This chapter highlights the voices and experiences of young people in a rural part of the United States as they examine youth engagement in academic and community life and generate recommendations for policies and practices to prevent youth from becoming disconnected.
This paper challenges the traditional interpretation of the origins of the North American summer calendar by suggesting that the roots of the presently defined school year were more influenced by multiple pressures arising from increasing urbanization, than by the demands of farm life. Examining why there has been such resistance to changing the school calendar, the paper investigates the calendar’s ties with changes over time in the construction of other “clocks” of society. Finally, we consider the school calendar as part of a larger ongoing discussion on what constitutes effectiveness of schools.
The focus of this chapter will in large part be structural; it will attempt to articulate the constraints that mass industrial society places upon rural WASP youth. It does not dwell on matters of identity and self. It is precisely because the social structure of rural society tends to diminish the salience of such questions that we move to a consideration of issues of stratification, property, demographic trends, and economic forces.
For many years the Thirtieth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education has served as a textbook in the field of rural education. In 1945 the need for another detailed treatment of rural education was called to the attention of the Society. Replies from leaders in rural education and outstanding superintendents in rural counties in different parts of the United States confirmed the existence of this need. Since this need was simultaneously recognized by other organizations and leaders in rural education, several important publications have recently appeared or will soon appear. None of these, however, duplicates the present yearbook. Each volume takes its place in the body of professional literature, which educators in rural communities need to study in order to do their lobs still better.
Every school is established and maintained by and for the community. It is part of a network of many social institutions and relationships. As a part of the total community it is influenced by changes in rural life and, in turn, influences various aspects of community life. The relation of the school to the community is a reciprocal one.
Within the framework Of rural life today, rural people, aided by education, can improve the quality of their living. This has been done in many local communities. In numerous places the widespread faith in education, mentioned in the previous chapter, has been justified. Education has influenced homes, health, use of the land, interpersonal relations, values. What some schools have done successfully, thousands of others can accomplish in their own ways in their own communities.
The purpose of this chapter is to present an objective overview of the educational facilities, programs, and opportunities existing today in rural areas of the United States. There are many obstacles to the realization of this purpose. In the first place, data on many aspects of education in rural areas are not available; and many that are now available do not represent current conditions. In the second place, the diversity of provisions for education in rural areas is so great as to defy easy classification or description. Moreover, the point of view adopted will largely determine the kind of picture of rural education that emerges from the best statistical data and descriptive material that can be assembled. Thus, the provisions for rural education may appear to be relatively good, inadequate, or meager, depending upon whether the comparison is made with the past, with the educational needs of people in rural areas, or with optimal educational facilities.
In education, as in all human endeavor, continued progress depends a great deal upon superior experimental, forward-looking programs. In these programs original steps are taken to cope with and to solve existing problems, and a constant process of evaluation is carried on. By describing these superior programs to interested persons one can facilitate more rapid progress. This is one way to reduce the gap between theory and practice, between the ideal and the actual. Accordingly, the main objective of this chapter is to enlarge our educational horizon through a study of a few outstanding rural-school programs.
Two decades ago the National Society for the Study of Education devoted Part I of its Thirtieth Yearbook to the discussion of the status of rural education in the United States. In general, the picture was gloomy. According to this report rural-school buildings were poor and the teachers had had little professional preparation. School terms were short, financial support was low, and opportunities for high-school education for rural children were, in general, limited to those living near or in villages and small towns. The picture was filled, too, with dark overtones of inequalities existing between rural and urban children on all the educational fronts.
Adequate administrative units are essential to the support of good schools, as has been pointed out somewhat in detail in chapter vi. However, they are not the summum bonum of education. They are merely the means by which an excellent educational program can be initiated and maintained. In the last analysis, the quality of the personnel determines whether or not the administrative unit and the school are worth the effort and the money invested. There is no substitute for a good administrator, a good supervisor, or a good teacher. These determine and control progress on the road to better schools. The improvement of leadership in the educational program is, therefore, the prime requisite of progress in the school.
In this review of the condition of education in rural America we have been brought closer to the variety of problems facing people in the different sections of the country. We have learned about the ways in which these problems are being met, and we have seen heartening evidences of progress being made on many fronts in fulfilling democracy's promise of equal educational opportunity for all the children of the United States. Our present concern is to examine more closely the results of some significant movements among lay-citizen and professional groups to improve our rural communities and their schools. This combined effort—of farmer,businessman, and worker; of teacher, parent, scholar, and technician; of public official and agency expert; and of pupil and student—constitutes the united front which is creating new frontiers for our democratic society today.
What is a good rural school? How well are the rural schools meeting the educational needs of children, youth, and adults? Are individual pupils making satisfactory progress? What are the schools contributing to the on-going life of the community, state, and nation? Which specific teaching practices are most effective? Are educational resources being fully used? What improvements in rural schools are most essential at this time?
Every one of us concerned with education in rural communities should realize that our work has world-wide significance. If life in every local community in the United States became more satisfying, more rewarding, one of the most basic internal causes of war would be eliminated, and progress toward the "American dream" would be assured.
This yearbook provides an overview of education in rural America today, describing the setting of rural education in American country life and stressing its importance in national welfare and development; setting forth the present status and trends in administration, organization, finance, and instruction in rural schools; facing the obstacles in the way of better rural education; and pointing out ways in which crucial problems are being attacked and may be overcome by united action of educational leaders and interested citizens at national, state, and local levels.
There has been a great deal written about audio-visual .programs in city and county school systems. Very little of this material, however, pertains to the small rural school.
Rural and urban children do not differ in their essential needs. The great problem in the education of young rural children lies in the fact that, on the whole, their needs are not being met. There have been no developments in rural areas to match in scope the rapidly increasing provisions for young children in the cities.
In order to understand the urgent need for special attention to plans for musical activities, methods of teaching, and musical equipment in the rural schools, it is necessary to understand the rural-school music situation and the resulting problems peculiar to it.
During the first quarter of the twentieth century, much was written and said in favor of using the rural schools as a means of stemming the movement of population from the farm to urban centers. It was assumed that the decline in percentage of the population that was rural as a result of this migration was unfortunate for the country as a whole and that the program of instruction in the rural school should be so organized as to reduce, if not to stop, the movement of population cityward. More recently this view has been rejected for one that is more consistent.with the purposes of publicly supported education in a democratic society. There is now general acceptance of the idea that the aims and objectives of our public schools are the same for the rural as for the urban elements in our population.
The data treated in this chapter were gathered by the writer from published and unpublished materials, integrated, and organized to present various aspects of the status of children enrolled in rural elementary schools. In order to give added significance to the information collected regarding the rural-school children, the writer has included frequently the analogous data obtained about the city-school children. The limited space available for presenting an adequate and representative picture of these pupils precludes any possibility of including a similar account regarding the rural high-school pupils.
This section aims to show, so far as the facts are available, to what extent educational facilities, elementary and secondary, supported at public expense, are available to children in rural communities, 'Rural communities,' as the term is used herein, are roughly defined as 'population centers of twenty-five hundred or less.' However, the territory and population compassed in the study were selected to include chiefly children from farm homes or from communities in which agriculture or closely allied industries are dominant. 'School age' means 'five to twenty years old.'
Any curriculum in fact, whatever it may be in print, is the product of three factors, or sets of factors: the philosophy upon which it is based; the abilities and interests, native or acquired, of the pupils to be educated; and the conditions, within or without the school, which positively or negatively affect the realization of desired ends. Characteristic differences in any of these respects inevitably result in cor- responding differences in the actual curriculum, and call for appropriate differences in the printed curriculum. This chapter attempts: (1) to summarize available information on the rural status in respect to these three factors; (2) to indicate the type of curriculum provision which is being made for rural schools; and (3) to suggest investigations and curriculum revision which appear to be needed.
The contributors to this chapter present their discussion of the rural secondary-school curriculum in four sections: I, Programs of Studies in Junior and Junior-Senior High Schools; II, The Curriculum of the Rural Four-Year High School; III, Progress in Curriculum-Making for Vocational Agriculture in Rural Secondary Schools; and IV, Some Important Curricular Problems in Rural Secondary Education.
The term rural teachers as employed in this chapter relates to the teachers of farm-dwelling children. Included here are 153,300 teachers in one-room schools, 47,000 in two-teacher schools, and 100,000 in consolidated schools, making an approximate total of 300,000. These 300,000 rural teachers constituted nearly half of the 642,712 elementary teachers in the United States in 1928 and occupied 36 percent of the 831,934 total teaching positions recorded for the same year. Of the entire group, the 200,000 working in one- and two- teacher schools and responsible for the instruction of over five million country children will be held particularly in mind throughout this discussion.
The contributors to this chapter present their material in three sections: I, The Development of Rural-School Supervision; II, The Supervisory Personnel in Rural Schools; and III, An Evaluation of Rural-School Supervision
From the multitude of problems in this field four have been selected for consideration. The first two articles deal with the much-discussed question of the relative efficiency of small and large schools; the third raises certain fundamental questions regarding types of local school units; the fourth presents a critical summary of studies in the analysis of the rural-school administrator's work; while the fifth shows the status of the organization of state departments for rural-school service. Lack of space has, in most cases, made it impossible to mention more than representative studies touching these problems.
As we travel about the country, we see so many examples of wretched country schools that we wonder if we have really more than scratched the surface with our improvements. We forget that we could find the same kind of educational decrepitude in many ornate and architecturally commendable buildings in the cities. Nevertheless, there are so many positive instances in which superlatively good country schools have been set up that we not unnaturally conclude that what some school districts have done all school districts could do if they would. The question thus raised is the occasion of this paper. Is the rural-school problem at bottom a soluble one through our present fiscal and governmental methods? I assert that it is not.
The United States Department of Agriculture maintains a division known as the Extension Service. Of this 'service' the principal subdivision is the Office of Cooperative Extension Work. In every one of the forty-eight states, and the Territory of Hawaii, the land-grant college of agriculture maintains likewise an extension service. The federal and state services together perform a function known as 'cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics.'
Rural education, perhaps even more than non-rural education, is in need of a clarification of its objectives and principles. It has suffered from neglects; it has unthinkingly accepted the criteria and patterns of urban education; it has been buffeted about by conflicting forces within the rural field itself. The demands of the moment for immediately practical procedures have taken attention from the more fundamental issues and a long-term program.
The difference in organization for the management of school affairs in rural and urban portions of the United States makes rural supervision and urban supervision in large measure dissimilar problems. The schools in the ordinary urban system are under the charge of a city school board. The board employs a school superintendent who as its agent is both an administrative and a supervisory officer. In all but the larger cities he is the agent of the board in the management of the business of the school system, as well as in directing its instructional work.
That the rural schools have accomplished what they have and continued as an institution can be explained only by the fact that our rural teachers have, for the most part, been men and women of unusual devotion to their work, and that the funds for the support of these schools have come from an inexhaustible public treasury. But the time has come when the deplorable condition of country life in general and of the country schools in particular cannot longer, continue so without seriously endangering the whole fabric of ournational life; The people are, for the first time, becoming aroused to this fact, and conscious efforts are being made now to build up such a rural civilization as will be in keeping with thegrowth and prosperity of our nation as a whole.