School and Community
Thomas J. Riley
The sessions of the national conference under the auspices of the standing committee on the school and the community were well attended and interesting. At the opening meeting Anna-Garlin Spencer, lecturer in the New York School of Philanthropy, dealt with some of the vital points in the newer educational program, in a paper of exceptional interest on What Machine-Dominated Industry Means in Relation to Women's Work; the Need of New Training and Apprenticeship for Girls. Mrs. Spencer pointed out how home conditions and home duties had been changed under modern living and industrial conditions, indicating also the limited opportunities for industrial promotion offered to the girls who leave their homes for wages. She showed very clearly the temptations which have befallen the young woman in industry. Having outlined the problem, Mrs. Spencer argued that in addition to manual training the public schools should furnish girls instruction in wage-earning occupations and domestic art. At every point she re-enforced the general argument with illuminating cases.
Robert A. Woods, head resident of South End House, Boston, followed Mrs. Spencer, discussing industrial inefficiency and the public schools. He pointed out that more than one-half of the people's inventive genius is to be found among the children of the industrial class, who under our present system of education constantly drop from the grades, so that practically none of this ability ever expresses itself in invention. Nothing but a system of education based upon. the self-expression of the children can discover this genius and bestow its benefits on society. Lewis Gustafson, superintendent of the David Ranken, Jr., School of Mechanical Trades in St. Louis, declared that manual training should be placed in all the grades of the public schools, and that trade instruction should be given to boys after the age of fourteen years. He justified trade instruction and training for wage occupations for both boys and girls after fourteen, and pointed out that such practical training has been introduced into the public schools in Milwaukee, New York, and elsewhere.
One of the section meetings was devoted to southern educational and social conditions. Dr. A. Caswell Ellis, of the University of Texas, argued that agricultural education and trade instruction should become an integral part of the public school curriculum instead of being taught in separate special schools, as the former would insure a genuine democracy of the people and the latter lead inevitably to the separation of classes. The rapid development of parents' clubs in the southern cities and country districts was brought out. The more concrete discussion of the general subject was found in the paper by Prof. Carleton B. Gibson, formerly superintendent of schools at Columbus, Ga., in which the educational departures and adjustments already made in the South were presented. Mr. Gibson told especially of the work done by the mountain schools and the public schools of Columbus, in which city they have become veritable industrial schools and social centers.
At the joint section meeting with the committee on children, Mrs. W. I. Thomas, field secretary of the Juvenile Protective Association, spoke on the five-cent theater and the possibility of censorship of the films. She said that the motion picture show was in itself and in its
( 460) moral atmosphere greatly to be preferred to the cheap theater. The pictures themselves have great influence upon the children, and she suggested the possibility of popularizing good drama and bringing its benefit and pleasure within the reach of all. John Collier, a member of the Board of Censorship for moving picture films of New York city, said that the only final censoring of the theater in every form was the standard of the people; that the manufacturers of film ς 'ere more sensitive to what the public wanted than even the editorial columns of the press; that the function of a Board of Censors was to save the public the annoyance of having harmful pictures displayed and to act as mouthpiece for the two and a quarter million daily attendance upon the moving picture shows in the United States.
Lee F. Hanmer, associate director of the Department of Child Hygiene of the Russell Sage Foundation, speaking on Health and Playgrounds, emphasized the tremendous value of sunshine and air, of pleasure and play, to the health, happiness and morals of a people. Graham Romeyn Taylor, in discussion, pointed out some relations between the fire-cent theater and the playground which should be better co-ordinated. Playgrounds furnish opportunity for action to which moving pictures give incentive to the child. The theater and the playground can dramatize the world-old themes of life.
At the general session of the committee some community demands upon the public schools were presented by Dr. Edgar J. Swift, professor of education and psychology in Washington University, while the general subject of education and changed conditions was presented by Dr. John W. Withers, principal of the Teachers College, St, Louis. Together these papers demonstrated that inventions and developments in industry, accumulation of wealth and increase of leisure, crowded conditions of housing and lack of creative opportunities in the home, statistics of school attendance and facts of truancy, will compel the conservative institution of the public schools to adjust its curriculum and extend its activities to meet these new industrial, community and home conditions.The report of the committee by the chairman first succinctly reviewed the main arguments already presented at the section meetings, and then discussed the general problems involved in the arguments. It was argued that industrial-education and trade instruction in the public schools were consistent with genuine democracy and did not mean the separation of the people into occupational classes; further that such practical education would be at once the best possible preparation for higher education; that no other agency than the public schools could meet the demands of the new conditions for efficient workmen; that in southern communities where settlements and playgrounds have not yet been much developed, the school buildings will doubtless be used more and more for the recreational and social life of the people, whereas in many other places there is a tendency to provide in some other way for the leisure-arid pleasure of the people. Park departments and civic centers were commended as proper agencies in raising the life of the people to its highest powers. The report closed with a proposal that if the agencies of the community were combined with the schools it would be possible in ten years to add two years to the period of youth. School attendance and child labor laws have hit upon fourteen years in only an arbitrary fashion, whereas there are many reasons to believe that the physical, moral and psychical life of the child demand that he should remain in school until he is at least sixteen. Many employers are already convinced that it is unprofitable to employ children under sixteen, and there are many evidences that as fast as the schools become practical, parents will keep their children in them two years longer.