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The Schools and the Defense--A Symposium on Defense Activities


by William F. Russell - 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.

My position at Washington is Director of the National Citizenship Education Program. This is a combination of the resources of the Department of Justice with an allocation of $14,332,782 from the Work Projects Administration. The justification for the program is as follows:


According to the recent preliminary reports of Alien Registration of the Department of Justice there are approximately five million aliens in the United States, varying in numbers in the several states from a few hundred in South Carolina to over a million in New York. These aliens are located in most part in urban and industrial communities in which are found school buildings and other convenient meeting places. Possibly a million of these foreign-born may make naturalization applications during the present fiscal year.


Legal authority to promote instruction in preparation for citizenship was given the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization by the Nationality Act of 1940, Public Law No. 853. Chapter III, Section 327, subsection (c) of this act reads as follows:


The Commissioner is authorized to promote instruction and training in citizenship responsibilities of applicants for naturalization including the sending of names of candidates for naturalization to the public schools, preparing and distributing citizenship textbooks to such candidates as are receiving instruction in preparation for citizenship within or under the supervision of the public schools, preparing and distributing monthly an immigration and naturalization bulletin and securing the aid of and cooperating with official State and National organizations, including those concerned with vocational education.


Section 344 of this same act also is cited in part as authority for distributing textbooks:


Authorization is hereby granted for the publication and distribution of the citizenship textbook described in subsection (c) of section 327, ...


It is important today as a defense measure and as an aid to democratic thinking that every possible effort be made to lessen dangers of discontent from within. In the midst of the rush of material preparedness perhaps too little attention is being given to attitudes on the part of both the citizen and the alien within our country. This project is proposed for the purpose of improving this condition in so far as it affects the foreign-bom, particularly those who have applied to the Department of Justice for naturalization papers.


The Immigration and Naturalization Service can furnish textbooks and other materials to citizenship and naturalization classes. Local school boards can provide school buildings, classrooms, and other facilities necessary for such classes. This project proposes to furnish teaching personnel and supervision. There are approximately a million foreign-born who may be eligible for this service. Many others no doubt will attend these classes once they are started. The total possible value of this program might well prove inestimable.


The stated purposes of the program are as follows:


1. To provide assistance to the two cooperating agencies specified in the Nationality Act of 1940—the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice, and State and local Boards of Education—in making available to applicants for naturalization, facilities to prepare them for citizenship duties and responsibilities.


2. (a) To organize, teach, and supervise classes in citizenship for the foreign-born; (b) to assist in preparing, reproducing, and distributing teaching materials, lesson plans, and other instructional aids for naturalization classes; (c) to organize and direct pre-service and in-service training programs for teachers employed on this project; (d) to assist local co-sponsoring agencies in any other educational programs for groups of the foreign-born seeking help to a better understanding of the English language and of the principles of our form of government; and (e) to furnish clerical and stenographic assistance necessary to the successful operation of this project.


I am now at work in Washington organizing the program and building up staffs of experts both in Washington and in the various states.


It is obvious that this program is a logical development of the work of the Congress on Education for Democracy.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 43 Number 1, 1941, p. 1-23
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9087, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 1:34:46 AM

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  • William Russell
    Dean of Teachers College

 
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