How should schools change their curricula during wartime? During WWI, New York State Education Commissioner John H. Finley attempted to answer that question.
“There is a twofold obligation on the teacher. First, it is essential that we defend the intellectual frontiers of our democracy. We must “dig ourselves into” their trenches and hold them. Second, the schools, public and private, teachers and pupils alike, must take an active part in helping the nation in the fight.”
Today, civics education in schools is on the decline — arguably during a period where Americans need it more than ever.
Finley defended the importance of schools amid a time of war, when others might suggest limiting education budgets or other similar measures in order to invest almost solely in the military:
“There are approximately as many teachers in the State of New York as there are New York men in the first contingent of the National Army; a teacher in the army of future defense for every soldier in the army of present defense. And what an army this is; this unseen mighty army which is helping to make a democracy worth saving by the other army! We who must remain at our posts of future defense cannot let these momentous days in the world’s history pass without doing our part to help bring in our own day that peace which will make the world a safe place hereafter for those whom we teach.”
Stirring words indeed.
Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War: New York State Sets Example in Encouraging Teaches to Inform Pupils About America’s Aims — Lineup of the Colleges
From Sunday, October 14, 1917