A viewpoint on the matter of values in education came into the news this week, with a resolution sponsored by Rep. David Givens of Fayette County and 28 others who urged Tennessee schools to put more stress on what they called fundamental and less on frills in Tennessee colleges and high schools. This resolution criticized state colleges for giving credit in such subjects as social dancing, tumbling, and the fundamental and techniques of soccer and speedball. Nothing was said about ping pong and tiddlywinks. Perhaps this was an inadvertent omission.
And along the same line comes an excerpt by President Edwin S. Burdell of Cooper Union, New York, which says:
“Our American democracy has fought shy of elite groups, whether by birth, wealth, or brains. We have promoted an egalitarianism which runs the risk of defeating our efforts to meet our more pressing needs. Our teachers are paid less than our factory workers, and their station in life financially is rated not much above that of the common … salesman. Occasionally waves of anti-intellectualism threaten to stifle the exploration of the unknown, whether physical or social…. The recent fad of applying the term “egghead” to anyone who displays … intellectual ability seems to imply distrust of the intellectual as a sort of misfit in a mass of conformity…. The development of potential brain power of intellectually superior men and women is our greatest need….
“The crux of the problem is how to discover those most talented youths and to motivate them to seek the education … needed to cope with the increasingly complex situation [of the world we live in]. If society is to survive, it must be as much concerned with the man of brains and integrity as it is with enlightenment of the masses of mankind.”
Thus ends the words of the good doctor, but he is saying what many teachers have thought but feared to say in recent years. They have been dismayed as they have seen such panaceas as social promotions, life adjustment curricula, and other such nonsense prescribed as cure-alls for educational ills, and many times they have had to administer the medicine when they had little faith in its healing qualities. Educational theorists have been more concerned with educational problems than they have with the problems of education, and there is a vast difference. If the moral tone of the social order is to be improved through education, it is about time that more reason and less rationalization is utilized in developing and carrying out educational programs. As far as I know, nobody has as yet announced discovery of a process that will transmute zircons into diamonds, but diamonds can be polished by the proper process.
Frederick May Elliot, writing in The Christian Register for December 1956 contributes the following thought-provoking comments:
“’Man,’ wrote Prof. Harlow Shapely recently, ‘is a stubborn adherent to official dogma, and official dogma is more powerful in religion than in any other area of human concern. This may be natural, because religion is more vitally concerned with the deepest emotional life than any other element in human experience, but it is nonetheless regrettable….
“It is now more than a hundred years since William Ellery Channing laid down the principles for a religious education that would be consistent with a liberal point of view in religion…. But it is only comparatively recently that anything like a majority of religious people has made his principles a basis for practice in our churches.
“But a few are on the road to that victorious outcome. And nothing is more deeply heartening today than the response of an entire generation of young parents to the program of religious education which owes much of its initial impulse to Channing. Out of this breakthrough may well come the greatest onward surge that liberal religion has known from the beginning of its history.
“Here is, as I see it, the chief contribution which our churches can make to the advancement of mankind…. We can demonstrate that religion is the ally and not the enemy, of progress in thought; that the mind of man is mightier than its own inertia; that the barriers can be thrown down in the name of faith. That is our opportunity today.”
He was talking about the Unitarian religious philosophy. Few other denominations, including my own, have been bold and imaginative enough to do this.
All of us have read recently of the racial tensions and outbreaks at Clinton, Tennessee, Montgomery, Alabama, and other places throughout the South as a result of integration efforts in schools, on buses, etc. Whatever view one takes toward integration, he probably, in theory at least, deplores mob violence, whether it is in attacking a minister who is escorting colored children to school, or dynamiting the home of an integrationist.
This week a new, or at least a little different, instance of violence occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, when a 29-year-old clerk, a white man who has been a frequent speaker at integration rallies was set upon by a group of hoodlums, all white. His car was wrecked, and stones and other missiles, as well as angry and unprintable words were hurled at him. Not only that, but he was fined $30 in court for gunning his car in a burst of speed to get away from the mob before possible fatal violence was done to his person. As a result of his experience, he says that he thinks it best he leave the state to avoid more trouble. He, quite naturally, feels that he wishes to, in his words, “tell the world” what is going on throughout the deep South regarding the racial situation. Washington announced that he would be permitted to submit a report to a U.S. Senate subcommittee regarding what happened and is happening.
Not only is the whole episode disgraceful, but worse, it seemed to be something of a symbol of the atmosphere through the area. Wonder if those doing the attacking do not go into their churches for worship and sing, “We are not divided, all one body we”? If so, how academic can you get about religion?
To many, perhaps most, of us, children are the most wonderful things in the world. And at least some of us so cherish congenial home and family life where children are, that no sacrifice seems too great to be with them. This week, a statement of “Beatitudes for Parents” came to my attention that seems worth passing on. It goes like this:
Blessed are the parents who make their place with spilled milk and with mud, for such is the kingdom of childhood.
Blessed is the parent who engages not in the comparison of his child with others, for precious unto each is the rhythm of his own growth.
Blessed are the fathers and mothers who have learned laughter, for it is the music of the child’s world.
Blessed and wise are those parents who understand the goodness of time, for they make it not a sword that kills growth but a shield to protect.
Blessed and mature are they who without anger can say no, for comforting to the child is the security of firm decisions.
Blessed is the gift of consistency, for it is heart’s ease in childhood.
Blessed are they who accept the awkwardness of growth, for they are aware of the constant perilous choice between marred furnishing and damaged personalities.
Blessed are the teachable, for knowledge brings understanding and understanding brings love.
Blessed are the men and women who, in the midst of the unpromising mundane, give love, for they bestow the greatest of all gifts to each other, to their children, and in an ever-widening circle, to their fellow men.