before Christmas in December, 2007, that the lack of sufficient funding reserves was sufficient excuse for the closings. The problem is that schools are the life of many communities, and small schools are good for children. We know that small classes are good for learning, and that schools in neighborhoods are good for families and for children. The decision to close schools has been made without public input and largely on the basis of something called the “Gude Management Report.” Gude Management is a construction management company with no expertise in school planning, and discrepancies have been found in the report. For more information you may check out the School Closings Update page at the website of Citizen for Better Schools at the following link: http://www.cfbsedu.org/rich_text_4.html