COLUMNISTS

Researcher said one-room country school kids would likely grow up to be "social misfits"

Jerry Apps
Chain O’ Lake School, 1956.

The Chain O’ Lake one-room country school that I attended for eight years closed in 1955. I have fond memories of that little school that provided me with an excellent education and much more.

In July 1956. I was in the audience when the families in the Chain O’ Lake school district gathered to hear a researcher from Madison to explain that all the students in the district—all farm kids—would benefit when they attended the consolidated school in Wild Rose. He was there to convince the group that voting to close the country school was the right thing to do.

He explained how kids attending the larger, consolidated school had higher test scores in reading, writing and arithmetic compared to the country school kids. Someone in the audience should have told him that there was more to an education than test scores.

His research didn’t turn up the fact that each of us, through eight years of Christmas programs, had learned how to stand up in front of an audience and say our piece. His research didn’t show how upper grade students helped lower grade students with their lessons. He didn’t mention how we, with different ethnic backgrounds and religions, had learned how to get along with each other.

`His research obviously didn’t look into such things as how the country school gave rural communities an identity, and how the school provided a social center for the community.

He also said something that I never forgot, “I’m sorry to have to tell you folks, but your kids who have attended a one-rom country school will likely grow up to be social misfits because they are so isolated from other people.”

He obviously didn’t check on these “social misfits” who grew up to be successful farmers, lawyers, professors, doctors and community leaders.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The one-room country school gone but not forgotten

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to www.jerryapps.com.