Is it time we brought back country schools? Talk about distance learning.
I know I'm being facetious here, but the thought crossed my mind the other day while my wife and I were busy getting skunked walleye fishing on an area lake. Funny how when the fish aren't cooperating that I start to think of things that have nothing to do with fishing.
Anyway, as we floated above walleyes with lockjaw, I got to thinking about all the things schools now have to deal with in regard to keeping kids safe during this virus crisis. It must be totally frustrating and worrisome to have to plan any class or event.
We as a nation have consolidated into urban settings as the prairies have been emptied of their populations. Now many of us are packed into packed places, including schools. Country schools were spread out across the landscape and congestion was not a problem.
I find it interesting that my generation was about the last to experience the original country school. We still came into our futures with educations that allowed most of us to participate in the American dream. We were able to read, write, do math and we also learned about civics and social issues. Those things were all taught to country school students.
The schools were located within easy travel distances from farms and ranches. In wide open range country, students sometimes stayed in dormitories during the school week, returning home on weekends.
Country schools were usually taught by teachers who were the ultimate in authority. There were no policemen patrolling the halls.
I don't know about other country schools, but Lincoln #2 was taught by Mrs. Stansbury. When Mrs. Stansbury talked, you listened. There was unspoken discipline inside those white clapboard walls. But, it was honest discipline that rarely needed to be used in my experience.
I attended kindergarten through second grade in our school before consolidation hit and all the schools in our area were combined into one. Taking a kid out of a school of 20 students made up of kindergarten to eighth grade was a culture shock to many, including me. All at once you didn't know who the kid was sitting next to you.
There was room for social distancing in country schools. Our desks were set apart and one didn't have to worry about crowds in the hallways. During warmer weather the windows were opened to allow the Iowa breezes to blow through. Recess was always held outdoors - spring, fall and winter.
Featured students were allowed to bring wood or coal in from the shed outside the door or they may have been tagged with the responsibility to cross the road and fill the water cooler from a farmer's livestock hydrant. You felt a part of the operation, so to speak.
Today's computers can't replace that feeling of responsibility. Yes, they can provide access to a wide array of educational programs, but I can't help but think that many of our school-age kids come away with kind of a "so what" attitude.
That computer screen can't replace a Mrs. Stansbury or an older student helping a younger student with a study problem or question.
Socialization happened almost every day in my country school. Those acts taught you to appreciate your fellow students and that social interaction built friends for life. I still remember most of my fellow country school comrades, even through all these years.
So, maybe it is time for our government to start figuring out if we should start to spread out again. If you can consolidate, can't you un-consolidate? The country did it once and it seemed to work; could the country do it again?
I thought about those things as my wife and I floated above those walleyes on a diet the other day. Country schools ... hmmmm?
See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!