Volume 12, Issue 4 (2017) Education, Integration, and Re-Education in Kansas
Introduction to the Special IssueThe Great Plains region is experiencing tremendous strain. We have a political system seemingly incapable of consensus, a crisis in sustainable energy, and a broken health care system that is leaving millions of citizens unprotected. Longstanding international trade agreements hang in the balance, causing uncertainty in the agricultural economy. Education is under pressure to meet the needs of a changing workscape, while still sustaining the free flow of ideas that has always been the nation’s source of innovation and wealth. Rural people and communities must bear the burden of all these changes simultaneously. The earth is moving beneath their feet. This issue of the Online Journal of Rural Research and Policy is an effort to highlight one important aspect of rural life by publishing several articles dedicated to a single theme — education. And while the OJRRP has published about rural education in the past, it has not yet considered what history can tell us about education today. To appreciate the importance of public education in the development of the Great Plains, we have selected three very different stories about education for our first thematic issue. This is something we hope to do each fall in an effort to broaden our discussion of important themes in rural life. Our first article, by Katherine Goerl, MA, and Director of the Geary County Historical Society in Junction City, Kansas, is the story of rural education we have come to expect — the story of the one-room school house. Goerl's work examines this uniquely American educational institution through the lens of the young woman schoolteacher, often called the “schoolmother.” Isolation, fear, hard labor and loneliness were common experiences for such young women — a reality out of sync with the typical portrayal found in television and film. Our second article is by Mallory Lutz, a senior at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas who serves as an interpretation specialist at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka. Lutz examines desegregation from an unexpected angle. She argues that the decision to desegregate public schools following the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education was, though celebrated today as a triumph of racial equality, actually much less popular among contemporary black families and educators. Black families, and especially black teachers, understood the disadvantage that an integrated educational system would confer upon black pupils. In today's world where self-segregation is once again on the rise, this study may raise questions of who knew best in 1954. Our third and final article features an educational effort hidden from view for more than seventy years — in the POW camps of the Second World War. Margaret Ziffer, a graduate of Kansas State’s master's program in Security Studies and public relations officer with the Kansas Army National Guard, tells the story of a prisoner of war university at Camp Concordia, Kansas. Utilizing over 300 courses and curriculum sanctioned by the University of Kansas, the German officers interned at Camp Concordia were looking forward to a future after the war. The U.S. government, meanwhile, eagerly sought an opportunity to create a friendly, democratic society in Germany through the process of “re-education.” It is easy to see how each of these histories raise questions which remain unresolved even today. Historical context helps us anticipate the consequences of policy decisions in the present. The research presented here helps demonstrate how Americans in the past understood the power of education and wielded it to their own ends. We encourage your comments and feedback on this issue and on our new thematic format. We are glad to accept suggestions on the issue you believe is most important for OJRRP to tackle next in the fall of 2018.
Higher Education at Camp Concordia: Denazification in Kansas