“Once upon a time, there was a little red schoolhouse with one big room for 27 children. The teacher sat with an American flag on one side of her and a blackboard on the other. The children sat in rows facing her, the littlest ones in front. The youngest was seven, and she was very little. The biggest was 16, and he was six feet tall. The youngest was smart, and she could read with the other children. The biggest was dumb, but he was strong and could help the teacher carry in wood. In bad weather, he carried the littlest girl across the puddle in front of the schoolhouse. And sometimes she helped him with his reading.
“Then one day the state built a big highway, right past the schoolhouse door. And the State Education Department came by and said, ‘Great things are happening in education. There are special teachers for arithmetic, reading, art and music. If you combine with other schoolhouses, you could have a great big school where your children could have all the advantages. And big yellow buses could carry your children over the new highway right up to the school door.’ So the parents voted to consolidate, and the little red schoolhouse was abandoned.
“At first things went well in the big school. But after a while, the State Education Department said that it wasn’t providing the children with enough meaningful experiences. And some parents complained that the children were not learning to read and write and figure as well as they had in the little red schoolhouse. ‘We will try some new things,’ said the educators. So they tried the ungraded primer, where fast readers were not slowed down by slow readers, and where children who had trouble with numbers did not get moved on to the next grade before they could add 3 and 5. This helped, but not enough.
“‘We will try something more,’ the educators said. ‘We will tear down some walls at the new school, so the children will be working together in one big room. That way, there will be less peer-group competition.’
“Finally, an important educator came along, looked at the school and said, ‘This is good, but it is not good enough. It is too big, and the children are losing their identity. There are not enough interpersonal relationships in the infrastructure. What we really need is a one-room schoolhouse. And since red is a cheerful color, I think we ought to paint it red.’” (From Mt. Kisco, N.Y., Patent Trader, in Reader’s Digest, March 1973, p. 68.)
The educator in this story did not mean that the consolidated school, the grade-level teachers, or the updated curriculums were not advantages. Today we could add technology and a focus on professional development. The point of the story is that along with the rigorous standards and inspiring innovation in education, the emphasis must still be placed upon needs and relationships, or in other words, making learning personal.