Educating the Nation
OF the many impressive revelations of the great world-war, none was more impressive than that of the supreme importance of education. In Russia and Prussia, the whole world witnessed the dire disaster resulting, in the one case, from the lack of universal education, in the other, from misdirected, or false education. And both the strength and the weakness of our own country have been easily traceable to the excellencies and the deficiencies respectively of our educational provisions and efforts.
Now is the time to take stock of these impressive revelations; to look into the demands and the opportunities of the future. Now is the time for America to set earnestly about the reorganization and development of her whole school undertaking, that the shortcomings of the past may be promptly corrected, that preparation may be rapidly made to meet the larger opportunities and to bear the heavier responsibilities that are confronting us.
Let us try to sketch in broad outlines merely the outstanding characteristics of an educational programme, indeed a minimum programme, such as is immediately needed in these United States. The programme I am about to present is based on fundamental ideals and principles not inconsistent with those that must control the programme of education of any nation which may hope to become a worthy member of a world league of nations; and, in the absence of any such effective league, it is equally a programme of national independence and security.
This programme consists of two parts: first, a brief statement of the objectives of American education for the immediate future; and, second, an outline of the general plans and means calculated to realize these objectives. It need scarcely be remarked that this programme, in neither of its parts, is a creation out of hand; it is rather, for the most part, a formulation of the objectives that the most advanced practice in American education has already, more or less clearly and confidently, set for itself, and a systematic presentation of plans and means that experience has shown to be necessary for the realization of these objectives.
The simple, practical, but exalted demand of the British Labor Party for a programme of education which shall ‘bring effectively within the reach, not only of every boy and girl, but also of every adult citizen, all the training, physical, mental and moral, literary, technical and scientific, of which he is capable,’ sets an educational objective none too advanced for America. Indeed, there will be those to claim, not only that we have long had such an objective, but that we are realizing it.
The mere mention, however, of the scores of thousands of totally illiterate, and the hundreds of thousands of practically illiterate young men sent overseas to fight for justice and intelligent democracy, is sufficient evidence that the very first steps, even, in such a lofty objective, have not been approximately realized in America as a whole. The contemplation of this evidence, in the light of the most superficial knowledge of the conditions out of which it has grown, must convince anyone that America generally has never seriously intended that all Americans should know how to read and write even, which is assuredly the first step in bringing ‘effectively within . . . reach . . . all the training, physical, mental and moral, literary, technical and scientific,’ of which they are capable.
We have long deceived ourselves with words and phrases about ‘free, public, universal education.’ Up to the present time, we have barely the beginnings, here and there, of such an effective educational programme as these terms ought to imply. The educational task immediately before us is to make universally real the ideals that we have long boasted. How shall we do this?
There are three minimum, definite, comprehensive objectives that American public education should at once set for itself. They are: first, essential elementary knowledge, training, and discipline; second, occupational efficiency; third, civic responsibility.
Essential elementary knowledge, discipline and training, should be understood to include so much as results from the successful completion of the full elementary-school course in the best school systems — a course requiring, as a rule, eight years of regular attendance, thirty-six to forty weeks a year. The details involved in such a course are too well and generally known to require enumeration here.
The present eight-year elementaryschool course, as it is carried out even in the best school systems, is not here proposed as a fixed or final ideal, especially in details, of the first objective of public education. It should be understood to be inclusive, not exclusive, of any improvements that may be made in content, in method, or in organization, affecting the latter years of the typical elementary-school course.
This first objective is the indispensable basis of the other two, occupational efficiency and civic responsibility; it makes the full achievement of these two practicable. Indeed, it does more than that: it affords direct and invaluable preliminary training for both occupation and citizenship. Such training, however, can never go beyond the preliminary stage, not merely on account of the limitations of time, but even more certainly on account of the limitations of the pupils. Occupational efficiency and civic responsibility cannot be achieved by boys and girls before reaching fourteen years of age.
A programme adequate to the achievement of the first of our three objectives must involve the following four features: first, a minimum school year of thirty-six weeks; second, adequate laws, effectively enforced, compelling regular attendance, throughout the school year, of all children over a certain age, preferably seven, until the elementary course is completed, or until a certain age, preferably sixteen, is reached; third, effective public control of all elementary private schools, to insure the maintenance therein of standards equal to those maintained in public schools, and to ensure the regular and full attendance of pupils registered therein; fourth, a teaching force, every member of which has a general education at least equal to that afforded by a good four-year high-school course, and professional training at least equivalent to that provided by a good two-year normal-school course.
The mere statement of these simple measures for the achievement of our first educational objective should be sufficient to convince any intelligent person of the necessity of their adoption. Yet, simple and obviously necessary as they are, their practical and earnest application would effect the most immediate and startling improvement at the very foundations of our public-school system. At a conservative estimate, this improvement would average, or total, not less than one hundred per cent. In justification of this estimate, and to get some definite conception of the changes that must at once result from the application of these four measures, let us examine briefly some of the present facts and conditions with which each one of these measures would have to deal.
In five states only is the proposed minimum standard year of thirty-six weeks now exceeded. In fifteen states the average length of the school year is less than twenty-eight weeks; in four states, less than twenty-five weeks, with the lowest maintaining its schools just less than twenty-two weeks.
These figures represent state averages. The reality is both better and worse than the average appears. Cities, in general maintain longer school years than do country districts.
The school year in the country schools of many states, and in some country schools of most states, is notoriously brief; only by extreme courtesy can the annual school session be called a year. Even the thirty-six-week school year here proposed as a minimum standard calls for school on less than half the days of the year.
The proposed thirty-six-week school year should be applied, as a minimum standard, to every individual school, so as to make available for every child at least thirty-six weeks’ instruction annually.
But even our short school years are not used to their full extent. Sixty states have laws requiring attendance, by children within the established ‘school age,’ for sixteen weeks only; three others require only twelve weeks’ attendance; one state requires attendance three fourths of the school year, another two thirds, and still another one half. Only twenty-eight states have laws requiring attendance for the full time that the schools are in session.
All states have at last enacted some form of compulsory attendance laws, though six states have taken such action only within the last four years. In several states, however, the compulsory feature of the laws is scarcely more than nominal.
Universally, school-attendance laws make, directly or by implication, some provision for private instruction, either in the home or in private schools, as a substitute for the public-school attendance nominally required. In general, such private instruction is supposed to be equivalent in extent and quality to that provided by the public schools; but in most states the laws are exceedingly vague on this point. Even more vague are they in providing adequate agencies and means of determining the extent to which children instructed outside are receiving instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools. Even in states where the laws are definite and explicit concerning both these matters, their actual observance is scarcely even nominal.
In no state, regardless of provisions or lack of provisions in the law, is there any adequate knowledge in the possession of public-school officials, or of any other public officials, concerning the content or the quality of instruction given, or concerning the essential conditions surrounding children who allege private-school instruction as a substitute for public-school attendance required by law.
That many private schools, regardless of legal requirements, habitually make little or no use of the national language as a means of communication and instruction is well known. That in many private schools the congestion is far greater than in the public schools; that the equipment, the hygienic conditions, the education and professional qualifications of teachers employed therein are far inferior to those of the public schools of the same community, are facts well known or easily discoverable. On the other hand, that there are private schools offering advantages superior to those provided by the public schools of the same community is likewise a well-known or easily discoverable fact.
By no means do I contend that private schools on the average are either inferior or superior to the public schools for which they are used as a substitute; no one knows enough about private schools on the average to make any such contention. I do contend most emphatically that, after considerable study and investigation of this matter, extending continuously over nearly twenty-five years, I have yet to learn, not of a single state, but of a single city or school district anywhere in the United States, in which a private school might not teach, or neglect to teach, practically what it pleased, might not be as inferior in every respect as its patrons would tolerate, and still be permitted to serve as a substitute for the legalized public-school instruction locally maintained.
I contend further, and it seems wholly obvious, that the content, the quality, and the language of instruction, in every private school that serves as a substitute for a legalized public school, are matters of concern to others than the children and the parents of children attendant thereat; these matters are of deepest concern to the community, the state, and the nation. And any worthy educational programme for America must make adequate and effective provision for such knowledge and control, by duly authorized officials, of all instruction that serves as a substitute for the legalized instruction of the public schools, as will ensure in that substitute instruction the essential equivalent, in content, quality, and language, of public-school instruction.
Partly because of the short school year, partly because only partial advantage is taken even of this short year, the amount of schooling that we Americans are getting is startlingly little. As a nation, we are barely sixth graders!
A nation of sixth graders, we are taught by tenth-grade or eleventh-grade teachers. No adequate data are available from which to calculate accurately the average schooling of all the publicschool teachers of America. Such figures and facts, however, as are at hand warrant the conclusion that it can be but little if any beyond the eleventh grade, or third year of the high school, including in this average all the time devoted to so-called professional training.
According to the well-considered estimate of Dr. Evenden, in his recent study of teachers’ salaries and salary schedules, ‘About 4,000,000 children are taught by teachers less than twenty-one years of age, with little or no highschool training, with no professional preparation for their work, and who are, in a great majority of cases, products of the same schools in which they teach.’
The education of country school-teachers generally is several years less than that of city teachers; even so, allowing for one or two possible exceptions, it is extremely doubtful whether the average education of the whole group of elementary teachers in any of our large cities exceeds that of a fouryear high-school course, including in the average all professional education as equivalent, year for year, to high-school education.
It is but the conservative expression of an undeniable fact, when we say that, on the average, in American elementary schools, the comparatively uneducated are set to teach the slightly less educated and the ignorant. Furthermore, this statement is no just cause of offense to elementary teachers, either as a class or as individuals.
How much education has America the right to expect anyone to bring to his task at $630 per year, the average salary of all public-school teachers in the United States, both elementary and high, according to the last figures available?
How low individual salaries go is not revealed by any records at hand; we should blush to publish them were they available. It is quite enough to know that the average salaries, both elementary and high, for certain whole states are below $300. And in no state has the average ever reached $1000, unless some unusually large increases of the present year may have brought them to that figure in two or three states. These are the facts that should offend. They are an offense, first of all, to American childhood and youth!
We may as well recognize at once and frankly admit the utter and increasing hopelessness of securing, at present wages, any considerable fraction of the required number of teachers who possess the higher qualifications herewith proposed. Let us acknowledge the inevitable; that average salaries must be increased by at least eight hundred dollars, that is, raised to two and onehalf times their present level, if it is to be made worth while for capable women, and perhaps occasionally a man of fair capacity, to make the very modest educational preparation proposed, and then to devote themselves contentedly and loyally to the profession!
The definite pursuit of our second and third objectives, occupational efficiency and civic responsibility, should be simultaneous and should immediately follow the attainment of the first objective. This does not mean, let us remark parenthetically, that every boy should begin the learning of a trade immediately upon the completion of the elementary-school course; the boy who goes on to high school, to college, and eventually to a professional school, should be considered to enter just as definitely on the preparation for an occupation when he begins his high-school course, as does the boy who enters a trade-school or a shop as an apprentice. The main difference is that of the time required to reach the goal of occupational fitness.
Instruction designed to prepare for occupational efficiency and civic responsibility should cover a minimum period of four years, or until the eighteenth birthday is reached, for both boys and girls, with an additional year for boys. This instruction should be maintained by law, and attendance thereon should be required of all youth concerned.
For the giving of this instruction, two general types of schools should be maintained, each suited to the needs and choices of the youth who are to attend. First, there should be full-time schools for those who can devote their time chiefly to systematic study; and second, there should be part-time, or continuation schools, for those who are compelled, or who choose, to devote the major portion of their time to work.
The first type of schools would include high schools of all kinds, — academic, commercial, technical, trade, and agricultural schools, — indeed, any fulltime school of secondary grade. Such schools should be sufficient in number, variety, and accessibility to provide four years of high-grade instruction for all youth desiring to attend.
The second type of schools, for those who are to devote only a minor part of their time to schooling, should be flexible in their organization, adapted to the essential conditions of employment. Two conditions, however, should be strictly maintained by these schools: their hours of instruction, for a given pupil, should not be less than eight per week, forty-eight weeks in the year; and these hours should be favorable, not following a day’s work, nor in addition to the normal working hours of a week. In a word, the school hours, favorably arranged for study, should be included within the normal weekly working hours.
Within the above essential limitations, there should be flexibility in the arrangement of hours for the given pupil; as a rule, however, it would probably be found advisable to schedule not less than two nor more than four hours in succession. In the country, it might generally be found best to concentrate the year’s instruction into three winter months, when schooling, not work, was made the chief concern of the pupils.
Whatever the detailed arrangement of hours, continuation-school courses should cover four years of progressively graded work. The work should be chiefly adapted to the two ends to be attained: it should be civic and vocational, not narrowly, but characteristically. These courses would necessarily include such ‘ liberal ’ studies as history, literature, geography, and something of mathematics; and the sciences would be given much attention.
In their vocational bearing, the courses should be adapted to the interest of the pupils immediately to be served, having regard not merely to the occupations in which the pupils might actually be engaged, but also to their possible future occupations. For girls, instruction in household arts and economy, and in the feeding and care of infants and children, should always receive special attention.
The training of young men for civic responsibility and vocational efficiency should culminate in a full twelve-month year of instruction, discipline, and training, to be carried on directly under the auspices of the national government.
For this year of training, all male youth of the land should be mobilized by a complete draft carried out by the War Department, only those seriously crippled physically and the mentally incompetent being rejected as unfit; for one of the fundamental aims of this course of training should be to make fit.
Some option should be allowed the individual concerned as to the age at which he should enter upon this year of strictly compulsory training. He should not be allowed, for example, to begin it before reaching the age of seventeen years and six months; and he should be required to begin it before passing his twentieth birthday. This option would permit most boys in high schools to complete their courses before entering on this year’s training; it would also permit those going to college to precede their college work with this year of training.
Of course, there should be a fixed date, or dates, on which the year’s training must begin. Probably it would be advantageous to fix at least two dates — say July 1 and January 1, or August 1 and February 1 — for the beginning of the courses. This would give a certain degree of stability and continuity to the organization of the institutes, which might prove advantageous; it would enlarge, for the individual student, the possibilities of adjusting to his particular advantage the time of his attendance; but, perhaps most important of all, two dates of opening and closing courses, rather than one, would minimize certain difficulties of adjustment that would necessarily attend the withdrawal at one time of a million men from the normal occupations and life of the country, and the return thereto of a like number.
Whether a modest or nominal wage should be paid the young men in training is a debatable question. Certain it is that the entire expense of the undertaking, including the maintenance, necessary personal equipment, and transportation of those in attendance, should be borne by the government. And adequate maintenance allowances should be granted dependents of students In training.
For this year of instruction, permanent centres should be established throughout the country. The cantonments that proved best adapted for military training suggest themselves as most suitable. Of course, these should be gradually rebuilt with permanent but plain structures, adapted both to the maintenance of the student body and to the wide range of instruction that should be given.
While the whole purpose of this year of government control and direction should be educational, in the broadest sense, every student should be required to devote one third to one half of his time to exercise for physical development and to military training. The remaining half of two thirds of his time should be devoted to such courses of study as he might select, the widest range of choice being provided.
The curricula of these centres of training for civic responsibility, which might well be called National Civic Institutes, should be prepared jointly by the Educational and War Departments of the government, the latter assuming responsibility for the military and physical training part of the curriculum, the former for the non-military subjects and courses of instruction.
The curricula should embrace, besides a thorough course in physical development and military training, every subject of instruction, literary, technical, artistic, every ‘ cultural ’ and ‘ practical ' subject, that any youth of eighteen or twenty might need or wish to pursue.
At the present time, and probably for some years to come, the annual enrolments in these institutes would include scores of thousands of illiterates and near-illiterates, a part of whose nonmilitary instruction would have for its aim the achievement of our first and most fundamental educational objective. Indeed, so long as non-Englishspeaking illiterate immigrants are permitted to enter this country, every such male immigrant who is beyond compulsory public-school age, and under twenty-five years, should be required to spend his first year in America in one of these Civic Institutes. He would there learn our language and something of our ways and national ideals.
The corps of instructors and the equipment of these institutes should be ample and of the highest grade. In all respects, instruction, training, and discipline should be thorough and intensive, the non-military not less so than the military.
The immediate control of the student body should be exercised by a military staff under the War Department. So, also, should the military instruction and physical development exercises be carried out by especially qualified members of the military staff; the instruction in non-military subjects, however, should be under the direction and supervision of the Department of Education.
These institutes filled with a million young men, taken at the most permanently impressionable period in their lives, should easily prove to be the most prolific institutions in the world for the development of human resources. They should serve, not only to develop and to specialize normal talents, but to discover and to cultivate rare talents that might otherwise lie dormant.
The advantage to the individuals concerned would be no less than to the nation. In no sense would this year be a year out of the life of each one, a year simply donated to the service of the nation, or to preparation for such service. Quite the contrary: this year, considered solely from the standpoint of the individual’s advantage, would prove to be the most profitable year in the life of every young man. Think what such a year would mean to three fourths of a million of youths who have never gone beyond the elementary-school course; a large portion of whom have never even completed that; tens of thousands of whom have never had any schooling whatever; very few of whom have acquired or are in the way to acquire any adequate training for an occupation worthy of their natural capacities!
The more favored hundred thousand or less, who have completed a highschool course, and the much smaller number of these who are going on to college or other higher school, would find this a most profitable year. It would be a fitting culmination of the education of those whose schooling would otherwise terminate with the high school; while those planning to go on to college would find this year more than an equivalent, scholastically, for the usual first year of the college course, and of inestimable disciplinary value in preparation for the following years.
And by no means the least of the advantages of this year of training for civic responsibility would be found in the health and vigor resulting from living largely in the open air, from abundant physical exercise, from ample and wholesome food, from skillful medical, surgical, dental, and optical attention for the removal or alleviation of physical and sense defects, and from observing generally sound rules of hygiene.
But even greater than all the specific advantages, both for the nation and for the individual, which have thus far been suggested, would be the influences and effects growing out of the intimate associations of youth at the most impressionable age; of youths coming from every conceivable rank and condition of society, bringing together the greatest variety of experience of life, of labor, of responsibility, and of freedom from responsibility; bringing together every conceivable point of view and outlook, all the prejudices, the visions, and noble aspirations characteristic of their years; and all under the leadership and inspiration of the best teachers that America can produce. Here, indeed, are all the essential conditions for building a practical school of democracy worthy the name.
This year of universal training for civic responsibility and occupational efficiency completes the proposed programme for the advancement of American public education, so far as this programme is to be required and universal. Beyond, however, and in addition to this required programme, there should be provided at public expense, and under public control, supplementing the provisions of private and semi-public, agencies, all the varied and ample educational opportunities required to ‘ bring effectively within the reach, not only of every boy and girl, but also of every adult citizen, all the training, physical, mental and moral, literary, technical and scientific, of which he is capable.’
To this end state universities, affording not only instruction of collegiate grade, but the widest range of advanced professional instruction, should be fostered by the nation as well as by the state. Relatively, our whole system of state universities needs strengthening and development almost as much as does our system of lower schools. Only greatly improved state universities will be worthy to continue the work of the lower schools, strengthened and developed as proposed by this programme.
Crowning our whole system of public education, there should be established immediately at Washington the long-projected but never-realized National University, an institution which should deliberately aim, at the outset and continuously, to express the most advanced thought, to afford the richest, most advanced and varied opportunities for study — wholly beyond college grade — to be found anywhere in the world. Much of the immeasurable wealth of the resources of the departments of government, under proper restrictions, of course, should be available as laboratory material. All the results of the work of this institution should be made freely available to governments and to individual citizens.
It almost goes without saying, that such a National University should be entirely supported, and amply supported, at the expense of the national government. That expense would undoubtedly be large and constantly increasing; and so would the service that the institution would render. In a complete scheme of public education, such a high-grade institution is scarcely less essential than is the primary school; both are simply adapted to the capacities and needs of the pupils or scholars that they serve; both serve and strengthen the nation.
Is this vast educational programme practicable? Indeed it is. It is necessary only for the American people to decide that it is worth while and that it shall be carried out. It is the next step in the campaign for enlightened democracy. Even now thousands of American children and youth are enjoying at public expense nearly all the advantages that this programme would afford them; but millions of others, just as worthy, and as educationally needy, are enjoying no such advantage. This is a democratic programme, a programme of equalization, a programme for bringing to the many those advantages that only the select few now enjoy. It is a programme for the development of all, not merely a small part, of the nation’s human resources.
But the cost of it? Would it not be tremendous? No, it would be almost insignificant compared with the cost of war. And there is this difference, which should never be forgotten. The cost of war is the cost of destruction; there is no guaranteed return; indeed, the total cost may exceed many-fold the original investment; while the cost of education is returned many-fold, even in kind, in wealth-producing capacity to make the investing nation materially prosperous; but even greater is the return in intelligence, in public spirit, and in civic responsibility. Investment in the education of her children and youth, of her whole people, is the most gilt-edged investment that any state can make; unlike all other investments, it combines the greatest safety with the largest rate of return.
But while the cost of maintaining this educational programme would be small compared with the cost of war, or with the advantages that would accrue from it, the cost would be large compared with present expenditures for education. The total annual cost for maintenance of public education in the United States, in schools of elementary and high-school grade, — this is exclusive of the cost of buildings, — is now approximately $650,000,000. To carry out the programme here outlined would probably cost from two and one half to three times as much, exclusive of the cost of maintaining the national civic institutes, which would be an entirely new feature, and alone would probably cost approximately $500,000,000 annually.
Two and one half billions of dollars, the cost of this programme, is a large sum, it is true; but it is equally true that thirty millions of pupils is a large number; and it is still further true that, at this rate, the cost per pupil is extremely small — a little over eighty dollars.
But anyone who has even a superficial acquaintance with the present plan of educational organization and administration in America, and with present methods of taxation for educational support, will recognize at once therein insuperable obstacles to the realization of a programme like the one here proposed. The greatest and most fundamental obstacle is undoubtedly financial; next, perhaps scarcely second, is the tradition and pride of local autonomy.
While the total wealth and annual income of the nation is ample to finance this proposed educational programme, the wealth and income of many cities and country districts, taxable units in which perhaps more than half the people to be educated are found, would be taxed beyond any reasonable, frequently any practically possible, limit, were this programme attempted under present methods of educational support. For it is too frequently true that the taxable wealth of a given taxable unit, whether school district, city, county, or state, is in inverse ratio to the educational needs therein.
It is one of the almost sacred traditions of America that complete control as well as the chief financial support of education is a local matter. This feeling of extreme local responsibility has much to commend it; to it must be credited a great deal that is best in American education to-day. But this same feeling, perverted, is equally responsible for much that is worst in our education; for in practice it often works out to mean that a given community claims and exercises the right to maintain as poor and inefficient, not to say corrupt, an educational system as it pleases.
The time has now fully arrived when education generally should be considered and treated as of great, indeed the greatest, national concern. The crisis of the war helped to make this fact stand out in clear relief. It became apparent that the failure of local communities to remove illiteracy and to provide technical training in sufficient variety and extent was a matter of national concern.
And the concern of the nation in the results of our weak and inadequate, locally independent educational systems, was by no means confined to the effect on military efficiency; the effect on our whole national life, on our unity of purpose and effort, were cause for far graver concern.
Let us not deceive ourselves: the gravity of the situation in which we found ourselves less than three years ago has not passed, has not even materially changed for the better.
The great task of achieving real national unity is still before us; the war’s crisis disclosed how far we are from this goal, and brought home the supreme importance of attaining it. Since the war ended, the everyday tragic occurrences in our social, industrial, and commercial life only emphasize and keep before us the war’s disclosure and lesson. In going about this task of achieving essential national unity, education must be our great reliance.
National financial support in considerable measure, coupled with a certain degree of national direction and control, appears to be the only practicable method of dealing with the large educational problems that confront our country. The necessary financial support should be given, and the direction and control exercised, in a way to encourage and increase the support and responsibility of states and local communities. This is entirely feasible by making the extent of national support dependent upon certain practicable degrees of state and local support and the observance of certain very general policies, fundamental to the attainment of the great objectives to be attained, and at the same time by leaving to the states and the local communities the greatest measure of freedom and initiative in devising plans of organization and methods of procedure and in adapting these to local conditions, traditions, ideals, and even prejudices.
The development of this proposed programme in full, even with wholly adequate financial support from the outset, will require several years. The one most important factor in the success of this, or of any educational plan, — qualified teachers, — will require time to develop. First, there must be the sure prospect of a wage sufficiently attractive to induce a sufficient number of people to prepare themselves adequately for the work to be done; next, there must be provided schools of professional training to prepare would-be teachers for service. The number, and in many instances the standards, of existing normal and special training-schools and colleges of education would prove quite inadequate to meet the requirements.
It is evident that the development of this, or of any other plan of education, national in scope and adequate to national needs, demands the establishment of a Department of Education in the national government, a department that shall be on a par with other state departments, having a Secretary at its head, who is a member of the President’s Cabinet.
Let no one suppose that the establishment of such a Department of Education would mark an innovation. On the contrary, the present lack of such a department in the American government places it almost in a class by itself in this respect. In two-score governments, all over the world, there is found a Department, or Ministry, of Education, or Public Instruction.
America is distinguished as the one important nation of the world that fails to recognize education as one of the half-dozen or half-score great national fundamental interests and responsibilities. This is a startling fact; but the allsufficient reason for adequate governmental recognition of public education in America is the simple reason that only through such recognition can there be assured to all the American people adequate preparation for the great tasks that are before them; that only through such recognition of education can the American nation qualify itself to discharge the unprecedented responsibilities that should be welcome, that will be inevitable.
The whole world recognizes to-day, not only the unprecedented responsibilities, but equally the unparalleled opportunities that are America’s. May we not all recognize — all Americans, before it is too late — that the only sane hope of rising to these responsibilities, of grasping these opportunities, must be founded upon the determination to prepare ourselves for them, as a people, as a nation?
We are not now prepared. We are no more prepared to-day for the great emergencies of peace that confront us than we were prepared three years ago for the emergencies of war. Education, hasty and hectic, was our chief resource in preparing for war. Now education, deliberate, intensive, and sustained, must be our basic resource in preparing for peace.