Page images
PDF
EPUB

AGRICULTURE.

country-life education continued unchanged almost to the close of the Nineteenth century. These schools had ignored the accumulating new knowledge of agriculture, home-making, and rural economics. They adhered almost absolutely to the traditional subjects of the schools. To the "three R's ", some schools added mathematics, history, and languages, which were recognized as preparatory studies for college entrance. These schools, like the city and village. schools, by giving only studies unrelated to agriculture, home-making, and other industries, tended to discredit all manual lines of effort. Our school system, including these rural schools, magnified the professions and even such non-manual vocations as bookkeeping, clerking, and the lighter forms of transportation service. Thus the schools, acting in unison with the increasing wages of non-agricultural pursuits, helped to lead the people away from the farm and farm home, and even away from many of the mechanical industries. Our schools have thus been partially responsible for our young men's preference of the $12 per week salary of the clerk or street-car conductor to the $20 a week wage of the skilled artisan or the responsibility of the rented farm, with the chance of some time becoming its

owner.

On the other hand, it is only fair to say in passing, that the one-room rural school gave to the American country people the elements of an

351

English education, served as a common bond of the people to the Government, formed the great medium through which has been built up a unified Americanism, and gave the whole people a respect for and yearning after knowledge. It has served as the basis of a most wonderful market for a varied and abundant literature in books, periodicals, and public bulletins and reports. In a word, our common schools have, in a most potent way, brought us up to a position wherein reasonable education and economic and social development through reorganization is not only possible but practical and imminent.

Thus it came gradually to be recognized among those who studied public questions, among business men who employed young graduates of our school system, and among parents and teachers themselves, that our school system was too narrowly directed. along the line of the specialist in literary scholarship, and not sufficiently brought into relation to the things which more than 90 per cent. of the pupils would be called upon to do on leaving school; that the studies of the schools were strictly arranged to prepare the pupils for the grade above, and too little calculated to fit graduates for the work of the farm, the shop, or the home, where most people must become efficient or fail to carry their share of the social burden.

Our schools have been slow to accept the fact that modern research and experience have added a new body of

knowledge which rivals the old in promoting mental growth and skill and far surpasses the old in preparing for the vocational pursuits of actual life. In 1862, under the influence of the initial act of Congress in establishing State schools of agriculture and mechanical arts, a movement has arisen in our educational system to place beside the traditional studies training in the new subjects brought into prominence by modern scientific study of vocational conditions.

The first vocational courses to become successful in these State colleges were mechanical and engineering. Later, courses in agriculture became successful, and lastly courses in relation to home-making were successfully inaugurated. Some of these schools did not stop at courses of collegiate grade in these vocational lines, but established also secondary courses, short courses, and even itinerant schools and traveling lectureships. Some of them (as did also the United States Department of Agriculture) finally organized corps of demonstration teachers.

These lower courses of study soon gained a foothold outside the State colleges. Agricultural high schools sprang up, and now we have nearly 75 of them; several States have one in each Congressional district, or about one in each ten counties. Congress has been considering a bill to enable every State to establish a large agricultural high school in practically every ten counties, which would pro

vide nearly 400 schools of this class throughout the United States. Parallel with this tendency is a movement to establish in our cities, as parts of our city high-school system, secondary schools of the trades and industries. In the larger cities, such as Chicago, St. Paul, Washington, and Springfield (Massachusetts), splendid separate high schools of this class have been established. In the smaller towns this work usually takes the form of departments of trades and industries in the existing high schools. In nearly all these schools, whether agricultural or industrial, high school work is provided in home economics. In fact, courses in home-making are now being placed as strong units in nearly all high schools, academies, and other secondary schools for girls throughout the entire United States.

During the last fifteen years Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Massachusetts, and other States have begun to reorganize and consolidate the one-room schools of the open country. Six or eight oneroom school districts are thrown into a single district, approximately five miles across each way. A five-room school building is erected in the middle of this district, preferably on a tenacre school farm. Often a residence is erected for the principal. Most of the children are hauled to school in wagons hired at public expense. Under typical conditions, three teachers, each with two grades, care for the 100 pupils in the first six grades. A principal and assistant

AGRICULTURE.

principal trained to teach argriculture and home economics, give both the general school subjects and agricultural and home-economics subjects to the pupils of the seventh and eighth grades and to those in the first two years of high school.

It has been found most desirable to have these older pupils who are pursuing the work of the seventh to the tenth years remain in school the six winter months and to work on the home farm the alternate six months; with the teacher of agriculture and the teacher of home economics spending half their time working with their pupils at home, coöperating with the parents in making the pupils summer work truly apprenticeship service, and highly educational. Students from the large agricultural high school - one in each ten counties taking their eleventh and twelfth years (or last two years of high school work) also get their summer's practice on the home farm. These older students often assist the teachers of the consolidated rural school in making the summer's work of the pupils in the lower school more instructive and more inspiring.

Then, by attending school one day a week or one day in two weeks during these alternate six months, the pupils care for the crops of the ten-acre school farm, make their reports of their home work, and complete their contests in the growing acres of corn, potatoes, or strawberries. In these and in such other ways as the teachers may devise they are stimulated to

353

active interest in doing exceptionally good work on the farm.

This new form of consolidated rural school, with teachers grown up in similar schools, further trained in agricultural high schools, in State normal schools, and perhaps in State agricultural agricultural colleges, remoulds the rural community into a larger unit. The diffuse, weak, unformed, unbalanced centering about the one-room school, about the over-lapping denominational country church, about the country store, and about the villages, thus gives way to a new civic life which attracts everything to the consolidated rural school centre. Here during youth all members of the community gain that acquaintance and fellowship with each other which makes true coöperation possible. Probably more than 2,000 farm communities about one-fifteenth of the whole number for which our vast open country has room - have formed typical consolidated school districts, with the team haul limit of about five miles square. They have the consolidated rural school, to which the children are generally conveyed in public wagons. It is true that in only part of these have agriculture and home economics been introduced, but it is not surprising that a little time is required in which to replace the teachers from the old-line agricultural high schools and colleges. Even under their present conditions, without the influence of efficient teachers of agriculture and home economics, the con

[ocr errors]

solidated rural schools already established have been so uniformly successful that not one parent in twenty would vote to return from the more expensive consolidated rural school to the less expensive one-room school. The added expense to the district so increases the number of pupils attending school, their regularity of attendance, the rapidity with which they learn, the enlarged and pertinent scope of education (which often includes vocational as well as general subjects), and the enthusiasm and inspiration resulting from the school, that practically all parents greatly prefer the new plan. Moreover, wherever efficient teachers of agriculture have supplanted the narrowly literary teachers, the farmers have found that the new form of school has a vital relation to such substantial increases in the productions of the farms that the increased cost of the school is one of their best paying investments.

The isolation of farm life was for many years one of its greatest drawbacks. It is all very well to talk about living close to nature and "holding communion with her invisible forms," but man, as has been frequently observed, is essentially a gregarious animal, and must have intercourse with his own kind if he is to develop symmetrically. The lack of human intercourse was one of the hardships of pioneering to be listed in the catalogue of the more tangible physical discomforts. Those were the days when wo

men for months at a time did not see each other; when, shut in by the four walls of their tiny frontier cabins and enclosed even more inescapably by the dangers of the limitless prairies or the savage forests, they lived a life of monotony; and where, perhaps worst of all, illness or injury to their loved ones found them absolutely beyond the reach of medical attendance.

But what changes have we seen who have lived through the half century which has elapsed since the close of the Civil War! We have seen settlements increase until now there is scarcely a quarter section of those rich prairie lands without its farmstead. We have seen churches and schools and mighty colleges spring up where fifty years ago the painted savage pitched his tepee or lifted his terrible war-cry. We have seen the railways running their ribbons of steel where there were then no highways save the rutted trails of the prairie schooners. We have seen the formation of granges, horticultural societies, farmers' coöperative associations, and women's clubs. We have seen the infrequent mail of pioneer days replaced by the daily free delivery; and, lastly, we have seen our country homes connected by telephone and brought in touch with the great centres of population by telegraph. And now, as the last word in social and religious progress, came the Union Church in some localities and the consolidated rural school, with its centralizing influence in others.

In the comparative affluence of the

AGRICULTURE.

past decade has come the building of that artistic sense among our people which was long held in abeyance by the rigors of necessity. And in this as in most other things, the American people have displayed a strong individuality. The great ancestral estates of the older countries, with their stately mansions and the thatchedroofed cottages of tenant laborers where ambition is embalmed are not to our taste. On our vast, beautiful, open country we have, instead, the independent farmer who owns his quarter section and builds and beautifies his farmstead according to his own individual sense of the fitness of things. We are building hundreds of thousands of miles of good roads and well-kept roadsides maintained not for the convenience of a wealthy class at the expense of a less fortunate one, but rather to serve and uphold the civic pride, the self-respect and the convenience of the people at large. We

355

have sanitary and artistic public buildings maintained at the people's will and cost. There has risen a sense of the advantages of a handsome country-side; of farmsteads with comely buildings, beautiful lawns, with trees, shrubs and flowers. We have State, Interstate and National parks, many of them located in our forest reserves, perpetuating for all the people the natural beauties of our country.

And we have a few artists who have fortunately ceased painting European peasantry as typifying country life and have pictured the American farmer with his plow and four horses, in place of the European man with the hoe, as more typical of real farm life. Instead of covering the walls of our rural schoolhouses and farm homes with pictures of European peasant life, the movement has fairly begun to substitute pictures of the best activities of American country life, retaining the pictures of the man with the hoe for the purpose of contrast.

CHAPTER VII.

1865-1912.

FOREIGN COMMERCE.

Interrelation of foreign commerce and industrial development Conditions favoring the growth of our foreign commerce since the Civil War- Nature and extent of this growth - Connection between imports and exports - Analysis of exports since 1856 Later export trade and recent industrial development - Growing importance of our import trade-Its numerous sources - Our economic independence a result of our industrial revolution Factors favoring our commercial development - Total international trade and its proper estimation.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

half-century the development of foreign commerce was both a powerful factor and an important result. But the record of this development is especially valuable as the best existing

« PreviousContinue »