A few weeks ago the writer visited the dentist conducting a State Board of Health Free Dental Clinic at a rural school in an eastern county. Several mothers were present with their children, and while awaiting their turn at the dental chair the conversation turned to general school topics, such as the antique desks and poor heating arrangements, in an otherwise good three-teacher building in a well-to-do community. Knowing the young lady who was principal there the past year to be an exceptionally capable woman, we inquired how it was she did not get in behind the committee and make them bring the equipment and surroundings up to match the building. The question happened to be directed to the wife of the chairman of the committee.
“Oh, the committee couldn’t stand her. So they fired her in the middle of the session.”
With considerable amazement, we inquired what sort of conduct the teacher had been guilty of to merit such drastic punishment.
Replied Mrs. Committeeman: “The first thing she did was demand that two pit privies be built on the schoolhouse plat, and you know they would have cost $40 at least, and Buck [her husband] said it was a useless waste of money, and so paid no attention to her. The next thing she demanded was three jacketed stoves, one for each room.”
At this point another woman from the same neighborhood interrupted excitedly, “Cousin Buck said he never heard of such a thing!”
But the blow that shipped the teacher back to Pa’s for the remainder of the school year came down on her like a thousand bricks, when she forced the pupils to sit quietly at their desks at noon and spend 20 minutes eating their lunch, packing the scraps back into the baskets to be carried home for the pigs, thus teaching a practical lesson in thrift. The prevailing custom, of course, as in most rural schools, was for the children to scatter around on the cold ground outside regardless of weather, taking pot luck with the tribe of dogs always on hand.
To shorten this story, it may be said that the chairman called a meeting of the committee forthwith and informed the principal that she was “fired,” to take effect at once. Traditions must be upheld, and none so sacred as the way their daddies have always run the average school, be it city, town or country,--in the opinion of the school board the teacher is employed chiefly to obey others. We were just warming up to remark that they would still be ploughing with wooden sticks if somebody had not had the courage to at least try something else, when Mrs. Committeeman’s 10-year-old boy was called by the dentist. Four of the child’s permanent teeth were found badly decayed. After an hour’s hard work on the front porch of this schoolhouse that hot July day, 17 miles from the county seat, three of the four teeth were saved for the child but the fourth tooth had to be extracted, thus making one-quarter of his mouth a cripple for life.
At this point, we demanded to know why the head of the family and chairman of the school committee did not have interest enough at least in his child’s teeth to come to the dispensary. The answer was that he was spending a month at one of the expensive health resorts in western North Carolina.
Here is a man worth $50,000. A successful farmer, owning one of the finest farms in his county (to prove it his barn is twice as big as his dwelling house); educated at one of the great State colleges. Educated did we say? Graduated is the word to use. And yet his college training and his success as a farmer have not taught him a thing about the great fundamental things of life, not even to the point of caring for the health of his own child. As a school committeeman he is a tyrant. At home he is a kind father, but indifferent to the essentials of fatherhood.
This man’s type is duplicated in every township in the State, otherwise some other story would have filled this space. Find him and see if he cannot yet be educated.