Education in Johnson County

If you read my column of the last two weeks about me as a student at Dewey Elementary School, you may wonder how we came from the way things were then to the modern schools of today.
As I was gathering information for my last two columns, one of the most interesting bits of information I came across was the fact that there had been 67 different schools in Johnson County. Many were two-room, two-teacher schools. When consolidation came about, not a few citizens were unhappy that consolidation was taking place. Some people felt that the schools should be in their own communities. But consolidation advanced and now students have modern well furnished, well staffed schools to learn in.
I didn’t plan it but I thought it was ironic that last week’s column ran in the annual Progress Edition of the Tomahawk. From my description of Dewey School then and the way schools are now shows a great deal of progress. Progress is shown in the school plants, the modern equipment, the qualification of teachers, and in many other ways as well. While it took many years for education to become available for everyone, Johnson County was progressive in the field of education. Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Our founding fathers were men who valued education highly. Early on the citizens of Johnson County or what would become Johnson County were descendents of the hardy sturdy, fearless frontiersmen who marched westward to claim the American Dream.
In the early existence of Johnson County few children were enrolled in the schools. In 1839 (three years after Johnson County was established), there were 787 enrolled in school. In 1840 there were 736 enrolled. In 1842 there were 768. The enrollment jumped to 1,189 in 1848.
The first Johnson County public secondary school was opened February 1, 1908. The semester was three months. The opportunity to achieve an education increased in Johnson County over time with a few blips along the way. To enable some students to attend high school who lived in outlying areas, a dormitory was constructed on North Church Street.
History shows that Johnson County folks were education-minded and they wanted their children and youth to become an educated citizenry.