Oral essays on education; William Benton
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 into a Michigan State University College of Education will interview Mr. William Benton publisher and chairman of the Encyclopedia Britannica in his second appearance in the series. Mr Benson will discuss attitudes and policies in American education. And now here is Dr. Drew. It seems to me that the question which we have to resolve yet is to develop leadership at the local and at the state level. How do you see the possibilities of this development occurring so that it happens in a relatively short period of time. You see I personally have no
quarrel with the statement that what is obviously a good idea takes a considerable amount of time to be found in practice. Now how do we how does this occur in the case of this economic as well as you can't measure the good ideas the way you can with a missile. Mr. Leader goes around the world or doesn't you know right away whether you've got a good missile or not. You know education. There isn't that kind of sharpening standard I think it helps explain why the Navy by and large has always been more efficient than the army. You only know when your army is efficient when you've got a war on. But these Navy named Navy ships if they don't run or if they're out there in the middle of Atlantic and the British ship comes along and goes goes by at a rapid clip. You average to believe you're not doing very well with your navy there's some standard of comparison. Most people in Connecticut really don't know whether our school system is as good as
that of the state of Minnesota. Minnesota has the lowest rate of any state in the union. I rejections for the draft on grounds of literacy. I think Connecticut is 15th. I'm not suggesting that that's necessarily an absolutely accurate gauge to the efficiency of the public education system but it's some indication and I wish Connecticut were first as the richest state in the union rather than number 15 on this literacy test. I was one of the founders of a business group called a Committee for Economic Development. We have an education subcommittee. This in itself is new in the field. Business organizations and therefore significant. Mostly due to the leadership of Mr. Beardsley runup a key member of our committee who writes important books and memorandums in the field of education.
We've set up this committee and in the past few months have issued a report this illustrates the way the business community is trying to take some leadership and in this report we call for much more active leadership at the local and the state level. The states can do an enormous lot to provide greater leadership. It's much easier in some states however than it is in others in Connecticut. We have a particularly acute problem because traditionally the New England towns are highly and fiercely independent. We have a hundred and sixty nine towns. Each one is the complete boss of his educational system. Connecticut was founded by Congregationalists who not only were dissidents but we broke away from Massachusetts we were in turn dissidents where dissidents from the dissidents So this spirit still prevails in Connecticut
right across the border in New York State. You have a. Today should have descended more largely from the Dutch and a very powerful commissioner of education who does provide remarkable leadership on all of New York State. Now New York State is a great deal bigger and richer than most European countries. I think of it in line with the leadership of the state chemistry of education and its great contribution to in the improvement of education in the various communities of New York State as being somewhat applicable to our federal government. I don't think it is too different for the commissioner of education in Albany to be trying to help improve education in Buffalo let's say in New York state than it is for our federal government to interest itself in education
and to take certain steps in an effort to encourage its improvement throughout the 40 50 50 states excuse me. I almost said 48 I'm certainly not up to date. But our Committee for Economic Development Report calls for interest on the part of the leagues of women voters. They Rotary Clubs. The parent teachers associations. And further for much more aggressive action at the state level. But one thing has got to be kept in mind and that's this is the financial problem. These figures are a year old and I don't doubt that the trend is increased in the last year but the indebtedness of the state says a year ago had increased 500 percent. Since 1946. This was in
13 years. Five hundred percent. The indebtedness. Of the local governments had increased by 200 percent. Now the indebtedness of the local the federal government had only risen by 10 percent. You see the pattern of resistance to spending more money. By the states and the local governments and the way the school construction bonds were voted down in the rich state of New York and in Pittsburgh too in 1959 and in West Hartford in town after town rich communities in Connecticut. Education has been at a disadvantage in the States and the local community is relative to many other public services at the financial level. If the local taxpayers feel that their total tax bill is too high they're likely to exert the greatest restraint
upon increases in local taxes and expenditures. And of course a major proportion of local taxes do go for education. So the public schools tend to be the first and the main victim of taxpayer frustration and resistance. We've got to remember too that the federal government has has unconsciously through its policies added to this problem. It's granted to the states so called matching funds in other words you put up a million dollars the federal government to give you a million dollars on highways and hospitals and welfare programs. Well if you're a governor of a state and you can get. A few million dollars from the federal government if you build highways but can't get the few million if you build schools. It's understandable if you put the resources available to you into the highways so
these things without any matching funds for education these things have tempted the state governments to spend their limited dollars where they get the matching money from the federal government. So because of this being willing to emphasize the point implicit in your question the terrific need leadership at the local and state level. This is been true traditionally in our country over the decades and I think it's more important in line with the problems we're facing today to say this isn't enough. We must also face up to the urgent need leadership at the federal level. Now this doesn't mean federal control of education which is the slogan used to equip the federal government and the Congress. Nobody in his right mind in Washington and I've spent a great many years of my life in
Washington. Thanks it's politically smart merely because you appropriate some money for education to start dictating to the school systems of the United States what their curriculum ought to be. So this is in my judgment a false shibboleth. But as a matter of fact when you look at France and England you find that federal control of education isn't necessarily destructive of freedom. I'm not for it but I only point out that we have less federal interest in education than any other country of the world. I think that's true the best of my knowledge it's true perhaps Canada ought to be accepted because of our influence in Canada. And most certainly were no fear serious dedication to the democratic process and of the freedom
of the individual and the British. Or as a matter of fact the French because the French never can get together they've got so many different ideas about what's involved in individual freedom and the whole French curriculum of course is dictated by one man sitting in one room in effect as in the Soviet Union. Price is a button and the curriculum of the French schools responds. I'm not for that. And no other political leader I know of in either party is for that. But I do think it's a false issue. Now that applies to federal control and to federal finance is there anything else that we can learn or can look at objectively that's found in foreign countries and other countries educational activities which would have meaning and impact upon
education in the United States. And I'm not saying there are things that we should take but there are things we can learn from conceivably in the areas of curriculum Perhaps we just slightly touched on that. Well I've touched on one way to learn that our students ought to work a great deal harder. Our students work less than any students anywhere in the world. They do not regard education as an opportunity as much as they regard it as a privilege. Their grades and records are boys and girls make in high schools mean less here than any other country. They pay the penalties for their lack of work less here than in any other country. In your European countries if a boy. Isn't doing well at age 11 he shuffled off into a different kind of school system. This is the so-called age 11 test that hangs with terrorizing agony over the head of every British
schoolboy. If he doesn't do well at age 11 in that test. I know this I've just put out an encyclopedia of the children's encyclopedia Britannica to sell in Great Britain to this great market. They will do anything to help prepare their boys and girls for those tests at age 11. A big part of the criticism that we had of German education at the end of the war was that it was organized on a caste system. I was responsible as assistant secretary of state after the war for the so-called re-education of Germany. As I look back on it I just laugh at the idea that an officer in our government in Washington could be responsible for the re-education of Germany. But I had a commission over there and I had men working for me and we were trying to change the German educational system to get the so-called caste system out of it. So at age 11 a boy would be automatically channeled into a
trade school to be made a carpenter but would regardless of the economic or social status of his parents. If he was a bright boy I would have the chance to go ahead in the top academic schools and prepare for graduation from the game. And Prince into the university. There are a lot of things that we don't want to imitate in foreign school systems. However there are some things we can learn. And believe me a French boy. Knows that at age 17 or 18 if he hasn't done well at the least and can't pass his examinations. And isn't well prepared and hasn't been studying his destiny he's going to be profoundly different. He won't be able to go into the Foreign Office part of the go go to the lake Coppola
Deek in Paris or are in France the society in France being what it is to marry the daughter of the rich merchant which will finance him into an ambassadorship. And this may be determined for him by what he's done and in his studies at age 18. This is true in Holland it's true in Belgium it's true all over the continent. This is and it's true in the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union. Of course this has modeled its educational system on the German and what the Soviet Union has done is apply to everybody. The standards which in the old Czarist days used to apply to the top 10 or 15 percent the standards of very hard work and very severe discipline. That was were taken over from the German from the German system. I think this is the biggest thing we can learn. Higher standards
work higher goal performance greatly improve curriculum more concentrated application to the subjects which we know are beneficial to the student regardless of what he's going to do in later life. And this to me of course course is is is for a high percentage of our boys and girls is the liberal arts training because it's in the liberal arts that I believe we have the best chance to expose our young people to the great intellectual and moral traditions of the Western world which will best help them to understand the issues of our democratic processes the goals of our free society makes us different and why we're determined to be different from the communist world.
And you know a very practical sense. I have been the owner and controller of four different businesses I have employed. You haven't mentioned my business background because I think that it's my background in public life is a great deal more important a great deal of greater interest and I of course attach far more significance to it. But I have also controlled for business that I have developed and I've had a great stake in learning what kinds of young men do the best in these businesses. And in a very practical vocational sense paradoxically. I hire the boys out of the liberal arts colleges who had the liberal arts education rather than the boys who had specialized training. And I think too many of the schools of business is though
again getting back to what we discussed earlier some of the schools of businesses. The first thing they have to do when they get the students is to make up for the deficiencies of their prior training and they have to start out giving them a good stiff indoctrination in the liberal arts. An important facet of our school as a business is today is to give these young people the extra training in the liberal arts. This is a very paradoxical twist that isn't generally understood. But to begin emphasis in our schools of business is by my standards is giving boys specialized training that qualifies them to go into the specialized departments let us say of the banks and the big corporations such as into the personnel department of Sears Roebuck or the Finance Department of General Motors or the accounting department of the Chase Manhattan bank whatever it may be.
The men that are going to be the leaders in most of these businesses in all likelihood. And increasingly over the last several decades in our business society are going to be men who have had more general training who had more emphasis in their training on how to think clearly how to take a given lot of materials or evidence and see through it to some correct and sound conclusion. I don't say that 100 years from now our descendants won't know a great deal better how to do this than we know how to do it today. But as of today to the best of our current knowledge what we call a liberal arts tends to be the surest and best training program for a young
man who expects to have a position of leadership in business who is looking to something more than being an accountant or a personnel manager. A specialist in some narrow field. Well now I would ask you in light of your experiences and your knowledge in your life your own activities in this vast panorama of interest that you have in the various aspects of education to discuss and analyze for us what we can learn from foreign countries in the years their treatment their selection their economic and social status of the people who do the teaching. Because I think you will agree with me that leadership is a very significant and important thing but the only measure of it is what happens down in the classroom when you get to this level. Well that's a very it's a very very good point and I'm glad you brought it up.
They have an advantage over us in many countries the world because of the high respect they give the teacher. He has a position in the community much higher than in our country. This is particularly true of the professor. If you're a professor at a French or German university or an English university and increasingly to Asia even as you go east to Japan and China you have a position a social position far beyond anything we accord our scholars the great scholars of the Soviet Union have the perquisites and privileges we accord our corporation presidents. When Khrushchev visits London he has his picture taken with the great physicist standing at his right and who came along with him to talk to the British physicists.
So they have a standing and there they get the rewards there or it may only be in prestige or it is the circles in which they move. The women that they marry into the finest and top in the richest families. If you hit the jackpot when you become a professor. In a European university I had dinner with Mr. Henry Luce the other day who was a contemporary of mine at Yale and Mr. Paul Hoffman the three of us head of the Marshall Plan one of Americas famous businessman. We were talking about our generation about this strange fact that they not only all went into business but they all went into the wrong businesses. Mr. Lewis was pointing out that if they'd had enough brains to go and become a grocery clerk in a little grocery store in Springfield Massachusetts
they would have ended up owning a great chain store or as President the General Foods corporation instead of low salaried or in consequential vice presidents of some of the banks of the country. So. We're not. We're not doing justice to our needs and our opportunities and the talent we're bringing into teaching. This applies to teaching at the public school level where we should have a program of fellow scholarships in my judgment for the bright boys and girls graduating from high school who haven't got enough money to go to college. Dean Cole of Columbia says there are 100000 boys and girls graduating from high school classes in the top 20 percent of the class who don't go on to college because they don't have the money they ought to be given scholarships. This is an investment in America's future. It's one of
the wisest investments the American people can make of their money. This further crowds are colleges a high percentage of those thousand will become teachers. If we give better pay to our teachers. Secondly we should have a program of fellowships at the graduate level. But we do have lots of facilities in our universities for graduate students. I'm a trustee of the University of Connecticut we only can accept today 40 percent of the qualified applicants who want to come to the University of Connecticut. It's a land grant university much like Michigan State where you're a professor. I think the two are of roughly similar types of institutions. But we have lots of room for our graduate students and can take them and want them. We're number 27 in the United States and the number of graduate students we now have if there are good program fellowships we take more this would provide our
colleges with teachers because a high percentage of people who take graduate work expect and want and have decided that they'll become college teachers. I think that intelligent leadership can greatly alleviate this problem and step up our quality our college teachers should be paid a great deal more eye exam and I'm for a raise in pay for you. Maybe maybe maybe your successor will be a better man than you are if he's paid better and has a greater incentives. But our standards of pay for our professors to whom we entrust our young people are ridiculously low. My father was a college professor and head of a great department of the great State University. The most vivid recollection of my boyhood is when a new president came into that university and his salary was reduced to a hundred dollars per year. He was paid
twenty six hundred dollars a year and his salary was reduced to twenty five hundred dollars a year. And I want to tell you that that was a sensation in the Benton family. That was the standard at the University of Michigan in those days when I was a boy as well as at the University of Minnesota where my father was a professor. When Mr. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1891 he understood this issue and he paid his top professors seven thousand dollars a year. That was the pay in 1891 of the president of the First National Bank of Chicago. Today the president that banks paid a hundred fifty or two hundred thousand a year and the professors probably paid twelve or fifteen thousand. Showing you how professors salaries have not kept up then constantly depreciated. These are grave national problems they're not just problems for our universities because the law American people don't adequately understand it our future
depends on our universities. It's to the universities we've got to look for the fundamental research. On which all other Reserve is based. General Motors and General Electric's research departments wouldn't be worth anything they would completely go out of business without MIT Harvard Chicago Cal Tech and the other great universities providing them with a constant flow of basic research. It's the university professors that provide the atom bomb. It's the university professors that give us the missile program not the people out of the much advertised big corporations and we have a big stake in the welfare and health of our universities. Money is an important key. If we get the understanding of the stake the American people have not ever been slow in providing money for critical. I need to have this
card. So I had to look forward to a very very silly and current trends over the next few years. You have heard Mr William Benson publisher and chairman of the Encyclopedia Brittanica discussing attitudes and policies in American education in his second appearance in the series. Mr Benson was interviewed by Dr. James in Tara Michigan State University College of Education. Be with us next week when Dr. George S. Counts distinguished visiting professor in education at Michigan State University will be our guest in a program entitled The red blackboard oral essays on education was produced by Wayne C. Wayne and Patrick Ford distribution is made through the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the n 80 B Radio Network. On one.
- Oral essays on education
- William Benton
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- William Benton on "Attitudes and Policies."
- Other Description
- The thoughts of distinguished Americans in a survey of American eduction.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Interviewee: Benton, William, 1900-1973
Interviewer: Tintera, James
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Oral essays on education; William Benton,” 1961-03-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-th8bmj9n.
- MLA: “Oral essays on education; William Benton.” 1961-03-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-th8bmj9n>.
- APA: Oral essays on education; William Benton. 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-th8bmj9n