Mann’s Ark*

The family left the city to
visit family in the country
and he, a fourth-grader, would
go to the one-room schoolhouse
with his relatives. He would
sit and watch the first graders,
second graders, third graders
and so forth around the one room
of an ark in the middle of the
field. One teacher, many students.
He wondered at how smart she
must be to teach it all. Then the
family would leave and he would
go back home to his big, brick
schoolhouse squeezed between
many streets — an ark with many
rooms and many teachers. Years
and years later, he wondered at
the wonderful idea of public
education for all — country kids
and city kids alike all safe in
the arms of the ark of learning.
But look out! The political
storms of straight wind, tornado,
hurricane, blizzard, cyclone,
gale, monsoon, snowstorm, squall,
tempest, twister, whirlwind,
windstorm are beating against
the clapboard and old, worn,
brick sides of what we once
thought was the unsinkable ark
of learning for all.

*“Education is our only political safety.
Outside of this ark, all is deluge.” —
The father of American public education,
Horace Mann. — from The Writer’s Almanac,
May 4, 2020

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