Volume I, No. 1, Fall 1973
This issue is not meant to be a melodramatic tear-jerker that condemns our state legislature for closing the country schools, but rather a mirror through which we can view this golden contribution to our culture. Amid the cries of "Progress" and "They've served their purpose," the few remaining one-room rural schools in the Missouri Ozarks closed their doors to students for the last time this May.
For some of us who attended and enjoyed the country schools, like I have, it is hard to understand why they are being closed. But for many years there has been much discussion about the quality of the education possible in a one-room school, also designated as three director schools. This line of thinking entered our state legislature in the form of various bills that slowly phased out the small schools of less than 15 pupils until finally a law was passed in 1969 to close all one-room schools. It simply called for all three director schools to merge with six director schools by January 1973 or the state would assign them to the nearest district.
How does this affect the people in the community? Of course, they are not affected physically, except possibly the school children, but emotionally the vast majority are sad to see the schools close, since most of them have attended at one time or another. Many parents feel that their children will not receive all the attention they need going to a larger system, for at a one-room school, the classes contained only three or four students. The only way to really find out how the people feel is to ask them...and that's what we've done. Before they closed we visited two schools, several times, attended reunions and pie suppers.
Ocean Massey, who graduated from Dry and Dusty fifty years ago, said, "1 love the country schools and I hate to see them go, but it's for progress so I'!1 go along with the times."
Jim Robertson, a successful realtor and graduate of Dry and Dusty, said, "We're really not sad; it's just a passing event."
Morris Hill, former teacher and senator in the Missouri State Legislature, commented about the end of the country schools. "I'm a little bit sorry about it because I think it's done a great deal toward advancing our civilization, but I can't regret it, because I suppose we have to follow progress and in the name of progress I suppose that's the thing to do. But I don't have any regrets. I just enjoyed all of it while I was in it."
Donald Sexton, who with his wife taught the last six years at Dry and Dusty said, "There are certainly disadvantages in going to schools of this type. But this is all that you ever hear about them. The reason why we're being closed is because no one ever stood up and said there are certain advantages of going to a rural school."
Hollen Matt, teacher at Washington School for 23 years told a staff member who attended a rural school, "I think that a youngster has a wonderful heritage if he had the opportunity to attend, because after a while in the next thirty or forty years, maybe you'll be telling your youngsters and your grandyoungsters that you attended a one-room school. 'What's that?' they'll ask. And it'll go back in history, so I think that the individual that's had an opportunity to attend has had a heritage there that a lot of other boys and girls have not been able to get. I have worked in the rural division, have always enjoyed it. To me as I'm retirable age and retiring, I just look forward to it as being past history in which I participated."
After interviewing many people and reading the transcriptions of other interviews, the general feeling that was given off was one of resignation, the acceptance of the inevitable. The one-room school is dead. There is no use fighting it any more.
I hope you enjoy the following articles. We hope that this issue leaves you with a complete picture of the unique part the one-room country schools played in our Ozark culture.
As Alfa Mitchell told one of our staff, "Wonderful memories..."
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
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