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Title: New Ideals in Rural Schools
Author: Betts, George Herbert, 1868-1934
Language: English
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Literature in Agriculture (CHLA), Cornell University)

Riverside Educational Monographs









The Riverside Press Cambridge




     EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION                               v

     PREFACE                                            ix

  I. THE RURAL SCHOOL AND ITS PROBLEM                    1



 IV. THE TEACHING OF THE RURAL SCHOOL                   92

     OUTLINE                                           121


In presenting a second monograph on the rural school problem in this
series we register our sense of the importance of rural education. Too
long have the rural schools suffered from neglect. Both the local
communities and the State have overlooked the needs of the rural school
system. At the present hour there is an earnest awakening of interest in
rural life and its institutions. Already there is a small but certain
movement of people toward the country and the vocation of agriculture. A
period of agricultural prosperity, the reaction of men and women against
the artificialities of city life, the development of farming through the
application of science, and numerous other factors have made country
life more congenial and have focused attention upon its further needs.
It is natural, therefore, that the rural school should receive an
increased share of attention.

Educational administrators, legislators, and publicists have become
aware of their responsibility to provide the financial support and the
efficient organization that is needed to develop country schools. The
more progressive of them are striving earnestly to provide laws that
will aid rather than hamper the rural school system. In his monograph on
_The Improvement of the Rural School_, Professor Cubberley has done much
to interpret current efforts of this type. From the standpoint of state
administration he has contributed much definite information and
constructive suggestion as to how the State shall respond to the
fundamental need for (1) more money, (2) better organization, and (3)
real supervision for rural schools.

It is not so clear, however, that rural patrons, school directors, and
teachers have become fully aware of their duty in the matter of rural
school improvement. To be sure much has been done by way of experiment
in many rural communities; but it can scarcely be said that rural
communities in general are thoroughly awake to the importance of their
schools. The evidence to the contrary is cumulative. The first immediate
need is to reawaken interest in the school as a center of rural life,
and to suggest ways and means of transmuting this communal interest into
effective institutional methods. To this end, Professor Betts has been
asked to treat the rural school problem from a standpoint somewhat
different from that assumed by Professor Cubberley; that is, from the
point of view of the local community immediately related to, and
concerned with, the rural school. In consequence his presentation
emphasizes the things that ought to be done by the local
authorities,--parent, trustee, and teacher. Its soundness may well be
judged by the pertinent order of his discussion. Having stated his
problem, he initiates his discussion by suggesting how the social
relations of the school are to be reorganized; only later does he pass
to the detail of curricula and teaching methods. It is a clear
recognition of the fact that the community is the crucial factor in the
making of a school. The State by sound fiscal and legislative policies
may do much to make possible a better country school; but only the local
authorities can realize it. The trained teacher with modern notions of
efficiency may attempt to enlarge the curriculum and to employ newer
methods of teaching, but his talents are useless if he is hampered by a
conservative, unappreciative, and indifferent community. When the school
becomes a social center of the community's interest and life, there will
be no difficulty in achieving any policy which the State permits or
which a skilled teacher urges. Scattered schools will be consolidated,
and isolated ungraded schools will be improved. Given an interested
community, the modern teacher can vitalize every feature of the school,
changing the formal curriculum into an interesting and liberalizing
interpretation of country life and the pedantic drills and tasks of
instruction into a skillful ministry to real and abiding human wants.


No rural population has yet been able permanently to maintain itself
against the lure of the town or the city. Each civilization at one stage
of its development comprises a large proportion of rural people. But the
urban movement soon begins, and continues until all are living in
villages, towns, and cities. Such has been the movement of population in
all the older countries of high industrial development, as England,
France, and Germany. A similar movement is at present going on rapidly
in the United States.

No great social movement ever comes by chance; it is always to be
explained by deep-seated and adequate causes. The causes lying back of
the rapid growth of our cities at the expense of our rural districts are
very far from simple. They involve a great complex of social,
educational, and economic forces. As the spirit of adventure and
pioneering finds less to stimulate it, the gregarious impulse, the
tendency to flock together for our work and our play, gains in
ascendancy. Growing out of the greater intellectual opportunities and
demands of modern times, the standard of education has greatly
advanced. And under the incentive of present-day economic success and
luxury, comfortable circumstances and a moderate competence no longer
satisfy our people. Hence they turn to the city, looking to find there
the coveted social, educational, or economic opportunities.

It is doubtful, therefore, whether, even with improved conditions of
country life, the urbanization of our rural people can be wholly
checked. But it can be greatly retarded if the right agencies are set at
work. The rural school should be made and can be made one of the most
important of these agencies, although at the present time its influence
is chiefly negative. With the hope of offering some help, however
slight, in adjusting the rural school to its problem, this little volume
is written by one who himself belongs to the rural community by birth
and early education and occupation.

G. H. B.
CORNELL COLLEGE, _February_, 1913.




_The general problem of the rural school_

The general problem of the rural school is the same as that of any other
type of school--to render to the community the largest possible returns
upon its investment in education with the least possible waste. Schools
are great education factories set up at public expense. The raw material
consists of the children of succeeding generations, helpless and
inefficient because of ignorance and immaturity. The school is to turn
out as its product men and women ready and able to take up their part in
the great world of activities going on about them. It is in this way, in
efficient education, that society gets its return for its investment in
the schools.

The word "education" has in recent years been taking on a new and more
vital meaning. In earlier times the value of education was assumed, or
vaguely taken on faith. Education was supposed to consist of so much
"learning," or a given amount of "discipline," or a certain quantity of
"culture." Under the newer definition, education may include all these
things, but it must do more; it _must relate itself immediately and
concretely to the business of living_. We no longer inquire of one how
much he knows, or the degree to which his powers have been "cultivated";
but rather to what extent his education has led to a more fruitful life
in the home, the state, the church, and other social institutions; how
largely it has helped him to more effective work in a worthy occupation;
and whether it has resulted in greater enjoyment and appreciation of the
finer values of personal experience,--in short, whether for him
education spells _efficiency_.

We are thus coming to see that education must enable the individual to
meet the real problems of actual experience as they are confronted in
the day's life. Nor can the help rendered be indefinite, intangible, or
in any degree uncertain. It must definitely adjust one to his place, and
cause him to grow in it, accomplishing the most for himself and for
society; it must add to the largeness of his personal life, and at the
same time increase his working efficiency.

This is to say that one's education must (1) furnish him with the
particular _knowledge_ required for the life that he is to live, whether
it be in the shop, on the farm, or in the profession. For knowledge lies
at the basis of all efficiency and success in whatever occupation.
Education must (2) shape the _attitude_, so that the individual will
confront his part of the world's work or its play in the right spirit.
It must not leave him a parasite, whether from wealth or from poverty,
ready to prey upon others; but must make him willing and glad to do his
share. Education must (3) also give the individual training in
_technique_, or the skill required in his different activities; not to
do this is at best but to leave him a well-informed and well-intentioned
bungler, falling far short of efficiency.

The great function of the school, therefore, is to supply the means by
which the requisite _knowledge_, _attitude_, and _skill_ can be
developed. It is true that the child does not depend on the school alone
for his knowledge, his attitude, and his skill. For the school is only
one of many influences operating on his life. Much of the most vital
knowledge is not taught in the school but picked up outside; a great
part of the child's attitude toward life is formed through the
relations of the home, the community, and the various other points of
contact with society; and much of his skill in doing is developed in a
thousand ways without being taught. Yet the fact remains that the school
is organized and supported by society to make sure about these things,
to see that the child does not lack in knowledge, attitude, or skill.
They must not be left to chance; where the educative influences outside
the school have not been sufficient, the school must take hold. Its part
is to supplement and organize with conscious purpose what the other
agencies have accomplished in the education of the child. The ultimate
purpose of the school is _to make certain of efficiency_.

The means by which the school is to accomplish these ends are (1) the
_social organization_ of the school, or the life and activities that go
on in the school from day to day; (2) the _curriculum_, or the
subject-matter which the child is given to master; and (3) the
_instruction_ or the work of the teacher in helping the pupils to master
the subject-matter of the curriculum and adjust themselves to the
organization of the school.

These factors will of necessity differ, however, according to the
particular type of school in question. It will therefore be necessary to
inquire into the special problem of the rural school before entering
into a discussion of the means by which it is to accomplish its aim.

_The special problem of the rural school_

Each type of school has not only its general problem which is common to
all schools, but also its special problem which makes it different from
every other class of schools. The special problem of any type of school
grows out of the nature and needs of the community which supports the
school. Thus the city school, whose pupils are to live the industrial
and social life of an urban community, confronts a different problem
from that of a rural school, whose pupils are to live in a farming
community. Each type of school must suit its curriculum, its
organization, and its instruction to the demands to be met by its
pupils. The knowledge taught, the attitudes and tastes developed, and
the skill acquired must be related to the life to be lived and the
responsibilities to be undertaken.

The rural school must therefore be different in many respects from the
town and city school. In its organization, its curriculum, and its
spirit, it must be adapted to the requirements of the rural community.
For, while many pupils from the rural schools ultimately follow other
occupations than farming, yet the primary function of the rural school
is to educate for the life of the farm. It thus becomes evident that the
only way to understand the problem of the rural school is first to
understand the rural community. What are its industries, the character
of its people, their economic status, their standards of living, their
needs, their social life?

The rural community is industrially homogeneous. There exists here no
such a diversified mixture of industries as in the city. All are engaged
in the same line of work. Agriculture is the sole occupation. Hence the
economic interests and problems all center around this one line. The
success or failure of crops, the introduction of a different method of
cultivation or a new variety of grain, or the invention of an
agricultural implement interests all alike. The farmer engaged in
planting his corn knows that for miles around all other farmers are
similarly employed; if he is cutting his hay or harvesting his grain,
hundreds of other mowing machines and harvesters are at work on
surrounding farms.

This fund of common interest and experience tends to social as well as
industrial homogeneity. Good-fellowship, social responsiveness and
neighborliness rest on a basis of common labor, common problems, and
common welfare. Like-mindedness and the spirit of coöperation are after
all more a matter of similar occupational interests than of nationality.

Another factor tending to make the rural community socially more
homogeneous than the city community is its relatively stable population,
and the fact that the stream of immigration is slow in reaching the
farm. It is true that the European nations are well represented among
our agricultural population; but for the most part they are not
foreigners of the first generation. They have assimilated the American
spirit, and become familiar with American institutions. The great flood
of raw immigrants fresh from widely diverse nations stops in the large
centers of population, and does not reach the farm.

The prevailing spirit of democracy is still another influence favoring
homogeneity in the rural community. Much less of social stratification
exists in the country than in the city. Social planes are not so clearly
defined nor so rigidly maintained. Financial prosperity is more likely
to take the direction of larger barns and more acres than of social
ostentation and exclusiveness.

America has no servile and ignorant peasantry. The agricultural class
constituting our rural population represents a high grade of natural
intelligence and integrity. Great political and moral reforms find more
favorable soil in the rural regions than in the cities. The demagogue
and the "boss" find farmers impossible to control to their selfish ends.
Vagabonds and idlers are out of place among them. They are a
hard-headed, capable, and industrious class. As a rule, American farmers
are well-to-do, not only earning a good living for their families, but
constantly extending their holdings. Their farms are increasingly well
improved, stocked, and supplied with labor-saving and efficient
machinery. Their land is constantly growing in value, and at the same
time yielding larger returns for the money and labor invested in it.

The standard of living is distinctly lower in farm homes than in town
and city homes of the same financial status. The house is generally
comfortable, but small. It is behind the times in many easily accessible
modern conveniences possessed by the great majority of city dwellers.
The bath, modern plumbing and heating, the refrigerator, and other
kindred appliances can be had in the country home as well as the city.
Their lack is a matter of standards rather than of necessity. They will
be introduced into thousands of rural homes as soon as their need is

The possibilities for making the rural home beautiful and attractive are
unequaled in the city for any except the very rich. It is not necessary
that the farmhouse shall be crowded for space; its outlook and
surroundings can be arranged to give it an æsthetic quality wholly
impossible in the ordinary city home. That this is true is proved by
many inexpensive farmhouses that are a delight to the eye. On the other
hand, it must be admitted that a large proportion of farmhouses are
lacking in both architectural attractiveness and environmental effect.
Not infrequently the barns and sheds are so placed as to crowd the house
into the background, and the yards for stock allowed to infringe upon
the domain of the garden and the lawn. All this can be easily remedied
and will be when the æsthetic taste of the dwellers on the farm comes to
be offended by the incongruous and ugly.

No stinting in the abundance of food is known on the farm. The farmer
supplies the tables of the world, and can himself live off the fat of
the land. Grains, vegetables, meats, eggs, butter, milk, and fruits are
his stock in trade. If there is any lack in the farmer's table, it is
due to carelessness in providing or preparing the food, and not to
forced economy.

While the farming population in general live well, yet many tables are
lacking in variety, especially in fruit and vegetables. Time and
interest are so taken up with the larger affairs of crops and stock,
that the garden goes by default in many instances. There is no market
readily at hand offering fruit and vegetables for sale as in the city,
and hence the farm table loses in attractiveness to the appetite and in
hygienic excellence. It is probable that the prosperous city workman
sits down to a better table than does the farmer, in spite of the great
advantage possessed by the latter.

The population of rural communities is necessarily scattering. The
nature of farming renders it impossible for people to herd together as
is the case in many other industries. This has its good side, but also
its bad. There are no rural slums for the breeding of poverty and crime;
but on the other hand, there is an isolation and monotony that tend to
become deadening in their effects on the individual. Stress and
over-strain does not all come from excitement and the rush of
competition; it may equally well originate in lack of variety and
unrelieved routine. How true this is is seen in the fact that insanity,
caused in this instance chiefly by the stress of monotony, prevails
among the farming people of frontier communities out of all proportion
to the normal ratio.

Farming is naturally the most healthful of the industrial occupations.
The work is for the greater part done in the open air and sunshine, and
possesses sufficient variety to be interesting. The rural population
constitutes the high vitality class of the nation, and must be
constantly drawn upon to supply the brain, brawn, and nerve for the work
of the city. The farmer is, on the whole, prosperous; he is therefore
hopeful and cheerful, and labors in good spirit. That so many farmers
and farmers' wives break down or age prematurely is due, not to the
inherent nature of their work, but to a lack of balance in the life of
the farm. It is not so much the work that kills, as the _continuity of
the work_ unrelieved by periods of rest and recreation. With the
opportunities highly favorable for the best type of healthful living, no
inconsiderable proportion of our agricultural population are shortening
their lives and lowering their efficiency by unnecessary over-strain and
failure to conform to the most fundamental and elementary laws of
hygienic living, especially with reference to the relief from labor that
comes through change and recreation.

The rural community affords few opportunities for social recreations and
amusements. Not only are the people widely separated from each other by
distance, but the work of the farm is exacting, and often requires all
the hours of the day not demanded for sleep. While the city offers many
opportunities for choice of recreation or amusement, the country affords
almost none. The city worker has his evenings, usually Saturday
afternoon, and all day Sunday free to use as he chooses. Such is not the
case on the farm; for after the day in the field the chores must be
done, and the stock cared for. And even on Sunday, the routine must be
carried out. The work of the farm has a tendency, therefore, to become
much of a grind, and certainly will become so unless some limit is set
to the exactions of farm labor on the time and strength of the worker.
It separates the individual from his fellows in the greater part of the
farm work and gives him little opportunity for social recreations or

One of the best evidences that the conditions of life and work on the
farm need to be improved is the number of people who are leaving the
farm for the city. This movement has been especially rapid during the
last thirty years of our history, and has continued until approximately
one half our people now live in towns or cities. Not only is this loss
of agricultural population serious to farming itself, creating a
shortage of labor for the work of the farm, but it results in crowding
other occupations already too full. There is no doubt that we have too
many lawyers, doctors, merchants, clerks, and the like for the number of
workers engaged in fundamental productive vocations. Smaller farms,
cultivated intensively, would be a great economic advantage to the
country, and would take care of a far larger proportion of our people
than are now engaged in agriculture.

All students of social affairs agree that the movement of our people to
towns and cities should be checked and the tide turned the other way. So
important is the matter considered that a concerted national movement
has recently been undertaken to study the conditions of rural life with
a view to making it more attractive and so stopping the drain to the

Middle-aged farmers move to the town or city for two principal reasons:
to educate their children and to escape from the monotony of rural
life. Young people desert the farm for the city for a variety of
reasons, prominent among which are a desire for better education, escape
from the monotony and grind of the farm life, and the opportunity for
the social advantages and recreations of the city. That the retired
farmer is usually disappointed and unhappy in his town home, and that
the youth often finds the glamour of the city soon to fade, is true. But
this does not solve the problem. The flux to the town or city still goes
on, and will continue to do so until the natural desire for social and
intellectual opportunities and for recreation and amusement is
adequately met in rural life.

Farming as an industry has already felt the effects of a new interest in
rural life. Probably no other industrial occupation has undergone such
rapid changes within the last generation as has agriculture. The rapid
advance in the value of land, the introduction of new forms of farm
machinery, and above all the application of science to the raising of
crops and stock, have almost reconstructed the work of the farm within a

Special "corn trains" and "dairy trains" have traversed nearly every
county in many States, teaching the farmers scientific methods.
Lecturers on scientific agriculture have found their way into many
communities. The Federal Government has encouraged in every way the
spread of information and the development of enthusiasm in agriculture.
The agricultural schools have given courses of instruction during the
winter to farmers. Farmers' institutes have been organized; corn-judging
and stock-judging contests have been held; prizes have been offered for
the best results in the raising of grains, vegetables, or stock. New
varieties of grains have been introduced, improved methods of
cultivation discovered, and means of enriching and conserving the soil
devised. Stock-breeding and the care of animals is rapidly becoming a
science. Farming bids fair soon to become one of the skilled

Such, then, is a brief view of the situation of which the rural school
is a part. It ministers to the education of almost half of the American
people. This industrial group are engaged in the most fundamental of all
occupations, the one upon which all national welfare and progress
depend. They control a large part of the wealth of the country, the
capital invested in agriculture being more than double that invested in
manufactures. Agricultural wealth is rapidly increasing, both through
the rise in the value of land and through improved methods of farming.
The conditions of life on the farm have greatly improved during the last
decade. Rural telephones reach almost every home; free mail delivery is
being rapidly extended in almost every section of the country; the
automobile is coming to be a part of the equipment of many farms; and
the trolley is rapidly pushing out along the country roads.

Yet, in spite of these hopeful tendencies, the rural community shows
signs of deterioration in many places. Rural population is steadily
decreasing in proportion to the total aggregate of population. Interest
in education is at a low ebb, the farm children having educational
opportunities below those of any other class of our people. For, while
town and city schools have been improving until they show a high type of
efficiency, the rural school has barely held its own, or has, in many
places, even gone backward. The rural community confronts a puzzling
problem which is still far from solution.

Certain points of attack upon this problem are, however, perfectly clear
and obvious. _First_, educational facilities must be improved for rural
children, and their education be better adapted to farm life; _second_,
greater opportunities must be provided for recreation and social
intercourse for both young and old; _third_, the program of farm work
must be arranged to allow reasonable time for rest and recreation;
_fourth_, books, pictures, lectures, concerts, and entertainments must
be as accessible to the farm as to the town. These conditions must be
met, not because of the dictum of any person, but because they are a
fundamental demand of human nature, and must be reckoned with.

What, then, is the relation of the rural school to these problems of the
rural community? How can it be a factor in their solution? What are its
opportunities and responsibilities?

_The adjustment of the rural school to its problem_

As has been already stated, the problem of any type of school is to
serve its constituency. This is to be done through relating the
curriculum, the organization, and the teaching of the school to the
immediate interests and needs of the people dependent on the school for
their education. That the rural school has not yet fully adjusted itself
to its problem need hardly be argued.

It has as good material to work upon in the boys and girls from the farm
as any type of schools in the country. They come of good stock; they
are healthy and vigorous; and they are early trained to serious work and
responsibility. Yet a very large proportion of these children possess
hardly the rudiments of an education when they quit the rural school.
Many of them go to school for only a few months in the year, compulsory
education laws either being laxly enforced or else altogether lacking. A
very small percentage of the children of the farm ever complete eight
grades of schooling, and not a large proportion finish more than half of
this amount.

This leaves the child who has to depend on the rural school greatly
handicapped in education. He has but a doubtful proficiency in the
mechanics of reading, and has read but little. He knows the elements of
spelling, writing, and number, but has small skill in any of them. He
knows little of history or literature, less of music, nothing of art,
and has but a superficial smattering of science. Of matters relating to
his life and activities on the farm he has heard almost nothing. The
rural child is not illiterate, but he is too close to the border of
illiteracy for the demands of a twentieth-century civilization; it is
fair neither to the child nor to society.

The rural school seems in some way relatively to have lost ground in
our educational system. The grades of the town school have felt the
stimulus of the high school for which they are preparing, and have had
the care and supervision of competent administrators. The rural school
is isolated and detached, and has had no adequate administrative system
to care for its interests. No wonder, then, that certain grave faults in
adjustment have grown up. A few of the most obvious of these faults may
next claim our attention.

_The rural school is inadequate in its scope._ The children of the farm
have as much need for education and as much right to it as those who
live in towns and cities. Yet the rural school as a rule never attempts
to offer more than the eight grades of the elementary curriculum, and
seldom reaches this amount. It not infrequently happens that no pupils
are in attendance beyond the fifth or the sixth grade. This may be due
either to the small number of children in the district, or, more often,
to lack of interest to continue in school beyond the simplest elements
of reading, writing, and number. It is true that certain States, such as
Illinois and Wisconsin, have established a system of township high
schools, where secondary education equal to that to be had in the
cities is available to rural children. In other States a county high
school is maintained for the benefit of rural school graduates. In still
others, arrangements are made by which those who complete the eight
grades of rural schools are received into the town high schools with the
tuition paid by the rural school districts. The movement toward
secondary education supplied by the rural community for its children is
yet in its infancy, however, and has hardly touched the larger problem
of affording adequate opportunities for the education of farm children.

_The grading and organization of the rural school is haphazard and
faulty._ This is partly because of the small enrollment and irregular
attendance, and partly because of the inexperience and lack of
supervision of the teacher. Children are often found pursuing studies in
three or four different grades at the same time. And even more often
they omit altogether certain fundamental studies because they or their
parents have a notion that these studies are unnecessary. Sometimes,
owing to the small number in attendance, or to the poor classification,
several grades are entirely lacking, or else they are maintained for
only one or two pupils. On the other hand, classes are often found
following each other at an interval of only a few weeks, thereby
multiplying classes until the teacher is frequently attempting the
impossible task of teaching twenty-five or thirty classes a day.
Children differing in age by five or six years, and possessing
corresponding degrees of ability, are often found reciting in the same
classes. That efficient work is impossible under these conditions is too
obvious to require discussion.

_The rural schools possess inadequate buildings and equipment._ The
average rural schoolhouse consists of one room, with perhaps a small
hallway. The building is constructed without reference to architectural
effect, resembling nothing so much as a large box with a roof on it. It
is barren and uninviting as to its interior. The walls are often of
lumber painted some dull color, and dingy through years of use. The
windows are frequently dirty, and covered only by worn and tattered
shades. There is usually no attempt to decorate the room with pictures,
or to relieve its ugliness and monotony in any way. The library consists
of a few dozens of volumes, not always supplied with a case for their
protection. Of apparatus there is almost none. The work of the farm is
done with efficient modern equipment, the work of the farmer's school
with inadequate and antiquated equipment.

While the length of the school year is increasing in the rural
districts, _the term is yet much shorter than in town and city schools_.
Many communities have not more than six months of school, and few more
than eight. This shortage is rendered all the more serious by the
irregular attendance of the rural school children. A considerable amount
of absence on the part of the younger ones is unavoidable under present
conditions when the distance is great and the weather bad. After all
allowance is made for this fact, however, there is still an immense
amount of unnecessary waste of time through non-attendance. Many rural
schools show an average attendance for the year of not more than sixty
per cent of the enrollment. Going to school is not yet considered a
serious business by many of the rural patrons, and truant officers are
not so easily available in the country as in the city.

_In financial support the rural school has of necessity been behind the
city school._ Wealth is not piled up on a small area in agricultural
communities as is the case in the city. It would often require square
miles of land to equal in value certain city blocks. But making full
allowance for this difference, the farmers have not supported their
schools as well as is done by the patrons of town and city schools. The
school taxes for rural districts are much lower than in city districts,
in most instances not more than half as high. It is this conservatism in
expenditure that is responsible for many of the defects in the rural
school, and particularly for the relatively inefficient teaching that is
done. The rural teachers are the least educated, the least experienced,
and the most poorly paid of any class of our teachers. They consist
almost wholly of girls, a large proportion of whom are under twenty
years of age, and who continue teaching not more than a year or two. Not
only is this the case, but effective supervision of the teaching is
wholly impossible because of the large area assigned to the county or
district superintendent of rural schools. In no great industrial project
should we think of placing our youngest and most inexperienced workers
in the hardest and most important positions, and this without
supervision of their work.

The rural school has not, therefore, yet been adjusted to its problem.
It has a splendid field of work, but is not developing it. Our farming
population have capacity for education and need it, but they are not
securing it. There is plenty of money available for the support of the
rural school, but the school is not getting it. Enough well-equipped
teachers can be had for the rural schools, but the standards have not
yet required adequate preparation, nor the pay been sufficient to
warrant extensive expenditure for it.

In the rural school is found the most important and puzzling educational
problem of the present day. If our agricultural population are not to
fall behind other favored classes of industrial workers in intelligence
and preparation for the activities that are to engage them, the rural
school must begin working out a better adjustment to its problem. Its
curriculum must be broader and richer, and more closely related to the
life and interests of the farm. The organization of the school, both on
the intellectual and the social side, must bring it more closely into
touch with the interests and needs of the rural community. The support
and administration of rural education must be improved. Teachers for the
rural schools must be better educated and better paid, and their
teaching must be correspondingly more efficient. The following pages
will be given to a discussion of these problems of adjustment.



Every school possesses two types of organization: (1) an _intellectual_
organization involving the selection and arrangement of a curriculum,
and its presentation through instruction; and (2) a _social_
organization involving, on the one hand, the inter-relations of the
school and the community, and on the other the relations of the pupils
with each other and the teacher.

_The rural school and the community_

The rural school and community are not at present in vital touch with
each other. The community is not getting enough from the school toward
making life larger, happier, and more efficient; it is not giving enough
to the school either in helpful coöperation or financial support.

In general, it must be said that most of our rural people, the patrons
of the rural school, have not yet conceived education broadly. They
think of the school as having fulfilled its function when it has
supplied the simplest rudiments of reading, writing, and number. And,
naturally enough, the rural school has conceived its function in the
same narrow light; for it is controlled very completely by its patrons,
and a stream cannot rise higher than its source.

Because of its isolation, the pressing insistence of its toil, and the
monotony of its environment, the rural community is in constant danger
of intellectual and social stagnation. It has far more need that its
school shall be a stimulating, organizing, socializing force than has
the town or city. For the city has a dozen social centres entirely
outside the school: its public parks, theatres, clubs, churches, and
streets, even, serve to stimulate, entertain, and educate. But the rural
community is wanting in all these social forces; it is lacking in both
intellectual and social stimulus and variety.

One of the most pressing needs of country districts is a common
neighborhood center for both young and old, which shall stand as an
organizing, welding, vitalizing force, uniting the community on a basis
of common interests and activities. For while, as we have seen, the
rural population as a whole are markedly homogeneous, there is after
all but little of common acquaintanceship and mingling among them.
Thousands of rural families live lives of almost complete social
isolation and lack of contact with neighbors.

This condition is one of the gravest drawbacks to farm life. The social
impulse and the natural desire for recreation and amusement are as
strong in country boys and girls as in their city cousins, yet the
country offers young people few opportunities for satisfying these
impulses and desires. The normal social tendencies of youth are
altogether too strong to be crushed out by repression; they are too
valuable to be neglected; and they are too dangerous to be left to take
their own course wholly unguided. The rural community can never hope to
hold its boys and girls permanently to the life of the farm until it has
recognized the necessity for providing for the expression and
development of the spontaneous social impulses of youth.

Furthermore, the social monotony and lack of variety of the rural
community is a grave moral danger to its young people. It is a common
impression that the great city is strewn thick with snares and pitfalls
threatening to morals, but that the country is free from such
temptations. The public dance halls and cheap theaters of the city are
beyond doubt a great and constant menace to youthful ideals and purity.
But the country, going to the opposite extreme, with its almost utter
lack of recreation and amusement places, offers temptations no less
insidious and fatal.

The great difficulty at this point is that young people in rural
communities are thrown together almost wholly in isolated pairs instead
of in social groups; and that there are no objective resources of
amusement or entertainment to claim their interest and attention away
from themselves. They are freed from all chaperonage and the restraints
of the conventions obtaining in social groups at the very time in their
lives when these are most needed as steadying and controlling forces.
The result is that the country districts, which ought to be of all
places in the world the freest from temptation and peril to the morals
of our young people, are really more dangerous than the cities. The
sequel is found in the fact that a larger proportion of country girls
than of city girls go astray. Nor is the rural community more successful
in the morals of its boys than its girls. In other words, the lack of
opportunities for free and normal social experience, the consequent
ignorance of social conventions, and the absence of healthful amusement
and recreation, make the rural community a most unsafe place in which
to rear a family.

But the necessity for social recreation and amusement does not apply to
the young people alone. Their fathers and mothers are suffering from the
same limitations, though of course with entirely different results. The
danger here is that of premature aging and stagnation. While the toil of
the city worker is relieved by change and variety, his mind rested and
his mood enlivened by the stimulus from many lines of diversion, the
lives of the dwellers on the farm are constantly threatened by a deadly
sameness and monotony.

The indisputable tendency of farmers and their wives to age so rapidly,
and so early to fall into the ranks of "fogyism," is due far more to
lack of variety and recreation and to dearth of intellectual stimulus
than to hard labor, severe as this often is. Age is more than the flight
of the years, the stoop of the form, or the hardening of the arteries;
it is also the atrophy of the intellect and the fading away of the
emotions resulting from disuse. The farmer needs occasionally to have
something more exciting than the alternation of the day's work with the
nightly "chores." And his wife should now and then have an opportunity
to meet people other than those for whom she cooks and sews.

But what has all this to do with the social organization of the rural
school? Much. The country cannot have its theaters, parks, and crowded
thoroughfares like the city. But it needs and must have _some_ social
center, where its people may assemble for recreation, entertainment, and
intellectual growth and development. And what is more natural and
feasible than that the public school should be this center? Here is an
institution already belonging to the whole people, and set apart for the
intellectual training of the young. Why should it not also be made to
minister to the intellectual needs of their elders as well, and to the
social needs of all? _Why should not the public school building, now in
use but six hours a day for little more than half the year, be open at
all times when it can be helpful to any portion of the community?_

If young people are to develop naturally, if they are to make full use
of their social as well as their intellectual powers, if they are to be
satisfied with their surroundings, they must be provided with suitable
opportunities for social mingling and recreation in groups. This is
nature's way; there is no other way. The school might and should afford
this opportunity. There is not the least reason why the school building,
when it is adapted to this purpose, should not be the common
neighborhood meeting place for all sorts of young people's parties,
picnics, entertainments, athletic contests, and every other form of
amusement approved in the community.

Such a use of the school property would yield large returns to the
community for the small additional expense required. It would serve to
weld the school and community more closely together. It would vastly
change the attitude of the young toward the school. It would save much
of the dissatisfaction of young people with the life of the farm. It
would prove a great safeguard to youthful morals. It would lead the
community itself to a new sense of its duty toward the social life of
the young, and to a new concept of the school as a part of the community
organization. Finally, this broadened service of the school to its
community would have a reflex influence on the school itself, vitalizing
every department of its activities, and giving it a new vision of its

The first obstacle that will appear in the way of such a plan is the
inadequacy of the present type of country schoolhouse. And this is a
serious matter; for the barren, squalid little building of the present
day would never fit into such a project. But this type of schoolhouse
must go--is going. It is a hundred years behind our civilization, and
wholly inadequate to present needs. Passing for later discussion the
method by which these buildings are to be supplanted by better ones, let
us consider further the details of the plan of making the school the
neighborhood center.

First of all, each school must supply a larger area and a greater number
of people than at present. It is financially impossible to erect good
buildings to the number of our present schools. Nor are there pupils
enough in the small district as now organized to make a school, nor
people enough successfully to use the school as a neighborhood center.

Let each township, or perhaps somewhat smaller area, select a central,
well-adapted site and thereon erect a modern, well-equipped school
building. But this building must not be just the traditional schoolhouse
with its classrooms and rows of desks. For it is to be more than a place
where the children will study and recite lessons from books; it is to be
the place where all the people of the neighborhood, _old and young_,
will assemble for entertainment, amusement, and instruction. Here will
be held community picnics, social entertainments, young people's
parties, lectures, concerts, debating contests, agricultural courses for
the farmers, school programs, spreads and banquets, and whatever else
may belong to the common social and intellectual life of the community.

The modern rural school building will therefore be home-like as well as
school-like. In addition to its classrooms it will contain an assembly
room capable of seating several hundred people. The seating of this room
may be removable so that the floor can be cleared for social purposes or
the room used for a dining-room. One or two smaller rooms will be needed
for social functions, club and committee meetings. These rooms should be
made attractive with good furniture, rugs, couches, and pictures. The
building will contain well-equipped laboratories for manual training and
domestic science, the latter of which will be found serviceable in
connection with serving picnics, "spreads," and the like. The entire
building should be architecturally attractive, well heated and
ventilated, commodious, well furnished, and decorated with good
pictures. In it should be housed a library containing several thousand
well-selected books, besides magazines and newspapers. The laboratories
and equipment should be fully equal to those found in the town schools,
but should be adapted to the work of the rural school.

The grounds surrounding the rural school building can easily be ample in
area, and beautiful in outlook and decoration. Here will be the
neighborhood athletic grounds for both boys and girls, shade trees for
picnics, flowers and shrubs, and ground enough for a school garden
connected with the instruction in agriculture. Nor is it too much to
believe that the district will in the future erect on the school grounds
a cottage for the principal of the school and his family, and thus offer
an additional inducement for strong, able men to devote their energies
to education in the rural communities.

Now contrast this schoolhouse and equipment with the typical rural
building of the present. Adjoining a prosperous farm, with its large
house, its accompanying barns, silos, machine houses, and all the
equipment necessary to modern farming, is the little schoolhouse. It is
a dilapidated shell of a rectangular box, barren of every vestige of
beauty or attractiveness both inside and out. At the rear are two
outbuildings which are an offense to decency and a menace to morals.
Within the schoolhouse the painted walls are dingy with smoke and grime.
The windows are broken and dirty, no pictures adorn the walls. The floor
is washed but once or twice a year. The room is heated by an ugly box of
a stove, and ventilated only by means of windows which frequently are
nailed shut. The grounds present a wilderness of weeds, rubbish, and
piles of ashes. It is all an outrage against the rights of the country
child, and an indictment of the intelligence and ideals of a large
proportion of our people.

If it is said that the plan proposed to remedy this situation is
revolutionary, it will be admitted. What our rural schools of to-day
need is _not improvement but reorganization_. For only in this radical
way can they be made a factor in the vitalizing and conserving of the
rural community which, unless some new leaven is introduced, is surely
destined to disorganization and decay.

_The consolidation of rural schools_

The first step in reorganizing the rural schools is _consolidation_. Our
rural school organization, buildings, and equipment are a full century
behind our industrial and social advancement. The present plan of
attempting to run a school on approximately every four square miles of
territory originated at a time of poverty, and when the manufacturing
industries were all carried on in the homes and small shops. Our rural
people are now well-to-do, and manufacturing has moved over into a
well-organized set of factories; but the isolated little school,
shamefully housed, meagerly equipped, poorly attended, and unskillfully
taught, still remains.

Such a system of schools leaves our rural people educationally on a par
with the days of cradling the grain and threshing it with a flail; of
planting corn by hand and cultivating it with a hoe; of lighting the
house with a tallow dip, and traveling by stage-coach.

The well-meant attempts to "improve" the rural school as now organized
are futile. The proposal to solve the problem by raising the standards
for teachers, desirable as this is; by the raising of salaries; or by
bettering the type of the little schoolhouse, are at best but temporary
makeshifts, and do not touch the root of the problem. The first and most
fundamental step is to eliminate the little shacks of houses that dot
our prairies every two miles along the country roads.

For not only is it impossible to supply adequate buildings so near
together, but it is even more impossible to find children enough to
constitute a real school in such small districts. There is no way of
securing a full head of interest and enthusiasm with from five to ten or
twelve pupils in a school. The classes are too small and the number of
children too limited to permit the organization of proper games and
plays, or a reasonable variety of association through mingling together.

Furthermore, it will never be possible to pay adequate salaries to the
teachers in these small schools. Nor will any ambitious and
well-prepared teacher be willing to remain in such a position, where he
is obliged to invest his time and influence with so few pupils, and
where all conditions are so adverse.

The chief barrier to the centralization of rural education has been
local prejudice and pride. In many cases a true sentimental value has
attached to "the little red schoolhouse." Its praises have been sung,
and orator and writer have expanded upon the glories of our common
schools, until it is no wonder that their pitiful inadequacy has been
overlooked by many of their patrons.

In other cases opposition has arisen to giving up the small local
school because of the selfish fear that the loss of the school would
lower the value of adjacent property. Still others have feared that
consolidation would mean higher school taxes, and have opposed it upon
this ground.

But whatever the causes of the opposition to consolidation, this
opposition must cease before the rural school can fulfill its function
and before the rural child can have educational opportunities even
approximating those given the town child. And until this is
accomplished, the exodus from the farm will continue and ought to
continue. Pride, prejudice, and penury must not be allowed to deprive
the farm boys and girls of their right to education and normal

The movement toward consolidation of rural schools and transportation of
the children to a central school has already attained considerable
headway in many regions of the country.[1] It is now a part of the rural
school system in thirty-two States. Massachusetts, the leader in
consolidation, began in 1869. The movement at first grew slowly in all
the States, not only having local opposition to overcome, but also
meeting the problem of bad country roads interfering with the
transportation of pupils.

During the past half-dozen years, however, consolidation has been
gaining headway, and is now going on at least five times as fast as the
average for the twenty-five years preceding 1906. Indiana is at present
the banner State in the rapidity of consolidation, the expenditure for
conveyance having considerably more than trebled since 1904. The broad
and general sweep of the movement, together with the fact that it is
practically unheard of for schools that have once tried consolidation to
go back to the old system, seems to indicate that the rural education of
the not distant future will, except in a few regions, be carried on in
consolidated schools.

The relative cost of maintaining district and consolidated schools is an
important factor. Yet this factor must not be given undue prominence. It
is true that the cost of education must be kept at a reasonable ratio
with the standard of living of a community. But it is also true that the
consolidated rural school must be looked upon as an indispensable
country-life institution, and hence as having claim to a more generous
basis of support than that accorded the district school.

While it is impossible, owing to such widely varying conditions, to
make an absolutely exact statement of the relative expense of the two
types of schools, yet it has been shown in many different instances that
the cost of schooling per day in consolidated schools is but slightly,
if any, above that in most district schools.

The aggregate annual cost is usually somewhat higher in the consolidated
schools, owing to the fact of a greatly increased attendance. A
comparison made between the cost per day's schooling in the smaller
district schools and consolidated schools almost invariably shows a
lower expenditure for the latter. For example, the fifteen districts in
Hardin County, Iowa, having in 1908 an enrollment of nine or less,
averaged a cost of 27.5 cents a day for each pupil.[2] At the same time
the cost per day in the consolidated rural schools of northeastern Ohio
was only 17.4 cents a day, the district schools being more than
fifty-seven per cent higher than the consolidated. Similar comparisons
show the same trend in many other localities. In a great many of the
small district schools the cost per pupil is as high as in consolidated
schools where a high school course is also provided. It has been found
that the average cost per year of schooling a child in a consolidated
school is but little above thirty dollars, while in practically all
smaller district schools it far exceeds this amount, not infrequently
going above fifty dollars. This means that average rural districts that
are putting at least thirty dollars a year into the schooling of each
child can, by consolidating their schools, secure greatly improved
educational facilities with no heavier financial burden.

Not the least important of the advantages growing out of rural school
consolidation is the improved attendance. Experience has shown that
fully twenty-five per cent more children of school age are enrolled
under the consolidated than under the district system. The advantage of
this one factor alone can hardly be over-estimated, but the increase in
regularity of attendance is also as great. The average daily attendance
of rural schools throughout the country is approximately sixty per cent
of the enrollment, and in entire States falls below fifty per cent. It
has been found that consolidation, with its attendant conveyance of
pupils, commonly increases the average daily attendance by as much as
twenty-five per cent.

It is true that in many regions it may at present prove impossible to
consolidate all the rural schools. In places where the population is so
sparse as to require transportation for very long distances, or where
the country roads are still in such a condition in wet seasons as to be
practically impassable, consolidation must of necessity be delayed. In
such communities, however, the rural school need not be completely at a
standstill. Much can be done to make even the one-room schoolhouse
attractive and hygienic. With almost no expense, the grounds can be set
with shade trees, shrubs, and perennial flowering plants. The yard can
be made into a lawn in front, and into an athletic ground at the sides
or the rear. Enough ground can be added to provide for all these things,
and a school garden besides. The building can be rendered more inviting
through better architecture, and more attention to decoration and
cleanliness. An adequate supply of books and other equipment can be
provided. While the isolated rural school can never take the place of
the consolidated school, while it should always be looked upon as only
temporarily occupying a place later to be filled by a more efficient
type of school, it can after all be rendered much more efficient than it
is at present. And since the one-room school will without doubt for
years to come be required as a supplement of the consolidated school,
it should receive the same careful thought and effort toward its
improvement that is being accorded the school of better type.

_Financial support of the rural school_

The rural school has never had adequate financial support. There has
been good reason for this in many regions of the country where farm
property was low in value, the land sparsely settled and not all
improved, or else covered by heavy mortgages. As these conditions have
gradually disappeared and the agricultural population become more
prosperous, the school has in some degree shared the general prosperity.
But not fully. A smaller proportion of the margin of wealth above living
necessities is going into rural education now than in the earlier days
of less prosperity. While the farmer has vastly "improved" his farm, he
has improved his school but little. While he has been adding modern
machinery and adopting scientific methods in caring for his grain and
stock, his children have not had the advantage of an increasingly
efficient school.

The poverty of the rural school finds its explanation in two facts: (1)
the relatively low value of the taxable property of the rural as
compared with the town or city district, and (2) the lower rate of local
school tax paid in country than in urban districts. The first of these
disadvantages of the rural district cannot be remedied; but for the
second, there seems to be no valid economic reason.

The approximate difference in the local school-tax rate paid in urban
and rural districts is shown in the following instances, which might be
duplicated from other States:--

In Kansas, the local school tax paid in 1910 by towns and cities was
above eighty per cent more than that paid by country districts. In
Missouri, the current report of the State Superintendent shows towns and
cities seventy-five per cent higher than the country. In Minnesota,
towns and cities average nearly three times the rate paid by rural
districts. In Ohio, towns and cities are more than ten per cent higher
than rural districts, even where the rural district maintains a full
elementary and high school course. In Nebraska and Iowa, the town and
city rate is about double that of country districts.

When there is added to this difference the further fact that town and
city property is commonly assessed at more nearly its full value than
rural property, the discrepancy becomes all the greater.

It is not meant, of course, that farmers should pay as high a school-tax
rate for the elementary rural school as that paid by town patrons who
also have a high school available. But, on the other hand, if better
school facilities are to be furnished the country children, rural
property should bear its full share of the taxes required. The farmer
should be willing to pay as much for the education of his child as the
city dweller pays for a similar education for his.

During the last generation farmers have been increasing in wealth faster
than any other class of industrial workers. Their land has doubled in
value, barns have been built, machinery has been added, automobiles
purchased, and large bank credits established. Yet very little of this
increased prosperity has reached the school. Library, reference works,
maps, charts, and other apparatus are usually lacking. In Iowa, as a
fair example, a sum of not less than ten nor more than fifteen cents a
year for each pupil of school age in the district is required by law to
be expended for library books. Yet in not a few districts the law is a
dead letter or the money grudgingly spent! In many rural schools the
teacher has to depend on the proceeds of a "social," an "exhibition,"
or a "box party" to secure a few dollars for books or pictures for the
neighborhood school, and sometimes even buys brooms and dust pans from
the fund secured in this way.

This is all wrong. The school should be put on a business basis. It
should have the necessary tools with which to accomplish its work, and
not be forced to waste the time and opportunity of childhood for want of
a few dollars expended for equipment. Its patrons should realize that
just as it pays to supply factory, shop, or farm with the best of
instruments for carrying on the work, so it pays in the school. Cheap
economy is always wasteful, and never more wasteful than when it
cripples the efficiency of education.

State aid for rural schools has been proposed and in some instances
tried, as a mode of solving their financial problem. Where this system
has been given a fair trial, as for example in Minnesota, it has
resulted in two great advantages: (1) it has encouraged the local
community to freer expenditure of their own money for school purposes,
since the contribution of the State is conditioned on the amount
expended by the district. This is an important achievement, since it
serves to train the community to the idea of more liberal local
taxation for school purposes, and it is probable that the greater part
of the support of our schools will continue to come from this source.
Another advantage of state aid is (2) that it serves to equalize
educational opportunities, and hence to maintain a true educational
democracy. Wealthier localities are caused to contribute to the
educational facilities of those less favored, and a common advancement
thereby secured.

While the theory of state aid to rural education is wholly defensible,
and while it has worked well in practice, yet there is one safeguard
that needs to be considered. It is manifestly unfair to ask the people
of towns and cities to help pay for the support of the rural schools
through the medium of the State treasury except on condition that the
patrons of the rural schools themselves do their fair share. Mr. "A,"
living in a town where he pays twenty mills school tax, ought not to be
asked to help improve Mr. "B's" rural school, while Mr. "B" is himself
paying but ten mills of school tax. The farmer is as able as any one
else to pay a fair rate of taxation for his school, and should be
willing to do so before asking for aid from other taxation sources.
Rural education must not be placed on the basis of a missionary
enterprise. State aid should be used to compensate for the difference
in the economic _basis_ for taxation in different localities, and not
for a difference in the _rates_ of taxation between localities equally
able to pay the same rate.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may conclude, then, that while neither the rural school nor the
community has been fully aware of the possibilities for mutual
helpfulness and coöperation, yet there are many hopeful signs that both
are awakening to a sense of responsibility. Federal and state
commissions have been created to study the rural problem, national and
state teachers' associations are seeking a solution of the rural school
question, and, better still, the patrons of the rural schools are in
many places alive to the pressing need for better educational facilities
for their children.

Growing out of these influences and the faithful work of many state and
county superintendents, and not a few of the rural teachers themselves,
a spirit of progress is gaining headway. Several thousand consolidated
schools are now rendering excellent service to their patrons and at the
same time acting as a stimulus to other communities to follow their
example. State aid to rural education is no longer an experiment. The
people are in many localities voluntarily and gladly increasing their
taxes in order that they may improve their schools. Teachers' salaries
are being increased, better equipment provided, and buildings rendered
more habitable.

The great educational problem of the immediate future will be to
encourage and guide the movement which is now getting under way. For
mistakes made now will handicap both community and school for years to
come. The attempt to secure better schools by "improving" conditions in
local districts should be definitely abandoned except in localities
where conditions make consolidation impracticable for the present. The
new consolidated school building should take definitely into account the
fact that the school is to become the _neighborhood social center_, and
the structure should be planned as much with this function in view as
with its uses for school purposes. The new type of rural school is not
to aim simply to give a better intellectual training, but is at the same
time to relate this training to the conditions and needs of our
agricultural population. And all who have to do with the rural schools
in any way are to seek to make the school a true vitalizing factor in
the community--a leaven, whose influence shall permeate every line of
interest and activity of its patrons and lead to a fuller and richer

_The rural school and its pupils_

One of the surest tests of any school is the attitude of the pupils--the
spirit of loyalty, coöperation, and devotion they manifest with
reference to their education. Do they, on the whole, look upon the
school as an opportunity or an imposition? Do they consider it _their_
school, and make its interests and welfare their concern, or do they
think of it as the teacher's school, or the board's school or the
district's school? These questions are of supreme importance, for the
question of attitude, quite as much as that of ability, determines the
use made of opportunity.

It must be admitted that throughout our entire school system there
remains something to be desired in the spirit of coöperation between
pupils and schools. The feeling of loyalty which the child has for his
home does not extend commensurately to the school. Too often the school
is looked upon as something forced upon the child, for his welfare,
perhaps, but after all not as forming an interesting and vital part of
his present experience. It is often rather a place where so much time
and effort and inconvenience must be paid for so many grades and
promotions, and where, incidentally, preparation is supposed to be made
for some future demands very dimly conceived. At best, there is
frequently a lack of feeling of full identity of interests between the
child and the school.

The youth, immaturity, and blindness of childhood make it impossible, of
course, for children to conceive of their school in a spirit of full
appreciation. On the other hand, the very nature of childhood is
responsiveness and readiness of coöperation in any form of interesting
activity,--is loyalty of attitude toward what is felt to minister to
personal happiness and well-being. In so far, therefore, as there exists
any lack of loyalty and coöperation of pupils toward their school, the
reasons for such defection are to be sought first of all in the school,
and not in the child.

While this negative attitude of the pupils exists in some degree in all
our schools, it is undoubtedly more marked in our rural schools than in
others. In a negligible number of cases does this lack of coöperation
take the form of overt rebellion against the authority of the school. It
is manifested in other ways, many of them wholly unconscious to the
child, as, for example, lack of desire to attend school, and
indifference to its activities when present.

Attending school is the most important occupation that can engage the
child. Yet the indifference of children and their parents alike to the
necessity for schooling makes the small and irregular attendance of
rural school pupils one of the most serious problems with which
educators have to deal. County superintendents have in many places
offered prizes and diplomas with the hope of bettering attendance, but
such incentives do not reach the source of the difficulty. The remedy
must finally lie in a fundamental change of attitude toward the school
and its opportunities. Good attendance must spring from interest in the
school work and a feeling of its value, rather than from any artificial

How great a problem poor attendance at rural schools is, may be realized
from the fact that, in spite of compulsory education laws, not more than
seventy per cent of the children accessible to the rural school are
enrolled, and of this number only about sixty per cent are in daily
attendance. This is to say that under one half of our farm children are
daily receiving the advantages of even the rural school. In some States
this proportion will fall as low as three tenths instead of one half.
In many rich agricultural counties of the Middle West, having a farming
population of approximately ten thousand, not more than forty or fifty
pupils per year complete the eight grades of the rural school.

If the rural school is to be able to claim the regular attendance and
spontaneous coöperation of the children it must (1) be reasonably
accessible to them, (2) be attractive and interesting in itself, and (3)
offer work the value and application of which are evident.

The inaccessibility of the rural school has always been one of its
greatest disadvantages. In a large proportion of cases, a walk of from a
mile to a mile and a half along country roads or across cultivated
fields has been required to reach the schoolhouse. During inclement
weather, or when deep snow covers the ground, this distance proves
almost prohibitive for all the smaller children. Wet feet and drenched
clothing have been followed by severe colds, coughs, bronchitis, or
worse, and the children have not only suffered educationally, but been
endangered physically as well.

It has been found in all instances that public conveyance of pupils to
the consolidated schools greatly increases rural school patronage. It
makes the school accessible. The regular wagon service does away with
the "hit-and-miss" method of determining for each succeeding day whether
it is advisable for the child to start for school. So important is this
factor in securing attendance, that a careful study by Knorr[3] of the
attendance in Ohio district and consolidated schools shows twenty-seven
per cent more of the total school population in school under the
influence of public conveyance and other features peculiar to
consolidation than under the district system. He concludes that, broadly
speaking, by a system of consolidated schools with public conveyance,
rural school attendance can be increased by at least one fourth.

The life in the typical rural school is not sufficiently interesting and
attractive to secure a strong hold upon the pupils. The dreary ugliness
of the physical surroundings has already been referred to. And even in
districts where the building and grounds have been made reasonably
attractive, there is yet wanting a powerful factor--the influence of the
social incentive that comes from numbers. In hundreds of our rural
schools the daily attendance is less than a dozen pupils, frequently not
representing more than three or four families. The classes can therefore
contain not more than two or three pupils, and often only one. There is
no possibility of organizing games, or having the fun and frolic
possible to larger groups of children. Add to this the fact that the
teaching is often spiritless and uninspiring, and the reason becomes
still more plain why so many rural children drop out of school with
scarcely the rudiments of an education.

Here, again, the consolidated school, with its attractive building, its
improved equipment, its larger body of pupils, and its better teaching,
appears as a solution of the difficulty. For it does what the present
type of district school can never do--it makes school life interesting
and attractive to its pupils, and this brings to bear upon them one of
the strongest incentives to continue in school and secure an education.

Finally, much of the work of the school has not appealed to the pupils
as interesting or valuable. This has not been altogether the fault of
the curriculum, but often has come from the lack of adaptability of the
work to the pupils studying it. Through frequent changes of teachers,
poor classification, and irregularity of attendance, rural pupils have
often been forced to go over and over the same ground, without any
reference to whether they were ready to advance or not. In other cases,
careless grading has placed children in studies for which they were
utterly unprepared, and from which they could get nothing but
discouragement and dislike for school. In still other instances the
course pursued has been ill-balanced, and in no degree correlated. Often
the whim of the child determines whether he will or will not study
certain subjects, the teacher lacking either the knowledge or insistence
to bring about a better organization of the work.

The unskilled character of the rural school-teaching force, and the
impossibility of securing any reasonable supervision as the system is at
present organized, make us again turn to the consolidated school as the
remedy for these adverse conditions. For with its improved attendance,
its skilled teaching, and its better supervision, it easily and
naturally renders such conditions impossible. Give the consolidated
school, in addition, the greatly enriched curriculum which it will find
possible to offer its pupils, and the vexing question of the relation of
the rural school to its pupils will be far toward solution.

Let us next consider somewhat in detail the curriculum of the rural


[Footnote 1: See "Consolidated Rural Schools," Bulletin 232, U. S.
Department of Agriculture.]

[Footnote 2: Bulletin 232, U. S. Department of Agriculture, p. 38.]

[Footnote 3: Bulletin 232, U. S. Department of Agriculture, p. 51.]



If we grant the economic ability to support good schools, then the
curriculum offered by any type of school, the scope of subject-matter
given the pupils to master, is a measure of the educational ideals of
those maintaining and using the schools. If the curriculum is broad, and
representative of the various great fields of human culture; if it
relates itself to the life and needs of its patrons; if it is adapted to
the interests and activities of its pupils, it may be said that the
people believe in education as a right of the individual and as a
preparation for successful living. But if, on the other hand, the
curriculum is meager and narrow, consisting only of the rudiments of
knowledge, and not related to the life of the people or the interests of
the pupils, then it may well be concluded that education is not highly
prized, that it is not understood, or that it is looked upon as an

_The scope of the rural school curriculum_

Modern conditions require a broader and more thorough education than
that demanded by former times, and far more than the typical district
rural school affords. The old-time school offered only the "three R's,"
and this was thought sufficient for an education. But these times have
passed. Not only has society greatly increased in wealth during the last
half-century, but it has also grown much in intelligence. Many more
people are being educated now than formerly, and they are also being
vastly better educated. For the concept of what constitutes an education
has changed, and the curriculum has grown correspondingly broader and

It is therefore no longer possible to express the educational status of
a community in the percentage of people who can merely read and write.
Educational progress has become a national ideal. The elementary schools
in towns and cities have been greatly strengthened both in curriculum
and teaching. High schools have been organized and splendidly equipped,
and their attendance has rapidly increased.

But all this development has hardly touched the rural school. The
curriculum offered is pitifully narrow even for an elementary school,
and very few high schools are supported by rural communities. In fact, a
large proportion of our rural population are receiving an education but
little in advance of that offered a hundred years ago in similar
schools. This is not fair to the children born and reared on the farm;
it is not fair to one of the greatest and most important industries of
our country; and it cannot but result disastrously in the end.

If the rural school is to meet its problem, it must extend the scope of
its curriculum. It was formerly thought by many that education, except
in its simplest elements, was only for those planning to enter the
"learned professions." But this idea has given way before the onward
sweep of the spirit of democracy, and we now conceive education as the
right and duty of _all_. Nor by education do we mean the simple ability
to read, write, and number.

Our present-day civilization demands not only that the child shall be
taught to read, but also that he shall be supplied with books and guided
in his reading. Through reading as a tool he is to become familiar with
the best in the world's literature and its history. He is not only to
learn number, but is to be so educated that he may employ his number
concepts in fruitful ways. He must not only be familiar with the
mechanics of writing, but must have knowledge, interests, experience
that will give him something to write about. The "three R's" are
necessary tools, but they are only tools, and must be utilized in
putting the child into possession of the best and most fruitful culture
of the race. And, practically, they must put him into command of such
phases of culture as touch his own life and experience and make him more

The rural school cannot extend the scope of its curriculum simply by
inserting in the present curriculum new studies related to the life and
work of the farm. The modification must be deeper and more thoroughgoing
than this. _A full elementary course of eight years and a high school
course of four years should be easily accessible to every rural child._
Less than this amount of education is inadequate to prepare for the life
of the farm, and fails to put the individual into full possession of his
powers. Nor, in most instances, should the high schooling be left to
some adjacent town, which is to receive the rural pupils upon payment of
tuition to the town district. Unless the town is small, and practically
a part of the rural community, it cannot supply, either in the
subject-matter of the curriculum or the spirit of the school, the type
of education that the rural children should have. For in so far as the
town or city high school leads to any specific vocation, it certainly
does not lead toward industrial occupations, and least of all toward
agriculture. It rather prepares for the professions, or for business
careers. Its tendency is very strongly to draw the boys and girls away
from the farm instead of preparing them for it.

While the rural child, therefore, must be provided with a better and
broader education, he should usually not be sent to town to get it. If
he is, the chances are that he will stay in town and be lost to the
farm. Indeed, this is precisely what has been happening; the town or
city high school has been turning the country boy away from the farm.
For not only does what one studies supply his knowledge; it also
determines his _attitude_.

If the curriculum contains no subject-matter related to the immediate
experience and occupation of the pupil, his education is certain to
entice him away from his old interests and activities. The farm boy
whose studies lack all point of contact with his life and work will soon
either lose interest in the curriculum or turn his back upon the farm.
If the boys and girls born on the farm are to be retained in this form
of industry, the rural school must be broadened to give them an
education equal to that afforded by town or city for its youth. If the
rural community cannot accomplish this end, it has no claim on the
loyalty and service of its youth. Rural children have a right to a
well-organized, well-equipped, and well-taught elementary school of
eight years and a high school of four years, with a curriculum adapted
especially to their interests and needs.

It is not meant, of course, that the rural school, with its present
organization and administration, can extend the scope of its curriculum
to make it the equal of that offered in the grades of the town or city
school. Radical changes, such as those discussed in the preceding
chapter, will have to be made in the rural district system before this
is possible. That these changes are being made and the full elementary
and high school course offered in many consolidated rural schools,
scattered from Florida to Idaho, is proof both of the feasibility of the
plan and of an awakened public demand for better rural education.

The broadened curriculum of the rural school must contain subject-matter
especially related to the interests and activities of the farm; upon
this all are agreed. But it must not stop with vocational subjects
alone. For, while one's vocation is fundamental, it is not all of life.
Education should help directly in making a living; it must also help to
live. Broad and permanent lines of interest must be set up and trained
to include many forms of experience. The child must come to know
something of the great social institutions of his day and of the history
leading to their development. He must become familiar with the marvelous
scientific discoveries and inventions underlying our modern
civilization. He must be led to feel appreciation for the beautiful in
art, literature, and music; and must have nurtured in his life a love
for goodness and truth in every form. In short, through the curriculum
the latent powers constituting the life capital of every normal child
are to be stimulated and developed to the end that his life shall be
more than mere physical existence--to the end that it shall be crowned
with fullness of knowledge, richness of feeling, and the victory of
worthy achievement. This is the right of every child in these prosperous
and enlightened times,--the right of the country child as well as the
city child. And society will not have done its duty in providing for the
education of its youth until the children of the farm have full
opportunities for such development.

_The rural elementary school curriculum_

By the elementary school is meant the eight grades of work below the
high school which the rural school is now meant to cover.

Whatever is put into the curriculum of a nation's schools finally
becomes a part of national character and achievement. What the children
study in school comes to determine their attitudes and shape their
aptitudes. The old Greek philosophers, becoming teachers of youth,
turned the nation into a set of students and disputants over
philosophical questions. Sparta taught her boys the arts of war, and
became the chief military nation of her time. Germany introduces
technological studies into her schools, and becomes the leading country
in the world in the arts of manufacture. Let any people emphasize in
their schools the studies that lead to commercial and professional
interests, and neglect those that prepare for industrial vocations, and
the industrial welfare of the nation is sure to suffer.

The curriculum of the rural school must, therefore, contain the basic
subjects that belong to all culture,--the studies that every normal,
intelligent person should have just because he belongs to the
twentieth-century civilization, and in addition must include the
subjects that afford the knowledge and develop the attitude and
technique belonging to the life of the farm. Let us now consider this
curriculum somewhat more in detail.

_The mother tongue._ Mastery of his mother tongue is the birthright of
every child. He should first of all be able to speak it correctly and
with ease. He should next be able to read it with comprehension and
enjoyment, and should become familiar with the best in its literature.
He should be able to write it with facility, both as to its spelling and
its composition. Finally, he should know something of the structure, or
grammar, of the language.

This requirement suggests the content of the curriculum as to English.
The child must be given opportunity to use the language orally; he must
be led to talk. But this implies that he must have something to say, and
be interested in saying it. Formal "language lessons," divorced from all
the child's interests and activities, will not meet the purpose.
Facility in speech grows out of enthusiasm in speaking. Every recitation
is a lesson in English, and should be used for this purpose; nor should
the aim be correctness only, but ease and fluency as well.

The child must also learn to read; not alone to pronounce the printed
words of a page, but to grasp the thought and feeling, and express them
in oral reading. This presupposes a mastery of the mechanics of reading,
the letters, words, and marks employed. The only way to learn to read is
by reading. This is true whether we refer to learning the mechanics of
reading, to learning the apprehension and expression of thought, or to
learning the art of appreciating and enjoying good literature.

Yet, trite and self-evident as this truism is, it is constantly violated
in teaching reading in the rural school. For the course in reading
usually consists of a series of five readers, expected to cover seven or
eight years of study. These readers contain less than one hundred pages
of reading matter to the year, or but little more than half a page a day
for the time the child should be in school. The result is that the same
reader is read over and over, to no purpose. With a rich literature
available for each of the eight years of the elementary school,
comparatively few of the rural schools have supplied either
supplementary readers or other reading books for the use of the

The result is that most rural school children learn to read but
stumblingly, and seldom attain sufficient skill and taste in reading so
that it becomes a pleasure. Such a situation as this indicates the same
lack of wisdom that would be shown in employing willing and skillful
workmen to garner a rich harvest, and then sending them into the fields
with wholly insufficient and inadequate tools. The rural school must not
only teach the child the mechanics of reading, but lead him to read and
love good books. This can be done only _by supplying the books and
giving the child an opportunity to read them_.

Comparatively few people like to write. The pathway of expression finds
its way out more easily through the tongue than through the hand. Yet it
is highly necessary that every one should in this day be able to write.
Nor does this mean merely the ability to form letters into words and put
them down with a pen so that they are legible. This is a fundamental
requisite, but the mastery of penmanship, spelling, and punctuation is,
however, only a beginning. One must be able to formulate his thoughts
easily, to construct his sentences correctly, and to make his writing
effective; he must learn the art of composition.

Here again the principle already stated applies. The way to learn to
write is by writing; not just by the dreary treadmill of practicing
upon formal "compositions," but by having something to write that one
cares to express. The written language lessons should, therefore, always
grow out of the real interests and activities of the child in the home,
the school, or on the farm, and should include the art of
letter-writing, argumentation and exposition, as well as narration and

The subject of formal grammar has little or no place in the grades of
the elementary school. The grammatical relations of the language are
complicated and beyond the power of the child at an early age. Nor does
the study of such relations result in efficiency in the use of language,
as is commonly supposed. Children are compelled in many schools to waste
weary years in the study of logical relations they are too young to
comprehend, when they should be reading, speaking, and writing their
mother tongue under the stimulus and guidance of a teacher who is
himself a worthy and enthusiastic model in the use of speech. Only the
simpler grammatical forms and relations should be taught in the grades,
and these should have immediate application to oral and written speech.

_Arithmetic._ Arithmetic has for more than two hundred years formed an
important part of the elementary school curriculum. It has been taught
with the double object of affording mental discipline for the child, and
of putting him into possession of an important tool of practical
knowledge. It is safe to say that a large proportion of the patrons of
the rural schools of the present look upon arithmetic as the most
important subject taught in the school after the simple mechanics of
reading. Ability to "cipher" has been thought of as constituting a large
and important part of the educational equipment of the practical man.

Without doubt, number is an essential part of the education of the
child. Yet there is nothing in the mere art of numbering things as we
meet them in daily experience that should make arithmetic require so
large a proportion of time as it has been receiving. The child is
usually started in number in the first grade, and continues it the full
eight years of the elementary course, finally devoting three or more
years of the high school course to its continued study. Thus, nearly one
fourth of the entire school time of the pupil is demanded by the various
phases of the number concept.

The only ground upon which the expenditure of this large proportion of
time upon number can be defended is that of _discipline_. And modern
psychology and experimental pedagogy have shown the folly and waste of
setting up empty discipline as an educational aim. Education time is too
short, and the amount of rich and valuable material waiting to be
mastered too great, to devote golden years to a relatively barren grind.

It is probable that at least half the time at present devoted to
arithmetic in the elementary school could be given to other subjects
with no loss to the child's ability in number, and with great gain to
his education as a whole. Not that the child knows number any too well
now. He does not. In fact, few children finishing the elementary school
possess any considerable degree of ability in arithmetic. They can work
rather hard problems, if they have a textbook, and the answers by which
to test their results. But give them a practical problem from the home,
the farm, or the shop, and the chances are two to one that they cannot
secure a correct result. This is not the fault of the child, but the
fault of the kind of arithmetic he has been given, and the way it has
been taught. We have taught him the solution of various difficult,
analytical problems not in the least typical of the concrete problems
to be met daily outside of school; but we have not taught him to add,
subtract, multiply, and divide with rapidity and accuracy. We have
required him to solve problems containing fractions with large and
irreducible denominators such as are never met in the business world,
but he cannot readily and with certainty handle numbers expressed in
halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, and eighths. He has been compelled to
sacrifice practical business efficiency in number to an attempt to train
his powers of logical analysis.

The arithmetic of the district school should be greatly simplified and
reduced in quantity. Its quality should be greatly improved both as to
accuracy and speed in the fundamental operations and in the various
concrete types of problems to be met in the home, on the farm, and in
the shop. There need be no fear that the mental training will be less
efficient with this type of arithmetic. For mental development comes
only where there is mastery, and there is no mastery of the arithmetic
as it is taught in the rural school to-day.

_History and civics._ Every American child should know the history and
mode of government of his country. This is true first of all because
this knowledge is necessary to intelligent participation in the affairs
of a republic; but it is also necessary to the right development of the
individual that he shall realize something of the heroism and sacrifice
required to produce the civilization which he enjoys. Every person needs
to extend his thought and appreciation until it is large enough to
include other peoples and times than his own. For only in this way can
he come to feel kinship with the race at large, and thus save himself
from provincialism and narrowness.

This is equivalent to saying that the curriculum should afford ample
opportunity for the study of history. Nor should the history given the
child deal chiefly with the military and political activities of the
nation. Many text books have been little more than an account of wars
and politics. These are not the aspects of national life that most
interest and concern the child, especially at the age when he is in the
elementary school. He should at this time be told about the _people_ of
his country,--their home life, their industries, their schools and
churches, their bravery, their hardships, adventures, and achievements.
He must come to know something of the great men and women of his Nation
and State, the writers, inventors, explorers, scientists, artists, and
musicians, as well as the soldiers and statesmen.

Not only does this require that the child shall have suitable textbooks
in history, but that he shall also have an adequate library of
interesting histories, biographies, and historical fiction adapted to
his age and interests. For it is not enough that the child shall learn
the elementary facts of history while he is in the elementary school;
more important still is it that he shall develop a real interest in
history, and form the taste for reading historical matter.

The course in history must, therefore, contain such matter as the child
will love to read; for only then will it leave the desire to read. It
must so put a premium upon patriotism, loyalty to country, and
high-grade citizenship that the child shall feel the impulse to emulate
the noble men and women who have contributed to our happiness and
welfare. The study of history, even in the elementary school, should
eventuate in loyal, efficient citizenship.

The civics taught in the elementary school should be very practical and
concrete. The age has not yet come for a study of the federal or state
constitution. It is rather the _functional_ aspect of government that
should be presented at this time--the points of contact of school
district, township, county, state and federal government with the
individual. How the school is supported and controlled; how the bridges
are built and roads repaired; the work of township and county affairs;
the powers and duties of boards of health; the right of franchise and
the use of the ballot; the work of the postal system; the making and
enforcing of laws,--these and similar topics suggest what the child
should come to know from the study of civics. The great problem here is
to influence conduct in the direction of upright citizenship, and to
give such a knowledge of the machinery, especially of local government,
as will lead to efficient participation in its activities.

_Geography and nature study._ The rural school has a great advantage
over the city school in the teaching of geography and nature study. For
the country child is closer to the earth and its products than the city
child. The broad expanse of nature is always before him; life in its
multiple forms constantly appeals to his eye and ear. He watches the
seeds planted, and sees the crops cultivated and harvested. He has a
very concrete sense of the earth as the home of man, and possesses a
basis of practical knowledge for understanding the resources and
products of his own and other countries.

Geography should, therefore, be one of the most vital and useful
branches in the rural school. It is to begin wherever the life of the
child touches nature in his immediate environment, and proceed from this
on out to other parts of his home land, and finally to all lands.

But the geography taught must not be of the old catechism type, which
resulted in children committing to memory the definitions of
geographical terms instead of studying the real objects ready at hand.
It must not concern itself with the pupil's learning the names and
locations of dozens of places and geographical forms of no particular
importance, instead of coming into immediate touch with natural
environment and with the earth in the larger sense as it bears upon his
own life. The author has expressed this idea in another place as

"The content of geography is, therefore, synonymous with the content of
the experience of the child as related to his own interests and
activities, in so far as they grow out of the earth as his home. Towns
and cities begin with the ones nearest at hand. The concept of rivers
has its rise in the one that flows past the child's home. Valleys,
mountains, capes, and bays are but modifications of those that lie
within the circle of personal experience. Generalizations must come to
be made, but they must rest upon concrete and particular instances if
they are to constitute a reality to the learner.

"What kind of people live in a country, what they work at, what they
eat, and how they live in their homes and their schools, what weather
they have, and what they wear, how they travel and speak and
read,--these are more vital questions to the child than the names and
locations of unimportant streams, towns, capes, and bays. For they are
the things that touch his own experience, and hence appeal to his
interest. Only as geography is given this social background, and
concerns itself with the earth as related to social activities, can it
fulfill its function in the elementary school."[4]

_Hygiene and health._ Since health is at the basis of all success and
happiness, nothing can be more important in the education of the child
than the subject of practical hygiene. It has been the custom in our
schools until recently, however, to give the child a difficult and
uninteresting text book dealing with physiology and anatomy, but
containing almost nothing on hygiene and the laws of health.

Not only should the course in physiology emphasize the laws of hygiene,
but this hygiene should in part have particular bearing on right living
under the conditions imposed by the farm. Food, its variety,
adaptability, and preparation; clothing for the different seasons; work,
recreation, and play; care of the eyes and teeth; bathing; the
ventilation of the home, and especially of sleeping-rooms; the effects
of tobacco and cigarettes in checking growth and reducing efficiency;
the more simple and obvious facts bearing on the relation of bacteria to
the growth, preparation, and spoiling of foods; the means to be taken to
prevent bacterial contagion of diseases,--these are some of the
practical matters that every child should know as a result of his study
of physiology and hygiene.

But we must go one step further still. It is not enough to teach these
things as matters of abstract theory or truth. Plenty of people know
better hygiene than they are practicing. The subject must be presented
so concretely and effectively and be supported by such incentives that
it will actually lead to better habits of living--that it will _result
in higher physical efficiency_.

_Agriculture._ Agriculture is of course preeminently a subject for the
rural school. Not only is it of immediate and direct practical
importance, but it is coming to be looked upon as so useful a cultural
study that it is being introduced into many city schools.

It has been objected that agriculture as a science cannot be taught in
the elementary school because of the lack of age and development of the
pupils. This is true, but neither can any other subject be taught to
children of this age as a complete science. It is possible, however, to
give children in the rural elementary school much useful information
concerning agriculture. Perhaps better still, it is possible to develop
a scientific attitude and interest that will lead to further study of
the subject in the high school or agricultural college, and that will in
the mean-time serve to attach the boys and girls to the farm.

The rural school pupils can be made familiar with the best modes of
planting and cultivating the various crops, and with the diseases and
insect enemies which threaten them; the selection of seed; the rotation
of crops, and many other practical things applying directly to their
home life. School gardens of vegetables and flowers constitute another
center of interest and information, and serve to unite the school and
the home.

Similarly the animal life of the farm can be studied, and a knowledge
gained of the best varieties of farm stock, their breeding and care.
Insects and bird life can be observed, and their part in the growth or
destruction of crops understood. All this is not only practicable, but
necessary as part of the rural school curriculum. Anything less than
this amount of practical agriculture leaves the rural school in some
degree short of fulfilling its function.

_Domestic science and manual training._ In general what is true of
agriculture is true of domestic science and manual training. They can be
presented in the elementary school only in the most concrete and applied
form. But they can be successfully presented in this form, and must be
if the rural school child is to have an equal opportunity with the town
and city child. The girls can be taught the art of sewing, cooking, and
serving, if only the necessary equipment and instruction are available.
They are ready to learn, the subject-matter is adapted to their age and
understanding, and nothing could be more vital to their interests and

Likewise the boys can be taught the use of tools, the value and
finishing of different kinds of woods, and can develop no little skill
with their hands, while they are at the same time receiving mental
development and the cultivation of practical interests from this line of
work. It is not in the least a question of the readiness of the boys to
take up and profit by this subject, but is only a matter of equipment
and teaching.

_Music and art._ Nor should the finer aspects of culture be left out of
the education of the country child. He will learn music as readily as
the city child, and love it not less. Indeed, he needs it even more as a
part of his schooling, since the opportunities to hear and enjoy music
are always at hand in the city, and nearly always lacking in the
country. The child should be taught to sing and at least to understand
and appreciate music of worthy type.

The same principle will apply to art. The great masterpieces of painting
and sculpture have as much of beauty and inspiration in them as the
great masterpieces of literature. Yet most rural children complete their
schooling hardly having seen in the schoolroom a worthy copy of a great
picture, and much less have they been taught the significance of great
works of art or been led to appreciate and love them.

_Physical training._ It has been argued by many that the rural child has
enough exercise and hence does not need physical training. But this
position entirely misconceives the purpose of physical training. One may
have plenty of exercise, even too much exercise, without securing a
well-balanced physical development. Indeed, certain forms of farm work
done by children are often so severe a tax on their strength that a
corrective exercise is necessary in order to save stooped forms, curved
spines, and hollow chests. Furthermore, the farm child, lacking the
opportunities of the city child for gaining social ease and control,
needs the development that comes from physical training to give poise,
ease of bearing, and grace of movement.

Nor must the athletic phase of physical training be overlooked. While it
is undoubtedly true that athletics have come to occupy too large a part
of the time and absorb too great a proportion of the interest in many
schools, yet this is no reason for omitting avocational training wholly
from the rural school. Children require the training and development
that come from games and play quite as much as they need that coming
from work. The school owes a duty to the avocational side of life as
well as to the vocational.

The curriculum here proposed is so much broader and richer than that now
offered in the rural district school that it will appear to many to be
visionary and impossible. That it is impossible for the old type of
rural school will be readily admitted. But it is entirely practicable
and possible in the reorganized consolidated school, and is being
successfully presented, in its general aspects, at least, in many of
these schools. It is only such an education as every rural child is
entitled to, and is no more than the urban child is already receiving in
the better class of town and city elementary schools. If the rural
school cannot give the farm child an elementary education approximating
the one out-lined, it has no claim on his loyalty or time; and he should
in justice to himself be taken where he can receive a worthy education,
even if he is thereby lost to the farm.

But the rural boy and girl need not only a good elementary education,
but a high school education as well. Let us next consider the rural high
school curriculum.

_The rural high school curriculum_

This section is presented in the full knowledge that comparatively few
localities have as yet established the rural high school. It now forms,
however, an integral part of the consolidated rural school in not a few
places, and is abundantly justifying the expenditure made upon it. In
other localities the tendency is growing to send the rural child to the
town high school, or even for the family to move to town to secure high
schooling for the children. In still other cases, and we are obliged to
admit that these yet constitute the rule rather than the exception, the
farm boy or girl has no opportunity for a high school education.

If we succeed in working out the so-called rural problem of our country,
in maintaining a high standard of agricultural population and rural
life, the rural high school must be an important factor in our problem.
For the children of our farms need and must have an education reaching
beyond that of the elementary school. And this schooling must prepare
them to find the most satisfactory and successful type of life on the
farm, instead of drawing them away from the farm.

It goes without saying that the rural high school should be an
agricultural high school. This does not mean that it shall devote itself
exclusively to teaching agriculture; but rather that, while it offers a
broad range of culture and information, it shall emphasize those phases
of subject-matter that will best fit into the interests and activities
of farm life, instead of those phases that tend to lead toward the city
or the market-place. Its four years of work must be fully equal to that
of the best town or city high schools, but must in some degree be
different work. It must result in _efficiency_, and efficiency here must
relate itself to agricultural life and pursuits.

A detailed discussion of the rural high school curriculum will not be
required. The principles already suggested as applying to the elementary
school will govern here as well. The studies must cultivate breadth of
view and a wide range of interests, and must at the same time bear upon
the immediate life and experience of the pupils. The lines of study
begun in the elementary school will be continued, with the purpose of
securing deeper insight, more detailed knowledge, and greater
independence of judgment and action.

English should form an important part of the curriculum, with the
double aim of securing facility in the use of the mother tongue and of
developing a love for its literature. The rural high school graduate
should be able to write English correctly as to spelling, punctuation,
and grammar; he should be able to express himself effectively, either in
writing, conversation, or the more formal speech of the rostrum. Above
all, he should be an enthusiastic and discriminating reader, with a
catholicity of taste and interest that will lead him beyond the
agricultural journal and newspaper, important as these are, to the works
of fiction, material and social science, travel and biography, current
magazines and journals, and whatever else belongs to the intellectual
life of an intelligent, educated man of affairs.

This is asking more than is being accomplished at present by the course
in English in the town high school, but not more than is easily within
the range of possibility. The average high school graduate of to-day
cannot always spell and punctuate correctly, and commonly cannot write
well even an ordinary business letter; nor, it must be feared, has his
study of literature had a very great influence in developing him into a
good reader of worthy books.

But all this can be remedied by vitalizing the teaching of the mother
tongue; by lessening the proportion of time and emphasis placed upon
critical analysis and technical literary criticism, and increasing that
given to the drill and practice that alone can make sure of the
fundamentals of spelling, punctuation, and the common forms of
composition emphasized by all; and by the sympathetic, enthusiastic
teaching of good literature adapted to the age and interests of the
pupils from the standpoint of synthetic appreciation and enjoyment,
rather than from the standpoint of mechanical analysis.

The rural high school course in social science should be broad and
thorough. The course in history should not give an undue proportion of
time to ancient and medieval history, nor to war and politics. Emphasis
should be placed on the social, industrial, and economic phases of human
development in modern times and in our own country.

Political economy should form an important branch. Especially should it
deal with the problems of production, distribution, and consumption as
they relate to agriculture. Matters of finance, taxation, and
investment, while resting on general principles, should be applied to
the problems of the farm. Nor should the economic basis of support and
expenditure in the home be overlooked.

The course in civics should not only present the general theory of
government, but should apply concretely to the civic relations and
duties of a rural population. Especially should it appeal to the civic
conscience and sense of responsibility which we need among our rural
people to make the country an antidote to the political corruption of
the city.

Material science should constitute an important section of the rural
high school curriculum. Not only does its study afford one of the best
means of mental development, but the subject-matter of science has a
very direct bearing on the life and industries of the farm. To achieve
the best results, however, the science taught must be presented from the
concrete and applied point of view rather than from the abstract and
general. This does not mean that a hodge-podge of unrelated facts shall
be taught in the place of science; indeed, such a method would defeat
the whole purpose of the course. It means, however, that the general
laws and principles of science shall be carried out to their practical
bearing on the problems of the home and the farm, and not be left just
as general laws or abstract principles unapplied.

The botany and zoölogy of the rural high school will, of course, have a
strong agricultural trend. It will sacrifice the old logical
classifications and study of generic types of animals and plants for the
more interesting and useful study of the fauna and flora of the
locality. The various farm crops, their weed enemies, the helpful and
harmful insects and birds, the animal life of the barnyard, horticulture
and floriculture, and the elements of bacteriology, will constitute
important elements in the course.

The course in physics will develop the general principles of the
subject, and will then apply these principles to the machinery of the
farm, to the heating, lighting, and ventilation of houses, to the
drainage of soil, the plumbing of buildings, and a hundred other
practical problems bearing on the life of the farm. Chemistry will be
taught as related to the home, foods, soils, and crops. A concrete
geology will lead to a better understanding of soils, building
materials, and drainage. Physiology and hygiene will seek as their aim
longer life and higher personal efficiency.

The course in agriculture, whether presented separately or in
conjunction with botany and zoölogy, must be comprehensive and
thorough. Not only should it give a complete and practical knowledge of
the selection of seed; the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of
crops; the improvement and conservation of the soil; the breeding and
care of stock, etc., but it must serve to create and develop a
scientific attitude toward farming. The farmer should come to look upon
his work as offering the largest opportunities for the employment of
technical knowledge, judgment, and skill. That such an attitude will
yield large returns in success is attested by many farmers to-day who
are applying scientific methods to their work.

Manual training and domestic science should receive especial emphasis in
the rural high school. Both subjects have undoubted educational value in
themselves, and their practical value and importance to those looking
forward to farm life can hardly be over-estimated. And in these as in
other subjects, the course offered will need to be modified from that of
the city school in order to meet the requirements of the particular
problems to which the knowledge and training secured are to be applied.

Mathematics should form a part of the rural high school curriculum, but
the traditional courses in algebra and geometry do not meet the need.
The ideal course would probably be a skillful combination of algebra,
geometry, and trigonometry occupying the time of one or two years, and
applied directly to the problems of mechanics, measurements, surveying,
engineering, and building on the farm. Such an idea is not new, and
textbooks are now under way providing material for such a course.

In addition, there should be a thorough course in practical business
arithmetic. By this is not meant the abstract, analytical matter so
often taught as high school arithmetic, but concrete and applied
commercial and industrial arithmetic, with particular reference to farm
problems. In connection with this subject should be given a course in
household accounts, and book-keeping, including commercial forms and
commercial law.

It is doubtful whether foreign language has any place in the rural high
school. If offered at all, it should be only in high schools strong
enough to offer parallel courses for election, and should never displace
the subjects lying closer to the interests and needs of the students.

The study of music and art begun in the elementary school should be
continued in the high school, and a love for the beautiful cultivated
not only by the matter taught, but also by the æsthetic qualities of the
school buildings and grounds and their decoration. On the practical
sides these subjects will reach out to the beautifying of the farm homes
and the life they shelter.

When a well-taught curriculum of some such scope of elementary and high
school work as that suggested is as freely available to the farm child
as his school is available to the city child, will the country boys and
girls have a fair chance for education. And when this comes about, the
greatest single obstacle to keeping our young people on the farm will
have been removed.


[Footnote 4: _Social Principles of Education_, p. 264.]



_The importance of teaching_

Teaching is the fundamental purpose for which the school is run. Taxes
are levied and collected, buildings erected and equipped, and curriculum
organized solely that teaching may go on. Children are clothed and fed
and sent to school instead of being put at work in order that they may
be taught. The school is classified into grades, programs are arranged,
and regulations are enforced only to make teaching possible. Normal
schools are established, teachers are trained, and certificates required
in order that teaching may be more efficient.

The teacher confronts a great task. On the one hand are the children,
ignorant, immature, and undeveloped. In them lie ready to be called
forth all the powers and capacities that will characterize their fully
ripened manhood and womanhood. Given the right stimulus and direction,
these powers will grow into splendid strength and capacity; lacking
this stimulus and guidance, the powers are left crippled and incomplete.

On the other hand is the subject-matter of education, the heritage of
culture which has been accumulating through the ages. In the slow
process of human experience, running through countless generations, men
have made their discoveries in the fields of mathematics and science;
they have lived great events and achievements which have become history;
they have developed the social institutions which we call the State, the
church, the home, and the school; they have organized great industries
and carried on complex vocations; they have crystallized their ideals,
their hopes, and their aspirations in literature; and have with brush
and chisel expressed in art their concepts of truth and beauty. The best
of all this human experience we have collected in what we call a
curriculum, and placed it before the child for him to master, as the
generations before him have mastered it in their common lives. For only
in this way can the child come into full possession of his powers, and
set them at work in a fruitful way in accomplishing his own

It is the function of the teacher, therefore, to stand as an
intermediary, as an interpreter, between the child and this great mass
of subject-matter that lies ready for him to learn. The race has lived
its thousands or millions of years; the individual lives but a few
score. What former generations took centuries to work out the child can
spend only a few months or a few years upon. Hence he must waste no time
and opportunity; he must make no false step in his learning, for he
cannot in his short life retrieve his mistakes. It is the work of the
teacher, through instruction and guidance, that is, through teaching, to
save the child time in his learning and development, and to make sure
that he does not lose his opportunity. And this is a great

Thus the teacher confronts a problem that has two great factors, the
_child_ and the _subject-matter_. He must have a knowledge of both these
factors if his work is to be effective; for he cannot teach matter that
he does not know, and neither can he teach a person whose nature he does
not understand. But in addition to a knowledge of these factors, the
teacher must also master a technique of instruction, he must train
himself in the art of teaching.

_The teacher must know the child._ It has been a rather common
impression that if one knows a certain field of subject-matter, he will
surely be able to teach it to others. But nothing could be further from
the truth than such an assumption. Indeed, it is proverbial that the
great specialists are the most wretched teachers of their subjects. The
nature of the child's mental powers, the order of their unfoldment, the
evolution of his interests, the incentives that appeal to him, the
danger points in both his intellectual and his moral development,--these
and many other things about child nature the intelligent teacher must
clearly understand.

And the teacher of the younger children needs this knowledge even more
than the teacher of older ones. For the earlier years of the child's
schooling are the most important years. It is at this time that he lays
the foundation for all later learning, that he forms his habits of study
and his attitude toward education, and that his life is given the bent
for all its later development. Nothing can be more irrational,
therefore, than to put the most untrained and inexperienced teachers in
charge of the younger children. The fallacious notion that "anyone can
teach little children" has borne tragic fruit in the stagnation and
mediocrity of many lives whose powers were capable of great

_The teacher must know the subject-matter._ The blind cannot
successfully lead the blind. One whose grasp of a subject extends only
to the simplest rudiments cannot teach these rudiments. He who has never
himself explored a field can hardly guide others through that field; at
least, progress through the field will be at the cost of great waste of
time and failure to grasp the significance or beauty of what the field

Expressed more concretely, it is impossible to transplant arithmetic, or
geography, or history, or anything else that one would teach,
immediately from the textbook into the mind of the child. The subject
must first come to be very fully and completely a true possession of the
teacher. The successful teacher must also know vastly more of a subject
than he is required to teach. For only then has he freedom; only then
has he outlook and perspective; only then can he teach the _subject_,
and not some particular textbook; only then can he inspire others to
effort and achievement through his own mastery and interest. Enthusiasm
is _caught_ and not taught.

_The teacher must know the technique of instruction._ For teaching is an
art, based upon scientific principles and requiring practice to secure
skill. One of the greatest tasks of the teacher is to _psychologize_ the
subject-matter for his pupils,--that is, so to select, organize, and
present it that the child's mind naturally and easily grasps and
appropriates it. Teaching, when it has become an art, which is to say,
when the teacher has become an artist, is one of the most highly skilled
vocations. It is as much more difficult than medicine as the human mind
is more baffling than the human body; it is as much more difficult than
preaching as the child is harder to comprehend and guide than the adult;
it is as much more difficult than the law as life is more complex than

Yet, while we require the highest type of preparation for medicine, the
ministry, or the law, we require but little for teaching. We pay
enormous salaries to trained experts to apply the principles of
scientific management to our industries or our business, but we have
been satisfied with inexpert service for the teaching of our children.
We are making fortunes out of the stoppage of waste in our factories,
but allowing enormous waste to continue in our schools. _If we were to
put into practice in teaching the thoroughly demonstrated and accepted
scientific principles of education as we know them, we could beyond
doubt double the educational results attained by our children._

_Teaching in the rural school_

The criticisms just made on our standards of teaching will apply in some
degree to all our schools from the kindergarten to the university; but
they apply more strongly to the rural schools than to any other class.
For the rural schools are the training-ground for young, inexperienced,
and relatively unprepared teachers. Except for the comparatively small
proportion of the town or city teachers who are normal school or college
trained, nearly all have served an apprenticeship in the rural schools.
Thus the rural school, besides its other handicaps, is called upon to
train teachers for the more favored urban schools.

Careful statistical studies[5] have shown that many rural teachers, both
men and women, have had no training beyond that of the elementary
school. And not infrequently this training has taken place in the rural
school of the type in which they themselves take up teaching. The
average schooling of the men teaching in the rural schools of the entire
country is less than two years above the elementary school, and of
women, slightly more than two years. This is to say that our rural
schools are taught by those who have had only about half of a high
school course.

It is evident, therefore, that the rural teacher cannot meet the
requirement urged above in the way of preparation. He does not know his
subject-matter. Not only has he not gone far enough in his education to
have a substantial foundation, breadth of view, and mental perspective,
but he frequently lacks in the simplest rudiments of the immediate
subject-matter which he is supposed to teach. The examination papers
written by applicants for certificates to begin rural school teaching
often betray a woful ignorance of the most fundamental knowledge.
Inability to spell, punctuate, or effectively use the English language
is common. The most elementary scientific truths are frequently unknown.
A connected view of our nation's history and knowledge of current events
are not always possessed. The great world of literature is too often a
closed book. And not seldom the simple relations of arithmetical number
are beyond the grasp of the applicant. In short, our rural schools, as
they average, require no adequate preparation of the teacher, and do not
represent as much education in their teaching force as that needed by
the intelligent farmer, merchant, or tradesman.

The rural teacher does not know the child. But little more than children
themselves, and with little chance for observation or for experience in
life, it would be strange if they did. They have had no opportunity for
professional study, and psychology and the science of education are
unknown to them. The attempts made to remedy this fatal weakness by the
desultory reading of a volume or two in a voluntary reading-circle
course do not serve the purpose. The teacher needs a thorough course of
instruction in general and applied psychology, under the tutelage of an
enthusiastic expert who not only knows his subject, but also understands
the problems of the teacher.

The rural teacher does not know the technique of the schoolroom. The
organizing of a school, the proper classification of pupils, the
assignment of studies, the arrangement of a program of studies and
recitation, the applications of suitable regulations and rules for the
running of the school, are all matters requiring expert knowledge and
skill. Yet the rural teacher has to undertake them without instruction
in their principles and without supervisory guidance or help. No wonder
that the rural school is poorly organized and managed. It presents
problems of administration more puzzling than the town school, and yet
here is where we put out our novices, boys and girls not yet out of
their "teens"--young people who themselves have no concept of the
problems of the school, no knowledge of its complex machinery, and no
experience to serve as a guide in confronting their work. No industrial
enterprise could exist under such irrational conditions; and neither
could the schools, except that mental waste and bankruptcy are harder to
measure than economic.

Nor does the rural teacher know the technique of instruction any better
than that of organization and management. The skillful conducting of a
recitation is at least as severe a test upon mental resourcefulness and
skill as making a speech, preaching a sermon, or conducting a lawsuit.
For not only must the subject-matter be organized for immature minds
unused to the formal processes of learning, but the effects of
instruction upon the child's mind must constantly be watched by the
teacher and interpreted with reference to further instruction. This
skill cannot be attained empirically, by the cut-and-dried method,
except at a frightful cost to the children. It is as if we were to turn
a set of intelligent but untrained men loose in the community with their
scalpels and their medicine cases to learn to be surgeons and doctors
by experimenting upon their fellows.

As would naturally be expected, therefore, the teaching in the average
rural school is a dreary round of inefficiency. Handicapped to begin
with by classes too small to be interesting, the rural teacher is
mechanically hearing the recitations of some twenty-five to thirty of
these classes per day. Lacking at the beginning the breadth of education
that would make teaching easy, he finds it impossible to prepare for so
many different exercises daily. The result is that the recitations are
dull, spiritless, uninteresting. The lessons are poorly prepared by the
pupils, poorly recited, and hence very imperfectly mastered. The more
advanced work cannot stand on such a foundation of sand, and so,
discouraged, the child soon drops out of school.

When it is also remembered that the tenure of service of the teacher is
very short in the rural schools, the problem becomes all the more grave.
The average term of service in the rural schools is probably not above
two years, and in many States considerably below this amount. This
requires that half of the rural teachers each year shall be beginners.
It will be impossible, of course, as long as teaching is done so largely
by girls, who naturally will, and should, soon quit teaching for
marriage, to secure a long period of service in the vocation. Yet the
rural school is, as we have seen, also constantly losing its trained
teachers to the town and city, and hence breaking in more than its share
of novices.

Added to the disadvantage inevitably coming from the brief period of
service in teaching is a similar one growing out of a faulty method of
administration. In a large majority of our rural schools the contract is
made for but one term of not more than three months. This leaves the
teacher free to accept another school at the end of the term, and not
infrequently a school will have two or even three different teachers
within the same year. There is a great source of waste at this point,
owing to a change of methods, repetition of work, and the necessity of
starting a new system of school machinery. Industrial concerns would
hardly find it profitable to change superintendents and foremen several
times a year. We do this in our schools only because we have not yet
learned that it pays to apply rational business methods to education.

Nothing that has been said in criticism of rural teaching ought to be
construed as a reflection on the rural teachers personally. The fact
that they can succeed as well as they do under conditions that are so
adverse is the best warrant for their intelligence and devotion. It is
not their fault that they begin teaching with inadequate knowledge of
subject-matter, with ignorance of the nature of childhood, and without
skill in the technique of the schoolroom. The system, and not the
individual, is at fault. The public demands a pitifully low standard of
efficiency in rural teaching, and the excellence of the product offered
is not likely greatly to surpass what society asks and is ready to pay

Once again we must turn to the consolidated school as the solution of
our difficulty. The isolated district school will not be able to demand
and secure a worthy grade of preparation for teaching. The educational
standards will not rise high enough under this system to create a public
demand for skilled teachers. Nor can such salaries be paid as will
encourage thorough and extensive study and preparation for teaching.
And, finally, the professional incentives are not sufficiently strong in
such schools to create a true craft spirit toward teaching.

While it is impossible to measure the improved results in teaching
coming from the consolidated school in the same objective way that we
can measure increased attendance, yet there is no doubt that one of the
strongest arguments for the consolidated school is its more skillful and
inspiring teaching. The increased salaries, the possibility of
professional association with other teachers, the improved equipment,
the better supervision, and above all, the spirit of progress and
enthusiasm in the school itself, all serve to transform teaching from a
treadmill routine into a joyful opportunity for inspiration and service.

_The training of rural teachers_

The training of the rural teacher has never been given the same
consideration as that of town or city teachers. It is true that normal
schools are available to all alike, and that in a few States the rural
schools secure a considerable number of teachers who have had some
normal training. But this is the exception rather than the rule. In the
Middle Western States, for example, where there is a rich agricultural
population, whole counties can be found in which no rural teacher has
ever had any special training for his work. Professional requirements
have been on a par with the meager salaries paid, and other incentives
have not been strong enough to insure adequate preparation.

State normal schools have, therefore, been of comparatively little
assistance in fitting teachers for the rural school. First of all the
rural school teacher ordinarily does not go to the normal school, for it
is not demanded of him. Again, if perchance a prospective rural teacher
should attend a normal school, a town or city grade position is usually
waiting for him when he graduates. For, in spite of the growth of our
normal schools, they are as yet far from being able to supply all the
teachers required for the urban grade positions, to say nothing about
the rural schools. The colleges and universities are, of course, still
further removed from the rural school, since the high schools stand
ready to employ those of their graduates who enter upon teaching.

In some States, as for example, Wisconsin, county normal schools have
been established with the special aim of preparing teachers for the
rural schools. While this movement has helped, it does not promise to
secure wide acceptance as a method of dealing with the problem. Greater
possibilities undoubtedly exist in the comparatively recent movement
toward combining normal training with the regular high school course.
Provision for such courses now exists in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and a number of other States.

Combining normal training with high school education has first of all
the advantage of bringing such training _to_ prospective teachers,
instead of requiring the teachers to leave home and incur additional
expense in seeking their training. From the standpoint of the public it
has the merit of economy, in that it utilizes buildings, equipment, and
organization already in existence instead of requiring new.

But whatever may be the method employed, the rural teachers should
receive better preparation for their work than they now have. This
means, _first_, that the State must make adequate provision for the
teacher to receive his training at a minimum of expense and trouble; and
_second_, that the standard of requirement must be such that the teacher
will be obliged to secure adequate preparation before being admitted to
the school. Even with the present status of our rural schools it is not
too much to require that every teacher shall have had _at least a
four-year high school education_, and that _a reasonable amount of
normal training_ be had either in conjunction with the high school
course, or subsequent to its completion. Indiana, for example, has found
this requirement entirely feasible, and a great influence in bettering
the tone of the rural school.

Wherever the rural teacher secures his training, however, one condition
must obtain: this preparation must familiarize him with the spirit and
needs of the agricultural community, and imbue him with enthusiasm for
service in this field. It is not infrequently the case that town high
school graduates, themselves never having lived in the country, possess
neither the sympathy nor the understanding necessary to enable them to
offer a high grade of service in the rural school. Not a few of them
feel above the work of such a position, and look with contempt or pity
upon the life of the farm. The successful rural teacher must be able to
identify himself very completely with the interests and activities of
the community; nor can this be done in any half-hearted, sentimental, or
professional manner. It must be a spontaneous and natural response
arising from a true interest in the people, a knowledge of their lives,
and a sincere desire for their welfare. Any preparation that does not
result in this spirit, and train in the ability to realize it in action,
does not fit for the rural school.

_Salaries of rural teachers_

The salaries paid teachers in general in different types of schools are
one measure, though not a perfect one, of their efficiency. Salary is
not a perfect measure of efficiency, (1) because economic ability to pay
is a modifying influence. When the early New England teacher was
receiving ten or twelve dollars a month and "boarding round," he was
probably getting all that the community could afford to pay him,
although he was often a college student, and not infrequently a
well-trained graduate. The salaries paid in the various occupations are
not (2) based upon any definite standards of the value of service. For
example, the _chef_ in a hotel may receive more than the superintendent
of schools, and the football coach more than the college president; yet
we would hardly want to conclude that the services of the cook and the
athlete are worth more to society than the services of educators. And
within the vocation of teaching itself there is (3) no fixed standard
for judging teaching efficiency. Nevertheless, in general, teaching
efficiency is in considerable degree measured by differences in salaries
paid in different localities and in the various levels of school work.

Based on the standard of salary as a measure, the teaching efficiency of
rural teachers is, as we should expect from starting nearly all of our
beginners here, considerably below that in towns or cities. A study by
Coffman[6] of more than five thousand widely distributed teachers as to
age, sex, salary, etc., shows that the average man in the rural school
receives an annual salary of $390; in town schools, of $613; and in city
schools, of $919. The average woman in the rural school receives an
annual salary of $366; in town schools, of $492; and in city schools, of
$591. Men in towns, therefore, receive one and one half times as much as
men in the country, and in cities, two and one half times as much as in
the country. Women in towns receive a little more than one and one third
times as much as women in the country, and in the cities almost one and
two thirds times as much as women in the country.

The actual amount of salary paid rural teachers is perhaps more
instructive than the comparative amounts. The income of the rural
teacher is barely a living wage, and not even that if the teacher has no
parental home, or a gainful occupation during vacation times. Out of an
amount of less than four hundred dollars a year the teacher is expected
to pay for a certificate, a few school journals and professional books,
and attend teachers institutes or conventions, besides supporting
himself as a teacher ought to live. It does not need argument to show
that this meager salary forces a standard of living too low for
efficiency. It would, therefore, be unfair to ask for efficiency with
the present standard of salaries.

Nor is it to be overlooked that efficiency and salaries must mount
upward together. It would be as unjust to ask for higher salaries
without increasing the grade of efficiency as to ask for efficiency on
the present salary basis. It is probable that the eighteen- or
nineteen-year-old boys and girls starting in to teach the rural school,
with but little preparation above the elementary grades, are receiving
all they are worth, at least as compared with what they could earn in
other lines. The great point of difficulty is that they are not worth
enough. The community cannot afford to buy the kind of educational
service they are qualified to offer; it would be a vastly better
investment for the public to buy higher teaching efficiency at larger

No statistics are available to show the exact percentage of increase in
rural teachers' salaries during recent years, but this increase has been
considerable; and the tendency is still upward. In this as in other
features of the rural school problem, however, it will be impossible to
meet reasonable demands without forsaking the rural district system for
a more centralized system of consolidated schools. To pay adequate
salaries to the number of teachers now required for the thousands of
small rural schools would be too heavy a drain on our economic
resources. Under the consolidated system a considerably smaller number
of teachers is required, and these can receive higher salaries without
greatly increasing the amount expended for teaching. In this as in other
phases of our educational problems, what is needed is rational business
method, and a willingness to devote a fair proportion of our wealth to
the education of the young.

_Supervision of rural teaching_

Our rural school teaching has never had efficient supervision. The very
nature of rural school organization has rendered expert supervision
impossible, no matter how able the supervising officer might be. With
slight modifications, the office of _county superintendent_ is,
throughout the country, typical of the attempt to provide supervision
for the rural school. While such a system may have afforded all that
could be expected in the pioneer days, its inadequacy to meet
present-day demands is almost too patent to require discussion.

First of all, it is physically impossible for a county superintendent to
visit and supervise one hundred and fifty teachers at work in as many
different schools scattered over four or five hundred square miles of
territory. If he were to devote all his time to visiting country
schools, he would have only one day to each school per year. When it is
remembered that the county superintendent must also attend to an office
that has a large amount of correspondence and clerical work, that he is
usually commissioned with authority to oversee the building of all
schoolhouses in his county, that he must act as judge in hearing appeals
in school disputes, that he must conduct all teachers' examinations and
in many instances grade the papers, and, finally, that country roads are
often impassable, it is seen that his time for supervision is greatly
curtailed. As a matter of fact some rural schools receive no visit from
the county superintendent for several years at a time.

A still further obstacle comes from the fact of the frequent changes of
teachers among rural schools. A teacher visited by the county
superintendent in a certain school this term, and advised as to how best
to meet its problems, is likely to be in a different school next term,
and required to meet an entirely new set of problems.

This is all very different from the problem of supervision met by the
town or city superintendent. For the town or city district is of small
area, and the schools few and close together. If the number of teachers
is large, the superintendent is assisted by principals of different
schools, and by deputies. The teaching force is better prepared, and
hence requires less close supervision. School standards are higher, and
the coöperation of patrons more easily secured. The course of study is
better organized, the schools better graded and equipped, and all other
conditions more favorable to efficient supervision. It would not,
therefore, be just to compare the results of supervision in the country
districts with those in urban schools without making full allowance for
these fundamental differences.

The county superintendent is in many States discriminated against in
salary as compared with other county officers, and, as a rule, no
provision is made to compensate for traveling expenses incurred in
visiting schools. This, in effect, places a financial penalty on the
work of supervision, as the superintendent can remain in his office with
considerably less expense to himself than when he is out among the
schools. In some instances, however, an allowance is made for traveling
expenses in addition to the regular salary, thus encouraging the
visiting of schools, or at least removing the handicap existing under
the older system. An attempt has also been made in some States to
relieve the county superintendent of the greater part of the clerical
work of his office by employing for him at county expense a clerk for
this purpose. These two provisions have proved of great help to the
supervisory function of the county superintendent's work, but the task
yet looms up in impossible magnitude.

The county superintendency is throughout the country almost universally
a political office. In some States, as, for example, in Indiana, it is
appointive by a non-partisan board. But, in general, the candidate of
the prevailing party, or the one who is the best "mixer," secures the
office regardless of qualifications. Sharing the fortunes of other
political offices, the county superintendency frequently has applied to
it the unwritten party rule of "two terms and out," thus crippling the
efficiency of the office by frequent changes of administration and
uncertainty of tenure.

No fixed educational or professional standard of preparation for the
county superintendency exists in the different States. If some
reasonably high standard were required, it would do much to lessen the
mischievous effects of making it a political office. In a large
proportion of cases the county superintendent is only required to hold a
middle-class certificate, and has enjoyed no better educational
facilities than dozens of the teachers he is to supervise. The author
has conducted teachers' institutes in the Middle West for county
superintendents who had never attended an institute or taught a term of
school. The salary and professional opportunities of the office are not
sufficiently attractive to draw men from the better school positions;
hence the great majority of county superintendents come from the village
principalships, the grades of town schools, or even from the rural

A marked tendency of recent years has been to elect women as county
superintendents. In Iowa, for example, half of the present county
superintendents are women, and the proportion is increasing. In not a
few instances women have made exceptional records as county
superintendents, and, as a whole, are loyally devoted to their work.
They suffer one disadvantage in this office, however, which is hard to
overcome: they find it impossible, without undue exposure, to travel
about the county during the cold and stormy weather of winter or when
the roads are soaked with the spring rains. Whether they will be able to
effect the desired coördination between the rural school and the
agricultural interests of the community is a question yet to be settled.

In spite of the limitations of the office of county superintendent,
however, it must not be thought that this office has played an
unimportant part in our educational development. It has exerted a marked
influence in the upbuilding of our schools, and accomplished this under
the most unfavorable and discouraging circumstances. Among its occupants
have been some of the most able and efficient men and women engaged in
our school system. But the time has come in our educational advancement
when the rural schools should have better supervision than they are now
getting or can get under the present system.

The first step in improving the supervision, as in improving so many
other features of the rural schools, is the reorganization of the
system through consolidation, and the consequent reduction in the number
of schools to be supervised. The next step is to remove the supervising
office as far as possible from "practical" politics by making it
appointive by a non-partisan county board, who will be at liberty to go
anywhere for a superintendent, who will be glad to pay a good salary,
and who will seek to retain a superintendent in office as long as he is
rendering acceptable service to the county. The third step is to raise
the standard of fitness for the office so that the incumbent may be a
true intellectual leader among the teachers and people of his county.
Nor can this preparation be of the scholastic type alone, but must be of
such character as to adapt its possessor to the spirit and ideals of an
agricultural people.

A wholly efficient system of supervision of rural teaching, then, would
be possible only in a system of consolidated schools, each under the
immediate direction of a principal, himself thoroughly educated and
especially qualified to carry on the work of a school adapted to rural
needs. Over these schools would be the supervision of the county
superintendent, who will stand in the same relation to the principals as
that of the city superintendent to his ward or high school principals.
The county superintendent will serve to unify and correlate the work of
the different consolidated schools, and to relate all to the life and
work of the farm.

If it is said that systems of superintendence for rural schools could be
devised more effective than the county superintendency, this may be
granted as a matter of theory; but as a practical working program, there
is no doubt that the office of county superintendent is a permanent part
of our rural school system, unless the system itself is very radically
changed. All the States, except the New England group, Ohio, and Nevada,
now have the office of county superintendent. It is likely, therefore,
that the plan of district superintendence permissive under the laws of
certain States will hardly secure wide acceptance. The county as the
unit of school administration is growing in favor, and will probably
ultimately come to characterize the rural school system. The most
natural step lying next ahead would, therefore, seem to be to make the
conditions surrounding the office of county superintendent as favorable
as possible, and then give the superintendent a sufficient number of
deputies to make the supervision effective. These deputies should be
selected, of course, with reference to their fitness for supervising
particular lines of teaching, such as primary, home economics,
agriculture, etc. A beginning has already been made in the latter line
by the employment in some counties, with the aid of the Federal
Government, of an agricultural expert who not only instructs the farmers
in their fields, but also correlates his work with the rural schools.
This principle is capable of almost indefinite extension in our school


[Footnote 5: See Coffman, _The Social Composition of the Teaching

[Footnote 6: _The Social Composition of the Teaching Population._]



=The General Problem of the Rural School=

  1. The general problem of the rural school identical
  with that of all schools                                        1

  2. The newer concept measures education by efficiency           2

  3. This efficiency involves (1) knowledge,(2) attitude,
  (3) technique, or skill                                         3

  4. The purpose of the school is to make sure of
  these factors of efficiency                                     4

=The Special Problem of the Rural School=

  1. Each type of school has its special problem                  5

  2. The rural school problem originates in the nature
  of the rural community                                          5

  3. Characteristics of the rural community                       6

    _a._ Its industrial homogeneity                               6

    _b._ Its social homogeneity                                   7

    _c._ Fundamental intelligence of the rural population         8

    _d._ Economic status and standards of living                 10

    _e._ Rural isolation and its social effects                  10

    _f._ Rural life and physical efficiency                      11

    _g._ Lack of recreations and amusement                       12

  4. Recent tendencies toward progress in agricultural
  pursuits                                                       12

  5. The loss of rural population to the cities                  13

=The Adjustment of the Rural School to its Problem=

  1. Failure in adjustment of the rural school to its problem    17

  2. The rudimentary education received by rural children        17

  3. Failure of the rural school to participate in recent
  educational progress                                           18

  4. The rural school inadequate in its scope                    19

  5. Need of better organization in the rural school             20

  6. Inadequacy of rural school buildings and equipment          21

  7. The financial support of the rural school                   22

  8. Summary and suggestions                                     23


=The Rural School and the Community=

  1. The fundamental relations of school and community           25

  2. Low community standards of education                        25

  3. The rural community's need of a social center               26

    _a._ Its social isolation a serious drawback                 27

    _b._ Grave moral dangers arising from social isolation       28

    _c._ Rural environment more dangerous to youth
    than city environment                                        29

    _d._ Effects of monotony on adults                           30

  4. The rural school as a social center                         30

  5. The ideal rural school building and equipment               32

  6. Social activities centering in the school                   33

  7. Reorganization needed to make the rural school
  effective as a social and intellectual center                  34

=The Consolidation of Rural Schools=

  1. Consolidation the first step toward rural school
  efficiency                                                     35

  2. Irrationality of present district system                    36

  3. Obstacles in the way of consolidation                       37

  4. The present movement toward consolidation                   38

  5. Effects of consolidation                                    40

    _a._ On attendance                                           41

    _b._ On expense                                              41

    _c._ On efficiency                                           42

  6. The one-room school yet needed as a part of the
  rural system                                                   42

=Financial Support of the Rural School=

  1. Lack of adequate financial support of rural schools         43

  2. Difference in city and rural basis for taxation             44

  3. Low school tax characteristic of rural communities          45

  4. State aid for rural schools                                 46

  5. Safeguards required where the principle of state
  aid is supplied                                                47

  6. Summary and conclusion                                      48

=The Rural School and its Pupils=

  1. The spirit of the pupils as a test of the school            50

  2. The negative attitude of rural pupils toward their school   51

  3. Causes of this defection to be sought in the school         51

  4. The problem of poor rural school attendance                 52

  5. The consolidated school as a cure for indifferent
  attitude and poor attendance                                   53


=The Scope of the Rural School Curriculum=

  1. The modern demand for a broader education                   57

  2. The meagerness of the rural school curriculum               58

  3. The rural child requires full elementary and high
  school course                                                  60

  4. Disadvantages of sending rural child to town school         60

  5. Necessary reorganization in rural school offering
  broadened curriculum                                           62

  6. General nature of the new curriculum                        62

=The Rural Elementary School Curriculum=

  1. Relation of the curriculum to social standards
  and ideals                                                     64

  2. The mother tongue                                           65

    _a._ Necessity for its mastery                               65

    _b._ Learning the mechanics of the language                  66

    _c._ Developing the art of expression, oral and
    written                                                      67

    _d._ Creation of love for reading                            67

    _e._ Formal grammar out of place in the elementary
    school                                                       68

  3. Number                                                      69

    _a._ The prominent place occupied by arithmetic              69

    _b._ Importance of development of the number concept         69

    _c._ An undue proportion of time devoted to arithmetic       70

    _d._ Desirable changes in the teaching of arithmetic         71

  4. History and civics                                          71

    _a._ The right and duty of every person to know
    the history and government of his country                    72

    _b._ History not to deal chiefly with war and
    politics, but to emphasize the social and industrial side    72

    _c._ The library of historical books                         73

    _d._ Functional versus analytical civics                     73

  5. Geography and nature study                                  74

    _a._ Advantage of the rural school in this field             74

    _b._ The social basis of geography                           75

    _c._ Application of geography and nature study
    to the farm                                                  75

  6. Hygiene and health                                          76

    _a._ Criticism of older concept of physiology for
    the elementary school                                        76

    _b._ Content of practical course in hygiene                  77

    _c._ Application of hygiene to the child's health
    and growth                                                   77

  7. Agriculture                                                 78

    _a._ Adaptability to the rural elementary school             78

    _b._ Content of the elementary course in agriculture         79

    _c._ Relation to farm life                                   79

  8. Domestic science and manual training                        79

    _a._ Place in elementary rural school                        80

    _b._ What can be taught                                      80

    _c._ Its practical application                               80

  9. Music and art                                               81

    _a._ Necessity in a well-balanced curriculum                 81

    _b._ Appreciation rather than criticism the aim              81

  10. Physical training                                          81

    _a._ Need of physical training of rural children             82

    _b._ Rural school athletics                                  82

=The Rural High School Curriculum=

  1. Rural high schools not yet common                           83

  2. The functions of the rural high school                      84

  3. English in the rural high school                            84

    _a._ Its aim                                                 85

    _b._ Points of difference from present high school
    course                                                       86

  4. Social science to have an applied trend                     86

  5. The material sciences as related to the problems
  of the farm                                                    87

  6. Manual training and domestic science                        89

  7. A modified course in high school mathematics                89

  8. Foreign language not to occupy an important place           90

  9. The high school course to include music and art             90


=The Importance of Teaching=

  1. Teaching the fundamental purpose of the school              92

  2. The child and the subject-matter                            92

  3. The teacher as an intermediary between child
  and subject-matter                                             93

  4. Hence the teacher must know the nature of the child         94

  5. The teacher must know the subject-matter of education       95

  6. Failure to measure up to this requirement                   97

=Teaching in the Rural School=

  1. The degree of training of rural teachers in the
  subject-matter                                                 98

  2. Present lack of professional training                      100

  3. The effects of inexperience                                101

  4. Short tenure of service in rural schools                   102

  5. Level of teaching efficiency low                           103

  6. Improvement through consolidated schools                   104

=The Training of Rural Teachers=

  1. Inexperienced and untrained teachers begin in
  the rural schools                                             105

  2. Normal schools supply few teachers to rural schools        106

  3. A reasonable demand for training of rural teachers         107

  4. Rural teacher training in normal high schools              107

  5. The rural teacher's training must be adapted to
  spirit of rural school                                        108

=Salaries of Rural Teachers=

  1. Salary as a measure of efficiency                          109

  2. Salaries of rural teachers compared with town
  and city teachers                                             110

  3. Necessity of increased salaries                            111

  4. Increase in salary and in efficiency must go together      111

  5. Salaries in consolidated schools                           112

=Supervision of Rural Teaching=

  1. Impossibility of giving district schools efficient
  supervision                                                   112

  2. Obstacle in number of schools and frequent
  change of teachers                                            113

  3. Comparison of work of county superintendent
  with city superintendent                                      114

  4. Political handicaps on county superintendent               115

  5. The necessity of better educational standards
  and better salary for the county superintendent               116

  6. Women as county superintendents                            116

  7. Efficient supervision possible only under a consolidated
  system                                                        117




ELIOT'S EDUCATION FOR EFFICIENCY                           .35

EDUCATION                                                  .35

EMERSON'S EDUCATION                                        .35

FISKE'S THE MEANING OF INFANCY                             .35

HYDE'S THE TEACHER'S PHILOSOPHY                            .35

PALMER'S THE IDEAL TEACHER                                 .35

PROSSER'S THE TEACHER AND OLD AGE                          .60

TERMAN'S THE TEACHER'S HEALTH                              .60

THORNDIKE'S INDIVIDUALITY                                  .35


BETTS'S NEW IDEALS IN RURAL SCHOOLS                        .60


CABOT'S VOLUNTEER HELP TO THE SCHOOLS                      .60




LEWIS'S DEMOCRACY'S HIGH SCHOOL                            .60

PERRY'S STATUS OF THE TEACHER                              .35


TROWBRIDGE'S THE HOME SCHOOL                               .60

WEEKS'S THE PEOPLE'S SCHOOL                                .60


BAILEY'S ART EDUCATION                                     .60

BETTS'S THE RECITATION                                     .60




EARHART'S TEACHING CHILDREN TO STUDY                       .60




HARTWELL'S THE TEACHING OF HISTORY                         .35




PALMER'S SELF-CULTIVATION IN ENGLISH                       .35


SUZZALLO'S THE TEACHING OF SPELLING                        .60


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