One hundred years of education in the City of Brainerd starts with one teacher in a one-room school trying to teach children of all ages to read and "figure."
Only the fortunate few were able to attend school. Those living too far from school, those needed at home to help, those with parents who could not see the need for schooling or those who were physically handicapped, did not go to school. School was essentially for the quick learners. Ten to 20 percent kept on in school; the slow learners dropped out.
Education has come a long way. Today, it is a state law that all children attend school between the ages of six and 16, starting with the first grade. Attendance at kindergarten is optional.
The attitude towards education has changed in these 100 years. Education has become all-important in a child's life. Parents are eager for their children to receive the finest education possible. They no longer even think of keeping their children at home to help. School buses are provided for the children living out-of-town, and the physically-handicapped children go to school right along with others of their own age, so that they may all grow up together, each one learning to accept and live with the other.
As the schools have grown in number and increased in size throughout the years, so have the methods of teaching advanced with time and experience. Basic facts and skills are still the same. Even though the new method of teaching math gives the student the "why" that 12 may be divided into 144, 12 times, the tables still must be mastered as two and two are still four and six times zero is still zero.
BRAINERD TEACHERS, pictured in about 1880, were (left to right, front) Margaret Somers, Emily Murphy Linneman, Mary Small, Carolyn Rich, Miss Winchell and Miss McCleary. (Second row) Mrs. Kit Canan Early, Kate Whitely, Mrs. Jenny White Hawkins, Miss Crowe, Miss Cahoon, Bess Small Westphal. (Back row) Supt. Cheadle, Mrs. Toot Clark Hayes, Amy Lowey, Miss Vaughn, Minnie Merritt, Anna Murphy Dunn, Bess Mulrine.
The teacher a century ago had a blackboard, chalk, some books and a few maps with which to work. Teachers, today, have the use of tape recorders, overhead projectors, films, film strips and an almost unlimited amount of material in textbooks, library books, periodicals, maps, charts, cards, etc.
An audiometer is available for determining hearing problems, and the reading eye camera, which records the movement of each eye of the student as he reads, enables the instructor to study and evaluate muscular coordination. If eye disorders are noticed, medical attention is suggested.
The teacher of 100 years ago had split level teaching, because she had to teach one room of students at all grade levels.
In some of the grades today, teachers have split level (ability grouped) reading classes within their own rooms, or they work as a team with the teacher of another room in the same grade. One teacher works with the higher level readers and the other works with the average readers. Each class is then able to move along at its own rate, with the incentive always present for the lower level reader to work harder to join the higher group which has a more flexible course of study.
This ability grouped type of teaching is carried out quite effectively in the Baxter Elementary school where the fifth and sixth grades are using team teaching. The three sixth grade classes, have their science lectures as one large class with one teacher lecturing while the other two correlate the subject matter to their teaching specialties of social studies and language-arts and assist students needing help. Reading and math are taught at three levels with one teacher working with each level at a rate acceptable to that group.
With students working in an ability group, the exceptional students are not held back by the average students who, in turn, are not embarrassed because of their need for more time and instruction.
Summer school is another ad- vantage provided the children of today. One hundred years ago, the children were fortunate if the schools were open more than three months of the year. Today, they have six weeks during the summer, in addition to nine months of regular school, to work ahead, to make-up or to try something new. This is the time when some experimental courses are offered -- foreign languages or typing and creative writing for second grade. Most of the elementary art work is done during the summer, leaving more time for the basic skills during the regular school year.
Physical education has been emphasized in all of the schools for many years. The calisthetics and games are carefully selected for physical conditioning and muscular development. Herb Kessler is the present Director of Elementary Education in the Brainerd schools. Richard Link and Harvey Shew are the principal of the Washington and Franklin Junior High schools, respectively, transitional schools, between the Elementary and Senior High schools. The faculty endeavors to prepare these young students for the responsibilities and freedoms of the Senior High school. Each year, they receive more freedom of choice of courses, more freedom to study together and more self-discipline to better accept responsibility.
The Franklin Junior High school has three algebra classes with a total enrollment of 85 students, working on an individual basis. All of the students start out with the same instruction and contracts. As each one finishes a contract -- or section of study -- and passes the accompanying test, he advances to the next contract, working as fast and as hard as he wishes. A minimum number of contracts must be completed for credit in the course. Any student having difficulty in any area receives special instruction.
Since this method of teaching algebra was offered for the first time this year, it is still in the experimental stage. The idea was first presented to the parents of students for their approval and an evaluation will be made at the end of the year to determine its effectiveness: The Washington Junior High school has nine-week courses in industrial arts, home economics, speech and in some social studies, with a wide variety of choices in each subject. A student is exposed to many more activities. He may experiment by taking subjects he would not have had time for in the year-long courses. It helps him in his choice of a career later, and it also affords a brief student-teacher relation which is a decided advantage where the relationship may not be compatible.
The girls are accepted in some of the industrial arts courses and the boys often take "Outdoor Cooking" or other home economics courses, which may give them an insight into activities which will create a desire to continue in the food service programs at the Vocational school. It also gives both the girls and the boys a chance to learn about the other's activities for personal knowledge and understanding.
There is a flexibility through-out the schools. Junior High students go to the Senior High for classes in Latin, French and vocational agriculture. Students in the sixth, eighth and 10th grades have swimming lessons in the Senior high pool, and some of the elementary summer school classes are held at the Senior High school.
Don Adamson, principal of the Brainerd Senior High school, finds the major change in secondary education today is in the type of education offered students. The old process type was common to all secondary schools which were mainly college preparatory schools with only a little emphasis placed on business or commercial training.
Years ago, every student took the same courses of algebra, geometry, English, history, chemistry, physics and a choice of foreign language -- each in its own specified year of school. English included a repetition of the basics of grammar, which many students had mastered in the elementary grades, a set number of months of Shakespeare, a set number of months of composition, etc., with everything arranged and planned by the faculty. The same chronological study of American history was gone through again, perhaps a little deeper study. but it had all been covered in the lower grades.
Secondary education, today, is more individualized. The Brainerd Senior High school is one of a small number of schools in Minnesota innovating ideas and efforts bent toward the individual progress of the students.
Another service available through the Department of Education is Vocational Rehabilitation which provides opportunity for many students between the ages of 16 and 21, with physical, mental or emotional disabilities to become gainfully employed, active members of society. Dennis Martin is coordinator of the program in Brainerd.
One hundred years later, in 1971, there are 366 classroom teachers, teaching the 6,800 to 6,900 students in Brainerd school District No. 181, which is administered by Elliot Whoolery, superintendent of schools; Hale Hickman, administrative assistant; Eugene McKee, business administrator; working with the members of the School Board, Robert Tollefson, Chairman Wayne Larson, clerk; Donald 0. Johnson, treasurer; Francis Anderson, vice-chairman; Birney Wilkins and Dr. Lloyd Arhart.
Reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971).