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This does not mean, however, that the vocational objectives no longer are held, or that there is general agreement regarding the outcomes to be sought through instruction in agriculture. The following data regarding the purposes of instruction in agriculture in the seventh and eighth grades, recently collected and compiled by F. J. Smeeckle,” are evidence on this point:
Opinions of teachers and specialists on the purposes of agriculture in the seventh and
E. E. Windes 3 points out the present confusion regarding the aims of agricultural instruction in the elementary schools, as follows:
In no other field of educational endeavor are conditions so chaotic as in the fields of elementary-school agriculture. Courses of study are found outlining work for each of the eight elementary-school grades, providing a continuous and comprehensive program. Other courses are found which outline work for a single grade only and limit instruction to the consideration of a few problems in gardening. Between these two extremes every degree of comprehensiveness as to time and content may be found.
Ayowed aims are equally variable. Definite vocational training is sought in some cases. A vague cultural aim is frequently phrased. Occasionally a conscious effort to make the course in agriculture the center of the elementaryschool curriculum, and the dominant farm enterprise of the State the center of the agricultural course, is made.
Practically every method known to teaching practice is found. Occasionally there is an effort to apply the problem-project method to elementary-school agriculture, making the natural interest of the pupil a basis for choice of problems and local conditions the controlling factor in content and sequence of subject matter. The usual situation, however, is that a young girl with little training, academic, technical, or professional, hears the class read from a text, religiously avoiding discussion.
In spite of the lack of clarity of objectives for this phase of the elementary-school program, there is but little doubt, as has been indicated, that the movement in recent years has been away from the vocational objective. Students of the problem are accepting the view that, instead of using instruction in agriculture in the elementary school for vocational ends or as propaganda for farm life, it should take its place as a part of the program of instruction for
From an unpublished study. * Objectives in Elementary Rural School Agriculture. Rural Sch. Leaflet No. 11, U. S. Bu, of Educ.
vocational and educational guidance, or the “teaching for choice." Evidently this view is almost diametrically opposed to the one that has been commonly accepted, at least until very recently. It is much more nearly in harmony with the ideals of a democratic society than its predecessor. One writer 4 has set forth the reasons for rejecting the old aims of instruction in agriculture and placing it on a broader basis, in the following statement:
Determination of capacity for economic service on the part of every prospective citizen is quite as important under a theory of democratic organization of society as it is under a theory of state socialism. Equality of opportunity is fully as dependent on such determination as is the efficiency of the state, for, in the theory of democracy, self-realization in and through vocation for the individual is of equal or greater significance than his efficiency in the production of a margin of utilities for social consumption, whether of commodity or of service. The achievement of efficiency as a productive unit in the social organization is not, as it is under the doctrine of state socialism, the prime objective of selection for economic capacity. Thus, in a country like ours, any means to such determination must place election before selection. Indeed, choice in itself is an essential element in any equalization of opportunities. All that a democratic society can do is to provide for the prospective citizen the basis in experience necessary to make his choice genuine or intelligent.
In the light of the foregoing thesis the proposition which has been put forward by many and earnest advocates, that the function of formal education in the rural community is to bond the country boy and the country girl to the soil, is unacceptable. The fact that a child is born on the farm is not at all an indication that he can in largest measure realize his birthright and serve his fellows by remaining on the farm. Any system of education designed to limit resources of self-discovery is restrictive both of the rights of the child and of the progress of society. On the contrary, it is a prime obligation of democratic society to provide for prospective citizens who happen to be born in the country every possible avenue of self-discovery that may lead to the central life activity of the normal citizen-his vocation.
So far as the basis of experience which society can provide for intelligent choice of life pursuits on the part of prospective citizens is concerned, the following postulates are offered:
1. It must result in the understanding both of essential requirements and of significant opportunities in (a) the vocation itself, (b) the life implied in pursuit of the vocation, (c) the preparation implied in acceptance of the vocation.
2. It must take one, two, or all of the following forms, whether under formal or informal auspices: (a) Participation, (b) observation, (c) vicarious information. * * *
As to the agency that shall undertake the teaching of country boys and country giris what is necessary and possible to intelligent choice of vocation, the common opinion of educators is accepted. No rehearsal of reasons is here needed. The agency is the public school in that level given to diversified teaching for the sake of "finding"—the junior high school level. Assuming that an organization involving all of the essential functions of the junior high school will ultimately be made workable in the rural districts, I venture to suggest a plan for the development of the prevocational function. The plan centers in the provision of one or two teachers for each rural community, employed for the full year rather than for the school year, equipped with the means of transporting small groups of
pupils from place to place, and devoting their whole time, working out from the school, to teaching pupils the essentials of intelligent choice of vocation.
Such teachers must, of course, possess a greater range of qualifications than is now required of the teacher in either the junior or the senior high school. Probably few persons are now qualified for such a task. But qualified persons can be prepared if the demand be made. The educational service to be rendered is second in significance only to that of the elementary school. The demand will come. Qualified teachers will be prepared to serve and will be given the chance to serve, whether under such a plan as suggested or under another and better. Until that is done "equality of opportunity," to which rural boys and girls are entitled the country over, will remain as it is equal lack of opportunity.
E. E. Windes, in discussing the problem of agriculture for the seventh and eighth grades in the rural schools of Currituck County, N. C., makes the general statement and the formulation of objectives that follow:
The life problems of the modern farmer are extremely diversified. He deals directly with the primary and derived energy of nature, with the tools which transform this primary and derived energy into productive work, with a variety of mineral elements and their compounds, with plant life throughout the plant series, with animal life throughout the animal series, with man as an individual, as organized groups of workers, as a consuming market, and as a controlling whole.
His greatest surety for success lies in training in methods of attack and materials available for the solution of problems in all these fields. A partial success may attend his mastery of the means of solving problems of one group of relationships, but failure to take into account problems of another group may not only rob him of returns for his effort in one direction but may actually lead to
and materially reduce the labor cost of producing crops, only to face economic ruin because of the appearance of a crop pest with which he can not deal, or because his increased production has overstocked the market so that consumers will not pay even the lowered cost of producing the article. Again, he may become very efficient as a producer of a given commodity, only to find that as he increases his output and lowers his costs of production other organized groups between him and the consuming public absorb the profits through higher wages, higher transportation rates, higher returns for capital, or by the appearance of additional middle groups through which the commodity must pass.
The course of study here outlined is frankly prevocational. Its major objectives are:
1. To introduce problems involving the essential life relations of farmers as dealing with nature, with the world of workers, with the general public, and as producers of marketable commodities, to the end that the pupil may get such a survey of farming as an occupation and a mode of living that he may judge fairly whether he desires to enter upon the occupation, and in case of entrance upon farming as an occupation to furnish a basis for an understanding of these relationships.
2. To introduce a comparative study of occupations to the end that an intelligent choice of an occupation and of the curriculum best fitting for that occupation be made.
3. To provide through construction and production projects such a sampling of jobs met with in farming of various types that the pupil may judge nis fitness
0 Types of Courses of Study in Agriculture, Rural School Leaflet, No. 26, pp. 1-2.
for the types of tasks necessarily met with in farming of specific types. Since farming offers such diversity of tasks and requisite skills, these samplings are further valuable as indicating ability in nonagricultural occupations of a considerable variety.
4. To provide training in the method of attack in solving problems and knowledge of sources of material for the study and solution of problems in agriculture.
5. To motivate other subjects of the agricultural and general curricula through showing their relation to success in agriculture.
6. To furnish adequate guidance in the selection of vocational projects of the high school proper.
7. To acquaint the pupil with the various agencies of the county, State, and Nation dealing with agriculture, the kind of service these agencies render, and to develop the habit of using these agencies.
BOYS' AND GIRLS' CLUB WORK Any consideration of the teaching of agriculture in the elementary school in which the boys' and girls' club work was ignored would be incomplete. This work has not generally been closely articulated with the work of the elementary school, but for the most part the members of the clubs are pupils in the elementary schools. Data are not available for the entire country to show the extent to which club members are pupils in the elementary schools, but an intensivo study recently made for New York State furnishes the following data:
Age distribution of 68,181 junior extension workers in New York State, 1920–1924
It is true that in New York State a distinct effort has been made to keep the junior extension-boys' and girls' club work-on an educational basis and wherever practicable closely identified with the educational system. This program may be a selective factor resulting in the enrollment of somewhat younger workers than would otherwise be obtained. However, these figures correspond fairly closely with similar data available from other sources, and a distinct
6 From an unpublished study by P. R. Young.
drive has been made in New York to procure the enrollment of older boys and girls, without marked influence on the ages of those enrolling. As a group the members of boys' and girls' clubs are largely in the elementary school.
The latest available report of the office of cooperative extension work? contains the following data on the size of organization dealing with boys and girls' club work:
The same source is authority for the statement that in 1923 there were 28,200 clubs, with a membership of 600,957 boys and girls. In addition to the work done by the boys' and girls' club leaders, the 3,500 agents for county agricultural and home demonstration work contribute more or less to the club work.
As this organization deals largely with the teaching of agriculture and home economics to children of the elementary-school period, it is of interest to note its objectives for these activities. The quotations which follow are taken from the most recent reports of the chief of the office of cooperative extension work. 8
For the past three or four years the effort has been made to make the club activities conform entirely to the farm and farm-home needs of the various communities and counties. The past year's work has brought this objective within reach as a complete attainment. * * * Greater volume, or number of demonstrators per community, has been encouraged in order to more quickly establish new practices. As a result, boys' and girls' club work more successfully and more widely demonstrates better practices than heretofore.
That most improved phases of farm and home practices can be demonstrated by boys and girls is quite generally recognized. In fact, extension workers are realizing that many farm and home practices can be best demonstrated through boys and girls, and the latter will no doubt play an increasingly important part in the prosecution of the extension program in the future.
A large number of counties undertook for the first time during the past year to make provisions for boys' and girls' club work in the community and county extension programs of work as a means of dealing with particular programs. These community programs of work were built on the basis of problems found through intensive study, careful observation, and use of all available statistics.
These statements point clearly to the predominance of the improvement of farming as the objective.
7 Report of the Director of the States Relations Service, 1923. 8 Reports of the Director of the States Relations Service, 1922 and 1923.