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Agricultural Education in the United States


AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES Agricultural education in the United States finds its beginnings in the striving of individual land-owners toward higher levels of production. This created interest and discussion in agricultural communities, induced the making of tests, trials and observations, pointed to the advantages of concerted action, and slowly but steadily laid the foundation on which present-day educational machinery was built.

Agricultural Schools.—Among the early attempts to pro vide agricultural instruction in schools of less than college grade the following may be noted : In 1821 the State legislature of Maine granted to Robert Hallowell Gardiner an annual appro priation of $1,000 for the maintenance of an institute for agri cultural and mechanic arts. The Gardiner Lyceum was opened at Gardiner, Me., in 1823. It employed a professor of agricul ture, maintained a farm and offered short winter courses in agri culture. An agricultural school was founded at Derby, Conn., in 1826. So-called manual labour schools were established in New York State in the period 1825-4o. They laid stress, in their curric ula, on vocational training in agriculture and the industries. In 1845-5o several agricultural schools were founded, through private initiative, in New York and Connecticut. After the middle of the i9th century conditions became more propitious for the teach ing of agriculture in elementary and secondary schools. A period of agitation was followed by the establishment of an agricultural high school at the University of Minnesota (1888). District and county agricultural schools were created a few years later, among them the agricultural schools in the nine congressional districts of Alabama. By 1898 there had been established ten agricultural high schools. In 19o9, there were 6o separate agricultural high schools. Agricultural courses were then being offered in 346 other high schools. Several States, among them Massachusetts (191i ), New York (1913), Pennsylvania (1913), New Jersey 0913) and Indiana 0913) had established definite systems of vocational agricultural education. It is estimated that in 1912-13 there were about 2,3oo State agricultural schools, district agricultural schools, agricultural departments of high schools and ordinary schools that maintained systematic instruction in agriculture.

The Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act (1917) provides Federal aid for vocational training, including the teaching of agriculture and home economics in secondary schools. Since the passage of this Act many vocational agricultural schools, as well as agricultural departments of general high schools, have been established in the several States. Of the ir,561 rural high schools, 3,339 or 29% maintained vocational agricultural departments in 1927. They had an enrolment of 129,032 students. In that year there was available for the support of vocational agricultural education nearly $7,5oo,000, compared with about $74o,000 in 1918. Aside from these institutions, agriculture is being taught in some of the private high schools, in normal schools, and in special schools for negroes and Indians. It may be noted, further, that many States have special laws which concern the teaching of agriculture in elementary rural schools.

Agricultural Colleges.

Simeonde Witt, surveyor-general of New York, published, in 1819, a pamphlet entitled Considera tions on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College, and Having More of the Children of Wealthy Citizens Educated for the Profession of Farming. A State agricultural college was es tablished in New York in 1853. The oldest surviving state agri cultural college is that of Michigan (1857). Similar colleges were established in Pennsylvania and Maryland (1859) and the incorporation of agricultural colleges authorized in Iowa and Minnesota (1858). The Federal Land Grant Act (also called the first Morrill Act) was passed in 1862. It created a group of State institutions of higher learning, known as the land grant colleges and universities (q.v.). This legislation was far-reaching in its effects on the social and economic development of the country. The second Morrill Act (189o) and the Nelson amendment of the Morrill Act (1907) provided additional funds for the State colleges.

The State colleges and universities are intimately associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This had its inception in the collection and distribution of seeds and plants by the Patent Office in 1839. The service was expanded to furnish infor mation on various agricultural topics. In 1862 the Department of Agriculture was organized as such and in 1889 its head became a member of the President's cabinet. When the Hatch Act was passed (1887) funds were made available for the establishment of experiment stations as departments of the State colleges. Prior to that, State agricultural experiment stations had been established in Connecticut (1875), California (1877), North Carolina (1877), New York (1879 and 1882), New Jersey (188c), Ohio, Tennes see and Massachusetts (1882), Alabama and Wisconsin (1883), Nebraska (1884), and Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine and Minnesota (1885) . A private sugar-planter's experiment sta tion was established in Louisiana in 1885, and State stations in Louisiana, Vermont and New Hampshire in 1886.

In keeping with the provisions of the Hatch Act, an office of experiment stations was organized in the Department of Agri culture for the purpose of maintaining contracts with the sta tions. Subsequent legislation referred to as the Adams (1906) and Purnell (1925) Acts augmented the income of the stations, established better correlation of research on a regional and national basis and encouraged co-operation among the stations themselves and with the Department of Agriculture. The sta tions are primarily research institutions. As such they are main taining many hundreds of research projects of direct significance to agriculture and the farm home, and creating a vast body of knowledge from which facts and generalizations are being drawn for the benefit of resident instruction and of extension teaching.

The Smith-Lever Act was passed in 1914. It represents a na tional scheme of extension teaching in agriculture and home economics and is the culmination of a long series of local, State, regional and national efforts to stimulate agricultural progress by bringing technical and general information to the farm and farm home. The antecedents of the Smith-Lever Act include the almanacs, agricultural journals and newspapers, agricultural socie ties, boards of agriculture, farmers' institutes and demonstrations and lectures by public-spirited individuals. The Act -provides for county agents, home demonstration agents, club leaders and ex tension specialists. It makes the Department of Agriculture re sponsible for co-ordinating and supervising the extension activi ties in the several States.

The agricultural teaching, research and extension of the land grant colleges and universities is being generously supported by the local, State and Federal Governments. In 1928, the Federal Government was appropriating about $7,000,00o for the support of agricultural extension, while the States, counties, farm organiza tions and individuals were expending for the same purpose about $13,000,000.

See A. C. True, Educations and Research in Agriculture and Home Economics in the United States (1922) ; C. B. Smith, Co-operative Extension Work, Ig24, with ten years' Review (1926) ; Walter J. Greenleaf, "Land Grant Colleges," Bureau of Education Bulletin, No. 37 (1927). (J. G. L.)

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