BATTLE ROCK: The Struggle over a One-Room School in America's Vanishing West

William Celis, Author . Public Affairs $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-891620-66-9

Celis, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, took a leave in 1999 to move to Cortez, a small town in rural Colorado, to write about its "one-room" schoolhouse, Battle Rock. With 26 students in grades K through 6, Battle Rock had one teacher/principal, Paul Hanson; one part-time assistant; and a few visiting teachers. Celis got to know Hanson, a few of the students and their families, and the town's Assembly of God minister in the year he stayed. Locals were routinely hostile to outsiders, and Celis found most Cortezians to be backbiting gossips, so he had to give up on a number of potential sources for his story of the "struggle" over this school. The problem is, there's hardly any battle at Battle Rock. For all the ominous foreshadowing, the big "struggle" is really quite small: a parent thinks Hanson could be doing a better job, Hanson offers to resign, the other parents urge him not to, so he stays for another year. Even without a battle, the story of this one-teacher school might have been stimulating had Celis examined how attention-deficit students are handled, why this public school is still staging Christmas pageants and whether the local Native American children attend the school. Unfortunately, Celis is fascinated with the more routine aspects of school life, e.g., two girls excluding a third, and the disciplining of a child who doesn't finish his work. This earnest book suffers from a lack of sharp writing and deep thinking. Agent, Matt Bialer. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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