With the streets buzzing with students returning to campus, toting backpacks weighted-down with binders, books and scientific calculators, I thought September would be an appropriate time to check out Columbia's tiny treasure of a museum: The Museum of Education.
It is indeed tiny, just one room, in fact. But because it is located in the heart of USC's campus and a five-minute walk from the State House, it's well worth a visit. Educators and history-buffs will find it especially interesting.
One of the highlights of the museum is an exhibition of photographs, "Pat Conroy at the Daufuskie Island School." Conroy, a South Carolina native, is known for writing great novels such as The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, but as a young man in the late 1960s he taught for a year in a one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island, a sea island off the coast of Hilton Head. He soon learned that the children at the school were far behind in their studies; some were illiterate and most, raised their entire lives on the island, knew nothing of the outside world. Conroy was fired after a year for his unconventional teaching methods but he turned his experiences into the memoir, The Water is Wide, for which he won a humanitarian award from the National Education Association. The pictures on display at the Museum of Education were taken by a local college student to fulfill a requirement for his anthropology class. They beautifully capture this period in the novelist's life and his relationship with his students.
The museum's S.C. Education Hall of Honor pays tribute to great South Carolina educators. In the 1940s, the Rev. Joseph Armstrong Delaine mobilized his South Carolina community to challenge segregation in the schools. Clark, who founded the first citizenship schools in South Carolina, is known as the "Queen Mother" of the civil rights movement. In fact, when Dr. Martin Luther King accepted his Nobel Prize, he insisted Clark accompany him.
The Museum of Education is located on the corner of Main and Greene streets on the USC. It is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. The museum serves as a great reminder of the importance of education and educators, and the effect that those educators can have not only on their students' lives but also on the world at large.