Archive for Friday, November 17, 1989


November 17, 1989


It's a case of educators of the past helping those of the future.

A book recently published by a professional fraternity in education at Kansas University focuses on the history of one-room schools in the area. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go for KU School of Education scholarships.

The book, "Tales from the One-Room Schoolhouse," is the brainstorm of the KU-based Phi Delta Kappa fraternity, which has about 300 members from the university and public schools.

For the past several years, the group has participated in Lawrence's Independence Days festival by conducting "class" in a red, one-room school built by chapter volunteers. Many of the Phi Delta Kappas would dress in costume and use old school books for a nostalgic look at education.

Because of the school's popularity and the group's desire to share more with the public about the one-room schools, fraternity members decided to write a book, according to Flora Wyatt, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the education school. As chairman of the Phi Delta Kappa scholarship committee, she and other members decided proceeds should go for scholarships.

TWO YEARS ago, more than a dozen members started interviewing people who had taught or attended a one-room school. When the research was completed, about 50 persons had been interviewed.

"Most of the people were from right around here Topeka or Lawrence," Mrs. Wyatt said.

Instead of gathering information about the schools, Mrs. Wyatt said the book evolved into a rich history of the area and of education itself. It also served as an opportunity to help preserve stories from a historic time in the area stories that otherwise might have been lost with the passing of a generation.

"One story was about a contest between schools," she said. "They were calling for scrap iron during World War II."

Others told of gypsies coming by the school and about a teacher who adopted orphans.

BECAUSE OF the variety of topics, Mrs. Wyatt categorized the stories into four parts in the book. They include what went on in the schools, a collection of tales, living in the community and a collection of letters. The book covers several generations, from the early 1900s to the 1960s. Mrs. Wyatt said researchers were surprised to find that one-room schools still exist. As of 1988, there was still a one-room school operating in Wallace, which is in western Kansas.

In the developing years of public education, teachers faced more than the natural elements of the day, such as dust storms and blizzards. The teachers found themselves coping with the requirements of the community in addition to teaching students at a variety of grade levels in the same room.

"Their living conditions were not very good at all," Mrs. Wyatt said. "The rules for teachers were very rigid and the pay was incredibly low, of course."

MRS. WYATT estimates that volunteers spent hundreds of hours working on the book. They also received a grant from Phi Delta Kappa of nearly $1,000 to help cover some of the project's expenses.

The 90-page paperback, edited by Mrs. Wyatt, has been illustrated by Cheryl Harrod, a graduate assistant to the dean of the School of Education and the editor of the Phi Delta Kappa newsletter. A few photographs are included in the book as well.

The book is available for $10 through the education school, and at the Oread Bookstore and Adventure Bookstore. Five hundred copies were printed, and Mrs. Wyatt said more than 100 have sold.

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