A Stake in the Land
by Peter Alexander Speek
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In regard to the situation in South Dakota, the Federal Bureau of Education reports (Bulletin, No. 31, 1918) that,

some counties, Hutchinson, for example, are largely peopled by German stock. A large portion of the school population attend German Catholic and German Lutheran parochial schools in which German has been used largely as a medium of instruction. (Recently stopped by order of the State Council of Defense.) In this county, and in Hanson County, the German-Russian Mennonites still live the quaint community life brought with them from Russia. German, not English, is the language of the villages, although in most of the schools English is the medium of instruction.


The California Commissioner of Public Education stated to the writer that the state authorities have no right to interfere in any way with the private and parochial schools and that he is not legally able to collect any information in regard to these schools.

Even the leaders of the Russian sectarian peasant colonies maintain some sort of a private school of their own. The San Francisco colony has classes for children two evenings a week, in which they are taught reading and writing in the Russian language. In Los Angeles the colony leaders explained that their children learn the Russian language in their homes, where Russian is spoken exclusively, and that they learn Russian reading and writing in their Russian private evening schools, one hour each evening. The peasants themselves teach them. The parents have to pay certain small sums to the teachers.

The leaders expressed a keen desire that the city should provide them with a Russian school, for they would like to have their children able to read, speak, and write the Russian language. If they should not be able to settle in America on the land they would be compelled to return to Russia. The leaders of the Russian colony at Glendale, Arizona, said that they are attempting to teach Russian to their children in the evenings and other spare time, but owing to lack of time and proper teachers they have not made much progress.


The local manager of the Hirsch fund in Woodbine, New Jersey, a Jewish colony, stated that there is in the colony a Hebrew school supported by individuals and to a certain degree by the Hirsch fund. It is a Hebrew school connected with activities of the synagogue, maintained for religious purposes. It corresponds to the parochial school of Christian churches. About sixty pupils attend this school.


It goes without saying that during war-time excitement, with its heightened suspicion, the statements made by the defenders of the foreign-language schools and their opponents do not always correspond to the reality. It has been the writers impression that the defenders were inclined to diminish the negative influence of these schools, while their opponents in a number of cases saw these schools darker than they really were.

For instance, it was a usual experience of the writer, when he arrived in an immigrant colony and explained either to individual leaders or to a meeting of the whole colony the purpose of his inquiry, to receive at the outset the following answer: "Well, we are all Americanized; we are all Americans; we understand and speak the American language and love the country; we are not a colony at all, but just plain American people of a certain old-country stock," etc. When it developed that the language of their church service and the teaching language in their private schools was their old-country language, the leaders began, with certain embarrassment, to admit that the old folks and the late arrivals do not understand English, and therefore the mother tongue of the parents becomes the home language for both the young and old. And since some settlers intend to return to the old country, and do not like to lose their former nationality—their old-country tongue is used in the churches and taught in the schools.

Perhaps the Polish settlers were most outspoken in their attachment to their nationality, while the German settlers were either silent or denied their preference for the German nationality; their main argument in favor of the use of German in their churches and schools was based on purely religious grounds. It was solely on this religious ground that they explained the higher proportion of German-language schools to the number of German immigrants than obtains in any other immigrant national group. The Jews claimed that their racial characteristics, such as diet, moral conceptions according to the Mosaic laws, and study of Hebrew history, were really contributions to America. They justified on this ground the cultivation of their racial differences, maintaining that there is nothing in this opposed to American ideals, but that, on the contrary, it is in accord with what this country stands for and fosters.

On the other hand, the opponents of foreign-language schools often viewed them as the sole hindrance to the better understanding and acceptance of American ways and institutions, the creators of disloyalty. They would close all foreign-language schools in the country at once, without any further consideration.

As a result of the war-time revelations and excitement, certain changes have taken place in these schools. In a number of states the use of a foreign tongue as a teaching medium and even as a subject of study in the common schools has been prohibited. In a number of places the immigrant leaders themselves have voluntarily changed their teaching language to English under the pressure of both public opinion in general and that of the members of their own group. "It is an injustice to our own people if we teach them a foreign tongue instead of the language of this country," stated a Lutheran pastor to the writer.

But in many cases the nationalistic leaders expressed their dissatisfaction with the changes "enforced" upon them. They expressed the opinion that after peace is established their people would have things their own way through their votes. Many of them are already naturalized and still more are going to be.


The elementary foreign-language schools undoubtedly perform a service in preventing the disruption of families and are justified to this extent. The question arises, however, whether much more cannot be done to assist the parents, through evening schools and home teachers, to learn the language and customs of the country. If this work could be adequately done, it would not be necessary to hold the children back by teaching them a foreign language, only to be used to bridge a temporary gulf in their homes.

The justification for foreign-language elementary schools does not apply to the higher institutions. In the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, the writer was struck by the fact that while the people were largely Americanized and English had become their home or mother tongue, the colony leaders insisted on the Dutch language in their high school and college. The only explanation given was that this was done unconsciously. During recent years they had become conscious of the need and the inevitableness of Americanization, and, as a result, had substituted English for Dutch in their higher schools.

The Jewish colony in Woodbine, New Jersey, had a Jewish agricultural college, supported by the Hirsch fund. To the writer's inquiries as to why there was need of a special Jewish agricultural college, why the Jewish boys cannot enter American agricultural colleges, receiving scholarships from the Hirsch fund if need be, the answers of the authorities were varied: They had to follow the will of Baron de Hirsch; in a special Jewish institution the Jewish boys are kept from "going astray"; teaching and training can be better adjusted to the peculiarities of the Jewish boys, etc.


There is no question that the foreign-language private schools have done great harm to the country as a whole and to the immigrants themselves. The question is, What has to be done?

The parochial schools must be regulated by the following measures: All elementary private schools should be licensed or registered in the office of the public-school authorities; all should meet the same requirements as the elementary public schools in regard to the qualifications of teachers, school terms, program, teaching language, and inspection and direction by the public-school authorities. Exception might be made to permit religious instruction certain definite hours during the week to the American-born children in English and to recently arrived immigrant children in their mother tongue as well as instruction in their mother tongue as an extra cultural subject. The lessons should be given by a duly qualified teacher.

In another volume[30] of these Studies there is a further discussion of a successful experiment along this line. The parochial schools of New Hampshire have co-operated voluntarily with the state authorities. Progress toward regulation and the establishment of a minimum standard in all schools in the state has been made. Only through some such provision can this country insure equal opportunity to its potential citizens.

[26] Report of the Nebraska Council of Defense, January 14, 1917.

[27] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915-16, p. 85.

[28] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915-16, p. 92.

[29] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914-16 (1917), p. 93.

[30] Frank V. Thompson, Schooling of the Immigrant, chap. iv.



Immigrant or foreign-language churches are needed by the immigrants so long as they have not learned to understand the English language. But for those immigrants who have been long enough in this country to know English and for the immigrants' children born in America no foreign-language churches are needed. If the church authorities conduct the church services and activities in a foreign tongue for those immigrants who understand and speak English, they then do this for racial or nationalistic reasons—as a service to the old country or to a nationality other than the American nationality. That this is often the case is shown by the fact that certain foreign countries have been financially supporting churches here for their people who have come to America; for instance, the former Russian monarchy gave liberally for the establishment and upkeep of Russian Greek Orthodox churches in this country.

In the use of foreign language in nearly all the rural colonies visited by the writer where there was an immigrant church, the language used in the church services was the old-country tongue, although occasionally the services were bilingual, both English and the foreign tongue being used.

In North Dakota an American minister described the situation as follows:

Most of the German Catholic and Lutheran church services are in German; some are bilingual. The Lutherans almost entirely have all-German services. In the western part of the state a Bohemian or a Slav can get only the German tongue. Scandinavian churches also use their own tongue. All foreign churches here use their own languages. Quite a number of foreign ministers are foreign born. Some can scarcely speak English.

At a hearing before the state Americanization Committee in Lincoln, Nebraska, held in the fall of 1918, a large number of the priests and pastors of immigrant churches testified as to the use of the old-country language in their church services and pleaded for its retention. It was apparent from the testimony that the foreign-language church service was prevalent throughout the state in the immigrant churches. Practically every priest or pastor claimed that the majority of his congregation could not understand services in English.

The following extracts from the testimony are characteristic. Peculiar emphasis was laid by the church authorities upon the fact that although the people might understand and speak English fluently in their everyday affairs, yet they could not understand church service or religious instruction when these were given in English.

Statement of H. F. Hensick, Madison, Nebraska, pastor of German Evangelical Lutheran Church:

In my own congregation in Madison there are thirty-six who are not able to understand the religious instruction in English; they are those who were born in this country or who came here years back.

Statement of Richard Kuehne, Lincoln, Nebraska:

We have in Lincoln about eight thousand German-Russian people; the most of them cannot follow an English sermon at all.

Statement of M. Lehninger, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, representing Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of Wisconsin and other states:

While there are a good many people who do understand English well and speak it quite fluently in everyday conversation, they all have had their religious instruction in German, and they understand a German sermon where they cannot understand an English one. The people of my church have come partly from Germany and partly from Canada, and many communicant members are native-born American citizens, and still it is a fact that perhaps only half a dozen members of the two hundred and fifty communicant members will have the full benefit of an English sermon.

Statement of Vic Anderson, Minden, Nebraska, Swedish Lutheran:

It is my judgment that 35 per cent of our people do not understand preaching in the American language. They can do business in that language, but when it comes to understanding the interpretation of the Bible, they would like to have it in the Swedish language because that is the language that their fathers and mothers taught them in.

Statement of John H. Steger, Plattsmouth, Nebraska, St. Paul German Church:

Half of my congregation cannot understand the English language.

Statement of C. F. Brommer, Hampton, Nebraska, Lutheran pastor:

In every congregation, but mostly in the congregations of the city, we have people who understand the English sermon as well as the German sermon, and then I think the majority speak, read, and write English, in common, everyday life, perfectly, but they still would derive greater benefit from the German than the English sermon, and I think there are probably nearly 98 per cent of our congregations and people who do not understand the English sermons and never will learn to understand them. These are mostly old people. When they came here they did not have the time nor the opportunity to learn the English language.

Statement of Adolph Matzner, Lincoln, Nebraska, representing the Nebraska district of the German Evangelical Synod of North America:

The majority of the voting members of our congregation are immigrants. They came to this country thirty or forty years ago; they settled in the country; they had no opportunity to get acquainted and to learn the American language. In the country and small towns they have no night schools, and these people never had a chance to learn the American language. We have members in the congregation who are able to understand it, or at least able to do their business in the American language. They can talk to you about politics and about the weather, but they cannot get the benefit from an American sermon that they can from a German sermon. They would perhaps understand a sermon on how to keep cool on a hot day, but when you come to a sermon on religious subjects they are not able to understand it.

Most of the priests and pastors stated that there were so many difficulties in the way of having separate English and foreign-language services, the former for the children and those who understand English, and the latter for the old people who do not understand English, that it would be practically impossible to do this. The argument usually given was that presented by Joseph G. Votava of Omaha, a Roman Catholic, representing the Bohemians:

About having separate meetings for the old folks and the children—this question came up from Greeley County, and they wanted us to have our German service between nine and ten, and Sunday school between ten and eleven, and from eleven to twelve an English sermon. The old folks and the children come together in the same vehicle, and they certainly don't expect the children to sit down on the curbing or in the shade until the old folks get through, and therefore it is hard to separate the meetings in the rural districts, of which we have many congregations all over the state.


That it is possible to have bilingual services successfully was testified to by John P. Gross, Hastings, Nebraska, a United States citizen born in Russia, representing the Adams County Council of Defense. He said:

Then we were told to have one preaching service a week in the English language, and we all agreed to do that, and we were told we could have as much German besides that one English sermon as we wanted. And we agreed to have that one English sermon. I went to my congregation of three hundred and fifty people, at least half of whom did not get any benefit from the English sermon, and I put it before them and told them, this is what we are requested to do; you don't have to do it, but they would like to have you do it, and they unanimously voted in my church, and every other church in the county, to adopt the plan. Our congregations in the evening are not as large as before because some of the older people do not come now, but enough come to church who are living in our community so that we can hold the service. So we have lost in one way, but we are slowly gaining along another way; one old grandfather there said it would have been better if these plans had been adopted fifteen years ago. And this plan has worked very satisfactorily in our county.

In several of the rural immigrant communities visited by the writer there were successful bilingual churches. In the Polish colony at Posen, Michigan, the sermon in the Catholic Church is in two languages, Polish and English. The priest explained that the Polish language is needed, as the people, especially the older people, understand it better and the priest is able to penetrate their souls more intimately in their mother tongue. The English language is needed for two reasons: among the colonists are a few American farmers who belong to the same church and do not speak Polish; and a few of the younger generation understand English better than Polish, especially those newcomers who have been born outside of the colony among Americans.

In the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, the churches are bilingual. One service in the morning is in the Dutch language and the other in the evening is in the English language. English has become a necessity because a number of the young people have difficulty in understanding Dutch, and also because a number of the congregation are either native born or of some other nationality.


On the whole, the writer, in his field study, was impressed by the fact that the rank and file of the immigrant congregations favored the English-language service, while the priests and pastors were opposing it. Whenever an English-language service had been lately introduced it had been done under the pressure either of the members of the congregation or of the state Council of Defense.

The clergy often maintained that the foreign-language service was needed, even in cases where the members of the congregation were largely American born and understood and spoke English well in everyday life. Perhaps the most conspicuous in making such claims were the German Catholic and Lutheran priests and pastors. According to a number of them, no other language than German is suited for services, no matter how far advanced the church members are in the use of English.

There were cases where among the membership of a German-language church there were Bohemians or Scandinavians or Poles. To the writer's question whether services for these people were conducted in their mother tongue, the answer was usually given in the negative, with the explanation that there was no money to engage additional preachers and that these people understood German well. The only explanation of such extreme claims for foreign-language services is the nationalism of the clergy.


Certain church authorities hinder amalgamation of the immigrants by making severe requirements in regard to "interfaith" marriages. For instance, in a case where one party is Catholic and the other is not, the Catholic Church requires a written sworn statement from both parties in regard to certain conditions which they must fulfill in their married life. What these conditions are the following blank given to the writer by a Catholic bishop shows:

In Casu Disparitatis Cultus.

Vel Mixtae Religionis.



I, the undersigned, never baptized (baptized in the .......... Church), of .......... do hereby promise that if .......... receives from the Bishop a dispensation to marry me, I will never by word or act interfere with .......... faith in the Catholic Church or with .......... practice thereof, and that I will not prevent the children of either sex to be born (and already born) from being baptized and brought up in the faith and practice of the Catholic Church. I also promise that in the solemnization of my marriage, there shall be only the Catholic Ceremony.

Signed in presence of

......................... ......................... Date .........................


I, the undersigned, of .........., a Catholic, wishing to marry .........., unbaptized (baptized in the .......... Church), do hereby promise that, if the Bishop finds canonical cause for granting me a dispensation, I will have all my children baptized and reared in the Catholic Church, and that I will practice my Religion faithfully and do all I can, especially by prayer, example, and the frequentation of the Sacraments, to bring about the conversion of my consort.

Signed in presence of

......................... ......................... Date .........................

There is no question that such requirements may prevent a number of marriages between native born and immigrants, when one is a Catholic and the other a non-Catholic. It is not always possible for a non-Catholic to follow the required conditions and as a result family quarrels and the disruption of families may occur. The writer has observed three such cases. In one case there were involved a native and an immigrant, and in two cases immigrants alone.

A similar ban or check on interfaith, which often means international, marriages is found among sectarian immigrant groups. Their extreme religious sentiment prevents them from marrying outsiders, and as a result inbreeding occurs. They marry close relatives and defectives. For instance, near Lincoln, Nebraska, where a small German colony of Mennonites is settled, the birth of idiots and otherwise defective children was so noticeable that the colony's leaders and their neighbors decided to bring about a change. The marriage of close relatives was prohibited and the ban on marriage with outsiders was done away with. This change has had a very good result, according to the colony's leaders. The change was possible only because the sectarian beliefs had been weakened under the pressure of the general American conditions.

The orthodox Jews are similarly opposed to the marriage of their members with the Gentiles. So far as the writer has learned, they do not require signed promises. They are uncompromising in such matters and ostracize any one of their members who marries an outsider.

The usual explanation of the need of such a ban or check on interfaith marriages is that if the parents are of different faiths the children will be lost to the Church. Whatever the explanation or justification of the Church opposition to interfaith marriages, it often applies to immigrants and makes for their continued separation from America.


Very often the priests and pastors of the immigrant churches are freshly arrived immigrants themselves. They scarcely speak English and know little about America. Consequently they are not able to educate the members of their congregations in American ways. On the contrary, they tend to criticize America and favor their old country in their sermons, public addresses, and activities. During recent years quite a number of such church heads have been prosecuted in the courts for their seditious utterances and activities.

Testimony given at the hearing before the state Americanization Committee in Lincoln, Nebraska, showed how many of the ministers know little of the English language and little of America:

Joseph G. Votava of Omaha, representing the Bohemians, Roman Catholic, stated:

A great many of the ministers have come from foreign churches and countries, and if you gentlemen were forced to listen to them making English sermons, I don't know whether you would go to church very often or not.

Rev. F. E. Pomp, Omaha, representing the Swedish Evangelical Mission Association of Nebraska, said:

A great many of the ministers in our denomination were born in Sweden; some preach very well in English, but the majority, perhaps, of those born in Sweden cannot preach in the English language.

The statement of Rev. Matt W. Nemec, Wahoo, Nebraska, Bohemian Roman Catholic, was:

There are eight of these gentlemen who have come over here and are in training, and they cannot speak the English language fluently, and it would be a great hardship for them to come up before the young people who speak English very well and try to preach in English.


An immigrant church can do much toward the amalgamation of its members. There are a few immigrant churches, Catholic as well as Protestant, which are doing valuable work in this direction. But while an immigrant church can do much good it also can do much harm when its services and activities are conducted in the spirit of preference of the old country to America. To prevent such harm some action must be taken by the public.

The writer recommends that the immigrant church heads (priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, and others) should be American citizens either by birth or by naturalization. Foreign-language services should be conducted for freshly arrived immigrants only, and for those old-time immigrants who have not mastered English.

Immigrant churches should be required to report regularly on the Americanization progress of their congregations (number of families, home language, service language, naturalization, etc.) to the state or Federal Bureau of Education.



The preceding three chapters show how important is the public school as an instrumentality of Americanization. The question is whether the rural public school meets present-day requirements. Field investigations and search through both public and private reports have convinced the writer that the rural public school is the most neglected class of all the educational institutions in the country. It is far behind the times. It not only does not adequately meet the problem of immigrant children, but it does not even root out illiteracy from the rural population in general. Some of its limiting features are inevitable, while others are gradually being changed.


The great majority of rural public schools are one-teacher schools. The Commissioner of Public Education of California stated that there were in the state of California in 1918, 2,300 one-room public schools and 410 two-room schools. Over a third of all the Wisconsin school children, city as well as country, and 42 per cent of the Wisconsin school-teachers, are found in the one-teacher country schools.[31] A report on school conditions in Arizona shows that 149 rural schools, or 70 per cent of a total of 214 reporting, are one-teacher schools.[32]

The one-teacher school usually means a crowd of children of various grades taught by one teacher during the same day. In most cases the recitation work can go on only with one grade at a time, while the other grades have to do study work. Without the supervision of the teacher, this is much less efficient than the recitation work. About two thirds of the rural teachers answering questionnaires sent out by the United States Bureau of Education[33] instructed eight or more grades and held from twenty-two to thirty-five classes a day, which means that the recitations averaged the absurdly short time of nine to thirteen minutes. A few teachers manage to lengthen the recitations by a system of organizing the grades into groups and of combining classes, but this is the exception, not the rule.

As a rule the one-teacher schools have limited room and equipment. Most of these schools visited by the writer were small one-room frame buildings with porchlike attachments on which were built a tiny hall and dressing "rooms." Quite a few did not have even these "modern conveniences." The toilets are usually at a distance from the building and are not always kept clean.

Several teachers stated that the smallness and poverty of the schools have a depressing influence upon the teachers and prevent any great respect on the part of the people toward the school.

A third defect of the one-teacher school consists in its monotony and lack of color and variety as compared with larger schools. Rivalry is lacking and the recreation enterprises are limited. Of course, much depends upon the qualities of the individual teacher, but a good teacher does not stay long in a one-teacher school; she is attracted by better opportunities elsewhere.

Dissatisfaction with the one-teacher school the writer found to be quite general, even among the immigrant settlers. The Finnish settlers at Rudyard in upper Michigan expressed the wish that the government should give a better public-school system, although the existing schools were said to be standard schools. They wanted three or four-room schools, a better heating system, and higher salaries for teachers. Only in this way could better teaching forces be attracted and kept steadily in the same schools.

The Polish colonists in Posen, Michigan, explained that they have six one-room standard public schools in the colony and its vicinity, but that as the teacher has to deal at the same time with eight grades the efficiency of her work is naturally below what it should be. The settlers said that consolidation or enlargement of the schools is badly needed. No agricultural training is included in the school work.

Reverend Kuizinga of the Dutch colony at Holland, Michigan, stated that in the backwoods parts of the colony, in purely rural districts, the school activities ought to be more efficient than they are; certain schools might be consolidated so as to make fewer grades for one teacher, teachers' salaries must be increased, and the program for teaching citizenship broadened.

A leader of an Italian colony at Canastota, New York, stated that the Italian parents appreciate the schooling of their children, who attend the American public schools, speak English among themselves, and prefer the American to the Italian ways of life. In regard to the same colony, the county school superintendent said that the Italian children attend school fairly regularly, are able pupils, and excel American children in their studies.

There is at least one school district in the same colony which has a defective one-teacher school, which the writer chanced to visit. The trustee of the school, an American woman, married to an unnaturalized Italian settler, said that she was worried about getting a school-teacher for next year, as the county pays only $17 a week. Last year it paid $15, and that was an increase of $3 over the former salary. She thought the county might possibly pay $20 this year if she could not get anyone for less. The people did not like the teacher they had last year—they thought she did not know enough. There are now seventy-three children of school age, but there were only twenty-six before, and the schoolhouse is only large enough for twenty-six. The building is very small, oblong in shape, with a small partition at one end for cloakroom and entrance. The school board voted $250 for enlarging the building and taking down the partition, but the trustee was certain that this would not be done for that small sum, as "lumber is so high, and the carpenter wants something." The building needed painting and a number of the windows were broken The woman said that last year many children of school age worked instead of going to school, as there was nobody to force them to go. Now that she was trustee, she said, she would see that everybody went.


The defects of the one-teacher school have led to the consolidation movement which is rapidly developing throughout the country. The Superintendent of Public Instruction of North Dakota reported in 1916 that the consolidated school was becoming more and more the school of the rural districts and he recommended liberal state aid to these schools. There were at that time 123 "open country" consolidated schools in the state and 210 town consolidated schools, the latter being in reality rural schools.

One county superintendent reported that in the last two years a number of districts had voted to consolidate their schools; another said that 40 per cent of the pupils were attending consolidated schools. The Rural School Commissioner of Minnesota stated that consolidation has a very promising growth in the state; that 210 districts have been organized, half of which were established during the two years ending in 1916. And so the story goes in each state that has a largely rural population.

There is some opposition to this movement by parents who live farthest from a proposed consolidated school, because of the distance and inability to provide children with hot lunches. But this opposition is easily overcome by the provision of public transportation facilities for the children and by serving hot lunches at the schoolhouses. Some opposition comes from the landowners in the neighborhood of a one-teacher school which has to be closed on account of consolidation. Their fear that there will be a lowering of land values is baseless, as the settlers in that section get much better school accommodations through consolidation than they had before.

Advantages of the consolidated school over the one-teacher school are obvious. It makes possible a better division of time in recitation and study. The teaching is more efficient on account of specialization and a better and more stable teaching staff.

In the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, the writer found the following statements in the reports of various county superintendents for 1916.[34]

Barnes County:

The past two years have been marked by the number of districts that have voted to consolidate their schools. Five township consolidated schools have been built in the open country. Each of these buildings has four schoolrooms, a good-sized gymnasium, an auditorium with a stage, domestic-science room, and a manual-training room. They are modern buildings in every respect, steam heated, water system for drinking fountains and toilets. One six-room village consolidated school and one open country two-room school have also been completed. They are also modern buildings. In these schools the country child has equal opportunities with the city child. These schoolhouses are used as centers for the social life of the neighborhood and are proving most successful.

Benson County:

Several districts during the past two years have consolidated. We believe these schools are demonstrating their superiority over one-room schools at least in the way of graduating pupils from the eighth grade. Ten schools operating as consolidated schools graduated as many farm boys and girls as did nearly eighty one-room schools, during the past year.

In connection with practically every consolidated school is some form of community or farmer's club.... Especially during the past year much was done through these agencies for the promotion of rural life, social and educational. The consolidated school principal, with his faculty, is experiencing a new and enlarged obligation and opportunity.

Bowman County:

Considerable work for consolidation has been done from this office. Sixteen public meetings have been held, and the proposition of consolidation thoroughly discussed with more than twelve hundred of our people. Through this system of education the movement is finding favor with our people, and it will be only a short time before more than half of this county is consolidated.

McHenry County:

We have three purely country consolidated schools, each serving a township, and from our experience here we have come to the conclusion that districts of this kind are not a success with bus transportation unless they have an assessed valuation of $175,000 or more. Part of the burden of transportation must be borne by parents of the children attending school. With the family transportation system these schools are working out very well, being able to employ three teachers and run nine months of school per year without exceeding the maximum tax levy.

Eighteen consolidated and graded schools were in operation in the county last year, and 40.2 per cent of all the children in the county are now enjoying graded school facilities.... McHenry is a purely agricultural county.

Everywhere the consolidated school has been successful and has shown far greater efficiency than the scattered one-teacher schools. This gives promise that the consolidated rural school will in a few years prevail.


In a number of states visited by the writer the prevailing type of rural school-teacher was a girl of from eighteen to twenty years of age. That the country school-teacher is an astonishingly young person is attested by all reports on the subject. An educational survey of South Dakota[35] showed that the largest group of rural teachers range between nineteen and twenty-five years of age; twenty-nine teachers were under seventeen years of age, and fifty-three were just seventeen.

Most of the teachers about whom the writer collected information were serving their first or second year. Only a few had been teaching for three or more years. According to the above survey of South Dakota, 31 per cent of the rural teachers were teaching their first school, and only 9.6 per cent had taught as many as four schools. Few teachers, the report showed, have taught more than one or two years in a school, while the average teaching life of a rural teacher is three and three quarters school years. The instability of the profession is so great that it is necessary for the state of South Dakota to recruit annually about one third of its total teaching force of 7,000.

An investigation made by the United States Bureau of Education in 1915 covering all sections of the country found that the number of school years taught by the average rural teacher was six and one half, but stated that the large majority of these teachers fell far below the average. The average time spent by a teacher in one community is extremely brief; the investigation showed that it is less than two school years, or considerably less than one calendar year. Even this average is considered a high one for the majority of the teachers.

Equally illuminating figures on this point are contributed by the state of Wisconsin. The state Superintendent of Education reports as follows:


LENGTH OF TEACHING SERVICE IN WISCONSIN RURAL SCHOOLS, 1915-16[36] ================================================== Teaching Services Total Teaching Period in Locality Service - - 1 year or less 4,136 1,421 2 years 1,650 1,545 3 years 508 1,093 4 years 187 738 5 years 83 517 6 years and over 66 1,316 - - Total 6,630 6,630 ==================================================

A number of the teachers that the writer interviewed had only grammar-school education, with a year or two of high school. Only a few had full high-school training. In general the training which qualifies the rural teacher for his work is appallingly slight. Of the rural teachers in South Dakota covered by the survey mentioned, 58.3 per cent had completed a four-year high-school course; 45.8 per cent reported attendance at professional schools; 54.2 per cent became teachers by taking examinations instead of by going through normal schools and colleges of education.

The investigation of the United States Bureau of Education referred to above brings out the striking fact that about one third of the rural teachers have had no professional preparation whatever, not even summer courses or other short courses. It was discovered that 4 per cent of them had less than eight years of elementary training, and that 45 per cent of the rural teachers have completed four years of high-school work, but have not done more.

A bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education[37] presents the following facts regarding the training of rural school-teachers: The average rural school-teacher remains in the teaching profession less than four school years of 140 days each. This means a complete turn-over of teachers every four years, or that about 87,500 new teachers must be provided annually. During the school year ending 1915 the normal schools graduated 21,944 students. It is quite certain that most of these found positions in towns and cities, as did most of those graduating from schools of education in universities and colleges. Therefore the great majority of the 87,500 new teachers needed annually for the rural schools must go to their work professionally unprepared.

Extracts from the reports of county superintendents in various states show the same low level of qualifications; one reports that nearly 40 per cent of his teachers have been untrained and inexperienced. The following quotations are taken almost at random from the 1916 reports of county superintendents filed in the office of the state Superintendent of Public Education of North Dakota,[38] and might be duplicated by reports from almost any other state having a largely rural population.

Bowman County:

During the last two years (1914 and 1915) nearly 40 per cent of our teachers have been untrained and inexperienced. We are trying to convince our school boards that training for teaching is just as essential as training for any other vocation in life, and that the trained teacher is worth more and should receive more pay than the untrained, and that the sooner we engage trained teachers for our schools the sooner we will have better schools.

Logan County:

There is a lack of permanency in the teaching force (due to lack of resident teachers—over 90 per cent are non-residents), and this has many disadvantages. Too many of the rural teachers are not in sympathy with the rural conditions in this county.

The teachers in the rural districts, especially in the backwoods places, impressed the writer as having little influence upon the surrounding community, particularly in cases where the community was composed solely of immigrants. The immigrants seem not to take the teacher seriously. A number of them said that they do not go for any practical advice to the school-teacher, believing that such a young girl knows little. In personal interviews the teachers said that they are doing some Americanization work by explaining to the children certain big historical events in the country's life, such as Washington's crossing of the Delaware, the battle of Bunker Hill, the liberation of the negroes. Their understanding of the difference between the American democracy and the European autocratic and aristocratic governments seemed to be vague. Even their knowledge of American history was mechanical rather than conscious or interpretative. In general, the writer was impressed that teachers of this type—young girls—themselves need further development before they can do effective educational work in the schools, not to speak of the community.

The teachers themselves complained of low salaries, difficulties in handling boys, especially immigrant boys who come from big cities. There are hardships in finding suitable living quarters and board, particularly in new immigrant colonies where the people live in shanty-like shelters and continue to eat pork and sauerkraut, sour milk, herring, onions, etc. One teacher, a girl about nineteen, told the writer that she could find an American farm only at a distance of five miles from the school and that she had a hard time to reach the school from her boarding place in the winter snows and blizzards.

Not one of the teachers interviewed expected to make teaching a lifetime profession. They all looked upon their present position as only a stepping-stone to a better life. They hoped either to continue study and go through college, or to take up skilled office work, such as that of a stenographer or bookkeeper.

The average salaries of rural teachers are given in the reports of various state superintendents as follows:

Average monthly salary of teachers in rural schools in North Dakota:[39]

Year ended June 30, 1914 $53.25 Year ended June 30, 1915 54.92

Average monthly wages of teachers in rural districts in South Dakota:[40]

Year ended June 30, 1915 $53.75 Year ended June 80, 1916 55.04

Average monthly salary of teachers in Nebraska, year ended July, 1916:[41]

Males $73.21 Females 50.94

Average monthly wages of teachers in rural districts in Minnesota, 1916:[42]

Men $62.00 Women 52.00

Teaching salaries of rural school-teachers in Wisconsin, 1914-15:[43]

Percentage receiving less than $40 0.2 " " $40-$49 78.9 " " 50-59 17.9 " " 60-69 2.4 " " 70-79 0.5 " " 80-89 0.1 " " 90-99 none

In regard to the influence of the nationality of the teacher upon her work in a public school there have been no authoritative data published. In a number of the immigrant colonies investigated by the writer immigrant teachers were employed. While both the colonists and their leaders claimed that a teacher of their own nationality can get better results in her work than a native teacher, because of her intimate knowledge of the colonists and their children, the school authorities and the native neighbors did not believe there was any difference. If a teacher of foreign parents was born in America or immigrated in childhood, has received American schooling and normal training, and if she speaks perfect English, knows and loves the country, there cannot be any difference.

In one case the head of a native family expressed his dislike of a teacher of Finnish nationality on account of her defective English and because she taught foreign songs and plays to the American children. As the teacher was on vacation, the writer could not interview her. The colonists themselves believed that she was a good teacher, for the children liked her; and the county superintendent was satisfied with her teaching progress.

In Vineland, New Jersey, there were four teachers in the public schools of Italian parentage. These teachers would be counted as Americans in every way. As they understand Italian, know the Italian immigrants and their children, they get better results in their school and community work than the native teacher. One good thing is that they stay in the same school much longer than the latter.

In general the writer is inclined to the opinion that, given equivalent abilities and training, the teacher with the command of the foreign language can do better work in an immigrant community than a native-born teacher who speaks only English. Such a teacher must be thoroughly imbued with the American spirit and traditions. She will have a better chance of imparting these to her pupils and their parents if she has also a knowledge of, and sympathy for, the nationalistic backgrounds and inclinations of the people in her community. This is a rare combination to find in a rural school-teacher, but it typifies the characteristics needed to succeed in amalgamating the colonists, both young and old, into a common life and purpose.


It is a fact that school attendance is much poorer in the agricultural sections than in the industrial centers. It is believed that on an average about 20 per cent of the rural children of school age do not attend school at all. The attendance of the children of immigrant settlers is less than that of the children of native farmers. The immigrants are more used to child labor in the old countries. They are hard pressed financially, often paying off mortgages and developing new land. The land and colonization companies are sometimes known to encourage rather than discourage the use of child labor by the settlers in their newly created colonies.

The states vary in the length of school term provided for children, ranging from about five months to over nine months. In only three fifths of the states, however, are children compelled by law to attend the full school year.[44] In only rare cases are the compulsory attendance laws completely inforced, so that the average amount of schooling the child gets is less than that prescribed by law, and in a number of states less than the amount of schooling available. This is especially true in rural districts.

The situation in some of the states where land settlement is being carried on is indicated by the data given below. Although urban and rural figures are not distinguishable, those given are for predominantly rural territory. Wherever city populations are included it is a safe assumption that the attendance showing is better than in the country districts alone. In Arizona, where conditions are almost entirely rural, the percentage of children not attending any school is 14 per cent or above in every county, and runs as high as 48 in one of the counties.


PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION IN ARIZONA SIX TO TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE IN SCHOOLS AND NOT ATTENDING SCHOOL, 1915-16[45] =================================================== Private or In Public Parochial Attended No Counties Schools Schools School (Per Cent) (Per Cent) (Per Cent) + + + Apache 77 7 16 Cochise 72 3 25 Coconino 70 11 19 Gila 80 1 19 Graham 78 6 16 Greenlee 76 1 23 Maricopa 81 4 15 Mohave 65 11 24 Navajo 72 14 14 Pima 57 12 31 Pinal 77 1 22 Santa Cruz 47 5 48 Yavapai 70 5 25 Yuma 78 1 21 ===================================================

The irregular attendance of children at the schools in rural districts of Minnesota is commented upon as follows:[46]

Irregular attendance is an evil beyond calculation, and we have much of it in the open country school. Many schools last year showed an average daily attendance of less than 60 per cent—children in school only one half or two thirds of the time.

Anoka County:

The loss of time in the consolidated school is only two thirds of that lost in the other rural schools.

Kittson County:

During the fall of the year farm hands are very scarce, and many of the older children have to be kept out of school to assist with the farm work. On account of deep snow and cold many children have to stay out of school during winter. Transportation in winter would help improve attendance in winter.

The per cent of attendance for the entire state of North Dakota was, for the year ending June 30, 1914, 87 per cent, and for the following, 88 per cent.[47] County superintendents in the state sent in the following reports for 1916.

McIntosh County, which is largely populated by Germans:

An investigation showed that hundreds of children of school age were either not attending school at all or were lamentably irregular in their attendance, for no legal or otherwise good excuse. In order to set an example, several cases were prosecuted, and this seemed to have a good moral effect all over the county.

Ransom County:

About half our county is consolidated. I find that we have 1,750 pupils enrolled in our graded and consolidated schools, the average daily attendance of which is 75.4 per cent. There are only 993 pupils enrolled in the one-room schools, and their per cent of attendance is 59.4 per cent.

In South Dakota the actual attendance of those enrolled in the country schools is less than 60 per cent.[48] From Campbell County it was reported as follows:

Most of our people are German-Russians and do not favor long terms of school, as they want the labor of their children. For this reason it is hard, even impossible, to secure regular attendance. Their schools must not begin earlier than October, and close by April 1st.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction of Nebraska reports for 1916 as follows:

The average daily attendance, based on enrollment, is a fraction of 72 per cent. The loss is mostly to the rural children. Country people find it somewhat easier to provide employment for their children than do the people of our towns and cities, consequently the attendance in our city schools is larger and more regular, and a much larger percentage enroll.

In California the compulsory-school-attendance law is rigidly enforced, except in the case of floating families. In this connection the Commissioner of Public Education made the following explanation to the writer: The California industries are mostly seasonal, which means that the vast majority of labor forces are seasonal and floating. During the seasons of fruit and hop-picking, cannery and lumber operations, large numbers of laborers' families move from place to place. To keep track of their children and to compel their school attendance is almost beyond the power of the present school authorities, especially as they are now organized.

The state school-attendance laws vary greatly, and one finds still more variety in the enforcement of these laws. The greatest difficulties are experienced in the rural districts. Using child labor in farming is a deep-rooted tradition. The children are looked upon by their parents as their economic asset. Moreover, it is a hard-headed conviction among the rural population that child labor is beneficial to the children themselves; they learn to work, their bodies are strengthened, they acquire good habits of life, etc. That the children are deprived of the opportunity to play—to develop as their nature requires—and to acquire a general education; that this results in their mental abilities and social instincts being undeveloped, the young people remaining bashful and shy; and that even their physical development is greatly restricted by overwork—the rural advocates of child labor cannot understand nor recognize.

In many cases the county school superintendents are elected by the people who, in the main, are the parents of children. When the position of the superintendent depends upon the will of the parent farmers, it is often impossible to enforce the attendance law.


There is widespread dissatisfaction with the present program of the public schools among the rural population. They say that no practical training is given to their children. They feel that the teaching is aimed to prepare their children for high schools and colleges only, where only a very small percentage ever go. For instance, the Minnesota Department of Education reports for 1915-16 that approximately 70 per cent of the country children do not go beyond the elementary grades. Only 5,532 out of 215,427 children in rural schools graduated from the eighth grade for the year. Those who do enter high schools, and, later, colleges, are indeed lost to the rural population, for the college-trained boys and girls seldom return to the soil. The children who do not enter high school remain on the farms, but they have secured almost no practical training for rural life, either as farmers or farm laborers. Instead, they have been prepared for high school.

The school program was especially sharply criticized by the Russian sectarian peasants at Glendale, Arizona. "Why, the school is making out of our children dancers and soldiers of war, instead of farmers—soldiers of the soil!" exclaimed a gray-headed "prophet" in disgust. Another peasant, perhaps not so high in the sectarian hierarchy, wanted the school to teach their boys how to run and repair automobiles and tractors.

The observations and inquiries of the writer led him to the conclusion that the criticism of the school program by various elements of the rural population is justified to a large extent. The school program at present generally prevailing offers little practical training for farmers' boys and girls. A native farmer in New Jersey explained to the writer: "There is no use keeping my children in school after they have acquired knowledge of reading and writing. They grow and learn more on my farm than in the school, for I want them to become land tillers and cattle raisers." This is perhaps an exaggerated and overdrawn statement, but, nevertheless, the present rural public-school program works in favor of the city at the expense of the rural communities.

Up to recent years the prevailing teaching language in the public schools has been English, but in a number of the public schools in the immigrant rural sections the teaching language has been German. This is true in the states of Nebraska and North Dakota. A prominent church head informed the writer that there are at least half a dozen schools in McIntosh County, North Dakota, paid for by the money of the state, under the direction of the County Superintendent of Schools, in which the entire teaching is in German.

The writer found still more numerous cases where a foreign tongue was a subject of study in the elementary public school, though English was the teaching language. Both a foreign tongue as the teaching language and a foreign tongue as a subject of study in the elementary public schools are now done away with under the pressure of public sentiment against these practices.


The limitations to efficient rural-school administration are many. According to a recent bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education[49] in more than half of the states the county superintendents are elected by the people, and in the remaining states they are either elected or appointed by county boards, county courts, state boards, state Commissioner of Education, Governor, president of township boards, district boards of education, city or town boards, township directors, parish boards, local school boards, or union boards.

In the majority of cases the parents control the local school inspection and direction. Such democratic control would be desirable provided the parents were as enlightened and expert in school training and education problems in general as school-teachers and their inspectors and superintendents. As a matter of fact, the parents, especially in the rural districts, are quite backward, and often even ignorant, in these problems. This is the root of the trouble with the local school inspection and direction. A county superintendent is not always elected for his merits as an educator, but often for his popularity, influence, and "agreeableness." An elected county superintendent usually cannot come into conflict with the parents—for instance, by insisting on a rigid enforcement of the school-attendance law entailing the arrest of the parents for disobeying the law—without losing his position at the next election. This condition causes frequent change or "rotation" of the county school superintendents, and is in itself a considerable defect of the existing system of school inspection and direction. With a few exceptions, county superintendents who were interviewed complained of this "rotation" to the writer.

In most cases no educational or experience qualifications are required by any higher authority for inspectors. As a result local politics, village gossip, and jealousies have free play.

Usually there is no provision for office expenses, assistant, or clerical force. The superintendent's salary is low, often lower than a teacher's salary. The superintendent of Ziebach County, South Dakota, received only $44.76 monthly, while the average teachers salary was $55.04 per month. Another county superintendent told the writer that all his salary went for gasoline and repairs for the automobile with which he made his inspection tours. To the question why he served the county without compensation he answered, "Because I love the 'game' and have my own private income."

Another defect is the fact that the superintendents have to cover too large a field. A county contains from one hundred to three hundred teachers, and nearly as many schools. The county superintendent is able properly to inspect all the schools under jurisdiction only once or twice a year, which is not sufficient for the direction of the school work. Quite a number of the county superintendents complained about the lack of authority over teachers, especially in their selection and appointment. Under such a condition, if a teacher carries out the superintendent's wish or advice, she does so merely from courtesy.

On the whole, most of the local school inspectors and superintendents interviewed by the writer impressed him favorably so far as personal character went. They seemed to like their work and were doing what they could under the circumstances.


There is no other public institution in the country so varied in its organization, its strength, its methods and ways as the elementary public-school system. It ranges from a shanty-like to a palace-like building, from a teacher almost illiterate herself to a teacher with an education and training which fit her for a college chair, from a few hundred dollars of yearly appropriation to tens of thousands of dollars for upkeep of a single school, from one teacher to a staff of teachers in one school, from an almost voluntary attendance to a rigid compulsory attendance. All these wide variations, in themselves picturesque, are a weakness of the system.

When the writer speaks of the weakness of the elementary public schools he uses this term in a relative sense, keeping always in mind that there is no other tool in the hands of the government so powerful in stamping out and keeping out illiteracy and hyphenism as the public school.

To make it meet these tasks a uniform public-school system based on standard requirements should be established throughout the country by the Federal, state, and local governments closely co-operating with one another for this purpose.

The Federal Bureau of Education should certainly be developed and elevated to the status of a department similar to that in a number of the states, and in almost all foreign countries.

The reorganization and the support of an efficient public-school system would require heavy public expenditure, a substantial part of which should be contributed by the Federal government to the states as an inducement to the latter to meet the minimum standard requirements in regard to the public-school system and to accept Federal inspection of the schools for the purpose of ascertaining that the states and the counties were keeping to the minimum requirements, which might be as follows:

(1) Enlargement of one-teacher schools through either consolidation or development; no less than two teachers and no less than three classrooms in each school.

(2) At least a general high-school education, two years of training in teaching methods, practical and theoretical acquaintance with agriculture, with library work, with first aid and with recreation and community activities, should be the minimum requirements for candidates for teachers in the rural public schools.

(3) The rural teacher must receive a satisfactory living salary throughout the calendar year, to be gradually increased as the years of service increase. A pension for old age, and accident and health insurance, should be provided. Near the schoolhouses there must be established "teacherages," small experimental farms with family living houses for the teachers.

(4) The school year should be made to coincide with the calendar year, with a number of short vacations during the time of special farming seasons, such as planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. The work done by the children for their parents during the vacations should be considered as a part of their school curriculum. They would report on their work to the school, and receive instructions on how to do the work in a better way, and at times the teacher in charge of the children's home work would make inspection and instruction tours in the district during the vacation periods.

(5) Each child must be compelled to attend the public school, or a private school which fully meets the requirements of the public school, until he has completed the elementary-school education. Such school attendance should be rigidly enforced throughout the country, which would be possible if the local school authorities, in the enforcement of the law, were made more independent of the will of the parents in their districts. In addition to the inspection by the local authorities, a Federal system of inspection and direction should be established.

(6) English should be the teaching language in all public schools.

(7) There should be included in the school program instruction in farming methods, varying according to the local soils, climate, and other conditions and requirements.

[31] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914-16 (1917), p. 51.

[32] "Educational Conditions in Arizona," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 44, 1917, p. 46.

[33] H. W. Foght, "Efficiency and Preparation of Rural School Teachers." United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 49, 1914, p. 19.

[34] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914-16, pp. 84, 85, 87, 89, 109.

[35] "The Educational System of South Dakota," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 31, 1918.

[36] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914-16 (1917), p. 99.

[37] H. W. Foght, "Rural-Teacher Preparation in County Training Schools and High Schools," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 31, 1917, p. 5.

[38] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914-16, pp. 89, 107.

[39] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1914-16, pp. 52, 70.

[40] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction, South Dakota, 1916.

[41] Report of United States Commissioner of Education, 1917, vol. ii, p. 77.

[42] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915-16, p. 8.

[43] C. P. Cary, Education in Wisconsin, 1914-16 (1917), p. 98.

[44] Department of Interior, Commissioner of Education, Report, 1917, Vol. II, pp. 69, 77.

[45] "Educational Conditions in Arizona," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 44, 1917, p. 67.

[46] Minnesota Department of Education, Nineteenth Biennial Report, 1915-16, pp. 34, 75, 87.

[47] Fourteenth Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota, 1916, pp. 67, 110, 121.

[48] Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction of South Dakota, 1916.

[49] K. M. Cook and A. C. Monahan, "Rural School Supervision," United States Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 48, 1916.



The adult immigrant settlers need American education, the women more than the men. This fact was clearly impressed upon the writer during his field investigation. The women do not penetrate the American world; they live in the Old World, their children live in the New, and the men in a mixed world. No matter how brokenly or how fluently their husbands speak English, with but few exceptions the wives either speak it not at all or attempt a few syllables of the strange language with a hesitation and shyness which soon cause them to fall silent and retire in favor of their children or husbands. Their social visits, their contact with women and men other than their family, are confined to members of their own nationality. They live in a cage, in which they suffer, but to which they cling because it is all of life that they know.


To reach them, to bring them out into the world in which their families live, is a difficult task. It must be undertaken and accomplished, first, for the purely humane reason of lightening their lot and making them individually more happy in the New World; second, for the sake of preventing the disruption of families, the corner stone of the present social order; third, for the sake of creating and sustaining good citizenship. Whether immigrant women vote or not, they are an inevitable influence in the political life of the country. They must be helped to keep pace as nearly as possible with their children, who are increasingly under the influence of the American environment, especially the public schools. Not only that, but education of the mothers means a more effectual development of the children, for the mother is the greatest educator of the nation. The first question is how to reach them.

It is easy to say that the native women should go to them, establish friendly social relations, and in this way influence them. The writer observed in the field that such attempts have been made in earnest, but without much result. The first difficulty is the lack of a common language. Next is the difference in the levels of intellectual development. One might question what common grounds for social intercourse there would be between an American farmer's wife with either grammar-school or high-school education and some European peasant's wife, illiterate, impossibly shy, and downtrodden.

Still, there is a way out. In almost every immigrant rural colony one may find a more intelligent immigrant woman, either a mother of a family who has been long in this country or an elder daughter who has received a public-school education, speaks English satisfactorily, and who, at the same time, speaks the immigrants' language and knows the families in the colony more or less thoroughly. Such women should be approached first, should be brought into intimate contact with the native families, and should be induced to take a course of training and become organizers or teachers of the adult immigrant women in the colony. They will be able to effect an organization which might be called the "Women's Club" or "Mother's Club." Instead of creating an entirely new body, such organizations as exist can and should be utilized; there may be clubs, some co-operative association or a benefit society. There may be no organization and one may have to be initiated. In that case it is desirable that the more developed immigrant women be appointed to the directorate of the new organization.


It would seem advisable for our high schools, normal schools, and colleges specifically to train their immigrant girl students to become home teachers in the colonies of their respective nationalities. Such home teachers, qualified and trained for their work, should receive an adequate, living salary. Their duty would be to visit the immigrant homes, talk with the mothers, tell them how to rear their children, how to care for the health of the family, how to prepare meals of American food and in American ways, how to can and preserve, and how to work in the home garden. They should organize recreation facilities, reading circles, amateur theatricals, choruses, etc. The home teacher should organize the women into afternoon classes for learning English and should induce them to visit the evening classes with the men. She also would be the intermediary for the establishment of friendly and social relations between the immigrant families of different nationalities and the native American families. She should be attached to the teaching staff of the local public school.

Such home teachers have been employed in California under the direction of the Home Teacher Act passed in 1915. The conditions of employment, the duties and qualifications of the home teachers are outlined by the Act as follows:[50]

Boards of school trustees or city boards of education of any school district may employ teachers to be known as "home teachers," not exceeding one such home teacher for every five hundred units of average daily attendance in the common schools of said district, as shown by the report of the county superintendent of schools for the next preceding school year. It shall be the duty of the home teachers to work in the homes of the pupils, instructing children and adults in matters relating to school attendance and preparation therefor; also in sanitation, in the English language, in household duties—such as purchase, preparation, and use of food, and clothing—and in the fundamental principles of the American system of government and the rights and duties of citizenship. The qualifications of such teachers shall be a regular kindergarten primary, elementary, or secondary certificate, to teach in the schools of California, and special fitness to perform the duties of a home teacher; provided that the salaries of such teachers shall be paid from the city or district special school funds.

The provisions of the law at present limit its application to congested neighborhoods.

In regard to afternoon classes for the women, one of the home teachers, Mrs. Amanda Mathews Chase, writes as follows:[51]

Organize mothers' classes to meet afternoons at the schoolhouse. This group work seems to me absolutely necessary in order to cover the ground efficiently, and also because of the outlook and inspiration for the mothers.... I would suggest forming classes from the leading nationalities, each class to meet two afternoons a week. One afternoon the program can be an English lesson, followed by cooking, cleaning, or laundry. The other afternoon the program might comprise English followed by sewing, mending, weaving, or similar handcraft instruction. Sanitation, including personal hygiene, and patriotic teaching should be kept in mind.... Every forenoon will be spent in the homes. After all, the classes will only be islands in the sea of your visiting. You must visit to form the classes and visit to hold them. You must visit to see that the knowledge absorbed at school is actually put into practice at the home. You must visit to talk over many matters too delicate and personal to be taken up on class afternoons.

The school system of Los Angeles has, under this law, employed an educated Jewish woman from Russia for work in the colony of the Russian sectarian peasants. The impression of the writer when he visited the colony was that she was doing splendid work in helping the peasant women. The writer's belief is that if she had been of the Russian nationality she would have accomplished still better results, as the writer observed some antisemitic feeling among the peasants in connection with her. One peasant woman told the writer that this home teacher was a good protector for them, but did not recognize that she was their educator. As the colony is large, the home teacher really could not do much educational work other than to supervise the attendance of the children at school and to help disentangle family difficulties. It would be advisable to train and employ home teachers who are of the same nationality as the people of the colony in which they work.


Immigrant women's organizations have been already started here and there on the initiative, and by the efforts of the immigrant women themselves. For instance, Finnish women in Calumet, Michigan, have organized an "Americanization Club" for Finnish women, with the intention of extending the movement into other Finnish colonies in America. The program of the meetings consists of learning American songs, of addresses on America, its history, civics, women's social work, child welfare. The club activities hope to combat disloyalty, which the club members believe to exist among a number of the immigrants of certain nationalities. The main aim of the club, as its leaders state, is to assist in the Americanization of the Finnish women in America—to eliminate the hyphen, to make the Finnish-American women Americans.

The Council of Jewish Women in Newark, New Jersey, has established an Americanization center for the Jewish women, mothers and grown-up Jewish girls; while this center is in the city it illustrates the principle involved. The activities of the "center" consist of an afternoon English class for mothers, in order that they may "overtake their children on the long road of learning," and of an English class in the evening for Jewish girls who work in the factories. The chairman of the council states that they have found a way to make the learning of English really interesting to the foreign-born woman, that until now the woman who wanted to keep up with her children in English had had to go to the evening school, where she found a mixture of men and women of all races and all ages. She soon fell behind the younger and smarter pupils, and lost her interest. In these English classes of the "center" the women are practically all of the same age, the same race, and have the same interests.

These attempts at Americanization by the immigrant women themselves, under the stress of the tragedies caused by the estrangement of their children through the American schooling, point the way to the remedy above outlined. Help the immigrant mothers to keep pace with their children. This is even more important, the writer believes, than work with the immigrant fathers.


When the writer visited an immigrant rural colony and found there a large number of old-time immigrants still unnaturalized, there were two explanations given. There was, first, the red tape in the naturalization proceedings; and second, ignorance of English and of American geography, history, and form of government. There had been no opportunity to learn all these things, although the colonists had wanted to. Only in a few cases did their own neglect seem to be a cause for their not being naturalized.

The following field notes of the writer, taken at random, illustrate the situation in regard to the knowledge of English and the naturalization of the settlers in the immigrant colonies.

Italian colony, Canastota, New York. Writer's observations:

A large number of the men spoke very little English. The women did not speak English at all. All the children spoke English.

Statement by their leader, a storekeeper:

The settlers have organized an "American-Italian Citizens' Club." All the Italian voters, 117 in number, belong to this club. The purpose of the club is to educate Italians in citizenship and to assist them in becoming naturalized. There are about 250 unnaturalized Italians of voting age. Two causes have kept them from naturalization: first, their ignorance; second, the red tape of the procedure. Seventy-five per cent of the adults are illiterate; 50 per cent of them do not understand English; only about 25 per cent of the adults write and read English.

Portuguese colony, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Statement by the priest:

Seventy per cent of the adults understand English; 50 per cent speak English; 10 per cent speak and write English; about 80 per cent are illiterate, not only in English, but in their own language as well. The lack of education and culture of the adults is the main obstacle in the way of their becoming Americans. For promotion of Americanization, settlers should learn English and American ways of life—attend evening schools.

Statement of a native storekeeper:

The only trouble with these Portuguese is that they lack even elementary education. The vast majority do not know how to read and write even in their own language. As a result, quite a number of families live in dirt in their homes, and these are a source of danger in the spreading of disease. I do not believe that school would help these old people, for they never have been in any school and it would be very hard to teach them anything. The only hope is in the second and future generations.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, San Francisco, California. Statement by one of their leaders:

Five per cent have second papers; from 30 to 40 per cent have first papers.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, Los Angeles, California. Statements made to the writer by the peasants themselves at a general meeting of the colony members:

All but one of the members of the colony are unnaturalized. About 5 per cent have taken first papers. In explanation as to why they are not naturalized, they brought several reasons. First, lack of English; second, they have not felt so far that they are settled permanently; third, they fear compulsory military service in case they are citizens; fourth, their religion is opposed to violence, which the government often uses in enforcing laws. During the discussion the writer felt that they believed that their not being citizens had helped keep their sons from being drafted into military service. The writer explained that their sons were not drafted solely because of their religion, as conscientious objectors, and not at all because they were not citizens. For their own benefit and the benefit of the country the writer advised them to become citizens as rapidly as possible. They did not either approve or reject the proposal, but the writer felt that there was some suspicion.

Statement by the home teacher working among these peasants:

There ought to be schools to teach English to the parents at which their attendance would be compulsory. The children now think they are above their parents. The parents would gain by the compulsory school. The children obey the teachers in school, but will not obey their parents. The children go home and tell their parents that they don't have to obey them. They lie to their parents. For instance, the parents are opposed to dancing, but the children dance just the same. The parents are so ignorant! They read the Bible, but they don't know what is in the Bible.

Russian sectarian peasant colony, Glendale, Arizona. Statements made by the peasants at a general meeting:

Not a single one of them is naturalized. Not one has taken first papers. To the question why, they explained that they are firm believers in the Kingdom of God, which is immeasurably higher than the human kingdom and human governments. They are interested in the spiritual kingdom and do not care for politics in any way.

Polish colony, Posen, Michigan. Statements by the local priest and the settlers themselves:

About thirty men of voting age are not citizens. This is due purely to neglect and the red tape in acquiring papers. Both Republican and Democratic organizations exist, but most vote the Republican ticket, believing that the Republicans keep the country's business going better.

Polish colony, South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Statements by their leaders:

Almost every adult Pole understands English to a certain degree and is able to make himself understood. About half of the adults can write English, including those who can only write their own names. About 50 per cent of the Poles are illiterate even in the Polish language.

Large, long-established Italian colony, Vineland, New Jersey. Statements by their leaders:

A large number, possibly two thirds, of the adults do not speak English. All Italian farmers have first papers and intend to become Americans, and about two thirds have second papers.

So it goes through all the rural colonies of immigrant settlers. Everywhere the crying need is for education and training in English, in citizenship, in agriculture, in everything. For the remedy, everyone turns to the evening school for adults.

A large majority of the rural immigrant colonies in the country, including small country towns, are without evening schools, without libraries, without any educational facilities by which the adult immigrant settler might learn the country's language, ways of life, the meaning of citizenship, or better farming methods.

The public evening schools up to this time have been a city institution.[52] Only during recent years have they made their appearance in the centers of a few rural immigrant colonies. These have been temporary establishments undertaken either privately by native Americans in co-operation with the local immigrants, or publicly on the initiative of the local government authorities. The money required has been raised by collections or the local government has made temporary appropriations. Usually the idea of a school for adult immigrants was taken up by some public-spirited and patriotic local leader, a meeting was held, money secured, a teacher employed, and the immigrants invited to attend the schools. Almost in every case the enterprise seemed to be successful at its beginning. The school was well attended and the teaching and studying enthusiastically started. But after a week or two the students began to drop out. Then, owing either to the decrease of students or to the lack of money, the school was closed.

In a large Portuguese colony at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, a township evening school was established in 1917-18. It was well attended, but after two months the school was closed on account of lack of funds, though it was very much needed.

In regard to an experience in establishing a Methodist evening school in the Italian colony at Canastota, New York, the county school superintendent made the following statement:

The greatest problem in the education of Italians here is how to educate the parents. In 1915 they organized at the Methodist church an evening school for the Italians. About forty students appeared, and attended the school for about three or four weeks. They then gradually ceased to attend the school. The causes were several: there appeared a doubt with them whether the teachers and supporters of the school were not trying to induce them to join the Methodist church; second, there were no regular teachers, the lessons were given by volunteers, and this resulted in irregularity in teaching; third, a certain amount of shyness was apparent. If such an evening school were to be organized for them with no religious connections, and if it were a regular school, the Italians would attend it.

In Holland, Michigan, where there is a large, long-established Dutch colony, there was an evening school, but the attendance declined, the people claiming that they had no time to attend it.

At South Deerfield, Massachusetts, in a Polish colony, there was established an evening school a year or so ago.

It was a good thing for us [explained an elderly, bearded leader of the colony]. Quite a number of our people attended it, but the great majority did not. They simply did not want to, for they had lots of work to do at home. Perhaps their bashfulness was the main obstacle. You see, people with beards and lots of children do not feel well in school. Look at me. Wouldn't I feel awful there?

In Woodbine, New Jersey, a large Jewish colony, the local manager of the Baron de Hirsch fund, in charge of the financial affairs of the colony, stated that there are evening classes held in the public schools during the winter. Adults may attend these classes, but they do not. General subjects are taught in these classes.

A prominent Italian in the Italian colony at Vineland, New Jersey, said that evening schools were needed there. A year ago they had one with two teachers, but the funds gave out. The people attended. These night schools would teach voting, civics, etc., to the adults. The superintendent of schools in the town said there were no classes in English for the adult immigrants, but suggested that for Americanization purposes classes should be organized and that the Italian leaders should be approached and persuaded to bring in Italian people to the classes.

In the Bohemian and Slovak colonies at Willington, Connecticut, there were no evening classes or schools, though several of the settlers thought it would be a good thing to have such a school and believed that the people would go if they had a chance.

In interviews, the rural evening-school students usually explained that they felt "funny" and were shy and awkward in the school. They went to the same school which their children attended, sat on the same benches, had the same teacher, and read the same books which their children did. Finally, they stopped, deciding that their children could do the learning of English for both themselves and their parents. They also explained that their time was too limited to allow of school attendance. After the daily farm work they have to do chores.

Around a farm, especially a new, developing farm, there are countless things to be cared for. There is no moment when a settler can say: "Now everything is done and I am free." Besides, even if he does take time and goes to the evening school, he feels tired there and is restless about the work left undone at home. Another explanation given by the immigrants in regard to their failure to attend the school was that the school did not teach anything useful to them in their farming, and that the progress in learning English was slow, almost imperceptible. It seemed to them that never would they be able to master the language, and they grew disappointed and discouraged.

The impression made upon the writer was that the complaint about lack of time and weariness was not well founded. There are certain seasons, especially in winter, when the settlers have time to go to the evening school. Even in the heavy working season they might attend school, for their fatigue from farm work is rather physical than nervous or mental.


The root of the trouble is in inadequate programs, in defective teaching methods and unsuitable teachers. The knowledge of English, American ways and standards of living might well be developed in the immigrant settlers during the process of teaching them something useful, necessary, and interesting. A simple course on farming methods, local conditions, and useful information could be given, with the probable result of awakening their enthusiasm and taste for more.

Such a program makes it essential that the evening-school teacher know farming and rural conditions in general and be familiar with the home life of the students and their racial peculiarities, to which he has to adjust his methods. Possibly the best teacher would be a settler's son or daughter who, after high school, has had training in agriculture and teaching methods. The students should be graded according to their race, level of mental development, and learning ability, whenever this is possible.

The ordinary method now in use consists in imitating and repeating the words and sentences, often disconnected one from another, and the stories told by the teacher. The formal copying of the words and sentences written on the blackboard by the teacher, and reading children's books are sufficient to discourage the most ambitious student. Conversation is more successful than the story-telling method, and exercises in the reading of popular textbooks on farming and of popular essays on American history, geography, etc., are far more interesting to the adult settlers than children's stories.

The evening school in the rural immigrant colonies should be provided and attendance for the adult non-English-speaking immigrants urged, until they have mastered simple English, the elements of citizenship, and a rudimentary knowledge of farming.

In almost every colony visited the writer discussed with the settlers the advisability of compulsory attendance at evening or afternoon classes. No one was against compulsion, though a number suggested qualifications. For instance, the evening school should operate in the wintertime; the teaching should include subjects useful in farming; in the case of hired men, the school time must be paid for by the employer; the evening school should be a public institution, not a private, charitable, or religious enterprise; if private organizations wish to establish evening schools, they should do so only under public regulation and control; the purpose of the evening school should be to teach English, civics, and other useful subjects, not to serve any special or private interests, party, or class; the evening school should be free of charge to immigrants.

A few settlers wanted the evening school to teach the operation and repair of automobiles and tractors; some wanted singing, music, and theatricals taught; some wanted to be instructed in the growing and harvesting of special crops, as, for instance, onions, tobacco, and cotton. In general, the immigrants expect from the evening school more than English and citizenship. They want practical knowledge which helps them in their farming.

[50] The Home Teacher; the Act, with a Working Plan, the Commission of Immigration and Housing of California.

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