The Massachusetts law provides for the expert supervision of all public schools. It requires that all towns (townships) of $2,500,000 or less assessed valuation shall unite in unions of two or more towns, for the purpose of the employment of a superintendent of schools. There must be not less than twenty-five or more than fifty schools in a union at the time of its formation. Any four towns (townships), however, may form a union, though the combined number of schools may be less thap twenty-five. The superintendents are elected by the school committees of the union from a list of candidates certified.as qualified by the State Board of Education. The minimum salary is $1,500, of which the state contributes $1,250. The term of office is three years.
The southern states between the Atlantic and the Mississippi expend annually about thirty millions of dollars upon their rural schools. Over twenty millions are paid to teachers. It has been estimated that 25 per cent of this can be counted as waste due to the lack of supervision. The fact we have to meet is, that, as a rule, the individual schools resulting from this vast expenditure are wholly inefficient. To quote Mr. T. J. Coates, state supervisor of rural schools in Kentucky, "We have been trying for nearly one hundred years to develop rural schools without supervision and have failed."
It is the purpose of this article to give one method of co-operation of school officers in bringing about progress in one phase of their work. To try to cover the whole subject would require more space than can be allotted to this topic.
I shall attempt to present in the brief space allotted, the main points in the development of a system of expert supervision in Baltimore County, Maryland, believing that our experience in this "special case" may have some bearing on the important problem of determining the most effective plan of county-school organization, administration, and supervision.
After fifteen years of a strenuous and aggressive campaign for a better type ofteacher for our country schools, we are able to report for the coming year the employment of 350 state normal school graduates, 140 holders of state and county permanent certificates, 25 college graduates, 15 holders of professional certificates, and a score of holders of the provisional grade—the lowest grade certificate. Fully 95 per cent of the 550 teachers in Berks County had some state normal school training. Applicants for the lowest grade certificate for the last two years were supposed to have at least four years' high-school training supplemented by a year's professional training at a state normal.
In March, 1908, there sat around a table in the otfice of the Superintendent of Schools of Henrico County, Virginia, a group of men who had been invited by him to consider ways of improving the Negro schools of the county. A meeting of the Negro teachers had just been held, the first meeting called to give them aid and encouragement. Dr. H. B. Frissell, who was among the party, told of some extension work that had been done by Hampton Institute in sending out a young woman to visit the schools of Gloucester County, and to help the teachers adapt their work to the home life of the people. After considerable discussion the conference ended, but there was left a precipitate of definite ideas.
Some idea of the present demand for instructors qualified to teach agriculture in secondary schools may be derived from the fact that in the United States at present there are over a hundred special agricultural schools located in 17 different states supported in whole or in part by the states, and that agriculture was taught in 1910, as a separate subject in more or less complete courses, to over 37,000 pupils in 1,800 public and 140 private high schools, according to the reports submitted by these schools to the Bureau of Education.
Within a year or two noteworthy attempts have been made to define vocational education. Vocational education, in the usage of the state of Massachusetts, includes all forms of specialized education, the controlling purposes of which are to fit for useful occupations. Agricultural education, as a phase of this subject, means that form of vocational education which fits for the occupations connected with the tillage of the soil, the care of domestic animals, forestry, and other wage-earning or productive work on the farm.
Eleven states have appropriated funds to encourage the teaching of agriculture in existing public high schools. Several other states have made provision for special agricultural schools or given money for conducting teachers' training courses in which agriculture is one of the subjects of instruction, but these are not considered in this paper.
The public schools of America were created as institutions through which the state could protect itself, and insure its perpetuity by affording means for training the child-mind and thus making each individual more and more intelligent and more and more capable of self-government. In the earlier stages of our history any training beyond the rudiments was not possible in public institutions. Practically all advanced training was secured through the private school, academy, seminary, or college.
The purpose of the agricultural high school is to improve rural life. To accomplish this it must put itself in contact with the people who live on the farms. To reach these people it must make use of every device of demonstration and extension methods. I began my work as an agricultural high-school teacher with the usual assumption that if the younger generation can be educated in the best teachings of agricultural science and practice, it will quietly work a great revolution in the agricultural methods and life of the community.
To those interested in education and who read the conflicting opinions relative to the success or failure of the agricultural teaching work in the various secondary schools of this country it is at once apparent that there is as yet no generally accepted policy as to what can and should be done by way of advancing agriculture through our secondary educational system.
In arriving at an answer to the question as to whether agriculture should be taught as agriculture or as applied science two assumptions are imposed: first, that agriculture is teachable as such, and second, that it is also teachable as something else, i.e., as applied science. One's mental equipment arid mental attitude toward both the subject and what it means to teach will influence his answer. These points of view are suggested as a basis for the discussion which follows.
A very large part of our agricultural instruction may be combined with other sciences and will serve to enrich these studies. I believe that agricultural illustrations will almost revolutionize the teaching of science, which is in danger of becoming too academic. So soon as we get a science well systematized with definite sets of laboratory exercises, which we feel are fixed for all time, we have lost one of the most useful features about science, that is, that it studies the earthandthe civilization that surrounds us—conditions that are ever changing.
The methods of community work fitting specific places must be judged by individual conditions. A typical procedure is that of the Agricultural High School of Baltimore County, Maryland. This school has been in operation during but one school year, yet it has already carried on at least one type of work with each class of people in its neighborhood: farmers, farmers' wives, young people, rural school teachers, and children. As a result, the people are frankly and heartily interested in the school and already regard it as one of their best possessions.
The great need of more social life in the country, and the fact that the schools are the one agency that reach out to all the people, throw the great and vital problem of bringing a richer social life to the country directly upon these district schools. And before they can fulfil this mission, they must be entirely redirected-they must become country schools for country people. Schools they must be, primarily, that are interested in the great agricultural industry of their community and they must also succeed in interesting boys and girls in life on the farm and bring to them a vision of its great possibilities if rightly lived.
Boys' and girls' agricultural-club work as a form of rural-school extension usually centers in the competitive idea, utilized as a factor in the educational development of the individual and the community. These clubs had their origin (in New York) in certain prizes or other inducements to participate in some kind of productive contest. Thus we have come to find in the various states, clubs for corn growing, cotton growing, potato growing, fruit growing, poultry raising, livestock study, bird study, baking, fruit canning, cooking, sewing, and home and school improvement, each with some special incentive set at the end of the work. All of these clubs have been more or less agricultural in their general character.
Through the public-school system we have found a means of stimulating an interest in, and actually developing, better agriculture practice on the farm. Moreover, we have learned that the farm and the farm community need more than simply better things in the field and in the barnyard. After all, that which does most to make the farm community a center of interest, and develops better business practice, better living, better ideals, happier existence, and stronger citizenship, is the farm home as influenced by those things in which the household is concerned.
More than half a century ago provision was made at great expense for public libraries in rural communities. These were to be kept at district schoolhouses. Although great care was taken to select books that would be both entertaining and instructive, the collection was not what we would call the best, for this movement was one of those much-needed movements that came long before the people were ready for it or before much thought had been given to the writing of books for children. In this collection of books were found volumes on agriculture and other industries. Those who read these volumes were much helped by the science information of the time.
The reader should not be misled by the title of this article. There will be no attempt to discuss thls from the artist's point of view. What follows is a simple story of twelve years' effort to secure more attractive school grounds and schoolhouses among the people who live in the open country. At this stage of development perhaps the terms Outdoor and Indoor Art as applied to the country school are not the most fitting ones.
When the rural school really finds itself it will pay much attention to wholesome indoor and outdoor recreation. There will be social evenings, lyceum activities, and clubs of various sorts; there will be the woodcraft and water sports of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as well as the plays and games and contests of the playground and athletic field. All these things and more are included in the wider meaning of the words play and playground.
The rural school of the early days, considering the needs of almost pioneer conditions, was efficient. It was efficient largely because it was closely linked with the life of the community in most of its interests. The men of the community turned out and together built the schoolhouse. The teacher was a member of the neighborhood group, literally living with them, for he generally spent part of the year in each home. Young men and women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one attended the school. The weekly literary society and frequent "spelling-bees" contributed to the'sociallife of the community with the school as the center.
Is it possible to empower children in a poor, rural school district where the overwhelming social dynamic of the community is maligned with poverty, alcoholism, broken families and the myriad issues regarding child welfare (i.e., physical/sexual abuse, neglect, and recurring trauma)?