"Never before in the United States and nowhere else in the civilized world has a depression been permitted to scuttle the schools and rape the intellectual resources of the national future." Such is the strong, concise language of Dr. Glenn Frank, the able President of the University of Wisconsin. Every individual who maintains the slightest contact with his locality knows the sorry state of the public schools far too well to challenge the truth of this statement. The desperate plight of Chicago was merely the most publicized of many similar instances. All over the country the casual observer will discover many schools closed, others laboring under the handicaps of classes of fifty or sixty, shorter terms, limited curricula, underpaid and unpaid teachers. Every community faces a situation involving one, two, or perhaps all of these difficulties.
A cross-section of the nation's schools, or lack of them, is no edifying sight. Last year approximately three and a half million children, to again quote Dr. Frank, "found the door to educational advantage slammed in their faces." Where struggling communities maintain some parts of their school system, teachers labor with greatly augmented classes, due to unemployment conditions. Although their efficiency is impaired in every way, including overwork and cuts in meagre salaries, the teachers of the country have shown a courageous and public-spirited attitude, even providing lunches for penniless children as well as assuming many burdens co-existent with their school activities.
Whole-hearted sacrifice from the teachers is not enough. Society as a whole must meet them half way. Education is as fundamental towards carrying on a full-fledged existence as food and work. Cries are heard to dispense with the "frills" of education and return to the three R's. These self-styled economists forget the hard battle civilization has waged to include more than the so-called fundamentals and the imperative need for the most inclusive kind of education possible to meet the increasing complexities of life. In the last analysis, higher education and society itself cannot maintain themselves at the present level, unless provision is made for the future by re-establishing the public schools to their former position. The Federal government, under the drive of depression, has obviated many of the so-called state's rights. It can and should divert money from building an air force "second to none" to building citizens with minds capable of preserving peace.