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THE RURAL SCHOOL TERM

Rural School Messenger

October 1916

 

Before the rural schools can come into possession of the things due them there must be an aroused public sentiment as to their needs. Previous talks have served to show how to increase the rural school term by a better average daily attendance on the part of rural pupils. It has been pointed out that the average daily attendance of all pupils enrolled in the rural schools of the United States is only 67.6 per cent of the enrollment. If it were possible to take into consideration the large number of rural pupils who are not enrolled but who should be enrolled by a proper enforcement of a reasonable compulsory attendance law the average daily attendance in the rural schools for the country at large would be less than 60 per cent.

In support of this declaration the following is quoted from the Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Schools of Georgia for the school year ended December 21, 1915. Pleading for a reasonable enforcement of a reasonable compulsory attendance law, the Superintendent declares:

"There are some men who are so mean by nature that they must be forced before they will give their children educational opportunities for school training. The figures show that 169,630 children of school age in this State did not attend school a day last year. Many of these have never been enrolled during any previous year. Without the strong arm of the law they will grow up in ignorance just as thousands before them have done. "

If we go one step further in our reasoning and take into consideration the millions of rural children in short-term schools of three to four months in, length, it is evident that the average of pupils in the rural schools for the daily attendance of millions nation at large is not 50 per cent of what it should be when measured by the attendance of pupils in city schools with a nine-month's term. In other words, the short term and the poor attendance in the rural schools are depriving millions of country boys and girls of over half their birthright in matters of free school privileges as compared with city boys and girls. We are glad city children have the good school privileges that are theirs. We wish the city schools were better. But with the help of the press we are determined to expose this unjust, unreasonable, and un-American discrimination against country boys and girls. Equality before the law and equal educational opportunity have not yet been provided for the farm boy and farm girl.

But, strange as it may seem, sparsely settled rural communities often fight against the things which are for their own good. A striking statement of this phase of the rural problem is found in Extension Bureau Circular, No. 2, of the University of North Carolina, July, 1916. In this issue Professor E. C. Branson declares:

"Everywhere in thinly settled country regions we find people here and there who are suspicious, secretive, apathetic, and unapproachable; who live in the eighteenth century and, preserve the language, manners, and customs of a past long dead elsewhere, who prefer primitive ancient ways, who are ghettoed in the midst of present day civilization, to borrow a phrase from President Frost. They are the crab-like souls described by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, who before advancing light steadily retreat into the fringe of darkness. People like these abound in Clinton and Franklin counties (New York where an eighth of the native white voters are illiterate, in Aroostock county (Maine) where nearly a fifth of the native white voters cannot read their ballots or write their names; in Windham county (Connecticut) where a seventh of the voters are illiterate. Windham, by the way, lies midway between the academic effulgence of Yale on the one hand and of Harvard on the other. You can find within the sound of college bells anywhere what we found the other day in a field survey that took us into every home in a mid-state county in North Carolina-a family of whites, all illiterates, half the children dead in infancy, and never a doctor in the house in the whole history of the family.

"All the ages of race history and every level of civilization can be found in any county or community, even in our crowded centers of wealth and culture. We need not hunt for eighteenth century survivals in mountain coves alone."

And yet the only remedy for such conditions is the education of these peoples. Let there be light!

J. L. McBrien

School Extension Agent, Bureau of Education