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Rep. Charles R. Davis

Address of the Honorable C. R. Davis, of Minnesota, to the Graduating Class, June 15, 1910

Progressive Industrial Education

The progress toward industrial education in the United States was initiated in 1862 by the enactment of the so-called "Morrill Act," which inaugurated in the several states and territories a system of higher education in agriculture, mechanic arts, and home economics. The movement toward industrial education is world-wide. It is in response to a demand for a training which fits one for the needs and requirements of every-day life. While this new education is practical, it is none the less cultural. It adds new dignity to labor. It seizes upon one's environment and brings the individual into more intimate relationship with that environment.

The New Education And What It Means

Stated briefly, the new education trains one's environment. Its aim is to fit the individual for immediate and practical problems. We are coming to find out that many of these questions are closely related to the soil and shop, as well as to the home. We know that the problem of the distribution of population, the problem of production and of distribution, is intimately connected with the question of our social and economic welfare. We are rapidly assuming the point of view of the new education in the study of these economic questions and applying the test of industrial training to their solution.

A Demand For Training Of The Entire Individual

There never was a time when the demand was so strong for the training of the entire individual as it is to-day. There is no less a demand for culture and scholarship, but there is more demand for the practical scholarship which combines the theme of the book, the theme written in the soil and in the machinery, with the inspiration for the best living.

There is no longer the arbitrary separation of the world of culture from the world of work. The tiller of the soil, the man who works in the shop, the builder of railroads, are each and all performing a social and practical service, the cultural value of which is in no measure diminished by reason of the fact that they are dealing with the material world and every-day problems.

You who are equipped with modern methods in the science of agriculture and mechanics will render your state and country a service by making farm life more attractive, by making the soil more productive, in conserving forests and waters, and in harnessing more effectively for man's use the forces of nature. Farm life has a cultural side, the significance of which we are just beginning to appreciate. This new education is causing us to appreciate the theme written in the soil, which interpreted means an education broader in scope and application. It means a training which reveals the beauties and mysteries of the world about us—the world of Nature—and by proper utilization of the laws of science, causes Nature to yield more bountifully of her stores.

Progress In Agricultural Education

It is a most gratifying sign of the times that the progress made in agricultural and industrial education during the past twelve years, as a result of popular demand, is unprecedented in the history of the world. In 1897 the value of the property of state agricultural colleges and experiment stations was $51,000,000. Now it is $106,000,000. Educational institutions receiving the benefits of the acts of Congress of July 2, 1862, August 30, 1890, and March 4, 1907, are now in operation in all the states and territories, except Alaska. The total number of these institutions is 67, of which 64 maintain courses of instruction in agriculture. The aggregate value of the permanent funds and equipment of the land-grant colleges and universities in 1908 is estimated at $106,342,679.21. The land-grant colleges, with their liberal courses of industrial studies, constitute the corner-stone of our entire vocational educational structure.

Most significant is the rapid progress made in the field of secondary and elementary education in agriculture. In 1897 Minnesota had the only state agricultural high school, and Alabama had just made provision for the last of its nine district agricultural schools. The teaching of agriculture in the public elementary schools was scarcely thought of.

To-day there are fifteen agricultural high schools of the Minnesota type and forty other agricultural high schools receiving state aid.

Among the states which have recently enacted legislation for the introduction of agriculture into the public secondary schools and for the establishment of agricultural high schools are Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The Legislature of Oklahoma, in carrying out the provisions of the State Constitution requiring the teaching of the elements of agriculture, horticulture, stock-feeding and domestic science in the common schools, enacted a law approved by the governor of the State, May 20, 1908, which provides for an articulated system of instruction in the subjects mentioned, and in forestry, road-making, and economics, extending from the agricultural college to the common schools, and makes instruction in these subjects mandatory in all public schools receiving any part of their support from the State. Since 1908 special agricultural high schools have been started in Oklahoma and Maryland. Provision has been made in Arkansas and Idaho for a complete system of agricultural high schools. In Oklahoma six of the agricultural schools are now in operation.

In Virginia much progress has been made in the establishment, and development of secondary agricultural high schools. In 1906 the General Assembly of Virginia very wisely gave $50,000 a year to encourage the establishment of high schools in rural communities. The Assembly of 1908 doubled the annual appropriation for the extension of rural high schools and in addition gave $15,000 a year to establish in connection with certain high schools, county training schools for teachers. Last year the State organized six of the agricultural high schools out of the ten proposed. In addition to this appropriation for training schools, the Assembly of 1908 gave $20,000 a year for two years with which to commence in each congressional district, the teaching of agriculture and domestic science in connection with certain high schools.

Industrial Education In Europe

If this country is to maintain its position in the industrial and commercial world, the federal government must assist the states in a practical plan of secondary technical education. In England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, the federal government contributes towards industrial education. In most of these countries about one-third of the expense of maintaining these schools comes from federal aid, about one-third from the states, and the balance from local appropriations. France for more than a century has had agriculture taught in her secondary schools. The industrial and commercial supremacy of Germany to-day is due to the fact that this nation has paid so much attention to the importance of vocational training.

Prussia, with its thirty-six millions of people, has its industrial schools under the direction of a department of commerce and industry. The industrial schools of Germany are celebrated for their thorough, systematic, and comprehensive instruction. They cover the whole educational period: there are the lower industrial schools, which connect directly with the common schools and give training to the workmen; the higher industrial schools, which correspond to our technical colleges and produce the leading technologists; and the middle industrial schools for pupils who have gone through the lower industrial schools, but who desire to shorten the period of higher education.

Former President Roosevelt, who took a deep interest in the widespread movement for industrial education, made this statement in a public address at Lansing, Michigan. He said, in part:

"No one can look at the peoples of mankind, as they stand at present, without realizing that industrial training is one of the most potent factors in national development. By the tariff and by our immigration laws we can protect ourselves against the competition of pauper labor here at home, but when we contend for the markets of the world we can get no protection. We shall then find that our most formidable competitors are the nations in which there is the most highly developed business ability, the most highly developed industrial skill, and these are qualities which we must ourselves develop."

Industrial Education Must Reach The Masses

Thus far our industrial system of higher technical education has trained a body of leaders in the industries, sciences, and arts. We have made ample provision for the training of the leaders, but the subordinates have been neglected. It is largely on this ground that we justify any proposed federal expenditures for industrial training in secondary schools. The agricultural colleges have done a noble work, but they can never solve the problem of educating practical farmers without the help of the agricultural high schools. Agriculture should be pursued in the light of scientific knowledge, and we fail in our duty to the public when we neglect to furnish to the people who till the soil and work in shop and home the opportunity to become acquainted with the last words of science on these vital subjects.

We are reaching the conclusion that the work of the nation should be to hold out real inducements to the states to actually begin this work on a broad and efficient scale.

The Davis-Dolliver Bill now before Congress is the latest embodiment of thought on this subject, which, if enacted into law, will put into operation a practical plan of secondary vocational education in all the states and territories. In brief, it proposes a plan of cooperation between the federal government and the states in extending the benefits of industrial education to the young man and woman in secondary schools, who are preparing for the farm, the shop, or the home. It is not only necessary that the federal government should give the necessary direction to this movement, so far as it relates to secondary schools, but it is highly important that the Congress come to the aid of the states, thereby accomplishing in a few years that which, in the opinion of educators, would require at least one hundred years for the states to accomplish alone. There is no other agency so well equipped to give direction to this movement and to place it on a permanent basis as the federal government.

The problem which the Davis-Dolliver Bill proposes to solve is to successfully impart the accumulation of scientific knowledge to the five millions of boys and girls who will soon be preparing for rural life, as well as to the ten million young men and women who will be fitting themselves for city life. The passage of the bill would provide a body of young people who could be developed as teachers. These teachers would carry instruction and inspiration in agriculture into all the rural schools of the land. The experience of Minnesota, Nebraska, and other-slates which have successfully conducted agricultural high schools indicates plainly that the majority of the graduates go back to the farm. Farming with its maximum financial returns will never be a realized fact in this country until the science of agriculture becomes the possession of the millions who till the soil. The agricultural high school will materially increase the wealth of the American farmer.

Industrial Education A Factor In Solving The Cost-Of-Living Problem

It may not be amiss to apply the commercial test to industrial education, thereby ascertaining one element in its value. It has been estimated that by slightly turning our educational system towards the industrial we can easily increase the economic efficiency of our people $165,000,000 annually. We know that a training which will give us more producers—an education which will take us back to the soil—or train us as efficient craftsmen, will go a long way towards solving one of the economic problems of the day. How can the food supply be made to keep pace with the increase in population? To illustrate the general decline in the food supply as compared to the increase in population, over a given period of time, it is only necessary to refer to Secretary Wilson's last report of the Department of Agriculture, in which he states:

"Since 1900, cattle have probably hardly increased absolutely, while population has gained 20 per cent. It is apparent that there has been a tendency of animals and crops of the farms to increase in value per unit at a faster rate than all commodities have increased."

We have recently made the discovery that about 72 per cent. of our federal revenue is spent on past wars and the preparation for future wars, leaving only 28 per cent. for constructive work. Comparing the appropriations for the year ending June 30, 1910, it appears that for the army, fortifications, and military academy they amount to $111,897,515.67; for the navy $136,935.199.05; and for pensions $160,908,000. This makes a total, on account of wars and preparation therefor, of $409,740,714.72. The Department of Agriculture received for the year ending June 30, 1910, $17,069,036, including $1,344,000 for experiment stations. There was an appropriation of $2,000,000 in addition for the agricultural colleges.

I believe it was Andrew Carnegie who suggested that we stop building warships and win our wars by simply refusing to feed the nations that would fight us. It would also seem to be good policy to spend more money for industrial education, thereby instilling in the people habits of thrift and peace, the surest safeguards against invasion from without and civil strife within.

Industrial Education Turning People Back To Soil

In practically every state the new type of education is turning the tide of population back to the soil. In Minnesota, where the first successful agricultural high school was established in 1887, the young men and women are strong factors in the solution of rural and city problems. The graduates of these institutions have profoundly modified their respective walks of life. The agricultural high schools have developed leaders in country life who have gone back to the farm, bringing with them method and system in the science of agriculture.

The manufacturing and transportation companies are in touch with the mechanic arts high schools and with the state colleges, and are offering good positions to every young man who shows technical instincts and ability. These graduates have in turn carried the elements of this line of instruction under the name of manual training into very many of the primary schools of the country.

I have with me the figures as to the attendance in the school of agriculture at St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, during the year 1908-1909. The total attendance was 644. The farmers' short course had an enrollment of 169; the dairy school 107; teachers' short course 90; summer forestry school, 18; while the college of agriculture had 192 students. There was a total attendance in both school and college of 1,220. The agricultural high school at Crookston, Minnesota, established in 1906, had an enrollment in 1908 of 101 students, 79 boys and 22 girls. A most gratifying feature is the fact that 57.9 per cent. of the graduates of these schools returned to practical farming. In addition to this, 14.2 per cent. are engaged in pursuits directly pertaining to agriculture, making a total of 72.1 per cent. so engaged. The success of the Minnesota school was so pronounced that within twenty years at least fifty-five agricultural high schools have been established, and are receiving state aid, while no less than sixteen privately endowed colleges and schools are giving instruction in agriculture.

Resources Of Virginia

I know of no state offering better opportunities to graduates of technical schools and colleges than the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rich in agricultural and mineral wealth, the State is waiting for the leadership of just such trained men as you to bring to this Commonwealth industrial supremacy. In this connection I cannot do better than to quote from former Governor Claude A. Swanson's inaugural address, February, 1906, in which he said in part:

"There is a Virginia of the past resplendent with the heroic achievements of a great and glorious people; there is a Virginia of the present crowned with possibilities that can surpass the splendors of the proud past and make all that has gone before in her history but the prelude to a greater destiny.

"No state in this Union has richer or more varied resources than Virginia. Her mild, warm, equable climate furnishes a refuge alike to those scorched by the suns of the South or chilled by the winds of the North. There is not an agricultural product known to the temperate zone that cannot be profitably, and is not successfully, raised in Virginia. In extreme Southside Virginia are seen great white fields of cotton, as rich in beauty and luxuriant in growth as can be found in North Carolina or Georgia. In Piedmont and Southern Virginia are produced the great crops of tobacco which largely contribute to the world's supply. The magnificent Valley of Virginia, raising great crops of wheat, corn, oats, and hay, is almost unspeakable in her prodigality of production. The beautiful hilltops and mountains of Southwest and Northern Virginia, with their spontaneous and perennial growth of blue grass, have browsing on them herds of cattle and sheep.

"Nowhere can fruit grow to better perfection than in Virginia, and her great crops of apples, peaches, and grapes are bringing her immense returns and have brighter promises for the future. There is not a farm product known to the temperate zone that cannot be raised in the varied soil, climate, and conditions of Virginia. Everywhere in the State are seen evidences of intelligent and scientific farming, of progress and prosperity."

A grand tribute by your former Governor.

Virginia is the greatest trucking State in the Union. According to figures prepared by Virginia's commissioner of agriculture the value of corn crops in 1909 reached $15,000,000. One farmer sold his Irish potato crop for $20,000, and a single county grew five per cent. of the sweet potato crop of the United States. Mineral products increased from $5,658.801 in 1900 to $13,127,395 in 1909. In the same period the population of the State increased from 1,854,184 to 2,042,220. Emigration has practically ceased. More people are coming to Virginia and making homes here than ever before in her history. The State is just beginning to show the results of better farming.

The value of crops in Virginia in 1900 on 4,040,339 acres, was $129,104,000. The value of the same crops in 1908 on 750,000 less acres in cultivation, was $209,000,000, an increase in value of 69 per cent. The increase in the yield of the corn crop in Virginia is nearly ten bushels per acre, and with two million acres in corn in Virginia the increased yield is 20,000,000 bushels per year. The entire corn crop of the State, using again the report of the commissioner of agriculture, was worth $16,250,000, while in 1908 it had more than doubled in value, with an estimated worth of $35,500,000.

Virginia's 40,000 square miles support a population of only 2,050,000, or about fifty persons to the square mile. The statistics relative to expenditures for public schools are most gratifying. In 1880 the expenditures for common schools were $946,109; in 1900 expenditures were $1,989,238, while in 1909 they had risen to $3,357,475.

You are to be congratulated that you are about to enter a field of endeavor so full of opportunity and possibility. I would urge you to remain in your own State, thereby giving to the Commonwealth the benefit of your technical training, and assist in the further development of its latent resources.

Problems To Be Met By Graduates And Opportunities Awaiting Them

Your State is demanding teachers qualified in industrial subjects and familiar with local conditions and requirements. Technically trained teachers are needed to carry down to the rural schools the rudiments and elementary principles in agriculture. The present public school training is deficient to a certain degree in that it does not tend to fit the pupil for the practical affairs of life. That the rural school instruction is deficient is shown by the fact that, in 1907, 25 per cent. of the children in Virginia between the ages of 10 and 14 were not in school. In North Carolina the percentage of stay-at-homes was 32; in Kentucky, 22 per cent.; in Mississippi, 25 per cent. Here is an opportunity for properly trained young men to make the rural school education more practical, so as to fit the child for his or her environment. A rare opportunity is afforded the graduate of the technical school to help solve this problem—to reorganize the lower strata of the rural school system—to vitalize it, and to place it upon a more efficient basis.

Virginia's recently organized agricultural high schools need competent instructors. Here again is a wide field of opportunity. In 1909, 27 colleges of agriculture in the United States reported 93 graduates receiving an average annual salary of $955.53 for the first position filled. The demand for teachers in the industries is bound to grow, and with this increased demand will come increased compensation.

Your rich soils offer every inducement in the way of financial reward, following the application of intelligent and well-directed effort. I am reliably advised that, despite the remarkable productivity of your soil, at least one-third of the tillable land is not properly utilized for agricultural purposes. The Eastern coastal plain region of Virginia, with its truck-farming, the central plateau, or Piedmont section, so well adapted for general farm crops and fruits, and the Valley of Virginia, that beautiful garden spot, each has its particular problem. Innumerable mountain valleys more or less isolated furnish opportunity for cooperation in fruit production, in the purchase and use of machinery, cooperation in picking, grading, packing, and marketing fruit. In Virginia's tidewater counties the cooperative movement is now being utilized to good advantage in truck farming. In Minnesota the cooperative movement among farmers, largely the result of the effort and influence of the graduates of the agricultural college and school, has reached its highest and most useful development in the cooperative creamery, an institution which has added millions of dollars of soil wealth to the North Star State. In all sections of Virginia, not even excluding the Valley of Virginia, with its limestone soil, productivity will be immeasurably increased by proper and systematic crop rotation and scientific soil treatment.

Dairying Offers Opportunities

In Minnesota the one-crop method well-nigh impoverished the soil. Stock-raising, dairying, and crop rotation rebuilt worn-out soils and revolutionized methods in agriculture. We are beginning to appreciate the true value of soil conservation and its application in practical agriculture. Here in Virginia is opportunity to redeem lands long neglected, to apply proper methods to soils already productive, but which do not bring the maximum yield.

Dairying offers opportunities in the South not afforded in more northerly latitudes. The longer growing season, the milder winters, with consequent less need for shelter for stock, make of your State an ideal dairy section. What is true of Virginia in this respect applies with equal force to Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Your State is just beginning to wake up to the possibilities in dairying. A few years ago the State did not have a single butter factory. Now you have eleven. In 1905 Virginia made 81,803 pounds of butter in factories. In 1908 eight creameries manufactured 157,779 pounds. The estimated number of milk cows in the State, January 1, 1910, was 297,000 as against 1,125,000 in Minnesota. June 1, 1910, there were in Minnesota 838 creameries, of which 583 were of the cooperative type. Of Virginia's eleven creameries, 6 are cooperative. In 1908 there were manufactured in Minnesota 87,044,817 pounds of butter, and 4,211,778 pounds of cheese, with a combined value of $26,656,000. What has been done in Minnesota through the cooperative creamery may be repeated, I venture to say, in your State, where conditions are more favorable to dairying than further north.

There are other problems awaiting you. There is the water-power problem—the problem of conservation of mineral resources and forests, as well as your other natural supplies. Not less than fifteen million acres, or about one-half of the total land area of the State is in forest, and its value with the growing timber upon it exceeds $100,000,000. The value of forest products of all kinds is not less than $30,000,000 a year. This timber should be properly conserved for future home consumption. There is the problem of forest protection, the development and maintenance of farm forests, the proper use of idle waste land by forest planting, as well as education in forestry for farmers.

New Spirit Of Aggression Taking Possession Of Agriculture

I am glad that this new spirit in practical education is taking possession of you in such an aggressive manner. It is your task to translate these new educational standards into practical action. Let us not forget that we must educate the entire individual; that it is necessary to train the body as well as the brain. This kind of training fits for the most useful citizenship. It is not enough to educate half of the boy. No education is complete which does not recognize the fact that our real wealth is our boys and girls. The conservation of this human material, our greatest asset, is our most vital national problem, which overshadows all other questions.

This new spirit of determined endeavor which is taking possession of all forms of industry gives great promise for the future. There is a new spirit of hope abroad that argues well for substantial effort and increasing reward. You are about to enter a field of endeavor full of possibilities and practical service. Your leadership in this vital and progressive movement, which will affect all phases of our national life, will be invaluable to your Commonwealth and country. You will render your State the enthusiastic service in the cause of industrial education which you alone can give. You will carry a new message to the people. You will be vital factors in the solution of your State's problems. You will translate new ideals into practical action and bring the inspiration of progress to your vocations.

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From the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute -- The State Agricultural and Mechanical College, Commencement Number, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 1910, pp. 21-31

Charles Russell Davis was a Representative from Minnesota, elected as a Republican to the Fifty-eighth and to the ten succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1903-March 3, 1925).