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Post-War Education


by William F. Russell - 1942

In discussing post-war education there are two possible ways of treating the subject. One can picture education as he would wish it to be; or he can imagine what he thinks, from present trends, it is likely to become. This article combines the two approaches, tempering ambition with the practical.

IN discussing post-war education there are two possible ways of treating the subject.1 One can picture education as he would wish it to be; or he can imagine what he thinks, from present trends, it is likely to become. Let us try to combine the two approaches, tempering ambition with the practical.


The subject is too big for one person. For discussion it requires a panel; for exposition a long-term commission. I have consulted an imaginary commission. I have collected a panel of Blithe Spirits, each of whom would like to have his words reach our ears. It takes a long table to seat them for there are many that I wish to call upon.


I have invited the young man and young woman—they called themselves youths—who, while we were meeting at St. Louis two years ago, picketed the White House with the slogan, "Scholarships—Not Battleships." I have with me the young Frenchmen whom I saw at St. Cloud in 1937 weaving their snake dance in and out of the crowd attending the meeting of the Front Populaire chanting "A bets la defense nationale"—Down with the Army and Navy. I include Monsieur Jorly, with his homespun coat and celluloid collar, hair slicked down, the village school teacher from the Pyrenees who, at the Lille meeting of the Teachers Union, was of the group that voted 75 to 25 to impede mobilization if the war-mongers triumphed. They were more interested in their forty-hour week and their paid vacation than in the obvious peril that their country faced.


I have invited Captain Vogel of the "Paris." I was aboard her in Plymouth Harbor on April 15, 1939. I was glad to see the captain again. He had been kind to me on the old "Lafayette" and the "Champlain." He had visited me in my home in New York. He told me that the Germans were out to bum the French ships, one after another, because they were fast and potential transports or airplane carriers. He said, "This ship can't burn. I have the most perfect system of fire protection that skill can devise. My crew is trained." He took me from place to place, station to station, showing huge fire extinguishers, electric warning devices, everyone on the alert. As I awakened two days later in London, the news was on the streets that the "Paris" was on fire; the water pumped into her turned her on her side. The loyal, competent captain was disgraced. It was said to be an accident. I have also invited two friends of mine who went to a movie on the East Side in New York City. It was a film of the launching of the "Bismarck," one of the terror films. As she slid down the ways, the audience sprang to their feet, extended their arms in the Nazi-slave salute, and cheered. My friend and his wife rose slowly in amazement and, as the noise died down, they started to sing the "Star Spangled Banner"; whereupon two burly bouncers took them in hand and threw them out on the street. This couple have a lot they want to say. I have also invited Alphonse Porre, merchant of Aix-en-Provence, my good friend and fishing companion. When a prisoner in Germany during the last war he was compelled to dig dirt with his fingernails and clean the stables with his hands in the prison camp where no shovel, spade, pick, or hoe was issued, exactly as you could see in another Nazi terror film shown last fall in the same East Side theater in New York City. I have also invited Monsieur Peyret of Bordeaux, who lives now in a town where the newspaper is full of lies, where General van Stuelpnagel writes a box column every day, where Jews cannot engage in trade, where the market is reserved first for Germans, then French, then Jews; where the money is printed by the Germans; where equal justice is dead, the law being that of the lash and concentration camp; where all trade, even the sale of a pig or a sack of potatoes is under orders of Germans; where the free school has become a pay school; where the radio is forbidden; where the women meet to make over old clothes; where their blankets are taken from them. With me is also a starving Greek; a wounded Chinese; and the man in France who once told me that it would be better for France to have Hider than Leon Blum.


I introduce an American lady, who said to me: "What I could not bear is that my grandchildren might never know what it is that these fiends would deprive them of. To think that these children—not yet born—might not know God—might never hear the sweet words of the Prince of Peace, 'Little children . . . love one another,' and instead be taught to hate one another and fear every other human being. How easy it would be to reduce each beautiful and tender little child you know and love into a form of animal—it has been done by the Nazis and the Japanese. Children cannot live without love. I want coming generations to have that." I also introduce a young man near and dear to me, who has left his young wife and baby and stands on the bridge of a destroyer where devil-controlled sharks strike and red-eyed yellow vultures dart from the sides. He wants a world where good people rule; where the cream, not the scum, rises; where character controls corruption. He thinks that


III fares the land,

To hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates,

And men decay.


I also present George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, authors of the Virginia Bill of Rights, basic to the Declaration of Independence, who stated that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights of which when they enter into a state of society they cannot by any compact deprive their posterity: namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty with the means of acquiring and possessing property and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. I also have with me the members of the National Resources Planning Board who have translated these Rights into modern terms as the goals of post-war effort. These Rights are:


1. The right to work, usefully and creatively through the productive years.


2. The right to fair pay, adequate to command the necessities and amenities of life in exchange for work, ideas, thrift, and other socially valuable service.


3. The right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.


4. The right to security, with freedom from fear of old age, want, dependency, sickness, unemployment, and accident.


5. The right to live in a system of free enterprise, free from compulsory labor, irresponsible private power, arbitrary public authority, and unregulated monopolies.


6. The right to come and go, to speak or to be silent, free from the spyings of secret political police.


7. The right to equality before the law, with equal access to justice in fact.


8. The right to education, for work, for citizenship, and for personal growth and happiness.


9. The right to rest, recreation, and adventure; the opportunity to enjoy life and take part in advancing civilization.


The greatest on our panel is first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen—George Washington. He made two statements that we must consider, one to the effect that:


I am administering this enterprise hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst.


Second, the often quoted warning made on the occasion of his first inauguration:


The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.


In addition I would call on Pierre Bezuhov of Tolstoi's War and Peace and Melanie of Gone with the Wind. They know the ravages of war and what reconstruction requires. I also present several ladies of Charleston, now old, who have pinched and scraped with courage all these years.


Finally there is the speaker, who thinks that he belongs to a group of men who were placed in the world at a particular time with a particular task to do. For we, who were born from 1888 to 1893, grew up in the old settled world, where wars were over. We lived in the United States guarded from foreign quarrels by two wide oceans. In the main we and our fathers had known peace. We took part in the fight to "make the world safe for democracy"; we shared the triumph; and in 1918 we were old enough and in positions of sufficient power, to know what was going on—some of us to take part; and we set out to build a new world. I was in Russia during that war, went to Japan and China shortly after; and, as Professor of International Education, was in Europe, Asia, and Latin America on many occasions. I was Chairman of your Committee on International Relations for several years, and led your delegation to the International Meetings in Edinburgh, Toronto, and Geneva. During the twenties I spoke to you on peace and goodwill through education; during the thirties I spoke to you of disturbing trends in Europe, more disturbing because the same trends were appearing among us. Then in 1940 at St. Louis I told you that we were in the war. For ten or twelve years hence, as many of those who are about my age as will be spared, can look forward to vigor, and it is our bounden duty to talk and explain, speak and orate, and shout from the housetops that these mistakes shall not come again.


Here is our panel—a stage full of ghosts. I alone can speak to you for them. We shall now take up certain characteristics of post-war education which we think are likely to be; certain problems that will tag along; and certain developments that we should like to see.


Our panel believes that the prime purpose of post-war America will be to secure to all the people the Rights of Life and Liberty, including the means of acquiring and possessing property and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. The members here of the National Resources Planning Board have made the implications of these Rights more specific. As a child of God, one brother in the great human family and entitled to consideration as such, the Future American will be entitled to live in a world saved for exactly that purpose by the sacrifices of this war. America will firmly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.


Government for the people implies that after the war we shall start anew—from the ground up—we hope upon the Christian foundation, "You are your brother's keeper." Therefore communities will have maternity clinics; the mother will have the best for her baby; children will be properly fed; food will be controlled; health will be guarded; play will be encouraged; youth will be cared for; education will be provided. All these material benefits in a world as poor as ours will be will need to be carefully guarded and distributed. Waste will be ended.


But the distribution will be equal and widespread. All will share, regardless of color, creed, sex, or occupation.


The members of our panel who have lived in a country after a war— Melanie, the ladies from Charleston, Pierre from Tolstoi's War and Peace —can advise us to follow George Washington's precaution that while hoping for the best we had better prepare for the worst. It may be a short war; we should expect a long one. We may have uninterrupted successes; we should count on reverse after reverse. We may emerge from the war not greatly hurt—with debts, dislocations, and casualties, but with wealth and resources essentially intact; we should be prepared for an approach to an exhaustion of all we have, savings vanished, youth sacrificed, economy dislocated—but still a people able to take "blood, sweat, and tears" because our eyes are on the stars.


Such a battered people, limping off the field, will not be able to afford all that it wants; and post-war poverty and exhaustion will force us, in order to secure human rights, to exercise every economy. This, our panel and I think, will drive us to combination and unification of efforts, and to the elimination of much of the duplication of effort between various governmental units. Thus in communities where from public and private resources are now maintained such services as mothers' clinics, nursery schools, elementary schools, high schools, trade schools, dental clinics, child health centers, job placement bureaus, libraries, museums, nutrition centers, NYA centers, CCC camps, playgrounds, recreation centers, YMCA's, YWCA's, YMHA's, art and music projects, little theaters, day nurseries, settlement houses, women's exchanges, forums, literacy classes for adults, classes for non-citizens, and the like, our panel visualizes that these will tend to come together, cease working at cross purposes, eliminate duplication, cut administrative costs, share buildings and equipment. The town of the future is likely to have public buildings which include a post office, a town hall, churches, and a Community Service Center. The city and state of the future, we believe, will have a Community Service Administration. It may be that not all these activities will be unified. In true American fashion, there will be variation. But I look either for the school to take on added functions or for added functions to take on the school.


This unification of Community Services which my panel and I think we see coming will afford to the school administrator both a problem and an opportunity. School superintendents are best qualified to take the leadership. They have public confidence, particularly in the local communities. The American people want the parents, friends, and neighbors to control services rendered their children. School administrators have the chance to step forward. We think that the American people, once the war is over, will want our children cared for in every way from birth until established in a job; will want our adults to have certain services, educational, recreational, medical. We must do this in the most economical way. We shall follow the leadership that proves most farsighted and competent. School administrators must wrap their minds around this problem. We think this is a real and steady trend. We think it will come whether we like it or not. We think finances will force it. We hope school administrators will get ready to step ahead. No prospect has greater challenge; none is so exciting.


We, on this panel, think it obvious that the Federal Government will need to take a much more important part in this Community Service enterprise than it has in the past; and that it will pay a larger share of the bill. Washington and Jefferson even in their day believed in federal participation in education. The Civil War brought government agricultural education; the First World War brought government vocational education; at the moment the Federal Government is participating in education in many ways, notably filling in the gap left by the public schools in the area of youth through NYA and CCC, supplementing community services through the WPA, subsidizing additional work in preparation for war vocations and special school facilities for the congested areas around defense industries. We think that this trend will continue as the war taxes mount, and as states and cities begin to feel the pinch. Furthermore, it is plain to us, particularly those who believe that all our people are entitled to certain rights, that there are too many districts where there is too little natural wealth to trust a proper program to the ability of the local community to pay.


Granted that the Federal Government will take an increased part in this work, and also assume a greater share of the cost, the paramount problem of the future will be the basis upon which this share is taken. We have seen too many peoples lose their liberties by entrusting the control of education to central authorities. Members on our panel can attest that. If we are wise, and plan sufficiently far in advance, we school administrators can come to exercise influence in the Federal Government, as we do in local communities, to secure a system under which the Federal Government will care for the health of children, see that they are properly fed, teach them to be literate, able to earn a living, patriotic, moral, give them a job until they become established, and even give older people a chance to learn and play—all on the basis that it now does some of its work—the Federal Government providing the services, the local authorities setting the specifications of the job to be done. We need the wisest Commission on federal participation in Community Services. Unless we are alert and hard at work, with our best brains participating, decisions may be made which will affect the liberties of Americans for all time to come.


Then there is a question, which will come up after the war—if not sooner, as to the method and spirit of the school part of this community enterprise. Some of us on this panel talked pretty foolishly during the past ten years. Because we thought we saw a bright new world ahead, one in which we believed the individual would be supreme, some of us thought that with a new world we needed strange and fantastic teaching methods, and that the child, central in our attention, should be encouraged to extreme individualism. I am sure that this was not the intent of the sane progressive educators, but nevertheless those who were dreaming of Utopias were at the same time advocating individualistic methods of teaching; while conversely those who had the reputation of conservatives or reactionaries were supposed to long for the good old days of 1929 and advocate discipline. Our panel believes that these concepts have been mixed up. In the kind of society which will bring to every person his application of the Nine Freedoms, the only way it will be accomplished will be by people working together. They are doing that in England. They are living together, eating together in community cafeterias, playing together, working together. We can't gain liberty by shouldering the axe, taking the salt and the covered wagon, and heading for the wilderness. We shall get it by joining the group. Success will come to those who follow the pattern of the well-drilled football team, or the smooth rhythm of the crew. This future world of ours, this panel thinks, will demand that we all pull together; and we had better start in school. Hard work, tough work, self-discipline, playing ball, subordination of whims and vagaries—these will be the qualities demanded in the future. This achieved, variation can be frosted on the top of the cake.


But my panel, almost to a man, or woman, still look sadly at this picture of the future. They think that I haven't reached the most important question. For nothing that has been said shows the part that education must play in securing the most fundamental Right of all, not mentioned in the nine of our National Resources Planning Board—the one specified by George Mason in the Virginia Bill of Rights, namely, the right to pursue and obtain safety. They know that just as God is at work, so is the devil—that you must recognize his work; and that no plan for safety in the international world will succeed unless the same principle will apply in the local community, that is, unless we have international police.


Not one of the younger members of this audience can possibly picture to himself the enthusiasm with which we faced the brave new world in 1919. We thought that the millennium had come. We had a League of Nations. We were all going to work together. We had the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world. I shall never forget going to Germany in those days, and thrilling when I was not stopped at the border, no passport required, no visa needed, no police registration at the hotel. Wars were over. So we examined textbooks to take out those parts hostile or unfair to other peoples. We educators were all friends together among the various nations. We did not stop to think that peace had never been secured even in local communities. For in any town or city, no matter how hard the schools and churches may work, there are always some who are at war with the rest. Schools cannot win over a Dillinger. Churches, representative bodies, still leave a Public Enemy Number One. The peaceful city has certain citizens who wear a uniform, carry a gun, and on occasions shoot to kill. We are forced to have an FBI.


The war prisoner, the French captain, the schoolmaster behind me on this panel are grimly aware of this fact. We do not want our grandchildren to go through this again. They must know that the devil is not going to quit, that the words, "Peace on earth and good will toward men" will always fall on some ears that are deaf. From our experience we insist that teachers after the war must never forget this nor let their children forget it. Education won't pacify a rattlesnake. You cannot reason with a gangster.


Our grandchildren will be taught to love peace, to love their enemies, to reason with their adversaries, to respect a policy of conciliation. But we who know, who have been taught the lesson twice over, must tell our people that the gangster will behave only at the point of a gun. We hope the time will come when education will be so perfect that there will be no gangsters; but as long as we have them, we must be realistic and face the fact.


For many years past, I have been impressed with the Napoleon saga. I read every book about him upon which I could lay my hand. I thrilled at the rise of the little corporal. I was saddened at his treatment on St. Helena.


But two years ago last April, a new light dawned on me. I had walked from Ripon to the ruins of Fountains Abbey, and as I was returning through the park, I saw, away off on the horizon, an obelisk rising above the trees. I made my way across country, through groves of trees and over fields—and at last came upon it, standing by a church and reaching higher than the steeple. No inscription on it—not a word, I asked the verger, "What is this monument?" "Oh," he said, "it was put up by the local lord as a thank offering for Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and his departure for St. Helena." It came over me of a sudden that this maker of La Gloire for France was the Hitler of his day. He made war without declaration; he killed his friends; he took counterfeit money into occupied countries; he circulated false news, propaganda, and terror; countless young men lost their lives because of him. All this has been in print—where we could read it and learn it—for many years past, in Tolstoi's War and Peace. We read but we did not see.


I shall not die happy unless I know that our children have eyes to see and ears to hear; that they see the world as it is, not as we would like it to be; that we be not deceived by the rosy mist of the sentimentalists, and be ready to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.


So it is our contention—my panel and I—that post-war education must fit the post-war world; and it is our hope that America, battered and exhausted though she may be, will still want to secure liberty and equality for men, with the right of acquiring and possessing property and the means of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. Not the least form of safety is that of the peace-loving man in the world of human beings, human because though some are but a little lower than the angels others there will always be who are but a little higher than the devils, and will need treatment as such. In the intellectualism and philosophy of the post-war world, it will be our duty to recall Sergeant York who believed in peace and at the same time had the courage and realism to silence those guns.


So the four great problems of post-war education as I see them will be:


For the School Administrator. How to administer education as a part of community services and maintain efficiency of the educational process.


For the Political Scientist: How to support education from federal funds and at the same time maintain the control of the mind in the localities.


For the Teacher: How to teach people to pull together like a college crew and not like slaves in a galley.


For all Americans: How to be peaceful and kind, and at the same time control the gangsters, locally, nationally, and internationally.







1 Address delivered on February 26, 1942, at a general session of the meeting of the American Association of School Administrators of the National Education Association, in San Francisco, Calif.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 43 Number 7, 1942, p. 521-531
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9086, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 7:01:34 PM

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