The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Education and the War

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EDUCATION AND THE WAR. The present European War is affecting education to a far greater extent than wars of the past. This is inevitable because never before have the foundations of world civilization been so shaken. Inasmuch as education, its philosophy, institutions, and practices must in the long run express the spirit and forms of the civilization on which it acts, any far-reaching changes in the nature of that civilization will be reflected in education. The immediate effects of the present war on education are similar to those of previous wars, but on a much larger scale, due to the magnitude of the conflict. The essential external elements of education are teachers, pupils, and money needed to carry on the work of educational institutions. War demands the service of teachers and pupils for the army and navy and for the industries upon which these fighting forces depend — agricultural, manufacturing, and extractive. The immediate result is a shortage of teachers, a decrease in the enrollment of pupils in all classes of schools, particularly in secondary and higher institutions; and an actual decline in the number of institutional for not a few have been obliged to close their doors entirely for the period of the war at least. The increased cost of carrying on education in a régime of rising prices, a common phenomenon in war time — the cost of labor, supplies, salaries, etc. — affects education adversely. Moreover, the shifting of labor to those industries where wages are high draws from educational institutions both teachers and others connected with the schools. The rise in the cost of living also prevents parents from keeping their children in school, so that there is a tendency for fewer pupils to pass out of the elementary to the secondary higher schools. These factors tend to decrease the quantity and quality of education and the number of courses and subjects available for study. In the higher institutions less promising material remains from which the leaders of the future must be trained. Thus the war has brought on a national emergency in education which has led to earnest efforts to provide, in part at least, adequate remedies.

Higher institutions of learning, for example, have very generally modified existing and introduced new courses. Examples of modified courses, taught with a view to making them contribute directly to the war, are those in topography, chemistry, physics, medicine, engineering, psychology and French. In these subjects emphasis is laid on the construction and interpretation of military maps, telegraphy and telephony, war surgery and infectious diseases common in war, sanitation and hygiene, bridge and highway engineering and surveying, chemistry of foods, gases used in warfare, dietetics, psychological tests, and military conversational French. New courses, not before customary, include those in military tactics, ordinance, storekeeping, military history and historical courses directly on the war, both from the European and American point of view. A large amount of research work along special lines has been carried on as a result of direct requests of the government.

Remedies suggested by the government to meet the emergency, in many cases already adopted, include appeals to elementary, secondary and higher institutions to fit their educational policies to war needs. That of the Commissioner of Education, 22 May 1917, is notable, “Suggestions for the Conduct of Educational Institutions During the Continuance of the War,” urging enforcement of school attendance laws in elementary and high schools, suggesting continuation classes and evening schools for minors and adults, requesting normal schools to double their efforts to train teachers, and advising higher institutions to reduce expenses, keep open all the year, to lay special emphasis in summer schools on courses adapted to war needs to stimulate research, and to prevent the scattering of the faculty or student body so far as possible.

The President, on 20 July 1917, urged colleges and technical schools to maintain their courses on the usual basis in order that every opportunity might be given for the training of the leaders on whom must fall the serious work of reconstruction. Likewise we may note the appeal of March 1918, signed by the Secretary of War, Secretary of the Navy and others, urging that boys and girls be kept in elementary and secondary schools until 18 years of age, because the future requires that these pupils have more and better education to cope with the problems of peace.

A second remedy is the plan to use the school plants to their maximum capacity, that is, all the year around, with the year divided into four quarters of 12 weeks each. Moreover greater use of school plants is urged for late afternoon and evening classes, both for minors and adults and the use of assembly rooms for lectures connected with the problems of the war, such as conservation, production, savings and thrift. Numerous school plants have been used for the training of those entering the war, for both military and industrial services and for the production of war materials — for use of the Red Cross, for example. There is also greater use of the school plant as community centres and as meeting places for the various organized bodies directly or indirectly connected with the school, whose work contributes to the war. This intensive extension of the functions of the school is seen in the formation of such organizations as the Junior Red Cross, Boy Scouts, War Savings, Liberty Loan, and War Garden clubs.

A third remedy is to change the point of view in teaching so far as it centres on local, State, or sectional interests rather than on national interests. President Wilson, in his letter of 23 Aug. 1917, asked the school officers and teachers of the country to stress the problems of community and national life because they are the most pressing problems now before us and will be still more so in the future. This tendency to emphasize national ideals is one of the most important of the changes brought on by the war. The fact that we do not have a national system of education has tended to divert attention from national interests and ideals. One of the immediate effects of the war, however, is to place emphasis on the duties and obligations of citizenship rather than on the privileges and rights of the individual. Considering the origin of the nation, the importance attached to individual rights in the period of the American Revolution, the slow growth of the national ideal, and the fact that education itself is under State control, it was natural that this point of view was neglected. But war is one of the greatest integrating and unifying forces, and tends to counteract racial, religious, party, sectional and class divisions, the disintegrating forces in national life, in order that the whole strength of the people may be used to overthrow the common foe. It places first the interests of the largest group, the nation, instead of individual interests, or those of a group seeking some selfish or local end.

Another principle affecting education is the new conception of the relation of the individual to the nation because of the immediate demands of the war. As public opinion changes, as the lessons forced on the people by the war are learned, education necessarily reflects these changes. The war has emphasized not only the matter of duties and obligations, but the principle of obedience and the performance of definite and often disagreeable tasks. This is in contrast to the notion present in the educational philosophy of the past generation, that pupils should do only those things which interest them. The exacting demands of war and the performance of uncongenial tasks required as a part of the training to gain skill and knowledge; the subordination of the individual to the group, to gain efficiency and success — these principles tend to react on educational philosophy, methods of instruction and the requirements made of the pupil. The effect on public opinion of the campaign for saving and economizing in money, time, food and clothing tends also to influence school practice and ideals.

Broadly speaking, the war has emphasized two types of education which compete more and more with the older cultural variety. The first grows out of the emphasis on national ideals and interests, and the duties and obligations of citizens to the nation in peace and war. This may be called the new social-civic education which has for its basis the socialization of the pupil through the study of the social sciences, history, civics, economics and sociology. It is through emphasis on these subjects that the pupils can be taught to take the social rather than the individual point of view; to become interested in, and to sacrifice for, the interests of the group. The new interest in history and civics is the first outcome of this force. It is agreed that the subject of history assumes great importance because the ideals for which we are fighting must necessarily be taught to the present generation. This calls for a revaluation of our own history as well as a broader study of the origin and development of our cultural and political institutions, and the development of democratic ideas. It also calls for a more complete knowledge of the history of the nations opposed to us, their psychology, philosophy, political systems and aims. It calls for a broader study of the history of those nations with whom we are allied in the war. It calls for a restudy of onr own history, especially with respect to an understanding of out indebtedness to England for the origin of many of our institutions and much of our culture, to remove false prejudice and to show how under the forms of monarchy England is a democracy. The final attitude of the United States at the peace conference and in future efforts to preserve the world peace must, in the last analysis, be determined by public opinion. An enlightened public opinion is impossible unless historical conceptions are present in the minds of the people, sufficient for them to recognize what is just and right for the future existence of the nations and peoples who are concerned in the world peace. If the people of the United States are to help safeguard the world for democracy, it is obvious that the historical background of the struggle for democracy in the past and the manner in which nations have reacted to that struggle must be thoroughly understood.

Similarly, the necessity of studying civics, economics and social science is acknowledged, because citizens must know something of these subjects in order to react intelligently to the serious problems brought up by the war, to choose representatives who will vote for wise laws, and devise machinery for the solution of the great questions growing out of the war and reconstruction. Because of the war, our democracy is confronted with the need of more intelligent and better educated citizens in the political and social sciences than ever before were needed. For already the political, industrial and social practices and institutions of this country have been greatly changed. Whether the process will go on or whether we shall retrace our steps is a question which the generation now in our schools must help to decide. It is agreed that pupils must have a comprehension of the problems, difficulties, and tendencies facing us, in order to arrive at a wise solution and avert possible disaster. No more important questions could confront the people than those which relate to the permanent control of public utilities, railroads, telegraphs, telephones; the production, distribution, and consumption of food and fuel; the regulation of prices, and government control or ownership of other resources or agencies, and its relation to capital and labor.

The second type of education emphasized by the war is the industrial-scientific. The deeper causes leading to the war, especially those of an economic character, have called attention to the fact that industrial nations like those of western Europe, and even the United States, cannot prosper in peace or war without great attention to that phase of education which develops exact knowledge of and skill in the trades and processes on which an industrial civilization is based. The United States, broadly speaking, has been living on its capital, on the stored-up wealth represented by the natural fertility of the soil and the bountiful supplies of minerals and raw materials such as coal, iron, copper, lumber, etc. With such ready-made wealth, little technical skill, efficiency, or knowledge was needed for the supply of immediate needs or even for accumulating wealth. This era, however, has passed and this country, even now, must increasingly conserve its wealth and even depend on other lands for part of its raw supplies. It must apply more skill, knowledge, and efficiency in obtaining wealth from the soil, and in transforming raw materials into finished products. This condition, in connection with the competition of other racial groups who have attained still greater knowledge than we have, is at bottom the basis for the emphasis on technical, scientific, and vocational education. The 6,000,000 farmers in this country, and those who take their places, cannot succeed without more scientific and technical knowledge involving the chemistry of soils, problems of fertility, the science of growing larger crops, knowledge of the enemies of plant life and how to overcome them, the care of farm machinery, the production of better food and service animals, and the principles of scientific management of farms from the viewpoint of profit and loss. The reason for a great extension of agricultural education is obvious. But this means a very different rural system for education from that now prevailing, one that can only be introduced at great cost, and with the aid of the resources of all the people administered by the national government.

The intricacy of modern industrial processes, the greater and greater skill needed to obtain the required amount of wealth out of resources continually growing less, and the necessity of providing the great mass of industrial workers with the kind of education which will not only increase their skill and earning power, and hence the wealth of the nation, but also give them that broader vision and wider knowledge of their position and work, their privileges, duties, and obligations — all this is at the foundation of the demand for vocational education. It is significant that Congress passed the Smith-Hughes bill for Federal aid to vocational education in 1917, under the influence of the war and because of its effect on the type of education needed for a great industrial nation. This bill provides for the appropriation of large sums from the Federal treasury to stimulate the teaching of agricultural and industrial education, and home economics, and calls for an equal appropriation from the States taking advantage of the bill. It also created a Federal board for vocational education which has important powers of supervising the systems established. This bill, if not directly a result of the war, was greatly influenced by it. It is the beginning of a new era in the United States, and must have important effects on national life, such as providing for the industrial skill needed for national defense, and for industrial competition likely to follow the war. It also lays the foundation for the vocational education of those soldiers who return. Particular subjects in the curriculum, such as geography, have been affected by the war. The result is a new interest in world geography, both as to the ownership of land areas and especially the economic resources of nations and their trade and commerce. The decline in the study of German in schools and colleges, and the increased attention to French and Spanish, is another important effect of the war on education.

The problems developed by the war, and the preparation for it, have led to increased study of the defects of our educational system with proposals to remedy them. One of the first results of the medical examination of those called to the colors was to reveal the fact that a larger proportion of our population than we realized, suffer from physical defects and diseases. That many of these could have been prevented by early attention, by medical inspection of school children, by greater care of their health, and by more attention to physical training by the schools is admitted. The question of the duty of the State to pay equal attention to both the physical and the mental well-being of its future citizens is more and more recognized. If this view is not one of the direct results of the war at least we may say that it has been greatly stimulated.

A second discovery growing out of the war was the fact that there was a large element of our popu1ation which had not only not been Americanized, but could neither read nor write English. The newly arrived immigrants who later became voters, as well as those who from choice remained aliens, were hardly touched by our public school system. The absurdity of granting citizenship and the franchise to one class, and allowing both classes to perpetuate their own foreign languages and culture, and even to pass these on to their children to the exclusion of our own language and culture, is now seen and appreciated. To expect that such a policy would make the United States safe for democracy, or to expect as a result of this policy that the nation would become unified in spirit, language, and ideals, so that it could act as a unit in a great crisis for its own self-protection, was foolish. Accordingly it is recognized that the function of the school must be extended so as to prevent such a condition in the future; that the school must extend its opportunities to immigrants and aliens, and indeed that education of emigrants must be made compulsory through continuation schools.

The problem of a teaching force that will be all American, loyal, and in sympathy with the ideals of this country has been brought to light by the war. The tendency to require public teachers to be citizens, and to be free from any taint of disloyalty or antagonism to the ideals of America, is an effect of the war. To teach successfully the ideals for which America now stands as well as the relation of these ideals to our historic past is obviously possible only for one who believes in no other ideals.

Finally there is the relation of education to the reconstruction period following peace. New political, economic and social conditions inevitably mean a new philosophy of education. The old order has even now actually passed, and it is hardly possible for it to return, because the conditions on which the old order was baaed have disappeared. The real propelling power of education is the prevailing political, economic and social forces of a period, plus environment. As these change so must education, its philosophy, curriculum, ideals, institutions, and practices. The war has already forced changes which must inevitably affect the future. Those changes which have taken place, such as governmental regulation of production, distribution and consumption of food and fuel, the principle of co-operation between the government and private industry, governmental regulation of labor supply and wages, and control of transportation facilities — all these mark the beginning of a new political, social and economic order, and hence a new order of education for the future.

National development in the immediate future will be determined largely by the educational plans and practices set in motion by the war — a new physical, industrial, and social training, extension of the principle of universal elementary to universal secondary education, so far as possible, with a corresponding increase in the proportion of those receiving a higher education, and the attempt to reach the whole adult population, through extension of the use of the school plant, various types of education, and continuation schools. This program may be supplemented in peace times by use of the great cantonments established by the government, for training men for the problems of peace as well as war, and for the rehabilitation of the disabled soldiers of the war. The proposed national department of education would do much to correlate existing agencies, to lay down the guiding principles which would standardize minimum requirements and make proposed improvements.

Bibliography. Dean, Arthur D., ‘Our Schools in War Time and After’ (Boston 1918); various articles in ‘Proceedings’ of National Educational Association (Washington 1917, 1918); ‘Report of United States Commission of Education’ (Vol. I, pp. 1-19, Washington 1917); ‘Education and the War,’ six articles by various authors in ‘Educational Administration and Supervision’ (Vol. IV, no. 1, pp. 1-53, January 1918); publications of the Bureau of Education, especially ‘Lessons in Community and National Life,’ and the series called ‘Teachers Leaflets,’ ‘Secondary School Circulars,’ and ‘Higher Education Circulars,’ all of which bear directly on education and the war (Washington 1917, 1918); ‘The National Emergency in Education,’ a pamphlet issued by the National Education Association, containing a statement of the nature of the crisis in education and a program for readjustment during and after the war (Washington, June 1918).

Marcus W. Jernegan,
Associate Professor of History, University of Chicago.