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The problem of war-time censorship cast its inevitable shadow on the field of education last Saturday when Ralph W. Robey, Assistant Professor of Banking at Columbia, finished perusing six hundred text books and decided that they tended "to belittle our form of government and criticize the system of business enterprise." When he released his black list under the aegis of the powerful National Association of Manufacturers, people started taking him-seriously.
Robey drew up an impressive list of excerpts in which social scientists had said that business men, even the ones who said their prayers every night, were not as good as they should be because they squandered natural resources, dominated the press, formed monopolies, played politics, and advertised breakfast foods in the guise of feminine freshness. This, cried Robey, was indoctrination. It was a condemnation of our "traditional liberties." Our children were being taught "that the American way is wrong, that some alien way is better." Oh shameful indifference toward "those ideals and principles which have distinguished the American way of life from that of other people"!
The authors of said panned print smiled knowingly up their sleeves and came forth with a tasty rebuttal. They pointed out that they were only attempting to "discuss the virtues of our economic system and not to sugar-coat or ignore its faults." Is there any harm in "simply giving the students the facts?" they asked. "A picture which is not real will breed far more cynicism than evaluation of our institutions." What they were driving at was "reasoned respect." And now Robey, the voice of prejudiced business, took excerpts from their contexts intentionally to shade this purpose.
Both sides have colorful banners to wave. It is no longer a sequitur that all Americans are truthful and good because G. Washington chopped down the cherry tree and then 'fessed up. Democracy is not a working dream. It is a method. In terms of actual employment, Hitler looks good beside Roosevelt. Hitler will give you a quick answer--for a nominal fee. Is the fee worth it? This is the question to be decided, not avoided. If it is avoided, Hitler's false argument holds good. As long as these six hundred books advocate change through the democratic method, it is not only their right but their duty to point to the flaws in our present system.
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