Oral essays on education; Norman Cousins
The following tape recorded program is distributed through the facilities of the National Association of educational broadcasters. Oral essays on education a dynamic radio series designed to present leading personalities of our society as they attempt to discover the scope of problems which confront modern education. This week Dr. James and Tara Michigan State University College of Education will interview Mr. Norman Cousins editor of a Saturday review of literature. Mr Cousins reviewed his recent criticism of education and builds a defense for today's teachers. And now here is Dr didn't you Mr Cousins. Because of the nature of some observations that you've been may have been able to make about what occurs on the American scene. Perhaps the best way to begin a discussion like this would be to say as you see the place of education in our society. What are its implications what really are the goals of education in a
society such as the American society. The role of education is to enable an individual to make responsible decisions whether with respect to the things that he's going to do in life. Whether with respect to the place that he will try to fill in the making of about a society all with respect to the part that he will play in the larger decisions that society itself must make. Now education is nothing if it's not long range. Therefore if we are interested in long range we must be concerned with what man himself most needs which is to say the development of a form for the human Commonwealth which will enable human Commonwealth to survive and to develop its values. Today we do not yet have the conditions which enable men anywhere in
the world whether in the United States or in the Soviet Union or in China to say in truth that this planet is safe and fit for human habitation. And this is the great challenge. Therefore the ultimate challenge of education is to help develop. Individuals who have the knowledge the attitudes and the approaches which will enable them to create an environment congenial to man something that they are not now doing. Would you say that there is any single society or group of societies which has recognised this problem and is doing something actively toward solution to such a problem. I don't I think all of education I think missed it entirely. We are all groping. And it's a little difficult and perhaps unreasonable to expect. Human beings. Confronted suddenly with a challenge of incredible dimensions to respond to that challenge in a way
that's accurate in so short a time. Adequate not accurate I'm sorry. Now consider one fact. With the advent of atomic energy the world jumped ahead 1000 years at least 1000 years. It was the world was suddenly transformed overnight into a single geographic unit. The pace of development of man however inside the diversity was. One which was fairly steady so that one would say that in the ordinary course of human evolution and political thought that we would at the end of perhaps 1000 years have been able to define a form for the human family which would enable men and nations to live amicably and to develop those conditions which would enable the individual to grow. But when suddenly you produce in one area as
you didn't in science with atomic energy and entirely new set of conditions when suddenly science jumps ahead 1000 years at least 1000 years. But your pace of development in the other areas is to say the least. Slow and inadequate. Well you're going to have a very serious problem so that when you say is it is education today anywhere in the world adequate. I would say it is not. But this has less to do with systems it seems to me than it does with attitudes because we have not yet developed in the awareness of the fact the human that the human Commonwealth does live inside a single geographic arena. And they all approaches are obsolete. How for example. Can you assure the members of the human family today
that they're going to be able to bring up their children educate their children develop develop their children develop their capabilities. When the BASIC environment in the world is one of fear. And it seems to me very reasonably so long as you have. The means of. Destroying the globe the instant means of destroying the globe without the corresponding mechanisms of control. So long as you have a world of anarchy this is going to affect everything. It's going to affect. Politics economic economics religion and education. Now the question is. Has man responded as he should respond. Well we're beginning to respond but I have yet to see the adequate responses. In short I've yet to see that leap of a thousand years in our political thinking and our education education and thinking in our economic thinking that meet the
specific challenge with which science confronts us. I realize that we have an extremely difficult problem here and I honestly can't blame the teacher. Just think of all the problems confronting the teacher and I'm not just talking about school buildings or facilities nor even about salaries so I do hope that the teacher will receive an adequate salary this is important. I'm thinking mostly about the fact that overnight an individual has to know at least twice as much as he did. Only 25 years ago just to get by. An individual today has to be at home in a world environment. But our best education you see is really prevention even at best. Now for example we prepare individuals. For being at home and in the Society of Western man yes
it is true. Increasingly I'm glad to say increasingly universities throughout the country and also high schools have given increasing emphasis to Asian and African Studies. But we have a long way to go before this is general. The general picture right now is that we are preparing the individual for living in a compartment ally's unit known as Western society. At the turn of the century this would make for a very good liberal education. Certainly the kind of education that Henry Adams wrote about depended on intimate working knowledge of majesty. And Mysteries of Western civilization. Well now we've gone beyond that. And so even if we give the individual today an education. Which in Henry Adams as terms would have been splendid that in that kind of
education does only half the job. What about the rest of the world. It seems to me that and educated man in our time or man cannot and truth Cornum self-educated unless he can be at home anywhere in the world. Now this does not mean that man should expect to speak. 64 languages or know the particularized history of 72 different nations. But what it does mean at least is that he should recognize that he can no longer think in terms of world compartmentalize units which is to say Eastern man as a unit and Western man as a unit. He now has to develop my respect. For the universe of knowledge he has to know something more about the interconnections between knowledge between different fields of knowledge than he had before. He not only has to be a specialist in some respects but he also has to know what the connective tissue is which which time
ties all these special special fields of knowledge together. Now over and above this of course we have the needed seems to me to give an individual new attitudes and new responses and new sensitivities. The white Western civilization is the smaller half. Of the world. If we want to survive if we want to survive with viable meaningful values if we want to grow that seems to me that we have to break through. We have to stop. This concept of the half educated man. The man is educated only for Western civilization or primarily for Western Civilization and make it possible for him to feel at home anywhere in the world to understand how you build bridges to other countries. He may not have to repeat a particularized knowledge of other cultures but he most certainly ought to have the knowledge which will enable him to build a bridge and very ready bridge to other countries.
Does this bridge have as one end of its foundation a pretty firm understanding of where he is in his culture to and I'm referring specifically to some of the rather recent volumes that have come out to the lonely crowd. The Organization Man in which accusations are being hurled at our own culture are saying look what has happened to us. Look at the kind of a situation we have evolved ourself into in particular I'm referring to the whites analysis here who says we are an other directed society we look toward other values than our own and we do. We cease to develop our own. What part of this is the responsibility of our more formal educational patters your implied in what you say of course is the charge. Possibly. That the individual now society can expect to know other cultures or to have the right approach is not a tube's towards other peoples unless he knows has a sense of his own tradition understands what his values are develops his values. I would agree with that
but what I was attempting to do before was to suggest that there are values common to all men that come with the gift of human life values that have to do with an awareness of the preciousness of life of the fragility of life values that have to do with the respect for all life. And and this is universal. You don't have to correct Piers in distant shores to build such a bridge. The pier that you construct has the steel. That is common to all. In short it's not just a matter of. What is it that I have that is important. What is it that they have as important how to connect the two. The question is what is it that we both have it as important we don't even recognize. One is that we both can build on. We both must build this bridge. We have to.
After all humans human society at the end of several hundred thousand years has now developed a single has now developed a single arena. The question for us is whether we're going to make of the single arena a single neighborhood. All we're going to make of it a single battle field. Now. In terms of the gap that we spoke of earlier we've been developing in one direction we have our separate languages separate our separate cultures separate values. And yet it seems to me that we don't quite recognize that there is a basic a fundamental a common reality that much of what we consider to be unique is really universal. What I'm trying to suggest therefore that in the in the big task of education now which is to prepare an individual for being at home anywhere in the world. Another way of saying that is to prepare him for the for
world citizenship for citizenship in the human Commonwealth. In attacking this problem and moving towards the subject of as I say education's job is to take that which already exists. That which is in me is already in man to develop it and to release it within this construct. Then what is the role of the teacher. I don't want to sound too cosmic about this and I certainly don't want to sound double domed but it seems to me that the teacher has a model role. There is the role of the awakened. I'll define that in just a moment. The role of the instructor. Second the role of the developer. Third by the role of the awakened. I'm thinking of all the things that have nothing to do with instructional education.
I'm thinking of those things that go beyond textbooks and that go beyond knowledge. I'm thinking of the fact that they the teacher is one who first of all develops a respect for education. I respect for education that will enable an individual to see the teacher his teacher not as the be all and end all of knowledge but to see the teacher merely as someone who can provide him with a sense of direction for a journey that he and he alone must travel. Whether an individual was educated in the final analysis it seems to me depends not on the facts that a teacher provides. But on the awakening power of the teacher. The inspirational power of the teacher to enable the individual to know that that he is on his own when it comes to educating himself. Now we come to the second role of the teacher. The instruction or oh
life demands information Life demands facts. An individual must deal with facts an individual must do must relate things he must relate. One area of knowledge to another and individual has to make his way in the world. While on this level the teacher has the specific responsibility. For enabling an individual to work with facts this is the instructional role and also to know how to appraise facts and to put facts in sequence to give them proportion and have a sense of perspective on facts. Now we come to the wrong of of the developer here. Hey you work with the human potential. What is the potential of any single individual. What is his reach. How far can he go. Now obviously men may be born equal in terms of their rights but they are not equal in terms of their reach or in terms of their potential.
One of the functions of the teacher is to enable or to attempt to determine. What the reach of the individual is. And then to help that individual to develop that particular reach to fulfill that particular potential. Now these three jobs can be separated obviously and it's difficult even to define them in seperate terms as I've attempted to do because no one knows exactly where where one from one function ends and the other begins. But in a very general sense I'm trying to suggest that the teacher a good teacher is someone who enables the individual to see things beyond the classroom to develop a respect for education and also to develop to develop. His own tropa SSMS his own yearnings to grow in an educational sense.
A teacher too in the general sense is someone who can teach an individual how to recognize a fact when he sees one and how to put that fact to work whether with respect to his own career or the making of national decisions. And finally the teacher is one who helps an individual to determine what he is and how far he can go and what his own obligations are in terms of fulfilling his own potential. And so here we are in the nineteen hundred and roughly 60 years have gone by since we had a great teacher. We have had a series of problems affecting us right now satellite span around the globe creating a more awareness of the oneness of the of this globe. And yet we find ourselves being a dissatisfied unity in the United States here and we find critics of education ranging all the way from retired admirals to
individuals who have been primarily in some lonely spot in an introspective analysis all taking critical evaluations taking critical potshots at what is going on within our own United States educational structure. To what extent do you think that education is wide open to these kind of critical evaluations when we are using your terms of what is a teacher here which can easily I think be projected into what is the responsibility of education because you cast it sort of in this framework what you think is wrong with our education then where have we fallen short Where have we not been as successful as we might be. I'm asking you to be a critic and while I'm not competent to be a critic Mr. Tarif I have a profound respect for the American teacher. I can think of few professions today in
America which have to cope not only with the challenges but with as many difficulties. As do American educators. I do have my hopes however about where education will go. And I do say that recognizing the difficulties confronting the American teacher and one ought not to feel that the structure has to be dismantled. But what we want to do is to ask ourselves is it barely possible that some of these people might have some good ideas themselves about what ought to be done with education. Are we developing an air of America for the soul of the person who is in the best possible position to know. Are we attempting to criticize from without. Instead of going at this in the team way some of the best ideas I've heard about education of come from educators I don't know why that should be surprising. They are aware of the shortcomings of education but it seems to me that the problem
is not. So much what is wrong with education but what are our goals what are our purposes what are our values. Now with the national values right. If the national purposes are right. If on national goals are such that they release the best in us then it seems to me almost everything else only in the national complex will find the place and the teacher will then feel for the first time that she has something to work with. But there is a war that is now going on between the teacher in the outside world. Those people who criticize education not it seems to me going at this in terms of how you get at the source of the problem i too many of them I am of I am afraid are merely intensifying or rather change the metaphor broadening the gap between community and school. The only hope we have now
is that the educated well side of the community. This has to be a team job we cannot do this by us. We can't go beyond the values of the National Society. You won't let us do that. Therefore society must help redefine advance its own values but the same time we want you to work with us inside a new total redefinition. We want you to work with us in helping us to make this outside redefinition of the values of the society apply inside the school as well after all the child is not unrelated to the world what she's going to move. I would hope therefore that next time someone criticizes education he would begin first with a criticism of the total mechanism of which the school is a part. In discussing the various criticisms that come about it we now know of education critical and evaluations. Want to one of the most common most frequently heard criticisms is that
we have not been successful in training enough technologists enough scientists to fit the needs of not just our society but general society. Here is this a valid criticism but it seemed to me that the family was not one of the American School in fact it was one of policy. We we have we still we had at that time we still have many of the world's leading scientists. Indeed five years ago a number of these scientists did everything possible to awaken the government of the American people to the fact that Soviet science was far ahead of American science in this respect and implored the American people and the government to move in this particular direction. Well we were told at that time that we had nothing to worry about. We were told for example the Soviet Union couldn't possibly build an intercontinental ballistic missile because we couldn't make it ourselves therefore the Soviet couldn't make it. The point of what I'm trying to say Mr. Ting Tara is that
the Russian advance was not the result of a failure of American education or the shortage of American Scientists. It was the specific result of a policy decision and which we must all share the responsibility. This is not the fault of the American teacher. Another criticism which has been a leveled at education centers around the area that teachers represent a peculiar and unusual conglomeration of persons and that this is the peculiarities of this tend to keep recreating themselves one level of accusation here is that these are the people who go into education are not necessarily the best of potential students. People who go into education tend tend to come from a general part of our economic social class and this tendency keeps recurring and that we are imposing then through teaching and the development of teachers a certain kind of an outlook a certain kind of an economic social structure on all of our society.
Is this a valid criticism. How do you see this relationship here. I am not prepared to say that any field any profession gets the best. I'm not sure that I know what the best is must attend Tara. I can't take the position that people who go into education are inferior because of that fact. Indeed it seems to me that the sense of responsibility represented by this decision is in itself an indication of a rather high level of social responsibility. I don't know how you would anyone could possibly say that those people who go into teaching. I'm not as capable as people who go into other fields. This much however I hope we might recognize that the incentives for going into teaching
are a lot lower than they are for other professions. Now this might indicate just some individual has to be even better not to go into a field which has smaller incentives in order to fulfill a social responsibility I don't know but it is true. That. Teaching on the average pays off about what a plumber gets. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that a plumber gets too much but it would seem to indicate that I believe that if we want teaching to be a profession if we attach genuine importance to not only the rights of the next generation but the direct connection between education and national security and also national stature. If we do see a connection between the two of them I think we ought to take the
position that nothing is more important that no job in the country is more important than that of a teacher. And if no job is more important that of a teacher we ought to set up the kind of incentive system that make it possible for us to select from applicants the very best we can. And not until it seems to me we make education important. Do we have a right to pass judgment. On the comparative calibers or comparative stature of people going into education and other professions. If I'm. Running a newspaper or magazine gets a fair salary why shouldn't a teacher get a fair salary. Both are dealing with words. Both have to deal competently with words but the whole business of assuming that that a teacher should be expected to be at the bottom rung because of the
- Oral essays on education
- Norman Cousins
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Norman Cousins, editor, The Saturday Review, on "A Defense."
- The thoughts of distinguished Americans in a survey of American eduction.
- Media type
Interviewee: Cousins, Norman
Interviewer: Tintera, James
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Oral essays on education; Norman Cousins,” 1961-02-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-sj19qq2p.
- MLA: “Oral essays on education; Norman Cousins.” 1961-02-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-sj19qq2p>.
- APA: Oral essays on education; Norman Cousins. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-sj19qq2p