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Federal supervision of education unless it has at its head a permanent nonpolitical bureau chief of the best quality.
I understand you have a bill which it is rumored is somewhat on these lines, but I have not seen it. Very truly yours,
A. LAWRENCE LOWELL. Hon. FREDERICK W. DALLINGER,
House Committee on Education, Washington, D. C.
NEW YORK City, February 15, 1924. Hon. FREDERICK W. DALLINGER,
House of Representatives, Washington D. C. DEAR SIR: I have been requested to express to you my opinion on the socalled education bill now pending before your committee.
I can do no better than to inclose herewith text of an address which I delivered before the Pennsylvania State Education Association at Philadelphia on December 27 last, which contains a reference to the principles which underly this May I ask for a copy of your bill, 6522, which I have heard highly commended? Faithfully yours,
NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER.
TRUTH AND ILLUSION AS TO EDUCATION
In an address delivered before the Pennsylvania State Education Association at Philadelphia, Pa., December 27, 1923, Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia College, spoke in part as follows:
“Another - widespread illusion as to education is that the more elaborate, the more complicated, and the more costly the machinery of school organization the better will be the product. The reverse is the fact. Standardization, Government-made uniformity and bureaucratic regulation are not the allies of education but its mortal enemies. The educational process is founded upon a human relationship and whatever displaces that relationship for statistics, for reports, for machine-made routine, far from strengthening the educational process, directly weakens it. Given a well-trained teacher, filled with zeal for the profession he has chosen, properly compensated and well regarded by the community in which he lives, all else will follow. For the teacher of rich personality, of sound scholarship, and of devotion to the highest of ideals there is and can be no possible substitute in legislation or in appropriations. In particular, it is vital, if the American school system is to survive, that the Federal Government keep its hands off the schools. Imagine, if you can, our diverse and diversified population, scattered over a vast territory, living under widely varying social and economic conditions, all brought to heel in their schools, as the people of Prussia once were, by the authority and the edicts of a central office at the National Capital. Most of us no doubt shudder at such a prospect, but there appear to be some who view it without misgiving. For myself, I should regard any such development as marking the beginning of the end of the America which our fathers knew, and of that American school system in which our generation has been brought up. I should look upon it as evidence that while the American people nobly and honorably joined in defeating the German armies on the field of battle, the ruling ideas that sent those armies to make war upon free peoples had conquered the American mind. There are no doubt those who sincerely believe that the Prussian ideal of organized efficiency is superior to the old American ideal of personal liberty and freedom of initiative in as many fields of endeavor as possible. From such an opinion I dissent with all possible emphasis. As Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman once said in a notable phrase, "Good government is no substitute for self-government.” Freedom, with all its mistakes, is infinitely to be preferred to the rule of the most benignant tyrant or that of the most effective bureaucracy. The American system of education, always close to the hearts of the people, and responding as it has done from its earliest beginnings to the zeal, the sacrifice, and the ambition of the neighborhood, will disappear like dew before the morning sun if the heavy and mechanical hand of the National Government is ever laid upon it in administrative control.
"The pending proposal to create an executive department of education at Washington, its head to have a seat in the President's Cabinet, makes an obvious appeal to our professional vanity and pride, but I can not see that it serves any other useful purpose. The late William Torrey Harris, clarum et venerabile nomen, who presided for so many years and with so great distinction over the Bureau of Education at Washington, had the clearest and best conception of its functions. He held that neither agriculture, nor commerce, nor education, nor labor, nor the post office should be represented in the President's Cabinet or be in anywise related to the changing political control of the National Government. Šo far as the National Government has to do with these great social and economic concerns it should aim to deal with them in a nonpartisan and nonpolitical spirit, along lines of well-considered and well-established policy that would not change with the coming and going of political administrations. Those departments of Government which have to do with foreign affairs, with internal affairs, with the Treasury, with the national defense, and with the legal work of the Government are obviously parts of our political organization which must change as the head of the Executive Department himself changes, and their heads are the natural political advisers of the President. It would be far more in the public interest to remove the heads of the Department of Agriculture, of Commerce, of Labor, and of the Post Office from the Cabinet than to add new members to that body, put there because of these precedents.
“There is also a considerable body of opinion in our profession which voices support of a proposal that the National Government should make an annual appropriation of $100,000,000 to aid the States in certain specific parts of their educational work. This I believe to be a distinctly harmful proposal from whatever point of view it be examined. One hundred million dollars is just about the amount which the city of New York alone is now spending each year in the maintenance of its public educational system, exclusive of the cost of new buildings and their sites. Such an amount, however large it may sound, when spread over the entire country will be but a drop in the bucket. To accomplish any such purposes as the proponents of this measure have in mind would require a national appropriation of five hundred millions, or even of one thousand millions annually. Is there anyone who really supposes that the National Government would make, or would be justified in making, any such appropriation unless it followed it with administrative supervision and control? Any other course on the part of the National Government would be mere profligacy, and what national supervision and control of our school systems would mean I have already indicated.
“That these are paths of progress is an illusion. The true path of progress lies in a different direction. It is correct to say that the education of the people is a national responsibility, but in our American system this does not mean that it is either solely a governmental responsibility or a responsibility of the National Government at all. In American public law education is a function of the State, and the States have uniformly decentralized educational supervision and control to the largest practicable extent. This is as it should be. The several States will be quite well able to bear their responsibility in the matter of education if they will revise their systems of taxation and treat the schools and their teachers as really fundamental in their thinking on public matters. Too often the schools and their teachers are given what remains after other public needs have been provided for. In our American life the schools and their teachers are, on the other hand, entitled to first consideration, for until they are cared for there can be no assurance that whatever else is done at public cost is worth doing at all or will last.
"The whole matter reduces itself, as it has done from the days of ancient Greece, to a question of human personality. It is the guiding and inspiring relationship of one human being to a group of younger persons that is the true and inescapable educational instrument; all else is secondary. Let us strive to put machinery and formalism, even the necessary machinery and the needed formalism, as much in the background as possible, and exalt the teacher to his place of honor. Offer him the best training that scholarship and experience can suggest. Reward him as becomes a leader in the neighborhood's life and in keeping alight the fires of the truest and finest patriotism. Give to him the recognition which belongs to his station and the commanding importance of his task. Do these things and the American system of education, avoiding all temptation to remodel itself upon Prussian ideals, will continue to grow in power and in usefulness for generations to come.”
CHICAGO, ILL., March 17, 1924. DEAR MR. DALLINGER: May I venture to make a comment on pending educational legislation? Perhaps I am entitled to an opinion on the subject-I was for 15 years a teacher in the public schools of the State of New York, for 7 years a member of the faculty of the State University of Minnesota, and since then for 32 years have been connected with the University of Chicago, having retired from the presidency of that institution a year ago.
Distribution of funds from the Federal Treasury among the States, in my opinion, is wholly wrong in principle and dangerous in practice. It adds one more to the numerous raids on the tax funds of the Federal Government-it tends to central control of State affairs. Educatlon belongs to the States, not to the Government at Washington.
Creating a department of education with a Cabinet officer at its head, necessarily puts the whole matter into politics.
The existing bureau may have added powers without detriment—its function of gathering and distributing educational information may be made more effective—but I earnestly hope that no bill will pass which puts the bureau into politics, and that no bill will pass which distributes more Federal funds for State functions. What the country needs is less taxes rather than more expenses. Very truly yours,
HARRY PRATT Judson,
President Emeritus, The University of Chicago. Hon. FREDERICK W. DALLINGER,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 14, 1924. DEAR MR. DALLINGER: I am asked to write you in regard to the Sterling; Reed bill, which has had one or two earlier names. From the very beginning, I have regarded it with profound distrust. I disbelieve in Federal control of education, in the kind of standardizing likely to result from it, in the lavish use of money that it will demand, in the plan of distributing that money, and, most of all, I disbelieve in the political abuse to which Federal control of education will inevitably be put. Sincerely yours,
L. B. R. BRIGGS,
Dean of Harvard College
(For over 20 years President of Radcliffe College). Hon. FREDERICK W. DALLINGER.
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI,
Cincinnati, Ohio, February 18, 1924. Hon. FREDERICK W. DALLINGER,
Chairman House Committee on Education. DEAR SIR: I am afraid that it will not be possible for me to be at the hearings before your committee beginning the 20th instant. I am very much interested, and I have made a careful study of proposed Federal legislation affecting education ever since the present agitation began nearly six years ago. I am submitting herewith a statement of my conclusions with regard to this matter, with the request that the same go into the printed record of the hearings.
After all of these years of discussion there are now four plans from which to choose. I have prepared a rough organization chart showing the essential features of each and will make brief comments and criticisms on each of them in turn.
1. The present situation (see Chart I): It takes but a brief glance at the present composition of the Department of the Interior to show the desirability of some change. This department is indeed a "catch all” and there are at least three bureaus which should be lifted out and placed elsewhere, They are the Bureau of Education, Bureau of Child Welfare, and the Pension Bureau. These do not belong with the material interests with which they are incorporated. All
agree that the Bureau of Education, particularly, is in too subordinate a place. We can continue the present arrangement, but there are two other plans, either of which would be better. I will indicate these presently.
2. H. R. 3923 (see Chart II): This bill has also been introduced in the Senate (S. R. 1337) and is the same as bills which were introduced in previous late sessions of Congress. Unfortunately, the organization which has been the chief sponsor of this bill committed itself definitely to this particular plan before there had been sufficient discussion as a basis for the proper definition of the powers of the department which its bill creates. No bill ever had such a gigantic campaign of propaganda behind it, and in one way or another, through onesided presentations, unfortunate bargaining, the capitalizing of the opposition of certain groups with prejudices against others, or otherwise, a vast array of support has been lined up for this measure. And now that the indorsement of so many organizations has been won, the chief sponsor of the measure is in the position of one who has made a motion and cannot withdraw it without the consent of the person or persons who have seconded it. Consequently this chief sponsor must go on supporting the bill to the end, and in opposing any other plan which is submitted.
The friends of this bill will continue to reiterate, with such appearance of sincerity as they can muster, the statement that their bill does not mean Federal control of education. The author of the famous protecting clause showed it to me before it was inserted in the bill, but I said then and I say now that money and control should go together in all public enterprises, and I have yet to find a person whose judgment I respect in such matters who does not fully concur in this view. I am therefore opposed to this measure on account of its unconstitutionality, for any measure is none the less unconstitutional because it does indirectly what can not be done directly. This bill does this, and if I had time to trace the history of this bill I could show that the clause referred to was put in merely to win support for the measure and not because of any sincere opposition to national control over education. I need only point to the fact that the National Education Association which “unanimously” indorsed this bill at the Milwaukee meeting in the summer of 1919, also "unamiously” indorsed “An act providing for a year of compulsory civic,, physical, and vocational training under the proposed department of education.”
But quite aside from such considerations, the bill is bad for the following reasons:
It will inevitably put education into politics, with a change in the Cabinet officer every time there is a change in Presidents.
It does not definitely specify what educational activities shall be transferred to the proposed department with the exception of those now in charge of the Bureau of Education. By leaving this question of transfer to Congress, these other activities would be so many balls in a constant game of battledore and shuttlecock between competing governmental departments.
The composition of the proposed national council on education is a huge joke. Ninety-eight members in a council. Forty-eight State superintendents on this council ex officio, and of course they are for the bill, with the expenses of an annual trip to Washington paid. Consider the average caliber of these State officers, and the further fact that nearly three-fourths of them are still elected by popular vote on a political party ticket. No wonder the secretary is given the chance to appoint 50 friends of his, 25 educators and 25 “noteducators,” for his protection.
And why the added expense of “educational attachés to foreign embassies" when it should be a part of the duties of our ambassadors to supply us with all that is needed in the way of reports concerning the educational systems of the countries to which they are sent? The only reason that I can imagine for this arrangement is that some professor of education on the so-called emergency commission,” which was appointed to map out a program for the “rebuilding of civilization through a war-modified education," thought it would be a nice way to provide opportunities for some of his graduate students to get material for doctor's theses.
And last, but not least-look at the chart once more—is the fact that this bill lays stress upon the appropriation of money instead of research, with all of the evil consequences which have been pointed out again and again, including the inevitable starving of local initiative and an unnecessary increase in the burden of taxation. Not "counsel and encouragement," not advice, not information, not pitiless publicity of scientific facts, but money is the offer of the Federal Government to the “poor" States.
For other points not touched upon I need only say that I am in essential agreement with the majority report of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States on this bill.
3. H. R. 5795 (see Chart III): This plan overcomes objections to the plan provided in the Sterling-Reed bill.
It heads up four grand divisions of legitimate Federal activity that belong together. The tendency more and more, in local and State governments, is to bring such things into close cooperation. Why not nationally? And by placing the division of education, which is the one with which we are here concerned, in charge of an expert who is to be an undersecretary, there is a way of escape provided from one of the dangers to which we have referred. For whereas cabinet officers go and come whenever there is a change in the Presidency, sometimes oftener, those in undersecretaryships need not change and often they do not. The reason for this lies in the fact that when an expert becomes thoroughly acquainted with the work of an office, his retention is the guarantee of continuity in the development of well thought-out policies, and however much a newly elected President might be inclined to yield to political considerations in choosing a cabinet officer as a member of his immediate official family, there would be little temptation to remove a real expert in an undersecretaryship. Experience shows this.
This plan also definitely specifies what educational activities shall be transferred to the proposed department of education and welfare, and in this respect is an improvement over the Sterling-Reed bill for the reason given above,
It makes no provision for an educational council, but no council at all would be better than one composed as provided in the Sterling-Reed bill, and it eliminates the unnecessary provision for "educational attachés" contained in that bill.
It eliminates all provision for the objectionable subsidies and makes provision for research.
In a word, I do not find much to criticize in this bill, unless it is the lack of definiteness found in H. R. 6582, to which I shall turn in a moment, and if the provisions of the bill just referred to could be incorporated in the division of education of the department of education and welfare bill, that, in my judgment, would he the best plan of all. It would add something in the way of dignity which does not belong to a bureau and would pacify any who are troubled with a self-importance complex. But if we can not have this combination of these two bills, then I am for the bill which provides for “the better definition” and extension of the purpose and duties of the bureau of education as the next easy. an logical step.
4. H. R. 6582 (see Chart IV): This bill shows unmistakable evidence of rare, insight and a statesmanlike handling of the problem in a government like ours.
By enlarging the responsibilities of the commissioner of education he becomes relatively independent of the Secretary of the Interior in many important matters, even though the Bureau of Education remains attached to this department. This is a clear gain, and is in harmony with the common practice of giving educetion a position of relative independence from the civil authorities.
It places the emphasis upon research, as is proper, and omits the subs dy features. From the beginning the bureau has been advisory and informatory in functions, and by enlarging the provisions for research, adequately financed, the bureau could henceforth have a more scientific basis for such functions. This is the “paramount ” need. Education should have no control b it science; no authority but facts; no "leadership," but the truth.
The two councils proposed are sensibly and ingeniously composed. The one, consisting of a representative of each of the other executive departments, sitting with the commissioner as chairman, can bring about the coordination of educational activities in mind without that interference with certain kinds of educational work to which the other departments cling so tenaciously. I can readily. understand why they should do so, and I can see real objections to any plan which calls for a monopoly of educational activity, whether by a department or bureau. The other council of 15 members, and of the commissioner's own choosing e itirely, is a fully defensible arrangement and would be a real support to the bureau and its commissioner.
I also like the plan by which the commissioner nominates the assistant commissioner, just as school superintendents everywhere nominate their assistants.
There would also be decided advantages in keeping the title "commissioner,' after its use for more than half a century, to designate our chief Federal educational officer and now found on thousands of pages of reports and educational literature.