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THE COURSE IN AGRICULTURE

In respect to its technical method, education by means of agriculture introduces observation and discussion of objects, phenomena and affairs as they actually exist in their own places. It takes the student to the field, the farm, the forest, the stable, the dairy, the harvest, the market. It is simple, direct, and devoid of too much pedagogical theory and indecision. It endeavors to make the common things of life worth while; and we know that as soon as these things are worth while, the most important step in their improvement has already begun.

Of course it goes without saying, that the effectiveness of agriculture as a means of training depends on the way in which it is conducted in any particular case. We may expect to find loose, inadequate and ineffective teaching of agriculture as of other subjects, and even more so, because the subject is new and the educational methods are not yet well worked out. It is possible to make a course in agriculture in the high school and the college just as definite, organic and sound as a course in chemistry, physics, Latin, calculus or civics. Until this is accomplished we cannot expect the best results from the work, but this realization is coming more rapidly than many of us are

aware.

The experiences of the leading colleges of agriculture illustrate distinctly what may be accomplished with these subjects. The old department of " agriculture" in the institutions is now broken into concrete lines or subjects that demand the most definite and painstaking work, and that call for the exercise of great diversity of powers on the part of the student. I may mention, for example, such subjects as chemistry in its many relations with agriculture; animal husbandry, meat and milk production, stock-judging, nutrition and principles of feeding; entomology and other phases of biology; dairy industry, with milk tests, butter-making, cheese-making, dairy mechanics, bacteriology and the like; pomology, floriculture, greenhouse construction, market-gardening, and so on; the breeding of

plants and animals; meteorology; studies of soils in their physical, chemical and biological relations, soil surveys and charting; plant physiology in its relation to the growing of crops; plant and animal diseases; poultry husbandry in many phases; beekeeping; home economics in its rural relation, including food, sanitation, nutrition, house-planning, household art and management, and the like; rural economy with historical, social and economic relations; rural architecture; rural art and landscape gardening; forestry; rural normal work of many kinds; and other subjects. From this great body of subjects and problems it is possible to develop college and post-graduate courses of instruction that are as concrete, thorough and scientific as those in other departments of human knowledge. From this field, also, general colleges and universities will be able to choose excellent subjects for the curriculum. Of course all such instruction, if it leads to regular college honors, must rest on fundamental work in English, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, drawing, and the like.

It is not contended by anybody that we have yet attained to perfection in the organization and study of any of these subjects, but progress is making rapidly, and we have now reached the point at which we are certain that this group of subjects may be made effective means of training men and women for the work of life, whether they are to be actual farmers or not.

The effectiveness of any study depends more on the way in which it is organized and taught than on the particular subjectmatter itself. That is to say, if one person were to teach both Greek and farm crops, and were equally prepared in the subject-matter of both, he probably would give as sound an educational course in one as in the other.

I hope that we are now fairly away from the idea that the value of a subject as training, or as a worthy object of pursuit, is in proportion to its remoteness from the affairs of life. I do not like the classification of certain subjects as "pure science," with its implication of certain other subjects as "impure science." All science is science, and all intellectual effort is

intellectual effort, whether it has immediate application or whether it does not. Its effectiveness as a means of mental training does not depend on its utility or non-utility, although great difference may result in the outlook of the student and in his usefulness to the world from the pursuit of one phase or the other. I want to have equal recognition for all thorough and conscientious study, whether by teachers or students, in whatever field of knowledge or endeavor they may be expending themselves. We need carefully to guard the method of our instruction to the end that nothing may be thrown together, or be sensational or superficial or exploitational. I want particularly in the agricultural work to be sure that those who are fitted in the colleges to teach agriculture in the schools and other institutions shall be thoroughly well grounded in their science and in their philosophy, so that the work for which they may be responsible shall be of equal grade and intensity with any other work.

THE LESSONS OF EXPERIENCE

Now that education by means of agriculture is coming to be popular, all kinds of plans are being tried or discussed. Persons do not seem to realize that we have had about one hundred years of experience in the United States in agricultureeducation, and that this experience ought to point the way to success, or at least to the avoiding of serious errors. The agricultural colleges have come up through a long and difficult route, and their present success is not accidental, nor is it easy to duplicate or imitate. First and last about every conceivable plan has been tried by them, or by others in their time or preceding them; and this experience ought to be utilized by the institutions that are now being projected in all parts of the country.

To teach agriculture merely by giving a new direction or vocabulary to botany, chemistry, geology, physics, and the like, is not to teach agriculture at all, although it may greatly improve these subjects themselves. To put a college department of agriculture in the hands of some good science teacher

in a general faculty with the idea that he can cover the agricultural work and at the same time keep up his own department, is wholly ineffective (except temporarily) and out of character with the demands of the twentieth century. To suppose that "agriculture" is merely one subject for a college course, to be sufficiently represented by a "chair," is to miss the point of modern progress. To give only laboratory and recitation courses may be much better than nothing, but land teaching, either as a part of the institution itself or on adjacent farms, must be incorporated with the customary formal work if the best results are to be secured. To make a school farm pay for itself and for a regular school at the same time is impossible, unless the school is a very poor one; and yet this old fallacy is alive at the present day. To have a distant farm to visit and to look at, in order to "apply" the "teachings" of chemistry, botany, and the like, falls far short of real agriculture instruction. To develop a "model farm" that shall be a pattern to the multitude in exact farming is an exploded notion: there are many farmers' farms that are better adapted to such purpose (the demonstration farm is the modern adaption of the idea, and it is educationally sound).

To teach agriculture of college grade requires not only persons who know the subject, but an organization well informed on the educational administration that is needed. There must be a body of experience in this line of work behind any teaching on a college and post-graduate plane that shall be really useful; when this body of experience does not exist, the work must necessarily grow slowly and be under the most expert direction. The presumption is still against successful agriculture work in literary institutions, because such teaching demands a point of view on education that the persons in these institutions are likely not to possess. Agriculture cannot be introduced in the same way that a department or chair of history or mathematics can be organized; it requires a different outlook on educational procedure, a different order of equipment and of activities, and its own type of administration.

I am glad of all efforts to place agriculture in liberal arts institutions, when the effort is carefully founded. Regular college instruction in the subject will be demanded of them. Such instruction ought to be of great value to the liberal arts institution as well as of service to society in general. The greater the number of institutions that are attacking the country life problem effectively the more comprehensive will be the redirection and betterment of rural affairs; but no institution can expect to contribute much to the movement unless it comes at the subject with a strong sense of its responsibilities, and a desire to draw heavily on the experience that has now accumulated in this kind of education.

SUMMARY

The movement for agriculture-education is well under way. It will grow greatly. It will take its place with other phases of the higher education. Its standing at any place or time will be determined not by the kinds of subjects that it handles, but by the integrity of the work.

* In this paper I am asked to speak of the place of agriculture in the higher education, and I take this to mean in regular college and post-graduate courses. Therefore I am not now considering short courses, propaganda, and other useful extension means by which institutions may reach and help the persons on

the land.

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