York Town Square

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Two tales of four schools teach about change in York County education

This J.David Allen & Son photograph shows the differences a century makes in school construction. It pits a one-room school, complete with outhouse, against the BASCO Associates’ designed Susquehannock Junior/Senior High School, background. This photo of the southern York County, Pa., schools appeared in Buchart-Horn, Inc./BASCO Associates’ 50th-anniversary book: “Breaking Ground.” Background posts: Little school house in Hanover: A story of the circus and coal room, Horse, buggy, one-room school make county comeback and York County’s, Wellsville’s one-room schools, by the numbers.

This photo of two schools could have been part of our 20 iconic photos series. It speaks loads about the progression of school types and educational models.
But another comparison – this one in text – tells about schools in 1876 and 50 years before… .

W.H. Kain, county superintendent of schools, compared and contrasted schools, in this colorfully written 1876 piece:

“… The school house of 50 years ago was a low, unplastered, unceiled, besmoked, old log shop, the clinking of which had fallen out enough to enable the scholars to crawl in and out. There were a few small windows, with four panes of 8 x 10 glass, not overly clean, and not unfrequently broken, old hats or rags serving as substitutes. The stove into which uncut cord wood was pitched, was a splendid heater on the warmer days of the winter, but on cold ones it would do little except smoke; it was an entire stranger to polish. The desks consisted of boards pegged up against the sides of the house and the benches were made of slabs, with round sticks for feet projecting almost as much above as below. The teacher was a crusty, ugly, vulgar, unread, shabbily-dressed intemperate, tobacco-spitting old bachelor who resorted to teaching because he was either too mean or too lazy to do anything else. The branches taught even as required by the earlier school laws, were reading, writing, and arithmetic. Reading was purely word-calling; writing was done in an angular unsystematic hand, and arithmetic was solution without principle — the height of the teacher’s and scholars’ ambition was to be able to do ‘single rule of
three… .'”

— From, York County: An Overview, Elementary Principals’ Association of York County, 1965