Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Lessons Learned in One-Room School Help Solve Today's Problems ; SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Lessons Learned in One-Room School Help Solve Today's Problems ; SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Article excerpt

At a local high school board meeting recently, I heard the principal announce that student performance in mathematics had fallen way short of Illinois state standards. Board members wrung their hands, and calls went up demanding a study to figure out what could be done to bring math scores up to - at the very least - state standards. Some suggested the math teachers weren't teaching "practical" math, while others blamed parents for being poorly prepared to help their kids with their homework. In any event, something had to be done!

Honestly, I have no idea why the math scores were so bad, but I'd bet Cyril Curtis of Albion, Ill., might have a few suggestions. Curtis is 93 years old. He received the first eight years of his education at Judge School, a one-room school in a rural area south of Albion, not far from Browns Chapel Church. Of course, there were no computers back then, and very little to distract students from their schooling.

"I always enjoyed doing math, which was just arithmetic back then," Dr. Curtis said. "On Fridays we did spelling drills and ciphering."

Curtis worked hard, saved money and paid his own way through McKendree University. "My first job at college was making toast in the cafeteria," Curtis said. "I graduated to being a janitor in the library and later became a teaching assistant in math and physics." In 1943, he graduated from McKendree with a degree in mathematics and a minor in physics. With WW II raging, he joined the Army Air Corps after college and trained in meteorology and weather forecasting.

"I really wanted to enter the Naval Officer Training School, but I flunked the physical because of a heart murmur," Curtis said. "So, I decided to check out the Aviation Cadet School at Scott Air Base and they passed me."

While serving in the military, Curtis was a radar-weather officer at U. …

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