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The following tape recorded programs 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 CENTERA of Michigan State University College of Education will interview Mr. Arthur F. Fleming secretary of Health Education and Welfare in the Eisenhower administration who advocates the pursuit of excellence in education. And now here is Dr. Tim. Mr. Secretary the situation in the United States is a rather unusual one dealing with education in particular and with many of the aspects of public good being or welfare in particular because of the relationships that people tend to pull together whether they really exist or not in one of the
relationships seems rather obvious. And if it isn't please react that there is a direct relationship between education and the way of life we live in the United States that as our educational pattern goes on the upswing and more people are educated that the same thing happens to our way of life. Do you see any truth in this. Would you react to it as a matter of principle. Well I think your question is a very provocative one and personally I would certainly agree with the basic assumption that is involved in your question. There definitely is a relationship between education and progress in the field of education and our way of life in this country. I suspect that we could take as an illustration or as an example of that fact. The relationship between education the
progress that it makes and the progress or sometimes the lack of progress in the field of government because certainly with our government being structured in the way in which it ends with our government resting back on the basic concept of the consent of the governed and the participation of the governed in the governmental process there's a definite relationship between education and the strength or weakness. OB our government. We're thinking always of course in terms of campaigns whether they are campaigns at the local level or whether they are campaigns at the state level or the national level. And as we think in terms of campaigns often times our attention is focused we think primarily on personalities
and we're endeavoring to decide as between persons but actually of course underlying this concentration on personalities is a interest in and an involvement in certain basic issues. Now when the voter goes to the polls and cast his vote is his vote not to be cast on the basis of some rather meaningless slogan that somebody has use or is it going to rest back on a very careful considered evaluation of the evidence on both sides of the issues and a determination arrived at by him as a result of that rather careful analysis. Well it seems to me that education is bound to play has played of Carson is bound to continue to play a very
important part in determining the answer to that basic question. For example education it seems to me plays a very important part in determining what the motivation of the citizen is going to be. Does he have a clear idea of what we mean by the concept of freedom. Does he have a clear idea of the responsibilities that such a SCMS need to recognize and to discharge. If this concept of freedom is to be preserved. While I feel that to a very large extent the question of whether or not he does have a clear idea of the concept of freedom rushed back on the kind of job that has been done in our educational system in the broad field of the social sciences. If we've done a good job then I think you'll have a good understanding of this
concept of freedom that is he will have rediscovered it for himself and it seems to me that each generation must rediscover for itself the concept of freedom and he not only will have this rediscovered that concept of freedom but he'll have a pretty clear idea of what his obligations are. If this concept is to be preserved for example I think he'll see a relationship between the concept of freedom and its preservation and the opportunity that is afforded him to vote. And of course we know that there are still a good many people in our country who don't exercise their right of franchise. And I think to a certain extent that is a reflection on the failure of our educational system to reach them and bring them to the place where they are motivated and to vote. Also of course we know going back to my opening comments that there are a great many persons who will decide issues. And who will cast our votes accordingly on the basis of a slogan that somebody develops instead of a careful analysis and
weighing all of the evidence well. People who do that. It seems to me have not developed a clear understanding of what their obligations are as citizens and their failure to develop that is a failure of our educational system. Now up to now I'm kind of talking negatively here as though the educational system had fallen down on the job and that people generally were not recognizing the obligations that they have to preserve this concept of freedom. Actually you and I know that there are literally millions of people in our country who have read rediscovered this concept of freedom who do have a clear understanding of what their obligations are. If this concept of freedom is to be preserved and it's because of this fact that our country has been able to move forward and I believe that our
educational system is untitled to our great deal of credit for the fact that there are millions of persons who do have this kind of attitude toward their obligations and responsibilities as citizens when I recognize that this is only one phase of our way of life. But it happens to be an aspect of our way of life with which I have been rather intimately connected over the years so I use that as an example. I recognize that this educational process is a process that goes on outside of formal institutions as well as inside those formal institutions and sometimes the process that goes on on the outside of our educational institutions is even more significant than what goes on on the inside although I think it is also fair to say that it is the educational institution that stimulates oftentimes the educational process that goes on outside of the educational institution.
But so I think I come around to this point that in terms of the future of our way of life in terms of the way in which. Our way of life continues to unfold. It's terribly important to have a clear understanding of the approach of our educational institutions. Shall we say to their mission. It's very very important for us to understand what the objectives of our educational institutions are. And you know it's at that point that I have the feeling that all of us must definitely keep in mind the fact that an educational institution is essential a a community of scholars and I use the word scholar in its broad sense not in its narrow sense. And the longer I have the opportunity of observing what goes on in the field of education
the more experience I have in the field of education. Mark and Ben Stein I am of the fact that. It's very very important for us to make sure that we give these literally thousands tens of thousands of communities of scholars the opportunity of working out as groups the educational objectives of their particular institutions. And then of course it's incumbent upon all of us who are interested in the field of education to provide them with the kind of facilities and the equipment and the kind of working conditions the kind of support using support in its broad sense that they need in order to achieve their objectives. Now of course if we pray approach it in this way. We know that the objectives well vary somewhat from one educational community to another. And of course I think that is a strength of education in our
country. The fact that there is that opportunity for a variance. I don't mean to suggest that. We've got anything approaching a chaotic situation. I know that we have regional accrediting associations that set standards for our educational institutions at all levels and of course that's all to the good. I think on the whole that these associations render a very fine service. I'm glad that there are private associations as contrast and with governmental bodies but within the framework of these standards that they insist on it seems to me that we must give these communities of scholars the opportunity of developing their objectives developing ways and means of achieving these objectives and then we must give them the very finest kind of support to give you want to illustration of what I have in mind along this
line. There's a a phrase that I think quite a number of us have been using quite a little in the past few years and that's the expression the pursuit of excellence in the field of education. Back I think maybe the first time that it was really given the first time that the spotlight was really turned on it very effectively was and the Rockefeller Brothers report dealing with the field of education. Gardner The president of the Carnegie Corporation was the head of the task force that developed that report. And I think that that phrase struck a very responsive chord. And as far as our American people our citizens are concerned we've been concerned about the quality of education over a period of the last two years maybe to a greater extent than ever
before Sputnik played its part as we all know in developing that concern. Now of course some people of the media jump to the conclusion that everything is wrong with the American educational system and that nothing's right whether it I don't agree with that school of thought by any means. It's my feeling that. Everything considered we've developed one of the greatest if not the greatest educational systems in the world. But having said that I also recognize that there are standards of performance that we should achieve that we have not yet achieved. And I do think that there has been a tendency within the field of education and sometimes a bit too willing to settle for mediocrity rather than to and so stonily pursuit of excellence. I don't think that by and large faculties have been responsible for that I think that these communities of scholars that I've been talking about by and large have had their attention focused
on the pursuit of excellence but forces have tended to work their way into our educational institutions that have gotten in the way of this desire on the part of these communities and scholars to pursue excellence where both of us are familiar with institutions of higher education. We know that there is such a thing as alumni putting pressure on an institution to settle for mediocrity in a particular instance instances we know that there are situations do arise where parents put pressure on. An educational institution to settle for a mediocrity. We also know that there are those who support educational institutions whether they are members of state legislatures or in the case of private institutions whether they are private contributors to those institutions or others who have an interest in the institution. They take an interest in certain
individuals and they think that as far as those individuals are concerned that the institution should be willing to settle for mediocrity. This is something that it seems to me that we've got to fight and it seems to me that those of us who are parents or our alumni who are citizens that are interested in the field of education have got to make sure of the fact that we don't contribute. To a trend in the direction in some instances of settling for mediocrity now that the cross-section of our citizens don't want our educational institutions to settle for mediocrity in my judgment I think that they want our educational institutions to pursue excellence. And I feel that if we'll give these communities of scholars these members our faculties whether you're talking about an elementary school a secondary
school an institution of higher education whatever type of institution you're talking about. If we'll give them the opportunity of setting these standards that are consistent with the pursuit of excellence and that if we'll support them that we will as a nation move definitely in that direction. There's something else that probably is significant in this respect and that is that administration on the part of superintendents of school systems across our country there seem to be a very fast number of them coming rather than from a specific field of study. They seem to come from other fields within our school system such as coaching or such as band or music directors. Have you noticed such a movement does it seem to have a play. Yes what's happening there is simply this that those who have the responsibility of recruiting people for an administrative
position such as principal of schools or superintendent of schools have come to the place where they are trying to identify a person. Who have a Purnell a demonstrated their ability to recognize the basic processes of administration and to adjust to those basic processes. Well certainly a conch is an administrator and he's got a pretty tough administrative job and certainly the person who has responsibility for the school orchestra has got an administrative job and as we can all and as we all know rather a difficult one and so it seems to me that this is a very sound trend in the direction of identifying people who are engaged in the administrative process then evaluating their success in dealing with the processes of
administration and if they feel that they have handled them satisfactorily moving them in tomorrow important administrative posts in your comments then about having the direction of education selected and enhanced and pointed out an effort made to arrive in that direction as being a sort of a self-directed activity on the part of this community of scholars with the definition we have. You seemed to say or indicate that with this splintering which is possible under such a circumstance and benefit as you pointed out this is precisely what we do want. What kind of organizational structure or what force is involved in this. To point out holes directions in which no one is going that need to be covered or to pull these organizations together so that the commonalities that they all have are understandable to each. Some have already said that some private foundations are performing this function and
you somewhat alluded to that by your suggestion that they will select some or fewer such people to carry out their own purposes. Some on the other have and have indicated that this is a governmental function. Do you feel that this is properly then a governmental function to pull these commonalities of these varying groups of scholars in pursuit of excellence together. Or is that a private enterprise. Or is that something that can rightfully be turned over to the organizations themselves. Well I think they probably all have a part to play. Take the educational institution itself. First of all it seems to me that. If your faculties are organized properly even within our large institutions of higher education it is possible for them to take a look at the whole and to make
a contribution in the direction of bringing all of these various parts together and having them focused on the attainment of a single objective. I think these regional accrediting bodies play a role along this line because after all they take a look at the institution as a whole. They say that the institution as a whole must live up to certain standards. If it is to be accredited then of course are in the field of higher education. I think our various organizations of institutions of higher education play a part. Secondly the land grant. Association plays a part with the land grant colleges. The American Association of universities plays a part with a very small group of large and outstanding universities. The
American Association of Colleges plays a very real part I know from personal experience in connection with the life of the what we think of as the more and the independent liberal arts colleges and then certainly the American Council on Education is playing a part today as it brings under its tan all types of institutions in the field of higher education. But that and I certainly agree with you and I certainly had this in mind that our foundations have played a very real role along this line. After all they have tried to step back and take a look at the total picture and they've tried to identify what they regard as some of the opportunities that possibly we are not taking advantage of to the extent that we should. And then I feel that the government has a role to play it's a role of leadership not a role of direction not a role of saying to educational
institutions this is what you must do or this is what you should do. But surely the government is in a position where it can step back and look at our total national life. It can evaluate possibly as no other institution in our life can do the relationship between education and our way of life and it can identify strengths it can identify weaknesses. I think that the National Defense Education Act for example is a good illustration of that. It sought does identify what we're regarded as certain weaknesses in our total educational life. And it is and I tried to suggest ways and means of correcting those. Take the Office of Education in the Department of Health Education and Welfare You know the offices been in existence for a considerable period of time. It's one of the really one of the only agencies of the government. But for many many years it was
a fact gathering in fact disseminating office and with a few exceptions here and there it was felt that it should confine itself to fact gathering in fact dissemination. But certainly in recent years the character of The Office says changed materially. The National Defense Education Act of course is a perfect illustration of it. As you know that act is quite far flung in terms of the activities that are carried on by the government under it. And those are activities that are carried on under the direction of the Office of Education. But in addition to what's going on in the Office of Education there's a lot of outs going on that's having an impact on the field of education. Now the question very naturally follows is the government going to confine its interest and its activities to providing financial support. While in the field
of medical research a very interesting system has been worked out for the making of these grants. If you were in a medical school and had an idea for a research project you would through your university file an application with the National Institutes of Health. They would then refer to our Study Committee now that study committee is made up entirely of persons from outside the government experts in this particular area. So in other words you would be in the process of being judged by a jury of your peers as far as your project is concerned. Then this study group if it likes the project makes a favorable recommendation to an advisory council and that advisory council is made up partially of outstanding professional people and partially of laymen. They take a look at it and then they make the recommendation to the surgeon general. The surgeon general under the law cannot allocate a cent unless he's
got favorable recommendations from a study group and the advisory council. On the other hand he can refuse to follow the advice of the advisory council that a gripe should be made. But as you can see this large sum of money in reality. Is being administered in terms of I mean in terms of the very basic fundamental decisions by groups of persons who are outside of government who are not within the governmental us structure. Now it was set up this way deliberately in order to minimize the possibility of governmental interference in the whole area of medical research designed to minimize the possibility of any in a firms where the concept of academic freedom in this area of medical research. And I think by and large and I won't qualify it I think they've achieved that objective.
Now I recognize however that if government was so disposed in view of the fact that it is playing such a large percentage of the total bill that it could yield to the temptation of you know fairing well what we would normally think of as matters that should come so lay within the purview of an academic institution. My whole attitude on this I think I can summarize in this way. There isn't any doubt in my mind at all but that in the total field of education it is going to be necessary for the federal government to become a more active partner than it has been in the past. There isn't any doubt in my mind at all but that it is going to have to make fun of vailable in order to make it possible for our educational institutions at all levels to take full
advantage of all their opportunities. I believe that it can do this without any interference at all with academic freedom. But I also recognize that it could be carried on in such a way as to interfere with the concept of academic freedom in this area. As in all other areas. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and the academic community and all who are interested in the academic community have got to make sure of the fact that our system of checks and balances operates in this government in such a way as to. And sure I get asked at the end of ferrets with academic freedom on the part of the federal government simply because of the fact that it is making some funds available in order to what Able educational institutions to take full advantage
of the opportunities that confront him in these day. You have heard Mr Arthur F. Fleming secretary of Health Education and Welfare at the Eisenhower administration. Speaking of the pursuit of excellence in American education Mr Fleming was interviewed by Dr. James and Tara of the Michigan State University College of Education. Next week Mr. William Benton returns to discuss attitudes and policies and compassing education or less A's on education was produced by Wayne S. Wayne and Patrick Ford distribution is made through the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NASB Radio Network. Looming. In the morning noon and. Night. Morning.
Oral essays on education
Arthur S. Flemming
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Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, on "Pursuit of Excellence."
The thoughts of distinguished Americans in a survey of American eduction.
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Interviewee: Flemming, Arthur S. (Arthur Sherwood), 1905-1996
Interviewer: Tintera, James
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:26
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Chicago: “Oral essays on education; Arthur S. Flemming,” 1961-02-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021,
MLA: “Oral essays on education; Arthur S. Flemming.” 1961-02-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <>.
APA: Oral essays on education; Arthur S. Flemming. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from