Oral essays on education; William Benton
Rolling 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 and Tara Michigan State University College of Education will interview Mr. William Benton publisher and chairman of the Encyclopedia Britannica who discusses the need for new techniques to meet the new challenge of education. And now here is Dr. Tim Benton in light of your many experiences and your travels and your understanding's of the problems of education. Perhaps we could discuss for a few minutes here what the problems of facing education really are and how significant they are. Let's start off with is there a teacher shortage. Is there a
classroom shortage. Is there a dollar shortage to provide these as well as other things and then perhaps we could discuss curriculum and its effect as a problem in education. And I think it's rather obvious don't you that we have enough statistics data presented to us that the exploding growing population will provide certain kinds of shortages based upon facts or lack of facts that if we continue education of the kind we now have we will need to do much more in the future in supporting it. How significant do you see this really and do you think these problems actually are facing us today or are they problems which we're going to have to attempt solutions for today to do something really about them next year or the year after or something. While everybody likes to start at home and I can tell you that in Fairfield Connecticut one of the richest communities per capita in the world. Indeed Connecticut has the highest income per family in the world and the
richest city and the richest town in the world all in my state. Great industrial state that said 300 years to get rich even it's even richer at the state of Michigan. My son was only in high school half a day. It's one reason Mrs. Bennett and I sent him away to a private school. We didn't like him coming home at 12 o'clock because there wasn't room to keep him. So we have a shortage of schools in my community. The Office of Education reports this all across the United States. There's a lot of argument at the political level as to how big the shortage is. But I see it estimated at one hundred fifty two hundred thousand classrooms. Do you happen to know the exact figure I think the last one from the Office of Education was something like a hundred fifty or seventy five thousand classroom one hundred eighty thousand two hundred eighty thousand. All right. So we also have a
shortage of teachers for these classrooms and a good deal of criticism about the quality of the teachers. The brightest boys and girls today don't attend especially the boys when they leave college to go into teaching. The teachers colleges are tending to draw their recruits from the lower spectrum in the graduating classes from the colleges rather than the higher spectrum. So there's a shortage and grave fear about the quality now. I don't think we're ever going to get enough teachers on the old standards. One teacher for every 25 or 30 students. The students are increasing too rapidly for one reason.
At the college level which I'm more familiar with because I'm a trustee of four colleges and universities we expect by 1970. To have doubled the number of applicants. Another way of putting this is that we must in the next 10 years if we're going to take care of them build as big a plant as we've built since William and Mary was founded in 16 25 or 30. We've got to do in 10 years at the plant level what we've taken over 300 years to do. So this booming birth rate that's what the journalists and magazines called the exploding population a world phenomenon is also a United States phenomenon. Now this leads us to the need and I'm glad you're studying these kind of needs a doctor to Michigan State University. I congratulate you on the
grants you have from the on of the Defense Education Act and most important step forward by the way in the federal activities in the field of education. But we've got to learn how to use the new techniques in the teaching process. In my judgment for 20 years I've been interested in the development of classroom motion pictures the growth of their use comes painfully slowly because as you know educators don't change very rapidly. I noticed last January the president of the Ford Foundation in his annual report reported 16 million dollars from that great foundation in the year 1959 went to educational television. So in the new techniques in television in the motion picture.
We have opportunities to help relieve the pressure as indeed last year when I was in Miami and that was in February and I was in Miami merely to go to school. Not at my age but I took advantage of being in Miami to go over and meet the superintendent of schools. And I spent a couple of days because Miami is like Michigan State owns a television station. It's bad during the daytime by teachers in the Miami public schools. I sat there in those classrooms in Miami. There would be three and 400 young people of 15 or 16 and the ones I attended at the high school level looking at 10 or 15. Screens television screens taking their notes. There are a couple of teachers in the room but it was 10 times the normal sized class with their eyes glued to these these screens.
And I could tell from my own personal observation that the superintendent of schools was giving me a truthful report when he said that this was saving the Miami school system that year perhaps 500 teachers. And two or three million dollars worth of school buildings. Now these weren't quite highly professional teachers on the TV either. These weren't Dr. White teaching physics the selected by the Physics Society of the country is the country's greatest physics teacher or Dr. Baxter teaching chemistry to two stories told last January. Fascinating article in the Reader's Digest. These were just ordinary school teachers from the Miami school system. Of course the best they had and they let them spend all day getting ready perhaps to teach 30 minutes or 60 minutes.
But. They weren't highly paid four star personalities and yet they held command of those three hundred children and it was a great lesson to me. I wish all our school systems had television stations and I congratulate the Ford Foundation on their leadership its giving because this is one technique and procedure with which to relieve this teacher shortage in direct connection with this since we end up on this note here of the use of communication media directly in education. We have talked about the curriculum the idea here if you can be too much in one question. Sure. But you see many critics have said in reality this doesn't save money and that the money saving aspect of the use of new media mass media and what we know about them in education the most significant thing is not whether money is being saved or not in the sum total perhaps it may be and perhaps it may not at the
individual teacher level. Perhaps more is being spent at that point but the use of then numbers of teachers and classrooms may be less. This is being held up in these arguments. The fact that this is being compared to the educational system as we now know it and it had the greatest experience with 30 students in one classroom approximately and all day in such a situation isn't really that significant. Aspect or behind the scenes principle of all of this experimentation that's being done isn't the most important thing whether or not education is being improved as far as an individual student is concerned. Do you feel that under such a system where whatever as I think you identified the best teacher in that system not the best teacher in the country and not the best as an educator feel but in the school system and utilizing the best teacher there is the child the learner being benefited by this or do you think there's any importance to these
criticisms which say it's being mechanized that's all. Oh I know of course. Except the reports of Dr Stott or the former superintendent of schools in Los Angeles who is working for the Ford Foundation and the reports of these distinguished educators assembled by the Ford Foundation that these techniques are improving the opportunity for the individual student. Certainly they should not be judged merely by money saving yardsticks But you know what. If they happen to save some money too it's going to minimize the opposition perhaps of the Chamber of Commerce who's afraid the taxes may go up in the efforts of the school board to improve education and certainly we don't object. We should we shouldn't object to take Deeks that simultaneously may offer a better
education as this airplane that's flying over several Middle Western States financed by the Ford Foundation. Spraying television programs to thousands of rural schools in subjects where the teachers in the ER schools aren't even competent to teach. Thus improving the product and at the same time as these programs are perfected and perhaps accepted also by the city schools. At the same time perhaps saving money in the school budget. I don't think however that our objective here is to bring down the cost of public education. We need to put more money into public education rather than less money. We need to pay our teachers a great deal better that will improve the quality of the teachers. It's going to cost money to build
television stations to operate them and to make the motion pictures that they require for transmission. These things are all going to be costly. The proportion of money we're putting into education is far less than the proportion the Soviet Union puts into education for example and their proportion in some of our states is far higher than the ratio in many other of our states. I don't approach the problem primarily as a money saver. I approach it from the standpoint of how do we improve the public educational system this is in line with the greatest dreams of our political leadership over the last hundred fifty years. This goes right back to Thomas Jefferson's dream of equal opportunity for all young people. I think we ought to be giving it the top priority of the Pacific Ocean opened up tomorrow morning and swallowed up the Soviet Union. Though I
don't object to in fact I myself when I came back in the Soviet Union five years ago I helped precipitate a lot of the discussion in this country on contrasting our educational system with some of the Soviet techniques. But they should not. This should not be the prime argument. The prime argument is that it's in line with the highest dreams of our ancestors and the greatest hopes of our leadership for our descendants. Senator Ben we got almost to the curriculum and in this and I think our curriculum is too soft. All right. I don't think our boys and girls work hard enough and I don't think they study the right subjects or apply themselves with sufficient zeal of the right subjects. I feel very strongly about this. I don't like to see them studying commercial English when they ought to be studying English learning
some worn and outmoded type of gibberish under the guise that it's English. And what kind of mathematics is commercial mathematics. It's just funny a lot of courses in my judgment for young people who haven't the intellectual toughness to apply themselves to algebra. So I'm unsympathetic with the enormous proliferation of courses in the last 50 years in our high schools. The great emphasis on vocational ism on which boys and girls often study things that they won't possibly find useful 10 or 20 years afterwards because they'll be doing. And devoting themselves to pursuits wholly different from those that they may have thought that they wanted to take up when they were age 14 and 15. I think there's a great deal to the.
Criticisms of some nonprofessional educators such as President Hoover who is a trained engineer is you know Professor Robbie the great Columbia physicist Admiral Rickover who's written a book on this subject. And one thing these men to take an example of emphasized is the need for making mathematics compulsory through the high schools. Now it isn't only that a boy or girl is likely to learn more studying mathematics than studying a lot of these pap courses that he's fed because they're easy. Mathematics is hard. It's not only that and that he'll get better training studying mathematics for almost anything he decides to do in life. But there's a second factor. I'm Professor Robbie in particular has pointed this out that a youngster
who enters Michigan State your university at age 18 if he hasn't had his mathematics. Is likely to find a career in any of the sciences for close to it. He can't go on into chemistry or physics or medicine. Most of the other sciences at least this is true of most universities. Well if it's not true let's agree he'd have a lot better training for the sciences if he continued his mathematics up through age 18. Do you realize the position this is placed on universities. Because by saying these are close to him this sample student you've taken here in no way reflects upon his desire to enter into these fields his desire may be extremely high. You bet that he may have made the decision when he was 13 or 14 incompetent to make it on the advice of some incompetent high school teacher. Or perhaps the high school didn't even teach the mathematics or didn't even have a teacher in
physics. Only a third of our boys and girls at the high school level today get as much as one year of chemistry. And I think it's something like only a 6 to get one year of physics. Now every Russian boy and girl gets seven years of chemistry and several years of physics and several years of a foreign language and much more thorough training in Russian and we give our youngsters in the English language and to this extent with all the distortions in the Soviet educational system. With all the emphasis on the Leninist Stalinist dogma with all twisted history. And the distorted ideology in this particular sense the Russian boys and girls at age 17 or 18 come out of that Russian Soviet school system on the average with a solider and better training in the liberal arts than we're giving our young people here in the United States and a better understanding of science and the new
technology and the impact of science and technology on the world in which our young people are going to live. They will have had President grace all of you pointed this out. The conference that I sponsored at Yale conference in January of 1959 he said there's much too much talk about the Russian emphasis on science which is true enough there's not enough talk about their interest on making every point girl learn a foreign language and having a good solid grounding in the Russian language and literature. I remember a friend of mine who was president of the University of Oklahoma one year perhaps this story makes the point. One year said to me during his presidency President Brand. He was using a story to illustrate the unhappy state of preparation in English of the students that were accepted at the University of Oklahoma
where they had to spend the first couple of years of their English courses doing nothing but fill in for what the youngsters had failed to learn and study and I school and it's only not giving them college credit for this either. Well that I don't know. Well if they could learn to master communication in the form the English language I think that's more important than the college credit where they got the college credit not I don't know. But he told me about the sad looking freshman coed who fixed her eyes on him and looked unhappy and President Brand said Why what's the matter young lady you don't look very happy and she said well she said I come here to be went with that I ain't. This was 20 years ago and it comes back that he had this conversation but it illustrates the problem faced by some of our colleges and universities in taking trained products of our high schools. And we need a frontal assault. On
an improvement of the public school curriculum right across the United States now this is exceedingly difficult because the educators themselves change so slowly. I think you're more likely to get leadership in this area aggressive leadership through the politicians and the parents than you are through the educators I don't like to say this to a professor of education but this in general is my observation. This is why I last January when I issued a report for the Democratic Advisory Council and issued I drafted the report as chairman of their Subcommittee on education. And thus I helped prepare the report help take responsibility for it. The number one recommendation in that report had nothing to do with classroom shortages or teacher shortages or the curriculum it called for setting up at the federal level. What I call
the council of educational advisers. To issue an annual report on the state of education in the United States because we're not going to fix this in a year or five years or 10 years. Dr. Ralph Tyler whom you will know well is perhaps the best known professor of education in the country. He's head of the Institute of behavioral sciences at Stanford University. Once in his speech to the trustees of the University of Chicago said that it takes 50 years for 50 percent of the educators to pick up a new idea that's manifestly a good idea. Well I don't like to wait that 50 years from 50 percent of the educators. I want a council of educational advisers now to give you a little background on this. The full employment act of 1946 in which I was interested set up a Council of Economic Advisers.
This is been an enormous leap helpful and vital in the formulation of national policy. Every year this council puts out a report. For the president and the Congress this report then goes to a joint committee of the Congress called the Joint Committee on the economic report. I served on that committee when I was in the United States Senate. We would debate this report in terms of its implication for National Policy. This report would have very important implications applied to the budget problems of taxation and so forth. And it put before the Congress in a major and serious way. Each year the state of our economy I believe that education much our biggest expenditure if we're going to judge it by economic aspects of education it's by far the biggest chunk of the budget of
our states and our cities. And second only to national defense. If you add it all together including the federal government I think education is so important that a bill of that kind should be passed at the federal level we should set up a council of educational advisors each year they ought to put out a report. Which would stimulate a great deal of price discussion. It would stimulate debates by parent teachers organizations all over the country. It would make superintendents of schools and departments of education at our universities continuously face up to a lot of the tough and controversial questions. It would help give orderliness and constructiveness to federal legislation. It might even take the three hundred different units and bodies in the federal government that are all devoted to education scattered all over Washington in
every department of the wash in Washington and bring them together into some kind of orderliness and some kind of systematic attack on the problem. I give this suggestion to show that new ideas are needed in this field. No inventions at the political level. And we can't keep on and shouldn't keep on. In my judgment the way we're going we're also entering the area here of leadership in educational affairs and where it comes from and how it comes about. In the past few years we've had a tremendous number of reports come out about education sponsored by various organizations some of them come immediately to mind the Rockefeller report the right to appoint the Rickover. Yes all of these just immediately come to mind there are several more. As it turns out each of them propounds a slightly different philosophy theory and report therefore and different conclusion slightly different come from each one.
Some cases the slight differences are major differences but most of the green on some of these fundamentals we've been discussing Well such is the fact that there is a classroom shortage. There is a teacher shortage. The teachers are not paid enough to attract the quality of teachers that we want. That more money is required for education. Now that the American people have got to face up to the fact that if they want top education they're going to have to pay the taxes and they're going to have to put up the money to get it. Well no I think they're all together on those. Now they start to argue a lot when they get down to questions of curriculum and the extent to which television can constructively be used and what the standards ought to be for teaching and so forth I think the whole teaching profession is overlaid with a lot of obsolete standards in my state of Connecticut a boy was a valedictorian at
Yale and it was majored in physics can't teach physics in the Hartford high schools. I think that's absolutely ridiculous. And this goes back to the days when there were low standards for teachers. My mother started teaching school early. You know I would age 13 in a one room schoolhouse. She was county superintendent of schools the state of Minnesota with only one year of college. Now when you have low standards of this kind and the school system has become a pawn of the politicians and a parade of political patronage you're going to have a lot of pressures develop to raise standards and we can understand the reasons we have a lot of these laws on our books. At the same time we can recognize that a lot of these laws are now obsolete. They aren't needed any longer to protect the school systems from the politicians and a boy who was a valedictorian in
physics in a Yale class and we are faced with a great shortage of physics teachers ought to be able to teach physics in art from high school in my judgment and get his better gaji at night. Mr William Benton publisher and chairman of the Encyclopedia Britannica has just spoken of the need for new techniques to meet the new challenge in education. Mr Benson was interviewed by Dr James in terror at Michigan State University College of Education. The next programme in the series will bring back Mr. Charles ACP and chairman of the Department of Communications and education at New York University. You will hear Mr. Stephen discuss the mass media and education and their future as either rivals or allies. Oral essays on education was produced by Wayne S. Wayne and Patrick for distribution is made through the National Association of educational going castors. This is the end AB Radio Network.
- 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)
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- Episode Description
- William Benton, publisher and chairman of the Encyclopedia Britannica, on "New Challenge, New Techniques."
- Series 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.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-3-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Oral essays on education; William Benton,” 1961-02-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ww76zf66.
- MLA: “Oral essays on education; William Benton.” 1961-02-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ww76zf66>.
- 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-ww76zf66