Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/488

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484
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

HOW THE PROBLEMS OF THE RURAL SCHOOLS ARE BEING MET
By MARY A. GRUPE
WASHINGTON STATE NORMAL SCHOOL, ELLENSBURG.

THE little red schoolhouse is all well enough as a matter of tradition and history. It has served its purpose and no amount of sentiment for its past achievements can make it a thing acceptable to the present generation. Time was when the one-room school house was quite as well built and furnished as the dwellings from which the children came, but that is past and there is no gainsaying that the one room district school is generally unsightly, illy ventilated and meagerly equipped. Moreover, the few children, many classes, formal bookish instruction, and inadequately trained teachers make it altogether unsatisfactory. However, a habit dies hard even though through evolution the use for that habit has disappeared. No doubt the one-room district school was and still is a necessity in some isolated and inaccessible localities, but because it got fixed as a system it still maintains where conditions no longer warrant, and where it positively saps vitality without bringing adequate returns. This ancestral school, once performing an important function in New England, still persists there, although, because of migrations to centers of population, it has practically lost its use. The district system, thus originating in New England, was naturally, but unfortunately carried west and all over the United States became the prevailing type.

Heartless as it may seem to say so, the outlook for any radical improvement of the one-room school, especially under the district system, appears hopeless. Poor as it is, the cost per pupil is greater than that for the best city schools. The Michigan report for 1902 shows that for schools averaging fewer than six, the cost per pupil was $99.50 each year, schools of fewer than fifteen paid $41.60, while the city average was $19.50. This condition is wide spread. The district system is to a large degree responsible for the weaknesses of the rural schools. To secure the building and equipment necessary for efficient work would make the tax upon the people of such a small area as a district too burdensome. The isolation and hampering conditions make it almost impossible to secure well-trained teachers. Kansas tried to attract better teachers by raising the salaries, but failed, for the discomfort and inconvenience they must undergo of living in unheated rooms, of being forced to sit with the families to study in the evening, and of having no con-