Thursday, September 13, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 9-27-18

Notes from my Knapsack 9-27-18

Jeff Gill


Log cabin education as it was



Thomas Jefferson promoted public education from his first days in the Virginia legislature, and on into his service in the Confederation Congress and later as President.


In 1784 he was pushing for educational provisions to be built into plans for expanding settlement across the Ohio River; the Land Ordinance of 1785 set the table for the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, all of which brought us the outlines of state government and county landscapes we have today.


The plan was to survey townships into 36 sections of six square miles each, and of those, Section 16 would generally be designated the "school land." The idea was that number 16 would be close to the center of each section, and from this central location, a school house would be built by the citizens of the township and its upkeep and the pay for a teacher would come from the proceeds of those acres.


Local citizens could rent out the land and use that income, or farm it jointly and share the income with the school district; a township might combine efforts with a neighbor, and sell one section for principal funds that would then maintain the school covering both. A fair amount of latitude was given, the point being that, like township governance, the authority was in the hands of the people.


If you've been to the Hartford Fair (and if you haven't, make plans next August, because you should) you might have vaguely noticed the church now incorporated into the fairgrounds just south of the track and grandstands. The sign says "School Land Church" because it was originally built on Hartford Township's school land section. School lands were once found in each township of Ohio; there was even a College Township in the original plan for Ohio, which is now Oxford Township in Butler County, which contributed to establishing Ohio's second college, now Miami University (Ohio University being the oldest).


The point being that local autonomy was promoted, and resources were provided. As you can imagine, some counties and townships handled this better than others; in some places, Section 16 was so desirable that it mysteriously got reassigned, and in many places the school lands were not optimal, didn't produce much or any revenue, and the grand dream of Thomas Jefferson in 1784, of westward expansion without slavery beyond the Appalachians, with a school in every township was set back for generations.


But the idea continued. Local school houses went up, just as the abolition movement grew, and the nation lurched uneasily towards Civil War and the end of slavery; by the end of 1864, Ohio had developed a teacher certification system for the state as a whole.


Before that, many cities and some villages had voluntarily established education beyond the then-standard eight grades. The first Granville settlers in their last act of 1805 had established their school land section, the area around Clouse Lane and Newark-Granville Road, and began classes for children almost as soon as they put up the first log cabins, in a simple structure where Opera House Park is.


That first schoolhouse lasted until 1810, and had an interesting demise…

(To be continued!)


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's interested in how we do things together as a community. Tell him what we can do better together at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Faith Works 9-15-18

Faith Works 9-15-18

Jeff Gill


The God's-eye view not always the best



It may seem like an odd thing to worry about, but I have some questions about the sudden necessity for every news story on television, each commercial, and now many website launch pages, to include drone footage.


Drone footage is cool. I don't question that, don't have a problem with drones, don't dislike seeing it come up at all. But the pervasive and even essential place a drone camera overview has taken makes me ask some questions.


When you watch a camera angle rise up, it's like flying. And we've all had those flying dreams, haven't we? It's a common human aspiration, and the first time any of us were in a plane and watched the ground drop away beneath the wings is a memorable moment. Any hiker let alone climber wants to have that view from the top, the walk to the summit, and if you get to see a sunrise from there, all the better.


You'll note that most mountaintop experiences don't encompass watching the still glorious drama of a sunSET from a peak, because if this was really a long trek to the top, if you watch the beauty of dusk from the summit and see the last flicker of sun sink below the western horizon, that means you will be making your way down in the dark.


Which is often not a good idea. Cliff edges, rocky slopes, uneven footing. Sunrise from the heights is better than sunset, unless you're camped out there – and you don't usually want to pitch a tent on a summit, anyhow.


Drone footage has no such hazards, sunrise, sunset, above at high noon or cruising through the day. But there is still something a bit unnatural about it. To see the pinnacle of the courthouse in drone footage is to experience something that previously only pigeons could have . . . or Someone equally elevated.


Now, the "God's-eye view" is the basic expectation when you are being shown a visual, from crime scenes to tourism. It's useful at times, no doubt about it. You see what you might otherwise miss, and can get a sense of the big picture.


But you don't experience it the same way. You have to be able to toggle back and forth between the overview and the human view, like a hiker with a map, a driver looking at their GPS device, and from those tools to the road as it actually unrolls in front of you. I don't dislike maps or GPS systems, I just know you can't always trust them to actually show a real person how to navigate step by step by step. And if you immerse yourself too much in the view from above, you can run into a perfectly obvious obstacle in the here-and-now.


Today, Saturday Sept. 15, I'm leading a walk around some of Newark's streets starting and ending at the Great Circle Museum of the Newark Earthworks, off Rt. 79 in Heath. This is part of the Ohio Open Doors program from the Ohio History Connection that's statewide, and all this past week and coming weekend. Sites that OHC manages and local history locations of all sorts are all taking advantage of a lovely fall weekend (okay, but soon) to invite people to visit places with a story to tell. My group will cover about two and a half miles, take three hours or so, and will look at some "hidden in plain sight" pieces of what was once four square miles and more of interconnected geometric earthworks built on these river terraces some 2,000 years ago.


We'll have maps, of course, because that's how we're used to navigating. They give us the "God's-eye view" of the whole, but the point of the walk is to see from ground level, as the Builders did, what they were doing on the land, and connecting horizontally places on the landscape, a sort of script Ohio of the mind that you have to see from their angle.


And the Ohio Open Doors continues, and I get to help, with a re-dedication ceremony on Sunday at 1:00 pm at our historic Courthouse in Newark, and tours of some buildings downtown both old and new. The view from above is dramatic, but the people become like ants on a sidewalk. The view from among the crowd, the human perspective, is where I believe you can also get a taste of inspiration about what has been built here in Licking County, and even a better view of where we're going.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's going to be helping with the Octagon Open House on October 7, too. Tell him about your view from eye level of what God is up to in our area at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.