some years to work the enterprise out satisfactorily. Yet the teacher who is preparing for high-school work in agriculture has a fairly definite and limited field, and can prepare himself concretely. The field is essentially a natural-science field. The high-school teacher of agriculture should be as well grounded in the science and practice of his subject as the teacher of physics or chemistry or botany is in his field. He should, in fact, have a deeper and broader training, since he must use physics, chemistry, botany, and the like, in his special agricultural work. For many years to come the naturalscience teacher will probably be obliged to handle the agricultural work in many high schools that introduce the subject.

The teaching of physics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences would probably better be separate from the teaching of agriculture, as schools are now organized, and constitute a science foundation for the agriculture. The alternative is stated as follows by the Committee on Industrial Education in Schools for Rural Communities (p. 45):

If the high school has no adequate course in biology, then the student can be given a good drill in botany and zoology with particular reference to its agricultural relation, and this might be called “agriculture;” but it would be better if the student could have his fundamental training in biology in the first year of his high school and let him take his agricultural science thereafter. The agricultural work in the high school should have a distinctly scientific value. It should be such as would count toward science entrance requirements in case the student should desire to enter an agricultural college.

The point is that the natural sciences are essential; whether they shall be taught as a part of the agriculture or developed in the school preceding the agriculture, is at present a local or special question. We may hope that eventually the teaching of the natural sciences may be so vital and applicable that these sciences may constitute a part of a real course in agriculture.

One of the most hopeful recent movements for secondary agriculture teaching is the introduction of unit courses in biology, whereby an effort is to be made to give the high school pupil a real conception of the processes of life, rather than a fragmentary view of parts of the subject here and there. Everything will depend on whether this teaching can escape from the text-book drudgery and the old fourwall laboratory method. Agricultural subjects are alive and they are out of doors; it is for this reason that many persons are looking to the introduction of these subjects to be a quickening agency in the schools.

Having had biology and some of the elements of physics and chemistry, the pupil then comes to his agriculture; and the teacher wants to know what this agriculture is to be. No one is prepared yet to say just what it shall be. Some of the schemes that have been prepared are so extended and so minutely divided that no teacher can hope to cover them except by the text-book and recitation method. They seem to be conceived on the type of the present formal text and laboratory work in natural science. It has been the habit to say that the nature-study point of view is advantageous chiefly in the elementary schools, but it is equally needed in the high schools and even in the colleges.

Whether taught formally or informally, the work that the teacher must be prepared on embraces the actual problems of agriculture: The structure and composition of soils and their reactions to natural agencies, the operations of tillage, the reasons and practices underlying the growth and the improvement of plants, the raising and handling of crops, the rearing and improvement of animals, the care and feeding of animals, the marketing of crop and animal products, the diseases, pests, and, handicaps of crop growing and stock growing, the use of farm machinery, the making and keeping of the home, the economic and social phases of the farmer's business and life.

Within this range is more subject matter than any school can cover; but the teacher must know the field in its educational applications, and be able to segregate from it such parts as will make a useful course for any given place or given length of time. Two modes are open to the teacher in organizing such work: (1) To work on problems, choosing those that are applicable in the community, as the growing of corn or cotton, the making of butter, the raising of hay, the growing of fruit; or (2) to endeavor to develop in the pupil a comprehensive view of the practice of agriculture in general, in much the same way as one endeavors to develop the body of a science. In either case the teacher will require the same fundamental training in the real facts and in educational processes.

The teacher in the high school, as in the elementary school, must nowadays be equipped in school gardening. A laboratory of living things is a necessary part of the best work in nature-study agriculture. It is customary to call this laboratory a school garden. We need to distinguish three types of school garden: (1) The ornamented or planted grounds; this should be a part of every school enterprise, for the premises should be attractive to pupils and they should stand as an example in the community. (2) The formal plat garden, in which a variety of plants is grown and the pupils are taught the usual handicraft; this is the prevailing kind of school gardening. (3) The problem garden, in which certain specific questions are to be studied, in much the spirit that problems are studied in the indoor laboratories; these are little known at present, but their number will increase as school work develops in efficiency; in rural districts, for example, such direct problems as the rust of beans, the blight of potatoes, the testing of varieties of oats, the study of species of grasses, the observation of effect of fertilizers, may well be undertaken when conditions are favorable, and it will matter very little whether the area has the ordinary "garden” appearance. In time ample grounds will be as much a part of a school as the buildings or seats now are. Some of the school-gardering work may be done at the homes of the pupils, and in many cases this is the only kind that is now possible; but the farther removed the laboratory, the less direct the teaching.


There are two current theories as to the best means of developing popular agriculture education: (1) By adding it in existing public schools or evolving it out of their present work; (2) by establishing special schools in which industrial, domestic, and agricultural subjects shall predominate. The latter means is now gaining rapid currency. It assumes several forms, namely, a county school system, as in Wisconsin; a Congressional district system, as typically represented in Alabama and Georgia; an adjunct to existing colleges or universities, as is now beginning in New York; a development of such schools in special localities here and there. The county or centralized high school in new regions that are dominated by agricultural interests becomes strongly industrial and agricultural, and the same will probably be true of new consolidated schools. In Minnesota an agricultural high school has been established in connection with the State University. All these schools are supported by public funds. Aside from these classes, there are various kinds of agricultural schools on private and denominational foundations.

These various kinds of schools do not belong to one educational class, but they are thrown together here because they are not a part of the regular public school system. So far as the preparing teacher is concerned, however, they are homogeneous in the sense of requiring a special training for special work, rather than a generalized training. In the higher and more specialized examples the work is carefully differentiated, so that some one phase of agriculture is given exclusively to one teacher.

There is every prospect that these special agricultural schools will increase in number in the next ten years, and they open the most attractive present field for those who would teach agriculture of a secondary public school grade. In fact, it is chiefly the demand created by these special isolated schools that has demonstrated the great lack of teachers for good agricultural work.

It may be well to raise the question with the prospective teacher, however, whether these disconnected schools are always to hold undisputed leadership, for thereby we shall be able to emphasize a very important pedagogical principle—the principle that agriculture education should not of right be separated from all other educational effort. Education by means of agriculture is but a phase of education in general. The great effect of these special schools will be their influence in breaking down old prejudices, in setting new and independent standards of education, in arousing enthusiasm, in developing ways and methods of teaching the common affairs of life. They will react powerfully on the general public school system if their work is not too much insulated by mere technical teaching, perhaps contributing the most productive single influence in the much needed reform and reorganization of all the schools that represent rural communities. There is danger that in the isolation of these institutions we may also isolate the educational programme, and it is the duty of the teacher to see that this does not occur. The final solution is not the organization of special detached schools, but the redirecting of the existing public schools in such a way that they shall teach the members of their communities how to live.


Having now examined the nature of the demand for teachers of agriculture and the grades of teaching that are required, we may attack the question of determining where these teachers shall be trained. Where and how a teacher shall be prepared will depend, of course, on the phase or range of agriculture teaching in which he is to engage.

The degree of a teacher's preparation will be conditioned by the pay he is to receive. The general elementary schools, and most of the high schools, do not pay sufficient salaries to warrant a teacher in spending much time and money in perfecting his equipment in both agriculture and education. Good agricultural college training is practically out of the question for these fields at present, because graduates from such colleges of good abilities command better salaries elsewhere.

The schools will not command good teachers in these new subjects until they are able to supply fairly good equipment in the way of land, material, and apparatus. Very few schools are yet ready for good teachers of agriculture, wholly aside from the question of salary. No really good agricultural work can be accomplished by the customary schoolroom method.

The demand for teachers will arise here and there in the public school system largely in the desire to combine the teaching of agriculture and science. There is every indication that this demand will spread with considerable rapidity. The elementary grades will not yet demand special teachers for these subjects. The special or separate agricultural schools will demand special teachers, with thorough preparation. The demand for nature-study teachers is increasing. These teachers should be able to handle the agricultural work in the grades.

As to the kind of preparation that the teacher should have for good work in agriculture, the first requisite is a new point of view in education. The person need not be afraid to set sail on the ship of current educational theory, but he should be ready, on occasion, to throw overboard all his luggage. He is to land on the home patch, where he will meet new problems that he may want to attack naturally in his own way, and his progress should not be impeded. He

« ForrigeFortsett »