The League and the Community
In our pride in the American Common School, and in the opportunities which the High Schools offer in academic and vocational training, we must not forget, what is too generally forgotten or ignored, that one-half of the children who enter the Elementary School never complete its curriculum. One-half never get beyond the fifth, sixth or seventh grades. The Elementary School curriculum is a whole which is so much of a piece that part of it does not, as a rule, remain with the child unless he has the whole and yet this Elementary training is the minimum which by common consent is essential to intelligent grappling with life in a modern community.
This failure of the Common School has more than one reason. Its curriculum ought to be finished by the fourteenth year, because the child changes at about this time and needs a different type of school. But there are very many among our children who cannot complete it in that period while there are others who could finish it in a shorter time. There is not the flexibility in the system which would adjust it to children of different endowments. But there is also the handicap upon the children who come from homes which fail to give them that home part of the training which is essential to the proper school training. Finally, the community has not come to terms with the economic factors which frustrate its own efforts to educate its children. There are homes where the child's wages are demanded when he is fourteen, whether this minimum education has been achieved or not.
The fault is divided between the school and the community. Neither is quite willing to accept its share. It goes down into economic and social conditions which we hesitate to face. The fourteen-year-old child who leaves school without a common school training is one of the most significant and least realized symbols of the breakdown of our undertaking to decently prepare the next generation for its life. Both in its efforts to guide the fourteen-year-old child who goes to work into the best employment available, and in its effort to keep children of fourteen and fifteen in school by advice and by scholarships, the League is doing its best to put the meaning of this breakdown of the school before the community. Perhaps its most important work must be this education of the community.