Oral essays on education; Charles A. Siepmann
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 in Terra Michigan State University College of Education interviews Mr. Charles ACP and chairman of the department of communications in education New York University who sees education as a focal point of democracy. And now here is Dr. Htun Tara. We all live in a society or within a context which has just recently been triggered into having a good hard look at itself in terms of what it is educating itself for. Generally people think of education as having to do only with young people with the children to take their
place in society or improve or advance society. And we've had to take a look at this to see if this is really what is happening or is education something going throughout society at all levels and what is education to do with our society. So various kinds of people have taken a look at this all the way from naval captains to teachers in rural schools to some of our very best minds have tackled this problem. Tackle it from a political and economic a cultural a sociological point of view. Each one of these looks has created problems because of the nature of the looking that goes on. And as you see this then as you see our problem in our society and our education for society or within society how do you prefer to investigate it. How do you prefer to see it how do you conceive of it. I don't think that we're going to get our bearings on the problem of education
until we put it in the only context in which for me it has meaning and that is the context of our society our dedication to the ideals of democracy. And I can't begin to talk about education until I've given it this setting and explored a little about that setting implies. Obviously education for us means something totally different from what it means for the Russians. I think we have a lot to learn from the Russians in many respects but their objective in education differs from as in that we distinctively should at least be using education for the ultimate purpose of democratic life. And the purpose of democratic life as I understand it is a form of society in which the nature of the government the nature of its public institutions including education each and or
dedicated to one proposition and that is to release the individual to the fulfillment of himself unhampered by restraints political or otherwise to find himself in the fullest sense of that down democracy to mean me means precisely that a system of society dedicated to the nurture and protection of individuality. And if we don't stand for that. I don't know what we stand for. If the individual and his self-discovery is basically the purpose of a way of life then there's an immediate conclusion we can draw. And it's one that we give credit to with our lips. But I feel better lie again and again in practice. The conclusion I come to in this respect is simply this. In a
democracy education is central. This is a condition of democracy is so vital. Without education you have a rabble of ignorant and unconcerned people. Education is the keystone of democracy as it trains people to serve a society which in turn serves them for their own ends. So we begin then with the notion of education as dedicated to democracy as it in turn is dedicated to the net and protection of individuality. This has been the young the ongoing faith of our society from the days of the founding fathers. What troubles me deeply is I guess it troubles many others is the extent to which so many people have failed to realize the central idea of education. Why
is it for instance that you can float bonds and raise money to the tune of billions of dollars when it comes to making highways for the cars that we drive while we neglect and will not pay up proportionately for highways along which young minds can go toward self-discovery. This in a sense is the crisis of our time. We have not conceded to education the central idea that it should have. Even in terms of education in terms of financial support in terms of the focusing of our mind with respect to what we do in education. This is serious because the strains upon our society in our time I think the curia and unique. On the one hand we live in an age of scientific discovery of the consequences of which are plain for all to see.
Modern technological society requires a degree of high specialized skills without which the society cannot be organized. The Russians have seen this. They have made education the linchpin of an operation that is going to turn out a generation of students competent in the context of modern technology and that doing very well. This is an added strain. But it's a strain that is liable I think to deceive and distract us. The reaction in this country to Sputnik was to me troubling. That was an almost hysterical sudden realisation that the Russians were beating us in technical terms. So immediately you get people shouting We must have more science courses we must have more concentration on the how to do it aspects and the specialty is that modern technological society requires good enough yes indeed we must have
these things. But we run the risk of keeping the Russians trying to beat them at their own game and forgetting the distinctive problem of education as we conceive of it. If we turn education into an instrument for the furtherance of greater know how. We will favor democracy and I believe we'll lose the race to the Russians by putting an emphasis that is misplaced in terms of the priorities of a need. Yes indeed we need technological training and a lot of it. But we need more than this. If we still keep education in the context of democracy. First and foremost a man must know who he is before he determines what he's going to do with himself. Well Long know how we're short on what I would call be how and this for me is the center for consideration in education the business of education
is to train and develop a person to the discovery of himself in the true sense of that. We've got to learn about what it means to be a human being before we can function in humane and humanistic tons. So my first point that would be don't be deceived by Russian progress. To the extent of paying education on the technological side let's recognize that if we are going to beat the Russians if democracy is a belief is going to survive. The major emphasis has got to be on be how and not on know how. This is a complicated problem aggravated by circumstances and tendencies in our society that frighten me. Sociologists men like Reese men men like Holly white the organisation man responds book What's it called.
What is the lonely crowd. These But examples of a new literature I developing which is beginning to bespeak a theory that frightens me. Well these books illustrate and draw attention to tendencies in our society toward an ever growing conformity by individuals to the requirements of the society that they live in. Conformity is that which clouds the issue of individuality. The more you are a blind conformist the less you lot an individual. This is frightening and yet there is much in our society in the structure of modern industry and government that depersonalizes people talking to young students I find that many of them have lost a sense of any participant in sense of belonging. They feel that they are victims of forces over which they have no control. They have almost given
in before they started. They are conformist in the sense that they say this is the way life has been rigged for us theres nothing else to do but to conform to the requirements that others speak on our behalf. This is frightening and terrifying to me. It even poses a question which sounds absurd and yet I think has an element of reality about it. Given the complex of the demands of modern life technological organisational and India logical The question I think can be legitimately raised and we in education should raise it first and foremost can individuality survive. This I think is not a hysterical question. I think it's a question that needs to be put on examine because we may be destroying individuality unwillingly and unconsciously unless we keep our eye on the ball. So here we are a generation plagued by new claims upon men new claims upon education.
Some of which claims we have not examined fully as they relate to changes in the approach to education and the manner in which we teach students. And if this weren't enough we're burdened with another problem temporarily one hopes. And yet one that one can foresee as plaguing us for a 20 year period ahead. At the moment of crisis when education faces new burdens of responsibility is forced to consider new perspectives for the context of what it does. We are plagued with the problems deriving from the increased birthrate of the war years in the post. And education organisationally face is probably an almost insurmountable. What are these well that well known. On the one hand the overcrowded classroom the bow in the student enrollment that results all over this country in classrooms must bring students 45 and 50 a piece. In
cities students going to school literally in relays getting half an education. One group getting a morning's education the classrooms are emptied and the incoming next crowd for the afternoon. Too many children. The situation of the old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many children should not know did not know what to do. This again aggravated by the fact that concurrent with this bout in the enrolment is a fearful teacher shortage. The latest figures that I've seen quoted say that we are short of one hundred and ninety five thousand teachers in our schools today. This Boulton enrolment is pestering us in the secondary schools right now. The incoming tide of students will flood in to plague us in the colleges by 970 to the extent of raising a situation which competent and sober statisticians
estimate to involve the fact that in 1970 we in the colleges and universities will be facing two students for every one that we face today. Two students for every one we face today. To meet this enrolment it is calculated that to keep the present level of ratios between teachers and students you would have to enlist in teaching every graduate in any specialty passing through our universities. We'll have to take the whole of the graduates of our universities and roll them all in education to save the day. This is obviously impossible and the burdensome question arises who in 1070 is going to teach and what kind of teaching is it going to be. Unless we do something about it and do it quick I think we can say with confidence that the outcome of this situation will be a progressive degradation of the standards of higher education.
This I think is one case west of the sticks cannot lie unless we do something about it. But now to an even more grievous point and I know I sound like a sand rabbit. We've got to face facts. Beyond the quantity of problem respecting the enrolment of students and the teacher shortage is a much more serious problem and that is the qualitative problem. How good is the teaching going on in our schools today. Preoccupied with the quantitative aspects of this problem. We I think tend to neglect the essence of or education which is quality Dr Johnson the late president of Fisk University put in the phrase I keep quoting because I think it puts it so well. At the conference I think this quantitative question of where to begin to enroll more teachers was the essence of that discussion. He rose and gave people a warning.
He said and I think the phrase is transient keeping classes small by hiring poor teachers merely enables the teacher to communicate his middy awkward day in an intimate environment. This I think is true. And this is terrifying. There is no quantity of solution to our teachers problem. If we confine it to quantity unless we can recruit to our profession men of quality no number of them will make any difference. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sigh was yet and you can't get good teaching out of indifferent teach us how much attention has been paid to quality in education. This takes us back to some of the plaguing questions related to education. Among them teachers pay. The fact that while as I believe education is central to our way of life the fact is as I've already suggested that that is a general and widespread
indifference to the prop up price that we have to pay to get the education that we want. The teaching profession from the elementary through the school of the schools through the colleges the teaching profession is scant and paid. When I go home of an evening sometimes I get back my daylight and passing in 10 minutes from the station to my home. I pass a garage. And more often than not I will see standing at the pump. A man who is a teacher in the public schools in New Canaan Connecticut. What's he doing that he's seeking out a livelihood in his spare time by outing himself out as a hand at a gas station. I move a little further down the road and I pass the public library. And here I see another man a man mowing the lawn on the public library and who is he. He's another teacher. Again eking out a livelihood which otherwise is not sufficient for him.
If he had the insolence to raise a family and to have children as well as commit himself to teaching. Professors full professors earn on average less pay than a railroad engineer. The statistics are well known. The facts are appalling and the public indifference to this is one of the things that frightens me most. It seems to me perfectly clear that we will not get quality teaching until we can attract into a profession people of quality. And given the mindset of our time people not other than as they are saints all lunatics come into this profession. At the present pay scales. This stuff has to be done as a first condition of change and improvement. The president's commission on higher education which is no subversive organization as far as I know made a first recommendation in its report to the president in terms of dealing with the problem of higher education. And the first recommendation was the immediate
doubling of the salaries of professors. If this were done we might still have difficulties. It's true that the intermediate price of the doubling of salaries in school and college teachers for school and college teachers may involve a price. I am quite prepared to admit that for the next 20 years we will be overpaying hundreds of thousands of teachers they will not be worth the pay they've got. On the other hand I believe this is a price that we've got to pay for our folly and neglect over the last 20 years. And is the price that people have to pay to secure recruitment to the provision of people of the quality we need now. No I'd like to talk a little about teacher training. If we can muster into the profession a sufficient quantity of people who will give themselves to it. How do we train them to walk.
And do we seek to train. What in fact is teaching. I think that the best definition of a teacher that I have ever heard is my mentor and one time friend. Dr. A. And why did the loss of a mathematician and one of the few great men that I've been privileged to meet. And in his little book which every teacher and every citizen should read. The aims of education. He defines the teacher in terms that I love and approve and he says this. The function of a teacher is twofold. It is for him to elicit enthusiasts and by resonance from his own personality and to create the environment of large on knowledge and a firm purpose. Now I'd like to repeat that because it's so important to me. The teacher has a
twofold function. It is for him to elicit enthusiasm by resonance from his own personality and to create the environment of a larger knowledge and a firm a purpose. And I think you've got the essence of the problem of teaching. You cannot expect children to learn other than you as you elicit from them. Enthusiasm for what they learn and you cannot engender enthusiasm unless you've got it yourself. No man can give out but he has not taken in and good teaching is the reflection of the enthusiast among the resonance of personality of the man who is teaching. And any teacher who lacks that resonance fails as a teacher in his first task which is to create an atmosphere of excitement and interest among students. If you can't do this they will not learn. You can drag a horse to the boat up but you cannot make it drink. You can put children in the classrooms but you can't make them learn unless you can make them enthusiastic
about learning. But beyond this if you have that power still the double task that he speaks of and he puts teaching with respect to any and every subject matter into its true perspective to create the environment of a larger knowledge and a firm a purpose. And to me this means that whatever we teach with respect to subject matter we must we must teach that subject in a perspective as large as life itself. Whitehead again says the only subject matter of education is life in all its manifestations. And one of the tendencies and dangers of our time is specialisation which makes a man supposedly educated as he must. The technicalities of a given specialized field. The specialist is a potentially very dangerous human being because as his perspectives on our road to a perfect command of his peculiar specialty he loses perspective
of that specialty as it relates to the broader aspect of living. And Whited is right that that teaching is dangerous as whatever the subject matter be it excludes that larger knowledge that synoptic grasp of the meaning of what we teach. And I think he's right again as he underscores what we hear very little talked about these days namely the relationship between education and the development of characters. The environment of our larger knowledge and a firm that purpose. These two things are central to me with respect to what teaching is all about. Now how many of us in the teaching profession come near to matching up to that definition of a teacher. I would say true and I think there are reasons for it. One of the reasons
relates to teacher training. I am unconvinced that in our teacher training institutions we are addressing ourselves to the problem of preparing teaches in the proper way. I am likewise convinced that pocket because of the fact of pay but for other reasons as well. We as of this moment attracting into the professional people who should never come into it because their motivation is wrong. I face twice a week. This here in this school of education I launched a class A freshman students. And as I talk with them and get the measure of the outlook I am persuaded that low percentages of these students have not that motivation which is Ohlone the condition for me of entry into the profession. I see that there are very simple clear tests of what is needed. If you are going to teach.
I would not accept it as a desirable entrant into our profession. Any student. In terms of motivation is not a person who seeks to know and come by love of the subject matter that he or she teaches and who does not or does not wish to love Stilton students knowledge and love of subject. Love of children are the first conditions of teaching for me. How many of the students whom we are attracting into the profession have this motivation. I say relatively few. Partly because we have lowered entry requirements beyond responsible levels. Partly because the motivation of many students is other than that which I have described. I am depressed by the fact that very longe numbers of the students that I
face lack this motivation and enter the profession for purely irrelevant reasons. Many of them are coming into the profession because they see in it a lower lifelong ceiling of security. Many others women come into the profession as a temporary source of pin money pending matrimony. This isn't the stuff teachers are made and the consequences. I reply I say across the face of this country. Go into the schools go into the classrooms look at children's faces see what's happening to them. I say for example that it is no accident that of the children who graduate from high schools a very high percentage and I have the acknowledgement of my own students about this emerge from high school for instance hating or indifferent at least to poetry. This I give merely as one example.
Now people born hating poetry. They acquire a hate or an indifference for it. Read of the equity in the classrooms as the consequence of loveless teaching. They are taught by people who do not know and love that subject. And the consequence is an indifference or even hatred of that subject. It sounds it is a very ugly thing to say but I'm trying to be as frank and realistic as I can. I don't think it is a matter that we can mince words over. I think we are in a state of crisis that reminds the crudest realists. I say the fact is that in our profession we must thousands upon thousands of assassins assassins are the enthusiasm and the potentialities of interest in children as we destroy this potential interest. The growing curiosity of a child as we blank that curiosity. We are killing
human beings not their bodies but the minds of the potentialities of their spiritual and intellectual growth. And this is the inevitable consequence of loveless teaching. And I speak of what I know here because I have lived in the schools from day to day more than many people have and I have witnessed myself the loveless teaching that I'm not and now trying to describe. That was Mr. Charles a segment chairman of the Department of Communications and education at New York University. Mr. SWEETMAN discussing education as a focal point of democracy was interviewed by Dr. James in terror of the Michigan State University College of Education. Next week you will hear Mr. Chester Bowles our former ambassador to India and congressional representative from Connecticut stressing the need for a more universal aspect to our education in this world society or less AIDS on education was produced by Wayne S. Wayne and Patrick for distribution is made through the National Association of educational broadcasters.
- Oral essays on education
- Charles A. Siepmann
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Charles A. Siepmann, professor of education, New York University, on "A Focal Point of Democracy."
- The thoughts of distinguished Americans in a survey of American eduction.
- Media type
Interviewee: Siepmann, Charles A. (Charles Arthur), 1899-1985
Interviewer: Tintera, James
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Oral essays on education; Charles A. Siepmann.” 1960-11-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-707wqw9q>.
- APA: Oral essays on education; Charles A. Siepmann. 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-500-707wqw9q