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Consumers and Total Defense--The Schools and the Defense

by Harold F. Clark - 1941

During the summer of 1940 the faculty of Teachers College developed the Creed of Democracy under the leadership of Professor Thomas H. Briggs. This and the associated documents have had a far-flung influence. Every department of Teachers College probably has members on Defense Committees and Emergency Committees and in similar activities in their particular fields—members who will gladly be of service to teachers and school administrators anywhere by furnishing information on specific questions. To facilitate the process of getting together persons interested in the same fields, Dean William F. Russell asked Professor Paul R. Mort to serve as a correlating agent. As a result, several committees were appointed. During the year additional faculty members were drawn into various defense activities outside the College. Conferences of the committee chairmen during the Summer School of 1941 led to the plan of holding a meeting at which persons concerned with various aspects of the defense problem would present brief statements of their activities. The purpose was to help teachers build a picture of what might be done by the schools on their own initiative. Professor Benjamin R. Andrews was instrumental in preparing the present document to supplement these verbal statements with brief accounts of what some of the Teachers College Staff are doing in defense work and with suggestions of services that teachers everywhere can render to promote community stability and welfare at present and also the protection and improvement of the position of America on into the post-emergency period. Teachers should be ready to initiate local leadership in their own communities by consulting with municipal officials and bringing together informal groups to canvass the local situation, getting in touch with their governors and such national agencies as may be necessary, in order to provide local committees to undertake such community services.

Total war involves all the people and almost all activities of all the people. The bulk of the activities of the people of all nations is devoted to providing ordinary consumer goods. Poor countries, such as India or China, use 90 to 95 per cent of their total income to provide food, clothing, and shelter. The richest countries of the world use from 60 to 65 per cent for food, clothing, and shelter. If the provisions for other consumer goods, such as leisure, health, and education are added, from 80 to 85 per cent is used for consumer goods even in the United States.

Any great effort devoted to war must mean giving up a large fraction of our consumer goods. Our income is running at the rate of about ninety billion dollars per year. We could divert ten and perhaps fifteen billion to war without drastically changing our consuming habits. There are many who think our defense expenditures will have to go up to thirty-five billion dollars per year. We cannot reach that level without drastically reducing our ordinary consumer goods and services.

Where should that reduction come? A certain minimum of food should be provided for all. An adequate diet can be provided for all and still get substantial reductions in consumer food expenditures. Relatively much larger decreases can come in clothing and housing expenditures. If education shows people what to do, these decreases should cause little harm and may in some cases actually help general welfare. People can do far more for themselves. A good school system, particularly in this time of crisis, should show them how.

Drastic reductions can take place in expenditures for leisure without any appreciable harm being done. People can provide their own leisure, perhaps of a better quality than what they buy. Expenditures for health should be watched with great care. Any drastic reduction is likely to cause serious harm. Reductions in education should be watched with fully as much care. Any reasonable education more than pays for itself by increased efficiency. In general, one would say reduce luxuries and nonessential consumer items. Hold to a high minimum level on those items which increase efficiency.

From many standpoints the item of saving is among the most important. Savings are absolutely necessary in a period of crisis such as this. Large savings should go into Government Bonds. Savings should be made to provide for post-war transition. Gigantic sums are needed in savings to provide for technical advance. Without this technical advance a modern war would soon be lost.

In our period of crisis, the consumer should buy with great care necessary items. Luxury items should be reduced to a minimum. As many things as possible consumers should do for themselves. Saving is necessary to pay for defense, to provide for reserves, and to further technical advance. The proper kind of school will see that information along all these lines is made available to the consumers.

The Consumer Division, Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, issues publications including Consumer Prices, twice a month, which reports on various consumer problems.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 43 Number 1, 1941, p. 17-18
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9052, Date Accessed: 1/16/2022 4:45:27 PM

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About the Author
  • Harold Clark
    Professor of Education, Teachers College

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