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THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF THE RURAL SCHOOL

Every school possesses two types of organization: (1) an intellectual organization involving the selection and arrangement of a curriculum, and its presentation through instruction; and (2) a social organization involving, on the one hand, the inter-relations of the school and the community, and on the other the relations of the pupils with each other and the teacher.

The rural school and the community

The rural school and community are not at present in vital touch with each other. The community is not getting enough from the school toward making life larger, happier, and more efficient; it is not giving enough to the school either in helpful cooeperation or financial support.

In general, it must be said that most of our rural people, the patrons of the rural school, have not yet conceived education broadly. They think of the school as having fulfilled its function when it has supplied the simplest rudiments of reading, writing, and number. And, naturally enough, the rural school has conceived its function in the same narrow light; for it is controlled very completely by its patrons, and a stream cannot rise higher than its source.

Because of its isolation, the pressing insistence of its toil, and the monotony of its environment, the rural community is in constant danger of intellectual and social stagnation. It has far more need that its school shall be a stimulating, organizing, socializing force than has the town or city. For the city has a dozen social centres entirely outside the school: its public parks, theatres, clubs, churches, and streets, even, serve to stimulate, entertain, and educate. But the rural community is wanting in all these social forces; it is lacking in both intellectual and social stimulus and variety.

One of the most pressing needs of country districts is a common neighborhood center for both young and old, which shall stand as an organizing, welding, vitalizing force, uniting the community on a basis of common interests and activities. For while, as we have seen, the rural population as a whole are markedly homogeneous, there is after all but little of common acquaintanceship and mingling among them. Thousands of rural families live lives of almost complete social isolation and lack of contact with neighbors.

This condition is one of the gravest drawbacks to farm life. The social impulse and the natural desire for recreation and amusement are as strong in country boys and girls as in their city cousins, yet the country offers young people few opportunities for satisfying these impulses and desires. The normal social tendencies of youth are altogether too strong to be crushed out by repression; they are too valuable to be neglected; and they are too dangerous to be left to take their own course wholly unguided. The rural community can never hope to hold its boys and girls permanently to the life of the farm until it has recognized the necessity for providing for the expression and development of the spontaneous social impulses of youth.

Furthermore, the social monotony and lack of variety of the rural community is a grave moral danger to its young people. It is a common impression that the great city is strewn thick with snares and pitfalls threatening to morals, but that the country is free from such temptations. The public dance halls and cheap theaters of the city are beyond doubt a great and constant menace to youthful ideals and purity. But the country, going to the opposite extreme, with its almost utter lack of recreation and amusement places, offers temptations no less insidious and fatal.

The great difficulty at this point is that young people in rural communities are thrown together almost wholly in isolated pairs instead of in social groups; and that there are no objective resources of amusement or entertainment to claim their interest and attention away from themselves. They are freed from all chaperonage and the restraints of the conventions obtaining in social groups at the very time in their lives when these are most needed as steadying and controlling forces. The result is that the country districts, which ought to be of all places in the world the freest from temptation and peril to the morals of our young people, are really more dangerous than the cities. The sequel is found in the fact that a larger proportion of country girls than of city girls go astray. Nor is the rural community more successful in the morals of its boys than its girls. In other words, the lack of opportunities for free and normal social experience, the consequent ignorance of social conventions, and the absence of healthful amusement and recreation, make the rural community a most unsafe place in which to rear a family.

But the necessity for social recreation and amusement does not apply to the young people alone. Their fathers and mothers are suffering from the same limitations, though of course with entirely different results. The danger here is that of premature aging and stagnation. While the toil of the city worker is relieved by change and variety, his mind rested and his mood enlivened by the stimulus from many lines of diversion, the lives of the dwellers on the farm are constantly threatened by a deadly sameness and monotony.

The indisputable tendency of farmers and their wives to age so rapidly, and so early to fall into the ranks of “fogyism,” is due far more to lack of variety and recreation and to dearth of intellectual stimulus than to hard labor, severe as this often is. Age is more than the flight of the years, the stoop of the form, or the hardening of the arteries; it is also the atrophy of the intellect and the fading away of the emotions resulting from disuse. The farmer needs occasionally to have something more exciting than the alternation of the day’s work with the nightly “chores.” And his wife should now and then have an opportunity to meet people other than those for whom she cooks and sews.

But what has all this to do with the social organization of the rural school? Much. The country cannot have its theaters, parks, and crowded thoroughfares like the city. But it needs and must have some social center, where its people may assemble for recreation, entertainment, and intellectual growth and development. And what is more natural and feasible than that the public school should be this center? Here is an institution already belonging to the whole people, and set apart for the intellectual training of the young. Why should it not also be made to minister to the intellectual needs of their elders as well, and to the social needs of all? Why should not the public school building, now in use but six hours a day for little more than half the year, be open at all times when it can be helpful to any portion of the community?

If young people are to develop naturally, if they are to make full use of their social as well as their intellectual powers, if they are to be satisfied with their surroundings, they must be provided with suitable opportunities for social mingling and recreation in groups. This is nature’s way; there is no other way. The school might and should afford this opportunity. There is not the least reason why the school building, when it is adapted to this purpose, should not be the common neighborhood meeting place for all sorts of young people’s parties, picnics, entertainments, athletic contests, and every other form of amusement approved in the community.

Such a use of the school property would yield large returns to the community for the small additional expense required. It would serve to weld the school and community more closely together. It would vastly change the attitude of the young toward the school. It would save much of the dissatisfaction of young people with the life of the farm. It would prove a great safeguard to youthful morals. It would lead the community itself to a new sense of its duty toward the social life of the young, and to a new concept of the school as a part of the community organization. Finally, this broadened service of the school to its community would have a reflex influence on the school itself, vitalizing every department of its activities, and giving it a new vision of its opportunities.

The first obstacle that will appear in the way of such a plan is the inadequacy of the present type of country schoolhouse. And this is a serious matter; for the barren, squalid little building of the present day would never fit into such a project. But this type of schoolhouse must go-is going. It is a hundred years behind our civilization, and wholly inadequate to present needs. Passing for later discussion the method by which these buildings are to be supplanted by better ones, let us consider further the details of the plan of making the school the neighborhood center.

First of all, each school must supply a larger area and a greater number of people than at present. It is financially impossible to erect good buildings to the number of our present schools. Nor are there pupils enough in the small district as now organized to make a school, nor people enough successfully to use the school as a neighborhood center.

Let each township, or perhaps somewhat smaller area, select a central, well-adapted site and thereon erect a modern, well-equipped school building. But this building must not be just the traditional schoolhouse with its classrooms and rows of desks. For it is to be more than a place where the children will study and recite lessons from books; it is to be the place where all the people of the neighborhood, old and young, will assemble for entertainment, amusement, and instruction. Here will be held community picnics, social entertainments, young people’s parties, lectures, concerts, debating contests, agricultural courses for the farmers, school programs, spreads and banquets, and whatever else may belong to the common social and intellectual life of the community.

The modern rural school building will therefore be home-like as well as school-like. In addition to its classrooms it will contain an assembly room capable of seating several hundred people. The seating of this room may be removable so that the floor can be cleared for social purposes or the room used for a dining-room. One or two smaller rooms will be needed for social functions, club and committee meetings. These rooms should be made attractive with good furniture, rugs, couches, and pictures. The building will contain well-equipped laboratories for manual training and domestic science, the latter of which will be found serviceable in connection with serving picnics, “spreads,” and the like. The entire building should be architecturally attractive, well heated and ventilated, commodious, well furnished, and decorated with good pictures. In it should be housed a library containing several thousand well-selected books, besides magazines and newspapers. The laboratories and equipment should be fully equal to those found in the town schools, but should be adapted to the work of the rural school.

The grounds surrounding the rural school building can easily be ample in area, and beautiful in outlook and decoration. Here will be the neighborhood athletic grounds for both boys and girls, shade trees for picnics, flowers and shrubs, and ground enough for a school garden connected with the instruction in agriculture. Nor is it too much to believe that the district will in the future erect on the school grounds a cottage for the principal of the school and his family, and thus offer an additional inducement for strong, able men to devote their energies to education in the rural communities.

Now contrast this schoolhouse and equipment with the typical rural building of the present. Adjoining a prosperous farm, with its large house, its accompanying barns, silos, machine houses, and all the equipment necessary to modern farming, is the little schoolhouse. It is a dilapidated shell of a rectangular box, barren of every vestige of beauty or attractiveness both inside and out. At the rear are two outbuildings which are an offense to decency and a menace to morals. Within the schoolhouse the painted walls are dingy with smoke and grime. The windows are broken and dirty, no pictures adorn the walls. The floor is washed but once or twice a year. The room is heated by an ugly box of a stove, and ventilated only by means of windows which frequently are nailed shut. The grounds present a wilderness of weeds, rubbish, and piles of ashes. It is all an outrage against the rights of the country child, and an indictment of the intelligence and ideals of a large proportion of our people.

If it is said that the plan proposed to remedy this situation is revolutionary, it will be admitted. What our rural schools of to-day need is not improvement but reorganization. For only in this radical way can they be made a factor in the vitalizing and conserving of the rural community which, unless some new leaven is introduced, is surely destined to disorganization and decay.

The consolidation of rural schools

The first step in reorganizing the rural schools is consolidation. Our rural school organization, buildings, and equipment are a full century behind our industrial and social advancement. The present plan of attempting to run a school on approximately every four square miles of territory originated at a time of poverty, and when the manufacturing industries were all carried on in the homes and small shops. Our rural people are now well-to-do, and manufacturing has moved over into a well-organized set of factories; but the isolated little school, shamefully housed, meagerly equipped, poorly attended, and unskillfully taught, still remains.

Such a system of schools leaves our rural people educationally on a par with the days of cradling the grain and threshing it with a flail; of planting corn by hand and cultivating it with a hoe; of lighting the house with a tallow dip, and traveling by stage-coach.

The well-meant attempts to “improve” the rural school as now organized are futile. The proposal to solve the problem by raising the standards for teachers, desirable as this is; by the raising of salaries; or by bettering the type of the little schoolhouse, are at best but temporary makeshifts, and do not touch the root of the problem. The first and most fundamental step is to eliminate the little shacks of houses that dot our prairies every two miles along the country roads.

For not only is it impossible to supply adequate buildings so near together, but it is even more impossible to find children enough to constitute a real school in such small districts. There is no way of securing a full head of interest and enthusiasm with from five to ten or twelve pupils in a school. The classes are too small and the number of children too limited to permit the organization of proper games and plays, or a reasonable variety of association through mingling together.

Furthermore, it will never be possible to pay adequate salaries to the teachers in these small schools. Nor will any ambitious and well-prepared teacher be willing to remain in such a position, where he is obliged to invest his time and influence with so few pupils, and where all conditions are so adverse.

The chief barrier to the centralization of rural education has been local prejudice and pride. In many cases a true sentimental value has attached to “the little red schoolhouse.” Its praises have been sung, and orator and writer have expanded upon the glories of our common schools, until it is no wonder that their pitiful inadequacy has been overlooked by many of their patrons.

In other cases opposition has arisen to giving up the small local school because of the selfish fear that the loss of the school would lower the value of adjacent property. Still others have feared that consolidation would mean higher school taxes, and have opposed it upon this ground.

But whatever the causes of the opposition to consolidation, this opposition must cease before the rural school can fulfill its function and before the rural child can have educational opportunities even approximating those given the town child. And until this is accomplished, the exodus from the farm will continue and ought to continue. Pride, prejudice, and penury must not be allowed to deprive the farm boys and girls of their right to education and normal development.

The movement toward consolidation of rural schools and transportation of the children to a central school has already attained considerable headway in many regions of the country. It is now a part of the rural school system in thirty-two States. Massachusetts, the leader in consolidation, began in 1869. The movement at first grew slowly in all the States, not only having local opposition to overcome, but also meeting the problem of bad country roads interfering with the transportation of pupils.

During the past half-dozen years, however, consolidation has been gaining headway, and is now going on at least five times as fast as the average for the twenty-five years preceding 1906. Indiana is at present the banner State in the rapidity of consolidation, the expenditure for conveyance having considerably more than trebled since 1904. The broad and general sweep of the movement, together with the fact that it is practically unheard of for schools that have once tried consolidation to go back to the old system, seems to indicate that the rural education of the not distant future will, except in a few regions, be carried on in consolidated schools.

The relative cost of maintaining district and consolidated schools is an important factor. Yet this factor must not be given undue prominence. It is true that the cost of education must be kept at a reasonable ratio with the standard of living of a community. But it is also true that the consolidated rural school must be looked upon as an indispensable country-life institution, and hence as having claim to a more generous basis of support than that accorded the district school.

While it is impossible, owing to such widely varying conditions, to make an absolutely exact statement of the relative expense of the two types of schools, yet it has been shown in many different instances that the cost of schooling per day in consolidated schools is but slightly, if any, above that in most district schools.

The aggregate annual cost is usually somewhat higher in the consolidated schools, owing to the fact of a greatly increased attendance. A comparison made between the cost per day’s schooling in the smaller district schools and consolidated schools almost invariably shows a lower expenditure for the latter. For example, the fifteen districts in Hardin County, Iowa, having in 1908 an enrollment of nine or less, averaged a cost of 27.5 cents a day for each pupil. At the same time the cost per day in the consolidated rural schools of northeastern Ohio was only 17.4 cents a day, the district schools being more than fifty-seven per cent higher than the consolidated. Similar comparisons show the same trend in many other localities. In a great many of the small district schools the cost per pupil is as high as in consolidated schools where a high school course is also provided. It has been found that the average cost per year of schooling a child in a consolidated school is but little above thirty dollars, while in practically all smaller district schools it far exceeds this amount, not infrequently going above fifty dollars. This means that average rural districts that are putting at least thirty dollars a year into the schooling of each child can, by consolidating their schools, secure greatly improved educational facilities with no heavier financial burden.

Not the least important of the advantages growing out of rural school consolidation is the improved attendance. Experience has shown that fully twenty-five per cent more children of school age are enrolled under the consolidated than under the district system. The advantage of this one factor alone can hardly be over-estimated, but the increase in regularity of attendance is also as great. The average daily attendance of rural schools throughout the country is approximately sixty per cent of the enrollment, and in entire States falls below fifty per cent. It has been found that consolidation, with its attendant conveyance of pupils, commonly increases the average daily attendance by as much as twenty-five per cent.

It is true that in many regions it may at present prove impossible to consolidate all the rural schools. In places where the population is so sparse as to require transportation for very long distances, or where the country roads are still in such a condition in wet seasons as to be practically impassable, consolidation must of necessity be delayed. In such communities, however, the rural school need not be completely at a standstill. Much can be done to make even the one-room schoolhouse attractive and hygienic. With almost no expense, the grounds can be set with shade trees, shrubs, and perennial flowering plants. The yard can be made into a lawn in front, and into an athletic ground at the sides or the rear. Enough ground can be added to provide for all these things, and a school garden besides. The building can be rendered more inviting through better architecture, and more attention to decoration and cleanliness. An adequate supply of books and other equipment can be provided. While the isolated rural school can never take the place of the consolidated school, while it should always be looked upon as only temporarily occupying a place later to be filled by a more efficient type of school, it can after all be rendered much more efficient than it is at present. And since the one-room school will without doubt for years to come be required as a supplement of the consolidated school, it should receive the same careful thought and effort toward its improvement that is being accorded the school of better type.

Financial support of the rural school

The rural school has never had adequate financial support. There has been good reason for this in many regions of the country where farm property was low in value, the land sparsely settled and not all improved, or else covered by heavy mortgages. As these conditions have gradually disappeared and the agricultural population become more prosperous, the school has in some degree shared the general prosperity. But not fully. A smaller proportion of the margin of wealth above living necessities is going into rural education now than in the earlier days of less prosperity. While the farmer has vastly “improved” his farm, he has improved his school but little. While he has been adding modern machinery and adopting scientific methods in caring for his grain and stock, his children have not had the advantage of an increasingly efficient school.

The poverty of the rural school finds its explanation in two facts: (1) the relatively low value of the taxable property of the rural as compared with the town or city district, and (2) the lower rate of local school tax paid in country than in urban districts. The first of these disadvantages of the rural district cannot be remedied; but for the second, there seems to be no valid economic reason.

The approximate difference in the local school-tax rate paid in urban and rural districts is shown in the following instances, which might be duplicated from other States:-

In Kansas, the local school tax paid in 1910 by towns and cities was above eighty per cent more than that paid by country districts. In Missouri, the current report of the State Superintendent shows towns and cities seventy-five per cent higher than the country. In Minnesota, towns and cities average nearly three times the rate paid by rural districts. In Ohio, towns and cities are more than ten per cent higher than rural districts, even where the rural district maintains a full elementary and high school course. In Nebraska and Iowa, the town and city rate is about double that of country districts.

When there is added to this difference the further fact that town and city property is commonly assessed at more nearly its full value than rural property, the discrepancy becomes all the greater.

It is not meant, of course, that farmers should pay as high a school-tax rate for the elementary rural school as that paid by town patrons who also have a high school available. But, on the other hand, if better school facilities are to be furnished the country children, rural property should bear its full share of the taxes required. The farmer should be willing to pay as much for the education of his child as the city dweller pays for a similar education for his.

During the last generation farmers have been increasing in wealth faster than any other class of industrial workers. Their land has doubled in value, barns have been built, machinery has been added, automobiles purchased, and large bank credits established. Yet very little of this increased prosperity has reached the school. Library, reference works, maps, charts, and other apparatus are usually lacking. In Iowa, as a fair example, a sum of not less than ten nor more than fifteen cents a year for each pupil of school age in the district is required by law to be expended for library books. Yet in not a few districts the law is a dead letter or the money grudgingly spent! In many rural schools the teacher has to depend on the proceeds of a “social,” an “exhibition,” or a “box party” to secure a few dollars for books or pictures for the neighborhood school, and sometimes even buys brooms and dust pans from the fund secured in this way.

This is all wrong. The school should be put on a business basis. It should have the necessary tools with which to accomplish its work, and not be forced to waste the time and opportunity of childhood for want of a few dollars expended for equipment. Its patrons should realize that just as it pays to supply factory, shop, or farm with the best of instruments for carrying on the work, so it pays in the school. Cheap economy is always wasteful, and never more wasteful than when it cripples the efficiency of education.

State aid for rural schools has been proposed and in some instances tried, as a mode of solving their financial problem. Where this system has been given a fair trial, as for example in Minnesota, it has resulted in two great advantages: (1) it has encouraged the local community to freer expenditure of their own money for school purposes, since the contribution of the State is conditioned on the amount expended by the district. This is an important achievement, since it serves to train the community to the idea of more liberal local taxation for school purposes, and it is probable that the greater part of the support of our schools will continue to come from this source. Another advantage of state aid is (2) that it serves to equalize educational opportunities, and hence to maintain a true educational democracy. Wealthier localities are caused to contribute to the educational facilities of those less favored, and a common advancement thereby secured.

While the theory of state aid to rural education is wholly defensible, and while it has worked well in practice, yet there is one safeguard that needs to be considered. It is manifestly unfair to ask the people of towns and cities to help pay for the support of the rural schools through the medium of the State treasury except on condition that the patrons of the rural schools themselves do their fair share. Mr. “A,” living in a town where he pays twenty mills school tax, ought not to be asked to help improve Mr. “B’s” rural school, while Mr. “B” is himself paying but ten mills of school tax. The farmer is as able as any one else to pay a fair rate of taxation for his school, and should be willing to do so before asking for aid from other taxation sources. Rural education must not be placed on the basis of a missionary enterprise. State aid should be used to compensate for the difference in the economic basis for taxation in different localities, and not for a difference in the rates of taxation between localities equally able to pay the same rate.

We may conclude, then, that while neither the rural school nor the community has been fully aware of the possibilities for mutual helpfulness and cooeperation, yet there are many hopeful signs that both are awakening to a sense of responsibility. Federal and state commissions have been created to study the rural problem, national and state teachers’ associations are seeking a solution of the rural school question, and, better still, the patrons of the rural schools are in many places alive to the pressing need for better educational facilities for their children.

Growing out of these influences and the faithful work of many state and county superintendents, and not a few of the rural teachers themselves, a spirit of progress is gaining headway. Several thousand consolidated schools are now rendering excellent service to their patrons and at the same time acting as a stimulus to other communities to follow their example. State aid to rural education is no longer an experiment. The people are in many localities voluntarily and gladly increasing their taxes in order that they may improve their schools. Teachers’ salaries are being increased, better equipment provided, and buildings rendered more habitable.

The great educational problem of the immediate future will be to encourage and guide the movement which is now getting under way. For mistakes made now will handicap both community and school for years to come. The attempt to secure better schools by “improving” conditions in local districts should be definitely abandoned except in localities where conditions make consolidation impracticable for the present. The new consolidated school building should take definitely into account the fact that the school is to become the neighborhood social center, and the structure should be planned as much with this function in view as with its uses for school purposes. The new type of rural school is not to aim simply to give a better intellectual training, but is at the same time to relate this training to the conditions and needs of our agricultural population. And all who have to do with the rural schools in any way are to seek to make the school a true vitalizing factor in the community-a leaven, whose influence shall permeate every line of interest and activity of its patrons and lead to a fuller and richer life.

The rural school and its pupils

One of the surest tests of any school is the attitude of the pupils-the spirit of loyalty, cooeperation, and devotion they manifest with reference to their education. Do they, on the whole, look upon the school as an opportunity or an imposition? Do they consider it their school, and make its interests and welfare their concern, or do they think of it as the teacher’s school, or the board’s school or the district’s school? These questions are of supreme importance, for the question of attitude, quite as much as that of ability, determines the use made of opportunity.

It must be admitted that throughout our entire school system there remains something to be desired in the spirit of cooeperation between pupils and schools. The feeling of loyalty which the child has for his home does not extend commensurately to the school. Too often the school is looked upon as something forced upon the child, for his welfare, perhaps, but after all not as forming an interesting and vital part of his present experience. It is often rather a place where so much time and effort and inconvenience must be paid for so many grades and promotions, and where, incidentally, preparation is supposed to be made for some future demands very dimly conceived. At best, there is frequently a lack of feeling of full identity of interests between the child and the school.

The youth, immaturity, and blindness of childhood make it impossible, of course, for children to conceive of their school in a spirit of full appreciation. On the other hand, the very nature of childhood is responsiveness and readiness of cooeperation in any form of interesting activity,-is loyalty of attitude toward what is felt to minister to personal happiness and well-being. In so far, therefore, as there exists any lack of loyalty and cooeperation of pupils toward their school, the reasons for such defection are to be sought first of all in the school, and not in the child.

While this negative attitude of the pupils exists in some degree in all our schools, it is undoubtedly more marked in our rural schools than in others. In a negligible number of cases does this lack of cooeperation take the form of overt rebellion against the authority of the school. It is manifested in other ways, many of them wholly unconscious to the child, as, for example, lack of desire to attend school, and indifference to its activities when present.

Attending school is the most important occupation that can engage the child. Yet the indifference of children and their parents alike to the necessity for schooling makes the small and irregular attendance of rural school pupils one of the most serious problems with which educators have to deal. County superintendents have in many places offered prizes and diplomas with the hope of bettering attendance, but such incentives do not reach the source of the difficulty. The remedy must finally lie in a fundamental change of attitude toward the school and its opportunities. Good attendance must spring from interest in the school work and a feeling of its value, rather than from any artificial incentives.

How great a problem poor attendance at rural schools is, may be realized from the fact that, in spite of compulsory education laws, not more than seventy per cent of the children accessible to the rural school are enrolled, and of this number only about sixty per cent are in daily attendance. This is to say that under one half of our farm children are daily receiving the advantages of even the rural school. In some States this proportion will fall as low as three tenths instead of one half. In many rich agricultural counties of the Middle West, having a farming population of approximately ten thousand, not more than forty or fifty pupils per year complete the eight grades of the rural school.

If the rural school is to be able to claim the regular attendance and spontaneous cooeperation of the children it must (1) be reasonably accessible to them, (2) be attractive and interesting in itself, and (3) offer work the value and application of which are evident.

The inaccessibility of the rural school has always been one of its greatest disadvantages. In a large proportion of cases, a walk of from a mile to a mile and a half along country roads or across cultivated fields has been required to reach the schoolhouse. During inclement weather, or when deep snow covers the ground, this distance proves almost prohibitive for all the smaller children. Wet feet and drenched clothing have been followed by severe colds, coughs, bronchitis, or worse, and the children have not only suffered educationally, but been endangered physically as well.

It has been found in all instances that public conveyance of pupils to the consolidated schools greatly increases rural school patronage. It makes the school accessible. The regular wagon service does away with the “hit-and-miss” method of determining for each succeeding day whether it is advisable for the child to start for school. So important is this factor in securing attendance, that a careful study by Knorr of the attendance in Ohio district and consolidated schools shows twenty-seven per cent more of the total school population in school under the influence of public conveyance and other features peculiar to consolidation than under the district system. He concludes that, broadly speaking, by a system of consolidated schools with public conveyance, rural school attendance can be increased by at least one fourth.

The life in the typical rural school is not sufficiently interesting and attractive to secure a strong hold upon the pupils. The dreary ugliness of the physical surroundings has already been referred to. And even in districts where the building and grounds have been made reasonably attractive, there is yet wanting a powerful factor-the influence of the social incentive that comes from numbers. In hundreds of our rural schools the daily attendance is less than a dozen pupils, frequently not representing more than three or four families. The classes can therefore contain not more than two or three pupils, and often only one. There is no possibility of organizing games, or having the fun and frolic possible to larger groups of children. Add to this the fact that the teaching is often spiritless and uninspiring, and the reason becomes still more plain why so many rural children drop out of school with scarcely the rudiments of an education.

Here, again, the consolidated school, with its attractive building, its improved equipment, its larger body of pupils, and its better teaching, appears as a solution of the difficulty. For it does what the present type of district school can never do-it makes school life interesting and attractive to its pupils, and this brings to bear upon them one of the strongest incentives to continue in school and secure an education.

Finally, much of the work of the school has not appealed to the pupils as interesting or valuable. This has not been altogether the fault of the curriculum, but often has come from the lack of adaptability of the work to the pupils studying it. Through frequent changes of teachers, poor classification, and irregularity of attendance, rural pupils have often been forced to go over and over the same ground, without any reference to whether they were ready to advance or not. In other cases, careless grading has placed children in studies for which they were utterly unprepared, and from which they could get nothing but discouragement and dislike for school. In still other instances the course pursued has been ill-balanced, and in no degree correlated. Often the whim of the child determines whether he will or will not study certain subjects, the teacher lacking either the knowledge or insistence to bring about a better organization of the work.

The unskilled character of the rural school-teaching force, and the impossibility of securing any reasonable supervision as the system is at present organized, make us again turn to the consolidated school as the remedy for these adverse conditions. For with its improved attendance, its skilled teaching, and its better supervision, it easily and naturally renders such conditions impossible. Give the consolidated school, in addition, the greatly enriched curriculum which it will find possible to offer its pupils, and the vexing question of the relation of the rural school to its pupils will be far toward solution.

Let us next consider somewhat in detail the curriculum of the rural school.