The Most severe criticism which is being brought upon our public schools today comes from professional men, great captains of industry, and those who have devoted their lives to the practical problems of a busy world. It is not uncommon to hear it stated that public schools fail to empower students with the kind of information which they can employ after leaving the schoolroom. The most ardent supporters of our educational schemes will not deny that there is some justice in this accusation.
The schools which are becoming famous throughout the country, for the excellent work which they are doing, are those which are taking into vital consideration the needs of the community and the home. We have come to understand that it is just as cultural and just as intellectual for a child to engage her talents in the solution of some practical home and community problems as it is to spend the entire time and attention solving mathematical conundrums or enigmas of languages which will probably never be employed in her daily occupation.
As soon as a girl leaves school she will be called upon to solve a great many problems in which an incorrect solution will not mean, an unsatisfactory grade on her report card, the loss of a holiday or the punishment of remaining in the same grade a second year; but she will be confronted with a class of problems, the failure in whose solution will mean the loss of social standing, impaired health, un-happiness and misery to her family and possibly even death itself.
The problems of life demand a more careful solution than any of the problems with which she has been dealing in school. Incorrect solutions at school may be revised under the guidance of the teacher; incorrect solution of a home problem can not always be revised, and much less is there an opportunity to make a second attempt under skillful guidance. But little argument is necessary in convincing wide-awake, modern educators of the real value of the introduction of home problems into school work.
The subject of sewing offers an opportunity for correlating the activities of the home and the school in a way which is sure to employ the natural interest of the student, and to use her inherent disposition toward activities in working out a line of accomplishments which will mean much to her when her school days are over. Surely the consideration. of such problems can not be lightly estimated even from the standpoint of their cultural value.
Too many girls fail to comprehend what is meant by home problems. To them the work of the housewife is a mere matter of course, with its drudgery and its never ending round of the same duties day after day. If they could be brought to realize that the problems of the home are just as worthy the employment of their thought; and in fact oftentimes fully as difficult of solution as the work of Geometry, Chemistry or Physics, then more girls would respond with interest to this challenge of their ability. The interest in obedience to home authorities and regulations may also be very much enhanced by a proper understanding of home problems. The girl who realizes the numerous problems which confront her mother, and fully understands that the mother is constantly racking her brain to find a correct solution of her problems, will have a broader sympathy for her mother, and will be less likely to add annoyance by thoughtlessness occasioned through her lack of interest in those problems.
The matter of providing satisfactory clothing for the different members of the family, keeping their clothing in the best possible condition of cleanliness and appearance, is a problem of no little concern. Particularly is this true in an age when tastes and designs are continually changing, bringing about fashions some of which are consistent with real needs while others are merely gaudy and superficial. A girl should learn to discriminate between her wants and her needs in matters of apparel. She should learn to comprehend the economical problems of costs and values, training herself to distinguish between the two, fully understanding that cost and value do not always go hand in hand.
The problems of mending are so homely as to be usually ignored. There is certainly no sane reason why the matter of patching, darning and other phases of mending should be any less dignified than translating a foreign language, solving mathematical problems, or doing research work pertaining to the history of ancient nations.
The aim and hope of each lesson throughout the text is given with this idea of enabling the student to comprehend the fact that there are certain home problems for which the particular project in the lesson offers a partial solution. It is not expected that the teacher should go into detail sufficiently to require that each student should thoroughly comprehend the home problems from which the project is drawn, however, the more completely the problems are studied the more likely is the student to pursue the project with interest. It is no more reasonable to expect that every girl should become a seamstress than to expect that every girl should become a clerk or school teacher; but it is imperative that every girl should be deeply concerned in the problems of home life, and it is but natural to suppose that she will at some time be confronted with the problems, whether in the management of her own home or in contributing to the happiness and welfare of those among whom she makes her home. Surely the training which gives a girl a self-reliance in being able to make her own clothes is worth while. If she never cares to do her own work she should at least have training sufficient to enable her to direct the work which will be done for her. The best way to instill the proper respect and appreciation for home is to give a girl an early understanding of the existence of home problems, and to equip her with some means of approaching them.