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Charles Meredith: One-room schoolhouse and dialogue


Dear Friends,

Good morning. In last week’s column, I ended with a comment that after the eighth grade, one-room school children had to take a proficiency exam before moving on to high school (ninth grade).

I asked my friend, Larry Grim, about it. Larry attended one of Haycock Township’s four one-room schools and reported about the annual meeting of its graduates.

Larry did not remember taking a “graduation” test. Then again, maybe kids who were moving on to the ninth grade didn’t have to take them. I’ll ask Dr. Robert Leight about that. Bob Leight is a retired educator and Quakertown School Director. He also attended a one-room school and knows its history.

In the meantime, Larry’s wife, Janice, delivered photos of the annual Haycock Township one-room school association meeting. Among them were pictures of miniature schools made from hundreds of popsicle sticks. Some of those photos may appear in a future “Herald.”

Also included is a picture of Mrs. Cramp’s school bell used to call students in from recess and lunch break at the Stover School. A closer look reveals a switch which the teacher used on unruly kids. I’ll have to ask Larry Grim if he’d experienced discipline that way.

Incidentally, Janice Grim was allowed to attend the annual meeting because she is the better half of Larry Grim, a graduate. But the rules insist that Janice may not be a member because she did not attend one of the four Haycock Township one-room schools. Is that fair? Sure seems harsh to me.

Orvis Barndt is one of the Haycock one-room schoolers. It was he who built the miniatures out of popsicle sticks. Because I couldn’t find an address for Orvis, I asked Janice whether she could find out how many sticks were used in his four miniatures (interior school room, Stover School … presently Capie’s Bar and Grill on Route 563, and two out houses).

She did her best but couldn’t find the answer. We’ll have to wait for the discovery.

A few weeks ago, Father Fred Riegler, the recently retired Pastor of St. Isidore’s Catholic Church in Quakertown, sent me an email about tolerance. Father Fred is a historian and former teacher. He’s a great listener and must have been a fabulous priest. Here’s an observation from him:

“Something happened a while ago that made me stop and think a bit about the divisions in our country,” Father Fred began. “I happened to be speaking with several parishioners when I mentioned that although I disagreed with some of his politics and decisions, I liked the then president (Obama) as a person That went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

“They tore into me and stated that Obaama was the worst president and that as some one who was supposed to be Pro-Life, I should not say anything that was favorable about President Obama.

“They were quite upset and I knew that further discussion was useless. Since then, I have become more committed to making a distinction between the person and their politics. It would seem that conversations would be a lot more civilized than at present. The enclosed attachment was sent to me by a friend who knows my way of looking at things. I thought you would find that interesting. Many people would not. That is a shame because if there is anything that is critically missing in our country (and in the Catholic Church as well), it is reasoned dialogue.”

The attachment to which Father Fred referred was an article that described a writer’s views that had been conservative but had changed to liberal ones. It caused an irreparable divide in the writer’s family.

Here at home, I am still a registered Republican although MB and our two daughters are not. I must say that it’s not easy to remain a Republican these days…although many of you will disagree.

But that’s part of the fun of writing opinions. Most would advise that religion and politics are subjects to avoid when in polite gatherings. But unfortunately, religion and politics are my favorite topics. Alas, what can I do?

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

By the way, I laughed when I read Terry Madonna’s recent column. Terry runs the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College and is a pollster.

“Law making has often been compared to sausage making,” Madonna began. “One may relish eating it but not want to know how it is produced. Never has this been more true than watching the Pennsylvania General Assembly tackle modern Election Reform.”

First, do you remember Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman in the 1870s who famously observed, that there are two things which the German people should never see … the making of sausage and the making of laws.

Second, “Election Reform” is an oxymoron in Pennsylvania.

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