Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/180

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176
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE RURAL OPPORTUNITY AND THE COUNTRY SCHOOL
By JOSEPH WOODBURY STROUT
REHOBOTH, MASS.

THE rural community is the granary of the world. Civilization is not possible without the farmer. The great city could not endure without the country. This feature of the economic situation is just now making itself prominent. The rapid increase of population in the cities naturally means decrease of population in the rural districts, which, in turn, means decrease in agricultural area, so that, while pro rata, increased products of the soil are demanded, decreased products are the facts. At least there is no marked increase of the food product of the world. These conditions bring the rural district to the front as holding the key to the situation.

But the rural community is not only the granary of the world, it is also the sanatorium of the world. In the fight against disease nothing counts for more than pure air, wild storms of wind, and isolation. This asset can not be measured in dollars and cents. Here also, the country becomes indispensable to the city. Hospitals and homes of all kinds, now, are pushing out into the country and gathering upon the hills. God's great out-of-doors is with the farmer, and medical science is making the largest possible use of it in that direction. The opportunity here opened for the rural community to fill a large place in the world is wide and deep.

Still another and perhaps greater opening before the rural community is its possibility to reform the boys and girls, stray waifs from the city, that are now being colonized in the country. Massachusetts has about abandoned her larger institutions for homeless boys and girls for the purer atmosphere of the farm home. Children of such type can be better managed in the country where they are isolated than in an institution where a hundred or more are segregated. Besides, the farmer, usually in need of boys, seldom fails to greatly benefit these waifs, and sometimes makes good citizens of them. I can point to a number of instances where excellent results have been obtained, and boys on their way to the penitentiary, and girls to the reformatory, have been lifted to higher planes of moral energy, trained often to take the initiative in large activities, meanwhile making for themselves homes of comfort and love. The opportunity is before the rural district to lift a large part of the world to new life, and to give new energy to that part of the world which is left.