HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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PUBLIC AND HIGH SCHOOLS
As a rule the children of Dutch immigrants until fifteen or twenty years ago obtained little more than the essentials of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Hollanders of Lake Prairie Township showed comparatively little interest in common school education. Their rural schools numbered only eight in the years 1861 and 1865; while Knoxville Township, inhabited by Americans, had sixteen. Two hundred more children attended the district schools of Knoxville Township, and the Americans also had a much larger average number of pupils in attendance. What was true of the two townships applied with equal force to the towns of Pella and Knoxville. Such statistics are all the more uncomplimentary to the Hollanders, because the population of their town and township, and especially the number of their children, was considerably larger than that of the township dominated by their American neighbors.(255)
Little more can be said of the place of primary education among the Hollanders of Iowa since 1867 than that the public school system of the State has laid the foundation for good citizenship and the ordinary occupations of life. It has furnished the mass of Hollanders with the elements of education and has offered the advantages of instruction and training to the poorest children in country and town. Whether the Dutch immigrant parents have always fully availed themselves of such opportunities for their children it is difficult to state. In Holland, where it has been claimed that every adult can read and write, people who later emigrated to Iowa have at least learned the rudiments. But in the struggle for existence and wealth in Iowa very many Hollanders have lost sight of cultural pursuits. By force of circumstances some have weaned their children from school at an early age, while others have been easily satisfied to see their children finish the grammar school, or at best the high school. It is indeed doubtful whether one child out of twenty-six has continued in school beyond the eighth grade - a statement which does not flatter the Hollanders in America as a people thirsting for education.
In agricultural communities such as Marion and Sioux counties where wealth has had such powerful attractions, where work of all kinds was so plentiful and hands were so few, Dutch farmers, business men of moderate means, and day laborers with large families could not afford to sacrifice time and money to give their children a thorough education. Seeing no financial profit in years spent at school or college ("'it doesn't pay") very many preferred to see their children begin work early in life, help support the family, and learn to become self-dependent.
And yet, although most youths in the early days of Pella and Sioux County acquired little more than the rudiments of an education in their town and rural schools, not a few young men went on to college. Indeed, there has never been lacking among the Hollanders a genuine interest in secondary education. So keen was their enthusiasm that Pella has long boasted of her college and Orange City has prided herself on a fine academy. High schools in the towns where the Dutch preponderate are of later date.
The number of grammar-room pupils who went on into the upper grades remained so small for many years that no pressing need existed for the organization of thorough high school courses. At Pella advanced work was for a long time well taken care of by the Central University academy which not only children of Dutch parentage at Pella, but frequently also boys and girls from rural and graded schools in the vicinity, have attended. In recent years, also, many of the farmers in Dutch communities living near town have sent their children to high schools. The Northwestern Classical Academy has provided instruction to many young people in Orange City, to those who came from farms near by, and to many who came from communities of Hollanders in Sioux County and neighboring States.
High school and academy graduates of Dutch extraction previous to 1900 were not numerous in proportion to the population. The number of pupils in the Orange City and Pella high schools was fairly large, but only a small percentage of them were destined to complete the course. Girls outnumbered boys in nearly every class of graduates - a fact no less true of the years since 1900. Many young women of Dutch parentage have thus been enabled to begin careers as teachers in rural schools among the Hollanders of Marion, Sioux, and other counties, and a few are to be found teaching in the grades of town schools. Just as in other communities, boys dropped out of school before their sisters because there was work for them at home, in the office, or in the shop.
Pella high school and academy graduates have obtained their higher education largely in Central University, but a few have gone to Hope College, a Dutch Reformed institution at Holland, Michigan. With the opportunity of securing a college education at home it is not surprising that young men did not turn to colleges elsewhere, except for graduate and professional courses, in which case many have attended the State University of Iowa: one of these was John Scholte Nollen, president of the Alumni Association in 1911, and head of Lake Forest College.
Although the graduates of the Northwestern Classical Academy and of high schools of Dutch towns in Sioux County have always attended Hope College, since 1900 many graduates have chosen to go elsewhere. Grinnell College and the Agricultural College at Ames have had their attractions, but the current has set in especially strong toward the State University of Iowa. During the past decade the latter institution has had a large representation from the Dutch community in Sioux County, particularly from the towns of Orange City and Sioux Center. In 1912 this county, nearly three hundred miles from Iowa City, sent thirty-five students. Only five counties in the State made a better showing. Orange City with its population of about 1500 had more students enrolled at the University than any other town of equal size: it boasted of seventeen. Des Moines had but twice as many; and only eight cities in all Iowa ranked higher. Such facts indicate not merely that the Hollanders of Iowa have begun to take more interest in education, but also that they have confidence in their university.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(255) Report o f the Secretary o f the Board of Education (Iowa), 1861, Appendices, pp. 35, 36, 91; Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Iowa), 1865, pp. 64, 65; and Iowa Historical and Comparative Census, 1836-1880, p. 537
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