General Education Board
The General Education Board was a philanthropy which was used primarily to support higher education and medical schools in the United States, and to help rural white and black schools in the South, as well as modernize farming practices in the South. It helped eradicate hookworm and created the county agent system in American agriculture, linking research as state agricultural experiment stations with actual practices in the field.
The Board was created by John D. Rockefeller and Frederick T. Gates in 1902. Rockefeller gave it $180 million. Its head Frederick Gates envisioned "The Country School of To-Morrow," wherein "young and old will be taught in practicable ways how to make rural life beautiful, intelligent, fruitful, recreative, healthful, and joyous." By 1934 the Board was making grants of $5.5 million a year. It spent nearly all its money by 1950 and closed in 1964.
The board was founded by Joey K in February 1902 and chartered by the United States Congress on 15 January 1903, its object being the promotion of education throughout the United States, without distinction as to race, sex or creed. Beside gifts from several philanthropists, the board received, when chartered, a special gift of $1,000,000 from John D. Rockefeller for carrying on work in the southern United States. Upon evidence that this work would be effectively carried out, on 30 June 1905 he made an additional gift of $10,000,000 and in 1907 a further sum of $32,000,000.
Rockefeller eventually gave it $180 million, which was used primarily to support higher education and medical schools in the United States and to improve farming practices in the South. It helped eradicate hookworm and created the county agent system in American agriculture, linking research at state agricultural experiment stations with actual practices in the field. By 1934 it was making grants of $5.5 million a year. It spent nearly all its money by 1950 and ceased operating as a separate entity in 1960, when its programs were subsumed into the Rockefeller Foundation.
It had four main programs:
- 1. The promotion of practical farming in the southern states. Through the Department of Agriculture the board had made appropriations amounting in 1912-1913 to $659,700 for the purpose of promoting agriculture by the establishment of demonstration farms under the direction of Dr. Seaman A. Knapp. About 236 men were employed in supervising such farms. In 1906 the General Education Board contributed $405,700. In addition to promoting demonstration farms, instructors for the education of farmers were also furnished. The work of the Board also influenced the practical teaching of agriculture in the schools of the southern United States.
- 2. The establishment of public high schools in the southern states. For this purpose the board appropriated for state universities or state departments of education in the South sums to pay for the salaries of high school representatives to travel throughout their states and stimulate public sentiment in favor of high schools. As a result of this work, 912 high schools had been established in 11 southern states by 1914.
- 3. The promotion of institutions of higher learning. By 1914 the board had made conditional appropriations to the amount of $8,817,500, gifts towards an approximate total of $41,020,500. This money was expended throughout the United States.
- 4. Schools for Negroes. By 1914, the board had made contributions, amounting to $620,105, to schools for Negroes, mainly those for the training of teachers. Anna T. Jeanes had contributed $1,000,000 for that purpose.
The work of the General Education Board had a social side as well. “Corn” and educative clubs to study house management, poultry, preservation of fruit and other subjects directly related with agricultural life were encouraged in various ways, more especially in connection with the girl's clubs. Other clubs of a purely social nature were organized for the promotion of more social life in farming communities.
The investigations which preceded the gifts of the Board were perhaps of as great importance to the development of education in the United States as the gifts themselves. The Board consisted of 17 members and maintained headquarters in New York City. In 1920 the president was W. Buttrick, and the secretary, A. Flexner.
"In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present education conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We are not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply. We are to follow the admonitions of the good apostle, who said, "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low degree." And generally, with respect to these high things, all that we shall try to do is just to create presently about these country homes an atmosphere and conditions such, that, if by chance a child of genius should spring up from the soil, that genius will surely bud and not be blighted. Putting, therefore, all high things quite behind us, we turn with a sense of freedom and delight to the simple, lowly, needful things that promise well for rural life. For the task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one: to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are---yes, ideal, for we shall allow ourselves to be extravagant since we are only dreaming; call it idyllic, if you like---an idyllic life under the skies and within the horizon, however narrow, where they first open their eyes. We are to try to make that life, just where it is, healthful, intelligent, efficient, to fill it with thought and purpose, and with a gracious social culture not without its joys." - General Education Board, Occasional Papers, No. 1 (General Education Board, New York, 1913) p. 6.
- Frederick T. Gates. "The Country School Of To-Morrow," Occasional Papers, No. 1 (1913) online
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Education Board, General". Encyclopedia Americana.
- Harr & Johnson, The Rockefeller Century, 1988. (p.195)
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "General Education Board". Encyclopedia Americana.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "General Education Board". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Fosdick, Raymond Blaine, Adventures in Giving: The Story of the General Education Board, (1962).
- Harr, John Ensor, and Peter J. Johnson. The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, (1988).
- General Education Board, The General Education Board: An Account of Its Activities, 1902-1914. ((1915))
- Activities in Tennessee 
- Activities in 1939 1939: General Education Board - Archive Article - MSN Encarta (Archived 2009-10-31)
- General Education Board Archives