Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Democracy by Lot — A College Experiment

In 1921, Knox College in Illinois attempted a new way to break students out of their social comfort zones: randomly selecting the seating arrangements at the dining hall.

Here, in a dining hall seating 200 men, they come together three times a day, as a part of a deliberate plan for developing democratic spirit and avoiding the formation of cliques. Each man draws lots each week to determine at which of the twenty ten-men tables he shall eat with nine other chance comrades. In this way there is a general shaking up every seven days, and a different group of undergraduates is assembled at each table.

So, did it work?

“The system has had a good trial year and has met with complete success,” President McConaughy said in a recent interivew. [Note for modern readers: that’s indeed spelled McConaughy, not McConaughey as in the actor Matthew.] “It is supplying that intangible something without which no student’s education is complete, but which must be got outside the classroom. It brings all the men of the college together on terms of equality and fosters friendships which cannot be gained through any group association.”

If it truly “met with complete success,” one might think Knox would still do it today. But in my searching, I found zero references to a modern continuation. Still, it sounds like something that more people should try. Although one could argue that we have a global equivalent now, in the form of Chatroulette.

 

Democracy by Lot — A College Experiment (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 29, 1921

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

May 26th, 2021 at 8:51 am

Posted in Education

Does a University Career Offer “No Future”?

In 1919, as the smartest ditched academia for the private sector, had professors’ salaries gotten too low? The average professor then earned $41K in today’s money. Average professor salaries are much higher now, but the problem persists — or has grown.

Edwin F. Gay, Dean of Harvard Business School penned an essay on the subject. As the article notes, “after Jan. 1 [he] will forsake educational pursuits to manage the New York Evening Post.” His assessment:

“High thinking and low living” may have been the teacher’s traditional habit, but when the living falls too low, even the high thinking youngster must look elsewhere for the exercise of his talent.

He writes that at an unnamed “one of the greatest of our Western State universities,” the average professor’s salary in 1918 was $2,438. Using historical inflation data, that would be the equivalent of $41,425 now. (And if anything, given the university’s presumably-elite status, that was presumably meant to represent the higher end of professors’ salaries at the time.)

In 2018, the American Association of University Professors found that the average salary was $104,820 for a full professor, $81,274 for an associate professor, and $70,791 for an assistant professor.

In other words, the salary did indeed go up. But the same concerns about the best and the brightest largely going into the private sector instead of academia persist. Indeed, it’s likely a bigger concern now than back in 1919, given the explosion of such lucrative intelligence-based fields as the tech sector and Silicon Valley.

Does a University Career Offer “No Future”?: Failure to Pay Professors Decent Salaries Presents Grave Problem– World of Business Is Drawing Them Away (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 14, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 12th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Education

Why They Entered Annapolis

The new boys at the U.S. Naval Academy were surveyed in 1919 about why they had joined, and their answers varied considerably. Five favorites:

  • “I came here mainly to beat out a friend at West Point.”
  • “Life here must be one continual round of hops, entertainments, fights, escapades, and every other wildly romantic thing not to be found in Iowa.”
  • “I saw many naval officers at Charleston. They attended all the balls there and made great hits with the ladies.”
  • “Father’s last words were, ‘Don’t let James lead any other life than that of a naval officer.'”
  • “I had tried several other things without success, and so I thought I would try this.”

Why They Entered Annapolis: One “Thirsted for Power,” Another Wanted to Dance and “Make a Hit With the Ladies,” But Eagerness for Education and Patriotism Were Not Lacking Why They Entered Annapolis (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 22, 1919

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June 20th, 2019 at 11:06 am

Magna Charta of Childhood

World War I changed how many governments viewed their responsibilities toward children. While previously they had largely kept their hands off, the war took a huge toll on children’s health, child labor, and education. Governments felt more of a need to step in.

In the U.S., what did the government do around this time?

Congress passed a laws restricting child labor, though it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 5-4 decision Hammer v. Dagenhart. Congress then passed a constitutional amendment banning child labor in 1924, but it was only ratified by 28 of the required 36 states.

This May 1919 article explains why:

Before the war it seemed possible for statesmen to ignore the existence of children. What happened to the millions of young people of every great nation was, prior to August 1914, of slight interest to governments. Before the great war, it is perhaps safe to say that no Cabinet meeting of any great power had at any time devoted its full attention to the national problems raised by the very existence of children.

Every government knows now that such neglect is no longer compatible with national safety either in war or in peace. Military mobilization and the great test of industrial efficiency during the war revealed weaknesses appallingly vast. Neglect, it was perceived, was silently doing damage hardly less great than enemy invasion. Because of this realization, and not because of any newfound tenderness for children, governments generally have begun to give serious thought to childhood.

 

Child labor would only be banned in America in 1938 under FDR, with the Fair Labor Standards Act. And this time, the law was never struck down by the Supreme Court.

Magna Charta of Childhood: Representative of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Serbia, Italy, and Japan Are Joined With Americans in Evolving an International System of Child Welfare (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 25, 1919

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May 23rd, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please

Horace Mann School is considered one of the best private schools in the country, and the fourth-best in New York City. They offer 230 courses to their high school students. Warning, though, the school will set you back $51,000 per year.

This 1919 profile article describes the unusual self-directed approach to education at the school:

Some of us may remember periods in our lives when we took up the flying of kites, or the hunting for Indian arrowheads in the fields, and in the kindling enthusiasm of that time we grasped the principles of aeronautics, archaeology, and of geology, sciences with mouthfilling names of which we did not even hear until later years.

If the boys and girls who go to this school of the new order are guided aright in their building of houses and of the making of automobiles and fire engines out of wooden beams and wheels, the theory is that they will develop correct and accurate habits of thought.

But wouldn’t this approach ignore the so-called fundamentals of education? Not so.

The more formal things required in an education can be added. There is no laborious drilling in the alphabet; nothing is said about the multiplication table; and there is no endless repetition of words and phrases which the child mind cannot grasp. When the youngster makes houses, airplanes, submarines, or tea, he is acquiring skill in the use of tools and paste and dishes.

 

Learning the Three R’s by Doing as You Please: New Method of Educating Children Provides First of All for Self-Determination, and Makes Playmates of the Old Schoolroom Bogeys (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 16, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 14th, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Education

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight

While about 20 percent of the population at the time were enrolled as library borrowers and took out an average of three books per year, World War I soldiers in the camps were enrolled at a rate of 40 percent and took out an average of 12 books per year.

Half a million book volumes were already located in the military camp libraries by February 1918, less than a year after American entered the conflict, with a “soldiers book fund” containing more than $1.5 million.

Soldiers Learning to Read as Well as Fight: Books in Camp Are Used Twice as Much as Those in City Libraries — Many Men Acquire Valuable Habit for the First Time (PDF)

From Sunday, February 3, 1918

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February 1st, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War

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 (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Business Men in Control of American Colleges

Evans Clark, a professor of history and politics and Princeton, lamented the increased influence of members of the business community on American universities in 1917. Clark perceived these board of trustees or regents as often lacking either familiarity or best interests of the school they represented:

Princeton University, however, is legally not the Faculty and students, the community citizenship, but a group of twenty-nine men in no way responsible to them, and none of whom lives or functions at the university. These twenty-nine men at Princeton, and other small groups like them in every college and university community, are in law rulers whose power is absolute.

They have the legal authority to employ and dismiss whomsoever they wish in the service of their institution — the President, the professors, administrative officers, janitors, and day laborers. And no one of these, it is well to note, has any more constitutional security of tenure than another. They can discharge a janitor who complains that his wages are low, or an instructor who makes the fact known to his classes.

That Trustees and Regents to not exercise in practice every one of the powers granted to them by law is proof not of any lack of authority, but merely a lack of desire to do so.

It’s an increasing issue now: according to a 2015 Atlantic article, “Twenty percent of U.S. college presidents in 2012 came from fields outside academia, up from from 13 percent six years earlier, according to the American Council on Education.”

Business Men in Control of American Colleges: Member of Princeton’s Teaching Force Criticises Condition Which He Regards as a Baneful Autocracy in Higher Education (PDF)

From Sunday, June 10, 1917

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June 8th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Business,Education

Real Democracy’s Need Is Discipline of Youth

Why was everything going to hell in 1917? Ralph Philip Boas, Associate Professor of English at Whitman College, suggested a large measure of blame should be placed on young people:

The danger of democracy is never that it will be too stern, too rigid, too intellectual, too conservative. No, the danger of democracy is that it will be too easygoing, too soft, too emotional, too fickle.

The weaknesses of democracy show nowhere more clearly than in its attitude in America. Our country is the paradise of youth; here we think only of our duties toward our children, never of our children’s duties toward us. An American works himself to death for his children — happy not in their respect and their love, but in their success. Everything is done for the American youth.

Look at his education. Schooling is free from the kindergarten through the university. The State taxes itself willingly that its boys and girls may have the best education which it can give them. And what does it ask in return? A sense of responsibility? A sense of gratitude? Service in the army? Service in civil life? No. It asks nothing in return.

It is pathetically proud of the advantages its youth enjoy, never once realizing this fundamental danger: If you train up young people to be soft and luxurious, to expect everything as a right and to give nothing in return, to absorb unthinkingly all the advantages of civilization without adding anything to those advantages, are you training up young people who can help in the great decisions of a democracy?

No.

Of course, this has been an age-old complaint — indeed, Aristophanes was complaining about “kids these days” back in 419 BC. And the same youth who Boas criticized in 1917 went on to become the adults who would lament the rise of rock ‘n’ roll a few decades later.

As Dick van Dyke asked in Bye Bye Birdie, ‘What’s the Matter With Kids Today?”

Real Democracy’s Need Is Discipline of Youth: A Land Where Responsibility Harmonizes with Freedom, Not a Mere Paradise for Children Without Sense of Obligation (PDF)

From Sunday, May 6, 1917

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May 3rd, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Education,Life,Politics

Pan American University Planned for Panama

The concept of a university linking both North and South America was already off the ground by 1917.

“Now comes Dr. Edwin Grant Dexter, President of the Instituto Nacional de Panama, with a tangible suggestion and plan for the doing of this very thing. He would establish a point of academic, cultural contact between the two continents by means of a Pan American University at Panama, the middle place of the hemisphere, a rallying point for fellowship and a common endeavor for the welfare of all the twenty-one republics, both North and South.

“Such a university already has been authorized by the Republic of Panama, seven acres of land bordering on the United States Canal Zone are immediately available for the purpose, a million dollars’ worth of school buildings and dormitories already in operation…”

What happened? A search for ‘Pan American University’ reveals both the University of Texas – Pan American (a defunct Texas college founded in 1927) and also Panamerican University (a Catholic school in Mexico City founded in 1967). And searching for information on Edwin Grant Dexter doesn’t seem to reveal anything insightful. If anybody knows what happened with this plan, please reply in the comments section.

Pan American University Planned for Panama: New Bond Between North and South America Outlined by Dr. Edwin Grant Dexter — Twenty-one Republics Are Interested (PDF)

From Sunday, April 22, 1917

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

April 20th, 2017 at 7:38 am

Posted in Education