Page images

they consider the background of their schooling. Even some of the greatest universities in the country do that, and I think, on the part of that student, we need to reevaluate the college's educational ideals. If they do bar them, of course that does not help that student's situation.

Dr. SOUTHALL. I have heard presidents of big universities, like Conant when he was president of Harvard, say that for many years they did not take children from the public schools at all, and then they did not take them from rural high schools, but later they found that if they could make examination of all of them as individuals, some of the very finest they got came from those schools.

Senator YARBOROUGH. I want to compliment you, Dr. Southall, for a very, very fine statement. It covers so many facets of this problem and has so much fine material in it.

I regret that this is right after the Easter recess, and many of the members are on other engagements that they could not dispense with. I just wish the full committee could have heard this fine statement.

Thank you very much.
Dr. SOUTHALL. Thank you.

Senator YARBOROUGH. Our next witness is Dr. Willford I. King of the Committee for Constitutional Government.

Dr. King



Dr. King. Senator, I appreciate very much the opportunity of appearing here. My point of view, I think, is quite different from the preceding witness.

Senator YARBOROUGH. Dr. King, pardon me for just a minute.

I notice you represent the Committee for Constitutional Government. I am familiar with the preceding organizations that have been represented, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Association of University Women. What is the Committee for Constitutional Government I am not as familiar with that as I am with the Farm Bureau or the AAUW.

Dr. King. It is a very small organization which has been working for many years to educate the people of the United States in sound economic principles and to get the Federal Government to follow the Constitution and to economize in general, avoid inflation and that sort of thing.

Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you, sir.
Go ahead, Dr. King.

Dr. King. Having spent the major part of my adult life in teaching, is it surprising that I am strongly in favor of sound measures intended to improve the quality of education in the United States!

It is my view that every child and youth should have the chance to obtain education to the extent necessary to enable him or her to make good use of the talents with which he or she is endowed.

As doubtless every member of this committee is well aware, nearly all advocates of sound education who have, in recent years, looked into the situation prevailing in this connection in the United States have been shocked by the great deterioration in the quality of education which has been instilled into our youth by our existing school system. For example, in some areas it has been found that a large proportion of high school graduates are lacking in the ability to read, spell, or write even reasonably good English, or to solve very elementary problems in arithmetic. The situation in this respect is, in fact, so bad that some colleges have actually installed, for their beginning students, remedial reading courses.

When, in the first decade of the present century, I was teaching science in various high schools in the Middle West I never heard of any such situation existing. Most of the pupils entering the ninth grade could read, write, and spell fairly well, and were familiar with the basic principles of arithmetic. None of the graduates of any of the four high schools with which I was connected were lacking in any of these respects. No one so lacking would have been considered for graduation.

Present proposed Federal legislation is designed to help finance the building of additional schoolrooms so as to lessen overcrowding and to increase the pay of schoolteachers in order to help make positions in this field as financially rewarding as are jobs in other lines available to potential teachers.

Will legislation along this line help to remedy the sad situation now existing in the educational field? Are overcrowding in the schools and poor pay for teachers the prime factors responsible for the deterioration in the quality of education which has occurred ?

I believe that your committee will need to consider each of these points carefully. May I have the privilege of pointing out a few of the facts in connection with each!

What is the basic reason giving rise to the shortage of schoolroom space? Let us first take up the case of the elementary schools.

As most of you will probably remember, in years not so long past the typical elementary schoolteacher handled a class of 40 pupils without undue difficulty. Now it is assumed that class sizes should be kept down to 20. Evidently this change calls for doubling the number of classrooms. What has brought about this demand for reducing the sizes of classes?

The answer is that adoption of the system of promotion on the basis of age rather than accomplishment-virtually abolition of the grade system-has necessitated the change. That was brought in by John Dewey, who had Communist leanings.

Formerly, all the pupils in a teacher's class were roughly equal in their educational understanding, and could be handled on that basis. Now each grade teacher tends to have in her class a hodge-podge of pupils, a large proportion of whom have not mastered the work in previous grades. Many of them, having found that study is not necessary to obtain advancement, take no interest in their work. The result is that the teacher finds more difficulty in trying to educate 20 pupils than she did formerly in actually educating 40 pupils. Furthermore, at present those not interested in their school work, and having plenty of energy, get into mischief. Here we have the prime source of the great growth in juvenile delinquency which has occurred in recent years.

In the high schools overcrowding is accounted for primarily by the fact that restrictions on entrance have been lowered to conform with the idea of universal promotion. The important fact that different individuals have different capacities has been overlooked or forgotten. Instead of recognizing the fundamental truth that a large proportion of children are entirely unfitted for academic work, that they could serve the social weal far better by engaging, at an early date, in some trade than by wasting their time on studies in which they are not interested, and that being a good carpenter or plumber or auto

a mobile repairman or store clerk is more honorable and more useful than being a third-rate member of some supposedly more learned profession, it has become the fashion to hold that everyone should go through high school and college.

My first personal experience with this new way of looking at things occurred when, after my formal retirement from New York University where I had been teaching statistics to high-quality students, I was called upon, during World War II, to teach some classes in elementary economics. When I was on the University of Wisconsin faculty I had taught many such classes, and felt that I was quite familiar with things in that line. I had always found the students much interested in this field.

What a change I now discovered. Most of those registering in my elementary economics courses at New York University showed not the slightest interest in learning economics. They were going to college for the sake of prestige, and all they wanted was four points credit, not training in economics. Unfortunately, from their point of view, a very large proportion did not receive the four points' credit.

Clearly from the standpoint of the social weal, the proper thing to do is to weed out of our high schools all those pupils not suited for

the work and to give those that so desire brief training in trade schools. Were this done, there would be no lack of space in high schools to accommodate the pupils.

The next point to be considered is whether underpay is a primary cause of the present shortage of trained teachers. In my opinion, while it undoubtedly has some influence, other forces are still more potent in bringing about the teacher shortage. What are some of these?

Perhaps the preponderant force is the fact that stripping the teacher of the power to punish, and universal promotion, by breaking down discipline and generating misbehavior and juvenile delinquency, has, as a teacher of our acquaintance puts it, "made teaching a nightmare." She said that she formerly thoroughly enjoyed teaching her classes in the New York City school, but now she is waiting most impatiently for the date of her retirement.

One of the reporters for the New York World-Telegram recently publicized well the troubles of teachers in some of New York City's difficult schools when he took a temporary job in one as a teacher, and wrote up his experiences in the newspaper mentioned.

A second highly important cause of teacher scarcity has been the ever-growing requirements that prospective teachers must graduate from schools of education in order to secure certificates to teach. Obviously, taking such courses calls for the expenditure of very considerable sums of money. Furthermore, the best evidence seems to indi

cate that courses in pedagogy and educational psychology rarely aid their students materially in learning how to teach classes well. I still remember my experience in such courses when I was a student at the University of Nebraska more than half a century ago. Even then I was required to take a course in educational psychology in order to be permitted to teach in a high school. My chum and I commonly referred to the time spent in that class as our “rest hour," for there was so little content that the professor was compelled to put in nearly all the time in repetition. It was the only course in the university that we felt not eminently worthwhile. I never discovered that it helped me one iota in teaching.

Hearsay evidence leads me to believe that most courses in schools of education now are even worse than the one that I took so many years ago, for not only do they fail to give their students sound training in education, they furthermore fill their minds with the pernicious doctrines of progressive education, the system which sponsors promotion regardless of attainments, and which, in general, inculcates the imbibing of smatterings of knowledge concerning many fields, and mastery of none—the very doctrines which have been largely responsible for bringing about the great deterioration which has occurred in our public school system.

Obviously, potential teachers have only a limited amount of time to devote to college training. The more they waste on these courses in pedagogy and educational psychology, the less time they have to devote to the subject matter which they should master before engaging in teaching in secondary schools. Here we have a primary reason why all investigations show that a large proportion of our present highschool teachers are very ill prepared in science and mathematics, and that the same is true in the case of potential teachers in these fields. Will granting Federal money to the States for promotion of education have any tendency to remedy this state of affairs?

Does it not seem probable that, if the schools in the various parts of the United States that are short on teachers were to reestablish discipline and then make it a practice to employ suitable applicants who could pass with good grades examinations in the fields which they were expected to teach, there would be little trouble in securing good teachers for most of the vacancies.

With one exception, none of the teachers under whom I studied in the country schools had ever been to college. Yet I received fine instruction from them. As a matter of fact, in addition to training in the fundamentals of the three R's, I was thoroughly drilled in geography, history, grammar, and arithmetic. In the case of the latter, I solved all of the problems in Ray's Higher Arithmetic except two, which neither my father, who was rather expert in that field, nor the county superintendent could solve. I learned enough about physiology and civil government to pass the requirements in these subjects for entering the university, and mastered bookkeeping sufficiently to enable me to teach the subject in high school without further preparation—and Harry Lee, the teacher who instructed me in these things, had had only a year's training in an academy,

Obviously, spending years in schools of education is a foolish prerequisite for teachers in elementary schools.

Is it true that, in the present prosperous year of 1959, many school districts are so short on funds that they cannot afford to erect such buildings as they need in order to educate their youth.

I have just taken the trouble to compare, for the United States as a whole, per capita real incomes in 1890 and 1959. I find that, in terms of dollars of 1947–49 purchasing power as measured by the consumer price index, per capita real income has risen in that period from $581 to $1,670. In other words, it is now 2.87 times as large as it was when I attended country school.

If we allow for the fact that various grades of Government now extract from the pockets of the taxpayers something like 30 percent of those citizens' revenues, it still is true that they have remaining double as much real income as they had in that earlier period, a time in which they found it feasible to give excellent instruction to all of the children in elementary subjects. Some of the finest teaching in that field that I have ever known about was given by Miss Lora Sirpless in an abandoned log cabin in Scotts Bluff County, Nebr. The people there did not know that palatial surroundings were essential to the teaching of the three R's.

Providing adequate classroom space and facilities for teaching would today burden few communities unduly.

The scale of income out in that part of the country at that time when I went to school under Miss Sirpless is indicated by the fact that our hired man 1 day remarked to me that some neighbors had an income from some bonds inherited of a dollar a day. Our hired man said, "If I had a dollar-a-day income I would never do another lick of work as long as I live."

Is it not true that at present a major fraction of the cost of school buildings represents making them suitable not only for educational ends but also for entertainment purposes?

If and when the Federal Government pays part or all of the cost of these elaborate structures, can it be truthfully said that the money appropriated has really been used primarily for aid to education? Is it not, instead, merely an aid to schooling, a very different thing?

Another important point to be considered is the burden of school construction and higher teacher pay upon the taxpayers of the country. If part of the financing is done by the Federal Government, is it not obvious that the burden must still be met entirely by the taxpayers of the Nation, unless Congress engages in the utterly unsound practice of inflating the circulating medium, and thereby levying a hidden tax upon all holders of such things as bank deposits, mortgages and bonds, or recipients of pensions, annuities and social security payments?

Unfortunately, the people of the country have a feeling that when the Federal Government pays for it, it does not cost anybody anything. That is the real feeling.

Is it not generally true that if the voters in a given school district decide by ballot to erect a new school building in their immediate area, they will be much more careful to guard against waste and undue frills in connection with the construction than will be the case if they think most of the burden is to be borne by Uncle Sam and cost nobody anything?

« PreviousContinue »