Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/359

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353
SOCIAL PHASE OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.

THE SOCIAL PHASE OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION.[1]
By President KENYON L. BUTTERFIELD,

RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND MECHANIC ARTS.

I HAVE been asked to speak in behalf of the study of 'Rural Economics.' This term is, I presume, supposed to cover broadly those subjects which treat of the economic and social questions that concern farming and farmers. The whole range of social science as applied to rural conditions is thus apparently made legitimate territory for discussion. In view of the importance and character of this field of study, it seems wise to approach it if possible through the avenue of its underlying philosophy. Only in this way can the validity of the subject be established and its place in agricultural education be justified. I have, therefore, chosen as a specific title, 'The Social Phase of Agricultural Education.' In the treatment of the topic an endeavor has been made to hold consistently in mind the point of view of the agricultural college.

It is a principle in social science that the method and scope of any social institution depend upon its function. Therefore the organization, the methods and the courses of the agricultural college should be made with reference to the function of the college. What is this function? What is the college designed to accomplish? What is its social purpose? Why does society need the agricultural college? Answers to these questions are of two kinds, those that explain the contemporary and passing functions of the college, and those that illustrate its permanent and abiding service to society and particularly to the rural portion of society. The college of yesterday was obliged to train its own teachers and experimenters; to-day it may add the task of training farm superintendents; to-morrow it may organize an adequate extension department. Courses and methods will change as new contemporary needs arise. But there remains always the abiding, final service of the agricultural college, its permanent function. This function will he defined in different ways by different men, but I venture to define it as follows: The permanent function of the agricultural college is to serve as a social organ or agency of first importance in helping to solve all phases of the rural problem. We shall not attempt at once to argue this proposition. We must, however, try to answer the question, What

  1. Read November 2, at the eighteenth annual convention of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, Des Moines, Iowa.