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The Little White Schoolhouse

The Little White Schoolhouse

Copyright Date: 1977
Edition: 1
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    The Little White Schoolhouse
    Book Description:

    Few institutions have been held in such fond regard and recalled in such nostalgic terms as the little red schoolhouse. It ranks with the old oaken bucket, the little brown church in the vale, and the pictures of the old home place that millions of people have carried in that "inward eye" mentioned by Wordsworth on that long-past spring day. But the Kentucky common schoolhouses were not painted red as were those of New England; they were mostly white, if not of unpainted log construction.

    It was not the simple little boxlike schoolhouse itself that earned all that fond affection. What happened on the way to and from school, on the playground, and within the school walls are all treasured in the memory banks of former pupils in much the same manner as families recall their happy evenings around the fireside or those trips to grandmother's house for Thanksgiving.

    But the little white schoolhouse is gone, along with the simple agrarian way of life that characterized the people of the neighborhood to which it belonged. To ensure that this era of education is not forgotten Ellis F. Hartford has presented the history of one-room schoolhouses in the Commonwealth, showing what has been lost in the passing of this institution of the values that best characterized its time and place. Americans might well seek some of the same strengths and values in their diverse communities that were enjoyed by our ancestors of the old rural-agrarian way of life. We might also strive to obtain schools that fit and belong to their respective communities as did the little white schoolhouse.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4876-2
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-14)

    The old-time common school was truly the school of the people. For nearly a century the rude log cabins and their successors, the little white schoolhouses, provided the typical school experience for the great majority of Kentuckians. This common school belonged to the people of the neighborhood. Nearly everyone had some connection with it—as taxpayer (without any enthusiasm), as voter in trustee’s elections, as visitor or participant in social and public functions held in the schoolhouse, as trustee, as volunteer when repairs or improvements were made, or as patron after having been a pupil in one’s early years. People...

    (pp. 15-26)

    Anyone who has read Whittier’s verses about the schoolhouse sunning by the road like a ragged beggar would agree that the description fitted most of Kentucky’s common schools during much of their history. After the log schools were replaced by frame buildings and the hewn-log furniture by dressed poplar fixtures, the physical environment remained unchanged for many decades. Outside, the trees grew taller and thicker, playgrounds eroded, and the public road wore down between banks that became steeper, but these changes took place gradually and were hardly noticed. The little white schoolhouse was part of the typical Kentucky rural scene...

    (pp. 27-37)

    The daily walk to and from school provided many children with the few opportunities they had to be free from the supervision of parents and teachers. It was not uncommon for children to walk five or more miles each day, over all kinds of roads and trails, through woods and fields. Many hazards were encountered—creeks to cross, hills to climb, mean dogs, angry ganders, snakes, stray animals, mud in winter and dust in summer, heat and cold, rain and winds. If the route led through pasture fields there were bulls, butting sheep, billy goats, or other beasts to avoid....

    (pp. 38-49)

    For a great number of people over the years the old-time common school has been described in the nostalgic words of the popular song of yesteryear: “Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic, / Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.” There was a little more to the curriculum, but not much more. For Kentucky common schools in the early years, the curriculum was defined by law as including the so-called common branches, a term that distinguished the fundamental subjects from those that belonged to the secondary or collegiate levels (algebra, Latin, modern languages, etc.). The common branches were well defined...

    (pp. 50-60)

    No discussion of old-time common schools is complete without considering the matter of discipline. There was a strong consensus among the people of Kentucky’s agrarian society that discipline was an essential part of education. Parents and preachers and pedagogues all believed that the young should be brought up to fear the Lord—and the rod, if need be—for their own good. For most of its history, the common school had the support of parents who wanted their children to learn discipline, even if that meant chastening by the teachers. Few accounts of school days by former scholars mention any...

    (pp. 61-72)

    The play experiences of pupils represented the most pleasurable aspect of their common school careers for most old-time scholars. No matter how dreary the environment, how tiresome the long hours of books, how strict the teacher, how few the books and other instructional materials, or how rough the daily walk to school, the time spent outside at play was nearly always recalled with pleasure and enthusiasm. Games that have disappeared over the years come to life in descriptions of how to play town round, or ante-over, or shinny, or ring men, or any one of a dozen others.¹ Tales of...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 73-81)

    The old kentucky common school contributed to the educational development of its pupils both during and outside the time of books. The role of the common school in providing formal schooling is clear. But its function—informal and unplanned though it was—in providing the place and the times for many other kinds of education was also significant. How many children of tender age got their disillusionment of the Santa Claus myth from more sophisticated youngsters of the same age at the neighborhood school? Or the one about the doctor bringing babies? How many little boys from homes that observed...

    (pp. 82-88)

    The old kentucky common school was above all an institution of the people, and as such, it reflected their way of life. It continued to do so until that way of life had been largely altered and supplanted by new ways that spelled the end of the little white schoolhouse. But to the virtual end the one-room school was an institution marked by interpersonal relationships, where successes and failures, joys and sorrows, were all shared. From this source originated an incalculable number and variety of human interest stories that depict the lives of the people as they pursued their educational...

    (pp. 89-98)

    Few institutions have been remembered so fondly and described in such nostalgic terms as has the little one-room school. But the fond memories of the little white schoolhouse and its “dear old golden rule days” have a far more solid base than mere nostalgic recollections former scholars. In its heyday in Kentucky, the common school was clearly recognized by many persons as an institution vital to the functioning and improvement of the society and the lives of the people. An editorial in theLouisville Herald(March 1, 1908) made this clear:

    The rural school, next to the home, is the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 99-102)
  16. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 103-107)