Wood, brick, or cobblestone, one-room schoolhouses still dot the Finger Lakes region.
Some are simply boarded up and slowly collapsing. Every week, I used to drive past an abandoned school on Route 96, a small but handsome brick one, like the photo below, but it has fallen down and disappeared, since I was in high school.
Some have graduated to new roles, like this first photo, as cottage homes, or farm storage, like the second.
I haven’t known that many people, who attended one, but have read of countless famous folks who did, and they all have nothing but praise and appreciation for the experience.
But they’re really not completely ancient history, are they. One of my teachers, who retired three years ago, attended a school like this in Cayuga County. And there’s plenty of Amish schools all around us that are still active, for grades 1-8. One of my grandmothers, who graduated from teachers college around 1950, was still required to do a term of student teaching in a one-room school. But there are only a few hundred left in operation in this country.
I’d thought Herbert Hoover held the record, but actually Lyndon Johnson was, I think, our last “one-room schoolhouse” President.
LBJ, like nine other Presidents, did some teaching himself, before going into politics. And he achieved some important gains for education, like Head Start.
He briefly attended a one-room school at the age of four, and when he signed the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” in April 1965, he was sitting next to that school again.
“In this one-room schoolhouse Miss Katie Deadrich taught eight grades at one and the same time. Come over here, Miss Katie, and sit by me, will you? Let them see you. I started school when I was four years old, and they tell me, Miss Kate, that I recited my first lessons while sitting on your lap.” LBJ
But according to his biographers, apparently his conception of “domestic affairs” was a pretty broad, er…I mean, a pretty broad one, so to speak, and I think Miss Katie might have been a tad dismayed, if she’d learned just how many women LBJ invited to sit in his lap, throughout his married life.
I doubt public schools would hang these pictures anymore – – bare feet! no adult supervision! dangerous single-sex game! head coverings! unstructured play! possible bees in the wildflowers! children having fun! etc.
I love both versions. The mountains make it look more secluded, like it’s probably a small community, in a little valley.
In the other one, without the mountains hemming them in, the scene looks giddier somehow, and the open sky makes it seem like one of those kids might just escape the gravity of their little town, and get airborne, if they can just spin fast enough.