Education for the Future -- A Cooperative Approach

Northwestern University | July 9, 1957

Instead of concentrating almost wholly on teaching Anglo-Saxon culture in our high schools and colleges, I suggest that we start to offer courses in the seven great world cultures, six of which are now vying for space on our ever-diminishing globe. The cultures I suggest are these: - the Moslem culture; the Hindu or Indian culture; the Chinese or Japanese culture; African culture; Hebrew culture; Christian culture; and by way of background and perspective, the Classical Cultures of Greece and Rome.

I am deeply grateful to Northwestern University and to the distinguished dean of its school of education, Professor E. T. McSwain, for inviting me to address this large gathering of learned men: - educators, editors, authors, school administrators, and other leaders of educational thought and theory. It is a remarkable opportunity for a layman, and I approach my assignment with humility, and with a plea for your tolerance and compassion. I promise to be brief, and I hope, to the point.

The subject which I have been asked to discuss, "Education Cooperative Approach," is a challenging one. Disagreement is almost as great as our ignorance of the future. I have been given a problem or an equation, so to speak, where both sides are unknown: -both the future and the education required for it.

No, Dean McSwain, you have not offered me an easy problem to solve. But solve it I shall try. First, by asking you to look at some problems of the immediate future -- problems already visible to all of us. Let us see if there are any new ways for solving these present problems. Then later on let us look at the greatest problem which will face the world in the next generation -- not the atom or hydrogen bomb, but the problem of creating world peace and understanding.

Among the problems of the present and of the immediate future none is greater than the teacher shortage. Everyone knows about the teacher shortage; but not very much has been done about it. It's bad everywhere; Chicago is no exception. 

Faced with this problem, we in Chicago decided to try to do something about it without waiting for that federal aid or state aid which never seems to come. One of our first efforts involved television. In 1955 I urged our General Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Willis, to plan an experimental program for the development of teaching by TV. He studied the possibilities and recommended a sum of $50,000 for the purpose. The Board of Education agreed to this proposal, and for the first time in recent history we in Chicago, on our own initiative, undertook to spend money to pioneer new solutions for old problems.

That $50,000 turned out to be one of the best expenditures we ever made. Almost as soon as we had organized our TV program the Ford Foundation learned about what we were doing. Within six months that Foundation gave us some $565,000 - more than ten times our original investment -- in order to help us test the value of teaching by TV.

Today, eighteen months later, we already know that our teaching by TV has been successful. Thousands of students are studying high school and Junior College courses and scoring examination marks as good or better than their contemporaries in traditional classroom settings. High school graduates now working in business are finding it possible to take college courses for credit without even leaving their home TV sets. Via TV we have made many parts of a complete college education available free-of-charge to any Chicagoan. As far as I'm concerned, this is the greatest free scholarship program in history: - two years of college available at no cost to any citizen who has the brains and energy to complete the courses.

This educational advance has been accomplished without injury to the rights and privileges of any teacher. TV has increased the effectiveness of some of our best teachers and widened their scope. It has helped us to meet the teacher shortage which we are also attacking by means of higher salaries and a new $5,000,000 Teachers College to be built in 1959-1960 on the north side of our city.

The most significant feature of this TV program, however, is this fact: - the grant from the Ford Foundation opened for us a whole new way of attacking public school problems for it proved that private foundations were ready, willing, and able to help the public schools.

Since that time, or within the last 18 months, our Chicago public schools have received cash grants in excess of $1,000,000. We have received volunteer services from individuals and associations in dollar value which will exceed another million dollars. The taxpayers have paid nothing for this help. But the taxpayers are getting fabulous, expert attention directed to the solution of some of our most pressing educational and administrative problems.

For example: - in Chicago we have many old school buildings. Fire and safety hazards in such old structures gave concern to the Board of Education. The problem was to find a method whereby expert advice could be obtained at no cost. We needed advice on our old buildings badly, but we needed all our available dollars for teachers and classrooms.

We contacted the Chicago Board of Fire Underwriters, a private organization maintained by the insurance companies. We asked for their help, and we got it. At our request, in cooperation with our staff, but entirely without restraint from our people, this Board of Fire Underwriters is studying every school building in Chicago - 460 of them - free of charge. They have already submitted ten reports worth at least $10,000 at the going rate for such services. They will continue until their total contribution in volunteer services will probably exceed $500,000.

Take the problems of vocational education. Practically no large city in the United States has a perfect program of vocational education well integrated within the school system with clearly defined objectives and methods. In Chicago we felt a need for modernizing, enlarging, and improving our vocational education program. But once again we did not have the money or the manpower. We approached the Sears, Roebuck Foundation, and they gave an initial grant of

$5,000 to start the work. Now we have a research group involving experts from every major city in America, from Teacher's College, Columbia, from the American Vocational Association, and others -- all working cooperatively to develop a program of vocational education suited to the future, not the past. The Sears, Roebuck Foundation has agreed to finance our efforts through to the end. The "experts" from other cities are working free. Once again Chicago's taxpayers are receiving services worth thousands of dollars -- free-of-charge. More important, the children of Chicago will soon be profiting in our vocational schools from the new ideas and programs recommended by this outstanding group.

One of the most recent bonanzas of this cooperative type to fall into our laps in Chicago has come from the U.S. Office of Education. $675,000 has been given to us to study how best to teach and train the educable, and trainable mentally handicapped, of whom we now have more than 5,000 in Chicago public schools alone.

This is the first time in history that the Office of Education has given research money to a metropolitan public school system. It proves once again that cooperative help is available for the solution of many of our contemporary problems of education and administration.

In Chicago the Bituminous Coal Institute is making an independent survey, free-of-charge, of all our heating installations and fuel costs. I hope The Sloan Foundation will soon decide to help us examine our program in the technical high schools. Northwestern University's Dr. Paul Witty has given yeoman service to the expansion and improvement of our program for Gifted Children. The American Association for Junior Colleges, plus professors and educators too numerous to mention by name, have helped us -- free-of-charge -- to plan the biggest expansion in Junior College services in Chicago's history.

I could go on, but surely the point is clear. Money, professional talent, expert advice is available to our public schools. Business and industry, labor, private foundations, and government itself are enthusiastic in their desire to help the public schools. Whatever your problems, therefore, in whatever the school system, there will be local or national groups, expert and willing to supply money and manpower to provide prompt solutions to many of your worries.

At this point I think I know what many of you are thinking. You are saying that all this private, outside, volunteer help is all right, but it doesn't solve the classroom shortage, or the teacher shortage, or the inadequacy of pay for teachers, or, may I add, for administrators.

You are right. It doesn't, and I'm not implying it does. But indirectly, it helps to arouse public support for education, more classrooms, and better pay for educators, because it shows the public that educators are inventive, alert, on their toes, willing to experiment, willing to make every effort to give the public the maximum educational value for every dollar of taxpayers' money.

I guarantee every administrator in this audience that the public will support education with ever increasing generosity as the public becomes more and more convinced that all of us in education are working creatively and intelligently to find new and better ways of educating the young.

I realize, of course, that some people are never convinced by anything. In Illinois, for example, some conspicuous persons think you can have your cake and eat it, that you can prate platitudes about states' rights while refusing to accept states' responsibilities for education. For my part I'd rather see a Governor who finds ways to support public education as it should be supported rather than spend his time giving speeches telling the Federal Government how to run its business. Perhaps "home work" would be good medicine, not only for school children, but for Governors.

Parenthetically speaking, I should add at this point, that the Chicago Board of Education is on record, officially and unanimously, calling on our state government for increased state aid for our common schools. We believe we have exerted every reasonable effort to bear our fair share of the increased costs of education locally -- we have increased our tax burden in 1955 and 1957 by the biggest amounts in history. But we believe, too, that the state cannot continually assert "no federal aid and no additional state aid either." The Illinois Constitution charges the state with the responsibility for providing a common school education. The state should accept that responsibility willingly and aggressively.

And I might add, in addition, that we in Chicago believe we moved in the right direction when we raised the salary of our General Superintendent of Schools to the highest in the U.S.A. I, for one, in Illinois, am tired of hearing that some other state or city has a better program of education, salaries, or classrooms than ours.

It is high time Illinois became famous in the national press as a center of education and culture; and that takes money, more money for education than we have ever dreamed of before. As Dr. Paul Mort expresses it:

"We have tried everything in America to improve education except money."

So much for Part I of this talk.

Now I'd like to conclude with a few remarks about education for the more distant future - the future world of 1980 and 1990 and the world of the 21st Century, now only 43 years away.

In my judgment the number one problem in these years to come will be this: -

How can all of us -- white, black, yellow and brown people -- of different nations and different cultures -- live together in peace?

The world's population is growing by leaps and bounds. China, for example, is growing at a rate of 12,000,000 persons a year – so fast that the Communist planners are frantically disseminating birth control information to prevent total collapse of their economic programs. India is facing the same problem, trying some of the same solutions. Our own birth rate in the U.S.A. is the highest ever; in Chicago it has doubled since 1940. Even France, - the "tired old man of Europe," is experiencing a growing, population for the first time since World War One. There will be -- already there are -- world wide pressures for economic satisfaction of these millions of people.

While world population is growing, the geographic size of the world can be said figuratively to be shrinking. Chicago in 1960 will be only 1-1/2 hours from New York City -- six hours from London or Cairo. In 1970 New York City will probably be closer in time to Chicago than Waukegan is today. The world shrunk in size in the last 30 years; in the next 30, the shrinkage will be even greater.

Under these circumstances, if anyone believes that we in the Chicago of the future will be able to dismiss the problems of India, Africa or Asia as "foreign affairs" conducted solely by someone in Washington D.C., known as the Secretary of State, he or she is living in a fool's paradise.

We may not like it; we may long for the good old days of McKinley, William Howard

Taft, or Calvin Coolidge; we may denounce the U.N., the Marshall Plan, the Eisenhower Doctrine, or what have you, but we shall be living in a world where Bangkok is as close as Boston to Dallas. In that world I most urgently suggest we shall need more than bombs, radar defence nets, or a balanced budget. We shall need understanding -- understanding of alien peoples and cultures and political traditions -- understanding of a type we cannot hope to achieve simply by studying English literature, American history, or democratic principles of life and government. We shall need to know our own history and culture, but we shall have to know other cultures, too.

There is an old adage: "He who knows only one language doesn't even know that one well."

Tonight I'd like to suggest that "he who knows only one culture doesn't even know that one culture well."

Instead of concentrating almost wholly on teaching Anglo-Saxon culture in our high schools and colleges, I suggest that we start to offer courses in the seven great world cultures, six of which are now vying for space on our ever-diminishing globe. The cultures I suggest are these: - the Moslem culture; the Hindu or Indian culture; the Chinese or Japanese culture; African culture; Hebrew culture; Christian culture; and by way of background and perspective, the Classical Cultures of Greece and Rome.

Is this study needed? I think I have explained some of my reasons for believing it will be: - the pressure of world population; the diminishing distances separating peoples in time; the economic pressures for more abundant living now being exerted by all peoples.

Is it feasible to try to start a program of this magnitude and complexity? I believe it is.

Today in our Chicago public schools we conduct exchange programs between our teachers and teachers from England, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. I suggest that this program could be greatly expanded with beneficial results. The Fullbright Scholarship program is successful at the graduate student and professional level. Why not a teacher exchange program of similar or greater magnitude, – especially in Indian, Chinese, or Hebrew scholars were coming here to teach us about their cultures rather than to learn about ours. In fact, we could start to teach Hebrew culture and Christian culture without importing any teachers. There are plenty of Americans who could begin to plan a curriculum in these two cultures of world-wide significance.

Would this study of other cultures produce results? I believe it would. For example, the famous American University at Beirut in Lebanon is a perfect example of the kind of success and results which can be obtained by tolerant, intelligent, compassionate study of foreign cultures. Graduates of the American University in Lebanon are providing much of the leadership which is keeping that beleaguered, little country-on our side in the struggle for the Middle East. They would never be with us today if they had never learned about our culture in years gone by.

Knowledge is essential to understanding, and we have created understanding of our American position and culture more effectively through education than by any of the extravagant means of military assistance or hydrogen bomb tests.

Is there room and time in the high school and college curricula for this additional work? I believe there is, and if there isn't, then I think room will have to be made, not by eliminating studies now required, but by speeding up the pace of high school and college education.

The French lycee, the German Hochschule, and the English public school have long since proved that more can be learned by age 17 than we ask of young Americans. I think, too, that many of our smartest boys and girls get bored by the pedestrian pace of the average, high school. I believe they would welcome an exciting new addition to the curriculum. However, if this proposed study of foreign cultures cannot be fitted into the curriculum of the regular school year, we can certainly consider it for summer school, advanced work. This year in Chicago we have 27,000 pupils in free, voluntary summer school classes. They attend school because they want to. There are no truant officers. These children have a genuine thirst for knowledge and understanding. Let's give them some genuine, hard, intellectual fodder on which to feed, not pablum and skim milk. Let's give them a course of study which will help them to become profound leaders of world culture, truly exceptional students today, truly great leaders for tomorrow, men and women distinguished by their understanding of and consequent love for all mankind whatever the color of skin, the sound of language, the background of mind.

This kind of understanding of other cultures would enliven our young men and women. Tomorrow they will be called upon to speak for America, to explain America, to excite enthusiasm for our American way of life. To do this they must be able to speak the language and understand the mind of the audiences they will be addressing -- not only in California but in Calcutta, too.

Finally, let me make clear I am not advocating studies to prepare the way for the "One World" of Wendell Willkie, nor the Atlantic Union of Clarence Streit, nor for any of the political schemes involving surrender of sovereignty, loss of national identity, or flattening of all peoples to one plane of poverty and mediocrity.

The purpose of studying other cultures is neither so facile nor so superficial. It is based on the belief there is no need for all men and all cultures to follow identical paths. It expresses the conviction that practical good fellowship and foreign relations need not be based upon uniformity in politics, doctrine, or, culture. On the contrary, it seeks through education to bring men together on terms of equality and understanding for the good of human society as a whole.

If in the United States by the time of the 21st Century we could perfect an education of the type I describe, we could begin to prove three most important points: -

First, we could demonstrate that we know that our neighbor is the man to whom we show understanding, mercy and compassion, not solely the one who does us good.

Second: we could demonstrate our faith in the natural and supernatural unity of mankind, of all races, creeds and social conditions.

Third: We could show that the U.S. is the proper leader of a united world based on knowledge and love as compared to a Soviet world based on fear and hate.

A great man has written these words: -

"... It is not from outward pressure, it is not from the sword that deliverance comes to nations; the sword cannot breed peace, it can only impose terms of peace. The forces that are to renew the earth must proceed from within, from the spirit ... The re-education of mankind must be above all things spiritual ... (it) must be actuated by justice and crowned by charity ..." All through the ages we see the creative process of sifting and regeneration and re-education out of which a new humanity is being born.

Today East and West live cut off from each other through ignorance, not intent. In "Education for the Future" we shall have to build bridges of understanding across this abyss of ignorance. Only in this way can we look forward to peace on earth. Only in this way can we hope to fulfill the great chance we now have to become "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special people, who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God."