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The Kansas Government Information (KGI) Online Library
Kansas government publications, resources and information available from the State Library of Kansas

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Sep 04

Educating Children in Wartime Kansas, 1863

Posted on September 4, 2019 at 10:07 AM by Bill Sowers


Most of us have probably seen old photos of children during or just after World War II, gathered together with a teacher in a heavily damaged school, going through their daily lessons in spite of the devastation and dangers around them. Or perhaps we've watched recent news stories... students and teachers in Afghanistan or Syria, who, even in the midst of war and possible threats against them, seek out times and places to pass on and receive an education. Closer to home are the stories of parents and communities in the United States who have struggled in the courts and on the streets to provide a decent education for their children as well. To say the least, educating the next generation has never been an easy task.

Back in the 1850s and early 1860s Kansans faced many hurdles as well in supporting and providing a public school system for their children. Recently digitized and added to the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library, the "1863 Annual Report of the Kansas Superintendent of Public Instruction" speaks of the trials and tribulations of the people of our state trying to educate their children during a war that is known to them personally through the destruction and loss of life around them. In the report the Superintendet of Public Instruction, Isaac T. Goodnow, writes eloquently of what the people of Kansas are going through:

"To retard the cause of education, we had, first, the border troubles of 1855 and 1856, the financial crisis of 1857, the drouth of 1860, and, lastly, the rebellion of 1861. If, with one-seventh of our population in the army, with the excitement and dangers from guerrilla raids, we can show continual progress in the work of education, no higher compliment can be paid to the virtue, intelligence and heroism of our citizens; and truly we can 'thank God and take courage.'"

This is an interesting read... not just historically but also because it touches on the human spirit... that need in us to provide a decent future for children and the hope that they will make a better world. Though time and geography separate us we Kansans share a bond with parents, teachers and students in those bombed out schools of World War II and the wars in the Middle East.

So sit back and peruse this small volume, speaking to the "virtue, intelligence and heroism of our citizens" so many years ago.

1863 Annual Report of the Kansas Superintendent of Public Instruction