This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
The direct effects of climate on mankind appear in the school calendar. The long vacation is a concession to the enervating influence of heat, to the greater attractiveness of outdoor life in the summer, and to the need for the labor of children in agriculture. This appears in the season selected for it, in the length given it, and in the reversal of the time in the southern hemisphere from that in the northern. In regions where the highways are not improved, there are usually seasons when travel is difficult. Vacations for rural schools are timed so as to include these seasons. In the northern tier of states the worst season comes in the spring when the snow is going off and the frost is coming out of the ground.
A month or six weeks is allowed to intervene then between the close of the winter term of school and the opening of the summer term. In the Kentucky mountains the season of bad roads and school vacation begins about Christmas. The present tendency to have vacation schools does not count against the point here made, but rather is added testimony in favor of it, because the vacation schools have a different kind of work from the regular terms; it is a further effort to suit the work of the school to the season of the year. City children who cannot go to the country for vacation or agriculture have no need of a long vacation.
Sometimes teachers make a concession to the weather in the arrangement of the daily program on a day of excessive heat; likewise in the kind of lessons assigned and the kind of work done in classes.
My school in W. County began in the middle of August to allow for a fall vacation of two weeks when the children assisted in the potato harvest. The spring recess was not fixed at a certain date in the calendar, but came at the time of the spring thaw.
The schools of North Crandon, Forest County, were closed the first two weeks in October to enable the pupils to take part in the tobacco harvest.
In southwestern Colorado at certain seasons the heat during the middle of the day is too oppressive for work, though the mornings and evenings are always cool. The schools therefore have a two-hour nooning, but continue later in the afternoon than is usual elsewhere.
One rainy day I gave my pupils a monthly test, and all failed but two out of fourteen. They seemed restless and could not remember things. The next day I gave a harder test to make up the work, and all but one passed. Children can work far better on bright than on cloudy days. The teacher should be aware of this fact and make the most of it.
Teachers should avoid new work of a difficult character in off weather. Games, floor-gymnastics, and story-telling should have more time than usual. Reviews and rapid exercises should be prominent, and new work reserved as far as possible for clear weather.
There is a monograph, Conduct and the Weather, with a section on the public schools, the latter being based on 86 answers to a questionnaire. One superintendent reported that attendance was lowest in January; the absences were 10.7 per cent. The evidence is fairly satisfactory in regard to
. . . hot, cold, calm, muggy and clear days . . .; cold, calm and clear ones producing a favorable result, and the others the reverse. Windy, stormy and cloudy days are not generally mentioned as having much influence. . . .
The cause of the exhilarating effect of a dry atmosphere seems to be the increased electrical condition accompanying it. . . . The low humidity common to Colorado and the higher altitudes makes this condition, to an extent, a permanent one. . . . Work is, for the most part, turned off under high pressure, with the necessary consequence that it generally cannot be so long maintained without a resulting condition of partial collapse ensuing, which demands a brief sojourn at a lower altitude for its relief. Ministers, teachers, lawyers, and professional men generally feel this especially, and recognize the necessity of longer vacations than were needed by them when working at lower altitudes. The school quarter is shortened in accordance with this requirement, and even then the mental collapse of both pupil and teacher is usually greater than that felt by them at the conclusion of the longer school year in a more humid climate. - Dexter, Conduct and the Weather, pp. 32, 50-52.
It may be important for some teachers to know that teaching in the tropics is different from teaching in a temperate region.
I have a friend who taught two years in Panama. She was delighted with the work at first but became less interested as time went on. She was naturally bright and cheerful. At the end of two years she had lost ambition, was given to melancholy moods, and finally resigned in order to come home.
If you want to lose all interest in life, in your ideals and in all that is worth while, go and teach in the Philippines. Take this from one who has been there.
Not one of the great philosophers, scientists, and inventors who have revolutionized society in the last five hundred years has come from the tropics.
But there is another side which should not be forgotten. The above quotations present only one side, true to a degree and worthy of consideration, yet not the whole truth. Civilization is in part a process of overcoming just these disadvantages of location. Persons in ordinary good health can resist the unfavorable influences of tropical climate; a school can continue to do good work in unfavorable weather; but in both cases the proper methods must be employed. If we go to Panama and continue the same hearty eating and vigorous exercise in the sunshine to which we are accustomed in Wisconsin, we shall probably see a decline in both our efficiency and our health. The construction of the Panama Canal has shown that people from the temperate zone can live in the tropics and keep their health. Have we ever tried to find the best regimen for life in Panama, or whether there may not be a kind of work for which we are more efficient there than anywhere else? The world's great religions all took their start in the low latitudes. From one to three thousand years ago the Hindoos produced a literature which even Teutonic scholars to-day study with respect. The genius of the tropics may not be to develop vast organizations for the purpose of wringing a subsistence from nature, but rather to establish simple, workable relations between man and man, to show how to maintain an inner life of contemplation which will keep feeling wholesome when the body is inactive. The negroes of this country have given us a distinctive poetry and a distinctive music; perhaps they will some day contribute to our ethics. One of the problems of education in warm countries certainly must be to make intelligent use of these tendencies which climate fosters.
The resources of a region, by determining occupations, have always strongly influenced education, sometimes to the extent of being the determining factor. Where no schools exist each person gets his education from whatever occupation he follows; and even where there are schools the result of the partial subjection to their training for half a dozen years more or less soon disappears except as that training is reŽn-forced by the lifetime of occupation which follows it. An enlightened educational system takes account of the occupations which the locality favors.
A population develops a sentimental attachment to its location. The newcomer does not share in this, and if he chances to be of a critical type of mind the disadvantages of the location are prominent to him. If he be outspoken as well, he is likely to fall into disfavor because of the hard raps which he gives to the local sentiment.
A teacher told the geography class that the soil about the city was so sandy that it was good for nothing. The pupils reported this remark in their homes, and it finally reached the ears of the superintendent. He then had to show her how her remark was not only to the disadvantage of the city, but was also an exaggeration amounting to untruth. She had failed to realize that each community must make the most of its situation; that this sandy soil, though not good for most crops, was fine for cranberries and potatoes.
One precept which schools for the training of teachers need to harp on is that one of the first tasks of the newly located teacher is to get a vision of the economic problem of the community so that she will both consciously and unconsciously influence her pupils toward the right attitude for meeting it successfully.