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The Pupil in the Rural School.

Pupils in rural schools need a developmental curriculum to meet personal, interest, and purpose motivations. Quality objectives, learning opportunitites, and appraisals procedures need to be in the offing.

Pupils in rural schools need to have an appropriate curriculum whereby they may individually achieve optimally. It no longer is that the rural population consists of farmers largely or only. There are small city and urban dwellers who with their families live In rural communities. Those who actually farm are very few In number, less than two per cent of the total population In the United States. Prices for farm products fluctuate much. As of this writing the farmer is the only one, basically, that is not benefiting from the somewhat positive employment picture in the United States. Indeed, the prices received for grain and livestock is based on depression amounts. It is rare if a farmer receives all of his Income from farming. Usually, the farmer makes enough money to stay on the family farm. He may also work In town to secure adequate income to feed and clothe his family. Farm wives may work in town to help keep the family farm and also to provide for necessities in life for the family.

In many ways, corporate farming has taken over. Near Kirksville, Missouri, Premium Standard Farms (PSF) has built a huge complex for the raising of hogs. The butcher hogs are raised from birth to processing size. The resulting meat is then available for selling to the consumer. Low prices for small pigs at birth or when being of butchering size is not a problem. Since PSF sells the packaged meats to the consumer. Local sales pavilions conducting weekly farm livestock consignments already say that there are very few pigs to sell each week, perhaps fifty in Kirksville, Missouri, whereas five years ago when many local farmers raised pigs, about four hundred were sold.

Laying hens have gone the corporate route twenty years ago. Today, almost no farmer even raises and keeps laying hens for the family's supply of eggs. It is cheaper to buy eggs than to raise and feed laying hens for egg production and family consumption. Presently, few laying houses are seen in operation on farms since an operator need's to keep about 15,000 layers to be competitive and make a living (Ediger, 1997, 188-190).

With grain process being exceedingly low too, perhaps, corporate grain farms will become increasingly popular and in evidence.

A Brief History of Farming

When growing up on a 160 acre farm near Inman, Kansas and during my high school years, my parents kept 300 laying hens, and we milked by hand seventeen dairy cows. We also raised to sell about fifty butcher hogs per year. Of the 160 acre farm, generally 110 acres was seeded to wheat, with the rest being seeded to produce feed crops such as alfalfa, oats, and barley for the milk cows, laying hens, and pigs. An approach such as this during my high school years of 1942-1946, was known as balanced farming. That name has long been discarded. No one lives on a farm of this size and if they do it is for sentimental reasons as well as to escape urban and smaller cities with their noise and bustle.

Farming then was a proud way of life. I took three years of Vocational Agriculture and was a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA). I took much pride in being the vice- president (1944-45 school year) and president (1945-46 school year) of the Inman, Kansas Rural High School FFA Chapter. I won a scholarship to Kansas State Agriculture College (now named Kansas State University) Manhattan, Kansas. Also, I was awarded the State Farmer Degree In FFA, given to two percent of the membership within the state. I also was third high in the state of Kansas in livestock judging in 1946. This contest was held at Kansas State Agricultural College, Manhattan. I prize these achievements highly In a truly agricultural community which it still is today with the many modifications described above. Most male students then took three years of Vocational Agriculture whereas most female students then took three years of Vocational Home Economics.

Presently, those who remain In and near Inman, Kansas have jobs in nearby cities such as Hutchinson or Wichita, Kansas. If they live on a farm, it has become a hobby and interest as well as pride to maintain the inherited family farm. Most do leave the Inman, Kansas community due to necessity of finding a job to earn a decent living or to follow a profession. Following a profession such as being Professor of Education at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri became my calling. My brother was able to farm and earn all of his income through farming- a rare bird indeed. It takes much knowledge, intelligence, and skill to be a farmer and also be an excellent manager. Ironically, he never received the State Farmer Degree. Many in the Inman, Kansas community would desire to be farmers, but this is not to be due to very low farm prices of commodities produced.

This has been a summary of events in one rural community; other rural areas will have a similar story unless a home was built by an executive in business who then commutes to the work place nearby. Business operations can move in quickly and change a rural area in a rapid way (Ediger, 1997, 178-182).

Implications for Education

The quality of life in a given area is dependent, in most cases, upon the income produced by each family to buy the necessities and other benefits in life. Most pupils do not achieve well If they lack opportunities to learn. This is quite evident when looking at pupil progress in suburban versus urban schools. Suburbia does have its wealth and does spend much more money on education than do other regions such as the urban and rural areas in society. Their pupils do achieve higher than others In terms of averages, due, I think, to pupils having a plethora of opportunities that many urban and rural pupils do not have. However, from my own experiences in selected areas, rural pupils can have numerous chances for success in life due to having learned responsibility and purpose In life, through pubic school education, FFA and 4 H, and religious organizations. I must say I learned much history from studying Sunday School lessons, such as history of the Roman Empire and ancient history of the Middle East. My father required the study of these lessons with no exceptions. Mother was an invalid for twenty-two years from a very disabling stroke.

Not all rural areas will be hurting for money if a prosperous business operation is located therein. For example, Milan, Missouri (population 2,000) Public Schools, located thirty miles from Kirksville was planning to consolidate with Green City (population 1,500), Missouri Public Schools, located nine miles apart, until PSF moved In as a large pork processing place, raising pigs from birth to the consumers' meal table. Now, Milan, Missouri has grown from a limited enrollment to building their very own new high school. Many workers have come in from Southern parts of the United States and further South whereby numerous pupils come from Spanish speaking homes. Culture can change rapidly and continuously.

The rural school curriculum needs to be adjusted to the local needs of pupils in a given region. Many in the rural Inman, Kansas community are General Conference Mennonites who have a very long history and tradition of farming. These values remain, in part, for all who come from that geographical region. The younger General Conference Mennonites have had to be mobile and move to where the jobs are located. The same is true of Spanish speaking populations who largely came from Mexico, Central America, Texas, and New Mexico to the large Premium Standard Farm operations in Northeast Missouri.

Many writers in education continuously say, "Teach the academics only and focus on them." This is a very narrow curriculum. Why? Are the academics the only important items to be taught in the curriculum? In society, there are many very necessary types of work that need to be performed that do not involve the academics. To be sure, pupils do need an academic curriculum up to a point. For myself, the academic was an excellent curriculum. For my brother and his son who farm, the academics seemed to have little value. Farming was in their "blood" and they have been highly successful therein, emphasizing a General Conference Mennonite philosophy on being "stewards of the soil." People are different, one from another, in what is valued and what is of interest. Spanish speaking peoples from Texas, New Mexico, among other states in the union, have faced discrimination in education and job opportunities. Being in a minority group generally has meant a lack of opportunity. A few rise above the discrimination and become highly successful, but most do not. What kind of rural curriculum is needed here? I will offer several suggestions for a rural school curriculum which should be helpful to all pupils--a difficult task indeed

First, the rural school curriculum needs to stress the importance of good human relations and goodwill toward all. A caring classroom with feelings of empathy toward all is very necessary. Each pupil needs to have belonging and esteem needs met in the classroom. No one wants to be a nonentity, but one who is recognized for talents and abilities possessed (See Ediger, 1997, 41-45).

Second, objectives need to be determined which are truly relevant for all learners. Becoming proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic are salient for all learners. Objectives should also reflect a balance among the academic goals for pupils to achieve as well as those ends stressing quality human relationships and acceptance of others. Discrimination must not be there for those who have other interests than those involved in the academics (Ediger, 1997, 176-181). The surprising thing about my personal observations is that I am highly academically inclined and yet when having work that needs to be done I depend upon good, reliable automobile mechanics to keep my car In satisfactory, safe running condition. I also depend upon the other following necessary services:

1. an adequate supply of nourishing food.

2. safe drinking water and adequate water for washing clothes and cleaning the home facilities in the rural area where we live.

3. computer maintenance and repair, as a professional writer.

4. good carpenters for remodeling, building, and repairing facilities.

5. capable plumbers who install and repair.

6. professional electricians who wire houses and make changes from fuse boxes to circuit breaker boxes in the home setting, clothing manufacturers and retailers of merchandise for apparel for diverse occasions are necessary.

7. tire installers who change my tires from the old to the new, when needed.

8. carpet installers who have a difficult and exacting job to perform.

9. trash haulers who help keep premises clean. In our rural area, there is much dumping of trash on the road sides that needs to be picked up personally. The trash is an eyesore and can be contaminating.

10. books to develop and keep interests aroused in the academic (See Ediger, 1997, 18-22).

This is from the viewpoint of a university professor living in a rural area who depended upon university students to enroll in his classes in order to maintain employment in his chosen field of work.

Thus in my own personal life, I need students in my classes pertaining to teacher education, as well as quality universities which provided an important opportunity to complete the BSE., the MSE, and the Ed D degrees, upon completion of the public school years. I owe much to these degree granting institutions in giving me the life style I desire and appreciate. Universities have granted me the desire of my heart to pursue my interests in teaching, doing research, and writing. Then too, we all need other services provided to live a healthful, enriching way of life, including the ten above enumerated kinds of work. Thus objectives in the curriculum need to stress the academic as well as the vocational. There needs to be respect for all jobs, occupations, and professions that truly meet needs of individuals. Career education needs adequate emphasis for all pupils in a K-12 curriculum.

Third, in addition to objectives of good will and academic/career goals, pupils need to experience decision making skills. Choices need to be made from among alternatives. Hopefully learners will learn to make positive choices, not choose destructive endeavors in life. Decisions need to be made whether the individual wants to or not. To be human means to choose and make selections. To let others choose for the self might of course not be in the latter's best interests. Each person needs to weigh the alternatives before choosing. It is true that selected choices are awesome to make and the involved human being would wish to remain aloof and flee from decision making, but this delays the inevitable and may bring on harm and misfortune. Learning to trust oneself to make these awesome decisions is a must. Thus, pupils with teacher guidance need to have an open-ended curriculum whereby cooperative planning of objectives, learning opportunities, and appraisal approaches is possible and implemented.

Fourth, being a responsible individual is important. When choosing from among alternatives, the choice made needs to be accepted for better or for worse by the involved pupil. In Machavelli's The Prince, the prince never took responsibility for choices and decisions made. Someone else became the scapegoat if things did not go well from the choices and decisions made. Responsibility may involve dilemmas in which it takes time to come up with viable decisions (Ediger, 1995, 1-11). Problem solving skills then become important for pupils to achieve (See Dewey, 1916). Dewey's philosophical school of thought stressed experimentalism whereby one cannot know reality as it truly is, but one can experience what is out there. The experiences are based on one's perceptual experiences, not what really is. "Change" is a key concept of experimentalism. Life consists of continuous changes. Our perceptions and experiences change. With change, problems arise and are identified. These problems need to be clearly stated. Data or information is then gathered in answer to the problem. This results In a tentative hypothesis which needs to be tested in a lifelike situation. The hypothesis is revised as is necessary (Ediger, 1995, Chapter One).

Being responsible involves fulfilling what was promised, being truthful, showing earnestness of endeavors, and not letting people down.

It is unlikely that pupils in rural public schools today will be farmers when being in the adult world. Rural school pupils may well enter agriculturally related work in which salaries are earned as many workers In society do. Others will become professionals removed completely from agriculture and farming. Still others will become needed carpenters, plumbers, automobile mechanics, among additional highly valued individuals In society. The following news clipping indicates the seriousness of problems faced by people In farming:

The most dramatic drop in hog prices in history followed dipping to $8 per hundred weight. When corrected for inflation, these record breaking prices were below those of the Great Depression. But, never before has a 10% supply increase, during the regular cycle of hog business, caused such a sharp drop in prices. During the time hog prices plummeted, the price of pork at the meat counter hardly moved (Kirksville, Missouri Daily Express, 1999).

Farmers might then receive depression prices for their commodities, but meat prices at the supermarket counter will stay the same. Farmers have been too much at the mercy and control of what buyers are willing to pay for agricultural commodities produced. The prices of cattle, milk, wheat, corn, and soybeans are also at depression prices.

What is the Answer for the Rural School Pupil?

The rural school pupil will need an education that provides for quality academic objectives as well as career goals and learning. Objectives here need to be selected with meticulous care to include quality knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

To achieve thee goals, pupils need learning opportunities that are

1. interesting and capture learner attention.

2. Purposeful in that pupils perceive reasons for achieving vital objectives.

3. meaningful in that pupils understand and comprehend that which is taught.

4. useful in that what is learned has application values in school and in society.

5. sequential in that pupils may experience success in learning with good attitudes being an end result.

6. indicated in multiple intelligences theory whereby pupils individually may reveal what has been learned through many and diverse ways (Gardner, 1993).

7. based on learning styles psychology (Dunn and Dunn, 1979).

8. emphasized with hands on approaches in learning.

9. needs related of individual pupils in ongoing lessons and units of study.

10. integrative and stress interdisciplinary approaches In teaching and learning.


Rural school pupils, in many cases, will need to make transitions from farming toward other jobs, occupations, and professions. Further transitions will need to be made from rural to suburban and urban ways of living. The rural school curriculum needs to stress the many changes occurring in agriculture and rural living to that of what will benefit a pupil in the present curriculum and at the future work place. The necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes, as objectives, need to be inherent in the rural school curriculum (Ediger, 1999, 24-28).


Dewey, John (1916). Democracy and Education. New York: The MacMillan Company, Chapters one and two.

Dunn, Rita, and Kenneth Dunn (1979), Learning Styles/Teaching Styles. Educational Leadership, 36(4), 238-244.

Ediger, Marlow (1995). Philosophy in Curriculum Development. Kirksville, Missouri: Simpson Publishing Company, Chapter one.

Ediger, Marlow (1997). Social Studies and the Middle School Student. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 24(3), 188-190.

Ediger, Marlow (1997). Issues in Education. The Progress of Education, 71(8). 179-182), printed In India.

Ediger, Marlow (1997). Reading and the Psychology of Teaching. The Educational Review, 103(1), 41-45.

Ediger, Marlow (1997). Tranescents, Classroom Interaction, and Reading. Reading Improvement, 34(4), 176-181.

Ediger, Marlow (1997). Project Methods in Middle School Science. TAMS Journal, 24(1), 18-22.

Ediger, Marlow (1995). The Psychology of Learning and the Teacher. Philippine Education Quarterly, 23(4), 1-11.

Ediger, Marlow (1999). Evaluation, Handwriting, and Its Importance. Experiments In Education, 27(2), 24-28.

Gardner, Howard (1993). Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Kirksville, Missouri Daily Express March 10, 1999, page 9.

Dr. Marlow Ediger is Professor of Education, Truman State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Marlow Ediger, Route 2, Box 38, Kirksville, Missouri 63501-9802.
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Author:Ediger, Marlow
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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