One Room School

Do you think the prairies and big skies are east of the Rockies? Think again. Sometimes you climb up the arroyos out of the Columbia River Canyon and the winter wheat gleams in the spring sun…

Winter Wheat After A Spring Snow

Waterville, Washington

This is land that the US Bureau of Reclamation transformed from shrub steppe into farmland under the Biblical notion that if it was desert it was because of Eve and a snake, and that, you know, the Columbia River could be dammed, water could be rerouted, and ten thousand farm families could settle the Garden of Eden Mark 2. In the process, the notion of small landholders as the heart of American culture would be renewed. Of course, 10,000 indigenous families and hundreds of fruit growing families were dispossessed of their salmon in the process, but what the heck, eh. A bit of the dream remains…

One Room Schoolhouse

Highland, Washington

 Ah, there were families here once, but the reclamation dream was ridiculously mismanaged, went a little wonky and in political desperation the land wound up going to large, industrial landowners instead and most of the small farms were eventually consolidated into the large ones, achieving just the opposite of the dream.

Highland School

Note the fire damage in the corner. In typical Eastern Washington fashion, wheat is seeded right up to the walls, on two sides at least.

So, now we have wheat fields here, and vegetable fields to the south and north, owned by men who decry government subsidy, yet that exist only on massive Depression-era federal subsidies designed to create family farms instead. By default, this is now the family farm.

The Front Yard of the School

All the houses have long been tilled under, but someone cared enough to keep the school. His workers, though, maybe not so much. Note the tractor tire and the bales of straw. There are a bunch of used tractor oil filters in there, too.

Now the school stands out boldly on this government-created prairie, as a beacon for travellers. Many stop and dream a little…

The School Room

Note the art left by travellers. Many people have left haikus and love notes. Pigeons coo in the belfry.

Here’s a close up of some of that art. This is in the coat room…

A Sex Education Lesson, Even!

I think this place should go on a national arts registry.

The place seems to have drawn a lot of people in, just as it drew me. It’s the only thing sticking up above the furrows for miles. Imagine if you went to school here. You’d sit in your desk and look out at this…

The View Out

Why, once you finished with your schooling, you could get on that road and seek your fortune out in the world.

I like that, you know. I think we should reopen schools like this, and raise our children in the earth. The rest of it all can come later. And, by golly, it will. Why rush it by sending them to industrial schools? Beats me.

The View Out the Front Door

Also, the last view you would see from school, before you left it forever. Four thumbs up, as Coyote would say.

And as you were walking down the road, thinking of your future? Well, this…

The Land Powers Through

Even when we plow over its mechanisms, they remain, as lessons.

And what are we doing in the Okanagan? Why, closing down schools like this, even today. And why? Because of a thing called “declining enrolment.” There aren’t, it seems, enough students in small towns to pay for the expense of teachers and heat and what not. That’s a red herring, for sure. In real terms, the government has an urban educational model that has no alternatives to allow for other models, and no interest in one-room schools. And so the Ministry of Education, which should be supporting the heart of communities, is really tasked with the job of closing them down, due to a lack of imagination.

Just like what happened to the dream of social renewal that led to the wheat fields of Highland in the first place. It’s hardly ‘education’ when we don’t learn from past mistakes.

1 reply »

  1. Finally a school with a great perspective-could it bee the reason why such schools are disappearing,for not too many politicians nowadays have any perspective at education….


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