Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/261

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257
AMERICAN AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.

AN UNTILLED FIELD IN AMERICAN AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.
By KENYON L. BUTTERFIELD.

AGRICULTURAL education in this country has thus far been an attempt to apply a knowledge of the laws of the so-called 'natural' sciences to the practical operations of the farm. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the application of the principles of the 'social' sciences to the life of the farmer. AU this is partly explained by the fact that the natural sciences were fairly well developed when the needs of the farmer called the scientist to work with and for the man behind the plow—when a vanishing soil fertility summoned the chemist to the service of the grain grower, when the improvement of breeds of stock and races of plants began to appeal to the biologist. Moreover, these practical applications of the physical and biological sciences are, and always will be, a fundamental necessity in the agricultural question.

But in the farm problem we cannot afford to ignore the economic and sociological phases. While it may be true that the practical success of the individual farmer depends largely upon his business sense and his technical education, it is folly to hope that the success of agriculture as an industry and the influence of farmers as a class can be based solely upon the ability of each farmer to raise a big crop and to sell it to advantage. General intelligence, appreciation of the trend of economic and social forces, capacity to cooperate, ability to voice his needs and his rights, are just as vital acquirements for the farmer as knowing how to make two blades of grass grow where but one grew before. It finally comes to this, that the American farmer is obliged to study the questions that confront him as a member of the industrial order and as a factor in the social and political life of the nation, with as much zeal and understanding as he is expected to show in the study of those natural laws governing the soil and the crops and the animals that he owns.

In this connection it is significant to note that farmers themselves are already quite as interested in the social problems of their particular calling and in the general economic and political questions of the day, as they are in science applied to their business of tilling the soil. Not necessarily that they minimize the latter, but they seem instinctively to recognize that social forces may work them ill or work them good according to the direction and power of those forces. This statement