SCHOOL ATTENDANCE It was to emphasize the importance of continuing the period devoted to education past childhood, into and through adolescence, that I refrained in discussing the education of children from reference to compulsory school attendance and child-labor laws. That children should go to school needs in America no argument. There are some children who get no systematic schooling, either in public or private schools or at the hands of tutors or gov ernesses, because they live in remote country dis tricts or in neglected corners of the city, because they are sick or crippled, or because their parents or guardians are indifferent or unsympathetic to the notion. Such children are few, however, and their numbers are decreasing. Public opinion everywhere in America recognizes that it is an elementary duty to provide a seat in a school-room for every child and to see that he occupies it with a reasonable degree of regularity for a certain number of weeks each year until he reaches a cer tain age.
How long the child is to go to school is a question on which we are less unanimous. There are places where the school term for the year is not more than twelve weeks, and others where it is forty, with an extension of six weeks of modified activities in the summer vacation. Children start to school at three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine years of age, and they leave at ten, eleven, twelve, and thir teen, as well as at fourteen, eighteen, twenty-two, and thirty. I presume most of us would say, if we were discussing this question with a visitor from Mars or Peru, that in America children go to school until they are fourteen years old, and that by that time they have ordinarily completed what we call our elementary grades. If, however, we should go to the latest census to verify our statement, we should find that among fourteen-year-old children in the United States during the school year 1909-bo nineteen in every hundred had had no connection whatever with any kind of school—day or evening, public or private, academic or industrial; and that among the children of Maryland there were twenty nine such school-less ones in every hundred in stead of nineteen. We should find that the pro
portion of children in school increases rapidly up to the age of eleven, at which time, in the country as a whole, more than nine out of ten had attended school at some time during the year; that it remains almost as high at twelve and thirteen; drops down, as we have seen, to eighty-one per cent at fourteen; and then falls rapidly to fifty per cent at sixteen, twenty-three per cent at eighteen, and eight per cent at twenty. We should discover many in teresting variations among different groups and in different states: that below fourteen, for ex ample, the children of immigrants show the high est proportion of school attendance (probably be cause they live mainly in cities, where schools are thickest), while at fourteen and over the children of native-born parents are more apt to be in school; that the boys drop out somewhat more rapidly than the girls from twelve to eighteen, but more slowly than the girls after that; that the maximum per centage of Negroes in school at any age is seventy three per cent at the age of eleven; and that the percentage of eleven-year-old children (the ones who are most apt everywhere to be in school) who did not attend school in the census year varies in the different states from one in forty-three in Ver mont to one in three in Louisiana. In other words, Vermont sends ninety-eight per cent of her chil dren to school and Louisiana sixty-seven per cent. We should reluctantly conclude that in respect to school attendance our actual accomplishment is much too far from our standard of what is normal. It is some comfort, however, to see that there had been a substantial advance in the ten years between 1900 and 1910. Among children ten to fourteen years old, the ages at which school attendance is most general, there were eight more in every hundred going to school in 1910 than there had been in 1900. The improvement was common to all elements of the population and to both sexes; it was most significant among the Negroes.