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To What Extent Should Vocational Training
Be Recognized in Our Elementary
BY GUSTAF LARSSON, SLOYD TRAINING SCHOOL, BOSTON, Mass.
ROADLY speaking all education should be vocational; that is, it should lay a solid foundation for any subsequent calling or vocation. the question in its specific sense, training for selfsupport and productive capacity in some particular line of work, I should say that this is not the business of the elementary schools. I believe that as a general thing, no specialization should begin with children before the age of fourteen or fifteen because the motive for a life career is not well defined before that time and we should greatly deceive ourselves if we tried to build a promising superstructure on a poor foundation.
Educators everywhere recognize that there is room for improvement in the work of the public schools. A general awakening and greater interest in the subjects already taught is most necessary. It has also been generally recognized that manual training of the right kind has an effective awakening power but this cannot be given with the desired results, educationally or technically, by devoting to it only one or two hours a week and often under poor conditions or with teachers poorly qualified for the work. Many European schools devote from six to eight hours each week to manual training in the upper grammar grades with the satisfactory results of which we have ample proof in the many young men entering skilled industries in this country with no other training than that received in the public schools.
We say that the foundation of democracy is the equality of opportunity, therefore we should give every child an opportunity for some hand-work at the period when we can best reach all, and individual instruction makes each one progress according to his own ability.
In order to obtain the desired results methods must be used which will make for honesty and manliness, as these are the qualities first in demand by employers. Interest must be aroused and sustained through such problems as can be well done by the boy himself and he must be encouraged to examine his work critically and to judge of its value, making a written statement in regard to it. If such methods as these could be carried out more strictly in our public schools, I believe we should come nearer solving the questions of vocational efficiency and moral awakening in our young population, than by any other means.
The College and the Rural Districts
BY WALLACE N. STEARNS, PH. D., THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA.
HIMN¤MNIHIIVEN the casual observer of rural conditions cannot
fail to sense the opportunity and responsibility of the constructive agencies of society. The agricultural class is the basis of the social order and the weighing of data only opens our eyes wider to the immensity and to the dire urgency of the problem before us. Of 29,287,070 engaged in gainful pursuits, according to the last census, 10,438,219 were engaged in agriculture, or 35.6 per cent. of the entire number. In the same year farm products totaled $3,764,177,706 and farm land with improvements, including stock and implements, aggregated $20,514,001,838, and for the current year farm products total $7,778,000,000 and farm values represent $30,000,000,000. The total investment in agriculture, then, is more than twice that in manufacturing, and the farm products aggregate nearly one-half of all the iron and steel output of the country, and four times the mining products. With six years' earnings the farmer could buy all the railroads in the United States.
The increasing power and influence of this factor in our national life is equally apparent. Improved farm acreage increased from 110,000,000 acres in 1850 to 415,000,000 acres in 1900, or, in other words, farm valuation advanced from three and one-half billions to sixteen and one-half billions of dollars in fifty years. In the same time live stock quadrupled, and the staple crops (wheat, oats, corn and cotton) advanced 350 per cent. to 550 per cent. Indeed though we number only six per cent. of the race, we raise now one-fifth of the wheat of the world, onehalf of the cotton, and three-fourths of the corn. If the farmer were to sell out today he would have to take notes for more than one-half the value.
Nor is the farmer insensible of comfort. Electric roads, auto
mobiles, improved machinery, the furnishings and appointments of a modern home, free mail delivery, daily newspapers, magazines, some seven hundred trade journals, lyceums, lectures, concerts and operas-all render the farmer the true aristocrat of the country. The farmer is learning wisdom. In fifty years the average farm has dropped from 200 acres to 150; the number of farms has increased from one and one-half million to five and three-fourths millions.
Conditions, however, are still deplorable. The death-rate of the city exceeds that of the country in such diseases as measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough and consumption, but in influenza, malarial and typhoid fevers the city makes the better showing. That is, the country suffers from such diseases as thrive on poor sanitary conditions and on the lack of cleanliness. Here and there stretches of thrifty country appear, but shabby school houses and tumble-down churches; correspondingly forlorn teachers and preachers; ill-kempt farms, buildings and fences bespeak the fact that despite improvements the farmer has not yet fully come into his own.
The country districts today are in a state of transition. Improved machinery, improved methods and modern conveniences have opened the farmer's eyes to possibilities and he is becoming impatient of any and all that would stand in his way. This rural renaissance is one of the characteristics of the present century. On the other hand the country is being filled up with new nationalities. Twenty-five years ago 83 per cent. of our immigrants came from northern and western Europe people who had not known serfdom, resourceful, enterprising, independent and readily mixing in with American ways. Today almost the same proportion come from southern Europe and from western Asia, helpless, and for a time social driftwood. These heterogeneous populations are in a handicap race; there is no unity, no harmony. Caste is springing up in the rural districts. The newcomers, many of them, have strange, outlandish notions of life, often they have no religion, no faith, no regard for the Sabbath or for any other institution the community may hold in reverence. The moral equation of the community is lowered. The scale of living is degraded. A recent journal, showing illustrations of beautiful stretches of country, goes on to state, "The
above farms can be bought cheap and made into beautiful homes, provided one is not particular about one's neighbors."
The above becomes even more striking when we realize the significance of rural conditions. A labor leader recently set himself to deliver a labor vote aggregating 2,000,000. Yet in the country are 10,000,000, whose vote, ignorant and prejudiced, or intelligent and unbiassed, must decide our political and social welfare. The farmer is the balance wheel of the republic, the one factor in our civilization that can offset the unwholesome life of the cities, which if it were not for the constant stream settling from the country, would degenerate and eventually become depopulated. The cities devour life; they do not perpetuate it.
Accepting conditions as they are, the place for social regeneration is in the country. Men fight fire, not around the edges, but where it is the heaviest, in the heart of the blaze. Two great agencies among others can minister to the solution of the problem, religion and education, the church and the school. It is our present task to consider the college as one factor in this work of social regeneration in the rural districts. The fact is that the college has too much ignored this large class of possible patrons. Somehow there grew up in the past years a standard college course whose back-bone comprised Greek, Latin and Mathematics. The object of education was culture, and we have yet to show that the old selection was so bad after all. Then came a swarm of electives more or less loosely hooked on to the curriculum. These extras later blossomed out into professional departments. Colleges became universities; professional schools, hundreds of miles away in some cases, looking for a charter under which to operate, sought and found a haven. Engineering annexes are now being added and our average college is about as homogeneous as Nebuchadnezzar's image.
The college of today breeds discontent, and the country boy or girl is inspired with a longing to escape the bars of a narrow existence, and to launch out into a "brilliant career." The main thing is to get away from the farm. It is our task now to set the pyramid back on its base, to bring society to the right viewpoint relative to rural life. Young folks must learn that life on the farm is not necessarily degrading and that it is better at least than the gilded life of the city at a dollar fifty a day, or behind