Oral essays on education; Dr. Ernest O. Melby
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. In this final program Dr. James tinder a Michigan State University College of Education will interview Dr. Ernest OLB distinguished professor in education at Michigan State University. And now here is Dr. Tim Terra the MLB critics of our society have raised questions about the place of education in society and the responsibilities inherent in these placements and whether or not responsibility is recognized either in the school or in outside interests. Would you care to address yourself to a question such as well in the earliest days of our
society leaders such as Jefferson for example emphasize their feeling that the kind of free society that was then visualized was impractical without education. That you couldn't have three people and educated people at the same time. They therefore existed this responsibility very solidly in the society itself. And then as time went on various private groups such as churches and various groups of citizens established other institutions that in some measure shared their responsibility with the society itself. And even more recently we've had a development of community agencies that have amplified this still further so that at the present time while the society itself has basic
responsibility for education at the present time the function is being discharged by a great voluntary associations that in a sense have hid the burdens in relation to education and I think great opportunities. In these same times recent times we've had a considerable amount of discussion and analysis of the direction education is taking us. Somehow a lot of this is going to have tremendous emphasis upon scientific thinking and scientific knowledge as being the proper methods of education. What do you think about the propriety of this sort of thinking. Well I think there are two aspects to it. One is that we mis understand science. We are giving the word science far too narrow an interpretation. We are applying it primarily to the physical phenomena of this world such as physics and chemistry in a
practical way we are thinking about the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and that sort of thing or perhaps getting to the moon as a matter of fact. Science is a method of inquiry. It's an approach to the solution of problems. And then a tude toward life and an edit man's attitude or one attitude he can take toward his world. So we need a broader outlook with regard to the meaning of signs in the second instance. We have been in error in interpret ing the meaning of our world. We think that in the conflict going on between Communism for example and freedom that the important thing about this is that this conflict is military and since we assume it to be military. We think that the most important function of education is to give us some individuals who can outstrip the
representatives of the other countries in the production of weapons of war when as a matter of fact the conflict that we have with the Communists is moral and spiritual in character. And if we really sense this we'd realize that the important thing about education coming out of Sputnik if I may use this term is that this education should help men to realize all his possibilities. So that if Sputnik gave a warning to the American people it was in my judgment not in the direction of producing better missiles but in the direction of building a better society. Then the question of course comes up about the preponderance of thinking of the scientific method is permeating all of our lives in every facet of our thinking. The result of this is probably the pressure being put on this reversion to three
R's in a certain part of our educational process concentration on science in later years in the education process. What about this. Well this is an old conflict but there's been a there's been a dichotomy in the thinking of teachers in America for a long time. There are the people who think that there is on the shelf there is extant a body of subject matter the mastery of which constitutes an education. Take this take that out of the doctor's prescription and then you will be cured. Under this assumption the copybook adage that knowledge is power is true and knowledge is power. I wrote it myself in my copy book over and over again. Very few people do this anymore but I'm old enough to have done it. I believed it
then. I don't believe it anymore. At least I don't believe it as anything much more than a half truth. Certainly knowledge is not inevitable a power for good. Hitler proved that. So did Miscellany and so have the communists. Knowledge can be if it is a power it can be a power for evil. Quite as easily as it can be a power for good. So that any kind of educational philosophy or program that depends exclusively on what people know on knowledge on facts on skills is a program that we'd do well to have some skepticism about. The really important thing about an education is not what people know. But it's what they are. Our real concern ought to be whether helping individual
human beings to become all that they're capable of becoming in terms of the values which we rank high in our society. We should be interested in their behavior. And not only in their knowledge. Now in this concept Dan which places a good deal of responsibility upon individuals an analysis of individual potential and the meeting of his capabilities with experiences that would give him some help in this very fashion. Where is the place for the man of creativity the literary wrist. You know in such a framework as this is a very interesting question and it is a question that runs to the very depths of all educational considerations. As a matter of fact there is probably no area in our educational system where we come closer to being creative in
teaching than in the kindergarten. These little children are in the process of discovering their world. And the dis the individual's discovery of his world is the essence of science that's what the scientist is trying to do is to discover the world. The painter is likewise seeking reality. He rarely finds this reality completely. But whatever he does if it is truly creative takes us one step closer to reality. And Einstein took us one step perhaps closer to reality than Newton and no doubt there will be future Einsteins who will carry a still closer to reality than Einstein did. So this in a sense is the essence of all education. And if we were successful if we are ever successful in building a
really effective education it will be a creative education because it will seek the creative development of all individuals. He made a very interesting point here. You said probably the most significant place I'm trying to recall your words exactly here where the most significant kind of learning teaching process is going on is in the kindergarten. This might be an unfair question but you would you want to indicate where you think in our present educational framework the worst kind of teaching process is underway. Well I'm not sure I can do that. But I think this is the process. So this is the progress of things that we begin well in the kindergarten and that the higher we goal in the age of the students the worse we get until perhaps when we get into the graduate school when we tend to revert I think in some measure to the processes and the attitudes of the kindergarten.
Probably the kindergarten teachers exceed in being creative because they're thinking about children about human beings rather than about subjects. And then there begins to be a time when we think more about subjects and less about children. In the kindergarten we wonder what the subject matter does to the child. But as the child grows older we become current concerned with what the child does to the subject matter. We have tests that shoal what a child will do with 100 words how many of them he will ruin as he writes them. We don't know have any tests that show all what spelling 100 words correctly or incorrectly will do to a child. And this runs all the way through our education. Most of our measures have to do with the effect of the child on the subject matter or the effect of the student on the subject matter. Very few of them have anything
to do with the effect of the subject matter on the individual. This you see opens the door to a situation where you can teach history to students and they get A's in history. But when they graduate they read no more history. They want no more of it. And we've been talking about formal education for the most part here. Now there's this whole era of to whom does the responsibility for education directly fall upon. Who is this. In our society that it has responsibility for all or for some of education. And we know there is something formal and it belongs in our schools. We've heard critics say that more and more parents people have been giving up responsibly in this respect and the school has taken more of it on and schools are criticized for this. This Reeses this question of where does some responsibility lie.
Well of course historically speaking responsibility for education rested with the people themselves with the family with the tribe. Education was Sunanda was synonymous and called Terminus with life. And it was life itself that educated people but then finally there were aspects of life so complicated that we. Didn't think that people would learn them merely by living. So we now set up special agencies called schools. No life has become so complicated and its temple has become so rapid that no storage tank concept of education is a longer viable because we are moving into a period where it's probably going to be much more important to know how to learn than it is to know a fence or even to have skills. That is society in
a rapidly moving period is going to be more dependent on what it is learning. Currently then on what it knows and he's going to be especially dependent on its capacity to learn. Consequently there it's no longer feasible. To rest the whole responsibility for education on any single agency such as a school or a university. But the whole society has to share it. And in this process of total social sharing no social agency can escape even business will have to bear some of this responsibility. The church will have some labor unions will have some of the chambers of commerce will have some and so on. In other words the whole community will have to bear the responsibility for education in order to get this before people. Some of us call this the education centered community
in this kind of thinking we see the community as finding its primary reason for being in its educational function. To put it another way a good community is is a place or an organization where children can grow to be fully developed men and women. It takes a good community. In other words to grow good boys and girls and effective men and women. Another are some political implications in what you have said. Political implications so far as self-government of people is concerned the way they structure the education found in a community with a given aspects of this community. To what extent do you see parental responsibility.
People with responsibly who are not parents who do not have youngsters directly concerned with this at any level in our formal education but do in our informal educational system and structure that we have set up. To what extent is business liable in such a situation you mentioned the the church you have some thoughts on this I'm sure you have some thoughts on the political structure in our business relationships in here would you care to make a comment about this. We have of course in this country set out to separate church and state and I think wisely. But our separation of church and state ought not to be used as an alibi for developing an education that fails to grapple with the ethical and moral aspects of education. May well be that a democratic society in fact. Indeed I believe it does make a democratic society makes a heavier draft on the moral and spiritual capacities of its people than
any other kind of society and that therefore education in that use must be a prime concern in a democratic society. But at the same time if this society is to remain free we must have some places in society that are free forums for in the search for truth and in the consideration of ideas. And therefore we maintain the freedom of our educational institutions which means that children are free to learn. We close no doors to learning for them. But if children are to have all doors to learning open then teachers must likewise be free to teach. We want teachers who open these doors to learning but not teachers who indoctrinate children or for that matter delts views of their own. We are perfectly willing
and even anxious to have teachers be men and women of conviction. It is perfectly justifiable for them to express these convictions but it is not justifiable for them to impose them upon other people. And here we we come back to the writings of the poet for example. Kaleo Gibran when he says. You may house their bodies but not their souls for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit even in your dreams. Well it's Incidentally I appreciate that very much because it strikes a chord with me. Let's approach another aspect of what you said and maybe you didn't say it maybe you implied it and you would have some reaction to give in this respect too. If teachers
have the authority and the expectation of the public to present to teach to present what they believe but not and I think I'm quoting you correctly here not to indoctrinate an aspect of what people generally believe. How can we gain some assurance that our teacher preparation systems and the people to whom we give this power and this expectation this authority involved here are going to do what we generally would concede as being the right thing. Well the whole of free society in the beginning was based upon. It is this these people who are betting so to say on the safety of freedom they even went so far as to think that freedom is safer
then control. And I think there have been times in recent years when we violated this principle we have thought when we were in conflict with high polarities such as the communists when the polarity was great and when we were fearful of being somehow corrupted from within by the Communists. Then we began to think that we had to adopt the communists methods and we began to fingerprint people. We ceased to be an open society. We began to control what people said and we failed to distinguish between disloyalty and dissent. I think the history is going to show that free societies were strongest when they were really free. But the remedies for the ills of democracy the
remedy for the ills of democracy is more direct democracy and the remedy for any weakness is freedom may have is more freedom. That free societies are strongest when they are confident and they are weakest when they are fearful. And I believe we would have been stronger and we will be stronger in the future in conflict with other ideologies and other value systems largely as we have a great faith in ourselves the great German poet Gupta once said that in every age every great age in history it was an Age of Faith. And every week age was an age of skepticism. In an earlier part of our history along about the middle of the century a poem was placed on the Statue of Liberty.
I think it's the last five lines of the sonnet by Emma Lazarus which she called the New Colossus. And in that poem she expressed the meaning of a confident free society. And it says Give me your poor your tired huddled masses yearning to breathe free the wretched refuse of your teeming shores Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door. This was a strong confident freedom speaking. We didn't fingerprint. We didn't ask these people about their religion their race their party affiliation. We were confident we could make good Americans out of them in our educational system was the the major instrumentality in that
process. And we made good Americans out of them to a rather remarkable degree. And this remains to this day Monday a month to the achievements of American education. And if we keep it free then I think that the freedom well that freedom will also remain strong and confident because it is a free education which makes possible a free society. So we've discussed the scientific thinking aspects of what critics are saying about education. We've discussed the humanitarianism or the Humane Letters approach an artistic approach. We've discussed aspects of our school systems or where we find education in our society now and we've come to a point of view which says free society and
education go hand in hand. There's a definite feeling here and from what you have said that you feel this has not been happening we've been in the reversal of that trend what are we going to do about it. I think we're going to reverse that largely as we make a sound appraisal of the position we are in in this world as we come to recognize. That the struggle we are in is moral and spiritual educational. As William Benton has said it's a war of the classrooms. It's a war of ideas as we recognize this is more of our resources into the educational aspects of this struggle and we will then realize that it isn't the strength of our bombs but it is the power of our own society that will cast the balance in our favor that the best way to win in conflict with other ideologies is to
make our own society work so that it becomes a living example of the ideas that we talk about. It's been pointed out over again over and over again that America's weakness lies in the gap between what she says and what she does. And we have to narrow this gap. We have to practice what we preach. That's what we can do. To whom do we turn for leadership in this direction. Well leadership is a pluralistic thing in our kind of society. It's in our government at all levels. It's in all aspects of our society. You know our voluntary associations in our schools our colleges our press all of the mass media it's everywhere. They say that if you want to
deal with an argument which the logician calls a circularity you tackle it all around the circle. You can't tackle it in any one place there is no one there's no one place on which you can stand and where you have a lever big enough to move the whole universe. You have to take it all around the circle. And therefore we have to attack this problem all around the circle wherever we are. There may well be one argument that may be our undoing. And I hear it over and over again. I've heard it only this afternoon and the argument is this. I'm only a second grade teacher. I'm only a principal of an elementary school. I'm only a poor housewife and I can do nothing. Great things have been done by second grade teachers by principals by so-called poor Housewives. The greatest thing in all the world was done by a poor fisherman.
That was Dr. Ernest O MELBY distinguished professor of education at Michigan State University author of several books and numerous articles in the field of education discussing the implications of the various problems we have discovered in this survey of education. Dr. Mel Bay was interviewed by Dr. James Doohan Tara of the Michigan State University College of Education. This has been the final program in the series oral essays on education. W. K. R. radio and the producers of the series wish to express their thanks for the generous cooperation extended by the guest participants on the program who eagerly donated their valuable time to its success. There are wise unstudied comments in the all important area of social development which is education have made it possible for a greater number of persons to be aware of grave and diverse problems confronting education in our modern society.
Oral essays on education has been produced by Wayne S. Wayne and Patrick Ford. Distribution is made to the National Association of education o broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network. From. The moon. In the morning on the moon. Nothing. More. For me.
- Oral essays on education
- Dr. Ernest O. Melby
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Dr. Ernest O. Melby, distinguished professor of education, Michigan State University, on "A Last Look."
- Series Description
- The thoughts of distinguished Americans in a survey of American eduction.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Interviewee: Melby, Ernest Oscar, 1891-1987
Interviewer: Tintera, James
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Oral essays on education; Dr. Ernest O. Melby,” 1961-03-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j38kj73v.
- MLA: “Oral essays on education; Dr. Ernest O. Melby.” 1961-03-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-j38kj73v>.
- APA: Oral essays on education; Dr. Ernest O. Melby. 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-j38kj73v