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What Has Happened since the Little Red Schoolhouse

Many of us fantasize about how education was during the good old days. We would like to remember education in the 1920s (or think of it, if we can′t remember it) as being the optimum education process: one teacher, in a one‐room school, learning the three Rs and morality and respect and courtesy and The American Way. Minimal taxes were needed to support the schools and the school “marm” was paid in chickens and green beans and an invitation to Sunday dinner. Plenty of unruly children, but no vandalism or cruelty. No outsider control of curriculum and all reports to county and state authorities completed on two sides of the same sheet of paper. To begin with, education was never that simple, even though we may remember it as such. There were problems, even then. Reading about some of the earlier schools, both in the West and in the East, indicates that some really sick people taught children in those days. There was virtually no supervision, so adults could do almost as they wished with the children under their care. We don′t like to think of that when we remember. Supervision of instruction and public interest in its schools as honest‐to‐goodness institutions of learning is one thing which has happened to the Little Red Schoolhouse (LRS). People won′t tolerate mistreating a child any more nor should they. Child protection laws have become effective to protect the student from the “sick” teacher who would rather dominate the student than educate him. Admittedly, some of these laws have made it very difficult to discipline children in any fashion, but even these laws were passed as a result of abuses of authority on the part of school adults. Another change since the LRS is the child labour laws. Most kids do not learn how to work. If they are lucky they can work for their parents. However, most employers are afraid to hire anyone under the age of 16 or even 18 because of the child labour laws. This means that our young people are entering the job market as young adults without knowing how to work. Like any other skill, job skills and attitudes are learned a little at a time, and if those 18 to 22‐year‐olds you have working for you don′t know how to work, it′s because they should have started learning when they were 12‐15 years old...and they didn′t. During the days of LRS, we did not have compulsory attendance laws. Too often compulsory attendance laws keep a young person a prisoner in the schools, whether he wants to learn anything or not. During the days of LRS, a person went to school until he got what he or his parents thought he needed to survive as an adult. Now, in most States, the student must stay in school until the age of 16. In some States, those with the most severe discipline problems, the students must stay in school until the age of 18 or until they have completed high school. Students we now call “′handicapped” were not permitted to go to school during the LRS days. In fact, mentally handicapped youngsters were frequently hidden in closets or basements and treated, even by their parents, as little more than animals. Education was cheap, as I mentioned earlier, but so was everything else. But we did not have athletics programmes like we do now with a variety of different age teams, or numerous types of musical bands, or counsellors or school nurses, or reading teachers or honours programmes or programmes for the gifted and talented or law suits or hot lunches or school buses or elementary physical education or two working parents or teacher unions or federal mandates or legislated curriculum or computer education or drugs. Hey, folks, education is no longer cheap! For the most part, the programmes which have been added are very expensive ones. Is education, as a process learned in a modern school building, better or worse than during the days of the Little Red Schoolhouse? I honestly don′t know. It is certainly different. And I know the LRS had to change to meet the demands of a modern society in order for its graduates to survive. Society has changed since the Little Red Schoolhouse and the schools have had to change with society. Schools are shaped by the societies they serve, and that is as it should be. Ask schools to be accountable for the changes we make, but don′t ask them to stay the same as they were in the good old days. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Educational Management Emerald Publishing
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