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- Community Civics and Rural Life - 51/88 -


[Footnote: Adapted from Dr. Thomas D. Wood, in New York TIMES Magazine, April 2, 1916.]


It is a part of the business of education to fit every citizen to earn a living, for every efficient citizen must be self-supporting and able to contribute effectively to the productive work of the community. The interdependence of all occupations in modern industry and the necessity for every worker to be a specialist make training essential for every worker who is to attain success for himself and contribute his full share to the community's work. The war emphasized strongly the nation's dependence upon trained workers in every field of industry.


One of the direct results of war needs was the passage by Congress, in 1917, of the Smith-Hughes Act, providing for national aid for vocational instruction for persons over 14 years of age who have already entered upon, or are preparing to enter, some trade. The instruction given under the terms of this act must be of less than college grade. Every state in the Union has met the conditions imposed by this law.

The Smith-Hughes Act created a Federal Board for Vocational Education to consist of the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, the United States Commissioner of Education, and three citizens appointed by the President, one to represent labor interests, one commercial and manufacturing interests, and the third agricultural interests. The law appropriates national funds to be given to the state for the establishment of vocational schools and for the training of teachers for these schools; but each state must appropriate an amount equal to that received from the national government. Each state must also have a board for vocational education, through which the national board has its dealings with the state.


The duty of the regular elementary and high schools is not to cultivate special vocational skills; not to turn out trained farmers, or mechanics, and so on. But the work of these schools should be such that their graduates will be better farmers, or mechanics, or lawyers, or doctors, or engineers, or teachers, than they would be without it. First of all these schools should produce workers who are physically fit for the work they enter. They should educate the hand and the eye along with the brain. They should cultivate habits of working together, give instruction regarding the significance of all work in community and national life, and by every means possible prepare the pupil to make a wise choice of vocation. Moreover, the schools should provide a breadth of education that will "transmute days of dreary work into happier lives."


Mr. Herbert Quick in his story of "The Brown Mouse," which is a plea for better rural schools, says:

Let us cease thinking so much of agricultural education, and devote ourselves to educational agriculture. So will the nation be made strong.

The life we live, even on the farm, is full of science and history, civics and economics, arithmetic and geography, poetry and art. The modern school helps the pupil to find these things in his daily life and, having found them, to apply them to living for his profit and enjoyment. For this reason it works largely through the "home project," boys' and girls' clubs, gardening, and many other activities.

A recent writer has said,

What is the true end of American education? Is it life or a living? ... Education finds itself face to face with a bigger thing than life or the getting of a living. It is face to face with a big enough thing to die for in France, a big enough thing to go to school for in America ... Neither life nor the getting of a living, but LIVING TOGETHER, this must be the single PUBLIC end of a common public education hereafter. [Footnote: D. R. Sharp, "Patrons of Democracy," in ATLANTIC MONTHLY, November, 1919, p. 650.]


The more nearly the conditions of living in the school community correspond to the conditions of living in the community outside of school, the better the training afforded for living together. In many schools the spirit and methods of community life prevail, even to the extent of school government in which the pupils participate.

Of this community pupils and teachers are members with certain common interests. Cooperation is the keynote of the community life. The realization of this cooperation is seen in the classrooms, in study halls, in the assembly room, in the corridors, on the playground. It manifests itself in the method of preparing and conducting recitations; in the care of school property; in protecting the rights of younger children; in maintaining the sanitary conditions of the building and grounds; in the elimination of cases of "discipline" and of irregularity of attendance; in the preparation and conduct of opening exercises, school entertainments, and graduating exercises; in beautifying the school grounds; in the making of repairs and equipment for "our school"; in fact, in every aspect of the school life.

[Footnote: "Civic Education in Elementary Schools," p. 31, United States Bureau of Education Bulletin, 1915, No. 17.]


The schoolhouse is becoming more and more the center of community life. We have noticed how, in Randolph County, Indiana, the consolidated school building affords a meeting place for all sorts of community activities. The school law of California provides that:

There is hereby established a civic center at each and every public schoolhouse within the State of California, where the citizens of the respective public school districts ... may engage in supervised recreational activities, and where they may meet and discuss ... any and all subjects and questions which in their judgment may appertain to the educational, political, economic, artistic, and moral interests of the respective communities in which they may reside; Provided, that such use of said public schoolhouse and grounds for said meetings shall in no wise interfere with such use and occupancy of said public schoolhouse and grounds as is now, or hereafter may be, required for the purpose of said public schools of the State of California. Investigate and report on the following:

Provision in your school and in the schools of your state for health work suggested in the table on page 299.

Other provisions in your school for the physical well-being of pupils.

The work of your school that relates directly to preparation for earning a living.

The extent to which a high school can make a farmer.

The operation of the Smith-Hughes Act in your state and in your county or town.

The meaning of the quotation from "The Brown Mouse" on page 301.

The use of "home projects" by your school.

The meaning of the statement that the end of public education is "neither life nor the getting of a living, but living together."

Differences and similarities between the government of your school and that of the community in which you live. The wisdom of making them more alike.

Different plans of "pupil self-government." (See references.)

Uses to which the schoolhouses of your community are, or might be, put.

Hours per week and weeks per year during which your schoolhouse is used.

Economy (or lack of it) in allowing schoolhouses to stand idle most of the time.

The community center idea. (See references.)

Educational work for adults in your community.

Educational agencies in your community besides schools.


The schools of the local community are a part of the state school system. Education is considered a duty of the state, though it is performed largely by local agencies. The constitutions of all states make provision for it. State control and support of education are necessary if there is to be equality of educational opportunity for all children of the state. Every state has a department of education, and in most states each local community receives a portion of a general state tax for school purposes. The state departments of education differ widely from one another both in organization and in the effectiveness of their work. In most states there is a state board of education, composed sometimes of certain state officials, including the governor and the state superintendent of education, sometimes of citizens appointed for this purpose alone by the governor or (in four states) by the legislature. In only one state is it elected by popular vote. In all states there is also a chief educational officer, usually called state superintendent or commissioner of education or of public instruction. In several states women hold this position. The state superintendent is sometimes elected by popular vote, sometimes appointed by the state board of education or by the governor. Under the state superintendent there are deputy superintendents, heads of departments, and supervisors of the

Community Civics and Rural Life - 51/88

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