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Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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girl, by long and quiet contact, with the tools of the homemaker, for
future scientific use, just as we teach the multiplication facts for
later use in the science of mathematics.

A definite list of the simple homemaking tasks suitable for little
girls to undertake may not be out of place here:

1. Setting the table. (A card list of table necessities is
useful. Such a list may be given each little girl when she
undertakes home practice work.)
2. Clearing the table.
3. Washing the dishes.
4. Sweeping the kitchen. Sweeping the piazza.
5. Dusting.
6. Making beds and caring for bedrooms.
7. Arranging her own bureau drawers and closets.
8. Simple cooking.
9. Hemming towels and table linen.
10. Ironing handkerchiefs and napkins.

As the child grows older, methods of teaching grow increasingly
direct. Even here we shall perhaps not talk a great deal about
"preparing for homemaking." But we shall see that the tools grow
increasingly familiar, and that ideals once taught are retained and
added to. We shall see that our science, our mathematics, our art, all
contribute to the acquirement of homemaking knowledge. We shall give a
practical turn to these more or less abstract subjects.

Sewing and cooking classes are by this time a recognized part of
grammar-school courses in many city schools. That they are not so
firmly intrenched in the country schools is due usually to
difficulties in the way of securing equipment and to the already
crowded condition of the school program. The ideal remedy is the
substitution of the consolidated school with its domestic science room
and its specially trained teacher for the scattered one-room
buildings. Wherever the consolidated school has come, it has been
enthusiastically received and supported. No one wishes to go back to
the old way. But in many localities the consolidated school has not
come and cannot be immediately looked for; and in these places the
need of the homemaking work is just as great. The teacher must find
the way to give these girls what they need. If no other way presents
itself, the teacher will do well to ask the help of the mothers of the
neighborhood. Perhaps one who is an expert needlewoman will give an
hour or two a week in the school or at her own home to carrying out
the sewing course which the teacher cannot crowd into her own already
overcrowded program. Perhaps another will do the same for the cooking,
making her own kitchen for one afternoon a week an annex of the
school. It is important, however, when such arrangements are made that
they be recognized as school work, and if possible the courses
followed should be planned and supervised by the regular teacher of
the school. Thus only can they be held to standardized accomplishment.

The inadequacy of the "one-portion" method of teaching girls to cook
has aroused serious thought, and remedies of various sorts have been
applied. You know, perhaps, the story of the Chicago cooking-school
student who "had to make seven omelets in succession at home last
night" because one egg would not make enough omelet for the family.
The first remedy tried was cooking for the school lunch room. This
was, however, usually going from one extreme to the other, since the
lunch room is as a rule maintained only in large schools.
"Institutional cooking," some one calls it. Instead of one
egg-cooking, it became one-hundred-egg cooking, and the difficulty of
the average student in adapting school methods to family use was not
by any means at an end.

The Central High School of Newark, New Jersey, has solved its problem
by putting its girls to work, not at the task of providing the
sandwiches, soups, and other luncheon dishes for its large lunch room,
but at providing "family dinners" at twenty-five cents a plate for the
faculty of the school. Other schools follow similar plans.

The grammar-school girls of Leominster, Massachusetts, serve luncheon
to a limited number every day at their domestic science house. Here
the girls do the marketing, cook and serve the meal, and keep the
various rooms of the house in order. In Montclair, New Jersey, work of
this same sort is done. In each of these cases the cooking is done as
it would have to be in the home, not for one person, nor for hundreds,
but for approximately a family-sized group.

Sewing courses also grow more and more practical. In some schools the
girls make their own graduating dresses as a final test of their
ability. Courses are definite, and girls completing them will have
definite knowledge of everyday processes of hand sewing. The schools
which add to their hand-sewing courses well-planned practice in the
use of the sewing machine are further adding to the accomplishment of
their girls. Those which go farther still and teach garment planning
and making may consider their sewing courses fairly complete.

[Illustration: Teachers' luncheon cooked and served by pupils at the
Clinton Kelly School, Portland, Oregon. Other schools have adopted
similar plans for teaching girls how to cook]

The formation of ideals must go hand in hand with practice in manual
processes. The girl must learn to know good work when she sees it, to
know a properly constructed garment from one carelessly put together,
and to value good work and construction.

Time was when domestic science meant sewing and cooking, and these
alone. That time, however, is past. The care of a house is
practically taught in many schools throughout the country by the
maintenance of a model apartment in or near the school building. In
Public School No. 7, New York City, grammar-school girls, many of whom
are of foreign parentage and tradition, are thus introduced to the
American ideal of living. The school is thus establishing standards of
equipment, of food, of service, of comfortable living, that tend to
Americanize quite as much as the establishment of standards of speech,
of business methods, or of civic duties. The work done in this school
is typical of that prevailing in hundreds of towns and cities.

[Illustration: A girls' sewing class. Work in sewing offers unlimited

The question arises: How much of her housekeeping training should a
girl receive before entering upon her high-school course? After
careful consideration it seems wise to urge that the greater part of
the practical household work be taught during the period from eleven
to fourteen. This does not imply that homemaking training should
cease at fourteen, but rather that after that age attention shall be
centered upon the more difficult aspects of the subject - upon
"household economics" rather than the skillful doing of household

In view, however, of the fact that the majority of girls never reach
the high school, every bit of household science which they can grasp
should be given them in the elementary school. Knowing how to do is
only part of the housekeeper's work. Knowing what and when to do is
quite as important. Elementary study of food values is quite as
comprehensible as elementary algebra. Home sanitation and decoration
are no harder to understand than commercial geography. The principles
of infant feeding and care may be grasped by any girl who can
successfully study civil government or grammar.

Shall we then crowd out commercial geography or government or grammar
to make room for these homemaking studies? Not necessarily, although,
if it came to a choice, much might be said for the practical studies
in learning to live. Fortunately it need not come to a choice. There
is room for both. We must, however, learn to adapt existing courses to
the requirements of girls.

[Illustration: Courtesy of L.A. Alderman
A model school home where all the practical details of housekeeping
are taught]

[Illustration: A domestic science class at work in the model school
home shown above]

There is arithmetic, for instance. Most of us have already learned to
skip judiciously the pages in the textbook which deal with compound
proportion, averaging payments, partial payments, and cube root. Now
we must learn to insert the keeping of household accounts; the study
of apportioning incomes; the scientific spending of a dollar in food
or clothing value; the relative advantage of cash or credit systems of
paying the running expenses of a home; the dangers of the
"easy-payment plan"; the cost of running an automobile; comparison
with the upkeep of a horse and wagon; comparison of the two from the
point of view of their usefulness to a family; mortgaging homes, what
it means, and what it costs to borrow; when borrowing is justified;
the accumulation of interest in a savings account; the comparative
financial advantage of renting and owning a home; the cost of building
houses of various sorts; the cost of securing, under varying
conditions, a water supply in the country home; and other locally
important problems. We already have "applied science" in our courses,
and we are making a strenuous effort to apply arithmetic; but we have
not usually tried to apply it to the education of the prospective

Take the one question of the "installment plan." Where, if not in the
public school, can we fight the menace offered to the inexperienced
young people of the land by this method of doing business? And where
in the public school if not in the arithmetic class? Consider the
possibility of lives spent in paying for shoes and hats already worn
out, of furniture double-priced because payment is to be on the "easy
plan," of families always in debt, with wages mortgaged for months in
advance. The pure science of mathematics will be of little avail in
fighting this possibility, but "applied arithmetic" can be a most
effective weapon.

In our geography classes we may find time for the study of food and
clothing products, of their sources, their comparative usefulness, and
their cost. We may learn whether it is best to buy American-made
macaroni or the imported variety; whether French silks and gloves are
superior to those made in America; what "shoddy" is, what we may
expect from it if we buy it, how much it is worth in comparison with
long-wool fabrics, how to know whether shoddy is being offered us when
we buy. Countless other matters concerning the markets and products of
the world will repay the same sort of treatment.

[Illustration: One of the class exercises in the model school home
shown on page 115]

[Illustration: The correct serving of meals forms part of the class
work in this same home]

Food questions are opened up by study of our meat, vegetable, and
fruit supply. Every town may make this a personal and immediate
problem. From whom did Mr. Blank, the local grocer, obtain his canned
tomatoes? It is sometimes possible to follow up those canned tomatoes
to their source. In one investigation of this sort they were found to
have passed through six hands. The arithmetic class may pass upon the
question of profits and comparative cost between this and the
"producer-to-consumer" method.

The art work of the schools may also contribute generously to the body
of homemaking knowledge. For the average girl the designing and making
of Christmas cards and book covers, or even the prolonged study of
great paintings, is a less productive use of time than the designing
of cushion covers, curtains, bureau scarfs, or candle shades. In a
certain town in New England considerable effort was expended in
bringing about the introduction of art work in the schools a few years
ago. A normal-school art graduate took charge of the work. It has now
been abandoned because "the children took so little interest." And
really, if you knew the conditions, you could not blame them They
studied art and copied art and tried to cultivate an artistic sense in
ways as remote from their daily lives as could apparently be
contrived. And the pity of it all is that here were girls whose homes,
whose personal dress, were crying out for the application of art;
whose artistic sense was growing of failing to grow according as their
individual conditions would allow; and the public school has passed
its opportunity by.

Art, as applied to school work, is divided usually into appreciative
and creative work. We place before children the best in picture and
sculpture and music. Why do we not teach them also the foundation
principles of good taste in matters less remote from the lives of many
of them? Why not teach the girl something of artistic color
combination? Why not apply the test of art to the lines of woman's
attire? Why not study the contour of heads and styles of hairdressing?

Happily, in these days, these things also are being done. We have
"manual arts" rooms and teachers by whose aid girls are taught to use
the principles of design they study in their everyday planning of
everyday things. A visitor to the Central School of Auburn,
Washington, reports interesting work going on in such a room. On the
blackboard was written:

The general aim of design work - order and beauty.
The three principles governing design are:
Balance - Harmony - Rhythm.
Balance: opposition of equal forms.
Rhythm: movement in direction - joint action - motion.
Harmony: similarity.

In the room were girls doing various sorts of work - coloring designs
on fabrics for curtains and pillow covers; making original designs for
crocheted lace; hemstitching draperies; preparing color material for a
primary room; while on a table in the center of the room were many
finished articles, made by the girls and carrying out their principles
of design - "not one of which," says the visitor, "but would serve a
useful purpose in home or office."

House building, interior decorating, and furnishing are all worthy of
serious attention in the art course. Simplicity, harmony, and
suitability may well be taught as the principles of good taste. Girls
must learn these principles somewhere to make the most of their homes
by and by. And again the public school, and probably the elementary
school, must do the work.

Physiology and hygiene are already contributing to the knowledge which
makes for human betterment, but they also can be made to contribute
much more than they have sometimes done. The physiology of infancy
must be widely and insistently taught.

With proper education she [the young mother] would know the
meaning of the words food and sleep; she would know
something of their overwhelming importance upon the future
being and career of her child, who in his turn is to be one
of the world's citizens with full capacity for good or evil.
Knowing what were normal functions, she would be able to
recognize and guard against deviations from them. No day
would pass in which she would not find opportunity to
exercise self-restraint, keen observation and sensible
knowledge in furthering the normal and healthful evolution
of her child.[6]

The "little mother" classes in settlement houses, in community social
centers, and in some public schools are doing excellent work in
beginning this knowledge of infancy. No elementary school can really
afford to miss the opportunity such work holds out. Have we any right
to let a girl approach the care of her child with less than the best
that modern science can offer in this most important and exacting work
of her life? If not, it is again the public school which alone can be
depended upon to do the work, and we must get at least the beginning
of it done before the girl escapes us at the close of her
elementary-school course.

If you are impatient with a program which presupposes that practically
all women will be homemakers and mothers, either trained or otherwise,
let me remind you that the majority of women do marry, that most of
these and many of the unmarried do become homemakers, and that it will
be far safer for society to train the few - less than 10 per cent - who
never enter the career than to pursue the economically wasteful plan
of assuming educationally that no women will be homemakers, or that if
they are they can successfully undertake the most complicated,
difficult, and most important profession open to women with no
preparation at all, or with only what they have unconsciously absorbed
at home in the brief pauses of the education which did not educate
them for life.

The education for homemaking will never lose sight of the fact that
girls must really be prepared for a double vocation, since it is a
question whether or not they will become homemakers, and they must at
all events be prepared for the years intervening between school and
home. On the contrary, the education which prepares the homemaker will
exercise special care in training for those intervening years, or for
life work if it should prove to be such. Of all distinctly vocational
training, it is only fair, however, that the homemaking training
should come first, as a foundation for all later work. Whether the
girl thus trained ever presides over a home of her own or not, the
training will have made her a broader woman and a better worker, with
a finer understanding of the universal business of her sex.


[Footnote 6: Oppenheim.]



While we are occupied in teaching the girl the "ways and means" by
which she is later to carry on the business of homemaking, we must not
overlook the fact that, although ways and means are vitally necessary,
it is after all the spirit of the girl which will supply the motive
power to make the home machinery run. With this in view we must so
plan the girl's training as to secure not only the concrete knowledge
of doing things, but also the more abstract qualities which will equip
her for her work.

False ideals and ignorance of housekeeping processes are responsible
for thousands of homekeeping failures; but lack of fairness, of good
temper, patience, humor, courage, courtesy, stability, perseverance,
and initiative must be held accountable for thousands more. For these
qualities, then, the girl must be definitely and painstakingly
trained. In other words, we must work for the highest type of woman,
spiritually as well as industrially.

It may seem that definite instruction in such abstract qualities as
good temper or stability or fairness is difficult or perhaps
impossible to Secure. Since, however, all the girl's intercourse with
her kind affords daily opportunity for practice of these qualities,
instruction may easily accompany and become a part of her daily life.
The lack of these qualities handicaps the girl even in her school life
and shows there plainly the handicap that, unless help is given her,
she will suffer for life.

Her school work offers ample opportunity for the cultivation of
patience and perseverance. Teachers must combat vigorously the
"give-up" spirit, and the troublesome "changing her mind" which leads
the girl along a straight path from "trying another" essay subject or
embroidery stitch as soon as difficulties present themselves to trying
another husband when the first domestic cloud arises. Play hours as
well as work hours are invaluable in teaching the girl the difficult
art of getting along with the world. The educational value of games is
largely found in their social training. Experience teaches that
children require long and patient instruction to enable them to play
games. They have to learn fairness, courtesy, good temper; honesty,
kindness, sympathy. They have to learn to be good losers and to
consider the fun of playing a better end than winning the game.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Play hours as well as work hours are invaluable in teaching the girl
the difficult art of getting on with the world]

Games must be carefully distinguished from the more general term play.
All play not solitary has recognized social value; games, because the
idea of contest is involved, have a special value of their own. Close
observation of young children in their games, especially when
unsupervised, shows us self supreme. According to temperament, the
child either pushes his way savagely to the goal or furtively seeks to
win by cunning and craft. He must win, regardless of the process. How
many of these unsupervised games end in "I sha'n't play," in angry
bursts of tears, or even in blows! How many fail upon close scrutiny
to show some less assertive child, who never wins, who is never
"chosen," who might better not be playing at all than never to "have
his turn"!

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
Hunter High School girls playing hockey in Central Park, New York.
The educational value of games lies in the fact that they teach fair
play, self-control, and proper consideration of others]

During the individualistic period games must be for the satisfaction
of individualistic desires. Team work must await a later development
of child nature. But while each child may play to win, his future
welfare demands that his efforts be in harmony with certain

1. He must respect the rules of the game.
2. He must "play fair."
3. He must control anger, jealousy, boastfulness, and other of the
more elemental emotions.
4. He must consider the handicaps suffered by some players, and
see that they get a "square deal."

Girls' games and boys' games at this period happily show little
differentiation. Almost any game not prejudicial to health serves to
call into action the moral forces we strive to cultivate. The game to
a certain extent typifies the larger life - the life of effort,
contest, striving to win. Self-control and proper consideration of
others in the one must serve as a help in fitting for the other.

[Illustration: Courtesy of L.A. Alderman
Drill work as well as games is beneficial to health and also teaches

Teachers are often inclined to overlook or undervalue the training of
girls in games. The fact is that girls especially need this training
as the woman's sphere in present-day life is widening. Men have always
had contact with the world. Women have in times past had to content
themselves with a single interest involving contest - the social game.

How far we may safely go in utilizing the game element - that is, the
contest or competition element - in school work is a question for
thought. The "rules of the game" are less easy to enforce here;
jealousies are harder to control; handicaps are more in evidence and
less easy to make allowance for in contests; the discouragement of
failure may have more serious results. The mere fact of class grouping
involves a natural competition, healthful and beneficial and wisely
preparatory for future living. More emphasis than this upon rivalry
may produce feverish and unhealthful conditions, far removed from the
mental poise we desire for our girls. The school can give the girl few
things finer than the ability to attack work quietly and yet with
determination and a sense of power to meet and overcome obstacles.

The school and the playground form the growing girl's community life.
In them she must learn to practice community virtues, to shun
community evils, and to accept community responsibilities. For her the
school and the playground are society. Here she will take her first
lessons in the pride of possessions, in the prestige accompanying
them, in the struggle for social supremacy, in doubtful ideals brought
from all sorts of doubtful sources. Here she will find exaggerated
notions of "style" and its value, impure English, whispered
uncleanness in regard to sex matters, and surreptitious reading of
forbidden books. Here also she will find worthier examples - clean,
pure thought, honesty and fair dealing, pride of achievement rather
than of externals, fine ideals exemplified in the best homes. And no
finer or more delicate task lies before teacher and mother than the
guidance of the girl in her choice.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A school playground. The school and the playground form the growing
girl's community life]

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A model playground. The model playgrounds in the parks are doing much
to aid the playground movement]

Going to school is rightly considered an epoch in the child's life. No
longer confined to the narrow circle of home and family friends, the
child may lose all the tiny beginnings of desired virtues in this
larger life. Or, on the contrary, when the school recognizes and
continues home training, or supplies what has not been given, these
foundation virtues may be so applied to the old problems in new places
as to form a foundation for the life conduct of the girl and the woman

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 7 of 14)