Letters to and From the Editors

Progressive Education

SIR :
Gladwin Hill’s article, “A Father Looks at Progressive Education” (December Atlantic), raises this question. If reality for public school education as far into the future as we can presently see means I) about forty pupils per teacher, without any student assistants for her, 2) hall-day sessions in many schools, and 3) parental detachment and apathy which border on the pathological, should not someone dream up a system of education which would be functional in that it would teach youngsters what they need to learn in order to become healthy-minded and well-informed adults? And should not this system be created within the educational framework which exists and which will continue to exist far into the foreseeable future?
There is something to be gained by setting up an ivory tower environment for educational purposes. The University Elementary School in Los Angeles has obviously done a good job of justifying the “progressive” education methods. (Teachers are now being advised to use the adjective “modern,” which means the same thing but which won’t scare people.) But has if proved, merely by accepting as its pupils a racial and economic cross section of the population, that this method is effective when it faces the reality of the educational picture the country over? It has not.
Furthermore, I feel that Mr. Hill’s contention that the children in the University Elementary School are not hand-picked may not be accurate. True, they are not “hand-picked” on the basis of racial or economic status. But will Mr. Hill give me a definite “yes” or “no” answer as to whether or not they are picked on the basis of IQ? As anyone who has taught knows, one or two subnormals in any given group seriously affect the effectiveness of the teaching job that can be done, particularly in situations where there are no student, assistants to whom the subnormals may be assigned for individual care.
ANNE GOULD FALCON
Los Angeles, Calif.

SIR :
In all the welter of accusations and counteraccusations that have been made about our schools, it is refreshing and encouraging to read Gladwin Hill’s sensible and appreciative account of what one modern school is doing for his children.
WALTER E. CLARK, Director
North Country School
Lake Placid, N.Y.

SIR :
Mr. Hill’s arguments in favor of progressive education, though interesting enough, do not begin to answer objections raised by the colleges.
Freshmen entering college today who have been subjected to intensive progressive education through grammar and high school cannot write their own language. That is meant in two senses. First of all, they are never taught to write script; thus they find they cannot take notes in class, they cannot write examinations, nor can they write extended papers in the privacy of their own rooms. Secondly, they are never taught to organize their thoughts in any cohesive, grammatical, and logical style. In many universities today, there are classes in the writing of English which are of high school level.
Nor does criticism from the colleges end there. Mathematics has become anathema in progressive circles. Mr. Hill has no doubt heard progressive principals of schools suggest that mathematics for all is as absurd as violin playing for all. One very dangerous result of this mathematics-free Utopia is the decline in college students specializing in science and engineering. I refer Mr. Hill to recent articles in his own New York Times comparing Russia’s production of scientists and engineers with our own. The figures lead to the conclusion of a coming Soviet superiority in science unless something is clone soon to restore a status quo ante progressive education in our pre-college schools.
NORMAN HERZ
Brookline, Mass.

SIR :
I must thank you for publishing Mr. Hill’s article, which in its fairness is in marked contrast to a number of recent articles presenting prejudices bolstered by selected exceptional activities.
THOMAS H. BRIGGS
New York City

SIR :
Once upon a time I was a teacher, and my first school was in a farming district where I took charge in 1891 at twenty dollars per month.
There were about forty pupils, varying in age from six to fifteen years, so I had all grades. There was almost perfect discipline both at home and in the school, and there was no such thing as juvenile delinquency. Perhaps that was due to the fact that in every household there was family worship at bedtime every night.
As time went on I obtained a position in ;i graded school in a city, at fifty dollars per month. I did not then know anything about “progressive education,”and do not know much more about it now, but. I do know that it is possible to have efficient and successful schools without any frills. I might add that there was seldom any necessity for punishment, but parents and teachers did not hesitate to apply the strap when the need for it was indicated.
M. H. DOBIE
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

SIR :
Congratulations on your delightful article about progressive education by Gladwin Hill. May we have permission to reprint in booklet form for distribution to educational leaders throughout the United States in January?
ROY IV. WILSON, Executive Secretary
National School Public Relations Association of National Education Association
Washington, D.C.

SIR :
I looked forward to the December number of the Atlantic in order that I might add to my collection of Pickwick illustrations. I did not know I would receive a bonus until I found Mr. Hill’s article. This article should be required reading for parents and teachers.
NELLIE L. GRIFFITHS
Professor of Education
North Texas State College,
School of Education
Denton,Tex.

SIR :
Since our own Campus School offers a program very similar to that of the college-sponsored school described in “A Father Looks at Progressive Education,” my fellow staff members and I have a more than usual understanding and appreciation of points Mr. Hill made.
It seems to us that Mr. Hill was trying to give a picture of what modern education can do for children, but was neither defensive about it nor antagonistic toward other schools. As professional educators, we do not expect that all articles will be telling just the praiseworthy parts of public education. We want discussion of all phases of the educational program. What we like in this article is the calm appraisal of a program.
R. F. HAWK, Director
of Campus School and Student Teaching
Western Washington College of Education
Bellingham, Wash.

“The Last Spring”

SIR :
Margaret Richardson’s “The Last Spring” (December Atlantic) moved me deeply. In the several years that I have been reading the Atlantic, nothing else has struck me so much by its perfect, sincerity and craftsmanship.
JOE CHARLES FRIEDMAN
Brooklyn, N.Y.

SIR :
“The Last Spring” is one of the most revolting things I’ve ever read. It would be impossible to convey the disgust my family and I felt alter reading it. Perhaps it does contain an account of “reverence and love that overwhelmed” Mrs. Richardson, but that was obscured by the gory details.
MRS. JOE M. YOUNG
Columbia, Tenn.

SIR :
I am a paralytic, with total disability. You can see why that true account of a stricken home affected me. It was beautifully told.
1 am a hemiplegic. I stumbled with that poor fellow and wept with him in his frustration and helplessness. I understand. My wife, too, is capable and brave. The children are kind and understanding. Tragedies like “The Last Spring” and my own crippling stroke have the bitter and the sweet—suffering and sacrifice, with love and trust. It is common — look around.
NEIL COTTER
West Roxbury, Mass.

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