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Public Instruction at Xochimilco. Besides a grand ball and banquet, the visitors saw the famous floating gardens of that place. These consist of quadrangular islands about two rods wide by three or more rods long, in the midst of a shallow lake. The owners or renters dart hither and thither in canoes among them; and I am sure the visitors never saw so many useful plants growing to the square inch before. The soil is black and rich and yields three or more crops each year. That these same gardens have been subject to this intense cultivation from time immemorial and the fertility of the soil retained is truly wonderful.
A grand ball given by President Diaz in the National Palace was the concluding event for most of the delegates. To describe it if I were able would not be necessary here, but it was a fitting climax of a wonderful and almost bewildering series of functions, crowding upon one another during almost an entire month, in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of Mexico's independence.
Perhaps nearly a hundred functions besides those mentioned took place during the celebration. Many of these were indirectly educational and nearly all of them were conducive to a broader and better civilization. A few of these should be mentioned in this report, as follows:
The inauguration of an exhibition of hygiene; the dedication of a new building for the Secretary of Foreign Relations; the opening of the Exposition of Spanish Art; the opening of the Japanese Exposition; an excursion to the ruins of Teotihuacan; the laying of the corner stone of a monument presented to Mexico by the American colony, and of a monument of Pasteur presented to Mexico by the French colony; the unveiling of a large marble statue of Baron von Humboldt presented by the Emperor of Germany; a grand torch-light procession; a grand civil procession; a most artistic and unique historical procession; an imposing military parade in which several nations participated; imposing ceremonies in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the first cry for liberty; the opening of the Congress of the Union; the unveiling of a large and most beautiful statue of Juarez; the opening of the new city water-works; the completion of the new sewer system, and a new addition to the penitentiary; the remodelling of the Municipal Palace; besides a great number of events commemorative of military exploits, deeds of patriots, etc.
Most of these ceremonies were very formal, solemn, and impressive, and were well calculated to demonstrate the progressive policy of the administration. No doubt large sums of money were required to defray the expenses of attending a celebration so elaborate and prolonged; yet it was certainly conceived in a spirit of the highest economy, since there was so little spent simply for show. Barring the gorgeous displays of fireworks and electrical illuminations, most of the features of the Centenary consisted of needful modern public improvements, begun at the proper time to be completed for the occasion, and permanent in their nature.
There were no regrets that costly buildings and displays would be destroyed after the celebration. It was a gigantic affair, very impressive, instructive, and enjoyable, with few things about it to regret.
In this connection it may be well to state that the City of Mexico now seems to be as clean, as well drained and paved, and supplied with water, as any of our own large cities, and is with its even and delightful climate a safe and pleasant city in which to live.
Since real conditions, however, cannot be judged from dress parade exhibitions, I took excursions into the suburbs, which I found clean and sanitary a remarkable change since I used to live in Mexico twenty-five years ago. I also visited rural schools in three different towns, Ciudad Juarez, Ixtacalco, and Tlalpam, and in one of them I was invited to conduct a recitation in history.
I found the children, most of whom are full-blooded Indians, very polite and intelligent-far more capable than the Indians of our own country. Tho the conditions and methods in the schools have improved much since my former acquaintance with them, they are still much behind the times. The little restless tots are confined in school from nine till five and sometimes longer. The charts and texts used reminded me of my own childhood school days in the far West. Still, elementary schools are much more numerous and teachers use better methods and are better paid than formerly, and I was often impressed with the thought that Mexico is one nation, at least, who does not in her rapid rush toward higher civilization destroy her native races, but patiently helps them along the same road.
The attitude of the administration toward education is most gratifying. Within little more than half a decade the Secretary of Public Instruction and Fine Arts has been advanced from a subordinate branch of the Department of Justice to that of a Cabinet minister, while the national appropriation has been increased in four years from $2,000,000 to $8,000,000. The new school buildings are of the latest and most approved styles— well lighted and ventilated. The same is true of other public buildings. The new City Post-Office is a model of beauty, stability, and convenience, while the new opera house nearing completion will have few equals in the world. The hotels also show the spirit of the modern movement which is everywhere.
But more in the broad, wise, and generous treatment of the education of the masses than in any other feature do I see the true foundation of Mexico's future success and greatness. It is chiefly thru her schools that she may hope to prepare her people to exercise safely and wisely the freedom and power of self-government so well provided for in her constitution.
TOPIC: THE PROGRESS AND THE TRUE MEANING OF THE PRACTICAL IN EDUCATION
A. IN VOCATIONAL TRAINING
CARLETON B. GIBSON, PRESIDENT OF MECHANICS INSTITUTE, ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
The agricultural and industrial development of our country brings anew the old cry for the practical in education. Notwithstanding the exodus of population from the rural districts to the urban centers of civilization, more or less alarming in certain centers, our agricultural products have, within the past two decades, increased from three billion to the enormous sum of nine billion dollars.
Thru the technical training given in the more progressive agricultural schools and colleges and thru the unusual work of our efficient national Department of Agriculture, the broad acres of America have been made to yield threefold. And yet anyone who rides thru almost any section of our country must feel that agriculture as a science is still in its infancy, and general agricultural education has only begun.
Notwithstanding all the work of the schools and colleges and the various branches of our national and state departments of agriculture, perhaps not more than 10 per cent of those now engaged in farming as a vocation have had any technical training, or have even felt the stimulus of a general increase of interest in better farming methods.
On a few scattered acres of the many millions in this country, it is true that one hundred bushels of corn have been made to grow where less than twenty grew before, and much has been done to disseminate information of this wonderful increase. In a few places in the South, we hear of three bales of cotton being raised on an acre when the average over the South is one bale to five acres.
Thru the processes of plant breeding and scientific agriculture, some increases in the production of wheat per acre have been quoted. Much attention has been given to raising apples and citrous fruits, but it is not in any sense general; indeed, the marked improvements in products have been of rather a sporadic nature and we may not be surprised to find within the next ten years even at the same rate of exodus from the country to the city, that our increase in farm products will be far more than three or even tenfold more than they are today.
The growth of cities has brought a wonderful increase in manufacturing. The products of the soil must be turned into useful forms. The wealth. of the mines must be made available for the people. Clothing must be prepared to meet increasing per capita demands, and the great increase of our population, and the marvelous inventiveness of the American Yankee must have an outlet thru thousands of newly manufactured articles.
Not only is the amount of manufacturing increased even beyond the
rate of growth of our population and the ever-increasing demands of urban life, but the variety of manufactured articles has increased in even greater ratio.
In 1890 our exports of manufactured articles were one hundred and fifty million, Germany's one hundred and sixty-five million. In 1908 our total export of manufactured articles was six hundred and sixty million dollars, while Germany's amounted to a billion seventy million dollars. Our home consumption of manufactured products has doubtless increased in even greater ratio and the "Made in Germany," with which we are familiar, leads us to believe that a large part of Germany's exported articles find use in America. Notwithstanding our great increase in manufactured products, we have not yet been able to supply the demands of our own country.
There are three essential factors in the building of industry. These are: capital, managerial brains, and skilled labor. Thru the wealthproducing power of the American and great aggregations of fortune, there has not been wanting abundant capital for legitimate manufacturing enterprises. The oldest schools of technology and engineering, and many manufacturing establishments have turned out men equipped with managerial brains, but the supply of skilled labor has in no sense been adequate to meet the demands of manufacturers.
The great influx of foreign population into certain sections, and the drafts upon the less thrifty of our rural population in other sections, have not yet brought an adequate army of toilers, and in no sense has the skill of these workers been satisfactory.
The one factor in industry for which there is great and growing demand today is skilled labor. This demand creates a throng of opportunities for remunerative service. Many of the higher grades of industry have been trying to import this labor from the older centers of industrial civilization and from countries that have given more attention than has America to the industrial training of her children.
But the supply seems to be growing somewhat less and the demands of high-grade manufacturers have been increasing. Advertisements and expert labor scouts have not been able to bring to a certain class of manufacturers anything like an adequate supply of satisfactorily skilled labor to meet their annual loss by death, old age, or the migratory impulses of the workingman. Some of these institutions have been forced at enormous expense to undertake to supply this demand by instituting schools of their own.
The National Association of Manufacturers declared in its last convention, with feeling and impressive unanimity, that
the time has arrived when all discussion regarding the importance of industrial education should give place to the establishment of schools, and to other methods of securing such industrial training.
And it cries aloud for trade schools, for the enrichment of training in factory or apprentice schools, for half-time schools, for evening schools where special skill and shop practice in various branches of mechanical trades may be had, for half-day schools co-operating with shops, for independent industrial schools, for all kinds of schools of a practical nature that will increase the immediate efficiency and earning power of young workers.
The American Federation of Labor declared at its Toronto meeting that "the future welfare of America depends largely on the industrial training of our workers," and says:
The inquiries of the committee seem to indicate that if the American workman is to maintain a high standard of efficiency, the boys and girls of the country must have an opportunity to acquire educated hands and brains, such as may enable them to earn a living in a self-selected vocation. No better investment can be made by taxpayers than to give every youth an opportunity to secure such an education. The committee recommends that the technical education of the workers in trade and industry, being a public interest, should not be a private but a public function, conducted by the public and the expense involved at public cost.
The report of that special committee, signed by John Mitchell, chairman, and approved by the Committee on Education, was adopted by the federation.
The cry for the practical in education has not been limited to a certain class of educators, nor to a few educational conferences, but it has come in no unmeaning terms from employer and employee.
But this cry for the practical in education is not peculiar to the present time. While at some times it has been louder than at other times, it has always existed; and the nature of the demand has depended upon the social ideals of the people.
When the social ideals were physical strength, and beauty, and symmetry of human form, there was a national cry for the practical in education and the people demanded that the youth be trained, almost wholly, thru athletics.
When the social ideal was achievements of war and conquest thru arms, the cry for the practical in education was that every boy be given a soldier's training and be inured to hardship, to stern discipline, and skilled in the use of implements of war.
When the social ideal became veneration for the achievements of ancestors, and culture was measured by the knowledge of the events of the past, the cry for the practical in education was that these ideals might be furthered by a constant conning-over of the ancient books which recounted the glorious deeds of the forefathers.
When the social ideal was a broad and general knowledge of the classics and an acquaintance with the literature of foreign tongues, there was a demand that the youth of the schools be brought from other forms of training which were considered purely cultural and be made to study thoughts.