The School as Identity

Our last show of the semester was in Plainview, OK. For the small minority of people who may not know where that is, think Colorado. Seriously, it’s way out in the panhandle of Oklahoma, in the only county in the nation that borders 4 states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas.

We did our show for 7 students and we performed for the entire student body. This was no one room school either, it was an actual school with cafeteria, classrooms, office, music room, etc. How can it still be open?

It turns out that there is an agricultural corporation that pays the taxes in the area–enough to keep the school open. This is no mean feat, a secretary, 2 teachers, an administrator, custodian, and lunch lady all need to be paid.

There could be several reasons that it remains open. My first thought was that noone wants to pay the transportation costs of taking students to schools from all around the countryside. There are only about 4 towns in the panhandle of any size at all: over 1,000 people. So, it figures that there should be some country schools.

Talking to the faculty though, brought a different conclusion. They said the community doesn’t want it to go away. Since the state has very little to do with the school’s funding, I guess government has little say in the issue.

Coming from a large suburban school district myself, this concept of school as identity is a bit strange to me. In tiny communities, though, I suppose the school is a more powerful unifying force. It is sports, it is choir, it is often the one social entity that everyone participates in. It was kind of a nice thing to see.



Filed under Education, geography, Social Behaviour

8 responses to “The School as Identity

  1. It’s certainly a better venue than church. Blake Stacey made a comment over at Pharyngula this morning that’s inspired me to write a story about a town where all the residents go to the school on Sunday mornings, and pass the plate for educational needs, rather than flush them down the toilet of the pastor’s wallet.

    The world could use some places like that. Stay tuned.

  2. I’m certainly not against people going to church. Many of the same social goods and ills come from going to church in a small town as going to school in one.

    The sense of community and identity can be had either way. I know what you’re saying though–if your identity becomes that of a Pat Robertson lead church that’s a little scary. I have been to schools that are the same way, though. Not because they’re religiously motivated, but because something worked its way above education on the ladder.

    Schools that identify with a football team, for example can be good or bad. a community where you’re a god if you’re the HS quarterback can go either way. It can be a positive, teamwork, pride-inspiring existence that becomes a good and meaningful tradition. Or, it might become a town where the football team passes because they are the football team.

    Perhaps my post was a bit too rosy, but that is the feeling I get from quaint towns and small town life. In the end, I think it’s what people do with their lives way more than where they do it at that matters. If they can interact in a place that makes them productive human beings that’s what matters.

    I think that can happen at any number of places, including schools and church.

  3. Yes, blipey. You got what I meant. Sometimes I forget that not everyone resides inside this cranium.

    I’ve lived in the big city, and I’ve lived in some pretty dinky villages, and I have to say that I do prefer the little places.

    Sometimes (like lately), I perhaps cross the line into rabidity (is that a word? If not, it should be.).

    I guess I don’t have any hostility toward churches per se, it’s just that so often the church folks I come across are the Pat Robertson/Ted Haggard caricature of religion that I tend to aim a little too broadly. Perhaps if the Robertson/Haggard types and their insane followers weren’t the very public face of Christianity, Christians wouldn’t be such an easy target.

    Ok, now that I’ve successfully placed the blame for my rash and thoughtless opening statement on somebody else’s shoulders, I’m going to quit yappin’.


  4. P.S. Could you PLEASE fix the clown pictures?


  5. Thank you. I was having hot clown withdrawal symptoms.

    I probably shouldn’t tell you publicly what all that includes….


  6. Interesting discussion. I, myself, am an agnostic, but my wife is a Christian who attends the United Church of Christ, a very liberal sect if you are not familiar. We are both very open to talking about our faith or lack there of with each other and at times I start to rail against the idiots I find online. She has to remind me at times that most people are not wacko fundies. Sometimes I think we hear only their side of things far too often and begin to think that all of the faithful are raving lunatics.

    As an aside, I think church can be a good thing for children for the sense of community and service that church teaches. A church like the UCC is easy to go to because you can believe almost anything and they will be accepting. Not quite Unitarians, but close.

  7. BR:

    Yes, I think very much the same thing. Church is a great place (or can be) for instilling a sense of duty, service to fellow man and the world at large, etc. I think where religion stumbles (or can stumbe) is when people start to believe that church is the only place that can instill these values. From there, it is often an easy step to all other institutions are wrong–that is a bad thing.

    As as aside about Unitarians*: something bothers me about that. It is so accepting and and so inclusive that I often find it hard to pin down exactly what they’re trying to instill. I think this is also a bad thing. A program, no matter of what type, should have some readily distinguished viewpoint. If it doesn’t, what’s the point? I’m not saying it has to be anything earth shattering, but lack of focus irritates me.

    *To any Unitarians: this is certainly only my impression of Unitarianism. While I have attended a couple of services in my life, I am no authority on your church. If you’d like to set me straight, please do.

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