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HE SCHOOL'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE LEISURE TIME OF THE
OF THE SCHOOL
Neva R. Deardorff, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
For me to address the child welfare workers of the National Conference of Social ork implies a mental attitude not unlike that of the college professor who in a prayer id: "Paradoxical as it may seem, O Lord, the truth is . . . . ."
The long text which has been assigned to me bristles with those key words which vite, even demand definition and analysis: What is the leisure time of the child? it the hiatus between the successful demands of the home and the traditional demands the school-the time the child has to himself? What are the services of the school? "hat are their aims and purposes? Is it to teach a curriculum or to work with parents > guide and foster the development of each child? If the school already is accomplishig fully its aims and purposes why should it concern itself, much less assume responsiility or allow responsibility to be put upon it, for the time of the child which may be eft over. If it isn't attaining its aims and purposes, will an extension of school hours ncrease its chance of success? Will an extension of school activities to include those Isually thought of as resources to occupy the leisure time of adults-recreation and elaxation enhance the chance of educating children successfully?
Edward Yeomans has said: "As a matter of fact, if our work was the work most suited to us; if we expressed ourselves very directly in our work and if we did not have too much of it; if we did not violate the dignity and the beauty of it by doing too much in order to secure larger rewards and a quicker recognition; if it was not so much competitive work and was more co-operative and intensely friendly and exhilarating; then recreation would only be a different kind of work." Is it possible to get schools to so build their programs of work that they will have this vital quality of pleasure, of satisfaction, of joy in work? If the school authorities are unable to build that kind of work program, will a leisure-time program help very much? Are wholesale methods any more likely to succeed in recreation than they seem to be succeeding in education?
Looking at this matter from another angle: can schools do a first-class educational job and at the same time ignore questions of play, recreation, and relaxation in school hours? Can schools ignore these interests out of school hours? Can schools do a firstclass educational job without knowing definitely what the child is doing outside of school hours? Is there any way without such knowledge of adjusting school services and relationships satisfactorily to the needs of the individual child? Is there any way of knowing what result the school is attaining if nothing is known of the child's behavior outside of the walls of school? And if the facts, when known, are not complimentary to the combined efforts of home and school in the child's behalf, what is to be done about it? Whose responsibility is it? Do leisure-time activities bear any important
relationship to what is the already accepted responsibility of the school? Can extramural activities buttress school efforts or can they undo the work of the school.
It is easier to formulate the questions, however, than to find the answers at least to some of them.
It may be well to start with the simpler questions. Should the school people know what children are doing when they are not in school? For my part I cannot conceive how a school service of any sort can be intelligently run without such knowledge, even though the service is thought of as teaching subjects, rather than teaching children? How is the all-important curriculum itself to be constructed? At some point in the planning, children and children's interests and activities have to be considered and when that process of examination is on foot, the specific facts regarding the activities of the children to be dealt with would seem to be essential if the school service is to be firmly anchored in the lives of these same children.
We aren't likely to get very far unless we get some sense of the direction of affairs— the direction of children's affairs. Now we do know that in the old days the opportunities for recreation, physical development, and vocational training abounded for children in the typical American home on the farm or in the village. These opportunities stirred the imagination; all life was adventure. With big families, big farms, and communities where there was a wide basis of acquaintanceship, the materials were at hand for the child to learn directly from life and constantly to apply what the school was giving him. The school found itself a part of a social mechanism which, though it somewhat rudely curtailed the time which the child might devote to school pursuits, provided activities outside which were genuinely educational. In the more important phases of education, home and school and neighborhood were pulling together. The old fashioned home of fifty years ago held within itself the resources for much of education, of play, and of relaxation. It could occupy the field as a child raiser and educator and the school and the teacher could be adjuncts, even very minor adjuncts, as they were in the life of Lincoln.
But at present though homes are giving better and better physical care and there is more time for personal attention to the child, they can do less and less for the education of children, and neighborhoods, in many instances, do worse than nothing. The home has lost, bit by bit, its tools for educating children. In the crowded city life of today it has neither trees, gardens, yard, attic, barn, hay mow, or wood shed. It has little of the fascinating old work apparatus—the farming implements, vehicles, wind mills, churns, sausage grinders, fireplaces and wood stoves, cider presses, harness, lye hoppers, rain barrels, kits of tools, and paint and brushes. It has no domestic animals and very little room for pets other than a gold fish or canary. Neighbors cannot be what they once were. To make a lot of noise is to court an interview with the landlord or his agent. The modern home has a deficit of the father and a surplus of the mother who has lost her old creative activities in production while the father's wage usually won't allow a very stimulating, exhilarating, or creative activity in spending. Merely having more time in a three-room flat usually won't lead to very productive teaching activities or a very profound child study. The intricacies of housekeeping on that scale can be taught and learned quickly. The push button and the spigot are the keys to the future.
and also upon having a highly selected student who will want to learn what Mark is qualified to teach. It is good for passing along the learning and traditions of the past but not for checking up or for making the special applications of truth to the demands of the present.
But parents nowadays, shorn of laboratory equipment, are seldom Mark Hopkinses, while the world demands special training of everyone who would escape from the ranks of unskilled labor, the rewards and conditions of which make the use of the word "escape" not a matter of accident. City homes can no longer equip children to cope with the situations of life.
With agriculture becoming more highly specialized and industrialized, with the increase of tenant farming, with rural communities suffering from the severe onset of disintegrating social and economic forces, the rural school, like the city school, finds itself in conditions quite different from those of a generation or two ago, and yet with problems quite different from those of the city school. For while the city child has a vacuum of leisure which the city school may invade with more or less assurance, the country school has the more difficult task of competing with rural child labor.
Growing out of the changed conditions in city homes, or at least closely related to them, has come the era of compulsory school attendance. It would seem sometimes that some advocates of that most excellent legal protection of childhood do not quite sense the educational implications of compulsory school attendance measures. It means that in the course of a relatively few years we have poured into the public elementary schools, all the children of the community. We have poured them in when we actually did not have buildings enough and when we did not have teachers enough. We have poured them in largely on the assumption that the instruction which was good and suitable for the children who used to go voluntarily even at a great sacrifice, or were kept in school by their parents-that this instruction would be equally good for and acceptable to children who, were it not for the law, would attend school very little. These basic changes in home and school attendance point, it seems to me, to the present drift in children's affairs. I do not put these ideas forward as new and original. As ideas, they are long past adolescence, but action flowing from them is much younger.
Bit by bit here and there schools are seeking to furnish by a community enterprise what the home can no longer supply. Special classes, vocational training, physical training, corrective physical exercises, recreation, school gardens, organized school play, pets, books, and special food are among the features found in the better schools throughout the country. School teachers are having to fill the places made vacant by the parents, older brothers and sisters, and the neighbors of a generation ago. The recreation movement has helped with playgrounds which are after all but communal back yards and open lots. And we have not been wholly without some scientific resources. We have had a great crop of experiments in many of the things that schools might do to come a little nearer to that ideal of training and developing the whole child-body, mind, and spirit. Most of these and other experiments in social relationships have proved without cavil that the human material is modifiable and that efforts intelligently expended to give nature a chance do bring results. Public opinion can be changed, babies can be saved, physical defects can be prevented and corrected, girls can be trained for intelligent motherhood, unadjusted children can be helped effectively, boys and girls can be diverted from careers of delinquency, and men and women can be put in the way of making good, the burdens of widowhood can be eased. We know that in any limited