Education was important to the Mennonite settlers. In Russia they had been responsible for their own educational system, and the loss of this control was one of the reasons that the Alexanderwohl village decided to move to Kansas in 1874. The establishment of schools in America was actually a continuation of the system already begun in Russia. In Kansas one-room schools were located about every two square miles.
Classes were held in Alexanderwohl settlement as early as 1874. Many of these early schools were held in individual homes. One of the best known of these house schools was Emmental. This school opened in January of 1876 in the home of Peter Richert, southwest of Goessel. Sixteen children attended the school. The basic curriculum consisted of Bible stories, Bible reading, memorization of bible verses and arithmetic. This school continued over the next several years in different homes until 1879, when a school house was built. This building later became the Fortbildungschule (Preparatory School) and is a forerunner of today's Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.
Most of the schools in the Alexanderwohl community followed a similar pattern in curriculum. All classes were taught in German and the main emphasis was on the Bible, reading, and arithmetic. Music was also taught, although it mainly consisted of learning hymns. In 1877 teachers were urged by the Kansas Conference of Mennonites to begin teaching some English, the same year that Kansas law required English grammar be included in a school's curriculum. However, German continued to be the main language among the Alexanderwohl Mennonites for many years.
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