History of local education exhibit at Warwick Town Hall extended to Nov. 15

| 30 Sep 2011 | 08:37

Warwick - With almost 2000 visits to date, “Turning Wood, Bricks and Stones into Schools,” an exhibition on education in the lobby at Warwick Town Hall, has been extended to Nov. 15. The exhibition of photographs and essays is the fourth in a local history series arranged by Dr. Richard W. Hull as a service to the community. It was designed to help citizens better understand how we got to where we are today in our educational system. Previous Town Hall displays, in what will eventually be a total of twelve exhibitions, highlighted agriculture, transportation and what a fictional character, traveling with Henry Hudson, might have discovered in Warwick. In “Turning Wood, Bricks and Stones into Schools,” Hull takes us along a historical path leading us from the basic home education methods and one room school houses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to our current Warwick Valley School District. Visitors, especially students, may be surprised to learn that before the 1850s nearly all Warwick children were educated in single-teacher one-room schools within walking distance of their homes. With help from older students, the teacher was often responsible for the entire lifetime education of children from ages five through fourteen. The emphasis was on reading, writing and arithmetic. Today’s school children may wish they could go back in time to the original four month school year until they realize the other eight months were left free so that children could work on the family farm. Although we’ve come a long way since those early school days, Hull, a professor of history at New York University, laments the fact that in the public school system, there is no longer the great attention once given to civics or the study of our constitution and our government. “Thus,” he writes, “public education was about building enlightened and responsible citizenship. Such fundamental protections as habeas corpus were understood by high school graduates. Today, it’s almost unknown by students and teachers alike.” With a selection of interesting photographs and captions, visitors will recognize many of the buildings, no longer used as schools, but still standing. A state-of-the-art high school, now known as the Park Avenue elementary school opened in 1930. At that time the High Street School, which burned down in 1951, housed the lower grades. The exhibition presents the history of each public school up to the most recent construction of the Sanfordville School and the addition to the Warwick High School. In 1954 the school districts that lay outside the Village of Warwick along with Pine Island became the Warwick Valley Central School District. Hull also points out that throughout the years, especially in recent times, education costs have skyrocketed and school taxes have become burdensome, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. The cost of educating a child in Warwick in 1961, for example, was $680, approximately $5,000 in today’s money. Today it is $19,000. Hull hopes this exhibition will help spur constructive debate on this issue as well as others including the quality of education and crime in the schools. “If democracy in America survives,” he writes, “it will only do so within the context of a well-educated, civic-minded and engaged population.”