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Vocational Fitness--The Schools and the Defense

by Hamden L. Forkner - 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.

In our national effort to build a defense for democracy we encounter a bottleneck in production resulting from a lack of machinists, draftsmen, layout men, and machine operators. The Federal Government has allotted funds to set up intensive training courses for all unemployed men and some women for so-called defense industries. Many schools have adopted special techniques to speed up training. A fitting slogan for such schools and one that schools all over the nation should emulate, is, we never close.

Following is a list of some of the things that schools must do. These are given here so that, as you return to your respective communities, you will be instrumental in getting your school to exert every ounce of ingenuity and energy to help do this job for America.

1. If the school shops are not in use twenty-four hours a day to train machinists and machine tenders, find out why. Federal funds are available for supplies, machines, and instructors.

2. If the school typewriters and other office equipment are not busy twenty-four hours a day to train prospective draftees for clerical work, find out why. The Army, Navy, and other federal services are seeking well-trained clerical workers who know Army forms, Army routines, and Army vocabulary.

3. If there are young men or older men in your community working on relief projects of one kind or another, find out why. Semi-skilled workmen are needed in large numbers, and funds are available to pay these men while they learn. Operators of turret lathes, planers, sheet metal machines, welding machines, and similar devices are badly needed.

4. If there are empty factory buildings in your community and your school has no shop-training program, find out why the factory space is not being utilized for training purposes. Federal funds are available for equipping and providing instruction in such places for those who are in need of it.

5. If the young people of your community are having to pay for training to become mechanics, or machine operators, or aviation workers, find out why. Public funds are available so that everyone may have an equal chance at this kind of training. Unscrupulous men and women have tended to capitalize on the present need to establish so-called defense schools for the training of defense workers, often charging exorbitant fees and making promises of employment which are not based on facts.

6. If the streets of your town, the pool halls, and other gathering places of young men are filled with unemployed young people, find out why. There is a demand for every kind of worker—clerical workers, garment workers, machinists, ship workers, radio technicians and service workers, electrical workers, metal workers, nurses—in fact, almost all fields are open. Short training periods will fit them for jobs.

We have a golden opportunity to prove to the nation that the schools can do the job. Let's take advantage of that opportunity immediately.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 43 Number 1, 1941, p. 14-16
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9062, Date Accessed: 1/16/2022 4:36:39 PM

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About the Author
  • Hamden Forkner
    Professor of Education, Teachers College

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