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The most significant contemporaneous movement in education is the effort to adapt the work of schools directly to the lives of the pupils. It is the expression of the effort to make the school training applicable. The normal activities of the child are to be directed and trained in such a way that real education will. result therefrom. Education will grow out of the child's experience, rather than be imposed on him.
If this is to be the motive of popular education, then agricultural and industrial subjects will be made more and more a means of school work. It is therefore a question of the first importance how to organize these subjects into an educational harmony. The agricultural subjects are specially difficult of organization, because they are so many and so diverse and so unlike in different regions. The character and success of the teaching of these subjects lie immediately with the teacher; there have been no institutions consciously to train teachers for such work; therefore it is not strange that many educators should consider the training of persons to teach agricultural subjects to be the most important educational question now before us.
ON THE TRAINING OF PERSONS TO TEACH AGRICULTURE
IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
PART I.-THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM.
It is first necessary to understand that the training of teachers for the teaching of agriculture in the public schools is not a simple or a single question. The training of teachers for the group of subjects embraced under the term “agriculture " can not be isolated from other training. It is not alone a question of giving the teachers the necessary technical knowledge and skill in agricultural subjects, but also of providing training and experience in methods of teaching, and in developing a point of view and a right estimate of education in general. There is great danger in the technical teaching of agriculture, even though it be well taught, if the teacher is not also well grounded in the social and pedagogical principles and problems involved in all education; and any such irrelevant or unrelated teaching will in the end react disastrously on the very movement that it is intended to promote.
The subject before us is not single in respect to the kinds or grades of schools that are involved in the discussion, the constitution or body of the subject matter itself, or the nature of the sentiment that lies behind the movement for agriculture in the schools.
In the training of teachers it is necessary at once to know the kind of teaching that the prospective teachers are expected to undertake. With the widespread and unorganized interest in agricultural education it is impossible to make any definite classification, but we may roughly throw the schools in which the teaching of the subject is in question into three groups—the elementary schools, the high schools, and various kinds of special schools.
(1).-ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. We first consider elementary teaching of all kinds, meaning, in general, such range of work as is comprised in the first eight grades of a graded school system, or work in ungraded schools that is not more advanced than this. In this group the difficulties are the greatest. The group includes most of the so-called rural schools, the greater part of which are not graded to any extent, in some regions not at all. These rural schools are most closely in contact with real agricultural needs, and it is in them that many persons seem to expect the quickest and best results from the teaching of agriculture; yet they are beset with very special difficulties, and we shall need to discuss them at some length. We may take this opportunity, also, to discuss some of the principles involved in rural school education.
The first thing that needs to be done with the rural elementary schools
the so-called district schools is to redirect them and vitalize them, rather than merely to introduce agriculture as such. It is not unlikely, however, that this very agitation for the teaching of agriculture is to be the means of starting the reorganization. The demand for the introduction of agriculture is in reality the concrete expression of a desire to make the schools mean something real and tangible to the pupil, to relate them to his life and environment. The effort to accomplish this has recurred strongly at different epochs for at least one hundred years. Recorded discussions of fifty and seventyfive years ago read much like those of to-day. It is probable, however, that we have now arrived at a time when the agitation will produce concrete organizational results. Education by means of agriculture is but a phase of industrial education.
The special difficulties or handicaps of the rural elementary schools are such as these: Teaching in them is not recognized as a profession, but is undertaken as a preparation for other teaching or as a means of temporary employment, and the qualifications are low; teachers' pay is small; tenure of teaching is short, so that there is lack of continuity of effort; one teacher must handle all subjects in most cases; the school year is usually short; attendance is small and irregular; equipment, even in land, is practically nothing; the constituency is conservative and often even uninterested; supervision is slight, and usually not of a constructive or progressive nature. The whole scale of maintenance and organization is low.
In spite of all these disadvantages, however, the rural elementary school has useful characteristics that must not be overlooked, and that should not be lost. Some persons look for the practical abolition of this type of school, usually planning for it an evolution into a system of consolidated centers after the manner of city-school consolidation. It is a question, however, whether we are not likely to place relatively too much emphasis on the establishing of new institu• tions, whereas the greatest effectiveness and even the quickest results may probably be attained by utilizing agencies already in existence. It is easy, for example, to ridicule the country school, and then to plead for new isolated schools in which to teach agriculture; but in so doing we may forget that isolated special schools can not serve all the people, and that they also tend to isolate the subject. The present rural schools, with all their shortcomings, are good schools because
(1) they are already in existence; (2) they are the schools of all the people; (3) they are small, and thereby likely to be native and simple; (4) they are many, and therefore close to the actual conditions of the people. We should utilize them to the fullest by improving and redirecting them; and in the end these schools, when redirected, will present the fundamental solution of the problem of rural education. In the discussion of this question, we must not make the mistake of thinking of the welfare of the school alone. The open country needs more local centers of life and influence rather than fewer. It is a debatable question whether the best social life is to be secured by any general consolidation of schools that will make large and far-apart units.
The arguments in favor of consolidation are many and important. By consolidation, stronger teaching units are secured; more money is available for the employing of teachers and the providing of equipment; special subjects can be given adequate attention. The objections are many, but most of those commonly urged are trivial and temporary. The greatest difficulty in bringing about the consolidation of schools is a deep-seated prejudice against giving up the old schools. This prejudice is usually not expressed in words. Often it is really unconscious to the person himself. Yet right here may lie a fundamental and valid reason against the uniform consolidation of rural schools—a feeling that when the school leaves the locality something vital has gone out of the neighborhood. Local pride has been offended. Initiatives has been removed one step further away. The locality has lost something. It is a question, even, whether the annual school meeting is to be lightly surrendered, whether it is not worth keeping as an arena for the clearing of local differences, and as a possible nucleus of a useful institution. By every legitimate means we should develop and fix local attachments. We have almost come to be a nation of wanderers and shifters. We are in danger of losing some of our affection for particular pieces of land. Farming is a local business. It develops into great effectiveness only when local feeling is strong. The State also needs the conservatism and steadiness born of this local interest.
Much of the impulse for the consolidation of schools, as already intimated, is a reflection of the centralized city graded school; but it is by no means certain that such institutions are to be the most important or dominating schools of the future. The small rural school, with its weaknesses, has the tremendous advantage of directness and simplicity. It is doubtful whether it would be improved by a rigid system of grading. It iş a question, in fact, whether the graded schools do not still carry the onus of proving themselves. Unquestionably consolidation of rural schools is often advantageous, and is to be advised whenever it seems to be necessary for pedagogical