Education & restoration
While walking around an older neighborhood today, I happened upon a house that had just been restored, and one that was scheduled for demolition unless someone takes it away. I would love to do that, but I don’t have the land or the money for it right now.
It still tempts me, though. So many wonderfully once-ordinary details are on this very simple home. At one time, attic vents were individually built and could be fashioned any way one wanted them to be. As you can see, at one time this house had a fireplace and a chimney, but only a palimpsest of their existence remains. Were they removed for safety reasons? Or was the house too drafty?
The house that had been restored was very interesting, but more for its history than for its architecture. It is a nice little example of a Florida house, raised on brick piers as they used to do in the south. On one side, an addition was put on at some point, and the piers on that side of the house were changed out in favor of concrete ones. But what interested me the most was that it belonged to a teacher and is now a historic site. How many cities honor a teacher like that? I love that Gainesville is one that does.
A. Quinn Jones was an African American, but this plaque does not cite him as the first African American teacher in Gainesville, only as an exceptionally dedicated one. He dedicated himself to teaching the children in his community, even when it many were saying that those very children were less than teachable, less than human, even. Even when many were saying that he was less than human himself. That’s something that deserves to be celebrated.
Which got me thinking about education in general. Jones was called an educator on that plaque. Sometimes that’s the term used for a principal or other on site administrator, but I think that’s an improper use of the term. It seems to me that an educator should be used for someone a little more than an average teacher, because educating goes deeper than just teaching. We can teach a dog tricks. We can teach a child to recite facts. Teaching is part of educating, but I believe that only the teachers who truly inspire their students to delve deeper are educators.
Across the street from his house is an educational center that bears his name. The center is housed in an older building, a stately brick building that looks like schools used to. Along what is now the side of the building, but that used to be the front, there are details that belie the gravitas with which education used to be considered. Schools were important civic buildings, which had details that showed their significance. Their entrances were reminders that education was serious and important. The doors and stairs have been removed on this building, but it takes little imagination to think about what it used to be. I will say that the glass block is what originally drew me to this, because I love the light that glass block lets in. It is unfortunate that it has become seen as an inferior or even trite building product. The space behind this is probably amazingly lit with this wall of glass block.
While it may have been the block that attracted me initially, the details, and even the missing details are what really got me thinking. Schools now are built to be bright and engaging, fun, even. They are often beautiful buildings, well-crafted, experimental and in some ways still speak to the value of education. But they are seldom serious. There is a pervading attitude that children are only interested in fun, which I think may be mistaken. Children can be very serious people, and they are good at picking up on clues as to whether they should be serious or playful. Perhaps we should reintroduce some gravitas to their surroundings.