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1900 - 1925

1900 - Nationwide, some thirty colleges or universities routinely offer courses in domestic sciences like cooking and sewing, as well as in more specialized offerings, a typical one being “The Management of Help.”

1902 - The Farmers’ Educational and Cooperative Union is organized, dedicating itself to the education of “the agricultural class in scientific farming.” As such, the Farmers’ Union will become a major sponsor of instruction in vocational agriculture through the public schools.

1905 - H. F. Rusch, a graduate of the Kansas State Normal School, leaves Jones Academy, where he had been teaching since 1903, for Oklahoma City, where he will build what is credited as the first effective manual training program for any public school in what becomes Oklahoma. It was just a year old, and that first year had been a rough one, in no small part because the principal had packed the manual classes with the school's worst misfits. Backed by Edgar Vaught, Oklahoma City's superintendent of schools, Rusch swiftly turned the program into the envy of students, parents, and teachers. The last were particularly delighted because Rusch and his kids were kept away from "regular" students; they met in the basement.

Within two years, Lawton, Comanche, and Ardmore also will have successful programs.

1905 - Inspired largely by John Fields, the Oklahoma territorial legislature requires that agriculture be taught, both as a science and as a vocation, in all of the territory’s public schools. The statute is emasculated, however, when teachers and their allies defeat a necessary companion measure to require that the field be included in the preparation of all teachers.

1906 - A nationwide movement on behalf of vocational education culminates in the founding of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education (NSPIE). At this point and for several years to come, the effort targets states, encouraging that each incorporate a full vocational curriculum.

1906-1907 - Voters elect delegates to prepare a constitution for the nation’s forty-sixth state: Oklahoma. The vast majority of those elected have benefited from the active endorsement of the Farmers’ Union, and the constitution they produce is the nation’s first to mandate anything like what is found in its Article 13, section 7: “The Legislature shall provide for the teaching of the elements of agriculture, horticulture, stock feeding, and domestic science in the common schools of the State.”

1910 - According to the NSPIE, twenty-nine of the nation’s forty-six states offer at least some form of vocational education in their public schools.

1912 - The NSPIE hires Charles A. Prosser as its full-time secretary, and Prosser sets up an office in Washington, near Capitol Hill. Thereupon, the organization will shift its promotion of vocational education from the states and state legislatures to the federal government and Congress.

1914 - By a resolution approved on January 20, Congress authorizes the president to appoint a Commission on Aid to Vocational Education and orders the commission to report its findings and recommendations by June 1. President Woodrow Wilson’s appointees include Charles Prosser of the NSPIE and Senator Hoke Smith and Representative Dudley Hughes, both of Georgia. The outbreak of the First World War that summer slows the commission’s work and forces a postponement of its deadline.

1916 - Since statehood in 1907, the Oklahoma legislature has regularly provided support for vocational agriculture in the state’s schools. More comprehensive forms of vocational instruction are also available in the public schools of Ponca City, Drumright, Checotah, and Muskogee, among others. In addition, the state also funds vocational work at its two college preparatory schools at Tonkawa and Claremore.

1917 - Having earlier received the recommendations of the Commission on Aid to Vocational Education, Congress passes and President Woodrow Wilson signs the so-called Smith-Hughes Act on February 23.

• On March 24, within weeks of the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act, the Oklahoma legislature officially agrees to accept its terms and promises to “meet all conditions necessary” to receive federal funding for its participation in the program. A federally approved plan is required by the law, and Oklahoma’s plan is formally accepted in August.

1918 - In the first school year under the Smith-Hughes law, total enrollment in all forms of vocational training is just under a thousand. Only fourteen schools offer home economics, and they teach just over 400 girls. Only 276 boys study vocational agriculture, most of them in a state preparatory or secondary agricultural school. The Trades and Industries Division prepares not one person for either a trade or an industry. Instead, every one of the 318 young men it enrolls is an army draftee training for the world war.

1925 - The American Vocational Association is founded as the nation’s principal voice for vocational education.