Blackboards and Computers
We have seen many changes in our education system
over the last one hundred and forty five years. Expectations, rules,
and regulations have changed for both the students and the teachers.
My grandfather, Emil, completed the eighth grade. He wasn’t expected
to receive a high school diploma. According to my great-grandparents
his place was in the field. His parents depended on him to help
support the family. My grandmother, Clara, also finished the eighth
grade. Like my grandfather’s parents, her parents felt a high school
diploma was unnecessary and inconvenient.
They lived in the country and the closest high school was too far to walk.
She was expected to help run the house and take care of her brothers
One of the conditions my grandparents commented on
was the grueling walk to school. They commented how they had to walk
miles across open fields and dirt roads to school in what seemed
like 5 feet of snow. They also claimed that the walk home felt like
it was uphill even though it wasn’t. It may have seemed like a long
walk because the schools were located across the country side and
students were expected to walk two to three miles along the edge of
a dirt road or across a grassy field. There were no bike trails or
cement sidewalks. A three mile walk is a long distance to travel by
today’s standards. I find myself driving two blocks to the store to
get a gallon of milk.
Expectations and conditions for teachers were also
very different if you compare them to today’s standards. Below you
will find a few of the Dakota Territory Teacher Rules of 1872.
1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, and clean
2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal
for the day’s session. (scuttle – deep bucket for carrying coal)
3. Men teachers may take one evening a week for courting purposes,
or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
4. After ten hours in school, the teacher may spend the remaining
time reading the Bible or other good books.
5. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be
6. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault
for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per
week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.
(Dakota Territorial Museum, Yankton, SD)
The education of students has continually changed over the years.
Changes like mainstreaming, consolidation, entrance exams and
education initiatives have increased the educational success of both
students and teachers. The increased expectations and standards are
the driving forces that continue to make our education system great.