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Public education is at present passing through a transition stage. The emphasis in the school courses of previous generations was upon the culture of the mind and the appeal was made for a high classical training, but now that the work on the farms as well as in the shops is largely done by costly machinery, the emphasis of school work is being rapidly transferred to the hand, and the appeal is for manual or vocational training and domestic science.
Its aim is to reach and train for a successful self-supporting career, the great majority of young people who cannot pursue their studies beyond the fifth to the eighth grades.
Our country has made wonderful progress in the arts and sciences including new inventions, during the last half century. The scope of the “Natural Philosophy” and “Familiar Science” of a few years ago has been very greatly enlarged.
The country has been spanned and crossed in every direction by great systems of standard and interurban railways. Automobiles are in popular use on the highways and powerful tractors do the threshing, corn-shelling and plowing on the farm. Oil engines and electric motors are in use on the farms and in the homes of the people. The last of the good agricultural lands have been opened for settlement and are now occupied. Agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, dairying and even housekeeping have been reduced to a science, by the statement of essential principles, the same as in architecture and civil-engineering. Success in them depends on a practical knowledge of the art, as well as a theoretical knowledge of the science.
A few years ago the pressing demand was for teachers and normal instructors for their preparation. The demand for teachers in constantly increasing numbers continues, but it is now rivaled by the present demand for young people, who understand the principles of mechanical construction, whose hands have been trained to use costly and delicate machinery aright and properly care for it. Success and self-support on the farm as well as elsewhere now require the trained hand as well as the intelligent mind.
Self-support is essential to the possession of a permanent and happy home.
No home can be permanent while there is no assured means of support. While the father depends on uncertain day labor and the mother knows little or nothing of economy in the household and even less about the care, training and discipline of children, there can be but little progress made in the home or Church life.
Dependent homes mean dependent Churches, while prosperous homes mean self-supporting Churches. In this fact is found a great motive for the Church in her educational missionary work to make suitable provision for teaching the young the useful or necessary arts of life, and some knowledge of the sciences, while offering to them the bread and the water of life, through the establishment of Christian educational institutions.
A recent debate in the House of Congress at Washington developed a unanimous sentiment, that a good cook is more cultured than a pianist, and that girls should not be allowed piano lessons until they learn how to cook good biscuits. We have read of girls “whose heads were stuffed with useless knowledge, but not one in twenty knew the things that would be serviceable to her through life. They could not sew or cook.”
At Oak Hill it is different. Every girl at ten begins to take her monthly turn in learning to cook, mend and sew. She is taught the art and the rules of these useful employments the same as those of reading, writing and arithmetic in the school room.
The business of housekeeping is thus early introduced to the mind of the child, to awaken its thoughtfulness and develop efficiency in the future work of managing a home. This connects the teaching of the school with the life of the home. It makes the instruction a real and practical help instead of being merely theoretical. It affords pleasant and profitable employment to the pupils during spare moments that would otherwise be lost in idle loafing or play.
The business of housekeeping is attracting the attention of schools of learning and of legislatures more and more every year. Some states, like Indiana, are making large investments to promote training in domestic science in the schools of the state. The great results achieved in recent years by health regulations, in checking and suppressing contagious diseases, have greatly increased the scope of this instruction. It now includes in the higher schools, the new applications of the principles of nutrition, the chemistry of cleaning and the laws of hygiene, or health.
At Highland Park College, Des Moines, Iowa, having an enrollment of 2,500 young people in the capital city of one of our most highly favored states in the valley of the Mississippi, ninety-five per cent of them never go beyond the seventh and eighth grades and only two per cent go to higher institutions of learning. This eminently successful institution attracts young people from all parts of our land and this last year from twelve foreign countries. 500 young men, one fifth of its enrollment are in shops. This institution is the embodiment of the genius and a splendid monument to the memory of its founder, Dr. O. F. Longwell, who for twenty-four years served as its president, having previously secured a remarkable development of the Western Normal college at Shenandoah.
The industrial scheme of Booker T. Washington at Tuskeegee is an intelligent Negro’s idea of what the illiterate negro needs to help himself. It is undoubtedly the best scheme to enable him to attain self support.
Started as a private enterprise its patronage soon over-taxed its equipment of buildings and attracted public aid from the legislature of Alabama, and later large gifts from many wealthy people in our larger northern cities, some of whom endeavor to visit it once a year to note its annual progress and needs.
The remarkable success of this industrial institution and the immeasurable amount of good it has already done, during the lifetime of its founder, in bettering the temporal welfare of thousands of colored people in the south, have tended to make it the most prominent illustration of practical and successful industrial education among the colored people of this or any other land.
Sam Daly of Tuscaloosa, an illiterate janitor of the University of Alabama, previous to 1903, and died at Atlanta, while attending the Presbyterian General Assembly in May 1913, is a splendid illustration of what one may do for the good of his race.
At the time of his death he left to be cared for by others a 500 acre farm of his own, fourteen miles from town on which he was voluntarily caring for 270 convicted and vice steeped colored boys from the cities of that state.
He established an industrial school for boys on his own farm, to save convicted and bad boys from prison; received them from the police judges and conveyed them to the farm. They had become a nuisance and burden to the public, but he housed, fed and clothed this large family without receiving a dollar of public funds of Jefferson County; and from the Church, only forty dollars, for a sleeping room for them and the salary of a teacher. The rest of their support was obtained from their daily toil on the farm.
At last the number of boys and the cost of keeping them became so great, he was compelled for their sakes to put a mortgage of eighteen hundred dollars on his farm. This impelled him to go to the Assembly (South) to make an appeal for funds.
Unfortunately he suddenly became ill and died before he was able to make his appeal. His last words were: “Take care-take good care ob mah little niggahs!”
He had saved, by industrial occupation and farming, for good citizenship in Alabama, three hundred boys convicted of crimes and misdemeanors. It was a sad disappointment to him that he was unable to present to the Assembly an appeal on behalf of those still under his care.
Sam Daly was a good janitor, but when he began to make good men of useless and bad boys, his value to the state of Alabama was increased many fold. This brief record of his generous, energetic and heroic work is made that it may serve as an inspiration to devise other similar ways of being useful and helpful.
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