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By Staff | Jun 5, 2009

Rural one- and two-room schools had faded from Iowa’s countryside by the time I began attending school. They exited very quickly as my memory does not tell me where the rural schools were near the Iowa farm I grew up on.

The one I remember was probably a dozen miles away was the sight of family Thanksgiving dinners a few times. It is also gone.

Occasionally one can find a few trees or a grassy acre on the corner to tell that a school sat there. But I have no clue where the one sat where my children would have gone.

So if I were to put the school at my east corner, it would be close enough for them to come home for a bowl of soup at noon, and even get to school on time.

Looking over the neighborhood, there would be at least a dozen students if the school went through the eighth-grade. There are a few families in the district who have realized how fast those school years fly by. It is rather embarrassing, but I don’t know all my neighbors.

Yes, there would be a few of those students who would be walking uphill going to and from school. When pedaling my bike around the sections it does feel like it is uphill most of the time.

In 1932 “The Book of Iowa” published by the state of Iowa claiming the laws of Iowa provide that in all schools of the state the following subjects shall be taught: reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, grammar, geography, physiology, United States history and principles of American government.

In addition to this, American citizenship, the effect of stimulants, narcotics and poison, physical education and the elements of vocal music are to be taught, except in rural independent districts and school townships where agriculture, domestic science and manual training are taught.

It looks to me like those teachers and students had enough to get done in each school year. The person responsible of this would have been the county school superintendent. From 1918 to 1956 it was Charles H. Tye for Sioux County. He wrote a book about his career in education called Hawkeye Schoolmaster In the Horse and Buggy Days.

Tye was expected to visit every school. With 170 schools operating in the county he was kept quite busy. He didn’t always find things perfect. There were times when he would end a teacher’s career abruptly, taking away their license, or just not renew the contract. Most schoolteachers took their jobs seriously.

Students were also expected to take their education seriously. During one of Tye’s school visits, a student was causing a disturbance when the teacher’s back was turn. Finally Tye called the student on it, after a visit with the “board of education,” a lecture ensued.

“The money that comes to support this school does not come from Washington. It does not come from the State of Iowa. It does not come from Sioux County. The money that supports this school comes from the taxes your fathers pay.

“You are wasting the money of your own fathers. If one teacher can’t handle you, I will put two teachers here and then it will cost your fathers nearly twice as much.”

When the parents heard about this, the students had quick change in attitude.

Mr. Tye fought for consolidation, which was pretty much accomplished by 1965. When he had this book published in 1965, he gave warning to some unfortunate results. He said one of the greatest problems now facing the American people is how to put our educational system back in good working order. He was positive we could do it.

In the meantime does anyone want to challenge a graduate of a rural school to a spelling bee, history recitation, or doing math problems without the aid of a calculator? These are the people who developed radar, television, fought and won WWII and ought the Korean War to a truce. They laid the foundation for the life we now enjoy.

Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer from northwest Iowa. Reach her by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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