SEPTEMBER 26, 1945
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—There is a small book which I think many of us will like to give as a Christmas gift to little children we know. Called "The Beloved Son," it is the life of Jesus written in rhymed couplets for young children by Blanche Shoemaker Wagstaff, with illustrations by Bettie Kerkham. I am sure any child who reads it will enjoy it and have a better idea of what happened to this man who, so many years ago, tried to teach people that "God is love."
If you want to know something about the life of a young teacher—(and she would have to be young or she never would undertake it)—who decides to teach in a small rural school in the mountains, or in one of the poorer rural areas of our country, be sure to read "Fair Is the Morning," by Loula Grace Erdman. A love story is woven into the pages of this book to give it appeal for the casual reader; but the stark facts about the average poor country community, its school and the schoolmarm are all here. The children—gifted or stupid, unruly but loyal when once won over—pass before you and show you why any teaching, anywhere, can be made an exciting career if you have imagination and love people.
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But the difficulties that face "Connie Thurman," in this story, might overwhelm many a young woman, and they don't need to be faced if, by and large, our national and state governments and the big groups interested in education would give more understanding thought to the problems of the rural school in the poor community.
During the White House Conference on Rural Education, held some years ago, one thing struck me—namely, that with the exception of the Farmers Union, the big farm organizations have not been willing to face the fact that children in rural communities, by and large, have less opportunity for good education than children in cities or in richer rural communities. Two of the speakers at that conference, referring to the strides that had been made in making education available to rural youth, seemed to think that belonging to the 4-H Clubs, or to the Future Farmers of America, would far outweigh the advantages of having better teachers, better paid, and a school which would make it possible to give certain courses that would help change the pattern of the life of the community.
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If rural life is going to appeal to our returning veterans, and if it is to hold the young men and women who are needed in any community to make it a good community, then education in rural areas all over the country must provide better teachers at higher salaries. They must have tenure, too, for this gives them freedom to introduce new and valuable subjects which will eventually prove their worth, but which, because they are new, often seem dangerous to localities that have not had the opportunity of watching educational experiments in other areas.