How Teachers Can Contribute to National Morale--The Schools and the Defense
by Goodwin Watson - 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.
The obligations of teachers are great. We must first of all help pupils and parents to face the facts. We do not want emotional propaganda to push us blindly into war, nor do we dare permit wishful thinking to trap us into a perilously false sense of security. Must we deal, sooner or later, with an untrustworthy power, antagonistic to any democracy, and responsive only to superior force? If so, do we gain or lose by waiting longer? Every teacher must work strenuously to free the mind of America from ignorance, evasiveness, confusion, and indecision. Our decision must be democratic, it must be voluntary, intelligent, realistic, courageous, and prompt. Delay and drift and endless discussion may breed disaster.
The understanding we aim to achieve must be emotional as well as intellectual. We must truly feel the costs as well as count them in statistics. There is no easy way open to us; any possible course threatens hardships. It will take powerful feelings and a will of steel to carry us through these years.
The demand for discipline is justified, but imposed and arbitrary dictatorships are destructive of democratic morale. Youth can best learn self-discipline as a result of realizing and feeling what necessity demands.
Emotional security in early childhood is a major factor in adult morale. There can be too much war talk in kindergarten, but evasion is worse. Children acquire insecurity from contact with adults who are fearful, uncertain, and undependable. Calm, courageous, affectionate understanding should be the teacher's gift to each child, and through him to democracy.
One final task: morale can be high, under difficult circumstances, if there is a well-grounded hope of better things ahead. Every teacher should be at work to implement youth's aspiration for a world in which there is more equality of opportunity for education, health, employment, housing, recreation, and world cooperation.
Information may be had from the Committee on National Morale, 51 East 42nd St., New York.
See also the following references:
Child, I. L. "Morale: A Bibliographical Review." Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 38, pp. 393-420, June, 1941.
Spock, B., Murphy, L. B., Liss, Ed., and Watson, Goodwin. "The Contribution of Development to Morale." Progressive Education, Vol. 18, pp. 240-264, May, 1941.