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- Community Civics and Rural Life - 50/88 -

The pioneer family was dependent at first upon its own efforts for the education of its children. When other families came, a schoolhouse was built, a teacher employed and the work of teaching the elements of knowledge was handed over to the school. This was the origin of the "district school," which is characteristic of pioneer conditions. As the population grew and local government was organized, the unit of local government tended to become the unit for school administration. In New England this was the "town" or township; in the South it was the county; in the West it was sometimes the township and sometimes the county, or else a combination of the two. In a large number of the western states, however, and in a few of the eastern states, the district school persists in many rural communities, a relic of pioneer conditions. It is often felt that it is more democratic for each district to administer its own school, subject only to the laws of the state.

Under the district system there is an annual school meeting of the voters of the district, who vote the school taxes, determine the length of the school year, and elect a board of education or school trustees. The trustees look after the school property, choose the teacher and fix his salary, and in a general way manage the school business. Each school is independent of all other schools.


Under the township system all of the schools of the township are administered by a township board or committee (or by a single trustee in Indiana) elected by the people of the township. The chief advantages over the district system are that all the schools of the township are administered by a single plan, the taxes are apportioned to the schools according to needs, and pupils may be transferred from one school to another at convenience. In New England two or three townships are sometimes united into a "union district" supervised by a single superintendent.


Under the county system all the schools of the county are under the management of a county board and, usually, a county superintendent. In 29 of the 39 states that have county superintendents they are elected by the people, in 8 states they are appointed by the county board, in Delaware they are appointed by the governor, and in New Jersey by the state commissioner of education. Election of the county superintendent is losing favor on the ground that there is less assurance of securing a highly trained man. The chart on page 293 shows a plan of organization for county schools proposed to the legislature of South Dakota by the United States Bureau of Education.


Among the advantages of the county system are greater economy, more nearly equal educational opportunity for all children of the county, and better supervision because of the larger funds available for this purpose. It is under the county system of organization that the movement for SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION is progressing most rapidly. By this is meant the union of a number of small, poorly equipped schools into a larger, well-graded, and well equipped school. Its advantages may best be suggested by an example.

In Randolph County, Indiana, there were, in 1908, 128 one-room schools in the open country, with an attendance of from 12 to 60 pupils doing grade work only, 6 two-room schools in hamlets, with grade work only; 2 three room schools in villages, with grade work and two years of high school work with a six months' term; 3 four- room village schools, with grade work and three years of high school work with a six months' term; 1 six-room school in a town, with grade work and four years of high school work with an eight months' term.

By consolidation, 113 one-room schools and 4 two-room schools were supplanted by 20 consolidated schools with two grade teachers; 6 with four grade teachers, 6 with five grade teachers; 2 with six grade teachers; and 1 with eight grade teachers--a total of 86 grade teachers doing the work formerly done by 148 teachers, and doing it better. Fifteen of the schools have a four-year high school course with an eight months' term. For the five-year period preceding consolidation not more than half of the eighth-grade pupils attended high school; after consolidation, an average of 96 per cent of the eighth-grade pupils went to high school.

The pupils are transported to and from school in hacks or motor- busses heated in winter. The school buildings are equipped with running water, modern heating and sanitation, telephone, restrooms for pupils and teachers, gymnasiums and outdoor physical apparatus, physical training and athletic competition being carried on under supervision. The courses of study have been enriched, increased attention is given to vocational work, and music and art receive attention impossible in the district schools. Eleven of the schools have orchestras, and concerts are held which the community as well as the schools attend. There are auditoriums used for community lectures and concerts, Sunday- school conventions, community sings, parent-teachers' meetings, and exhibits of various kinds.

Report on the following:

School life in colonial New England; in colonial Virginia.

The first schools in your own community--length of school term, attendance, whether private or public, qualifications of teachers, methods of teaching.

What the family does for the education of the children that the school cannot do. What the school does that the family cannot do.

Organization of the schools in your district, township, county, or city.

Advantages of graded schools over ungraded schools.

Consolidation of schools in your county or state.

Debate the question: The district school is more democratic than the county organization.

Method of selection of the superintendent of your county and town. Length of term of office.

Organization, powers, mode of election, etc., of your local board of education.

Authority, or lack of authority, of your county superintendent over the schools of cities and large towns in the county.

Qualifications prescribed for teachers in your county or town. How selected.

How are school books selected? Are they free to pupils? Advantages and disadvantages of free textbooks.

Evidence that public education is or is not a matter of common interest to the people of your community.

Examples of team work, or lack of it, in your community in the interest of the schools.

Are the methods by which school authorities are chosen in your community calculated to secure the best leadership?

How the duties relating to the schools are divided between your school board and the superintendent. Does your board perform any duties that should be performed by the superintendent, or VICE VERSA? Explain.

Parent-teacher organizations in your community and their service.


Public education was long restricted to the elementary school. High schools were at first private academies designed to prepare for college the few who wished to continue their education. While they still continue to give preparation for college, their development in recent years has been largely for the benefit of the greater number of boys and girls who do not expect to go to college. The high school naturally made its first appearance in cities. It requires more elaborate equipment and more highly trained teachers, and its cost is at least twice that of elementary schools. These facts, together with the small and scattered population of rural communities, have been obstacles to the development of rural high schools. The consolidated school has in large measure removed these obstacles, and a high school education is rapidly becoming as available for rural boys and girls as for those who live in cities.

Report on:

The history of high school development in your community.

The percentage of pupils in your community who go to high school after completing the elementary school.

"What the high school does for my community."

"My reasons for going (or not going) to high school."

The cost per pupil in the high school in your community as compared with that in the elementary school.

Education must not only be within the reach of every citizen of a democracy, but it must be of a kind that will fit him to play well his part as a member of the community.


The public schools now give more attention than formerly to the physical education and welfare of the pupils (see Chapter XX, pp. 314, 315). The wide prevalence of physical defects disclosed in the effort to raise an army during the recent war will doubtless cause still greater emphasis to be placed on this aspect of education. Physical fitness is the foundation of good citizenship. Provision for physical education and welfare has found its way into rural schools more slowly than in city schools, as the following table shows. But our nation can be neither efficient nor fully democratic until the physical well-being of all its citizens is provided for, and the responsibility rests largely with the public school.

Community Civics and Rural Life - 50/88

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