MOST of the early writers on democracy stressed the importance of education in making self-government a success. If they could return today and see what the result of the extension of educational facilities has been, there can be no doubt they would be thoroughly disillusioned. The almost unbelievable increase in the complexity of governmental problems has been accompanied by no corresponding development in the capacity of the electorate to deal with them, in spite of a vastly enlarged school system. Some hold that this failure is due to the inherent intellectual limitations of the common man, but Mr. Coe firmly believes that the educational methods are its cause.
The author attempts to show why the American schools have so obviously failed to turn out an electorate capable of coping with contemporary governmental problems. He tries to show how and why our supposedly educated voters have not been taught to think clearly and independently on political problems. On the basis of this analysis he tells what changes are necessary.
While Mr. Coe has an excellent grasp of the field of education today, he is lamentably weak in his treatment of governmental theory. Belief in more democracy as a cure for the evils of democracy, and faith in a rather out-worn liberalism tend to weaken greatly the value of his constructive suggestions. And again, he fails to recognize that one generation is bound to try to teach the next the existing ideals and prejudices. People will not support schools which teach what are held to be subversive doctrines.
The author gives the impression of not having delved deeply into the problem nor of having looked far into the future, and as a result his suggestions are often of questionable value. Yet the book is well worthwhile to all who are interested in the problem, because it contains valuable, specific recommendations which are capable of being put into practice immediately and would undoubtedly improve in time the political capacities of the literate electorate.