One-room schools and national memory

September 13, 2006

Speaking of Jim Bencivenga — I did, here — he was the education reporter for the Christian Science Monitor prior to his time at the U.S. Department of Education, where he was my predecessor as director of Information Services in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) (a long title that means “the office that’s looking for good stuff and new stuff”).

A Google search revealed that Bencivenga is cited in a book of quotations for an article he wrote on one-room schools.

The single-room worlds remain strong icons at the heart of our national memory, permanent as any church spire piercing the New England sky.

On country schools, Christian Science Monitor 13 Feb 85

In my family, childbearing has been put off to later than average for a couple of generations. So I heard stories of the old one-room schools from those who experienced them. The memory of one-room schools was with my parents, and my maternal grandparents (I did not get a chance to meet my paternal grandparents). There are, in 2006, a few one-room schoolhouses remaining — in Maine, California, Nebraska, Hawaii, and other places. NPR featured a series on them this past year.

One-room schools seem awfully quaint, and perhaps wholly obsolete in times when some school districts give every student a laptop computer to get schoolwork done. The values taught in those schools should be preserved, however: Love of education, seeking of wisdom, cross-generational learning, respect for people of differing ages, and a reliance on living the golden rule, among other things.

The U.S was once a nation of mostly one-room schoolhouses. Change isn’t always completely for the better, even when it is mostly so. We struggle to keep good values in changing times.

We still don’t have a magic formula for how people learn, or how education should work; it remains true that in education, one-size fits few.

Other September 11ths, other battles

September 13, 2006

Okay, it’s too late for this year’s commemorations. It’s never too late to get accurate and relevant history.

WordPress’s feature that leads to posts with similar tags pointed me to a couple of posts that mention the Siege of Vienna of 1683, another September 11 conflict between nations chiefly Moslem on one side, with nations chiefly Christian on the other. Is it a great revelation that the study of European history is weak in U.S. schools, generally, and that many Americans have no clue about such events?

My old friend Jim Bencivenga and I spent a few lunches (a couple? They stuck with me, anyway) discussing those battles that were great turning points in history — battles where, had they gone the other way, the whole of history would have been quite different. The Siege of Vienna is one such history-turning incident, and those sites will introduce you to it well.

Nota bene:  A reader alerted me to some questionable material in the blogs I had originally linked to.  I’ve replaced those links with a link to the Wikipedia article on the battle, at least until I further check out the blogs.

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