Ruth Mary Weeks.

Making American industry safe for democracy online

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ilAKING AMERICAN INDUSTRY SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY



RUTH MARY WEEKS



BULLETIN NO. 5, OCTOBER, 1918



1225 Sedgwick Street
CHICAGO



MAKING AMERICAN INDUSTRY SAFE FOR

DEMOCRACY



RUTH MARY \yEEKS

Instructor in English at the Kansas City Polytechnic Institute — Author of "The

People's School." a Study in Vocational Training, Etc.

(Read at the Convention of the Vocational Education Association of the
Middle West, Chicago, January 25, 1918)



Copyrighted 1918,
Vocational lulucation Association of tlie Middle West



iMAKlX(i AAll'lRlCAX IXDUSTKV SAl-1': I'OR DI-IMOCKACV.

The last t\venty-ti\e years have seen a greater improvement in the
character and e(|uipment of American teachers than in the personnel of
any other learned profession. Never ha\e professional standards been
so high in colleges, high scliools. grade schools and kindergartens, as well
as in vocational branches; and constant checking np by trained siijjervisors
and efficiency cx])erts keeps the city teacher, at least, on his mettle and
energetically em])l()\ing the whole of his new professional resonrces. l^du-
cational ideas, too. have undergone in the last twenty-five years an e(|iially
impressive revohition. First came the kindergarten with its study of child
nature; then manual training with its emphasis on the all around develop-
ment of personality ; next vocational training and vocational guidance with
their insistence on the duty of the school to prepare for acttial wage earn-
ing life; and now the Dewey, Montessori and Gary systems of school ad-
ministration, making of school not only a preparation for life but a world
in miniature. Never have subjects been so well and attracti\ely taught in
their respective class rooms ; never has the trend of educational thought
been so close to daily life and daily needs.

And it is fortunate that this is so, for never has the task confronting
a school svstem been so complicated, so vital and stupendous as it is in
America today ; never has any teaching body stood so much in need of
skill and vision. techni(|ue and imagination, factual knowledge and social
ideals. Not only is the mechanism of modern life more complicated than
that for which our school program was originally drafted, but politically,
industrially, culturallx' and religiously, .\merica, like all the world, is facing
a readjustment of forces and ideals; and to America the nations look for
the democratic i)rogram on which the coming years can build the structure
of a liberal and harmoniotis international life. We live in stirring times.
Little by little, century by century, humanity has progressed nearer to the
vision of a world in which, free of tyrrany and oppression, free of bigotry
and intolerance, free of poverty and ignorance, each soul shall reach the
full fruition of its individual powers. A])olition of slavery and social
caste, religious freedom, universal suffrage, i)opular education, and govern-
ment recognition of the right of labor to a living and a life — these were
democratic gains of which America was proud. But even here the goal
was not yet won; and we scarcely saw as yet the ful' meaning of the word
democracy. T.he.n suddenly came the war, waking us from our self-satis-
faction, rousing" .us to, 3. "lifeW/Jo've and understanding of democracy. Now
the burdeo. has ^ faJ!leii..uBon America; President Wilson's great phrase.
"Make the' \VoVi(^'"sa?C''f(3n\detwXTaey.'' rings across two continents, a new



battle crv of freedom; .-ind to .\nierica the nations look not only for the
final military victory but lor the democratic exann)le, which shall justif)-
the cause for which we fi^jht b\- its practical results. We ha\e as Amer-
icans not onlv to stri\e for freedom on the shell-torn fields of h^'ance, l)ut
lo establish democrac\ on our own soil there to stand as a model and sinn-
ing inspiration to the world.

And that is whv 1 have chosen for my subject today making American
industry safe for democracy. Industry is the backbone of our national
ife; yet is American industry really democratic? Can we point to it at
lie close of the war as the model for the reconstruction of international
nidustrial afi:'airs? What is our present industrial situation? W'e have
indeed federal child labor laws upon our statutes prohibiting interstate
traffic in articles manufactured by child labor ; but these laws do not apply
to industries which cater to a local market, and in many a state children
•ive still employed, notably in the street trades so dangerous alike to life
.'tnd limb and character, so obstructive of vocational advancement. Is thib
democracy? We have long known that no woman can live safely and de-
cently on less than eight dollars a week in normal times ; yet the average
wage of working women in this country at the outljreak of the war was
nearer six — and it is doubtful if the subsequent advance in earnings has
kept pace with war prices closely enough to change the situation. Is that
democracy? In a well-known county in Colorado, a great corporation
elected, owned and operated every public official in the district, including
the judge in whose courts cases JDCtween the company and its employees
were tried. Was that democracy? And when the very understandable
discontent with this and other conditions of these employees' life and work
culminated in trade union agitation, a long and bloody strike ensued be-
cause the corporation refused to meet with, treat with or recognize the
collective elected representatives of their employees. Was that democracy?
It was my privilege to act in a very modest intermediary ca])acity in a
recent street railway strike in my own city. The justice of the strikers'
claims were conceded even by the company itself, but the strike lasted
two long weeks, in which not a street car operated on that city's streets,
simply because the company refused to meet with and treat with its em-
ployees collectively. A railway man from another state who came to help
the local company in handling the strike, said to me, "It is the same thing
everywhere — turl)ulence, violence, anarchy."

"Yes," I replied, "it is the same thing everywhere, but you would get
along l^etter in meeting the situation if instead of saying 'Turbulence," you
would say 'Democracy.' "

Mr. Hard, writing in the Xc7^' Republic, says: "A man accjuainted
with political afifairs who will s])end three months in Washington meeting
]:)usiness men coming on war work to the national capital from all parts



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of the L'. S. would find it ditiicult not Ut ouncludc that AiiK-rican business
men all in all arc the most reactionary class of industrial rulers in the civil-
ized world. I'Or an astonishing number of them, the whole lalujr move-
ment, wdiicli has given us trade union cabinets in every countr_\- in luirope
and a labor man jirime minister of ICngland. is not a movement at all but
only a "trouble." The very same democratic imijulse which is shaking and
remaking the world thrusts a hnger in their factories and thev see nothing
but labor troul)les inxented b\- irrele\ant (jutside agitators." ( )ur business
men are sincerelv jjatriotic and enthusiastic for jjolitical democrac}-. 'Jlie
president of the very street railway com})any of which 1 spoke had left his
lucrative position to volunteer in the army and. jjcrhaps. to give his life
for the cause of democracy; yet he left the arm\- cam]) where he was sta-
tioned and came home to break that strike without once realizing that there
was anything inconsistent in his attitude. Indeed, he asked permission
(of course, not granted) to bring his regiment with him to protect imported
strike-breakers on the company cars ! As one labor leader ])ut it. he re-
turned bringing the sword of freedom in one hand the lash of industrial
oppression in the other. The terrible story of Kast St. Louis is still \i\id
in our minds — the story of Imw the bitterness of industrial conflict and the
stupidity of race prejudice culminated in a night of savagery which a Kan-
sas City press representatixe who was present at the outbreak characterized
as w^orse than Belgium. Have we in America todav industrial democracv?
I hold no brief for organized labor. Let us look at the other side of the
picture. Two years ago saw the passage of the Adamson act. whose pro-
\isions most of you will a])pr()\e. but whose method of passage man\- will
deplore. Refusing to arbitrate, using its new power of organization, labor
fell back upon the stone age argument of force, and compelled the passage
of the measure. It is not hard to see where labor learned this lesson; but
such methods in laI)or's hands are no more democratic than ca])italistic domi-
nation.

No! American industr\- is not vet a democratic institutit)n ; but it is
destined so to be, and the problem of public education is to make it safel}',
sanely and efficiently so.

There are two industrial changes which we must anticipate; of which
the signs are rife; for which we must i)re])are our pupils: the socialization
of production to a much greater extent than we have JK-en accustomed to
expect, and the democratization of industry ])\ gi\ing the workers a share
in the direction of business. lAidences of the socialization of industry
meet us on every hand. Mimici])al ownershij) of light, water, gas. street
railways, etc.; go\ernnient ownershi]) of natural resources and of the parcel
post; government control of mining, food production and distribution,
transportation and war industries; government regulation of hours of lal:)Or,
rates of pav. and labor conditions; government ])rovis:on for accident in-



surancc — all these are \vvy ])()sitive soeialization — direct or indirect — of
industrial processes. We are li\in


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Online LibraryRuth Mary WeeksMaking American industry safe for democracy → online text (page 1 of 1)