[Anon.] “Education That Fits”

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 13: Education
& Educational Programs
Series 24: Literary Productions, Related & Derived Literature


Berea Quarterly, January 1908, Vol. XL 

TAGS: [Anon.] “Education That Fits”; Article in the 1908 Berea Quarterly; education in the Southern Appalachian mountains; extension work of the early Berea College; developing settlement schools in southeastern Kentucky; traveling libraries; sheltering students; courses of study;

This article, stressing “Education that Fits,” is found in the Berea Quarterly of 1908. It covers education in the Southern Appalachian mountains and stresses that education must “fit actual conditions.” It contains examples of the extension work of the early college of Berea and of the developing settlement schools in southeastern Kentucky and is a particularly useful article for picturing the conditions just prior to the founding of Pine Mountain Settlement School which shares a long history with Berea College.


Teaching, like other great arts, tends to become conventional. Dr. Harris is credited with the saying that a progressive teacher must be ready to be born again on short notice whenever new light is revealed! The comparative failure of so many schools started in the mountains is largely due to the fact that people attempt to introduce the conventional methods and subjects which are well enough in northern towns, but quite inapplicable to real conditions in the hills. The object of this article is simply to illustrate the earnest efforts of Berea to make its education reach and fit actual conditions — and conditions of a very extraordinary character. We will not burden our readers with the pedagogical principles and theories, but simply give a few interesting examples. The pictures are mostly reproductions of views which have appeared before in the Quarterly and our older readers must pardon the repetition and “look the other way!” To begin with we must advertise and explain education, and show that it is for the far-off dwellers in the hills both desirable and attainable. This is the “Extension Work” and “University Extension” takes on a new meaning when attempted among people who are strangers to books and periodicals. Perhaps it should be called not “University Extension” but “Common School Extension.” The common schools of the south are new and largely administered by trustees and superintendents who have had little common school experience themselves! The districts are large, the school houses poor, the teachers untrained and the attendance small and irregular. The children “stay out” to assist in berry-picking, fodder pulling, cane boiling and many other forms of mingled work and fun! The parents are simply neglectful and teachers too often discouraged or indifferent.


All this is changed by one visit of the Berea extension outfit. The possibilities of education are made apparent. First interest is aroused, and then ambition, and finally objections are answered, ways and means suggested, and when the wagon moves on it leaves a
transformed community. The “lectures” are varied, but always practical and greatly assisted by the stereopticon and the “baby organ.”

Where tents and wagons cannot go we send “traveling libraries” in charge of students. And in many cases, we are able to send packages of second-hand books and magazines which prove attractive and act as soul-awakeners in many homes.


Next comes the provision for sheltering the students who make their way to Berea. We must provide substantial board at nominal prices. Our steam cookers have proved a great help, and we furnish table board, without coffee or butter, for $1.50 a week!

Shelter is a more difficult matter. We have to put four in a room in many cases and our “emergency barracks,” are very popular — we only wish we had more of them.

And many a mountain family is reluctant to send the Sons and especially their daughters away from home. They “crave to live in Berea a spell and send the young folks to school.” To meet this demand we have built over twenty cottages to rent, and the family that lives in Berea for a winter or two goes back to the mountain farm greatly “lifted,” and the parents even more than the children become advocates of education and progress.

EMERGENCY BARRACKS – Shelter Mountain Boys at an outlay of less than $40.00 per occupant.

With an army of mountain boys and girls thus gathered and roughly housed, we consider the proper conditions of an ordered life. It is not difficult to make them keep early hours. “Being on time” is a more serious matter. And certain regulations touching baths, room inspection, physical examinations, and the suppression of revolvers and tobacco, as well as “moonshine,” are important features of the Berea curriculum. The positive interests are more important. Chapel exercises must be made attractive. The stereopticon must furnish vivid lessons in History, Geography and Science. Literary societies must be kept active. Social gatherings are to be duly planned. With all these our students receive the substantial benefits of “residence at College,” even though their book studies are quite elementary.

They have the mental shakeup which comes from leaving home, and the polish and stimulus produced by contact with new companions, and the contemplation of new scenes and thoughts. They are not to be treated like children because their studies are elementary. Rather, because they are somewhat mature and experienced, and belong to “leading families” of superior enterprise in their native valleys, they are to be treated for what they are, and Higher Arithmetic and Physical Geography can be made to yield to them much the same culture as is given at northern universities by the Calculus and Geology!

The “book-studies” are, then, taught as to mature people, and with informing and disciplinary results quite beyond “the common branches” in ordinary graded schools. When it comes to the industries, as these are more costly than book-studies we have tried to select the few which are of greatest worth.


Agriculture is fundamental, and we have tried faithfully to cultivate this science in a way which will be practical and profitable to the mountain man. Forestry is of first importance, and our elementary instruction in this subject has raised the price of mountain land for a hundred miles. Girls and boys alike take Horticulture. The College Forest Reserve, gardens, farm, and stock are models for imitation. The need of a dairy barn is now a pressing one.


Next comes woodwork, from the rougher outdoor carpentry, which includes plan-drawing and estimating, to the nicer forms of cabinet work. Our wood-working machinery is of the best. Already many graduates of this department are improving the homes of the region and beginning manufactures which will greatly enrich the country.

The brick-making and masonry has proved very popular and profitable. Quite a squad of our young men have been working on the new state capital building at Frankfort. When they came back to school this fall it created quite a sensation. “For a fact, these fellers think schooling is worth so much that they are willing to give up four dollars a day. “

Printing is a most educational trade, and we are bringing up several young Benjamin Franklins. This department is now finely installed in the Bruce Printery, and the output of publications especially adapted to the mountains is becoming one of the most important things in the whole range of our activities.


When it comes to women’s industries we begin in the mountain home and encourage what is best already there. The arts of our great-grandmothers still survive in many places, though we find the “gals is a bit ashamed of homespun, and seem ter hanker fer factory and brung-on things.” Careful selection and encouragement has revived some of the best of these fireside industries. We have not yet been able to secure “bed kivers” and other fabrics enough to meet the demand, but we did handle nearly $2,000 worth of them last year, and that money has done good in a large number of mountain homes.

Among “productive industries” for girls the Laundry stands first, enabling many to earn a considerable part of their expenses while in school. And the Laundry is a very cheerful place.

The Sewing, Dressmaking, Cooking, Household Management, etc., are all coming to be very popular branches, ‘and already the mountain homes show the great improvements which grow out of this work at Berea. All mountain] girls “aim to marry,” so that these arts are for home use rather than for professional work,


The Nurse Training Course is of the very best, although we cannot give the variety of practice found in a city hospital. Our little rented wooden building serves an excellent purpose, though the need of a real hospital with laboratory and operating room is a great one. The “College physician” with his physical examinations and careful study of the peculiarities of mountain conditions, is already doing a work of wide significance.

But to know what Berea really means one must see its influence a hundred miles away in the mountains. You ride up the bed of some far-off creek or “branch” and ask for a drink at a neat cabin door. The woman hands you a goard and inquires “Whar be you from?” “O, from Berear! Well, that must be a mighty fine place. I’ve made my home comfortable with the money they sent me for my weavin’. And I don’t know what they do ter the boys down thar. They go there doubtin’ and rough, and they come back jest full, and ready to set the mountains afire!”

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