thumbnail of Gateway to ideas; Education and social change
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
Why do you. I am her I am. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which I do discussed in relation to reading. Today's program an educational and social change is moderated by Dr. Harold Taylor educator and author. I am happy to join two of the most distinguished social scientists in the United States in a discussion of the relation of education to social change. We have Dr. Margaret Mead curator of the Museum of Natural History and the author of a number of very important works in the field of anthropology. The author of a school in America and Dr. Melvin Tumen a professor of sociology and anthropology at Princeton University who has had a major part in developing new
views of the relationship between groups in the field of sociology. The general subject of education and social change race is because the first question there is what does education have to do with social change and I'd like to start by making a flat assertion that in the United States the society has changed along with the educational system partly because of the educational system. And this is one of the factors about the structure of a democracy that the schools are always directly related to the social issues and the social changes that are involved. I wonder Dr. mean if you would comment on that flight proposition as it's seem right to you. Well of course we have to consider that this country was founded in change in a way that Europe wasn't and that Europeans look back on their school system hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before. Whereas
we when we landed here were confronted with a new situation and began relating schools to the new situation immediately and acted to me I wonder whether in your judgment are the major changes for which the school has responsibility. Well if I could back up. And on that note Taylor and I talked for a moment about this general problem of the relationship between education and social change. I think it's important to note that one of the most serious arguments still in the field of education and society is the extent to which the schools ought to lead the community or ought to reflect the community or the fall of the community. And do you recall the tradition of the community school as though somehow the school was supposed to fit the child into the going community but picking up a thing from Dr. Mead. One notices the emergence of a new theme in the most advanced educational circles that the schools
should systematically misfit the child to live in the society as he finds it. Will you necessarily have to Mr Adam or does he need to try to change the society make a better fit. Well I think the way in which it's phrased misfitting the child is supposed primarily for catching the ear. The development of that is to make him discontent with that which he finds unworthy in the society and enable him to develop the equipment required to be able to make effective change. I think there's a book worth mentioning in this regard if one looks at the Lawrence Crimmins the transformation of the schools it's quite apparent that one could also call the transformation of society and the documents the variable roles both following leading and reflecting which the schools have played as a society in America but I think it's very important to say that what really transforms a society when when the school does that is the teachers in the school is the adults that already have the idea anough adults
so that they then teach a lot of young people. But you can't sit around and teach children to be something you aren't. Effectively enough so they can go ahead and transform society that was the notion of the late 20s and early 1930s. This girl was going to teach little 6 year olds to be noncompetitive and then they would go out and be noncompetitive. They weren't realizing that they needed a large enough climate of opinion of which the adults were part. They were really going to make this change. I think it's important and it's in the sense that same book of course and the role of great leaders in this country in education people like John Dewey and Jane Adams who used education as a platform on which to talk about new ideas and change and talk to me what would you do in that framework of thought with the extent to which students at all levels grammar high school and college now seem to be far ahead of many of their teaching faculty and
seem to be equipped at least to explore frontiers even if only with the tacit permission of their elders and certainly minus the active guidance of their elders. Oh I think I think this is a different point a bit of a different point. You see. That Today children are all going to live in a world that is so very different from anything that we know that you know. I'm beginning to phrase it that my generation are immigrants in this present period and we live here the best we can because we weren't born here and we don't know much about it. You know a lot of them by the youngsters. Well we know where Loudoun virus sells but because the youngsters don't have the power. Not much of it. But nevertheless actually they're the natives and they understand the culture that we live in. But they have the power or the experience or the wisdom to really take it over. So we have to bring them up in school recognizing that they will have to work on things we don't understand I agree with you completely. But I think that we have to recognize that and this we recognize that
we can't bring them up so it's very much go ahead. It seems to me that unwittingly the parent and teacher generation by asking that good books be taught in good subjects be taught well. Release the children or young people into a set of ideas that go beyond what the parents and teachers had feared they might get to and that in some senses there is a the there is an unwillingness on the part of the parents for children to develop these points of view beyond what the parents feel are safe but the children having been released now provide a model of the new behavior for the new generation. I have a feeling that America is the most discordant society in the world in this regard. The disparity between what is said should be done and what in fact is done in terms of the innate conservatism if you will of the parental generation. In their behavior but the progressivism of their words as all they were saying you know do as
we say and don't do as we do. What about this discordant in other cultures. Well you don't get it to any extent in a relatively static non literate culture because there isn't anything to turn the students loose with one of the points of a great text. Even very conservative great texts and a lot of what you're saying is true the minute the Bible was translated people have been having trouble with young people ever since. And that and it is equally true in the Jewish scriptures were translated in each group in the Christian group in the Jewish group when they let them read the things that were used as an authority they got into trouble non-literate societies had nothing to get into trouble with. So until they come in contact with literate societies it's quite easy to keep the young people absolutely in step with the past. But one of the problems of either having all great books or new great books is that they are greater than the achievement of their readers. And so either way if you left students all alone today with the
Bible you would get nothing else. You have even more trouble than if you leave them along with the most modern. Lot of radical social doctrine and the Bible. You think the Bible is more dangerous than say Candy is to the morality of the generation. No I think that the Bible though is provides a ground for more radical experimentation and more concern for one's fellow man than many books that would be banned by communities that were little worried about international relations or didn't think the UN should. Well if I can get us back to one of the things we started with about the way in which schools should produce misfits for the society and on the other hand what you're saying Dr. Meehan about the way in which a society like ours which is rapidly changing all the time is bound to produce an educational system which has to take responsibility for the changes in the approach to trying to solve the questions of poverty and racial
inequality. A way in which education can improve the society. What is the relationship between education and those social issues. Well first I want to say I don't like this word misfits. I'm not going to have it as far as summary because I don't believe bringing children up to be fit for the society that may emerge is making them misfits. I don't mean a pejorative. I know what the word miss is pejorative whatever you however you mean it it's a pejorative prefix now. Miss trial you know they have a nation that's pejorative but when well why don't we say we want to bring up independent minded children will. I think in the poverty program we've suddenly realized is the very crippling effect of being deprived in a highly privileged and literate civilization and the people in our poverty problem in the pockets of the mountains in the rural south in the slums of our cities are infinitely more deprived and more cut off. Then the
simplest tribe in the center of New Guinea you see because the people that I've worked with were proud upstanding people they knew all there was to know that what they wanted to know wasn't much but they knew it. But to know that you don't know what there is to know to know that you can't go where other people can go to know that you are permanently cut off in many ways is extraordinary crippling. Now to release that some 36 million is the estimate that working people who have been crippled by progress because that's the way one has to think of it. They're not starving like people. They're not nearly as ignorant as people in many many parts of the world but they're relatively deprived and relative deprivation is so terrible you know really going to work on this if we do. Do things like Project Head Start that's planned for this summer when something like three hundred thousand five year olds are going to be taught by large numbers of very competent volunteers with professional help
all over the country to bring them in and bring their mothers or their grandmothers Whoever's at home and give them a start on the kind of participation in our society would permit them in the first grade to feel somewhat on a par with the other children. This is the beginning I think we're going to have to go back to the three year olds. We're going to have to do a great deal with the mothers and with the grandmothers also because a few hours in school don't compensate for the many hours at home. I think it's important to underpin the very eloquent remarks with the increased amount of documentary evidence that it comes in the book like Benjamin Bloom's book and stability and change in human characteristics which unhappily has been I think misread by a number of people and misused but which is very persuasive with regard to the what we've sort of known in the folk culture for a long time namely that what happens to a kid by the age of 6 and 8 can be crucial for the rest of his
development. But tries to calculate how much of the learning curve is already mature by the age of 8 and has some staggering figures on this regard but the book has to be read carefully and it is however the kind of evidence that gives intellectual sanction and rationale to what we have felt all along about the importance of going back to 5 and 4 and 3 and 2 if we're going to make a difference and toward any kind of equalization among these among the kids who come from different socioeconomic level. You've got something else to do and then what. When you bring the grandmothers and the aunts and uncles and the mothers into a situation where there's a community center with three to five you're educating a whole community. And that does change the society once you begin with the youngsters the attitude you have to take to the streets. Are part of a teaching process which have to be picked up by the 25 to 30.
But one thing that I think is important about this is otherwise people will say well we have to begin with the three year olds we can't do any thing with the 10 year olds. You know in Ginsberg's manpower studies based on the draft if you look at his maps you'll find good counties and bad counties everywhere in the United States even in the states with the poorest educational system. So I buy Sac County where they had a few rejects another county where they had many of these counties were comparable in many other ways and they didn't have things done for the little children. One place that have really good schools and other places they had poor ones. Sometimes it depended on superintendent schools even so that you can pick up and you can pick up at any age in the most efficient pick up will be with the little children. And we want to start it but we can't condemn all the other people who are now in school to a hopeless state. Well we say we just have to wait till the children grow.
This notion of dropping people and saying education can't do them any good and nothing more good can happen to them seems to me is a nightmare for thereby condemn probably that group which needs most education most compared to any other population in taking that kind of an attitude. I think that's terribly important to underscore but may I ask for a word of caution I'd like to share one. We get very enthusiastic about what education can do. We sometimes forget in our enthusiasm for education. How many other social institutions have to undergo fundamental social change before the things that we can teach people to hope about and to dare to aspire to can become realities. It will do little good for instance to have everybody train for good jobs if unemployment persists it won't do very much good to train people to be literate and to aspire toward jobs with user literacy. If there are no jobs for them it's the changes in other institutions such as the economic and the political institutions which are
just as important to say well in America we change our society by using education or evolution through education. It's I think an overstatement. It fails to take into account how much other social change is required. Well I think you're right and I think one of the reasons why we haven't done more in terms of total social planning and self-conscious change is that the universities and the work they've been doing in the social sciences have considered themselves in the past hundred years to be the storehouses of knowledge and the producers of knowledge but not. In relationship directly to social needs. Well I think that's because the university developed in a day of scholarship when all you needed was a professor and the student and a book which go into the library. Well medicine broke through that and we had hospitals. And I think you institutions teaching institutions of physical sciences broke through it and we had laboratories. But the social sciences have never effectively
broken through it. They're still trying to teach students with books and what they actually need is a laboratory of the community living people just as much as medicine needed patients. Social science the whole living human beings. And if they do look at all they look at problems you know they're in they know quite a lot about the slums but practically nothing about this is cells. Well I think picking up what Dr. determines about the way in which you have to change the institutions of society and not just get people ready to meet the old ones. Would you feel that the present political movement the economic movement on poverty and therefore on education is going to change the society sufficiently to create a new educational system. Well I would go further than what Dr. Tillman said about employment and unemployment and say that we have to get ready for a totally different notion that unemployment and employment as we understand them now are going to be meaningless. And in
these children's young lifetime and we're going to have to educate people not to think of the connection between a job and a decent standard of living that we've had in the past. And we aren't going can't educate people just to look for jobs we have to have a society that will create roles for people which are useful within which they have a right to subsistence. This is going to be an enormous. This change in our attitudes were based on scarcity and the need for terribly hard work when we had no machines to do it for us. And it's going to make a trip need a tremendous change in the faculties of universities and the teaching teachers and high schools and we're going to need continuing real education for everybody to get prepared for this sort of thing. Could you give us a particular example of what you mean. Well we're not going to have any foreign need for factory labor. Very soon factory labor is a place where people would went away from the farms and went away from
domestic work to get dignity because they knew how many hours they had to work and what they had to do when they could go home. We're going to shift their successors are they themselves to other kinds of work which will be service again of one sort and another caring for children caring for old people caring for the sick caring for trees and plants and animals. But we'll have to set that up in a new way so that the only bit of dignity of having hours to yourself is re-instated for people who used to have none of that in the work they did before. This means a whole change in the hierarchy of jobs. People now think to work in an office is better than to work with their hands and they think to work in a factory that's got some machines is better to work somewhere where there aren't any machines. We're going to leave the machines all by themselves in factories and people will again be working with their hands a good deal of the time and this will need to mean a great change in our the way we educate people.
I'm not sure I'd agree with that prediction about going back to handwrite but I think I would agree with what I think is a brilliant view of the future the doctor me has put. And I say in that regard it's no accident that a book like plant gardens growing up absurd has had such a tremendous appeal to the younger college generation it was a sort of a prophet of the future years for them because of his emphasis on the importance of dignified and meaningful work. It's not a novel emphasis others have written about it appalled wrote about it at the right time in the right way to capture the imagination of the people and I think the kind of thing Dr. Mead says to indicate to the kind of thinking that goes on in American educational circles it's very hard to find elsewhere. We can in the United States have an inferiority complex about European educational systems or have had until recently. I think one can say two things simultaneously but you can't say things simultaneously so I have the same sequentially. When that's what you want. Well I will manage it. That with reference to any other major educational system in the world so far as the what I would
consider the quality education is concerned and the admirable goals of education the American system is the best by far. But at the same time it's terrible in terms of what it could be as against what it actually is. We have so far to go and I think one of the things that's getting in our way is the developing smugness with regard to the quality of education for so-called high quality students and the extent to which this violates what is a real American invention along with the continuing education of Dr. Mead mentioned a real American invention and that is a genuine commitment to the idea of the equal entitlement of all children to an equally good education regardless of differences in talent. Beyond that we do not so what out on the real intention of this country. Don't you think we could like to further say that it's a we want to be able to guarantee all the education that anybody can you know it was to anyway. Right. So if a retired admiral aged 82 wants to study philosophy in a California college he can go and do it as
a citizen of the country. And their philosophy may do him a lot of good for that. You know 60 years before long. Well you better I think. Going back and saying you start over with the children we have to start grandparents as well. You know there's a very simple basis that one can give to the other soundness of Dr. Murray's point of view. Nobody ever knows enough about anything. OK so nobody's ever well never educated. So the idea that well he's had enough education is meaningless enough for what. And now for some for discard on to some kind of you know distant heap where you want to use the back up. I think it's also related to the enormous invention of the school system in which since you don't say everybody's going to occupy the same role in society you have a differentiated curriculum. And what we have to do I think if we want to hang on to the democratic system is to reject the whole notion that there is one standard curriculum which everyone must be pushed through as you say mailer
to make sure these quality students as distinct from all the other ones. And if you take Dr. meta point of a new situation in terms of the different roles people will play what is now considered to be a demeaning role that of hand labor may become the greatest privilege that anyone can be given. I want to get clear because you talked about going back to hand labor I'm talking about relating to human beings if you're taking taking care of a child uses your hands. I'm not talking about the fact that we're going to go back to handicraft except for individual delight you know. But if you go into care of people and care of plants and animals these are use of the hands it's a different sort of thing it isn't unskilled it will be highly skilled and it will use one's mind and one's emotions also. Yeah that's very nice I'm glad you put that so strongly that I mean because as was the case when the term misfit was used if you're not careful you think of that as being the wrong thing to have. Or as a violinist working with his hands is usually
regarded doing something better than some of the people maybe who are studying academic subjects with their heads. Well I want to bring us back to this central question of how you change a society through education we have talked about the way in which this is related to the cure of economic difficulty the curer of some parts of the racial difficulty. At what point then is it possible to say that the teachers you mentioned earlier Dr. mean are right about the changes which they want to create in the society. We're assuming here that there is a norm of interest. They know what the society needs and they're going to teach some kind of skills and qualities of mind and character which can recreate what we have. I think that teachers need the community back to them to do this I think it's nonsense to expect a teacher who was hired by a school system and treated as a stranger and an alien in most cases has very little backing
to no matter how many ideas she may have and how many beautiful books she could quote have much effect on the children. And that's the reason that the parents and teachers association which is another American invention is so important but we need more than that. We need a whole community and not just the parents of the children. Schools are another invention I think we need is a grand parents and school association so that we keep the grandparent generation one very busy and have the money in touch with the schools instead of cutting them off as we do it present. They were in touch with the schools instead of just looking at their tax returns. Then we could have an alliance between the schools and the whole community. If they're real good we let them hold the baby. Yeah we let them hold the baby behind me as sitters but I'm a little bit less sanguine about these possibilities but I see a more modest possibility that works all the time it seems to me. Our teachers are committed in the nature of the case to teaching. What would be called ideals which by the outside community standards would be considered impractical.
But we have said the schools must teach ideals and the highest moral standards and the highest values the children unavoidably bring these back home they become sources if you will of reminders to parents about the ideal dedications and commitments that the community is nominally based upon. They are continuing source if you will the refreshment of our ideals. And this is why I think one has to take the stand that the schools must be of the community but not simply a duplicate of the community and not simply. And doesn't necessarily need the community backing in the fullest sense. In some senses this the school via the children create a new community. This is a mode of social change. I think we could say that the way these social movements are now going linked to a political ambition on the part of the present United States does that kind of massive assault is going to happen and which the educational system is used
self-consciously as an instrument for changing the society to get at these social problems which we've neglected all these years. Well we've had Dr. Melvin Tumen professor of sociology at Princeton University and Dr. Margaret Mead curator of the Natural History Museum and author of many important works in the social sciences. Thank you very much Dr. Tumen and Dr. made. Thank you Dr. Taylor. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program in education and social change has presented Margaret Mead a curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History and Melvin Tumen a professor of sociology at Princeton University. The moderator was Harold Taylor educator and author. To extend the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the day. It's gotten as well as
others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library or by writing to gateway to ideas post office box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York. He's in town as a stamped self-addressed envelope right about 6.1 Times Square Station New York gateway to ideas is produced for a national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. The programs are prepared by the National Book Committee and the American Library Association in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters technical production by Riverside radio WRVA are in New York City. This is the national educational radio network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Gateway to ideas
Education and social change
Producing Organization
WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
American Library Association
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-g7374t2c).
Episode Description
This program focuses on the links between education and social change. The moderator is Dr. Harold Taylor. Guests are Dr. Margaret Mead, anthropologist; and Dr. Melvin Tumin, Princeton University.
Series Description
This discussion series, produced by the American Library Association, features noted authors, critics and scholars on various topics related to reading.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
Media type
Announcer: Meyer, Eva
Moderator: Taylor, Harold, 1914-1993
Panelist: Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978
Panelist: Tumin, Melvin M. (Melvin Marvin), 1919-1994
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: American Library Association
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 65-2-26 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:44
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Gateway to ideas; Education and social change,” 1965-06-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “Gateway to ideas; Education and social change.” 1965-06-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Gateway to ideas; Education and social change. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from