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Sylvania Graded School, Sylvania, PA

School: Sylvania Graded School
Township: Columbia Township, Bradford County PA
Borough of Sylvania
Teacher - Marie STANTON Card
Year: 1959
Article by Ed VanDyne
Transcribed and Submitted by Don Stanton
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‘Don’t Give Up the School’

That’s the Battle Cry of Sylvania Borough Residents

By Edward E. Van Dyne

Elmira Star Gazette, 1959

Marie Stanton Card
Bonnie Kendall
Bobby Pearson
Richard Sine
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Troy – The "little red schoolhouse" – usually painted white – is almost a thing of the past. Like many other slices of rural life, it has been liquidated by fast transportation over good roads.

In 1919, Bradford County had 237 one-room schools. Now it has three. The rest have disappeared or have been converted into everything from summer homes to chicken coops.

The remaining three will probably be absorbed into centralized schools soon. One of them is in Sylvania, four miles west of here. Recently nearly every citizen of Sylvania Borough signed a petition requesting that the school be continued at least two years.

While almost no one in Sylvania disputes the inevitability or practicality of eventual closing of their school and transfer of their children to the W. R. Croman Elementary School here, most are sentimentally attached to their one-room institution. Many of them were taught by the present teacher, Mrs. Marie Card, and are now sending their youngsters to her.

They seem well aware of the many solid arguments in favor of centralization: greater efficiency in use of teachers, buildings, supplies and equipment, better facilities and wider opportunities in such activities as athletics, music and social affairs. Above all, they know that the commonwealth, which pays a lion’s share of the education bill, has decreed that one-room schools must go.

Still, they hate to lose their school, and they cite advantages in the one-room system.

For one thing, they maintain there’s greater flexibility in the work. A pupil of exceptional ability in a given subject is sometimes allowed to finish his work in his own form, and then tune in on the work of a higher grade. On the other hand, a pupil who is slow in a certain subject may be allowed to drop back with a younger group for review.

They say one-room pupils are put more on their own and that they reap increased resourcefulness. They claim a high degree of consideration and courtesy is shown among pupils in and old-fashioned school.

A one-room teacher like Mrs. Card is intimately acquainted with each pupil, they point out, and is thus better able to teach him. Such a teacher knows much of the family background of each pupil, which enables her better to understand his hopes and problems.

Then there’s the matter of distance. No Sylvania child is now more that five minutes walk from school.

When you visit Sylvania School, you begin to understand a little of what the people are talking about.

The school is on a dirt road leading from the village up Armenia Mt. A few children show up early, but most flock in a few minutes before 9, often joining Mrs. Card for the short walk up the main road.

The preliminaries are the same as those in a consolidated school room. But after the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, when the 27 pupils go to work, you start to see the difference.

In the hands of a less capable and experienced teacher, the place could quickly become a madhouse. At Sylvania School, six grades work in the same room in an orderly manner with little or no confusion.

Perhaps the first graders start working with scissors and paste; the second grade may go to the bench at the front of the room for a reading lesson; third grade may retire to the one small anteroom to spell. While fourth works problems on the blackboard; fifth may study history and sixth may check arithmetic problems, a bright girl with a ponytail in charge.

Mrs. Card constantly moves from group to group, literally doing the work of six teachers. Older children help the younger ones. Somehow the school functions smoothly. You know they’re getting it because when pupils from this school enter junior high they do at least as well as those from larger elementary schools.

As the morning wears on, it all seems natural. The grades go from one subject to another. The classroom hum is like that of any other school.

To the observer it’s obvious a high degree of concentration must be developed by the one-room pupils if he is to do his work where so much is going on.

It’s obvious much discipline is needed for a cut up or two could turn the room to a shambles. But you have the feeling most of the discipline is self-imposed and is handed down from the older to the young children in the form of example. You get the impression things would go on much the same if the teacher left the room.

Above all, you begin to comprehend the resigned attitude of the Sylvania petitioners. It’s impossible to imagine a teachers college graduate with a freshly minted diploma running this show. It’s a course modern colleges just don’t teach!

At the end of the visit, you still know the one-room school is doomed. Yet you can’t help wondering if with it is going just a little of our individuality and national character.

For education as for everything else, this is an age of consolidation, specialization, and, perhaps, regimentation. You have a sneaking hope that somewhere, in some little corner of the land at least one little red, or white, schoolhouse will manage to buck the tide – and that once in a while they’ll even ring the school bell!

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