One-room schools and national memory

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.

One Response to One-room schools and national memory

  1. Mark Olson says:

    My father was taught in one-room school (he subsequently got a PhD in Chemistry so it clearly worked). I’ve put my kids for the first few years in a multi-age Montessori school environment (pre-3nd and pre-1st respectively) for their first few years. I agree that there is a lot of good in a non-segregated (by age) classroom.

    I won’t repeat the crap stuff I’ve harped on written in the past on education reform even if what you write here pretty underlays the motivation for why I’ve proposed what I did.


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