The Century Chest Collection

Prophecy of Education

(Transcribed from the original)


Presumption in the last degree would be a fitting characterization of him who would willingly attempt to set forth the public education of one hundred years hence.

We can only approximately approximate education one hundred years hence by taking a brief retrospect of the progress of education during the last century. At the present time there is current to a considerable extent the notion that there will not be an opportunity during the next century for as great progress as we have witnessed during the last. Let us entertain no such notion. If the results of the past teaches us one thing more certain than another, it teaches us the absolutely unlimited and unmeasured possibilities of human activity and achievement. This will be no less true in the progress of education than in industrial, commercial and professional activity.

One hundred years ago there were no free public schools to speak of in the United States. It was just one hundred years ago that the first State Superintendent was elected. Now forty-eight states in our Union each have a State Superintendent, and every county within these forty-eight states has a County Superintendent of schools. In addition to these supervising agents every city of one thousand population has a City Superintendent of schools who, in cities of five thousand or more population, receives a salary often larger than the State Superintendent and who is supposed to be more advanced in educational thought than is the State Superintendent, himself.

Free public schools have been established in every school district in every state throughout the country. These districts for the most part comprise in area two square miles only, so that every child in the United States is put within one to one-and-a-half miles of school. In many states a number of the school districts have been consolidated into one and magnificent school buildings erected to which children are transported at public expense. This is only a brief survey of what has been accomplished in the last one hundred years on the material side of education. The progress on the educational side is no less significant. There was not a normal school in existence one hundred years ago. Since that time from one to eight normal schools, schools dedicated to the better training of teachers, have been established in every state in our Union; and for the most part teachers are not eligible to appointment in city schools unless they have had complete training for the work of teaching. More than twenty millions of boys and girls, about one fifth of our population, are now attending free public schools in the United States.

Fifty years ago, the course of study was mechanical and traditional. It looked little to the real demands of public life and activity; but in the last few years we have come [to] the understanding that education is a preparation of the individual to best serve himself and the needs of society in his environment and generation; and today educators seek to make our curricula such that the children will receive the greatest training both from the viewpoint of culture and refinement, and that of efficiency in citizenship. We trust that the educators one hundred years hence will take this cue from us and seek not only to educate the children in the history, sciences and classics of the past but to understand the present day need and give him such education as will make for more efficient citizenship.

During the last century we have witnessed a remarkable growth and centralization of the country's population in towns and cities. One hundred years ago only about six percent of our population lived in cities and towns, while to-day fifty-five percent of the entire population of our country have their homes in towns and cities of one thousand and more population. As a result of this rapid growth in our urban population we have had a correspondingly rapid development in every phase of commercial, social, industrial, political and professional activity. These rapidly developing institutions now holding within their [school] the influence of fifty-five percent of our population, has given us new and exceedingly complex problems in education. We have not yet worked out our public education to completely meet the demands of these great institutions; but we hope that with our small beginning the educators one hundred years hence shall have been able to have carried this work to completion, and that our public education will be an education of the desires of the individual that will also fit him in this and other institutions of activity to meet the demands made upon him.

Oklahoma City is a beautiful little city of seventy thousand population, 1913; having four hundred ten teachers; about thirteen thousand different pupils enrolled in the schools to date this year. It is usually considered that we have one of the few finest and best equipped high school buildings in the United States.

To assist him in the work of supervising the schools the Superintendent has the following supervisors:
Primary grades................Miss Rosaslie Pollock,
Manual Training...............Mr. H. F. Rusch,
Domestic Scienc..............Miss Leno Osborne,
Drawing...........................Miss Edna Remington,
Penmanship......................Mr. A. J. Creamer,
Medical Inspector.............Dr. H. H. Cloudman,
Truant Officer...................Mr. John Hopkins.

We predict the population to be two hundred thousand for Oklahoma city one hundred years hence; you will have four or five high schools; one hundred grade school buildings; a superintendent who will be receiving ten thousand dollars per year instead of thirty-six hundred, and he will be earning his money too; he will have many more supervisors and they will each be better paid.

The time is come, even to us, when the utilitarian phase of education must have greater recognization in our schools and long before a hundred years are past into history, and you read this bit of fragmentary history and prophesy, bread earning and making of a living, as well as the making of a life will be one of the greatest issues confronting the American people. From industrial, commercial, social, professional and political activities of world life will come the call as it is coming to-day, for young men and women, not only knowing things, being somebody, but for young men and young women capable of doing definite things. When the percent of population living in cities shall have increased from fifty-five to seventy-five percent and these institutions shall have become greater in scope and demands, it will then be incumbent upon the public school system to furnish an opportunity for the best possible equipping of the individual to meet these varied demands. In our humble judgment there will be introduced into the public school curricula courses of a most practical and vocational nature. Vocational and trade schools will be established, where not only boys and girls will be taught the various trades and vocations, but where grown men and women shall have an opportunity to continue to better qualify themselves for the duties and responsibilities of life. When these problems shall have been successfully solved our bodies will be moldering in the dust from whence they came and the work that we have begun will be carried forward by more efficient and far seeing educators.

We send you, the unborn of fifty years hence, this message and wish you God speed in your responsible and laborious tasks. We are going to enclose a copy of our course of study and hope it will be suggestive.

With best wishes, I am
Very truly yours,
W. A. Brandenburg

Apr. 21st, 1913.

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