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The National Education Association Of The United States
1201 Sixteenth Street Northwest
Washington, D. C.
A $fotttum for a Btfpartmwtt of lE&ttratum
To the President of the United States:
On behalf of our respective organizations we earnestly pray that in the reorganization of the Executive Departments of the Government, education he given recognition commensurate with its supreme importance to the Nation. The purpose of public education is to develop good citizens. Since the citizenship of our Nation is but the aggregate citizenship of the States, the Nation is and always must be vitally interested in education.
If the Federal Government is to perform its proper function in the promotion of education, the department at Washington must be given such dignity and prominence as will command the respect of the public and merit the confidence of the educational forces of the country. The educational leader of the Nation should hold an outstanding position, with powers and responsibilities clearly defined, subordinate to no one except the President.
In view of the reorganization now pending, the present is a most opportune time for giving education its proper place in the Administrative Branch of the Government. On behalf of the National organizations which we represent, each of which has officially taken action in accordance with the prayer of this petition, we respectfully urge that the President of the United States use his great influence to bring about the creation of a Department of Education with a Secretary in the Cabinet.
^%lj £L^ Aljjl— fa»'&«~ jy^fc Ju~ y
Director of the American Council on Educat it
Revolution / ^-^S /
President of the National Congress of Mothers anu Parent-Teacher
President of the National Council of Jeu-Hh Women
resident of the American Library Association Prtlidnt of the Naliunal FrJtralian of Midual Clubl
Prtlident of tht Woman'uRtlitf Corps
Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme
af Freemasonry, southern Jurisdiction of
reme Council, Scottish Rite
President of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Chairman of the Committee on Education of the Sunday School Coun-
THE National Education Associa-
Consistent with these ideals, the platform that appears in outline form on this page has been officially adopted as expressing briefly but faithfully the collective judgment and the collective will of the Association as embodied in its resolutions. It is the purpose of the present article to consider the more important implications of this program as a whole. Succeeding articles will treat in turn each of the detailed proposals.
The platform properly begins with the most vital element in a system of education—the teacher. It recognizes the serious obstacle that immature, tran-% sient, and untrained teachers place across the path of educational progress. " It is the conviction of the Association that this problem cannot be met by half-way methods. The teaching profession itself
Platform of the National Education Association
carried through to a successful issue, will constitJte/tne greatest single achievement in the history of American education. It will invol /c among other things an almost complete lever sal of the attitude that the public has hitherto taken toward the work of teaching. From an occupation now almost universally regarded as temporary and casual, the actual work of teaching boys and girls must in the future offer the recognitions and rewards that mark an occupation as constitu
i. A competent, well-trained teacher in hearty accord with American ideals, in every public-school position in the United States.
2. Increased facilities for the training of teachers, and such inducements to enter the teaching profession as will attract men and women of the highest character and ability to this important field of public service.
3. Such an awakening of the people to a realization of the importance and value of education as will elevate the profession of teaching to a higher plane in public esteem and insure just compensation, social recognition, and permanent tenure on the basis of efficient service.
4. Continued and thorough investigation of educational problems as the basis for revised educational standards and methods, to the end that the schools may attain greater efficiency and make the largest possible contribution to public welfare.
5. The establishment of a Department of Education with a Secretary in the President's Cabinet, and federal aid to encourage and assist the States in the promotion of education, with the expressed provision that the management of the public schools shall remain exclusively under State control.
6. The unification and federation of the educational forces of the country in one great professional organization devoted to the advancement of the teaching profession, and, through education, the promotion of the highest welfare of the Nation. To "accomplish this purpose every teacher should be a member of a local teachers' organization, a State teachers' association, and the National Education Association.
7. Active assistance to State and local affiliated associations in securing needed legislation and in promoting the interests of such associations and the welfare of their members in accordance with the Charter and By-laws of this Association.
8. Equal salaries for equal service to all teachers of equivalent training, experience and success; and the promotion of sympathetic cooperation between school authorities and teachers by utilizing under recognized authority and responsible leadership suggestions and advice based upon classroom experience.
9. Cooperation with other organizations and with men and women of intelligence and vision everywhere who recognize that only through education can be solved many of the serious problems confronting our Nation.
10. The National Education Association is committed to a program of service—service to the teachers, service to the profession, service to the Nation. Its supreme purpose is
the welfare of the childhood of America.
will be satisfied with nothing short of a
How far we must travel to attain
ting a real career. For those who wish to make classroom service an 'ultimate job,' giving to its problems the same absorbed and lifelong study that the physician, the lawyer, the engineer, and the business man are proud to give to their daily work, there must be sanctions and compensations that are comparable with those that accrue to patient, devoted, and successful effort in other callings.
It is with no selfish or insincere motives that the Association has set up this goal. It is not for individual profit that the members of this group pledge themselves to advance the status of the teacher. It is rather because the prevailing low status has prevented and still prevents thousands of capable men and women from entering the service. The work that should be done by the very ablest talent that the country produces is, in consequence, turned over in large part to persons who are far too immature to grasp its significance. The work that calls for the highest type of preliminary preparation if it is to be done well is all too frequently delegated
to teachers who have themselves but the barest minimum of substantial education. The work that can be done best by those who have mastered a difficult art through years of studious effort is intrusted to successive levies of, taw' recruits. .• • '-. .
That all this is unjust tb'vtrje- small proportion of teachers who spend their lives in the service is not the point at issue in the .earwst desire of the Association to correct these grave defects. The emphasis is clearly and unequivocally upon the injustice that the Nation's children suffer from this shortsighted policy and upon the reduction of the Nation's strength by the failure to realize through competent instruction, training, and inspiration the possibilities that these children represent.
Society cannot insure to every child a good home, a devoted and intelligent mother, and a wise and provident • father; but society can insure to every child a good school and a competent teacher. This is by all odds the most direct and effective channel through which the forces of social control can operate. To provide these advantages is by all odds the most serious of social obligations. Furthermore, by making such provisions now, the proportion of good homes and wise and provident parents will be vastly increased in succeeding generations. Investment at this point will not only return large dividends in the immediate future; the interest will be compounded at a rate unparalleled by any conceivable form of material investment.
Basic to any effective plan for placing a competent teacher in every publicschool position is a far-reaching policy tor the preparation of teachers. The Association recognizes this need in the second plank of its platform. Increased facilities for the training of teachers will mean not only more normal schools and teachers' colleges, but the extension and improvement of existing institutions. The instructional staffs must be enlarged; the program of studies enriched and expanded; and the require? ments for admission and for graduation decidedly advanced. The Association maintains with justice that the professional schools of teaching should be placed on at least an equivalent footing with the institutions that train recruits for the professions that have so far developed the highest standards of preparation. To require from prospective
teachers a standard of preliminary training inferior to that demanded of prospective .lawyers, physicians, and engineers is to belittle the public-school service and . to leave its responsible posts open to men and women of inferior ability. Young people of the caliber needed in the work of teaching are intelligent enough to measure the worth of a service by the price that one must pay in terms of preliminary training for the privilege of .admission.
But the need of increased facilities and advanced standards for the preparation of teachers strikes far more deeply than this. Low standards of prepara
O OCIETY cannot insure to AJ every child a good home, a devoted and intelligent mother, and a wise and provident father; but society can insure to every child a good school and a competent teacher. This is by all odds the most direct and effective channel through which the forces of social control can operate. To provide these advantages is by all odds the most serious of social obligations. Furthermore, by making such provisions now, the proportion of good homes and wise and provident parents will be vastly increased in succeeding generations. Investment at this point will not only return large dividends in the immediate future; the interest will be compounded at a rate unparalleled by any conceivable form of material investment.
tion not only cheapen the service; they oppose the most stubborn of all obstacles to educational progress. It is probably true that in no other profession does inefficiency have the opportunity to live and to spread its baneful influence that it has in teaching. The muddled lawyer soon loses his clients. The bungling surgeon will not kill manypatients before the logic of hard facts forces him to conclude that he has missed his calling. Even the blundering engineer cannot build many bridges that "buckle and break" until his last chance of getting another contract has been buried with the ruins.
In the efficiency of lawyers, physicians, and engineers the public, of course, has a vital interest; but its interest in the efficiency of its public-school teachers is even more fundamental, for here not only does inefficiency affect a wide circle of relatively helpless human
•tv, but it may remain undetected for months or for years. To the preliminary preparation of teachers the public must look for protection against this danger.
If our professional schools of teaching are to attract students in sufficient numbers and if they are to keep them sufficiently long to insure a proper preparation, it is clear that the service itself must have a higher—a more honored—place in public esteem. Good pay for competent teachers is the first need, but it is not the only need. Methods must be devised for discovering exceptional merit and for recognizing highly efficient service wherever in the school system that merit may be found or that service rendered.
Men and women of the type that the schools urgently need are the men and women who look beyond material rewards. They crave—and they crave justly—the recognition that successful effort brings in other callings. The names of the most successful practitioners in law and in medicine are widely known. Unusual achievement in the commercial and industrial fields brings a measure of renown that overtops in its attractiveness even the high financial rewards that go with it. The great artists, writers, actors, and musicians have their appropriate recognitions. Even the preacher who suffers with the teacher the misfortunes of a beggarly wage ha*, possibilities of abundant compensation in wide fame and acknowledged prestige. But of the seven hundred thousand classroom teachers in American schools, not the seven hundred, not the seventy— riot even the seven—who are doing the best work are known to their own profession, let alone the public at large 'Fame' in the educational world attaches not to superior teaching, but to successful administration, writing, and research—and even the most successful teaching is more likely than not to draw the teacher away from his real work and. under the guise of 'promotion,' assign him to tasks that, important though they may be, require qualities less fine and less rare than those that highly expert teaching involves.
To change the false system of values by which teaching is now measured will be far from an easy task. It means above all an 'awakening of the people' not only or primarily to the essential injustice of this system of values as it affects the teaching profession, but to a realization of the fact that their children are the chief sufferers.
An effective plan for placing in every classroom a competent teacher must also go hand in hand with an extended and continuing program of educational investigation. Every art depends for its advancement upon scientific study that aims to lay bare the principles lying back of its practice. The scientific study of educational problems has passed the period of its infancy; it has amply justified the efforts of its pioneers in the contributions that have already been made to the understanding and improvement of educational processes. But what has been accomplished hitherto is at best only an augury of the benefits that will come when this field of investigation has become as well organized as are the fields of research in medicine, engineering, and agriculture. At the present time nothing is being attempted in educational investigation that is at all analogous in scope or efficiency with what a single endowed institution—the Rockefeller Institute—has accomplished in medicine; and any comparison of educational research with the work of the tax-supported agricultural and engineering experiment stations would be ridiculous.
In the meantime, the public is making demands upon the schools for results that are in many cases unattainable simply because the problems involved have not been subjected to a rigorous scientific analysis. Teachers are criticized for their failure to work what, under the present conditions of our knowledge, would be nothing less than miracles. That the prestige of the profession suffers from this situation is again not the basic evil; that the money invested in schools fails to make the return that it might make is not the most •jerious consequence of this neglect. The
/N the efficiency of lawyers, physicians, and engineers the Public, of course, has a vital interest; but its interest in the efficiency of its public-school teachers is even more fundamental, for here not only does inefficiency affect a wide circle of relatively helpless humanity, but it may remain undetected for months or for years. To the preliminary preparation of teachers the public must look for protection against this danger.
basic evil lies once more in the injustice that the people's children suffer because the people themselves are unwilling to provide for the welfare of their offspring the type of scientific service that they provide for their crops, their cattle, and their hogs.
The establishment of the agricultural experiment stations through federal subsidy thirty-five years ago was in many ways a 'leap in the dark'; but results have justified in a thousand ways the chances that the Nation took. To promote the scientific study of important problems is no longer a leap in the dark. Science is often slow in its processes, but it has a way of getting results in the end. The processes of education are vastly more complicated than those of agriculture, more complicated even than those of medicine. It is the difficult tasks that are always left to the last.
But the time has clearly come for a measure of advancement in educational research that will rival the brilliant record that agriculture and medicine have made in the past thirty years. The most difficult pioneer work has been done. The methods have been refined and the field fairly well explored. It would be most unfortunate if, with this start, the movement should not go forward as rapidly as the resources of this rich country will permit. The Association stands pledged to do all in its power to promote this advancement.
The program that has been discussed in the preceding paragraphs is essentially a national program. It is true that it might be carried out bit by bit through the successive efforts of the States and the local communities. It is true, also, that a forward step even in the smallest or the most isolated school may be a step forward for the Nation. But such fractional advances leave the full solution of the problem not only years and decades but generations in the future. It should be remembered, too, that, while certain progressive communities are moving forward, others are likely to stand still or even to move back; hence the net result for the Nation may not be progress but retrogression. The Association is convinced that the Nation is neglecting at its own peril the serious problems presented by the public schools. It maintains that the Nation is itself an educational unit—that the States are as interdependent educationally as they are commercially and indus
/Ar the meantime, the public is making demands upon the schools for results that are in many cases unattainable simply because the problems involved have not been subjected to a rigorous scientific analysis. Teachers are criticized for their failure to work what, under the present conditions of our knowledge, would be nothing less than miracles. That the prestige of the profession suffers from this situation is again not the basic evil; that the money invested in schools fails to make the return that it might make is not the most serious consequence of this neglect. The basic evil lies once more in the injustice that the people's children suffer because the people themselves are unwilling to provide for the welfare of their offspring the type of scientific service that they provide for their crops, their cattle, and their hogs.
trially—that educational backwardness in any single section, in any single State, in any single community is a matter of national concern—that every child is a child of the Nation as well as a child of the State and of the local community in which he may reside, and that the Nation as a nation has an interest and a stake in his proper education.
The Smith-Towner bill has been framed to meet the national need for better schools and better teachers. Its provisions and its present status are fully discussed elsewhere in this Journal. It is mentioned here as the most important step that has yet been undertaken to make effective on a nation-wide scale the comprehensive program that the Association has projected.
When the bill has been written into law, a beginning will have been made toward the solution of the great problem—a competent teacher for every public-school position in the United States. But this will be only a beginning. The program of the Association is larger than the bill—larger than any form of legislation could possibly be. Its full realization will depend upon something more fundamental than law; it will depend upon the deep-lying motives that sway the hearts and minds of our people—their innate sense of justice and fair play, their appreciation of real values once these have been clearly demonstrated, their substantial idealism that