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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matters:Nostalgia

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If you like experiencing a bit of nostalgia for days long past, IPTV Festival has certainly been offering the opportunities. "Picture Perfect: Iowa in the 1940's," a collection of images from that era, was a delight. Then I was particularly intrigued by the compilation of photos and memories entitled "Iowa' One-Room Schoolhouses." I never actually attended one. I first went to school in a two-story building in Knierim, Iowa. The first four grades were in one first-floor room and the next four were in the other; then there were two grades of high school upstairs. There was no indoor plumbing so the infamous outdoor facilities were a part of our experience. My family moved to a different farm in a few years. There I attended a larger consolidated school with more of the amenities.

The program about schools on IPTV included the history of closings, consolidations, and reorganizations that were much more a part of my experience. Listening to all of the problems they described, I clearly recalled the first such event here in our little town. It involved the Grand Meadow and Marcus Community school districts. The two boards, under the leadership of our outstanding superintendent, Burdette Hansen, carried off this union most successfully. They laid the necessary groundwork, formed committees involving as many community members as possible to aid in the transformation, and then proceeded slowly enough to provide transparency, but with enough momentum to get the job done.

As I remember all of that, I am convinced that many of the difficulties encountered today could be remedied by strong, decisive leadership. I'm not complaining about local leaders for their hands are often tied by decisions made much higher up. Until the state department clears the deck and reforms the system from scratch, I am not optimistic.

Near the end of the TV show my spirits were lifted when they spoke of a return of some of the principles of the one-room school. Home schooling, small private schools and other similar institutions seem to be proliferating and I think that tells us something. It is impossible to turn back the clock, but there is certainly nothing wrong with re-cycling successful ideas and methods from the past. It will take co-operative effort both from concerned parents and school personnel on the local level. The next step will be to elect legislators who understand the gravity of the situation and who have some sense of what it will take to remedy it. I think we have done that pretty well in our area but it has to spread across the entire state. Meanwhile we must all share our concerns/Users/home/Desktop/Last rail car out of Quimby.jpg with the elected officials.

Educators don't have to wait for state-wide action before beginning some very basic changes on the local level. A good place to start would be by removing the mistaken concept that play and entertainment are essential for kids to learn. Instead, youngsters should be taught that learning is work, and at the same time, that "work" is not a four-letter-word. Children are never too young to understand the joy of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. Accolades for that should be the goal, not a pat on the head for trying which only leads to false expectations and more serious problems down the road.

Yes, we need combined efforts from the top down, and the bottom up, to produce world-class schools in the 21st Century. All of this nostalgia will serve a useful purpose if it at least starts folks thinking about the possibilities.