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Night Schools

( Originally Published 1915 )



Night Schools for the Older Boys and Girls.—Helping the older boys and girls is a matter of too much importance to be left to anything so transient as fairs and institutes or to clubs and short courses. It is a matter of importance enough to justify the expenditure of some money and the organization of institutions to supply the need. But until school boards and officers are able to see this, the teacher who has the social point of view may have to organize night schools. If she is able, she may run the night school. If necessary she may hire help for part of the work. Let the board grant the use of the building and let it be properly equipped with lights, seats, etc. Then let the teacher organize the night classes, charging each member one or two dollars for twelve to twenty lessons. The meetings may be twice a week or oftener as desired. But the course must be a live one with something of vital interest, and presented in a concrete, vital way.

The course may include penmanship, business forms, letter writing, farm bookkeeping, farm management problems and agriculture and domestic science, with material so selected as to be of interest to both sexes. The agriculture may be taught by a young farmer who is a graduate of some good agricultural college. There should be close correlation between the writing and the other studies. Pupils should write because they have some-thing to say and not because they have to say something.

Continuation Schools.—There is great need that these schools be made permanent and supported by the regular school funds. That means regular continuation schools for the older pupils. At least one of these schools should be held in each township. In these schools the boy or girl who is too old to attend the regular school should be able to take the subjects in which he is interested. Democracy dares not do less, for it needs the wisest of public opinion on the most varied of subjects. Then, too, as Dr. Seerly says : " Country pupils are as capable of learning history, science, mathematics, music and art as are city pupils. They have just as much hunger for the intellectual and the instructional, for the profound and the philosophical, for the national and the world type, for the artistic and the sublime because their world of experience is even broader and deeper and more normal than the majority of those that live among the experiences that are man-made and thereby conventional and artificial."

Continuation Schools in Consolidated Schools.—Of course the proper place to carry on this work of the night school and the broader courses of the continuation school is in the consolidated school. There we can have a building large enough, there we can have teachers with talents differing enough, there we can have the community centre and the prestige that makes the work mean the most, but the road to the consolidated school is over the path that makes the little chalk-box school-house too small to hold the varied activities that are clamoring to enter. And until teachers make more use of what they already have, I am not sure that boards are justified in making much larger expenditures.

This makes it necessary to say that, in most places where I have observed, the teacher and the so-called educator are the main blocks in the way of better rural schools. Teachers. are burdened with tradition. They do not know how to teach without books. They cannot see how culture can come through vocational subjects. They want to teach pupils to study, while the nation wants them taught to work. They cannot see how one can teach lessons from plants, cows, horses, hen houses and eggs. They do not know how to make culture come through agriculture.

The Short Course.—For helping the teachers, for waking up the young people of a district, for putting new life and enthusiasm into work on the farms, I know of nothing so helpful as the short courses run for a week by the State College men cooperating with the Farm Bureau agent. These people know how to teach from things. They know how to make corn so interesting that old men run from building to building in order not to miss any of the next recitation. They know how to run a new kind of a school where people are seated best on seats that cannot be screwed down, where teachers do not use books, where pupils are not necessarily required to read and where things are done and lessons taught by doing. All of this is so strange and foreign to the school teacher of to-day that he must go to one or more of these short courses in order to understand them. But they offer the leaven, and when once they are held in a township that leaven is very sure to enter the elementary grades.

Nor is it as hard to get up one of these short courses as some people think. The claim that we cannot teach agriculture with-out thousands of dollars worth of equipment is made by men from big colleges, to advertise their colleges. Every farm is a demonstration farm with much valuable equipment. Poor stock are as necessary for teaching as good stock. There are farmers who are willing to lend some of their poorest animals to be shown as specimens of what a farmer should not keep. There are horse-men and cattlemen with good animals who are willing to bring them to the school for the few hours that they are needed. At times the class can visit the nearby farms. There is quite as much danger that we will teach domestic science with an equipment far above any the girls will find at home as that we shall have to teach the subject with too little equipment.

In Wright County, Iowa, the Farm Bureau agent, cooperating with the County Superintendent, held a short course in each township. The farmers were glad to attend. Mr. Wise of the Farm Bureau well says: " To ask farmers to go to State College is to reach only a very small per cent. We are going to have so many courses that there will not be a man or woman, or boy or girl in the county who has an excuse for not attending." And what do they do at those Short Courses ? Let the Farm Bureau agent tell us. He writes as follows: " I am . holding a three days' Short Course in every township in Wright County. In the morning we get together at the central school-house for a study of grains, grasses and soils. In the afternoon we go to some farmers' lots where cattle, horses and hogs are judged and discussion given concerning the method of feeding and care of live stock. In the evening we meet at the central school-house. The first evening I give a lecture on ` Conformation of Live Stock, Desirable from the Market Standpoint.' The second evening County Superintendent Howell lectures on ` A Better Country School.' The third evening we have an old-fashioned spelling match and basket social. In townships where there is no country club organization we have so far succeeded in organizing either a Debating Society or an Agricultural Improvement Club. After spending three days in a township we find the people willing to get together for some kind of a country organization. Our plan is to organize in every township an Improvement Club and then get representatives."

Tests for Agricultural Education.—Agricultural education, in order to become permanently popular, must not neglect any one of the three essentials for vocational education. There must at all times be Principles, Practice and Profits, some say the three R's—Rules, Reasoning, and Results. Educators generally prefer Discipline, Usefulness, and Culture. The problem in agricultural education is the same as the problem in industrial education everywhere, that is, to have a school that is more than a laboratory and to have work at home that is closely correlated with the school work. Laboratory scientists are very useful men, but they are not vocational teachers. On the other hand, the farmer cannot and will not teach his boy so that the boy gets the principles and culture which the farm is capable of giving.

Whether agriculture and domestic science in the school be cultural or not depends upon the teacher. If, when the child mind comes to a project, that mind is led to go back and get the historic setting, if it goes outward and gets the human meaning of the project and its relation to the great world of which it is a small part, then there is culture in it. To illustrate, if one has the growing of a patch of alfalfa, the home project has for an aim to teach the principles, to get the boy to do the work and to get the alfalfa grown in such a way that if farmers do the same there will be profit in it. But it is very easy for the teacher to require, as part of the work, the history of the alfalfa plant, the human meaning of the plant where it has been successfully grown, what may happen if the people of the district fail to learn to grow alfalfa successfully, and what are the chances for a wider use of the alfalfa plant. The same line of topics does for corn, tomatoes, better potatoes, better poultry or almost any project that a boy may undertake. The history of the machinery that has been made in order to handle the wheat, or the history of one single machine, the plow, gives culture of the highest value. Some one has said that education is teaching us to see the much in the little. The plow is a very ordinary looking implement and yet few machines have had as much thought put on them. Jefferson worked for years to make the plow a little nearer perfect. Summing this up, we say that the farmers will demand of agriculture the three P's—Principles, Practice and Profits, and the educators will demand Discipline, Usefulness and Culture, and unless a teacher or school has all it may expect to fail in the work of teaching agriculture.

Rural Social Surveys.—Rural social surveys are needed everywhere and these make vital work for the spare time of the instructor during the summer months. The country people need an inventory of their possible social and economic resources. What have they of unused possibilities ? What of their unused economic possibilities ? How may life be made to mean more, to be richer ? Perhaps the Georgia Normal plan, if used in cooperation with a nearby college or university, is the most feasible plan. The professor of social or economic science out-lines and supervises the survey work. The local instructor or teacher fills in the outlines, submits them to leading people of the district, and they discuss them. The report or survey inventory is sent to the college or university for interpretation, after which a revised survey report or survey inventory becomes the public property of the district. This makes the work impersonal. If hard things are said, if defects and shortcomings are made public, no one person is to bear the blame. The teacher especially is free and the head of the department in the college or university may well bear the opprobrium for the good of the cause.

The social surveys made by Cornell University, by the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota are certainly very helpful. The social survey work as done by the Normal School at Athens, Georgia, and that done by the Presbyterian Church from New York are also helpful. The United States Department of Agriculture is carrying on a very extensive series of soil surveys. These need to be obtained for the school library as a basis of the work. Geology, geography, economics, sociology and agriculture are to go to the country together to be of service to those who need them. Mr. George A. Billings, of the Bureau of Farm Management at Washington, is making extensive labor schedule surveys and remapping surveys, which should become a part of the school libraries in agricultural districts.

The literature of surveys is not yet large. We have " The Survey Idea in Country Life Work," by L. H. Bailey; " A Rural Survey in Missouri " and " A Rural Survey in Indiana," published by the Presbyterian Home Missionary Board ; " A Method of Making a Social Survey," by C. J. Galpin, University of Wisconsin; " Social and Economic Survey in a Rural Town-ship," by Thompson and Warber, University of Minnesota Studies ; " An Agricultural Survey of Tompkins County, New York," Cornell University; " An Educational Survey of Montgomery County, Md.," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 32, 1913. Chapter II of Eggleston and Burere's "The Work of the Rural School " is on " The Community Survey," and in that we read :

" Before a school program is drafted, and where possible before the site is chosen, before the building or buildings are erected, before the school-plant is equipped, the school authorities should make a community survey to find out what the prevailing aspirations of the community are, to discover its economic and social resources and possibilities, its deficiencies and needs. Upon the facts brought to light by the survey, an economic and social program for the entire community should be based, and the school program must be developed as to the central part of the community program.

" No rigid rules can be laid down as to the manner in which a survey should be made. There will be as many different sets of conditions as there are communities. But whether the leading activity of the community is truck-farming, or fruit-growing, or the raising of corn or wheat or cattle or dairy products, the under-lying purpose of the survey remains the same. Whatever the distinctive business of the community may be, it is the business of the teacher and the principal and the superintendent to under-stand that business and all of the related factors that make for or against community happiness and prosperity. The extent of the general and school population, the sanitary conditions in the individual homes and the district, the prevailing methods of home and farm management, the facilities for intercommunication—roads, telephones, mail service and the like—the ownership of the land, the extent of tenant-farming, in short, all the facts that have a vital bearing upon community life, are essential to the adjustment of the work of the school to the economic and spiritual needs of the community."

Rural Life Leadership.—The Country Life Commission, whose report is yet the best thing that we have on our rural life problem, says, " We must picture to ourselves a new rural social structure, developed from the resident forces of the open country; and then we must set at work all of the agencies that will tend to bring this about. The entire people need to be aroused to this avenue to usefulness. Most of the new leaders must be the farmers. . . . A new race of teachers must also appear in the country. A new rural clergy is to be trained. These leaders will see the great underlying problems of country life and together they will work, each in his own field, for the one goal of a new and a permanent rural civilization."

And the report says in regard to education : " The subject of paramount importance . . . is education. In every part of the United States there seems to be one mind, on the part of those capable of judging, on the necessity of redirecting the rural schools. There is no such unanimity on any other subject. . . . Everywhere there is a demand that education have relation to living, that the schools should express the daily life, and that in the rural districts they should educate by means of agriculture and country life subjects. . . . The schools are held to be responsible for ineffective farming, lack of ideals, and drift to town. ' This is not so because the rural schools are declining but because they are in a state of arrested development. . . . It is difficult to make people understand what this really means, for school-teaching is burdened with tradition."

The country school needs men and women of vision, " who see through the incidental, the small and the transient, to the fundamental." The country school needs men who are practical, who know practical farming and with it how to live. The country school needs men who have originality and with it a philosophic understanding of what is fundamental and abiding. The country school wants men who dare break with tradition. It wants county superintendents who can be kind and yet original, who can break with tradition and yet not offend those who fear to see it done.

The rural schools need teachers with new ideals. If teachers are optimists or pessimists or evolutionists of the nineteenth century school, they are apt to say nothing can be done and drift with the times; but if teachers are meliorists they say that things are not wholly bad nor wholly good and it is possible by the use of intellect to see how to make things considerably better. If teachers have achievement as an ideal and make knowledge a means to an end, then they are ready to help make the " better best and the best better."

In addition to the Country Life Commission and the splendid report made by it, our need for rural life leaders has called forth among others such books as Fiske's " Challenge of the Country," and Anderson's " The Farmer of To-morrow." In many ways, as Fiske points out, the rural life problem of to-day is challenging the young men and women of our colleges. But they are only beginning to study the problem, it is so big and so varied, there is so much to do, and a strong, vigorous people are so necessary to the national welfare, that there is a chance for many more than are now entering the field of leadership. When we become conscious of all that agriculture can do for the development of a noble man or woman, when we become conscious of how necessary it is to maintain a standard people in the open country, when we become conscious of the strategic position of the rural schools, we cannot think of education as anything less than giving one his racial inheritance so that he may be better adjusted and of more efficient service to his fellow members of human society. Dr. Bailey has given us an ideal for the real husbandman who is both a good farmer and a rural life leader. In substance he says :

The real husbandman is efficient in four ways: Ability to make a full and comfortable living from the farm. Ability to leave the farm better than he found it. Ability to be of service to the community. Ability to rear a family carefully and well.



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