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The Amenities of Book-Collecting

By A. Edward Newton $4.00

An American Idyll: The Life of

Carleton H. Parker $1.75

By Cornelia Stratton Parker

Adventures in Indigence $i-5o

By Laura Spencer Portor

Atlantic Classics, First Series $1.25
Atlantic Classics, Second Series $1.25

Two volumes, in cloth, boxed, $2.50

in lialf -leather, boxed, $6.00

The Atlantic Monthly and Its Makers

By if. ^ . DeWolfe Howe $i .00

Collector's Luck $2.50

By Alice Van Leer Carrick


lPATRons of






I HAVE been ten years writing this book, and
three times ten years living it. This is another
"Book of Acts" — rather than words; of prac-
tice more than preaching; of sons instead of
theories. I wonder if I am not the only liv-
ing educator with more sons than theories, or
methods, or experiments to try out ?

Of course, each of my children is an experi-
ment; every individual child is. But American
education is not the individual child : it is a na-
tional child, and that child is no longer an ex-
periment. Some things in American education
are reasonably proved — enough such things to
keep every public school working to capacity,
and every American school-child busy at his
books until he is at least sixteen. It is time we
stopped experimenting with public-school edu-
cation. A few million more experiments will
perhaps do no more harm than the millions we
have already made; but they hinder education
seriously. It is time the nation got down to
business — the business of teaching all its people
to read, write, and figure, and to get on together.

There is something alarmingly experimental
in the sound of this last idea! The Three R's

may be among the admittedly proved things, but
ought we not to experiment with this "getting-
on-together" course? I have been doing that
in Hingham ; and ten years of it are enough.
The need to get on together over this whole
country is too terribly urgent for anything but
action. It is this action, my own doings with my
own children in my own town schools, that this
book is about.

These last ten years I have been, and am
still, sending my children to the Hingham pub-
lic schools. I am not the only one in Hingham
who does this thing; but I have been among the
very few to do it who take education seriously,
and who have the means to send their children
to private schools. Hingham will not trust its
own public schools to teach the Three R's to its
children; and as for getting on together, Hing-
ham knows a good many ways of getting on, but
it does not wish to learn the way of getting on
together. Hingham and the rest of the United
States are remarkably alike.

One of my dear Hingham neighbors writes:

"Will you forgive me when I say that your

article in the Atlantic Monthly^ seems to me mis-

1 The following pages are an expansion of that article,
which appeared in November, 1919.


leading? You surely give the impression that
your children are the product of public-school
training. Is it not true that they are the product
of the most ideal private-school training? Their
mother taught them until their habits of study
were well formed, and their brains well furnished.
Then and not until then were they in a condition
to be of service in the public schools."

I do not say that my children are the product
only of the public schools. I do say that they
are not the product of any trade, parochial, or
private school. They have always been taught
by their mother, and they have always gone to
the public school, since they could go to school.
I believe in home education ; it is the very best
sort for individuality, as public-school education
is the very best sort for democracy. What I
don't believe in is private and parochial and
trade-school education, for its end is not democ-
racy. Nor am I exhibiting my children as schol-
ars — not with their inheritance ! The Lord and
their mother have worked together over them
until now, their mother with more patience and
push than the Lord — but they simply are not
of exhibition stock, educationally. I think they
are bound to be intelligent democratic citizens,
a sort of citizen so necessary to this country that

even scholars should be sacrificed to make them!
I have not been misleading in my essay. I
shall be misleading here, however, if I quote
only my neighbor's letter and do not go on to tell
of the far-flung response that came back to me
from across the country to this plea for a com-
mon school. It has been little short of a national
wave of approval. The private-school people
have not said very much: one woman principal
told me she was glad to know that there was still
a dreamer and fool left alive in the world ; but the
common people read it gladly, as I hoped they
would; the Master-Builders' Association of Bos-
ton saying: "We believe you have uncovered
something greater than you know, and we wish
to get behind you." From New York, Chicago,
and Pasadena have come personal letters of the
same tenor, together with orders for the maga-
zine to be distributed broadcast.

Indeed, there is a stack of letters on my desk
which I should like to print as a book, for their
straight Americanism, their genuine democracy,
and their unshakable faith in a common public
school for all the people as the very bed-rock of
a real democracy.

Dallas Lore Sharp.
December 25, 19 19.



Education is the most sacred concern, indeed the only
hope, of a nation. — John Galsworthy.


The average physical age of man is thirty-
three; his average educational age is eight-
een, or thereabouts. A few men go on to
school after eighteen, but they learn noth-
ing fundamental, for theories, methods, and
facts are not fundamental: they belong to
the useful, the professional. Here and there
is a student perennially eighteen years old
in mind, who unlearns a few important
things in and after college; but most fresh-
men are what they are, and after three years
in college they are seniors. They come to
college with all their educational clothes on,
asking the faculty if it will please help but-
ton them up. College gives a little better
fit to the educational garment. We live on
and learn, but the lessons from seventeen to


seventy arc only a review and an application
of those we learned from six to sixteen.

In any national survey of education, there-
fore, the higher schools and colleges are neg-
ligible. Our education as a people is that of
the secondary schools. In them, more than
in any other American institution — more
than in all other American institutions —
are the issues of an enlightened national
life; issues no longer national merely, for the
war has made them vital to the life of the
world. American democracy is now a world-
issue. Already from overseas the peoples are
coming to study our institution of democ-
racy; the Japanese, with keen, characteristic
insight, singling out the public schools — as
if in them were the source and the secret of

Certainly no democracy can be better
than its educational system; for democracy,
more than any other political programme, is
a programme of education. The spirit of
democracy is the fruit of education, and
never an inheritance, unless an education
can be inherited, devised by will, and blessed



upon a child by laying-on of hands. You
can come by the spirit of aristocracy that
way, for the God-I-thank-thee-that-I-am-
not-as-other-men spirit is a negation and an
assumption. One may even assume that he
is a Kaiser and a vice-gerent of God. We
cannot assume vice-gerentcies and the like
in America, so we stop modestly with what-
ever else there is to assume. We all alike
inherit the Constitution; and it doth not
appear at birth what we shall be, a Presi-
dent in Washington, or a Washington corres-
pondent, or both; for every child, although
born a presidential candidate, cannot com-
mit his nomination and election to the hands
of the priest who christens him, as he can
his social position; he must leave it all to
the large, firm hands of the future.

How many American parents hate this
divine hazard of democracy ! "I will take no
chance with my boy!" a mother said to me
recently, who had come from New Jersey to
Boston with her young son; as if the demo-
cratic hazards for her boy might be fewer in
Boston ; and as if money and birth and breed-


ing brought to Boston might overcome the
handicap of equality conferred by the Con-
stitution upon her son. Why is she afraid?
Because I have boys in Hingham? Mine
are not the only boys in Hingham, as they
have already found out, and as her boy will
soon find out. Every boy in Hingham is a
challenge to my bo}^; so is every boy in Bos-
ton, and in Baton Rouge, and in Bagdad. It
is the girls in Hingham that I am afraid of.

Money and birth and breeding count in a
democracy — for and against a man ; edu-
cation and purpose, however, count a great
deal more and altogether for a man. But
count how? What is the true end of Amer-
ican education? "Is it life or a living?"
It is neither life nor a living. We can live
and get a living without an education, as we
can marry and give in marriage. But we
cannot make the United States a democracy
without education. The true end of Amer-
ican education is the knowledge and practice
of democracy — whatever other personal
ends an education may serve. Education
has turned a corner since we went to school,


and finds itself face to face with a bigger
thing than life or the getting of a living. It
is face to face with a big enough thing to die
for in France, a big enough thing to go to
school for in America — going to school, on
the whole, being more difficult than dying.
Life and the getting of a living may have
been the proper ends of our private educa-
tion heretofore; such ends are no longer
legitimate. Neither life nor the getting of a
living, but living together — this must be the
single public end of a common public educa-
tion hereafter.

This new and larger end demands a new
and larger thought of education. The day
of the little red schoolhouse, and all other
little things in American education, must
pass. The large schoolhouse must come.
Our present school concepts are as inade-
quate as are our present school appropria-
tions and programmes. We must reconceive
the nation's educational needs; we must do
it as vigorously, as generously, and as uni-
versally as we lately conceived her military
needs; and we must create an educational


machinery as effective as the military ma-
chinery to meet the needs.

But what a machinery is the little red
schooihouse, and the little three-hundred-
dollar schoolteacher, and the little thirty-
cent interest of the average citizen in his
public school! Can the Japanese be right in
thinking the intelligence and spirit of Amer-
ica a product of American schools? They
have long watched this democracy, and at
last, having seen its temper tried by war,
they have come to study into the secret of
its magnificent behavior — as if it were an
educational secret, and might be found in
our public schools. They are right, but they
are going to be terribly shocked, and shaken
in their faith.


What do the Japanese expect to find?
Surely nothing less than this whole nation in
school — for we are a literate people ; and
nothing less than the whole nation in school
together, one common school — for we are
without caste as a people; and nothing less


than the whole nation together in a com-
mon school until it gets the conception of
democracy, the abstract, spiritual meaning of
democracy — for democracy is a spirit, and
they who know the truth of democracy know
it in spirit.

What the Japanese will actually find is a
democracy divided educationally against it-
self; wrong in its aim; weak in its purpose;
feeble in its support; faltering in its faith;
and not only divided, but hostile, in its
educational plans. It is bad enough that
eighteen per cent of our children do not
attend school at all; it is not so bad for
democracy, however, as that our other
eighty-two per cent should be divided in
their education by private, parochial, indus-
trial, and the regular public schools, until
we can be said to have no common educa-
tional programme, no common educational
purpose, no common educational ideal —
no common school. Yet what else but a com-
mon school can be the head of the corner of
democracy? We must go to school; we must
all go to school; we must all go together to


school, with a common language, a common
course of study, a common purpose* faith,
and enthusiasm for democracy. American-
ization is not this new educational ideal.
The world is not to be Americanized. A
few millions of foreigners in America need
to be Americanized; but all the millions of
Americans in America need to be democ-
ratized. Nothing less than the democratiza-
tion of America dare be our educational

I have not worked out the new course of
study. This book is a plea, not a pro-
gramme. One thing I know: we must have
a common school for all the people; and all
the people must attend a common school
until every American child has a high-school
education. It is not a dream; it is not im-
possible — unless democracy is a dream and

The present standard of American educa-
tion is a fourth-grade standard — and less!
The educational statistician at Washington
says, "it is found that 6.36 per cent of the
children in the elementary schools are in the


eighth grade." This is not making America
safe for democracy. On through the fourth
grade to the end of the eighth grade, on
from the eighth grade to the end of the
high school, we must push the education
of the whole people before we can trust the
people with democracy.

There will still be great need of special
schools — for the subnormal: private schools
for the feeble-minded; vocational schools
for the slow and the stubborn; but for the
normal, one common school only, for rich
and poor, up to the end of the high school;
by which time we are pretty nearly all that
we need to be for purposes of democracy.

Is this a new educational language? It is
no newer than the new demands, no more
foolish than genuine democracy. The old
order has changed, and has given place to
so large an educational need that we have
neither the mind nor the machinery for it.
Take the country clear across, and our edu-
cational mind and machinery are little bet-
ter than a reproach. And our machinery
for education is better than our mind for it.


We have better buildings, better teachers,
better salaries — even better salaries — than
public sympathy and support. Poorer than
the poorest piece of kit in all our educa-
tional outfit is the individual American's
support of his public school.

In this new and larger education there
will be great elasticity, providing for the spe-
cial case, the educational machine having
a transmission with plenty of speeds ahead,
and even a reverse gear for those who are
backward. But a larger, simpler, speedier
education is to be provided, that shall re-
duce the number of school years, and thus
lessen the number of special cases; that shall
reduce the number of narrow school courses
— commercial, general business, college, and
vocational — to one common course, one
broad, universal course, thus educating for
democracy first, and after that for life and a
living — and even for entrance into college.
Entrance into college! O Lord, how long
shall American public-school education suf-
fer this incubus of the college?

A course of study that fits a student for


citizenship should fit him for college, the
college course leading only to a larger reali-
zation of citizenship, a deeper spiritual, a
broader intellectual preparation for its priv-
ileges and duties. College-going students
and other students in high school do not dif-
fer in kind or in need, and up to the college
doors should have no different training; the
true test for college being a moral-spiritual-
intellectual test, and no such futile thing as a
different course of study. Let all be called
to college, and as many as possible be chosen
— the eager in spirit, the morally strong, the
intellectually capable. We must do away
with our present false "requirements," that
can be "crammed" for, that "prep" schools
can fit the totally unfit for, as if getting into
college were a more than normal feat, a
peculiar, highly specialized, calculating pro-
cess that one must be fed-up for, trained
down for, as a runner is trained for the hun-
dred-yard dash, rubbed down, and coached to
the very tape. To-day in the Boston "Her-
ald" appeared this strange piece of educa-
tional news : —




Connecticut Institution Boys Pass Best
Harvard Entrance Exams.

The intcrscholaetic scholarship trophy, annually
awarded by the Harvard chapter of the Phi Beta
Kappa to the school whose candidates make the
best record at the admission examination, has been
won for the year 1919 by the Hotchkiss school at
Lakeville, Ct., at which the Rev. H. G. Buehler is

Heretofore, the trophy has been awarded to the
school havinn the greatest number of candidates on
the honor list, bat, in accordance with the vote of
the chapter taken last year, the award has now
been made to the school whose candidates attained
the highest average grade, this grade being calcu-
lated on the total records of all final candidates from
the school competing as a group with all final
candidates from other schools.

This is the school of whose teachers Clyde L.
Davis, in the Atlantic for November, 1919,
writes : —

The masters were simply drill sergeants.
"You'd better remember that word, boys: you '11
need it in June," was the oft-repeated remark
of the indefatigable old German instructor; and
it defined the pedagogical horizon of the whole
staff. Their jobs depended on making their
classes pass the college entrance examinations
at the end of the year; and their everlasting,
driving, barren, humdrum tutoring on the rudi-
ments of languages and mathematics was any-
thing but inspiring.

That is the prize-taking "preparation"


for college ! Phi Beta Kappa and the college
faculties encourage this as ideal ! And here
is a description of these ideally "prepared,"
prize-taking students of this very school,
by Mr. Davis who, as a scholarship man,
was himself "prepared" among them: —

The ignorance of these boys amazed me.
They knew nothing of United States history, and
not enough geography to locate my native state
with exactitude. They had traveled abroad,
but having taken nothing with them, they had
brought nothing back. They wrote illegible
scrawls. Standard literature was positively a
sealed book to them ; but, on the other hand, they
had been tutored toward college entrance exami-
nations from childhood. The rudiments of Latin
and algebra had been drummed into them, and
not a few spoke French. For me, a mature farm-
product, to compete with these fellows in learn-
ing languages was an impossible task. There-
fore my final humiliation was to see myself
easily beaten in the classroom. *

1 It is only fair to add that Mr. Davis wrote also: " But
working, playing, and cheering for the school finally made
me love it completely." Hotchkiss School, it is needless to
say, and Milton Academy, a little later on, are not men-
tioned as "sinners above all the Galilaeans," but merely as
typical private schools.



These are the prize-takers at the begin-
ning of their college course ! This is the great
work of the private "prep" school. This is
education according to the colleges, and im-
posed by them upon the public schools!

O Lord, I say, how long will the sensible
supporting public tolerate this burden that
the Pharisees lay upon the back of the pub-
lic school? Right here must begin the re-
form in our public-school education, the
public, not the colleges, determining what
the programme shall be, and doing away
utterly with this cramming, coaching prepa-
ratory course, wherever that course fails to
meet the general need.

Any special programme of training, voca-
tional, business, or college, before the end
of the high school, if not contrary to the
Decalogue, is contrary to the spirit of the
Constitution, and a menace to democracy.
Moreover, it is German, no matter how we
try to clothe it. Such special training was
in Germany, and is here, a deliberate at-
tempt to industrialize education, to make it
economically efificient, to create a working


class or professional class. So-called voca-
tional education before the end of a general
high-school course is education backward, the
training of a man into a machine, a soul into
a pair of hands. It is education for autoc-
racy — the German system, which, in its
"People's Schools," carried ninety per cent
of German children up to our eighth grade,
then blocked all further education, except
in trade and continuation schools. These are
the "masses," and not an average of one in
ten thousand got through these "Peoples'
Schools" into the gymnasium, or high school,
with the other ten per cent — the children
of the "classes."

Masses and classes until recently in
American education have been one, the
school doors opening alike to all; but now,
under the guise of "education for a living,"
or in some other robe of light, the devil of
vocational training goes up and down the
land, installing machinery in the high-school
basements, to steal away the quiet of the
study room; and, holding out "Big Money"
in one hand, and a desiccated textbook in the


other, says to the restless high-school boys,

American education is going vocationally
mad, going bad; for behind this mischievous
propaganda is a purpose and a philosophy
not had of democracy. Let me quote a pas-
sage from a textbook by a native American
high-school teacher: —

In our country, where every youth in his first
year in school learns that he may be president
some day; where parents permit their children
to look down upon their modest callings; where
the higher professions are overcrowded, manual
labor despised, the farms deserted, we often find
in the serving class a weak, discontented class of
people. In sharp contrast to them were the
people who served us in Germany. They knew
what they had to do and did it, without feeling
that it injured their dignity.

They, the servant class of Germany, had
been educated to servitude, he means; where-
as, in this country, as he goes on to say, "A
'bum' wanted a dollar for carrying three
small hand-bags for us to the station"; all
because of this idiotic American teaching
&bout some day being president!


That "bum" had had no presidential
teaching. He might have had the "busi-
ness course" in school, perhaps; for, instead
of a promise of the presidency, our schools
nowadays hold out the necessity of making
money, making it quick, and a lot of it.
"Double your salary" is our educational
slogan — salary, not wages. The next revi-
sion of the Bible will doubtless read: "The
salary of sin is death." The word, with all
its pretensions, has no place in our democra-
tic dictionary. Vocational training can never
result here in either the servitude or the
servility of Germany. The American mind

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Online LibraryDallas Lore SharpPatrons of democracy → online text (page 1 of 3)