There has been much discussion of the need for revision of the curricula of our schools during the past ten years. There is common agreement that the traditional program suited to the needs of an earlier social and economic order is not suited to present-day conditions.
Schools in which reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught to young children a hundred years ago could not possibly be accepted as meeting the requirements of the situation today. School education in those earlier days was supplementary to a much more significant education carried on by the family and in local community enterprises. Children worked, with their fathers and mothers and with their older brothers and sisters. They were inducted into their responsibilities as citizens through co-operation with their elders in providing the labor necessary for many community enterprises and in actual participation in those discussions which resulted in local governmental action. In this earlier period, with the difficulties of transportation and communication which then existed, each family, or at least each local community, was for the most part self-sustaining.
Any attempt to propose the program of education which the state is obligated to provide today must take into account the contrast between that earlier society and our modern, interdependent, industrial, urbanized society. An earlier generation lived in an age of scarcity; we live in an age of plenty. They depended upon the use of power from human beings and from farm animals; we derive our power from the burning of coal and oil and from the harnessing of great rivers. They were compelled to work long hours in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter; we live in a period in which the hours of labor must be restricted in order to provide employment for all of our people.