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- Community Civics and Rural Life - 4/88 -



The statement that "all men are created equal" has troubled many people when they have thought of the obvious inequalities that exist in natural ability and opportunity. But whatever inequalities may exist, people are absolutely equal in their RIGHT to satisfy the wants described in this chapter. These are the "unalienable rights" which the Declaration of Independence sums up in the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That community is best to live in that most nearly provides equal opportunity for all its citizens to enjoy these rights. From the Declaration of Independence to the present day, our great national purpose has been to increase this opportunity, even though at times we have apparently not been conscious of it, and even though we have fallen short of its fulfillment. One of the chief objects of our study is to find out how our communities are seeking to accomplish this purpose.

"The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day and substitute them in some vital way for the examples it itself gives, so concrete, so intimately involved in the circumstances of the day in which it was conceived and written. It is an eminently practical document, meant for the use of practical men ... Unless we can translate it into the questions of our own day, we are not worthy of it, we are not sons of the sires who acted in response to its challenge."-- Woodrow Wilson, in The New Freedom, pp. 48, 49.

A and B are two boys of the same age. One was born in a rich family, and one in a very poor family. So far as this accident of birth is concerned, have they equal OPPORTUNITY to satisfy the wants of life? Have they an equal RIGHT to health? to an education? to pleasant surroundings? to earn a good living?

Suppose A is a Native American boy, and B a foreign-born boy who speaks a foreign language: does this make any difference in their RIGHT to life and health, an education, etc.? Does it make any difference in their OPPORTUNITY to satisfy their wants in these directions?

Can you think of persons in your community who have less OPPORTUNITY to satisfy their wants than you have? Can you think of any persons who have less RIGHT to satisfy their wants than you have?

The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States comprise what is known as a "bill of rights." Study together in class this bill of rights (see Appendix) to see how many of the wants described in this chapter are there, provided for directly and indirectly.

Has your state constitution a bill of rights? If so, read it together in class for the same purpose as suggested in the last question.


Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (see Appendix).

The Declaration of Independence.

Dunn, Arthur W., The Community and the Citizen, Chapters, i, iv. (Heath).

Tufts, James H., The Real Business of Living (Henry Holt & Co.), Chapter xxxix, ("Democracy as Equality").

Van Dyke, Henry, "Equality of Opportunity," in Long's American Patriotic Prose, pp. 311, 312 (Heath).

See the note on reference materials in the Introduction to this book.

It should become a HABIT of both teacher and pupils to be on the constant lookout for news items and discussions in available newspapers and periodicals illustrative of the points made in each chapter or lesson. Individual scrapbooks may be made, but more important than this is the assembling of such material as a class enterprise, its classification under proper heads, and its preservation in scrapbooks or in files as working material for succeeding classes. There will always be enough for each class to do, while each class at the same time contributes to the success of the work of later classes. The idea of SERVICE should dominate such work.




Nothing could be freer than air. But even as we sit in our schoolroom, whether or not we get all the pure air we need, depends upon how the schoolhouse was built for ventilation, the number of people who occupy the room, the care that is taken by others to keep the room free from dust, the health and cleanliness of those who sit in the room with us. If this dependence upon others is true in the case of the very air we breathe, how much more true it must be of other necessities of life that are not so abundant.

This dependence of people upon one another for the satisfaction of their wants is one of the most important facts about community life. It is not merely that A and B have the SAME wants, but that A is dependent upon B, and B upon A, for the satisfaction of their wants, that makes their wants COMMON.

Mention the people, both inside and outside of your home, who had a share in providing for you the food you had for breakfast or dinner.

Mention all the workers that occur to you who have been employed in producing the clothing you wear; the book you are reading; the materials of which your house is built.

Show how the people who produce these things are dependent upon your wants for their livelihood.

Show that you are dependent upon other people for your education; for recreation. Are other people dependent upon your education for their welfare? Are others dependent on you for their recreation?


The farmer's life is often spoken of as an independent life. His independence was certainly much more complete in pioneer days than it is now. In regard to the early days of Indiana, it has been said:

Give the pioneer farmer an axe and an auger, or in place of the last a burning iron, and he could make almost any machine that he was wont to work with. With his sharp axe he could not only cut the logs for his cabin and notch them down, but he could make a close-fitting door and supply it with wooden hinges and a neat latch. From the roots of an oak or ash he could fashion his hames and sled runners; he could make an axle-tree for his wagon, a rake, a flax brake, a barrow, a scythe-snath, a grain cradle a pitchfork, a loom, a reel, a washboard, a stool, a chair, a table, a bedstead, a dresser, and a cradle in which to rock the baby. If he was more than ordinarily clever, he repaired his own cooperage, and adding a drawing knife to his kit of tools, he even went so far as to make his own casks, tubs, and buckets. He made and mended his own shoes. [Footnote: Quoted in Pioneer Indianapolis, by Ida Stearns Stickney, p. 11 (Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis).]

We also read that in early New England:

Every farmhouse was a manufactory, not of one kind of goods, but of many. All day long in the chamber or attic the sound of the spinning-wheel and loom could be heard. Carpets, shawls, bedspreads, tablecovers, towels, and cloth for garments were made from materials made on the farm. The kitchen of the house was a baker's shop, a confectioner's establishment, and a chemist's laboratory. Every kind of food for immediate use was prepared there daily; and on special occasions sausages, head cheese, pickles, apple butter, and preserves were made. It was also the place where soap, candles, and vinegar were manufactured. Agricultural implements were then few and simple, and farmers made as many of them as they could. Every farmhouse was a creamery and cheese factory. As there were no sewing machines, the farmer's wife and daughters had to ply the hand needle most of the time when they were not engaged in more laborious pursuits. During the long evenings they generally knit socks and mittens or made rag carpets. [Footnote: Nourse, Agricultural Economics, p 64, from "The Farmer's Changed Conditions," by Rodney Welsh, in the Forum, x, 689-92 (Feb., 1891).]


But even under such conditions as those described, the farmer and his family were not wholly independent. Even Robinson Crusoe on his lonely island was dependent upon the tools and equipment that he saved from shipwrecks, and that were the product of other men's labor. So, also, the pioneer farmer had to maintain some kind of relation, however infrequent and slight, with the outside world. Moreover, he had to pay for his comparative independence by many privations. He had all the wants described in the preceding chapter, but he had to provide for them in the simplest way possible, and often they were hardly provided for at all.


As soon as a number of people come to live together, even in a pioneer community, it is likely that some members will have a knack for doing certain things of use to the community better than others can do them. Thus one man may be especially skillful in making axe handles. In time, the entire community comes to depend upon him for its axe handles. In addition, he probably makes other tools and does repair work of all kinds. This requires so much of his time that he does little or no farming, and depends upon others for his food supply. So in a course of time the community has its blacksmiths, carpenters, shoe-makers, teachers,

Community Civics and Rural Life - 4/88

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