Fictionalizing the Country School

Allison Speicher, 1-21

  • In this article, Professor Speicher introduces readers to the common school narrative, an immensely popular genre of fiction in the nineteenth century. She found 130 narratives that depict schools as sites of both community building and social strife. Rather than portraying idealized, earnest schoolchildren in humble schoolhouses, these narratives depict contemporary problems like school violence and apprehensions about assessment. The plots have common features: romance between teacher and student, violence against the teacher, a teacher who adopts a student, and a spelling bee or school exhibition. Professor Speicher augments her analysis with the complete text of a narrative by Anna MacDonald, “Our District Schoolmaster” (1856).

  • Key words: common school narrative, fiction, community building, social strife, schoolchildren, schoolhouses, contemporary problems, school violence, assessment, plot, teacher-student romance, adopt a student, spelling bee, school exhibition, district schoolmaster

Beyond the “MotherTeacher:" How Teaching Became Women’s WorK

Nicole E. Green, 22-42

  • In the nineteenth century, an increasing number of women entered the field of teaching. These women were socialized to view their teaching jobs not as positions of authority, but rather as expressions of their caring personalities. A number of educational reformers argued that the teaching role was essentially feminine:  motherly, emotional, and nurturing. Nicole Green’s focus is not on the visions of these reformers but the voices of the teachers. In this paper, she analyzes the gap between the cultural prescriptions of the era and the thoughts and feelings of women teachers who live in a variety of locations. She challenges the centrality of the “motherteacher” model in order to better understand the labor of women teachers.

  • Key words: nineteenth century, teaching, authority, caring personalities, emotional, motherly, nurturing, educational reformers, teaching role, feminine, voices of teachers, cultural prescriptions, feelings, thoughts, labor

Keeping Schoolhouses in the Finger Lakes Region of New York

Christopher Manaseri, 43-73

  • Today, most historians of education devote little attention to country schools, yet hundreds of volunteers are deeply involved in preserving these schools and educating visitors about their significance. Professor Manaseri is one such volunteer. He studied 39 schoolhouse preservation projects in 14 counties in the greater Finger Lakes region of New York State and recorded, transcribed, and analyzed the oral histories of 60 volunteers. In this paper, Professor Manaseri groups the projects into categories and answers questions about the volunteers’ understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

  • Key words:  historians of education, country school, volunteer, preservation project, historic significance, record, transcription, analysis, oral histories, educating visitors 

Implementing A standard school program in Iowa and ColoradO

William Sherman and Paul Theobald, 74-91  

  • Betsy DeVos, U.S. Education Secretary, reported recently that almost every state had accepted Common Core standards and billions of dollars have been poured into school improvement, yet the results have been dismal. While it may appear that DeVos’s concerns about educational standards are new, in some ways they are similar to the standard school movement that began in 1907 and by 1922 had spread to thirty-four states. In this paper, William Sherman and Paul Theobald examine two contrasting methods of implementing the standard school program during the Progressive Era: through state legislation or through rules and regulations created by state departments of education. 

  • Key words:  standard school program, school reform, rules and regulations, legislation for consolidated schools, appropriations for one-room schools, state departments of education, plaques

A Day's Education in the One-Room Schools of Brazoria County

Karen E. McIntush, Lynn M. Burlbaw, and Rachel K. Turner, 92-107 

  • What was it like to attend or teach in a one-room Texas school in the Progressive Era? According to biennial reports issues by the Texas Superintendent of Public instruction, the number of one-room schools decreased by nearly two thousand between 1918 and 1922. Yet these reports do not reveal what the teachers and their students actually did during a typical day. Drawing from recently acquired archival data on the schools in Brazoria County, Texas, Karen McInush, Lynn M. Burlbaw, and Rachel K. Turner explore the schedules teachers completed, courses the teachers planned to teach, grade and attendance entries, and enrollment figures. These data were used to develop a more nuanced understanding of the planned activities for a day of teaching and learning in the one-room schools of Brazoria County.

  • Key words: one-room school, teaching schedule, county superintendent, state superintendent, character education, patriotism, recitation, daily record, daily program of work, prescribed schedule, Progressive Era   


Catharin Lewis and Richard Lewis, 108-115 

  • The following email interview between two directors of the CSAA and the editor of the Country School Journal explores the measures the directors took to protect a school museum from the devastation of tropical storms Ike and Harvey. The directors' recollections may be useful to country school leaders who want to protect their schools from natural disasters. 

  • Key words: school museum, tropical storms, protection, pier and beam foundations, FEMA, dirty side, wind event, water event