Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

(The matter referred to is as follows:)

COLUMBUS, OHIO, April 25, 1924. Hon. HENRY ST. JOHN TUCKER, M. C.,

Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: I am in receipt of a copy of your speech on the so-called SterlingTowner bill.

In 1906, 1907, and 1908 I was city school superintendent of the District of Columbia, Roosevelt being President. He asked me to take the position, and I served several days before I saw more than the two board members who offered the election to me. (I was then city school superintendent of Paterson, N. J.)

Ever since my experiences in Washington I have been firmly, unalterably, and completely opposed to any and every extension of Central Government powers, duties, functions, and burdens. I am in particular opposed to any larger development of educational authority from Washington. My reasons are as follows, viz:

1. If there should be any appointment of a head of a national department of education with Cabinet rank, such a position would not go to a leading educator for several reasons, viz:

(A) No leading educator would give up a permanent post for the doubtful honor of a four years' term at the low salary of $12,000 a year. A score of permanent positions in education are now paying that, and hundreds of positions pay almost as much.

Educators look to permanence far more than to mere amount of pay.

(B) Cabinet positions go to lay men, not to experts. No admiral heads the Navy; no general heads the War Department; no skilled postmaster was ever made Postmaster General. Many Attorneys General have been in no sense great lawyers. Many Secretaries of the Treasury have not been expert financiers, etc. No really first-class university president or city school superintendent would be appointed to a political position such as this certainly would be.

(C) An educator would be out of place in a Cabinet. The very nature of the work of education disqualifies a man from doing easily work of the kind required of Cabinet officers. Educators think and live 10 or 20 years ahead of the times. They should do so. That is their function.

2. Education is essentially a personal, private, direct affair, and the nearer its direction and operation comes to the individual himself, his family, his town, the better. There are no analogies between government and education in this respect. Of course, it is to the interest of the State that everyone should be well educated, but it by no means follows that government should go into the general business of education. In most States of the Union, though the public schools are supported by taxes raised through government agencies, they are actually controlled by boards of education not themselves of political origin. Rural school districts, county boards, city boards, and State boards of education are enough, perhaps even too much, to control this business of education. To add supervision by department of education would be to regimentate this individual work of education into something monstrous.

3. I have watched with the closest personal attention the entire movement now culminating in this Sterling-Towner bill. I have seen the National Education Association become a politico-education machine with high-salaried officers and with limited suffrage. I was for 10 years a member of the program committee of the old National Education Association, and saw the workings of it from the inside. I have given 17 addresses before annual gatherings of this body, all of them prior to the triumph of these machinists over the voluntary workers, the free enthusiasts of the older days.

It is as a profound believer in education, a believer especially in the research work of education, a believer who has worked actively for the new ideas and practices, who has built technical high schools, taught economics himself in colleges, made school surveys, etc., that I write this. I have been in every State of the Union and in every Province of Canada seeking to inform myself regarding the facts about education. I am mortally afraid of standardization of education lest it lower the level of the average schools and kills off the experiments and the enthusiasm of the progressive schools.

The proponents of this movement assert that they favor the best courses, the best programs, the best organization for all schools. I submit that it is not given to any man or to any group of men to know what the best is. The notion that a man does know the best suggests to me that this man is on the road to tyranny or to insanity. Life is competition.

Moreover, these people say that they will get more money for the schools. This sounds well. My own opinion is that the more the schools are decentralized, the more we allow private schools of all kinds and grades, the more that we encourage localities and philanthropists to get into the game of improving education, and the more we keep out these standardizationists, the more money there will be spent on education, and the more wisely on the whole.

I might speak of graft or corruption, of tradition, of other situations that would increase under this plan, but these are obvious enough.

In my book Educational Sociology, Century Co., New York, 1919, I worked out a theory of the main social institutions-government, religion, family, school, business, science, etc. I went over much the same ground in my book Motives, Ideals, and Values in Education, Houghton-Mifflin, Boston, 1906, and in other books also. But mine has been a voice crying in the din of the market place, unheeded though not unheard. I am against all movements that tend to take responsibility from individuals. I am a Jeffersonian of the old school, believing in localism, decentralization, democracy.

The notion that Congress has time to take on the control also of education is so absurd that I wonder that sane men can hold it. But they seem to do so. А Cabinet seat for a politician to “bring up education to the level” of agriculture in importance is a proposition that should be laughed out of court. Education like religion and like family life is a thing apart from the business of Congress and of President. I even believe that the public schools of the District of Columbia should have an elected board of education and be entirely paid for by the people of Washington. I am, very respectfully yours,

W. E. CHANCELLOR. Mr. TUCKER. The other communication is from Miss Crawford, a professor at Green Brier College, which I am proud to state is located in my district. Miss Crawford is a New York woman who has gone there as a professor. Her paper was sent to Doctor Pritchett first, and he sent it to me. I think it is one of the best

papers and I ask that it be incorporated in the record.

The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, that will be done. (The matter referred to is as follows:)

I have seen,

THE EDUCATION BILL AGAIN Once more a bill has been presented to Congress "to create a department of education, to authorize appropriations for the conduct of said department, to authorize the appropriation of money to encourage the States in the promotion and support of education, and for other purposes. .” The present bill is familiarly known as the education bill, or the Sterling-Reed bill (S. 1337; H. R. 3923), and is substantially the same as the Towner-Sterling bill introduced into the last Congress.

The main provisions of the bill may be summarized as follows: The creation of a department of education, analogous to the Department of Agriculture or of Labor, whose chief administrative officer shall be a member of the President's Cabinet, appointed in the same way as the other Secretaries, heads of executive departments of the Federal Government. The chief functions of this newly created department of education shall be (1) to investigate and report on the following educational matters: (a) Illiteracy; (b) immigrant education; (c) public-school education, and especially rural schools; (d) physical education, including health education, recreation, and sanitation; (e) preparation and supply of competent teachers for the public schools; (f) higher education; and (g) "in such other fields as, in the judgment of the secretary of education, may require attention and study;" and (2) to give financial aid to the several States for the promotion of these special activities.

The funds authorized by this bill for the operation of the proposed new department, and for distribution among the several States, are as follows: (Sections 6 to 11.) Administration, investigations, etc

$500, 000 Illiteracy

7, 500, 000 Americanization -

7, 500, 000 Teachers' salaries, and in other ways to “equalize educational opportunities” throughout the States.

50, 000, 000 Physical education.

20, 000, 000 Training of teachers..

15, 000, 000

Total...

100, 500, 000

*

The grants made from this Federal fund are to be matched in each case by at least an equal appropriation from the treasury of each State accepting any part of this Federal subsidy, so that the bill actually provides for the expenditure of $200,000,000 for the first year. In addition it is contemplated that all the various Federal bureaus, boards, etc., now occupied with education will eventually be transferred to the new department of education (sec. 3), and with this transfer will go "all appropriations which have been made and which may hereafter be made" to such bureaus, etc. (sec. 6). The bill is silent as to the particular bureaus which may be thus absorbed (with the exception of the present Bureau of Education, which is expressly mentioned as one of the bureaus to be thus combined with the new department). It is therefore impossible to estimate the total of the combined appropriations which may eventually come under the control of the proposed new department. It is clear, however, that this would be no insignificant sum.

The repeatedly avowed intention of the proponents of the education bill is merely to "encourage” the States to remove illiteracy, to "equalize educational opportunities,” etc. Furthermore, all funds apportioned to the various States are to be “distributed and administered in accordance with the laws of said State

and the State and local educational authorities of said State shall determine the course of study, plans, and methods of carrying out the purposes” of the bill. (Secs. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Finally, it is declared that “this act shall not be construed to imply Federal control of education within the States, nor to impair the freedom of the States in the conduct and mangement of their respective school systems. (Sec. 13.)

Nevertheless, the education bill actually does provide that no State shall be eligible to receive this Federal bounty unless, for the purpose of "equalizing educational opportunity" (1) it establish by law a school term of not less than 24 weeks in each year; (2) unless it have a compulsory school attendance law for all children between the ages of 7 and 14 years; (3) unless the basic language of instruction be English; and in no case (4) unless it appoint a State officer to administer the Federal funds; (5) unless the State keep account of the Federal funds according to a plan to be prescribed by the secretary of education; (6) unless the State officer shall report annually to the Federal department in regard to the administration of funds granted under this act. (If a State be prevented by its constitution from full compliance with these conditions, an apportionment may nevertheless be made, if the conditions are approximated as nearly as constitutional limitations will permit.) These restrictions may seem wise and benevolent in intent. They do nevertheless smack of “paternalism, and are restrictions imposed by Congress upon the State administration of its educational system. They are therefore tantamount to an infringement of State sovereignty in a field where local initiative, responsibility, and control should be supreme, according to the fundamental traditions of our Republic.

It may be easier to appreciate the force of the various arguments for and against the bill if we summarize one by one the points urged in support of such a Federal department of education, and then, in each case, immediately following, give the opposing arguments:

I

The interests of education and of the country as a whole demand that education be taken into account in establishing the general public policies of the Nation. Therefore, the national secretary of education must be a member of the President's Cabinet, and the appropriations provided must be commensurate with the importance of education in national affairs.

Under the Federal Constitution, as is admitted by the proponents of the bill, education is primarily and directly the concern of the several States. It is decidedly contrary to American tradition, practice, and temperament to adopt "general public policies,” in so far as these policies involve uniformity and standardization in educational matters, irrespective of peculiar local conditions, and in so far as such uniform standards are set up by a central Federal authority, thus involving an abrogation of local self-government. In support of this point we need only call to witness the friction between National and State educational authorities, already aroused by the operation of the Federal Board for Vocational Education established in 1917.

II

The new department of education, through its secretary, would assume the leadership in developing American education. Such national leadership is sorely needed.

Leadership, to be sure, is needed, but not the kind of leadership that for the past three decades has been running riot through American public education from the kindergart to the university. Furthermore, true leadership can not be created by fiat, or by the power to assign Government subsidies. On the contrary, such a power is more likely to bolster up a false leader, to smother local initiative and responsibility, and consequently to diseourage the development and recognition of natural leaders. Another section of the bill provides for the creation of a "national council of education,” consisting of approximately 100 educators and laymen who shall annually “consult and advise with the secretary of education on subjects relating to the promotion and development of education in the United States” (sec. 17). Experience seems to suggest that such a large advisory council might be of very questionable value to the secretary and might tend to foster dissension rather than leadership.

III

The position which the secretary would hold in the President's Cabinet would increase the dignity and prestige of educational matters in the eyes of the American people.

Again, we maintain that the dignity and prestige of educators or of education can not be legislated into being, can not be increased by the creation of a secretaryship. On the contrary, there is grave danger that the creation of a new department, analogous to the Department of Agriculture, or of Labor, for instance, will make education the plaything of political parties, and in so far as this happens, the dignity and prestige of educational matters will approach the vanishing point. There must be other safer ways of arousing the American people to the true value of education—ways which will be more compatible with our traditional policy of maintaining the independence of our educational systems, and with the growing tendency to free the school administration from oppressive political control, even when that control is confined within the limits of a city. Indeed, it requires only a very short memory to recall the consternation in the educational world at the sudden and apparently involuntary resignation of a commissioner of the present Bureau of Education. If politics can reach down and cut off the head of a subordinate bureau of the Department of the Interior, how much more active would these same influences be in displacing a member of the President's Cabinet which, it is taken for granted, will be of the same political complexion as the party which happened to dominate the last election.

IV

The commission of the National Education Association, which drafted the educational bill in its original form, came to the conclusion that education in the United States was suffering from four main defects: (1) Failure of the schools to reach the non-English-speaking aliens, and native illiterates; (2) failure to provide an effective health program; (3) great inequalities of public schools, and particularly inferiority of many rural schools; (4) lack of a sufficient supply of trained teachers. The National Education Association maintains that it is impossible to find a speedy remedy for these defects without substantial subsidies from the Federal Government.

The present chaotic condition of our public schools (as well as of our colleges and universities) is generally admitted-due partly perhaps to the defects cited, but in much ter degree to other more fundamental causes, which the educational bill does not specifically aim to remove. These more fundamental causes, which “those who run may read” in the prevailing tendencies of the past two or three decades, may be thus tersely summarized: "Scattering” and “smattering,' "leveling down" rather than "leveling up." Do not these tendencies truly involve the greatest danger to the intellectual life of our Nation to-day? are to hold fast to our ideal of democracy, in its original lofty conception, must we not allow greater opportunity for the development of an intellectual aristocracy? The present-day persistent cry for “uniformity," alias “equalization," of educational opportunity and standards threatens to kill the spirit of intellectual endeavor on a high plane, to reduce intellectual attainment to the dull mediocrity

If we

of a common level, to smother those who, by nature, should become the intellectual and moral leaders of the Republic.

We admit that “equal opportunity for all" is the noblest battle cry for democracy. But by “equality we do not mean “identity.' On the contrary, every individual must have equal opportunity to develop his individual powers to their highest, whether those powers carry him to the heights of Mount Olympus or only to the steel mills of Pittsburgh. No social or political democracy van long endure unless it is at the same time an intellectual and moral aristocracy. An equality which means reduction to a dead level inevitably leads to mediocrity.

One of the imminent dangers of our democracy is failure to recognize frankly the intellectual strata of mankind, and to afford to each the dignity which is its due. To be sure, everyone is not capable of learning or appreciating the beauties of subtleties of a work of art or a foreign language, or a problem in pure mathematics—or to find poetry in the performance of a surgical operation, or in the construction of a bridge or skyscraper. Many of us are limited to an acquaintance merely with intellectual brick and mortar. Individuals so limited have an honorable place in society--this we can learn from Plato-so long as they perform loyally and well the functions assigned to them by Providence. They are quite as necessary to the life of the State as those more lavishly endowed by nature. As matter of fact, it is not always possible to make such a sharp distinction. Some of us occasionally glimpse the heights although most of the time we can not get beyond the valleys or the foothills. It should be the function of public education to take account of both these elements in man's nature, and not, as at present, to put obstacles in the path of those who are bound for the higher road. In short, the fundamental relation between “equality" and “democracy seems to be still a moot question. Until a satisfactory solution is found and generally accepted, there seems small hope that other efforts for reform will meet with any great measure of success. The education bill tends to emphasize, rather than to remove, the present lamentable confusion between equality and identity.

Moreover, it is by no means clear that substantial subsidies by the Federal Government will remedy the shortcomings cited by the National Education Association, and much less those more glaring and far-reaching defects, which are undermining the foundation rocks of our democracy, so wisely and so hopefully laid by the founders of the Republic. The champions of the bill seem to have implicit though unwarranted faith in the power of money and legislation to eradicate the shortcomings of the public schools. It is also maintained that supporters of the bill have no adequate fact basis for their statement that such defects can be remedied only by Federal monev grants. It is by no means established that low educational standards and unsatisfactory results are the outcome of low financial ability on the part of any particular State to provide adequate schooling for its citizens. For instance, Pennsylvania is one of the wealthiest States in the Union. In spite of its high per capita wealth, however, its State and local taxes are extraordinarily low and its support of the public school system proverbially deficient (outside the larger cities). To what extent wo th education bill encourage the people of Pennsylvania to promote education by making them believe that they are getting two dollars for every one they spend? How much less likely would they be to raise adequate funds throug!ı local taxation, is they knew that a large proportion of the me iger State and 'o al appropriations would be duplicated by Federal grants. In short, it seems hardly reasonable to press the necessity for Federal aid until careful examination has been made of the tax systems of the various States to ascertain what effort local communities are making to meet their own responsibilities and to express an interest in education proportionate to their financial ability.

It should also be pointed out that no evidence has been offered in support of the bill (or in the bill itself) to indicate that the particular amounts stipulated for the special purposes enumerated have been arrived at after any careful study of actual needs. No tentative budget has been presented to support even the item of $500,000 for the administrative expenses of the Washington offices of the department. This may seem a minor point, but its importance looms large when we consider how long and how earnestly the most far-seeing of our citizens and public officials have been endeavoring to eliminate "blanket appropriations from our national finances and to inaugurate a budget system to cover all Federal expenditures.

An even more important point is the power which the promise of Federal aid would exert in the debates of the State legislatures. Obviously, the pressure would be great to secure a Federal grant for, say, “Americanization,” because

« ForrigeFortsett »