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The intention behind the school reform was to strengthen the education system and to establish common, democratic institutions, locally-based but national in terms of their organization. Local traditions, anxiety for changes, new taxes, skepticism about governmental direction, and finally, yet importantly, strong religious conservatism presented obstacles to school reform.

The new school legislation was therefore not welcomed in all regions and local communities, and in several parishes the inhabitants obstructed the reforms. They saw education as an essential premise for establishing and developing a democratic nation, a matter of necessity in the new modern society. Some more conservative groups supported school reform as a tool to prevent labor-class activities and the growth of sectarian congregations, believing that a public education system would guide these people back to civil fellowship and the established church.

The great geographical and cultural diversity of Norway was only to a limited degree reflected in education, its organization and its content. Usually, section number 16 was set aside to support education. The revenue from this section formed the nucleus of an educational fund that allowed the creation of a system of public education. The late nineteenth century, the post-civil war period, represented an era of modernization in the development of the US, including the establishment of a federal bureau of education, and little by little compulsory attendance laws in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The responsibility for school and education in the US was largely a local affair at the turn of the twentieth century, and the federal government had no involvement in primary and secondary education. Several authors have stressed that the motivation for putting emphasis on schools and education in the Midwest was because it was an essential part of establishing the new nation and therefore the future.

The new-born United States was fragile, populated by immigrants of different languages, cultures, and faiths, many of whom were unfamiliar with the requisites for self-government. The future of the nation depended on the new states, often termed the Wild West, being Christianized and imbued with republican values. There was a general agreement among Americans that some measure of homogeneity was needed to forge a unified nation and a suitable tool to this end was a public school system.

In One Room Country Schools of Kansas , Bill Samuelson emphasized that one-room schoolhouses were essential for building the economic, social, political and cultural foundation of the state and William H. Dreier observed that the need for country schools was never hard to document and was accepted by people, who responded by building thousands of schools. Some studies, however, have shown that there was often a lack of support for new and better education. The future for children lay in the traditional farming community and literary knowledge was not considered as necessary.

The local staffing and funding are important aspects to understand the role of education and the significance of the one-room schoolhouse era. However, most publications emphasize the national significance of establishing schools and improving the standards of education. In the American Midwest the new schools were part of the nation building, an effort to unifying the country in which the schools became important symbols for a shared project. One room - one nation tells the dramatic true story of Midwestern country schools and their impact yesterday and today.

Although the majority of American one-room schoolhouses are demolished, the number of books and papers dealing with the history of rural education and one-room schoolhouses in the Midwest is large and growing.

One-room school

A search on the internet gives more than 9. A lot of schoolhouses are also preserved and displayed in public museums or used as schoolhouse museums either in their original location or moved to suitable places, often fairgrounds. A web search also gives hundreds more matches for one-room schoolhouse museums in the US. In addition more than 42 schoolhouses are situated on college and university campuses where they are in use as museums, for education, meeting-places, campus classes, polling stations and special programs.

In addition to old furniture and simple educational equipment, the classrooms often exhibit pictures of the American national heroes, Washington and Lincoln, on each side of the American flag. Before there was, in both the US and Norway, a general lack of symbols and pictures in the classroom, but by the end of the nineteenth century, in a period of heightened national patriotism in the US, symbols reflecting American patriotism were brought into the classrooms. At the same time the Pledge of A llegiance was written and the text often placed at the front of the classroom, where it can still be seen together with replicas of historical documents.

The main reason for this was that it was assumed that US President Herbert Hoover had attended the school. It was also mentioned that restoring, refurbishing and interpreting the schoolhouse was meant to provide visitors to the site with an insight into the intellectual values and standards of achievement of primary education in the s. In the s seven more schools were listed. When Monona School was listed in , there was still a focus on education, social history and architecture in the statement of significance, but more interesting in this context is that it is now mentioned that the Danes built their own school.

The building was recognized in the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings for its historical significance and was deemed worthy of entry in the National Register in The reason for this was purely that this building was the birthplace of the Republican Party in The school, originally named Willard School, was listed in because the social reformer Frances E.


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Willard was the most famous person who ever lived in Rock County. In the value assessments it is also mentioned that the schoolhouse is of local importance as an example of a very early one-room schoolhouse and one of the oldest school buildings standing in Rock County. One year later, in , the Old Rock School in Iowa County was listed as a significant example of nineteenth-century Cornish masonry work indigenous to the Dogerville area, and also because it was the remaining schoolhouse of two built in and was significant in terms of local educational history.

Now a series of new arguments emerges. The significance and role of the school for the people in the area, both for meeting and education, is put forward and it is also stressed that the school continues to be a focus of community pride because of its fine state of preservation. The two other schools listed in the s were listed primarily owing to their architectural significance.

It is quite interesting to see that the main focus is again on aspects such as typical , fine example and integrity , related to the building as architecture, and some minor additions concerning the role of the school in the development of education. The general focus on architecture is still present, but the social role in the local community receives more emphasis. The first generation of schoolhouses is listed due to their connection to famous historic persons or major historic events, but even schoolhouses listed in the s are listed mainly for this reason.

As shown both in Iowa and in Wisconsin, several schoolhouses are listed because famous persons attended or allegedly attended them. As regards the Herbert Hoover site there is even a question of whether Hoover actually attended the school. When Laney School, Shawano County, was listed in , the following statement was filed: The focus on architecture, design and embellishment and the word typical are observable from the s until today, together with attention to the role and development of education in rural areas.

This reflects the emphasis on architecture in the information issued by the State Historical Society of Iowa. A For their association with the development of the rural educational system in Iowa. They can also establish under this criterion their importance as a social center for rural communities in Iowa. B Schools that were directly significantly associated with individuals who played an important role in the development of education in Iowa. C As an example of a distinctive building type — the country schoolhouse — because of their universal form — a one-storey, gable roof structure with double-hung windows on the sides and an entry on the gable end.

D Describes sites of former schoolhouses that have not been physically disturbed and may yield important archaeological information about school construction and activities. Is the school old? Does it have architectural embellishments, such as round windows or doors, a cupola or other unusual features? Can it be linked to a known plan book design? Does the school have an unusual design?

Was the school designed by a nationally prominent architect? Is the school one of the early consolidated schools? Was the school the location for significant historic events? Was the school an addition to the schools built under the New Deal-era funding for labor?

It is interesting to note that several of these terms focus on architecture and design. The motivation for listing schoolhouses could be categorized into four major groups: Celebrity or major historic events the latter often related to famous persons , social and cultural history including history of education and community celebration , architecture including style, example of a distinctive and typical schoolhouse type - and finally identity and symbolic value not explicit in official documents. It is interesting to note that there is an increasing tendency to emphasize architecture and stylistic aspects as motivation for preservation, especially within the authorized heritage authorities.

Mitchell, have commented on the significance of the schoolhouses. It is difficult to compare the preservation of schoolhouses in the US and Norway owing to different legislation and differences in the management of historical buildings. A list of buildings such as the NRHP does not exist in Norway, but the Directorate for Culture Heritage Riksantikvaren can by law protect buildings and settings to prevent the private owner of a protected house from knocking it down or changing it. More than 5, buildings are protected by law in Norway, which is quite a high number considering the small population.

Although the tools exist, so far none of the 5, one-room schoolhouses built in rural areas after the school reform in has been listed or is protected by law. In contrast, fifteen school buildings in the big cities have been protected by law. These motifs are difficult to spot in the Norwegian material, as are identity and symbolic value.

A general pattern for the protected school buildings in Norway not one-room schoolhouses is that significance is associated with style, architecture and monumentality, reflecting the Authorized Heritage Discourse AHD. Most titles deal with the general history of education, from the first schools in medieval times to the modern education system. The school reform of and the one-room schoolhouses have so far not been given special attention. The one-room schoolhouse era is not emphasized in the many local history publications. Most of these papers deal with the history of education and only a few mentions the schoolhouse as a historic building; there are no reflections on value and significance.

Most school museums are local initiatives and serve only their local communities. Most of these museums were established between and , a period which witnessed some enthusiasm for local history. Although a large number of schoolhouses are preserved as local school museums or have been moved to regional open-air museums, these buildings are seldom among the buildings chosen for guided tours, and quite often they are not open or on display to visitors. The study also revealed that there was a general absence of narratives about the great achievement of building 5, schoolhouses years ago.

The school as an object of heritage with high national symbolic values, reflecting education and the development of the nation is unknown in Europe, so far as this author can see without carrying out a comprehensive survey of listed schoolhouses in Europe. The literature in the US focuses to a high degree on education as part of establishing a new society, especially in the Midwest. The American literature also stresses the willingness of people in the rural areas to build schoolhouses and the fact that public schools became both an instrument for establishing the new societies and a meeting place for scattered populations.

The literature also observes that establishment of schools, staffing, funding and building the schoolhouses were the result of local organization without central intervention. This made the schools acceptable, even vital in the local communities. The resistance to new school reforms in the Midwest, how schools under the supervision of local school boards reproduced the prejudice of small communities, poor schools without sufficient heating, blackboards and textbooks, and unfair teachers all seem to be forgotten elements and are seldom mentioned in the American publications. This result shows how the story of one-room schoolhouses is perceived and interpreted.

The existing literature tells the story of how central government and the cultural and social elite promoted better education in urban and rural areas, despite resistance from parts of the government and advocates of a reactionary policy and last but not least the people in local communities who did not want changes at all. To promote the new legislation the government gave the local communities and local school boards wide authority, but used financial support to encourage good standards.

The support was dependent on how much the locals were willing to pay themselves. The new regulations also set national standards for the curriculum and teachers' qualifications. Both the establishment of permanent schools in and the closure of the same schools a hundred years later caused resistance in many local communities. Norway did not share the widespread support and encouragement for education by the US government, the general optimism regarding the establishment of a new society in the US and the willingness among most of the local communities to prioritize education.

But more interesting than historic points of distinctions is the difference in the contemporary approach to the history and the national narratives. While the history of the American nation, the first president, the constitution and last but not least the flag, is present in most of the school-house museums in US, the national project in Norway is not a part of the narratives of the Norwegian school museums, it is even difficult to spot other stories than those concerning how primitive the past was compared to the present.

Both Democrats and Republicans have taken the schoolhouse to their hearts and even the anti-communist movement in the s used the red schoolhouse in its propaganda.


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In a period when American values and patriotism are being revitalized, the one-room schoolhouse once more seems to be the focus of people and organizations promoting preservation of these buildings — and some of the values these buildings represent. In the introduction to One-Room Country Schools: South Dakota Stories , the editors write: Although national virtues and values are an important part of American school history, these values were promoted in a local context and adapted to local customs.

In almost all the preserved schoolhouses and schools in museums, the US flag is placed at the front of the classroom and on flagpoles in the school yards. These elements are still displayed in most preserved schoolhouses, in paintings, and in schoolhouse replicas, and are brought to life in re-enactments and living-history programs. The heroes of the American Republic, the Constitution and the American flag are vital symbols which most Americans respect and appreciate, and the Pledge of Allegiance is part of the morning ritual in most American schools.

The building itself and its architectural embellishments are still the main criteria of significance and education is put forward as a second argument for preservation. This kind of concept, which flourishes in popular literature, is perhaps one of the main reasons why there is a nationwide popular movement towards preservation of schoolhouses and a spread of information about the one-room schoolhouse era.

The guidelines for determining whether the schoolhouse is eligible for listing on the NHRP reflect the professional preservationist approach to preservation, in both the United States, and for that matter anywhere else where professional cultural heritage management is established, often mentioned as the Authorized heritage discourse. So far there is neither pride in the one-room schoolhouses' great achievements nor understanding of the significance of better education for 80 per cent of the population of rural Norway.

The only evidence of the one-room schoolhouse story is the many schoolhouses preserved in open-air school museums, but despite the numbers of these museums, the history of education does not seem to be emphasized; the schoolhouses are often closed and not integrated in guided tours.

The importance of school reform for social, cultural and economic development, even in the museums, is a neglected area. There is, however, no evidence that there were any pictures inside the classrooms in the nineteenth century. Only in the post-World War II period, a period characterized by a revival of national patriotism, pictures of the King and Crown Prince and the surrender of the old castle in Oslo by the Germans were widely distributed to all schools.

In the same period of revitalized nationalism, pictures of the Norwegian polar heroes, Amundsen and Nansen, and their vessels and airships, were distributed to schools and displayed in classrooms. In the same period pictures of Norwegian historical monuments, Norwegian romantic landscapes and pictures with religious motifs also appear in the schoolhouses, but the one-room schoolhouses never became a symbol of those values which the pictures in the classroom reflect, and the Norwegian national heroes and national identity were not linked to the small, rural schoolhouse: The people admired by Norwegians are those who were able to control this wilderness, whether the independent farmer or the adventurer who walked to the South Pole.

These elements fit the national identity as it was established in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Ireland , free primary education was mandated in , prompting the establishment of many single-teacher National Schools across rural areas, most initially using a room in an existing building.

By the s there was a school in every parish. Most extant one- and two-room school buildings date from the decades after when primary education became compulsory. Most of those still in use today have been extended following merger with neighbouring schools. Since , any state-funded school with at least 10 pupils is entitled to at least 2 teachers; the 21 schools which fell below this threshold are located on offshore islands. These include Gaelscoileanna which teach through Irish rather than English and multi-denominational schools most Irish schools are controlled by one or other of the main Christian churches.

Although such schools eventually become eligible for state funding, they usually begin with a single teacher in a room or prefabricated building.


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Being mostly rural, many schools had no water or sanitation and this was often provided by converting wells into toilets [ citation needed ] , melting snow for water in the winter and relying on the help of nearby farms in the summer. The quality of facilities at one-room schools varied with local economic conditions, but generally, the number of children at each grade level would vary with local populations.

Most buildings were of simple frame construction, some with the school bell on a cupola. In the Midwest , sod construction was also used, as well as stone and adobe in areas like the Southwest where trees were scarce. In some locations, the schoolhouse was painted red, but most seem to have been white.

One-room school - Wikipedia

Examination of the materials in this building indicates that boards and timbers were hand-sawed and also hand-planed. Square nails were used throughout the building. Except for the roof and a few boards in the floor, all of the material in this building is original. The blackboard is painted black. It was not until much later that slate was used for chalkboards, although students often had individual slates for writing practice. Teachers in one-room schools were often former students themselves.

Their role is well-described by a student from Kentucky in the s:. The teachers that taught in the one room, rural schools were very special people. During the winter months they would get to the school early to get a fire started in the potbelly stove , so the building would be warm for the students. On many occasions they would prepare a hot, noon meal on top of the stove, usually consisting of soup or stew of some kind.

They took care of their students like a new mother hen would care for her newly hatched chicks; always looking out for their health and welfare. A typical school day was 9 a. The younger students would be given responsibilities according to their size and gender such as cleaning the black board chalkboard , taking the erasers outside for dusting plus other duties that they were capable of doing. Transportation for children who lived too far to walk was often provided by horse -drawn kid hack or sulky , which could only travel a limited distance in a reasonable amount of time each morning and evening, or students might ride a horse , these being put out to pasture in an adjoining paddock during the day.

In more recent times, students rode bicycles. The school house was the center and focus for thousands of rural communities, hamlets, and small towns.

Often, town meetings and picnics were also held there. The vast majority of one-room schools in the United States are no longer used as schools and have either been torn down or converted for other purposes. However, in some rural communities, including among the Amish , one-room or two-room schools are still used, primarily for elementary education , with students graduating to local or regional middle and high schools.

There are several historic one-room schoolhouses in the United States that were built in the shape of an octagon , instead of the more traditional rectangular style. Most are located in the northeastern part of the country and some have been restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The teacher's residence, or teacherage, was often attached to the school, or very close by, so that a male teacher's wife and family were an integral part of the management and support system for the school. Single, female teachers were more often billeted or boarded with a local family to provide for social norms requiring social supervision of single females.

Motorized school buses in the s made longer distances possible, and one-room schools were soon consolidated in most portions of the United States into multiple classroom schools where classes could be held separately for various grade levels. Gradually, one-room school houses were replaced.

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Most one-room schools had been replaced by larger schools by World War II except in the most rural areas. However, they are still common in rural parts of Australia and Alaska. Then, in the Calvert Retired Teachers Association, looking for a Bicentennial Year project, decided to restore the one-room schoolhouse. On July 24, , after months of hard work by teachers and community volunteers, the old school bell rang out once more, and the little one-room school house, filled with its memories and memorabilia, was ready for visitors.

In Iowa , over small one-room school houses have been turned into local museums. The buildings in some places found new purpose as homes. In Harrisburg, Nebraska , Flowerfield School serves as a living museum, and fourth-graders within the Nebraska panhandle spend a day at Flowerfield going through an average school day in The building, restored by a group of volunteers in , is presently maintained and preserved by the Vandalia Community Preservation Association [8].