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Educational Value of
Courses in Agriculture





University Bulletin.

Series 6, No. 19


Educational Values


Courses in Agriculture

An Address

on the

Educational Values of

Courses in Agriculture

A. C. True, Ph. D.

Director of the office of Experiment Stations of the U. S.

Department of Agriculture and Dean of the Graduate

School of Agriculture.

with an introduction by

W. O. Thompson, D. D., LL. D.

President of the Ohio State University

Published by the UNIVERSITY.

Entered at the Postoffice, Columbus, Ohio, as second class matter.







The wider range of studies characteristic of modern education has
grown out of the fact that new subjects have proved themselves to have a
utility similar to that contained in the older curriculum in realizing the aims
and results of education. The conclusion that education should embrace man's
relation to all forms, of human activity has been accepted. The technical
and industrial have as clear a title to a place in any complete system of
education as the literary or the professional. The paper read by Dr. True
before the Graduate Summer School of Agriculture is an effort to set forth
the claim of Agricultural courses to a place in our educational system and to
justify their educational value. It is worth while to call attention to the
popular misconception of these courses which amounts to a prejudice
against them. The paper will, upon a careful reading, clear away many
errors and give a clearer view of the current work in agricultural science.
If the current opinion that nature study is a valuable element in the edu-
cation of our children be accepted the conclusion that a wider study of
nature through the avenue of the natural sciences would be increasingly
helpful can not easily be resisted. The utter loneliness of a large propor-
tion of our population in the presence of the Creator's universe of life and
thought relations is a sufficient evidence of ignorance to warrant an at tempt
at its removal. Agricultural education aims to bring the student into intel-
ligent and sympathetic cooperation with the world in which he must live
and labor. Moreover this broader sympathy cultivated is not without its
value in other than agricultural lines. An examination into the content
of an agricultural course will reveal the fact that its students would be a
decided acquisition to many of our secondary schools as teachers by reason of
their training. In the interest of truth it may be well to note that an agricul-
tural course as laid down in our colleges is no more exclusively of agricul-
ture than the so-called philosophical courses are of philosophy.

Assuming that the end of education is to prepare men to live, it is
proper to consider whether the subjects that directly engage a large pro-
portion of our people and deeply affect many more ought not to have a
place in our courses of study and competent teachers to present them.
Dr. True's paper is a clear presentation of the claims of agricultural science
and is worthy of a thoughtful reading by teachers.



By Dr. A. C. True.

In order to estimate correctly the educational values involved in instruc-
tion in the theory and practice of agriculture, we must first determine the
standards by which these values are to be measured and then inquire how
far they are affected by methods of instruction. It will also be necessary
to consider the aims of such instruction and the relative place of agriculture
in the curriculum.

According to Pres. Eliot of Harvard University there are six essential
constituents of all worthy education "constituents which make part of the
educational process from first to last, in every year and in every stage."

"The first constituent is the careful training of the organs of sense,
through which we get incessant and infinitely diversified communications
with the external world, including in that phrase the whole inanimate and
animate creation with all human monuments and records. Through the
gate of accurate observation come all kinds of knowledge and experience.
The little child must learn to see with precision the forms and letters, to
hear exactly the sounds of words and phrases, and by touch to discriminate
between wet and dry, hot and cold, smooth and rough. The organs of
sense are not for scientific uses chiefly: all ordinary knowledge for practical
purposes comes through them, and language too, with all which language
implies and renders possible. Then comes practice in grouping and com-
paring different sensations or contacts, and in drawing inferences from such
comparisons practice which is indispensable in every field of knowledge.
Next comes training in making a record of the observation, the comparison,
or the grouping. This period may obviously be made either in the memory
or in written form, but practice in making accurate records there must be


in all effective education. Fourthly comes training of the memory, or, in
other words, practice in holding in the mind the records of observations,
groupings, and comparisons. Fifthly comes training in the power of ex-
pression in clear, concise exposition, and in argument, or the logical set-
ting forth of a process of reasoning. This training in the logical develop-
ment of a reasoning process is almost the consummation of education; but
there is one other essential constituent, namely, the steady inculcation of
those supreme ideals through which the human race is uplifted and en-
nobled the ideals of beauty, honor, duty and love.

These six I believe to be essential constituents of education in the high-
est sense: we must learn to see straight and clear; to compare and infer; to
make an accurate record; to remember; to express our thought with precis-
ion; and to hold fast on lofty ideals."

"There is also," he says, "general recognition of the principle that effect-
ive power in action is the true end of education rather than the storing up
of information or the cultivation of faculties which are mainly receptive,
discriminating, or critical." According to Prof. Hanus, professor of educa-
tion in Harvard University, the educational values of different subjects con-
sist (a] in the scope, kind, strength, and permanence of the incentives to
activity; and (b] in the kind, degree, and permanence of the power to think
and to execute that these subjects may develop.

Incentives are intellectual, aesthetic, moral, or constructive. Power is

(a) specific depending on the particular data with which the subject deals;

(b) general depending on the extent to which the same or similar data
are found in other subjects and the extent to which the method of one
subject may be applied to other subjects. Power is developed for the sake
of cultivating desirable habits of thought, expression (in words or in some
other appropriate way), achievement, and conduct. The conditions under
which strength and permanence of power are developed are continuity and
intensiveness in the pursuit of any subject based on interest. The subjects
of instruction in the modern school course of study deal with the institu-
tions, ideals, and conduct of men, and with external nature; namely :(1)
Languages and literature, (2) social studies history (including the history
of industry and commerce as well as political history), government, des-
criptive economics; (3) art (including the history of art, as well as drawing,
painting, modelling, music ); (4) mathematics; (5) physical and biological
science; (6) manual training.

The first two subjects (i.e. language and literature and social studies)
and some forms of art have an ethical content and the incentives growing
out of the ideals they protray are therefore higher than all others. Hence
when these subjects develop interest they have a higher educational value
than all others. Without interest these subjects can have only a moderate
educational value in spite of their content; for they cannot be economically
employed to develop desirable habits of thought, achievement, and conduct
that give promise of permanence. But even without interest they have a
moderate educational value since all may be influenced to some extent by
the higher ideals of the race and need ethical and social enlightenment.
Hence all pupils should be required to give a certain amount of attention

The other subjects (mathematics, natural science and manual training)


either have no social or ethical content whatever, or involve social and
ethical incentives only incidentally; and mathematics is especially narrow
in the range of its possible incentives: Hence without interest, these subjects
have only feeble educational value of any sort. With interest these subjects
may be advantageously used for the development of habits of efficiency, i.e.
of thorough and successful achievement. Such habits render their possessor
useful and usually happy; and hence the subjects which develop these
habits posess an educational value dependent on the kind and degree of
usefulness and happiness which they develop. But the theoretical educa-
tional values of different subjects as thus determined are greatly modified
by certain factors inherent in the pupil and his environment. One of these
is the individuality of the pupil. This should be considered of more and
more importance as the pupil advances in age and maturity. For each
pupil will naturally develop certain tastes and capacities which will tend
more and more to dominate his mental life and thus to furnish the perma-
nent incentives which should guide him in the choice of his life's occupation
and on which his highest usefulness and happiness will depend. It is one
of the notable things in the educational progress of our times that there is
a growing appreciation of the importance of determining and developing
the individuality of the pupil in his school life. And it is one of the great
advantages of the wide range of studies and the elective system in school
and college that they open the way to the just consideration of this indivu-
ality. The growing complexity of civilization with its myriad forms of in-
dustry may contribute to the development of strength, beauty and variety
in human lives and will do so when we have learned to measure human
careers by broader and more comprehensive standards than those which are
set by the traditions of a hoary but narrow past. At any rate it is true that
as the pupil's individuality emerges the relative educational values of differ-
ent subjects correspond for each pupil more and more to the relative degrees
interest of they develop. School courses, especially above the elementary
school, i.e. in the high school aud college, should especially promote the
development of each pupil's dominant interests and powers; and further
should seek to render these interests and powers subservient to life's serious
purposes, and also to the possibility of participation in the refined pleasures
of life. The serious purposes of life are (1 ) self-support, or some worthy form
of service; (2) intelligent active participation in human affairs. The refined
pleasures of life are found in the ability to participate with intelligence and
appreciation in the intellectual and aesthetic interests of cul i\ated men.

The college course, which we are now especially considering, should
then allow the student the largest liberty in the choice of studies consistent
with making him a man of culture and an intelligent and active citizen,
while at the same time preparing him for the successful practice of
that vocation for which his tastes and capacities best fit him. Doubtless
the relative amount of attention which the pupil should give to studies
directly relating to his chosen vocation will depend to a considerable
extent on the length of his course, i. e. whether he expects to stop his
school studies at the end of his college course, as is now ordinarily done, or
to continue them in university or professional school.

It is becoming clearer as we study the educational problems of our times
that the social, aesthetic and vocational studies are, or may be, interrelated in

such ways that we do well to unite them in courses of study from whatever
standpoint the pupil approaches. If the student's dominant interest is
along industrial lines we may make this the central feature of the course and
at the same time lead him to take interest in other studies because of their
relations to his chosen vocation.

In these statements of general principles we have been following Prof.
Hanus as an authority and will now quote from his work on "Educational
Aims and Educational Values."

"For example: The future artisan will be interested in the history of his
craft; thence easily in the history of industry; thence in its effect on the
progress of civilization; thence in the political as well as industrial history
of his race; that is to say, in the evolution of modern society, with its con-
temporary industrial, economical, and political problems. History, econ-
omics, aud government thus become interesting, because they may be
shown to have obvious relation to his dominant interest. Through history,
the pupil may become interested in other peoples, with their literature and
languages, and thus foreign languages may be and should be brought
within the range of his interests. The obvious dependence of the thorough
comprehension and pursuit of any trade on mathematics arid natural sci-
ence, leads to these sciences.

"Again, the future merchant or manufacturer, whose business interests
outweigh all other incentives to activity, should easily be led to take an in-
terest in the business relations of his own city, town, or State with other
cities, towns, and States, and thence, by an easy transition, to the commer-
cial relations of his own country with foreign countries, and to the leading
interests of foreign nations. Before long the dependence of commercial
and industrial activity on the form and structure, the physical features of
the earth's surface, the raw materials of commerce and manufactures, which
his commercial interest finds worthy of consideration, may be used to lead
the pupil to natural science. Machinery for manufacture and for transpor-
tation are incidentally interesting at first, because they constitute a part of
the vast commercial activity to which the future merchant feels himself
irresistably drawn. Ere long, however, he finds that a comprehension of
them depends on a satisfactory knowledge of mathematics and physical
science. Everywhere money and credit are used to carry on commercial
enterprises. Banks and banking appear as important phases of commercial
activity; so also are the relations of labor and capital, and contemporary
schemes of cooperation. The government which furnishes the necessary
guarantee of peace, and protection of property for the uninterrupted pursuit
of all these commercial and industrial activities, is of interest because, once
more, it is necessarily associated with his dominant commercial interest;
and so the youth is led to study economics aud civil government. More-
over, the history of commerce and industry lead easily and naturally to the
history of civilization.

"Commercial relations with other nations make clear the value of foreign
modern languages, and these, when once pursued, for whatever cause, may
come to possess an interest of their own. A command of the mother-tongue
as the means of all communication for business purposes, may be utilized
to extend the knowledge of its literary resources, and thus bring to bear on
the future merchant its far-reaching influences on aims, character, and


tastes. Similarly the future artist, with his dominant aesthetic interest,
may be led to take an interest in science, in mathematics, in history, and
in language, because he finds in each of these subjects important assistance
toward the civilization of what he has most at heart.

"Thus, by judiciously grouping the various subjects about a youth's
vocational interests, he may bs le 1, nitu rally and with the least resistance,
to substantial achievement in all the fields of study open to him. He may
be led to general culture, because these fields of study are shown to minis-
ter primarily to his vocational interests; because they make clearer the part
he desires to play in the world, and strengthen his growing ability to sus-
tain his part well, to do his chosen work well, and to find his way with in-
creasing certainty through the complex affairs of modern, social and polit-
ical life. But also, before long, we may hope, in most cases, because they
afford that satisfaction which every human ..being feels in the enlarge-
ment of his mental horizon because they bring within reach the disinter-
ested pleasures of science, history, literature, and art, and enable him to
pass through the world alive to its beauties, its marvelous system, and its
unsolved mysteries."

I have dwelt on these general considerations regarding educational
values because I believe it is very important that we should consider instruc-
tion in agricultural science and practice in the light of an educational
problem differing in no essential particular from the problem involved in
education in mechanic arts, engineering, natural science, or medicine.
And just as any course in those subjects should be constructed with refer-
ence to the general needs of pupils for instruction in languages, literature,
social studies, art and mathematics so the course in agriculture should be
constructed. Emphasis must be laid upon this because the courses given
at agricultural schools and colleges are often thought of as purely industrial
in their scope and aim "bread and butter" courses pure and simple.
Arguments for a "practical" education are often heard which if taken
literally would seem to imply that money-getting is the highest aim for a
man to pursue and that therefore, all studies which do not directly prepare
the pupil for the practice of an industry are to be tabooed. In this case of
agriculture, in particular, it is often urged that pupils pursuing this study
should be separated from those pursuing the classics, law or medicine or
other culture studies lest the mind of the student of agriculture should be
diverted from practical ends or he should be overcome by the contempt of
his fellow students. Against this low, and to my mind, false view of agri-
cultural education I most earnestly protest. And in opposition to it I lay
down the thesis that instruction in agriculture properly arranged and given
may be made to have a high educational value, that agriculture as a science
has its vocational, scientific and social sides, and that in a properly con-
structed college course agriculture may be so joined with other studies i. e.
literary, social, aesthetic, mathematical and scientific, studies that the grad-
uate from an agricultural course may have a breadth and finish of culture
comparable with that of the graduates from any other course.

Coming now directly to the discussion of agricultural courses I have
decided to present as a concrete example of a four-year college course that
recommended by the Committees on Entrance Requirements and Methods
Teaching of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experi-
ment Stations. This includes the following subjects and number of hours.




Language and Literature English ............ 200

Modern Languages. . . ........... 340

Social Studies General History ............... 80

Political Economy ............. 60

Constitutional Law ......... 50

Ethics ........................ 40

CULTURE / Psychology ................... 60


Art Drawing ............................... 60

Mathematics Algebra ........................ 75

Geometry ...................... 40

Trigonometry ........ ....... . 40


/Physics ........................................ 150

/ Chemestry ...................................... 150

I Botany ................. ......................... IbO

^Zoology ....................................... 120

PURE /Physiology ........................................ 180

SCIENCE \Geology ..................................... 120

1 Meteorology ................................... 60


32 p.ct.

/Agriculture .................................... 486

I Horticulture and Forestry ........ ......... 180

^Veterinary Science .............. ........... 1 80

Agricultural Chemistry ...................... 180


34 p.ct.


It appears then that the agricultural college course recommended by
these committees is two-thirds culture and scientific studies and one-third
agricultuial science and its applications to the art of agriculture. We need
not, therefore, discuss the educational values of two-thirds of this course
for these are well established. It is the remaining one-third about which
some may be in doubt. It will perhaps help us to determine more accur-
ately the educational values of this agricultural portion if we divide it into
two sections. A large part of it consists of the study of the different
branches of the science of agriculture. Essentially these have educational
values as scientific studies, varying according to their nature and scope.
In their entirety they cover quite a wide range, since they include materials
drawn from physics, chemistry, various biological sciences, engineering
and economics. Leaving out for the present the manual operations which
we desire to consider separately as the second section of the agricultural
division of the college course, agricultural science embraces all the other
lines of instruction laid down by Prof. Hanus, except language and literature
that is, it includes (1 ) physical and biological science, mathematics, art and
social study. Properly taught, the student of agricultural science will "see
straight and clear; compare and infer; make an accurate record; remember;
express his thought with precision; and hold fast on lofty ideals." From
the complex nature of the agricultural sciences they should have high ed-
ucational values along these different lines. The objects, facts and
phenomena brought before the student of agricultural science are of such a
kind as to test his capacity to "see straight and clear" in a very high degree.
Whatever previous training he has had in this line will doubtless aid him
in this new and higher field of science but however good his previous
training he will find very much to train and develop his perceptive powers
in observing the complex things involved in agricultural science. The
soil, cultivated plants, domestic animals are not simple and elementary
things, easy to be apprehended and compn-hended. If we are to know
them in any accurate sense we must see straight and clear and long. These
agricultural subjects also furnish innumerable opportunities for compari-
sons, most of which will be far from simple and the problems of correct
inferences in this line of study are as difficult as they are multitudinous.
The classification of soils and the determination of their relative fertility
and adaptation to different crops; the judging of livestock on the broad
basis of their fitness for particular uses. What opportunities in such studies
"to compare and infer." Considered merely as "mental gymnastics" a class
in stock judging may have as much exercise as a class puzzling over the
mysteries of the Latin or Greek subjunctive mood. That is, if our agricul-
tural students are taught and not lectured. No one would dispute that the
agricultural subjects give ample opportunity for exercise in "making an
accurate record" of what is learned. Memory certainly need not lack for
exercise amid the innumerable multitude of items included in these agri-
cultural subjects. It is undoubtedly a pity that memory training is too
much neglected in our modern educational schemes, but this is not for lack
of materials on which to work; it is oftener a lack of proper selection of
things to be remembered or the misguided effort to remember too many
unimportant items. And if ever there were subjects in which it was de-
sirable to express our thoughts with precision it is these agricultural sub-


jects. If only agricultural writers and teachers and students would learn
to do that so that we might distinguish between their actual knowledge and


Online LibraryAlfred Charles TrueAn address on the educational values of courses in agriculture → online text (page 1 of 2)