Boys and Girls Club Work (4-H… or, 3-H) was an integral part of the public school system in many counties during the early 1900’s.
While county school superintendents are credited with starting the 4-H program in many parts of the country, it truly was a grassroots movement which seemed to start in a number of different locations. While the “process” was quite different from one location to another, the “players” were often the same – county school superintendents, 1-room country school teachers, the state land-grant colleges and experimental stations. We are basically talking here about the history of one brief decade – from 1900 to 1910.
The land-grant colleges and the national educational groups were already on board since the 1890’s, but for different reasons. The colleges wanted to disseminate their latest research and improved practices to the farmers by exposing and training their young sons and daughters to hybrid seed corn, milk sanitation, more safe canning procedures and so on. The educators wanted to involve teachers in training more than the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), involving more practical education and manual training.
In fact, M. Buisson of the French Ministry of Education, speaking at the International Congress of Education at Chicago on July 26, 1893, said: “Let the school teach, we say, what is most likely to prepare the child to be a good citizen, an intelligent and active man… Not by the means of the three R’s, but rather by the means of the three H’s – head, heart and hand – and make him fit for self government, self control and self-help, a living, a thinking being.”
From an educational standpoint, this was an exciting decade at every level, but perhaps no more exciting anywhere than to the early pioneers promoting the 3 H’s. This new segment – 4-H and 1-Room Country Schools – just posted on the National 4-H History website in the National 4-H History section, tells the stories of many of these early efforts. We welcome your comments at: Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com.