Page images



NEW YORK, N.Y. The experiences of the past four years have convinst most of us that the most important function of education is to fit the common men for the common duties of citizenship. We have in this Republic of ours a strange gap in the machinery of education. On the one hand institutions of higher learning, so called, think habitually in terms of science and concern themselves little, if at all, with the problems of the free school, which is America's real educational crown of glory. At the other end of the line stands, not free school system, but a myriad of free school systems, each under the control of a board which thinks its educational thoughts and spends its educational funds with reference to one particular locality. Its horizon is bounded by the limits of the particular unit, whether it be the unit of township, of county, or of state. Between these two there is the vast educational area of no man's land, the area for educational thought upon those problems which concern the nation as a whole, or that larger problem of the relation of nation to nation.

The patriotic duty of educators in this country is to see that every child in the next generation is possest of certain simple, fundamental principles of justice and honesty, the rights of man and the rights of nations, which shall constitute a new background for this polyglot nation. The only patriotism which can command the unanimous and loyal enthusiasm of all races and kindreds and tongues which make up our nation is the call which teaches principles so broad as to thrill the heart of every race. America is the one nation which seems to have been designed by Providence to construct a platform of patriotism world-wide in its scope.

We do not need a more complicated background for our education; what we need is a simpler one. We do not need to multiply the subjects in our courses of study, but we need to put back of all those subjects, clear and distinct, the simple ideals which can furnish the basis for a new patriotism, a patriotism that thinks in terms of justice, not of gain, that looks to the rights and liberties of all mankind, not merely to the interests of that little favored group which dwells

the continent which we call our own. I recently gave an interesting dinner in a Yiddish restaurant on the East Side in New York. The guests were twenty Jewish leaders of thought, men born in Russia, but who had been changed by the subtle influences of our ideals from Russians into real Americans. I askt them this question, which they tried to answer, with but half-success: “What are the mental processes thru which you pass when ceasing to be Russians and becoming real Americans? If we can find exactly the ideas which have wrought this transformation in you, they will give us a basis for an education which can be given to other foreigners with the same results." The answers which they gave compose this creed, partial yet suggestive, seeking to explain the things which are the essence of America:


I believe in America because of her ideals, workt out in institutions that are just.

She gives to everyone the right to rise;
To take a part in making equal laws;
To hold his neighbor equal to himself;
To speak the truth and to resent a lie;
To serve no man as master, but by toil

To earn the right to call himself a man. I believe in the world-mission of American ideals. By them, exprest in terms of nations, I believe:

Right can be made to vanquish force and fraud;
Justice to reign, sustained by potent law;
The weaker states to live as live the strong.

I believe in America because she thinks in terms of justice, not of gain, and holds her noble heritage the right of all.

A man of foreign blood or foreign birth who can repeat this creed and understand its inner meaning is well on the way to being what we call an American.

We are told that we have today two and one-half million men in arms. Of these a million are equipt and trained, simply because the leaders really led. They taught the people just what must be done, and they in turn secured the doing. It was constructive patriotism to insist that things were wrong and to demand insistently that they be righted. The men to whom the glory there in France is due are first the men who fight; but next to them it is due to the men who roused this nation to its danger and made us prepare.

The first line is already in action, killing Huns, because the leaders, who saw the needs as you and I see the needs in education, cried and cried again and would not, for the love of country, hold their peace.

But what of the second line ? There is not a worthy teacher in this house today who does not know that the task of making the world safe for democracy requires two steps, not one. The first is the defeat of Germany, a military defeat, absolute, final, and conclusive; and for that the patriotic zeal of those who lead and those who follow has markt out the way.

But what of the second step? It must be to show that democracy can mobilize also her spiritual forces; that she can so train her people as to enable them to do, with equal efficiency and devotion, everything which autocracy has been able to do. But this means tremendous preparation. Where is the prophet of education who will cry aloud, in words that must be heard, that we, the fighters, are not yet equipt, many not even trained, for battle? Do the people know that educationally we are still in the age of nullification? That any state or any smaller unit may elect to leave its children ignorant, untrained, and thus unfit to take a part in making a success of this experiment? Do they know, as we know, that a great army of our teachers is underpaid, ill trained, and unprovided with the things that they should have to make their work effective? Do they realize, as we all realize, that the experiment of free government cannot be really tried until we place behind it a system of education which will not only offer but compel the use of well-equipt, sound, educational facilities? This nation will stand or fall according to the enlightenment or the ignorance of its people. The most wasteful thing in life is to neglect to give each child the chance to develop his powers.

Nothing must be allowed to deprive the child of any family or of any district of his right to be made to take an education which will make of him the best possible American. If he lives in a section too poor to give him this, we must look to the state or the nation to see that he gets what he needs, whether he will or no, whether his region will or no.

The leaders in preparedness for armed defense have shown us how success is gained, by an insistent clamor for the things on which success depends. They raised a cry which would not be denied, and miracles were wrought. Where are the signs of an awakened mind regarding education? We can see no signs—the leaders have not clamored.

We are the leaders. If we fail to lead, to clamor with insistent voice for what we know to be essential to the cause we serve, the failure of the things for which our armies fight will be our failure. What can we do? What would our leaders in khaki do in such a state as ours ? If they did not rear resentment with unceasing zeal, demanding instant action, we should say, "We lean on broken reeds. Our leaders fail to lead."

But we are failing, and our cause is just as vital to the state as theirs.

Therefore, I say that this great convention must not dare adjourn until our requisition for supplies goes to the nation in specific terms. This is our day, our first great chance—we dare not fail. All the world is advancing; shall we stand and wait ?




This war is the most tremendously important event in all the history of man, and we are just now very near the greatest crisis the world has ever

The war and its needs are the chief occupation of nearly a score of the leading nations of the world. Freedom versus domination of some kind has been the stake of every war since the first tick of time, but in this colossal contest the issues of all previous wars are pooled. What happened in the world before 1914 already begins to seem a bit far off, unreal, and insignificant by comparison with the mighty fates that crowd the here and the now. We are making history, as it were, a century a month, and changes of sentiment and activity that once took a generation may now occur in a week. As Lincoln said, the country could not remain half free and half slave, and so we have decreed that the world cannot be half autocratic and half democratic, but must be all one or all the other. In the old era that closed four years ago, how easy, selfish, thoughtless, careless, sometimes mean and sordid, we were, but now men do every day deeds that equal or surpass the most splendid achievements of the heroes of old which our textbooks praise. The divinest figure of the past suffered and gave His life freely for others (“Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends”), but hundreds of thousands are dying for just that end in their way today.

We have praised unity and fraternity, but our people are stiil a congeries of a score of nationalities which had known little of the melting-pot. But now the masses and classes, capital and labor, regardless of color, are being bound together in camp and trench by the strongest of all human ties, that of brotherhood in arms, so that the nation is now achieving a new and higher unity. What is more and even better yet is the comradeship of our soldiers with those of our Allies, so that we are now one with the men of England, France, and Italy by ties that no treaty or league of nations could ever effect, for it is the bond of a common cause, a common life, a common enemy, and perhaps a common grave. Neither we nor they dreamed that these men in the third and golden decade of life, from the farm, the factory, the shop, the college, could become in a year so stalwart of body and of such heroic mode of soul, and as we realize what they have become and are doing and that their sentiments and ideals will dominate this country for the next generation, we feel satisfied and proud as well as safe.

Oh, the splendor and glory of "the day" that has come to us Americans! We have our “place in the sun,” for it is ours to save Europe and the world for democracy. From England we hear how men have forgotten whether their ancestors came over with William the Conqueror, or whether their mates are rich or poor, educated or ignorant; and so here we ask no longer whether men descended from the “Mayflower” Puritans, the Cavaliers, or are Sons of the Revolution, but only whether they have the one quality that alone makes man complete-courage, and the temper that can risk life for something dearer than the individual life. Thus a new order of nobility and a better natural grading of man is at the door. A French peasant marcht from the south to the north of France and was so imprest by the beauty of the country and the glory of the cities of his native land that he wrote that it would be a high privilege if he were counted worthy to die for so glorious a fatherland. Another vowed that he would keep himself pure and make himself as perfect as possible in body and in soul, in order that if he were called to make the supreme sacrifice his offering might be worthy. Of “soldiers three” who went over the top, one, a Protestant, was fatally wounded at the barbed wire before the enemy's trench and called to one of his colleagues, a young Catholic priest, to creep out if he could and administer the last sacrament before he died. The priest went over the hell strip and had just extended the crucifix over his friend when he too was shot. The third friend, a Jewish Rabbi, seeing the situation, crept to the dying man, seized the crucifix, and gave the dying man absolution, the Jew absolving a Protestant Christian by a Catholic rite, illustrating thus the sympathy of religions or the unity of brotherhood that underlies them all in the great cause. The French have collected thousands of these authentic incidents, these new acta sanctorum, and on these base their exhortation to fight now and regenerate France later gloriously, in such a way that none of these sacrifices shall be in vain, for never was there a cause so well worth suffering and dying for.

Now our every energy must focus on winning the war, putting out the fire in this world-conflagration, but as Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco, and once London, reduced to ashes, had to be rebuilt afterward, so when peace comes we shall have to enter upon the long and stupendous task of reconstructing our industrial, economic, social, political, hygienic, moral, and even religious life and institutions. Things we have never dared to doubt are now open questions. It is a new cosmos that is about to be, and it is our tremendous task to use these opportunities and incentives in a way to make the world enough better than it was to pay for all this horrible sacrifice and to usher the rising generation into a new kingdom of man, just as at the present moment we must get all the virtues and abate all the evils of militarism and find out not one but many moral equivalents of war. In this situation, which is most of it beyond all precedent, what is the chief duty of every teacher in the land?

It is, in a word, to utilize to its very uttermost and at every possible point the tremendous energy of interest and incidents to inundate our educational system at every grade and in every topic with the very purest spirit of loyalty, sacrifice, courage, and hardihood, and of national and racial solidarity which has its culmination in the metal of our heroes at the front. It is the boys and girls now in the schools that will win or lose the Great War after the war. The spirit of our boys over there is itself a splendid epistle, known and read of all men, of what the school, among other agencies, has done for them. The new method of grading the merits of schools and school systems now is by what they are doing in all the complex processes of food production and conservation, and in all other war modifications of school activities, in which our census shows enormous diversity of service in different states and cities. Some schools and individual teachers have shown something near to pedagogic genius in using war interests in the teaching of geography. Some teachers of history have achieved remarkable results in turning on the war zest, realizing that present happenings are more significant for their pupils than all the events of the remote past. Other schools start war museums, encourage war diaries, correspondence,

« PreviousContinue »