A year or two back, my small town in New Hampshire completed the decades-long process of educational “consolidation” and closed our last one-room schoolhouse—a fine 1839 clapboard academy atop a hill overlooking a small settlement. For the last thirty years, it had been used as the town kindergarten, but now the little ones have gone downhill to join their siblings in the first-to-eighth grade school. The town isn’t sure yet what to do with the building, so the classroom’s been tidied up and decorated with some surviving artifacts of its illustrious past. On the blackboard is a typical math exercise of the mid-nineteenth century: “If 46 yards of cloth cost £53 10s 6d, what is that per yard?” The tattered volume from which it’s taken sits on a pupil’s desk three rows back, with the names of several of the town’s oldest families inscribed inside. It’s an American book published in...

 
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