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object of the community council of national defense is to create modified social arrangements by which the people, the ordinary folks, the people knowing each other as neighbors, may gather in continuous consultation, may do continuous team work within neighborly areas, and may gradually, knowing the full momentousness of what they do, assume responsibility for the prosecution of the war.
This we have certainly learned from Germany: A nation or people may be complexly organized, prosperous, with the birth-rate high, the mortality low, with a high sense of well-being, and still it is possible for that nation to be slowly transformed into a nation of slaves. We know now that it is not democracy to have a perfectly lubricated social machine, that there is no democracy in the long run unless the average man, thru his collective business, gets a greater fulness of life thru being a partner in that business.
And the plan of community councils of national defense is a recognition of the principle that the joining together of fulness of life for the individual with social efficiency can be had, under modern conditions, only thru a decentralization both of government and of business, thru a restoration of power and responsibility to the local community, yet in such a way as to conserve the values of standardization, of overhead service, of nation-wide team work. Thru community councils we are nationalizing the neighborhood, we are decentralizing the nation, we are seeking a martial victory; but far beyond it we are seeking for our people the restoration of the life of the spirit, for our children the restoration of great opportunity. We are bringing into sunlight and power and use the underground stream of our own human nature. Thucydides told the truth: a civilization menast by death discovers itself. It may be that the answer to the question of whether war is forever ended waits on the event which may take place within the German spirit when Germany is utterly beaten and knows that she is facing death. Her birthright remains, buried deep, where she forswore it nearly two generations ago.
A final word. Community workers are few, teachers are legion, teachers are everywhere. The teachers are in immediate potential contact with America as a whole. If the teachers of America would take into their brains and hearts this vision and reality of community councils of defense, as we have intimated it tonight, as the Council of National Defense has elaborated it; if they would brood upon this idea in terms of the school and the school neighborhood, then there would arise a vast, adequate lifedefense army here at home. For with the teachers would come the people. If the teachers fully meet this opportunity for the restoration of democracy, there will be no longer any doubt of success. We must each decideAmerica must decide: "I shall have lost this war unless I shall have saved my own soul in winning this war."
EDUCATION AND OUR DEMOCRACY
W. C. BAGLEY, PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION, TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA
UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, N.Y. It has been the conviction, shared by all of the members of the commission, that the present crisis has brought to those responsible for public education both unprecedented responsibilities and unprecedented opportunities. Two great facts have stood out sharp and clear in all of our discussions: The first is the marvelous awakening of the national consciousness, the sweeping away of the old divisions between sections of the country and groups of the population, and the birth of a new, fresh, and vigorous sense of national unity. The second great fact is the rapid growth and development of a new and persuasive and comprehensive meaning for the word democracy.
The first of these great movements--the development of the new nationalism-has created almost overnight an educational need of which we have hitherto been only dimly conscious. It is the imperative need of educational efficiency upon a national scale, and the parallel requirement of programs and policies that are framed with the needs of the nation primarily in mind. We have become suddenly aware that it does make a difference whether all of the people of the country can think together and act together. We have become suddenly aware that educational backwardness and intellectual stagnation in any part of the country may handicap the progress and imperil the safety of the nation as a whole. With seven hundred thousand illiterate young men subject to the draft, the welfare of the schools in every locality and the adequacy of the education provided for every type of child have become matters of national con
When we of the educational world are astounded to learn that there have been hundreds of communities in this country where boys and girls have grown to manhood and womanhood in utter ignorance of American ideals and institutions, ignorant of the very language of our country, and even nurtured upon alien ideals brought to them thru the medium of an alien tongue, it is pretty clear that we have been thinking of education and planning for education too exclusively in the terms of our circumscribed local units. And when we find entire contingents of our United States Army unable to understand commands given to them in the language of their country, unable in some cases to understand any language save that of our principal enemy, it is pretty clear that the doctrine of local autonomy in education needs some very radical modification.
But it is not alone the revelations of the draft and the discovery of centers of active enemy propaganda in various sections of the country that point to the imperative need of a national aim in education. Again almost overnight the position of our country with reference to other nations has been radically transformed. From a sequestered and in many ways
self-sufficient people we have suddenly assumed a position of prime significance in a new family of nations. Whatever may have been the insufficiencies of our educational system under the older order, they concerned ourselves alone. Whether we will or no, that day of complacency has past, never to return. It will make a difference now, not only to ourselves, but to the free peoples who have fought for us and with us, whether 30 or 50 or 100 per cent of our schools are efficient. Our people constitute the richest and strongest of the great democracies. In the coming federation of free nations they must bear a responsibility for the preservation and strengthening of the democratic ideal-a responsibility commensurate with their strength and their wealth. Upon the way in which our people think and feel and act from this time forth will depend conditions and issues that reach far beyond our own borders and comprehend vastly more than our own happiness and welfare and progress. When we were an isolated and self-sufficient people we could temporize with the educational problem. We could lament the shameful neglect of our rural and village schools, which enrol more than one-half of the nation's children, and take it out in lamenting. We could regret that we were not able to solve this great problem which lies closer to the root and source of our national life than any other problem in the realm of education. The time for regrets and lamentations is past; the time for action has come.
We have temporized with the problem of preparing teachers until we have the unenviable reputation of giving less attention to the problem than any other great nation, and no problem is fraught with greater significance to the welfare of our schools and to the responsibilities that they represent. We have temporized with the health problem and the problem of adult illiteracy. We have temporized with the problem of furnishing educational stimulus and direction to the great masses of our boys and girls who leave school and enter bread-winning employment before their habits have been formed and their ideals of life and conduct firmly establisht.
And it is only fair to say that we have temporized because we have had to temporize. Our system of school support has been such that we have had to depend almost entirely upon local revenues; our system of school administration has been such that we have had to depend almost entirely upon local initiative. As a result our programs and policies have been framed to meet the local needs and fit the local purse. If a community wisht to have good schools and could pay the price, it usually had good schools. If a community was indifferent to education, it had, in general, the privilege of neglecting its schools. If a community was poor but ambitious, it did the best that it could with its slender resources. And because in general our thickly settled communities are rich and our sparsely settled communities are poor the most glaring inequities of education have prevailed.
But all this represents in reality an unnecessary situation. While it is true that there are markt inequalities among various sections of the country in respect to per capita wealth, it is also true that the country as a whole is very far from poor. We can have something akin to an equality of educational opportunity if our people only say the word. We can have a good school in every locality, and mature, well-prepared and permanently employed teachers in every school. If our people say the word, we can within a decade solve the rural-school problem. We can put into our rural and village schools two hundred thousand teachers who can, who will, do for rural America and for the nation as a whole what the village dominies have done for Scotland, and what the rural schoolmasters have done for Denmark and Norway; two hundred thousand teachers who will make these rural schools of ours, these lonely outposts of culture, what they should be, strategic centers of national life and national idealism. For outposts tho they may be in one sense, in another and a deeper sense these little schools, of all of our educational institutions, are closest to what is formative and virile and abiding in our national life.
And if the people only say the word, the next decade may easily see the great problem of adolescent education well on the road toward a satisfactory solution. If England in this most critical hour of her history can deliberately decide to advance the limit of compulsory continuation schooling to the age of eighteen, if France, struggling so bravely to defend not only herself but the entire world against a ruthless aggression, can even in the midst of that struggle plan to keep her boys under educational direction until the age of twenty, shall we, living in comparative security and abundance, confess that we are unequal to the task ? I repeat that if our people will only say the word we can within a decade attain to a high measure of educational efficiency on a nation-wide scale. It is the judgment of your commission that we should urge our people to say that word and say it quickly. After all, it means only an extension of a principle that they have long since firmly establisht as a basis for the free schools of a democracythe principle, namely, that it is just and equitable to tax the entire wealth of a community for the education of all of the community's children. Commerce and industry have long since been nationalized. Of all our collective enterprises education alone remains hampered and constrained by the narrow confines of an obsolete conception. But now with this new national awakening we find that state boundaries can be easily and quickly transcended. The golden hour of American education has struck. The opportunity is here and the need is compelling to employ the resources of the nation for the education of the nation's children. We have a national problem to solve that transcends all state and local problems. We have international obligations to discharge which will call for the very highest level of enlightened intelligence in the body politic. And we have in the nation something that neither the states nor the local communities have developt in like measure, namely, a system and policy of taxation which distributes the burden of collective enterprises in the most equitable fashion that the mind of man has yet been able to devise.
It is but natural that there are those among our people who will look askance at a change in our educational system which makes the national treasury an important source of school revenues. There are sincere and well-informed men and women in this audience who have grave fears that federal cooperation in the support of public schools will mean federal control and the domination of a hidebound bureaucracy. I have even heard exprest a fear that national support for education will Prussianize our great democracy.
The members of this commission respect these doubts and fears. But they also believe, not only that every worthy feature of local school control may be perpetuated, but that local initiative may be healthfully stimulated and local interest in and responsibility for education greatly augmented by the kind of federal cooperation that they propose. Personally I do not share the fear that the nationalization of our schools will Prussianize our people. In the first place, I do not think that anything could Prussianize our people. Prussianism is only superficially a form of organization; fundamentally it is a disease, a moral lesion which has cut away every sentiment of decency and humanity, which has eaten from the social mind the spiritual and moral values of life, which has glorified the material and left the brute supreme. Germany has not needed even a federal system of education to spread this disease among her people. Her unit of school control, like ours, is the state, and not the nation.
France has the most highly centralized and nationalized educational system in the world. Has the nationalization of her schools Prussianized France ? England is nationalizing her schools today. Will England's new schools Prussianize the English people? We have nationalized our railroads and many of our industries. We have nationalized our Army. Do we find in our national life today anything that smacks of the Hun?
It is the conviction of this commission that the nation may participate in the support of education without involving the dangers of bureaucracy and autocratic control. It is further the conviction of the commission that these dangers, if they exist, may be the more readily avoided if the initiative in promoting this principle of national support is taken by the National Education Association. We may be very sure that this movement is coming. Some individual or organization is bound, some have already essayed, to take the leadership. This responsibility falls naturally to our Association. Shall we accept the plain challenge, or shall we lie back and let someone else do the work? It is the belief of the commission that you will have but one answer to that question.