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The Pea Ridge Public School had its beginning in 1884, when the first eight grades of the Pea Ridge Academy became a public school. The early Pea Ridge Public Primary School functioned within the Pea Ridge Academy's school building, but was separately governed by its own School Board. The academy itself continued providing high school courses, and soon after, began offering college-level instruction, under the governance of its Board of Trustees.

Prior to the formation of public schools, education was basically provided by private institutions of learning. Pea Ridge Academy, formed in 1874 in the Lodge Building at Buttram's Chapel, was funded partly by the Masonic Lodge, by area churches, by the sale of shares in which local individuals invested, by donor gifts, and by tuition paid by families of the students. This arrangement did not lend itself to making education available to all; it tended to mean that a good education was usually available only to those who came from well-to-do families, or who were fortunate enough to find a sponsor willing to fund their pursuit of an education.

The idea of public school was slow to be adopted in Arkansas. Sometimes new ideas meet resistance because they are new, and because they are different. The objection may be voiced, "we haven't ever done things that way before."

Public schools work by pooling resources from the wider community and across the generations to provide facilities and teachers and other essential school personnel. Sometimes the objection is voiced, "Why should I have to help educate other people's kids? My kids are all out of school!"

Public schools work on the idea that the education they offer and the skills development which they provide has a broad and far-reaching community benefit. The belief is that the community is a better place to live, and all families in the community continually benefit from having a quality local school.

So many things around us are able to work successfully and productively because people join together to do things cooperatively. For example, our roads at one time relied on a nearby farmer to grade and maintain the surface, the drainage, and so on. Now we can have better roads because we work together to provide quality maintenance crews and equipment and a more coordinated road program.

Insurance programs of various types work by having groups of people cast in their lots together so that we don't get caught without help and without resources when accidents or losses or health crises occur.

Most of us now have electricity in our homes, and we can hardly imagine life without it. Only 80 years ago, that widespread home electricity was not available. It became available because people joined together in a cooperative way to fund the electrification project in the 1930s and 1940s, investing resources in ways that widely benefited everybody in communities all across the country.

I think that as Pea Ridgers, both us old-timers and newcomers, we understand the sense in which we are not just a mass of individuals, or an amalgamation of disconnected families; we are a community. Our kids at school, on the basketball court, on the football field, in the classroom, in school organizations, in quiz bowls, and so on, are not just somebody else's kids. We want to do the best we can to provide school facilities that are adequate in capacity and effective in design, to help them prepare for adulthood. They are "our" kids.

We are proud of them, we root for them, and we pull for them in their endeavors in life, because they are the kids of our community. They are "our" kids.

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Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and can be contacted by email at joe369@centurytel.net, or call 621-1621. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: We are a community

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