We are a com­mu­nity, th­ese are our kids

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION - JERRY NICHOLS Colum­nist Ed­i­tor’s note: Jerry Nichols, a na­tive of Pea Ridge and can be con­tacted by email at joe369@cen­tu­ry­tel.net, or call 621-1621.

The Pea Ridge Pub­lic School had its be­gin­ning in 1884, when the first eight grades of the Pea Ridge Academy be­came a pub­lic school. The early Pea Ridge Pub­lic Pri­mary School func­tioned within the Pea Ridge Academy’s school build­ing, but was separately gov­erned by its own School Board. The academy it­self con­tin­ued pro­vid­ing high school cour­ses, and soon af­ter, be­gan of­fer­ing col­lege-level in­struc­tion, un­der the gov­er­nance of its Board of Trustees.

Prior to the for­ma­tion of pub­lic schools, ed­u­ca­tion was ba­si­cally pro­vided by pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing. Pea Ridge Academy, formed in 1874 in the Lodge Build­ing at But­tram’s Chapel, was funded partly by the Ma­sonic Lodge, by area churches, by the sale of shares in which lo­cal in­di­vid­u­als in­vested, by donor gifts, and by tu­ition paid by fam­i­lies of the stu­dents. This ar­range­ment did not lend it­self to mak­ing ed­u­ca­tion avail­able to all; it tended to mean that a good ed­u­ca­tion was usu­ally avail­able only to those who came from well-to-do fam­i­lies, or who were for­tu­nate enough to find a spon­sor will­ing to fund their pur­suit of an ed­u­ca­tion.

The idea of pub­lic school was slow to be adopted in Arkansas. Some­times new ideas meet re­sis­tance be­cause they are new, and be­cause they are dif­fer­ent. The ob­jec­tion may be voiced, “we haven’t ever done things that way be­fore.”

Pub­lic schools work by pool­ing re­sources from the wider com­mu­nity and across the gen­er­a­tions to pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties and teach­ers and other es­sen­tial school per­son­nel. Some­times the ob­jec­tion is voiced, “Why should I have to help ed­u­cate other peo­ple’s kids? My kids are all out of school!”

Pub­lic schools work on the idea that the ed­u­ca­tion they of­fer and the skills de­vel­op­ment which they pro­vide has a broad and far­reach­ing com­mu­nity ben­e­fit. The be­lief is that the com­mu­nity is a bet­ter place to live, and all fam­i­lies in the com­mu­nity con­tin­u­ally ben­e­fit from hav­ing a qual­ity lo­cal school.

So many things around us are able to work suc­cess­fully and pro­duc­tively be­cause peo­ple join to­gether to do things co­op­er­a­tively. For ex­am­ple, our roads at one time re­lied on a nearby farmer to grade and main­tain the sur­face, the drainage, and so on. Now we can have bet­ter roads be­cause we work to­gether to pro­vide qual­ity main­te­nance crews and equip­ment and a more co­or­di­nated road pro­gram.

In­sur­ance pro­grams of var­i­ous types work by hav­ing groups of peo­ple cast in their lots to­gether so that we don’t get caught with­out help and with­out re­sources when ac­ci­dents or losses or health crises oc­cur.

Most of us now have elec­tric­ity in our homes, and we can hardly imag­ine life with­out it. Only 80 years ago, that wide­spread home elec­tric­ity was not avail­able. It be­came avail­able be­cause peo­ple joined to­gether in a co­op­er­a­tive way to fund the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion project in the 1930s and 1940s, in­vest­ing re­sources in ways that widely ben­e­fited ev­ery­body in com­mu­ni­ties all across the coun­try.

I think that as Pea Ridgers, both us old-timers and new­com­ers, we un­der­stand the sense in which we are not just a mass of in­di­vid­u­als, or an amal­ga­ma­tion of dis­con­nected fam­i­lies; we are a com­mu­nity. Our kids at school, on the bas­ket­ball court, on the foot­ball field, in the class­room, in school or­ga­ni­za­tions, in quiz bowls, and so on, are not just some­body else’s kids. We want to do the best we can to pro­vide school fa­cil­i­ties that are ad­e­quate in ca­pac­ity and ef­fec­tive in de­sign, to help them pre­pare for adult­hood. They are “our” kids.

We are proud of them, we root for them, and we pull for them in their en­deav­ors in life, be­cause they are the kids of our com­mu­nity. They are “our” kids.

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