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"The private school is neither needed nor justifiable in a democracy", said Dr. T. H. Briggs, Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, when interviewed last night in Lawrence Hall. Dr. Briggs delivered the Inglis Lecture for 1930 in Emerson D at 8 o'clock yesterday evening.
His subject for the address was "The Great Investment: Secondary Education in a Democracy". In an interview with the CRIMSON he outlined the more important features of his lecture and elaborated on a few of them.
"We have made tremendous strides in secondary education", he said, "and have increased the number of our schools. But we have never yet developed a philosophy of secondary education. There are many concepts that become worn, like coins, so that from time to time they must be reminted. Though you will find, if you ask your friends, they have never thought about it, it is a fact that the United States is unique in offering free public education. A movement for free secondary education is gaining way in Europe. Every country of Europe has a concept of secondary education that differs from our idea."
In speaking of the text of his speech, he presented the thesis that "Free education is not a benevolence but a long time investment to make the state a better place in which to live and in which to make a living". Developing on this, he said that, though it sounded innocuous, it was full of implications of highest importance. "Success of secondary education should be measured in youth made better able and better disposed to contribute to the betterment of the state. Judged by this criterion, our secondary schools are a lamentable failure."
Here he added the implication of the unjustifiableness of private schools and gave the following reasons for upholding this view: "It goes back to the thesis that the state is concerned with all schools. The state does not control what the private school teaches nor does it measure the achievement. Private schools may teach what they please. They may teach even subversive doctrine, or neglect that which is important in a democracy. It is true, however, they seldom take advantage of their opportunity.
"During the last few years certain private schools have affected the name, 'Independent School'. That is precisely the point; they are independent of the control of the state which is concerned with the development of every citizen so that he becomes an asset. The private school tends to weaken the interest of the patrons in public school education. It is often claimed that the private school is justifiable by its opportunities to experiment, but because of its artificial situation it can contribute very little, if anything, to public school practices. As a matter of fact, more experimenting is being done in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Denver than in 50 times the number of private schools.
State Controls High Schools
"There is increasing questioning on the part of the public as to the operation of the public high schools. The state's attorney may at any time bring an indictment for mis-feasance in office and misappropriation of funds. The indictment would have three counts: first, that there has been no serious effort to formulate a program that contributes either immediately or ultimately, either directly or indirectly, to the betterment of the supporting state: second, there is no respectable achievement in even the subjects that are taught, as is shown by the results of the most scientific tests--there is marvelous accomplishment by selected groups but the state is interested in the betterment of every individual: third, there has been no serious effort to develop in students attitudes so favorable to what they have studied that they continue their interest and growth by further study in higher institutions or independently."
Cultural Education often Over-emphasized
In his lecture, while emphasizing the importance of education as a long term investment, he said, "One good teacher is worth a platoon of police. Because of what they have failed to do, our schools are in large measure responsible for this country's shameful record of crime." He deprecated the fact that today nationalism is developed, even in unsuspected subjects, as philology and geography. In general terms he developed the thesis that "it is in extra curricula activities that the secondary schools are now most effective not only in the clubs and assemblies, and the like, but also in the more or less intimate personal contacts of teachers with students which increasingly are provided for by instituting home-rooms and providing advisors."
In considering the effects of education on the productiveness of the individual his address continues. "In our devotion to cultural education, the importance of which is not only conceded but emphasized, we often lose sight of the fact that it contributes to only one phase of the perfect man. No person can ideally be a good citizen unless he is equipped by nature and by training to make a living, and the more adequate that is, the better in many ways for his neighbors as well as for himself and his family. The ship of state can not move steadily or comfortably forward with a cargo of inactive and non-contributory passengers."
Concerning the fact that private schools may teach what they will his lecture brought out the comment that they do so is remarkable evidence not so much of considered freedom as of failure to realize the potency of education for vitally affecting conduct that materially contributes to the building up or to the weakening of the state."
Secondary Schools Too Secondary
As to the relation of secondary schools to institutions of higher learning the lecture continues. "Secondary schools are handicapped, then, because of the expectation that they shall prepare for higher education of academic kinds more students than are fit to profit by it. They handicap themselves by inculcating in their students a conviction that much of their curriculum is of value only as a preparation for further study in the remote future, that man never is, but always (is) to be blest."
In conclusion the lecturer stressed education as the only means of society for the accomplishment of its great end of "preserving itself and of promoting is interests. Therefore I believe in education. However unplanned they may have been, whatever defects they may have our schools have already contributed in society more than all other agencies combined. What they may contributes when so planned as to justify themselves in a modern world is greater, incalculabes greater, good. In this faith, in this conviction, in this knowledge we support the public school.
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