Come Over Into Macedonia, H. Allen

A Plan Unfolds

SOMETIMES, quite unknown to us, the subconscious mind is busily and efficiently engaged in solving a problem long after  our conscious effort has reluctantly ceased to function. One night early in May, I suddenly awoke and there was the long sought plan all unfolded before me.  How simple! Why was it that a scheme so obvious had not occurred to me before ? Many times have I wondered about this in the succeeding years that have witnessed the gradual fruition of that nocturnal idea. The following morning the program was fully outlined and dispatched by urgent mail to New York. The essential features of the plan proposed were quickly and easily described. We would combine certain elements of the well known Smith-Hughes and Smith-Lever vocational agriculture and rural extension acts and then modify this combination to suit the peculiar needs of Macedonia. We would emphasize part-time and evening instruction supplemented by adequate follow-up, which is, after all, one of the most important aspect of vocational instruction in agriculture; and we would combine this with an intensive program of agricultural extension. This simple set-up would be the hub of our wheel.

Comparatively few villages could be served by one man for reasons fully explained on previous pages. But that was now  minor consideration in a program so comprehensive. The dual function of the rural leader would fully compensate for the "per village" cost of the system. Many rural educators in the State shared (and still hold) the opinion that the functions of the Smith-Hughes and Smith-Lever acts should somehow have been combined in one service; that the two departments of government functioning separately result in frequent duplication and considerable unnecessary expense. Here was an opportunity to try out in a combined service systematic agricultural extension and vocational training of the most practical sort.

The recommendations which were submitted to the New York office at that time included, among other items, the following specific points:

1. That the following year only full-time workers be used, assuming that means would somehow be found for securing at least a few such men.

2. That each full-time agriculturalist be given an area comprising nine villages.

3. That winter instruction should be started about the first of November with the suggestion that in many cases a full-time worker would be able to open his winter's program in October.

4. That the instructor be expected to conduct work in three villages at one time, devoting two working days per week to each village.

5. That after a period of two months the leader be assigned to an adjoining group of three villages where he would work for another two months. Finally he would be transferred to his third group for a similar period.

6. During the following six months the agriculturalist would supervise the various home, community, and adult projects which he had developed during his winter program of teaching.

Quoting directly from that original report we find the following brief summary of the whole matter :

"While our rural leader is conducting classes of a more or less formal nature, he is also visiting homes; helping individual farmers with special problems; getting some of the boys to enroll, if possible, for home projects; cooperating with the local schools in the organization of school gardens; and engaging in various other similar activities. At the end of six months the instructor will have developed a certain number of worth while projects in his nine villages which will need supervision during the summer season. During the latter period he will conduct no regular classes, but he will travel about in his area visiting home projects, looking after the school gardens, and calling on individual farmers in the field in order that he may help them with their practical everyday problems. Stating the proposition in another way the instructor, during the winter season, must work up his own activities for the summer period. It is my feeling that the right man should be able to carry out such a program."

Submitted with this same report was a section headed: "Suggested centers and possible grouping of villages in Macedonia under the plan recommended."

This summary presented a tentative list of eight groups of villages showing the nine communities that might be included in each area, pertinent facts as to types of farming, population, etc., and indicating also those centers which might be considered as headquarters for the rural leader.

With minor modifications, many refinements, and some changes in emphasis, this plan functioned up to the outbreak of the World War. In fact, it was eventually made available, by degrees, to the whole of Greece. In its field application this pro gram provided not only its own contribution to the improvement of farm practices, but served as a convenient framework around which other approaches to the rural problem could be readily constructed.

The story of these developments, including their eventual assimilation by the Greek government, is told on the pages that follow.

In the midst of my attempts to visualize some of the ramifications of this sudden inspiration, I chanced one day to read that concise little statement of the educational problem by Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones—"Four Essentials of Education." Her was a simple but all-embracing concept of educational philosophy. It seemed to fit any situation; certainly it applied most forcefully to our Macedonian problem. If properly interpreted and systematically carried out it could undoubtedly solve those several needs of rural Macedonia that we had been so carefully considering.

In this arresting treatise Dr. Jones stresses "consciousness of the community" as a necessary qualification of every educator and a fundamental consideration in all educational programs. In my several months of direct contact with Macedonian villages I had developed a very definite consciousness of their community needs. Moreover, the four simples or universals of normal society as outlined by Dr. Jones were altogether obvious in these primitive communities. These elements of society with their immediate counterpart in his four essentials of education are presented by Jones:

1. Health and sanitation,
2. Appreciation and use of environment (the economic aspect),
3. The household and the home, and
4. Recreation—in the broader sense of "re-creation."

These were most certainly the essentials of Macedonian society and they represented the four approaches which must be included if we were to round out our proposed reconstruction program and deal effectively with every aspect of the life of these people. Lack of experience and the limitation of funds would prevent our plunging at once into a full-orbed program. For reasons already outlined we would consider as our first essential the economic side of rural life. With added experience on our part, supplemented by increased resources not only in the promoting organization; but for the peasants themselves, we assumed that we should be able to round out our program to include those other essentials in whatever order might seem most feasible. Time and determination would take care of that.

My blueprint was now complete. Slight modifications in structure as the building proceeded might be necessary, but with objectives well defined such changes could be included without serious damage to the original plan. The recommendations reached New York just in time. The executives were considering important plans for the future, and they needed to know the results of this experimental project. A group designated as the Conservation Committee had been appointed from among the officers and directors of Near East Relief and charged with the responsibility of considering in detail the recommendations of the Survey Committee. These men had already decided on a policy of rapid liquidation for Near East Relief. They had been studying the question of what programs and what technically trained personnel might be conserved for continuing educational work; and it was more or less decided that a new organization, specializing in practical forms of education and rural reconstruction, would be chartered. Just what this new organization would be called or how it should be formed was yet to be determined.

The Conservation Committee received and approved my recommendations. They indicated their approval by cable and gave me instructions to make such arrangements as might be necessary for the coming year. These orders were received toward the end of May just in time to enable me to attend to certain important items before my departure for the Caucasus. I had remained with this one project for many months. As a part of the whole overseas development under consideration there were urgent problems demanding attention in other areas.

If this new scheme were to develop and to assume important proportions, it would be necessary to build up as quickly as possible a group of technically trained local supervisors. The first addition of this nature would have to be someone suitably prepared to assist with the agricultural program.

The question of field staff could be solved later on. We had no obligation toward our workers of the winter as they had al been engaged on a temporary basis. Few, if any, of these people were at all suitable for a more permanent, thorough-going program; and if one or two should be considered as potential material, the necessary negotiations looking toward their employment could be conducted later on. Just what the future would bring no one knew, but we would certainly need at an early date a well-trained agricultural inspector to work with the American who should be selected to direct this enterprise. Investigation therefore, were made and recommendations received relative to possible candidates. Several of my Greek and American friends spoke highly of a man who was teaching agronomy and supervising the experimental plots at the College of Agriculture in Athens. He was investigated. He turned out to be a young chap by the name of Basil Moussouros. Moussouros was a graduate of the institution where he was working, class of 1925, and thus had had four years of experience. Like many others he was supplementing his main salary by means of outside activities, and these included the teaching of elementary agriculture in a near by normal school. His training and his experience seemed to fit our needs. He was intelligent but modest. He spoke a few words of English.

As a result of several interviews Moussouros was finally offered the opportunity of a year of post-graduate training in rural education in America. It was understood that he would give us, upon his return, a minimum of two years of service with first option on later employment. Moussouros agreed that he would concentrate on the study of English during my forthcoming absence in the Caucasus. Upon my return we would check up to see what progress he was making, and thus be able to decide whether, by the end of August, he would have a good working knowledge of the language. In July I came back. In this brief period Moussouros had, by means known only to a Near Easterner, made as much improvement as the average American would achieve in about two years. Apparently there would be little question of any difficulty as far as language was concerned.

I was now ready to go back to the States. My special assignment of conducting a one year exploratory program in Macedonia had been carried out. Thus my contract with Near East Relief was fulfilled. It was necessary, therefore, to return to my work in America. Some assistance could still be given to this project in which I was deeply interested. There were important details of the proposed program which required discussion with the Conservation Committee in New York. I could help to select a suitable person to direct the new work, and I could assist in many ways toward ensuring the future success of this interesting and worthwhile venture.

These were my plans as I returned to America. But in selling to our Board the needs and the opportunities of the Near East in the field of rural reconstruction I resold the whole undertaking to myself. The challenge was too strong and I reversed my decision. I decided that I would throw in my lot with this embryonic organization that was under consideration. If it should develop along the lines proposed it would render a tremendous service in an uncharted field.
We discussed plans for the future. I arranged for a suitable course of study for Basil Moussouros at Cornell University. And I selected a young American, Clayton E. Whipple, to head up the new work in Macedonia during the frequent and protracted trips to other areas it was expected I would make.

A plan had indeed been unfolded, not only for Macedonia, but for me.

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