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The Education for Freedom

Copyright 1941



The Education of Free Men in American Democracy


Educational Policies Commission

National Education Association of the United States

And the American Association of School Administrators,

1201 Sixteenth Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C.

Chapter I : The Tides of Freedom and Despotism.. 3

The Tide of Freedom.. 3

The Tide of Despotism.. 4

Fascism.. 5

Hopes Deferred. 5

Democracy Can and Will Prevail 6

Chapter II: Totalitarian Strategy and Dynamic Democracy.. 7

A Time of Trouble. 7

A Social and Cultural Crisis. 8

Elements of Totalitarian Strategy. 8

The American People on Trial 10

A new Threat to Democracy. 13

Chapter III: Democracy as a Great Social Faith.. 14

Some Superficial Conceptions of Democracy. 14

Some More Fundamental Conceptions of Democracy. 14

Democracy as a Great Social Faith. 15

America and the Democratic Faith. 17

Chapter  IV: The Quality of Democratic Education.. 18

The Nature of Education in Relation to Democracy. 19

The Nature of Democracy in Relation to Education. 20

Education in the Democratic Faith. 21

Chapter V: The Loyalties of Free Men.. 22

Democracy Dependent on Loyalties. 22

The Cultivation of Democratic Loyalties. 22

What Are the Loyalties of Free Men?. 23

Developing the Loyalties of Free Men. 26

Chapter VI: The Knowledge Necessary For Free Men.. 27

The Faith in Knowledge. 27

The Question of Relevance. 27

The Question of Selection. 27

What Are the Patterns of Social Knowledge?. 28

The Obligation of the School 30

Chapter VII: The Discipline of Free Men.. 31

The Nature of Discipline. 31

Democratic and Totalitarian Disciplines. 32

How Can Democratic Discipline Be Achieved?. 33

The Teaching of Discipline. 35

Chapter VIII: Freedom and Control. 37

The Broad Contours of Democratic Education. 37

Democratic Education and the Will of the Majority. 39

Chapter IX: Government, The Teacher, and The People. 41

Responsibilities and Obligations of Government 41

Responsibilities and Obligations of the Teacher. 43

Responsibilities and Obligations of the People. 44

A Moral Awakening. 45

Chapter I : The Tides of Freedom and Despotism


The tide of freedom rises and falls in human history. Since men first caught the vision of a life of liberty and dignity for all, the struggle to realize this vision has been waged with varying fortunes through the centuries. Tat times it has moved from success to success and has even seemed on the eve of general and lasting triumph. In these most glorious moments it has filled the whole earth with promise and touched the hearts of men with a sense of universal kinship. At other times it has suffered disaster after disaster and has even appeared to be lost forever. It has been submerged in ages of darkness when the lamps of reason have burned low and the hope of a society of free men has all but vanished from the earth.

Today the tide of despotism is rising. With remarkable swiftness the present crisis has unfolded, so swiftly in fact that the remaining free peoples of the earth have scarcely grasped the significance of recent events. Less than a generation ago the tide of freedom seemed to be sweeping all opposition before it. Men were stirred with the hope that despotism was about to be vanquished forever. Millions in all lands cherished the belief that two of the oldest dreams of mankind were about to be fulfilled. They believed that the principles of democracy would soon be accepted throughout the world and that a lasting peace would be established among the nations. At the time these bright promises seemed to rest on rational foundations.


The Tide of Freedom


From 1914 to 1918, the nations of the world poured out their blood and treasure in a war of unprecedented scope and destructiveness. Although the issues were by no means clear at the beginning, great numbers of men and women felt that the destinies of popular rule and freedom were in some way at stake. When the American people finally entered the conflict under the slogan of “a war to make the world safe for democracy,” they were generally convinced that victory for Allied arms would lead inevitably and quickly to the extension of free institutions in the world.

For a period the course of events seemed to lend powerful support to this conviction. When the guns ceases firing and the smoke of battle cleared away, the great dynasties that had ruled central and eastern Europe for centuries, the Hapsburgs, the Hohensollerns, and the Romanofs, were gone. Symbolic of hostility to popular rule as these dynasties were, their collapse meant to most men the removal of the last serious obstacle to the complete and lasting triumph of democracy in the Western World. With the exception of certain of the smaller and more backward countries in the southeast and southwest of Europe, where the old order persisted, the remaining royal houses had long since been overthrown or shorn of their power. The war, moreover, led to the liberation from foreign rule of the Czechs, the Finns, the Poles, and other oppressed nations. It served as a great sounding board for promulgating the ideas of democracy and for arousing in the minds of the underprivileged and downtrodden classes and races of the earth the hope that all men might be independent and free.

Especially radiant with promise were the new states that rose out of the ruins of the old autocracies. In each of the three great empires that had crumbled under the strain of war and general privation the people cast off their rulers and proceeded to the fundamental reconstruction of their institutions. Austria, Germany, and Russia alike promised not only to bring justice, freedom, and opportunity to their own peoples but also to promote fraternity among all nations. The new German Republic established a glorious precedent in the history of mankind by definitely stipulating in its constitution that the youth of the land should be instructed in the ideals of international peace and goodwill.

The second great hope which men cherished so recently was also expressed in a slogan of the war. The American people entered the struggle inspired by the belief, not only that it was “a war to make safe for democracy”, but also that it was “a war to end war.” Undoubtedly the vision of lifting the ancient curse from mankind gave the millions of men the strength to fight, to starve and to die, and to millions more the will to sacrifice comfort, treasure, and loved ones. Whatever may have been the varying motives of those in power, men and women in general were inspired by the hope of helping to build a world of lasting peace.

After the slaughter was over, after the war had been won by those who had championed the cause of peace, this second great hope seemed to be on the way to realization. As men assessed the terrible costs of the struggle, they resolved that it must not happen again; as they contemplated a new world order founded on justice for all, they experienced the joy that comes from participation in a great and sublime undertaking. The living spoke solemnly and eloquently of keeping faith with the dead, of being bound by the most sacred of covenants to banish war from the earth forever lest they condemn the dead to the bitter tragedy of having died in vain. The opportunity of creating a new heaven and a new earth seemed to open before mankind.

For a time, moreover, it appeared that the opportunity was being grasped. Although the Treaty of Versailles, in its treatment of the vanquished, failed to breathe the spirit of reconciliation essential to the inauguration of an era of peace, it provided for the creation of the League of Nations through which, it was fondly hoped, the mistakes and injustices of the Treaty would in time be corrected and the foundations of international order and justice laid. To multitudes in all parts of the earth the opening of the first session of the Assembly of the League in November 1920 marked the fulfillment of man’s loftiest dream – a dream which only the poets and prophets of the past had dared to voice – the dream of a parliament of man, of a world in which resort to fire and sword would forever be renounced and all disputes among nations would be adjusted through peaceful deliberations and in accordance with an accepted body of international law and procedure. Never before had mankind thus stood on the heights and viewed the promised land of peace and justice and mercy.  


The Tide of Despotism


So rapidly have events marched that the great hopes of years ago seem to belong to a distant epoch. Indeed the year 1935, which witnessed Hitler’s rise to power, seems a very long time ago; even the summer of 1939, as the last days of peace ran out, appears unbelievably remote. So much that seemed possible then is already in the wastebasket of history. Throughout much of the world where hope blossomed but yesterday, despair rules today; democracies have been overwhelmed by dictatorship, peace has given place to war.

After the interval of promises, new despotisms arose from the ashes of the old – despotisms which, because of their vigor, spirit, and methods, constitute a far greater threat to our democracy than the quaint regimes of old Europe. These new despotisms, whether pretending to represent “true democracy” in its most complete expression, or claiming to replace “decadent democracy” with a more advanced form of social organization and doctrine, rest on wide popular support. Though they do not speak the authentic language of democracy, they do presume to speak in terms of the people and thereby arouse enthusiastic loyalties among millions of men and women from diverse classes. They have some impressive accomplishments which enable them to consolidate their rule and particularly to gain the support and confidence of youth.


Russian Communism


The first of the new despotisms is Communism. Derived from international socialism and professing unqualified devotion to the cause of democracy, the Communists have systematically and vociferously proclaimed themselves the vanguard in the long struggle for human freedom. But in the first year they came to power, they repudiated the democratic political process, abolished the civil liberties, and established rule by dictatorship. In this separation of means from ends, in this sacrifice of the methods of democracy for the professed purpose of achieving quickly certain goals of democracy, the hope of building a free Russia was destroyed. Though called a dictatorship of the industrial working class, the new government was from the beginning a dictatorship of the Communist Party.

As the years passed, power became more and more concentrated within the Party until under the leadership of Stalin the regime took on the form of personal rule surpassing in rigor, power, and ruthlessness the tyranny of the Tsar. In the pursuit of its purposes the dictatorship has brought all organs of social control under its sway and has not hesitated to violate the most basic principles of a society of free men. It has employed its despotic power to destroy individual character, distort history, corrupt the educative process, ridicule the ideal of political and religious freedom, deride intellectual integrity as a middle class virtue, and employ the methods of individual and mass terror, of exile, imprisonment, execution, and even starvation against its personal and political enemies. Whatever its material accomplishments, its perversion of the idealism of the Russian people constitutes a loss to the world democracy that is beyond calculating.

In its influence abroad Russian Communism has followed a similarly devastating course. As the dictatorship tightened its grip at home and became absorbed in a struggle for status and power abroad, it endeavored to bend the international labor movements to its will. Failing in this, it founded a world organization of its own which, though theoretically composed of equal and independent national Communist units, has become in actuality an agent of the Soviet dictatorship. By introducing into democratic countries its own philosophy and methods – the doctrine of the radical and simultaneous reconstruction of all institutions, the idea of class hatred as a beneficent force, the conception of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” the theory of a highly disciplined party, the dogma of the “party line”, the cult of political loyalty and orthodoxy, the art of conspiracy and anonymous activity, the advocacy and even glorification of organized violence, the explicit or implied repudiation of democratic mentality and procedures – by introducing this total pattern into democratic countries Russian Communism has tended to corrupt the processes of democracy and serve the cause of black reaction.




The second of the new despotisms took the form from the outset of a counter-revolutionary movement. It frankly raised the standard of reaction against all the great humanizing and liberating ideas and tendencies of the past several centuries – against the English, American, and French revolutions, against liberalism, democracy, and humanitarianism, against the free organized labor movement, against the doctrine of a common humanity, against the idea of international peace, goodwill, and cooperation. Generally known as Fascism, but assuming different names and forms in the various countries it enters, it marches to power under the spurious aegis of the champion of law and order, of the defender of home, religion, property, and nation against the threat of revolution. In their struggle with their adversaries, the Fascists borrow, perfect and adapt to their special purposes the methods and practices developed by the Russian Communists. On the positive side, they affirm the supremacy of the state over the individual, the superiority of their nation or race, the superlative qualities of the dictator, the nobility of the military virtues, and the inevitability and desirability of war. Fascism represents a complete and absolute negation of the great hope of twenty years ago(1920).

The rise and spread of Fascism in the world is one of the most extraordinary phenomena of an extraordinary age. Not regarded seriously in its early stages in either of the two great nations (Italy and Germany) in which it has risen to power, it has shown alarming vitality and adaptability. With no clear philosophy or body of doctrine, with veiled contempt for the masses of the people, and with wholly unscrupulous appeals to prejudice and discontent, it has marched from one victory to another. As a world tendency it has come to overshadow its former Communist rival. Moreover, as Fascism originally copied the methods of Communism, so in these later years Communism has assumed more and more the outlook of Fascism. Today they are much alike in their acceptance of the totalitarian pattern of society. In the one as in the other the state tends to dominate the life of the individual, and the dictatorship becomes identified with a single personality whose judgment is infallible, whose purpose is spotless, whose power is absolute. To his worshippers Stalin is no less a demigod than Mussolini or Hitler.


Hopes Deferred


Many of the great hopes of a generation ago are gone. This fact must be clearly grasped and faced.

Gone is the hope that the League of Nations (or United Nations) would bring a just and lasting peace to mankind. Today a ‘league of dictators” holds sway over most of Europe and Asia. With the initiative in their hands the totalitarian powers appear resolved to impose their pattern upon the world, to place the whole earth under the rule of a few great military states. Twenty years after the close of the “war to end war” a new war is launched which seems to have as its purpose the enthronement of war as man’s noblest pursuit.

Gone also is the hope of an early and effortless triumph of democracy on the earth. Indeed the “war to make the world safe for democracy” has been followed by a war to make the world safe for dictatorship. Democracy, wherever it survives today on the European continent, stands with its back to the wall. If it fails to retrieve the long succession of errors committed during the last generation, if it fails to recover the vitality which marked it spread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it may be driven from its last stronghold in Western Europe. And if the epic heroism which guards the final bastion of human freedom beyond the Atlantic is crushed, the American republics will stand alone in a world deeply and militantly hostile to the central ideas and values of their tradition.


Democracy Can and Will Prevail


The current threat to democracy is genuine and ominous. The prospect is dark and uncertain. The tide of despotism is rising. The American people should realize, however, that this tide is the creature of men and not the expression of the impersonal forces of nature. It lacks that inexorable quality which marks the tides of the sea. As some men taking shrewd advantage of the conditions of the time have called it forth, so others can turn it back. In ages past it has been turned back again and again by the organized and disciplined energies and purposes of men who love freedom and are prepared to serve this cause with the “last full measure of devotion”. The tide of despotism has been turned back by the American people in the course of their own history. And so it may be again, if the members of the present generation possess the resolution and fortitude of their ancestors. Whether the developing struggle will be brief or long, no one can foretell. What forms it will assume before it is concluded defies prediction. But regarding the ultimate outcome there can be no doubt. American democracy can and will survive and, surviving, preserve for the world the vision of a society of free men. Such is the challenge, the call to action, of the present age.


Chapter II: Totalitarian Strategy and Dynamic Democracy

The rising tide of despotism threatens the cause of human freedom with catastrophe. The situation calls for bold and resolute action. A spirit of defeatism is utterly foreign to the tradition of liberty – a tradition which has been built up through the centuries, painfully and at great sacrifice. A spirit of defeatism, moreover, is not justified by the facts. In spite of recent reverses the material and moral resources of democracy are enormous, incomparably greater than in those days when the foundations of free society in the modern world were laid. Millions living under tyranny today have tasted freedom, and having tasted it will not be content in a state of bondage. Despotism itself breeds the desire for liberty. The struggle between tyranny and liberty has only begun.

In this struggle, the friends of democracy should first achieve a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. The should inquire closely into the elements of totalitarian strategy and the reasons for the present advance of totalitarian ideas. They should refuse to view the current situation with any degree of resignation. While insisting on utter candor and realism, they should hold fast to an unquenchable faith in the ultimate triumph of the principles of human freedom.


A Time of Trouble


The present is a time of trouble throughout the world. Human society has entered one of those ages, recurring at intervals in history, when things are out of joint and great changes are in process. To attribute the disasters of the epoch wholly to the evil designs of evil men is to accept a superficial diagnosis of the malady that afflicts mankind today. Although the dictators are placing the malignant stamp of their passions and purposes both on event and institutions, they are themselves creatures of the age. They have risen to poser because of the profound instability of contemporary society. Under conditions of deep and pervasive crisis, when vigorous action is imperative, if men of sanity and goodwill fail to give effective direction, leadership inevitably passes into other hands.

The inescapable fact of the current age is that human society in both its domestic and international phases is undergoing fundamental change. For generations the advances of science and technology have been transforming life. As a consequence, profound maladjustments and dislocations have appeared in the general culture, in the institutional arrangements, in the relations of nations, in the whole structure of world society. It is out of such conditions and in response to such conditions that the dictators have come to power.

When old institutions falter in their operations and old ways of life lose their authority, people become restless and turn naturally to their accustomed leaders for guidance. If these leaders are incapable of dealing with the situation, if their understanding is inadequate, if their courage is deficient, if their reforms fail to bring relief, then restlessness grows sharper and eventually moves into a condition of fear, anxiety and panic. If this process of psychological degeneration is not halted, it destroys the rational temper which is essential to the successful working of democratic processes and institutions and arouses a mental state among the people which makes possible the appearance and triumph of the dictator. It is this general situation of social crisis and tension that throws out to the people of America the supreme challenge of their history.

Can the people of America meet this challenge? Can they ride and direct the storm which is sweeping over the earth? Nothing less than this is the test which they must and will meet. They must meet this test head on, without compromising the democratic ideal or that philosophy of freedom that has been and is the American dream. Free men have marched before and they will march again. Democracy was conceived, not by cowards and weaklings but by men of destiny, strong and fearless, who preferred to die rather than live in bondage, and by such men it has been nurtured and strengthened through long centuries of struggle.

The people of America must realize, however, that the struggle between despotism and democracy will be resolved not only by the power and effectiveness of the attack on despotism but even more surely by a determined effort to win democracy more fully in the process. To crush tyranny in the world is a worthy challenge, but to do this at the price of liberty would be a hollow victory. The American people are determined to beat back the tide of despotism and at the same time make the democratic ideal more vital than ever before in the life of mankind. They can do no less.


A Social and Cultural Crisis


In meeting the challenge of the dictators, the American people must recognize the crucial significance of the all pervading social and cultural crisis. They must see that the success of totalitarian assaults upon free institutions beyond the Atlantic has been made possible by the stress and strain generated by deep-seated and chronic maladjustments in society. They must realize that the rising tide of despotism has been a product not only of totalitarian methods but also of the weaknesses and failures of those who profess but who do not practice the democratic ideal. Fortunately, these weaknesses and failures are not inherent in the democratic philosophy of life. They arise from men’s efforts, often bungling and untutored, to apply that philosophy under varying social and economic circumstances.

The present crisis as it confronts America and the American people can best be understood, first, by analysis of the elements of totalitarian strategy, and second, by an inventory of some of the principal problems involved in its marshalling the energies of a dynamic democracy in the struggle for freedom.


Elements of Totalitarian Strategy


In its assaults upon mankind, totalitarianism in its several forms has developed a strategy which has proved terrifyingly effective. This strategy, which has evolved gradually from experience in Europe, Asia, and Africa should be well understood by the American people.

They must be on guard against it. This strategy embraces at least eight elements:

First, the organization of a disciplined party

Second, the formulation of a “grand program”

Third, the appeal to idealism and heroism

Fourth, the cultivation and utilization of human weaknesses

Fifth, the undermining of social solidarity

Sixth, the creation of confusion

Seventh, the arousing and spreading of terror

Eighth, the exploitation of the very processes and virtues of democracy


The first and most fundamental element in the totalitarian strategy is the organization of a thoroughly disciplined party. The party of a totalitarian movement is totally unlike the political parties of democratic states. In all important matters, in the formulation and launching of a program, in the assassination of the character of an opponent, in the defense and advancement of its purposes, it moves with the precision and coordination of a well-trained army, being capable of changing or completely reversing its course at a moment’s notice. Whatever may be the ultimate source of authority, whether it be some idolized personage or a small central committee, the individual member is expected to surrender his own will and follow the “party line” or the command of the leader. The membership of such a party need not be large in order to give it great power. Indeed, the inclusion of large numbers would materially change its character and greatly reduce its effectiveness. By its method of operation, the party makes unqualified demands upon the time and energies of the member and also exacts from him unquestioned obedience and loyalty. In return it gives to him a life purpose and assumes the guardianship of his mind and morals. Such a party, if ably led, can achieve striking results in any society whose institutions are working badly. In a democratic society, where it is free to operate unddr the protection of the Bill of Rights, it may be amazingly successful in the pursuit of its nefarious purposes.

The second element of totalitarian strategy is the formulation and dramatization of a “grand program” for dealing completely and finally with the economic and political crisis – a program which may embrace the entire earth and the establishment of a “new order” to endure “for a thousand years”. Although such a program contains features which are unattractive or even abhorrent to persons of liberal and humane sentiments, it invariably represents a bold and vigorous attack upon problems which are uppermost in the thoughts of great masses of people. Presented in dramatic fashion and expounded with dogmatic certainty by party members, all of whom have been thoroughly trained to answer plausibly and uniformly every question that can be raised, it is sure to impress deeply the popular mind. In comparison with the honest proposals of responsible statesmen in a democracy, it assumes an aspect of grandeur and authority that arouses hope and evokes enthusiasm. To the anxious spirit, if conditions are sufficiently disturbing and critical, it offers a temporary refuge from the insecurities and uncertainties of the world.

The third element of totalitarian strategy is the appeal to heroism and idealism. Each of the dictatorships expresses, defends, and advances a social faith which, however hostile to democratic values, presents to its followers a challenging and moving concept of life. Each presents to its devotees a great hope, a great cause, a great destiny. Each promises, not quiet and comfort, but in the manner and spirit of the captains of men from the beginning of time, sacrifice, hardship, and even death. Each knows that men despair, not when asked to face obstacles and endure privations but when condemned to a role of futility and helplessness. The more idealistic youth of today are asking not for a dole but for the opportunity to give their live to a worthy cause. Many feel the lure of totalitarian methods and doctrines, not because they desire to follow the easy course, but because they feel the challenge of bold proposals and daring leadership. One of the major tragedies of the present epoch is the fact that men of tyrannical temper and purpose have succeeded in directing the noble dispositions of youth to the overthrow of free institutions and the founding of regimes of violence and repression.

The fourth element of totalitarian strategy is the systematic cultivation and utilization of human weaknesses. Three such weaknesses in particular have the dictators cultivated and utilized in this way. They have cultivated hatred toward class, race, or religion as a means of social control. By arousing a common hatred in a people, it is possible to lead them both against the object of hatred and in other directions. In periods of excitement this is one of the swiftest and surest roads to leadership. In the arousing of hatred the totalitarian parties have become masters of the art of flattery and invective, the art of building up and destroying persons and organizations.

A second weakness exploited by the Nazi, Fascist, or Communist leaders is the sadistic tendency – the tendency to experience pleasure in the torture and suffering of others. By presenting the victim whether person, class, race, or sect, in the guise of a dangerous and utterly vicious enemy, the satisfaction of sadistic impulses is given the stamp of righteousness. Here is one of the most serious threats to the tolerant and rational spirit which democracy requires.

A third human weakness, also cultivated by all the dictatorships alike, is the tendency to worship power and the symbols of power. Even peoples that have had long experience with free institutions and have emphasized the sovereignty of the individual and the principle of equality among men are by no means free from this weakness. By worshipping power, particularly in times of great peril and stress, men apparently achieve for themselves a sense of security and strength. The totalitarian cult of power has been extraordinarily successful in the winning of converts.

The fifth element of totalitarian strategy is the undermining of the solidarity of the defenders of democracy. Systematic efforts are made to arouse class, racial, national, and religious hatreds and prejudices. Since such hatreds and prejudices are present in latent or active form in every complex society in every age, the task is never difficult. In contemporary American society, with its great social, religious, and cultural diversity and with its inequalities among classes and groups, the task might be easy. If the representatives of totalitarian movements actually believe their own hate-producing propaganda, as they doubtless do in some cases, then is their propaganda the more effective. They know, moreover, that a nation divided into bitter warring factions, recognizing no common loyalties, cannot long endure.

The sixth, and a closely related, element of totalitarian strategy is the creation of confusion. This end is achieved in part by the arousal of hatreds and the undermining of solidarity already noted. Where emotions run high and differences are fomented, confusion is certain to arise. But much more is done to serve this purpose directly. The opposing brands of totalitarianism wage fierce war on one another and proceed to inject their own antagonisms into all disputes and controversies. Although they are profoundly hostile to free institutions, each may at appropriate times proclaim itself the true guardian of democracy or the sole repository of patriotism. At other times efforts are made to convince the people that the battle for democracy is lost an that they must choose between the rival totalitarian movements. Confusion is further confounded when the Communists call every critic a Fascist, or a Nazi, the Fascists and Nazis brand all opponents Communists, and the harried friends of democracy consign one another to the Communist, Fascist, or Nazi camps. Further, the apostles of totalitarianism assiduously propagate half-truths and falsehoods in derogation of democracy, even as they propagate half-truths and falsehoods in unqualified praise of their particular form of dictatorship. Or, pouncing on some instance of brutality or tyranny in a democratic state, such as the persecution of a racial minority or the unequal administration of justice among economic groups they seek to make it appear that democracy differs from Communism, Nazism, and Fascism only in its hypocrisy.

The seventh element of totalitarian strategy is the arousing and spreading of terror. This incitement of terror assumes opposite and complementary forms. On the one hand, people are persuaded to believe the most fantastic tales about the savage and bloody actions or intentions of some adversary, that a “red network” permeating all institutions is plotting the violent overthrow of the government, that a small neighboring state is bent on aggression and conquest, or that a proposal to introduce universal military service into the United States is designed to break strikes and beat the working people of the country into submission to their employers.  On the other hand, equally fantastic tales are circulated about the power, determination, and omniscience of ta given totalitarian movement – that it possess unlimited resources and men, that it has secret weapons of devastating properties, that it has a spy in every factory and village, that its “great leader” never makes a mistake, that it is certain to overwhelm all opposition. It proclaims the doctrine of the inevitable failure of democratic processes and of the inevitable triumph of violence and dictatorship. It breathes threats of direst import; it predicts that heads will roll, that enemies will be remembered, that blood will be spilled. In the early stages of its advance it achieves military organization and discipline, secures small arms and munitions of war, and provokes physical encounters with its opponents. Under these circumstances, multitudes are terrified and either join the movement or acquiesce in its methods.

The eighth and last element in this strategy is the exploitation of the processes and virtues of democracy – the processes of free speech, press, assemblage, and organization; the virtues of tolerance, fairness and honesty. Communists, Fascists, and Nazis alike, though mocking these processes and virtues as essentially fraudulent or as evidence of decadence, and though frankly announcing the intention of destroying them on achieving power, demand for themselves the full protection of the Bill of Rights and the unqualified enjoyment of all the liberties characteristic of a free society. They fight bitterly for the right to employ these liberties to defend the tyrannies of their favorite dictatorships abroad and to inaugurate regimes of suppression at home. Under the safeguards to human freedom, which every democracy cherishes, all totalitarian movements, whether of foreign or domestic origin, bend their energies to the overthrow of free institutions. This is undoubtedly the crowning irony of the totalitarian strategy.


The American People on Trial


The ruthlessness, ingenuity, and malignity of the totalitarian strategy have placed free people everywhere on trial. This is clear. Yet it is those who profess democratic ideals, and not the ideals themselves, that are on trial. The values and hopes of democracy will never die. They rise serene and timeless above the conflicts, failures, weaknesses, and timidities of any single generation of men. If the American people should lose their democratic institutions, it would not be because those institutions had failed or because the ideals on which they rest are transient. Disaster will come only if the American people themselves, because of indifference, carelessness, or complacency, refuse to bestir themselves in time and to take the necessary steps to practice and defend the ways of democracy.

A catalog of the factors that have made totalitarian success possible in other countries is diverse and instructive: selfishness, lack of devotion to the common welfare, a false sense of security, unwillingness to build up the necessary armed defense, unawareness of the threat of spies and internal aggression, inability to resist propaganda, absence of bold and farsighted leadership, failure to understand the nature of the present crisis, and lack of national unity. Any country, whatever its political forms, which is marked by such defects among its people is in grave danger.           

The people of the United States should learn from the experience of others. They must forge the weapons appropriate to the defense and extension of their democratic ideals. They must be ready to employ these weapons to meet totalitarian aggression from within or without. They must see through the devices of totalitarian strategy. They must never compromise with the shoddy ideals and sordid purposes of the new despotisms.

In addition to meeting the obvious need for armed defense, American democracy must achieve at least the following four objectives if it is to be an effective force in the gigantic conflict between the two opposing philosophies of life involved in the present crisis.


First, a greater measure of equality and security in economic condition and opportunity among the people

Second, sharper attention to the general welfare and the long-time interests of society

Third, a bold, honest, and dynamic leadership

Fourth, a substantial measure of popular agreement on essential values, principles, and procedures


First, a greater measure of equality and security in economic condition and opportunity must be established. The most casual observer may note, in good times as well as in bad, extremes of economic condition. These wide differences are often due to fortuitous circumstances. Various racial, cultural, occupational, and regional minorities are the victims of want, privation, and discrimination. Although the increased taxation of wealth and the expansion of social services, public education, and various forms of relief have lessened these disparities in condition and opportunity, the American people have yet to establish and adequate economic base for their democracy in the age of industrial civilization. The extent to which millions are denied material and cultural necessities generates a sense of injustice and frustration which threatens national unity. Only as the American people strive honestly and effectively to bring the facts of their life into harmony with their ideals will they be able to resist successfully the assault of totalitarianism.

The fact of general economic instability an insecurity has become familiar to the American people during the past decade. Under inherited traditions, practices, and institutions, the economy passes into grave crises two or three times in each generation. As the modes of production and exchange have been more completely industrialized, these crises seem to have become more intense, widespread, and sustained. Resulting in the closing of plants, the unemployment of workers, the bankruptcy of enterprises, the dissipation of savings, and the general paralysis of economic life, they generate throughout a growing fraction of the population a sense of anxiety and even of despair.

Since the impact of the crisis falls with peculiar weight on the youth of the nation, denying to many the opportunity to secure appropriate work, to marry, to have children, and to assume various responsibilities of adulthood, this situation holds a peculiar threat to democracy. From time immemorial it has been the youth who have provided prospective dictators and liberators alike with the power to overthrow established regimes and lay the foundations of new social structures. If the American people fail to organize the energies of modern technology and achieve a high order of economic stability, they may lose the opportunity to fulfill their dream of a land of liberty, justice, and plenty. Already millions of men and women in the world have exchanged political liberty for the mere promise of employment and economic security.

Second, the general welfare and the long-time interests of society must be more fully safeguarded. Although at certain periods of their history the American people have manifested great devotion to the common good, they have at times been too absorbed in their personal interests. This selfish and short term policy is written large in the slashed forests and the eroded soils of the continent, in the altogether too frequent corruption of municipal, state, and even national government, in the tendency to accept or condone gambling or racketeering in the necessities of life, in the indifference on the part of many citizens in all walks of life to the affairs of state, in the absence of a sufficient number of able men and women willing to devote themselves to the public service, in the general absorption of the people in their private concerns and fortunes, in the refusal of organized society to take thought for the morrow. While these evils are to be found in equal or even in greater measure in the autocratic states of today and yesterday, their existence in a democracy can be made the means of discrediting free institutions. In a totalitarian society the devices of the dictator may for a time gloss over these deficiencies. In a democracy they cannot be ignored and must be met as potential sources of disaster.

Third, a bold, honest, and dynamic leadership must be achieved. In some of the countries of the Old World where totalitarianism has gained a temporary foothold, its success thus far may be ascribed in part to the fatalism, dishonesty, and timidity of certain of the leaders. The American people must not permit such characteristics to appear in their own leadership. They must reject every proffer of leadership from those who are lulled into a false sense of security by totalitarian propaganda, who underestimate the strength of the enemy or overestimate the strength of their own position, who accept as inevitable the ultimate defeat of democracy, or who hold that men must choose between Communism and Fascism.

The American people must develop and accept leadership which devises and applies the measures necessary to the correction of existing social deficiencies and injustices, which sees that the slogans of democracy are not perverted to the protection of selfish interests. When underprivileged groups present just grievances, they must be given redress and not be put off with sweet words or threats.

Democracy does not mean unemployment, economic insecurity, uncoordinated production and consumption, economic crisis and depressions, great inequalities of condition and opportunity, concentration of wealth in a few hands. These indictments which the dictators level against democracy are in fact merely indictments of weaknesses and undemocratic tendencies common to all contemporary societies rather than of the ideals of democracy itself.

The people of America have permitted serious discrepancies to exist between their democratic profession and their actual performance. They must have leadership which will work to remove this discrepancy. The leaders of free societies must fashion a program commensurate with the present crisis, designed to conserve and advance the cause of democracy. In particular, they must meet the normal demands of youth, giving them a sense of purpose in life and a feeling of participating with their fellows in great undertakings. They must provide for young men and women that appeal to heroism and idealism which the dictators have perverted to the destruction of free institutions. Democratic leadership must recognize that it holds in its hands the substance of man’s most splendid and abiding hopes; that it possesses a heritage of moral ideas and values of far greater authority than anything to be found in the totalitarian doctrines. It must present to both young and old a great ennobling goal toward which to strive. Nor must it hesitate to call for those sacrifices that are necessary in order that democracy may prevail and advance. In a word, if free institutions are to be maintained and strengthened in America the leaders of democracy must really lead.

Fourth, a greater measure of national unity on matters of principle, policy, and procedure must be achieved. Democracy prizes diversity. The complexity, the richness, and, to a degree, even the vagueness of the democratic tradition are counted in ordinary times as among its glories. That these qualities lead to a certain measure of disagreement is not regarded as a liability but rather as an opportunity for forging a progressive and wholesome social order. In normal times, indeed, the people of a democracy go to great lengths to make it easy nd convenient for dissident opinions to be expressed. Yet the excess of a virtue may become a vice. There are times, and the present period in the United States in one of them, when discussion may be too prolonged, when confusion may flourish dangerously, and when lack of concern for the general welfare may be disastrous.

            Genuine friends of democracy may focus their eyes on different aspects of the democratic heritage. Some will tend to make the political aspects supreme; others the economic; others the personal. Some will identify democracy with an institutional form, others with a value, and idea or a process. Rights may overshadow responsibilities, freedom be identified with license, discipline be confused with slavery. As a consequence, it is not surprising that some are prepared to submerge one aspect of democracy in order, as they think, to enhance another. Now, as at other critical times in history, some professed friends of democracy are advocating the suppression of civil rights and liberties by constituted authorities. Others are contending that bands of private citizens should organize to preserve law and order. And all these people claim to speak in the name of democracy. Neither of these points of view or courses of action is the proper response to the demand for national unity in a period of danger. When there is illness in the household the members of the family find a way to adjust their lives to the exigencies of the situation. So in time of crisis the members of society, through the exercise of common sense and the virtues of forbearance and self-sacrifice, must reconcile or submerge their differences. This they can do without abandoning the Bill of Rights.


A new Threat to Democracy


            The sudden and unexpected emergence of the new despotisms is ominous. To meet this threat, the friends of human freedom were not ready. Having assumed that the battle for democracy was over when the old autocracies of central and eastern Europe collapsed, and having further assumed that the revival of these systems constituted the only possible alternative to some form of popular government, they were unprepared for an assault from a mew quarter and with new methods. Today the threat to democracy comes from a barbaric banditry, marked by cynical duplicity and outrageous violation of the ordinary rules of human decency. It comes from a greed for power which by its unlimited rapacity shocks the intellect and exhausts the emotions. The mind of man, hoping for an enduring peace after the World War, had not even contemplated the tragic catastrophe of the present hour. This new threat to freedom comes from ruthless men of force who care nothing for civil liberties and who mock at all appeals to humanity. To meet such an insolent challenge the American people must clarify their thinking and unite with deep consecration and unremitting labor in applying their ideals to those conditions of life which the advance of science and technology has brought into the world.



Chapter III: Democracy as a Great Social Faith

Democracy is threatened today by the advance of new despotisms of great vigor and aggressiveness. Already these new despotisms have reduced to ashes the great hopes of two decades ago, destroyed with incredible swiftness most of the free societies beyond the Atlantic, and penetrated deeply every remaining democracy on earth. If this totalitarian tide is not halted, America may find herself standing isolated in the world as the sole defender of democracy – even as the sole defender of the great humanistic and liberal heritage out of which democracy arose. The peril is the more grave because of the fundamental crisis of industrial society everywhere and the remarkably successful strategy of the adversary. If the people of the United States are to bear the heavy responsibility which history is apparently placing on their shoulders, they must proceed without delay to the development of a comprehensive program of defense and advance.

The first necessity in the development of such a program is the achievement of a clear understanding of the nature of democracy and a clear perception of the values at stake. Only when this has been done can free men be expected to throw their energies without reserve into the struggle. Only when this has been done can education for democracy, as a part of an inclusive program of action, take on meaning, pattern and direction.


Some Superficial Conceptions of Democracy


Among the American people may be found many superficial, partial, and even false conceptions of democracy. Deep-seated in the frontier and agrarian tradition is the idea that democracy scorns the refinements of life and approves crude and even coarse behavior. Yet more extreme is the assumption that rude and impudent manners toward the well-dressed and the educated are and evidence of peculiar devotion to the cause of human liberty. Closely related is the notion that democracy is a society without formalities in which everyone treats everyone else as if he were a member of the family, slapping him on the back, addressing him by his first name, and inquiring into his intimate personal life, even though he be a stranger. A more worthy variant of the same general pattern places the emphasis on simplicity of manners and a complete absence of ostentation, particularly on the part of persons of wealth or distinguished ancestry. According to yet another strain in the American tradition, democracy means nothing more than the showing of kindness and benevolence to dependents and “persons of no consequence” by men of power and influence.

Of a markedly different order is the view that democracy is to be measured by the ease with which an individual of enterprise and talent can acquire property, rise in the economic and political world, and eventually enroll his name or that of his children among the socially elite. According to yet another belief, the essential characteristic of democracy is a guarantee to the individual that he may do precisely what he pleases, that he may renounce all social obligation, that he may treat the concerns of others and even the laws of the state with contempt. A final limited conception is that a democracy is a society in which everybody votes and anybody is qualified to hold any kind of public office. Although there may be an element of truth in each of these approaches to the nature of democracy, they are all superficial and inadequate.


Some More Fundamental Conceptions of Democracy


Among the more fundamental conceptions of democracy there are four which are more or less widely held by the American people but which in spite of their great merits can scarcely be regarded as adequate.

The first and most generally accepted conception is political in character. Derived from the word itself of very ancient lineage, it holds simply that democracy is a form of government through which the people rule and which guarantees to the individual certain political and civil rights and liberties. When applied to all men, regardless of race, class or religion, this is unquestionably a conception of true grandeur and must be included in any attempt to clarify the meaning of democracy.

The second conception emphasizes the economic bases of human liberty. A democratic order is an order marked by freedom of enterprise in which every man is encouraged to follow the calling of his choice and is protected in the possession and enjoyment of the fruits of his labor. Unquestionably a democracy without economic foundations is unworthy of the name.

The third conception carries a social emphasis. Democracy is a society of great mobility, a society in which all artificial barriers are absent – a society in which the stratification of the population into more or less rigid social classes is repudiated in principle and rendered impossible in fact. This also is a doctrine of surpassing worth which must not be left out of the account. The fourth conception, passing beyond government, economy, and social structure, places stress on a great moral idea. It identifies democracy with a way of life in which the individual is made the center of things and is encouraged to develop freely according to his own nature. In this conception, too, there is a true emphasis which no serious attempt to deal with the question can afford to disregard.

Democracy certainly is each of these things. It has political, economic, social and moral aspects. It is a form of government; it is a kind of economy; it is an order of society; it is a way of life; it is all of these things together. But it is more. Clearly, if it is to meet the challenge of the new despotisms, it must possess a dynamic quality and a universal tendency that are insufficiently expressed in the above conceptions. It must succeed in enlisting the loyalties and evoking the energies of men during a period of worldwide social convulsion. It must provide guiding principles and purposes for both the preservation and the reconstruction of society.


Democracy as a Great Social Faith


Democracy is more than institutions and ways of life. It is a great social faith which, in response to the yearnings and struggles of many races and peoples, has been developing through the centuries. It is a bold and positive faith which, now as in other times, calls men to battle for the defense and realization of noble and lofty conceptions of the nature and destiny of men. It is the finest of all the social faiths that mankind has fashioned and followed during the thousands of years of human history. It is incomparably finer than the totalitarian rivals with which it is engaged in struggle for survival today. It is a social faith that, in spite of the darkness which now seems to be settling over much of the world, will in the course of time conquer the earth. It will conquer because it is the only social faith that can bring justice and mercy to all men.

            The articles of the democratic faith have never been codified. They are recorded in the carefully preserved sayings and writings of the great prophets and seers of mankind, even as they may be found in the fugitive utterances and letters of ordinary men and women, in the songs and lamentations of the oppressed. The are embodied in customs and institutions, in the public school, the Bill of Rights, courts of justice, representative legislatures, systems of law, and ethical codes. Although the boundaries of this faith are elastic and changing, the following articles, related and interwoven, must be included:

            First, the individual human being is of surpassing worth.

            Second, the earth and human culture belong to all men.

            Third, men can and should rule themselves.

            Fourth, the human mind can be trusted and should be set free.

            Fifth, the method of peace is superior to that of war

            Sixth, racial, cultural, and political minorities should be tolerated, respected and valued.

            According to the first and most basic of the article of the democratic faith, an article which embraces or at least provides the foundation for all the rest, the individual human being is of surpassing worth. Here is a bold and liberating conception, holding within itself a perpetual challenge to every form of oppression. Individual men are more precious than the earth on which they live, more precious than the food and clothing which sustains and warms them, more precious than the farms and factories and ships by which they gain their livelihood, more precious than the paintings and statuary and symphonies and all the great works of art by which they are inspired. Individual men are more precious than states and principalities, more precious than customs and institutions, more precious than science and technology, more precious than philosophies and systems of thought, more precious than power and fame and glory. Even the Sabbath, symbol so much that is sacred in the Christian tradition, was said by the founder of this religion to have been made for man. Individual men are not beasts of burden, not slaves, nor serfs. Neither are they cannon fodder nor a commodity to be bought and sold in the market. Save only for the conditions of life which set them free and the great ideas and hopes which give them nobility, for which they should be ready to die if need by, men are the most precious things on the earth.

            The second article of the democratic faith is implicit in the first; the material earth and human culture belong to all men. Whatever may be the appropriate institutional arrangements, the earth with its resources of soil, water, climate, flora, fauna, and minerals, with its continents and islands, its oceans and seas, its lakes and rivers, its mountains and valleys and plains, the earth which makes physical existence possible for man is regarded as the exclusive possession of no “superior” race, or people, or class. Likewise human culture, the social heritage bequeathed to each new generation by all preceding generations of men, the social heritage of tools, machines, and building, of habits, customs, and folkways, of knowledge, appreciations, and values, of ideas, philosophies, and institutions, the social heritage whose nurture raises individual man above the brute and bestows upon him the gift of humanity, is looked upon as the monopoly of no privileged order of men. This second article of the democratic faith repeats the affirmation of the great Judaic-Christian ethic that all men are brothers; it repeats the affirmation of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

            The first and second articles of the democratic faith, if taken by themselves, might conceivably be acceptable to a benevolent despotism; the third lays the political foundation of a society of free men. It declares that men can and should rule themselves. This article, be it noted, contains not one but two affirmations, both equally daring and precious. It affirms not only that men should but also that they can rule themselves. Unequivocally rejecting autocracy in every form, however humane, it proclaims the doctrine that all men can and should be free, that, both as individuals and as members of society, they should share in framing the purposes for which they are to live. It repudiates as tyranny the ancient division of men into the rulers and the ruled. How daring, also how precious, this article is, the American people of the present generation, because of their long experience with political liberty, can scarcely comprehend. It must suffice to say that, from the standpoint of past ages and the totalitarian world of today, the very thought that “hewers of wood and drawers of water” should raise their voices in the councils of the nation is a form of treason – nay, a species of blasphemy. Whatever else a democracy may be it is first of all a society of free men.

            The fourth article of the democratic faith is a corollary of the third; it states without equivocation that the human mind can be trusted and should be set free. It implies that in the process of rule, men should trust their own minds and be eternally vigilant in the guarding of those opportunities and liberties through which their minds are matured and rendered competent. It implies further that they should resist every effort on the part of any class or group to keep them in leading strings, to shape their opinions for them, to narrow their access to knowledge, to restrict their freedom to inquire and to learn. This fourth article of faith also represents a recognition of the superiority of the judgment of many over the judgment of one, a frank acceptance of the scientific method as the only dependable guide to knowledge about the affairs of men and society, and a clear recognition of the fact that the only trustworthy guardian of freedom is an informed and disciplined mind.

            The fifth article of the democratic faith affirms the immeasurable superiority of the method of peace over method of war in the adjustment of differences and disputes among men. Democracy looks upon resort to brute force as a barbaric survival from the past and works unceasingly for the day when war will be forever banished from the earth. It regards peace, moreover, as one of the great goods of life and knows that military habits and virtues are profoundly hostile to its own spirit. Wherever democracy goes it strives to substitute the method of peace for the method of force. The introduction into society of the process of free discussion, criticism, and decision by secret ballot as a way of rule constitutes one of the supreme achievements of civilized man, or rather perhaps as an achievement marking the appearance of civilized man. It must be evident of course that this fifth article of faith can be operative only in those spheres and in those relationships where all parties to controversy are loyal to its principles and are prepared to abide by judgments achieved by its procedures. As long as there exists in society a party or in the world a state that rejects the method of peace, democracy must be ready to meet force with force. While always working for a universal acceptance of its faith, it must not neglect its own defenses.

            Finally, democracy believes that racial, cultural, and political minorities should be tolerated, respected, and valued. It rejects completely the totalitarian theory that the health of a society is to be measured in terms of the extent of conformity and acquiescence. On the one hand, it realizes that the human values which it prizes most highly, personal integrity and charity, are destroyed by the passions aroused in the persecution and suppression of minorities. Bigotry and intolerance are the deadliest enemies of human freedom. On the other hand, democracy sees in the minority, in the dissident individual or group, a major creative force in society, an instrument of social discovery, invention, and advance. Even here, however, there must be a limit to tolerance. Whenever any minority employs the liberties of democracy to undermine and eventually to corrupt or destroy those liberties, it forfeits the guarantees of a free society. While vigilante and mob action in such cases should be prevented at all costs, the forces of public opinion, of social approval and disapproval, and in the last resort of the police power should be brought into full play. If democracy permits loyalty to its forms to sap its essential spirit it will be unable to triumph in its struggle with despotism.


America and the Democratic Faith


            The origins of the democratic faith are lost in the mists of history. Diverse ancient peoples, notably the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans, had a part in its early development. Later certain Germanic tribes and particularly those that settled in Western Europe and on the neighboring islands of Britain added to the heritage. More recently the English, the French, the Swiss, and the small nations dwelling on the shores of the North and Baltic Seas have contributed mightily to the advance and the clarification of this faith. But of all the nations of the modern world, America has been most fully and strikingly identified with the fortunes of democracy. From early Colonial times the great majority of the people migrating to this new land were ranged on the side of the battle for popular freedom. Drawn largely from the more democratic nations of the Old World and from the more democratic elements in their own societies, they constituted from the first a positive selection in favor of the faith of common men. Then on this side of the Atlantic their conditions of life and their experience from generation to generation committed them more and more to the ways and spirit of democracy. Although there have always been contrary and hostile currents among them, it has been their identification with the cause of free men that has made their history significant.

            As one democracy after another has fallen before the totalitarian advance beyond the seas, the Americas are called upon to assume an ever-greater role in the defense of the democratic faith. Indeed, the time may not be far distant when the fortunes of free men everywhere will depend on the new energy, fortitude, and wisdom of the nations of the New World and particularly of the “great democracy of the West”. But in conducting this struggle they must realize that their major task is neither to defend the abstract articles of the democratic faith, nor to defend all American institutions in their inherited forms. Rather, it is their task and opportunity to work boldly and zealously for a more complete fulfillment here in the United States of the democratic faith – a fulfillment more complete than has ever been attained at any other time or place in history. Such a program of active and positive support of democracy constitutes the only effective answer to the challenge of the dictators.


Chapter  IV: The Quality of Democratic Education


            The defense of the democratic faith against the advance of the dictators is fraught with great difficulty. The achievement of the necessary military and economic strength, arduous though it may prove to be, is probably the easiest part of the task. With the vast natural resources of their country and the matchless productive capacity of their industries, the American people are in a peculiarly powerful position to equip themselves with all of those engines of destruction which the waging of war in the age of technology requires. The crucial difficulty resides in the nature of the democratic faith. The effort to defend it by force of arms, if entered upon without full understanding, may encompass its ruin. The fact that the totalitarian state is the military state in the age of industrial civilization must not be forgotten. By provoking war with free societies it creates conditions as congenial to its own spirit as they are hostile to the spirit of democracy. In order to wage a war in its own defense, a free society tends to be driven by the logic of the struggle to assume both the form and the substance of the military state. This is the dilemma which every democratic people faces when confronted with the threat of armed assault.

            As the totalitarian menace spreads, there is danger that the spiritual rather than the material defenses of democracy may be the first to crumble.

            In the process of achieving military security the American people may abandon, one after another, the articles of the democratic faith. They may convert the individual human being into a slave of state or party, they may permit inequalities of condition and concentration of economic power to increase, they may enthrone some privileged order or class in the offices of government, they may abolish the civil liberties and surrender precious rights to vigilance committees, they may introduce into their domestic life the rule of violence and suppression, they may embrace a spirit of bigotry and intolerance and engage in the persecution of minorities.

            As certainly as the sun rises, the American people will be tempted to pursue this course. And even if they should do this in the name of democracy, they would in fact be opening the gates to the enemy. Their only hope of genuine victory here is the building in all haste of powerful spiritual ramparts for the defense of the democratic faith. Failing this, they may by their military prowess preserve their independence as a nation. Indeed, they may even share with two or three other mighty states the glory of ruling the world, but in so doing they will have cast away the heritage of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. They will have abandoned for the time the original promise of American life.

            It is inevitable in this situation that an appeal be made to organized education. The American people, perhaps more than any other people of history, have long believed in the general beneficence of this process. They are fond of regarding universal education as one of the most characteristic expressions of their genius. They are not disturbed by the caustic observations that they have made a fetish of organized education. For generations they have led the world in equalizing educational opportunities and particularly in opening the doors of secondary and higher institutions to all desiring and able to attend. They seem to look upon the school as a worker of miracles. Faced with any difficult problem of personal or social life they tend sooner or later to set their minds at rest by an appeal to this institution. The apparently think of organized education as the one unfailing remedy for practically every ill to which man is subject, be it vice, crime, sickness, poverty, injustice, racketeering, political corruption, race hatred, class conflict, or war among the nations.

            The appeal to the school, and particularly to the public school, in the defense of democracy is peculiarly in the logic of this tradition. Although many motives and interests found expression in the establishment of the great state systems of public education in the last century, the conviction that the institution was necessary to the preservation and perfection of the American form of government and society played a powerful role. So today the presence of this conviction in the minds of multitudes of citizens constitutes the first line of defense against the growing attack upon education. The American people have always assumed, perhaps without subjecting the assumption to critical analysis, that the public school is of necessity a mighty bulwark of their democracy. They believe that it has contributed to the equalization of opportunity, the weakening of class distinctions, the induction of the immigrant into the ways and outlooks of American democracy, and the general raising of the level of economic, civic, and social understanding and competence.

            The faith of the American people in the school is essentially sound. Unquestionably democracy depends on organized education its survival and improvement. This dependence, moreover, is greater today than yesterday, for a greater than at the time of the founding of the great state systems, incomparably greater than in the days of the simple agrarian society before science and technology had complicated the problems of economy and government. But there is difficulty here. The dependence on education is by no means confined to democracy. Every modern society, whether despotic or free, must have a far-flung system of schools and special institution for developing the young. It must have such a system or perish. So, while the intuitions of the American people are sound, they are not particularly illuminating. Indeed, the intuitions themselves are in need of illumination. The confusion is due to the fact that the American people as a whole have never achieved a clear and adequate comprehension of the nature of education in relation to democracy or of the nature of democracy in relation to education. The dispelling of this confusion is an indispensable first step in harnessing the public school most fully to the task of education a generation of free men.


The Nature of Education in Relation to Democracy


            The appeal to education in defense of democracy, advanced by citizens and teachers alike, is often uncritical. A basic source of the difficulty is that , without making their thoughts explicit, these people look upon education as a universal and uniform process. They assume that after due allowances have been made for the adjustment of the process to the general advancement of knowledge, education is everywhere and at all times essentially the same. According to this view, moreover, education is always on the side of the angels; it is an unmixed blessing to all men who receive it; it is the unfailing friend and support of the cause of human freedom. It is good for democracies and bad for despotisms; or, at any rate, whereas the former can scarcely have too much of it, the latter can endure but little. The dogma is accepted that organized education unfailingly enlightens and liberates the mind.

            During the nineteenth century this conception of the nature of education received widespread superficial support in the political history of the period. As a general rule, the free societies of Europe and America were friendly to the school and appropriated ever larger funds for the extension of its operations and its benefits, while the despotisms opposed the spread of education and endeavored as the saying went, “to keep their people in ignorance.” Out of this situation arose the belief that organized education and democracy are mutually dependent. To be sure, the fact that some of the “enlightened” autocracies, notably the Prussian monarchy, made the maintenance of free schools a settled policy, raised doubts in some minds. But the doubts were resolved with the thought that this was only the exception that proved the rule or that it was a concession made to the people in fear. In any case, it was interpreted as a great popular victory heralding the eventual abdication of monarchy and triumph of democracy.

            With the rise of the new despotisms the assumption of the close correlation between the public school and popular freedom has been shattered. There is nothing more characteristic and even distinctive of the totalitarian states, of the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, than their great devotion to organized education. Not only do they give vast sums to the support of schools of the traditional type; they also organize on a grand scale other forms of education and even create new agencies and institutions. To them, moreover, questions of methods and materials of instruction, questions of textbooks and testing devices, merit and receive the closest attention of the foremost leaders of society. Never before in history have the heads of states given such thought and devoted such resources to the rearing of the young. From birth to maturity and on into the adult years the physical, intellectual, and moral development of the individual is the object of their most solicitous care. Particularly do the totalitarian parties and governments lavish their attention and treasure on the molding of youth. In comparison with the expenditures of Hitler for this purpose, the outlays of the Weimer Republic were pitiful. Certainly it can be said no longer that only the democracies are alert to the advantages of education. The dictators have discovered that organized education, conceived and administered as a great agency of propaganda, is the surest method of keeping a people in ignorance and bondage.

            The fundamental fact is that organized education is not a universal and uniform process which is good for democracy and bad for despotism, unless, of course, the term is arbitrarily applied to that particular kind of nurture which is appropriate for free men. Even a casual study of the history of education shows that , while the mass school is a very recent development, organized education in some form is found in every age and in every society, even the most ancient and the most primitive. Such study shows further that the quality, as well as the quantity, of education varies from one civilization to another, that every educational program carries distinctive social and moral values, that these values provide the goals of he process. An examination of the elaborate systems of education developed by the dictatorships show that each of these systems has a very special quality, that each is permeated throughout with the values of its peculiar totalitarian brand – from the teaching of arithmetic to the presentation of world history and from the relations of pupils with pupils to the general conduct and administration of the enterprise. The American people and American teachers must realize that organized education in a democracy also has or should have a very special quality – a quality derived from the articles of the democratic faith.


The Nature of Democracy in Relation to Education


            If the American people have not perceived clearly the nature of education in relation to democracy, they have been equally confused regarding the nature of democracy in relation to education. The source of this error seems to reside in the assumption that democracy is the “natural” form of human society, that men have not had to devise and learn the peculiar ways of democracy, that men, if liberated from the arbitrary compulsions imposed by tyrants, turn instinctively to these ways, that men are born with the qualities, dispositions and loyalties essential to the guarding and fulfillment of the democratic faith In view of the fact that the American people had to struggle long and hard to establish democracy, the acceptance of such an assumption is not easy to understand.

            There certainly is no evidence in history to support the thesis that democracy is “natural” in the above sense. All institutions, all social systems, all conceptions of life and government are the products of human struggle, invention and desire; all are the results of efforts on the part of men to satisfy their longings under the conditions of their environment and in the light of their understanding; all are unstable, changing, subject to decay. Man, and man only, has created them all, from the most despotic to the most free. To assume that democracy is biologically transmitted from one generation to another is to continue to indulge that fatalistic optimism which already has brought the cause of human freedom to the brink of disaster. The most for which the friends of democracy may hope is that when men understand fully what is at stake they will prefer the ways of liberty to the ways of despotism.

            Democracy is a vast an complex cultural achievement in the sphere of human relations and social values. Like all of man’s finest achievements, it is extremely delicate and fragile, difficult to maintain at the highest level of excellence and easy to let follow a course of gradual degradation. Democracy exists only in the patterns of behavior, feelings, and thought of a people. Let these patterns be destroyed and democracy itself is destroyed. And they will be destroyed if they are not acquired anew by each generation, acquired by the complicated process of teaching and learning. Much attention is devoted in the schools to insure the mastery by the young of reading, writing, and arithmetic, of technical skills and processes, of the arts and the sciences. This is all very good and necessary. But the mastery of the ways of democracy is a far more difficult task of teaching and learning and certainly quite as important to free men. The doctrine that children will learn these ways, if left to themselves, is as unsound as the thought that they would master geometry without the help of their elders.

            It follows from this analysis of the problem that the survival of every complex society is dependent in part on the moral quality of a program of organized education. If it is to live an prosper, it must have an appropriate kind of education – an education that cultivates in the young the peculiar dispositions and powers which distinguish it from other societies. Moreover, the extent which one social faith can borrow from another in this realm is unquestionably limited. What is meat for the one may be poison for the other. Certainly democracy should feat the education which the cult of dictatorship requires, even as totalitarianism fears with a deadly fear the education which sustains and str4enghtens the faith of free men. This the dictators see clearly; this the leaders of American democracy must also see clearly, and seeing, act with firmness and wisdom.


Education in the Democratic Faith


            The guarding of American democracy may require powerful armies, navies, and air fleets, but armies, navies, and air fleets are not enough. If democracy is to save itself, it must do far more than appropriate billions of dollars for military defense, build tanks, airplanes, and battleships, master the correlated military skills and knowledge. It must also establish a sound economy, put the unemployed to work, release the energies of technology, conserver the natural resources, and give to all a sense of security. But this also is not enough. The defense of democracy is far more than an economic question. In the last analysis it is a moral and spiritual question – a question of the values and ideas to be defended and applied to life. It is a question of the education of free men, broadly and fundamentally considered.

            All of this means that the American people should give as close attention to the moral quality of their educational program as the dictatorial regimes of Europe have given to theirs. They should pass their entire system of theory and practice under scrutiny with a view to bringing it into more complete and direct harmony with the article of the democratic faith. They should fashion an education conceived in the spirit of that faith and devoted to its defense and further realization – an education designed to prepare their children to guard, to live in, and to develop a free society. More particularly they should fashion an education frankly and systematically designed to give to the rising generation the loyalties, the knowledge, the discipline of free men. In a word, the American public school, through its life and program, should proceed deliberately to foster and strengthen all those physical, intellectual, and moral traits which are the substance of democracy – to incorporate into the behavior of boys and girls and youth the great patterns of democratic living and faith.



Chapter V: The Loyalties of Free Men

            The struggle between democracy and dictatorship is fundamentally a struggle between two conflicting sets of loyalties. The survival of democracy in the world depends on the vigor and strength of democratic loyalties among the peoples of the earth. The defense of American democracy against the totalitarian threat requires the development in the young of clearer, stronger, and more positive loyalties to the values which free men cherish. The development of these loyalties is a major, a crucial responsibility of the public school. Indeed, an education that fails to deal successfully with this problem can in no sense be regarded as democratic either in purpose or in result.


Democracy Dependent on Loyalties


            The continued existence of any society depends on the presence among its members of common and appropriate loyalties. If these loyalties are not deep and abiding, a society is certain to lack cohesion and integrity. If they decay and disintegrate, society itself decays and disintegrates. In times of supreme danger and crisis, when the entire social structure is subjected to severe strain, the life or death of a people may hang upon this question. While feeble and divided loyalties may be indulged in times of peace and quiet, they are certain to become a serious menace in periods of trial and trouble. The recent collapse of the French Republic (in WWII), a nation renowned for centuries for its military valor and prowess, is a perfect illustration of this principle.  From the standpoint of group survival “bad” loyalties may be better than none. Loyalties of some kind are absolutely indispensable.

            Democracy requires loyalties no less than the totalitarian states. In fact, since it makes a minimum use of police power to secure unity of effort and since it refuses to resort to terror to achieve solidarity, it must place far more reliance upon appropriate loyalties. The widespread belief, moreover, that there is a deep contradiction between loyalty and freedom, that free men should have no loyalties, is utterly untenable. The American people must realize that there are loyalties that set men free as well as loyalties that put them in chains. If their own ancestors had not been moved to place certain values above comfort, security, and even life itself, the foundations of a free society would never have been laid on this continent and the inhabitants of the United States today would possess no heritage of liberty to guard and bequeath to their children. The point cannot be overstressed that democracy, as well as autocracy, has its loyalties, that the strength and vigor of democracy depends on the strength and vigor of these loyalties among its citizens.

            The role of loyalties in human society is clearly recognized by the dictators in their march to power. Wherever they or their agents appear, they proceed at once to the systematic undermining and destruction of democratic loyalties. Also, utilizing the most recent findings of psychologists and students of propaganda, they strive to cultivate generally the loyalties necessary to dictatorship and more especially loyalty absolute and unswerving, to the person and commands of the dictator. How effective these methods may be in destroying democracy, when employed by a master of the art of molding opinion and attitude, is revealed both in the ruin of the German Republic and in the tragedies of Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and France (in WW II). Hitler, according to trustworthy accounts, has even timed his military operations in terms of the condition of the loyalties of German youth and of the nations to be attacked. Not only has he devoted vast resources, energy, and talent to the development of loyalties among the young men and women of his own country and to the weakening of the loyalties of this adversaries: he has also devised a comprehensive system of reporting through which he has been able to gauge the state of these loyalties at a given moment.


The Cultivation of Democratic Loyalties


            If democracy is to survive, it must meet this challenge of the dictators boldly and positively. Employing its own methods – methods that are in harmony with its basic values – it must proceed to rediscover its own essential loyalties, inquire into their nature, and cultivate them in children, youth and adults. Although some may recoil from such a program on the ground that it would be an unwarranted imposition of the old upon the young, the fact is, as indicated above, that only thus can the immature achieve maturity and the bound be set free. Appropriate loyalties constitute on of the indispensable conditions for the maintenance of individual liberty as a general and enduring quality of social life.

            The task of cultivating democratic loyalties in the young is a task which the American people have never discharged successfully. At the one extreme there have been those who, in an effort to teach patriotism, have pursued the blind, formal, and uninspiring course of putting the intellect and all the creative faculties to sleep. They have contented themselves with developing superficial loyalties, conveying understanding of neither past nor present, and nurturing the disposition to follow the stereotypes and not the spirit of democracy. At the other extreme there have been those who, reacting against tradition and expressing a spirit of intellectual emancipation, have delighted in shaking old loyalties but have failed to arouse new ones. They have known all of the questions but none of the answers. They have given to the young all of the doubts but none of the affirmations of life. Both the loyalty to stereotypes of the one extreme and the scorn of loyalty of the other, both the neglect of understanding of the former and the one-sided intellectual emphasis of the latter constitute an invitation to the dictator to take over. Under both conceptions education lacks life, vision, seriousness, and deep moral purpose. Neither can be successful in cultivating democratic loyalties in the young.

            The failure here is easy to understand. The fact is that the cultivation of democratic loyalties in the younger generation by the processes of organized education is an undertaking of great difficulty. It is difficult first of all because the transmission of loyalties of any kind in full strength from the old to the young is difficult. Loyalties can be no deeper or stronger than the experiences through which they are forged. From the beginning of time the old have lamented the “waywardness” of the young, the apparent incapacity of youth to appreciate values which come as free gifts from their elders. In the current epoch peoples of democratic countries have surrendered almost without a struggle liberties which their fathers died to win and which their sons doubtless will die to win again. The task of cultivating democratic loyalties is especially difficult because of their peculiar nature. The loyalties of free men are to values and processes, rather than to persons and institutions, to function and spirit rather than to structure and form. The loyalties of free men also must rest on rational foundations.


What Are the Loyalties of Free Men?


            The free man is loyal to the values and processes of democracy. The free man is loyal,

·         First, to himself as a human being of dignity and worth

·         Second, to the principle of human equality and brotherhood

·         Third, to the process of untrammeled discussion, criticism, and group decision

·         Fourth, to the ideal of honesty, fair-mindedness, and scientific spirit in the conduct of this process

·         Fifth, to the ideal of respect for and appreciation of talent, training, character, and excellence in all fields of socially useful endeavor

·         Sixth, to the obligation and the right to work

·         Seventh, to the supremacy of the common good

·         Eighth, to the obligation to be socially informed and intelligent


The entire program of the public school, the materials of instruction, the extracurricular activities, the methods of administration, the human relations within the institution, and the connections between school and community should be deliberately designed to develop these eight loyalties of free men.

            First, the free man is loyal to himself as a human being of dignity and worth. The obligation of the school here is to give each pupil a deep feeling of competence, adequacy, and security, to bring each individual under its care to maturity and freedom. This is the first and most fundamental obligation of all democratic education. Through the use of the riches of human association and the great heritage of human culture, the school should extend to every child the opportunity to grow to his full physical, intellectual, and moral stature as a responsible and valued member of a society of equals. It should reject all systems of measurement, classification, or instruction that submerge the individual or pretend to place him in a fixed quantitative relation to another. It should treat every child, regardless of his talents, as a unique and precious personality, a rightful heir to the cultural inheritance, meriting the tender care and solicitude of society. It should explore fully his abilities, develop his creative powers, and encourage him to feel that he can do something of value, that he belongs, that he is wanted. While it should give rich opportunity to the gifted, it should actively discourage every tendency toward arrogance and despotic temper. As it should not debase the weak because of their weakness, so it should not elevate the strong to a superior status by reason of their strength. The school should endeavor to arouse in each individual a profound sense of self-respect and personal integrity. It should also encourage him to participate in bestowing upon others this priceless gift of the free person.

            Second, the free man is loyal to the principle of human equality and brotherhood. He treats his neighbor, as well as himself, as a human being of dignity and worth. In its effort to develop this loyalty in the young, the school should first of all arrange its whole life in harmony with the principle. This means that a fraternal and friendly spirit should prevail as fully as possible throughout the organization and conduct of the work of the school and that a condition of equality, sympathy, and kindliness should be established everywhere. No discrimination based upon family, race, nationality, religion, politics, or economic status should be tolerated. Differences derived from diverse ancestry, life conditions, or personal aptitude or conviction should be employed, not to found rival and hostile groups, but rather to enrich the common life. Every effort should be made to fashion a mentality keenly sensitive and hostile to all violations of the principle of equality and brotherhood – to poverty, injustice, ruthlessness, special privilege, denial of opportunity, persecution of minorities, exploitation of the weak, servile relationships; to those social conditions which today dwarf the bodies and souls of millions of American children and rob them not only of their democratic heritage, but also of their birthright as human beings. Effort should also be made to instill into the mind of the pupil a sense of responsibility for correcting all such violations. The great ideals of a domestic society of free and equal men, of a world society of free and equal peoples, living under a regime of peace and law should be raised before the young.

            Third, the free man is loyal to the process of untrammeled discussion, criticism and group decision. From the kindergarten to the university the school should provide the young with continuous opportunity to engage in this process; to acquire its skills, knowledge, and dispositions; to see clearly its relation to the fate of democratic society. It should assume, moreover, that the thorough mastery of the process constitutes a difficult task of learning and that such mastery is not to be achieved by the easy expedient of permitting children to do as they please. It should recognize that the most careful guidance and tuition are necessary. As the school should cultivate intolerance toward the appeal to prestige or position, hostility toward the exercise of arbitrary power, mistrust of all purely authoritarian pronouncements, so it should cultivate loyalty to the method of rational discussion and deliberation. Within the framework of democratic ideas and procedures it should protect the right of every minority to be heard, of every sincere opposition to oppose, even the most feeble and unpopular. From the life of the school, loyalty should be transferred to the priceless guarantees of the Bill of Rights, to the great liberties of thought, belief, speech, press, assemblage, petition, and organization for which free men have always fought and whose changing fortunes record the rise and fall of the democratic spirit and faith. The young should be led to see that the suppression of these liberties opens the way to violence, civil war, dictatorship, the end of a society of free men.

            Fourth, the free man is loyal to the ideal of honesty, fair mindedness, and scientific spirit in the conduct of the democratic process. In the light of the strategy and methods of totalitarian movements this loyalty is of critical importance. The history of these movements demonstrates that the abuse of the process of discussion and criticism may undermine confidence in that process and ultimately lead to its overthrow. To employ discussion for the purpose of arousing passion or of delaying and sabotaging action, to refuse to abide by the decisions of the majority, to engage in the methods of conspiracy under the cloak of democracy, to employ the civil liberties to discredit the Bill of Rights, or to nourish openly or secretly the ideas of violence and dictatorship is to threaten the foundations of a free society. The school should utterly refuse to tolerate such tendencies within its domain and should strive to cultivate in the young deep and general hostility toward them. While encouraging criticism of institutions, practices, governments, and public persons and officials, it should strive to make criticism informed, honest, and sober. It should operate on the maxim that comment founded on ignorance, gossip, and malice is a threat to the perpetuation of free institutions. It should teach the youth of the nation that the exercise of the democratic liberties should always be attended by a sense of responsibility to the canons of truth and decency. The obligation of organized education here is peculiarly heavy. The school should also inculcate a healthy skepticism toward all final and complete solutions to social problems and generally cultivate a deep regard for the method and spirit of science in the realm of human affairs.

            Fifth, the free man is loyal to the ideal of respect for and appreciation of talent, training, character, and excellence in all fields of socially useful endeavor. Although free society must always be founded on the principle of human equality, on the principle that every man is entitled to equal opportunity to develop his powers and to equal consideration before the law and in the moral order, its should prize above other societies every kind of superiority and excellence. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the “father of American Democracy,” it should strive both to discover and to develop as its riches resource the “natural aristocracy of virtue and talents.” Particularly in the great industrial society of today, with its dependence on the accumulation and mastery of precise knowledge and with its highly complex and dynamic life patterns and problems, this human resource should be fully utilized. As dictatorship spreads through the world, the survival of free institutions may depend on the ability of a people to elevate into positions of power and trust their most gifted and upright representatives. Clearly the school should keep a perpetual inventory of the abilities of the younger generation, provide the best possible training for those abilities, and impress upon the young the necessity of recognizing and placing in posts of public concern and responsibility persons of the highest talent, training, and virtue. Also the school should stimulate and prize the achievement of excellence in every sphere of life and culture – in production and exchange, in government and politics, in literary and artistic pursuits, in science and technology, in social thought and invention.

            Sixth, the free man is loyal to the idea of the obligation and the right to work. Implicit in the principle of human equality is the doctrine that every person of sound mind and body should engage in some form of socially useful labor. The school should propagate this doctrine systematically by both precept and example. In the absence of pedagogical considerations to the contrary, the individual pupil should be required to carry his share of the common load in every department of the program. Habits of loafing, of evading tasks, of shifting disagreeable burdens to others should not be permitted. The necessity of labor in human society, from the most primitive to the most advanced should be emphasized and demonstrated. The popular prejudice that education should furnish an escape from the world of toil, that the educated man is morally entitled to ride on the backs of the untutored, should be thoroughly rooted out of both school and society. At the same time the school should develop a comprehensive system of vocational training, closely linked with the several branches of the economy, which would be designed to equip the entire younger generation for earning a livelihood. Moreover, as a sense of gratitude toward those who do the work of the world, and particularly the hard, unpleasant, monotonous, and dangerous work, should be instilled into every youngster, so the idea that social parasitism, whether of individuals or classes, is utterly repugnant to the spirit of democracy should be vigorously taught. A comprehensive effort should be made to attach a sense of worthiness and dignity to all forms of socially useful labor.  Also, the school should teach the young that everyone has a right to work, not necessarily at the kind of work he would prefer, but a genuine right to work nevertheless. This right, necessary to provide a solid economic foundation for individual liberty, should be acknowledged as a basic human right.

            Seventh, the free man is loyal to the idea of the supremacy of the common good. Because of the conditions under which the American people gained their livelihood for generations the individual has tended to neglect the general welfare and concentrate his energies on the improvement of his own economic position and the advancement of his own persona l interests. Even the public school has often been regarded as primarily a road to individual success. The rise of industrial civilization with its close integration and interdependence has made necessary and inevitable an increasing measure of common and cooperative action – an increasing amount of social coordination and direction of the economic and social life. There is every reason for believing that, if the needed coordination and direction cannot be achieved through the process of cooperation of free men, it will come in the form of more or less harsh dictatorship. The school should do everything possible, therefore, to moderate the egoistic tendencies and strengthen the social and cooperative impulses of the rising generation. To accomplish this purpose it should not only relate its own life and program more closely to  the needs and problems of society, but should also take the leadership in extending to children and youth the opportunity of participating in community activities. All of this calls for the teaching of patriots in its most enlightened and humane form. The school should organize its resources for the purpose of rearing a generation eager to serve community, nation, and mankind in times of peace as well as war – able, fearless, incorruptible and loyal.

            Eighth, the free man is loyal to the obligation to be socially informed and intelligent. Devotion to the common good, however selfless and single-minded, is not enough. Unless accompanied and directed by knowledge and understanding, such devotion may lead to bigotry, to intolerance, and even to the destruction of the foundations of popular liberty. The obligation to know must therefore be one of the deepest and most universal loyalties in a free society. The excuse of ignorance, when the opportunity for knowing exists, cannot be tolerated in a democracy. The free man, if he is to remain free, must command the knowledge necessary to guard his freedom. To this principle there is no alternative.

            The responsibility of organized education in developing this loyalty is overwhelming. The next chapter is devoted wholly to this question.


Developing the Loyalties of Free Men


            The methods of developing the loyalties of free men must be in harmony with the spirit of democracy.

            First of all, these loyalties must find expression in the environment in which the process of learning is being carried on, in the conduct of the educational enterprise, in the general atmosphere and social relations of the school, in the behavior of the teacher both in the school and in the community. The rule of the teacher is obviously crucial. Besides being an excellent technician, he must be a person to command the respect, evoke the enthusiasm, and even enlist the affection of the pupil. If the teacher perpetually violates the democratic loyalties, if he has no convictions for which he is prepared to fight, if he is timid and vacillating in the presence of powerful personages and groups, if he himself is not a free man, he can scarcely be effective in rearing a generation of free people. In this sphere, certainly, example is far more potent than precept.

            Second, and equally important, the intellectual foundations of all loyalties should be made clear. The formation of appropriate habits, dispositions, and attitudes should be accompanied sooner or later by a sober consideration of their relation to experience and their consequences in life. If the “free man” has no grasp of the sources of his faith, he is not truly free. Though his loyalties may appear to be the loyalties of democracy, though they may be superior to the loyalties of the contemporary dictatorships, they cannot be relied upon to sustain the conditions of freedom from generation to generation. The Nazi soldier who, in a state of blind ecstasy, dies with the name of Hitler on his lips, is perhaps fulfilling the highest demands of his faith. But the citizen of democracy must understand the purposes to which he gives himself.



Chapter VI: The Knowledge Necessary For Free Men

            Knowledge has been called the key of liberty. Although the door to liberty cannot be opened with a single key, it certainly cannot be opened without this one. Loyalties alone, absolutely indispensable as they are, cannot do it. Without knowledge men cannot be free; with out knowledge men are incapable of distinguishing friends from enemies; without knowledge men can be led into slavery shouting the battle cry of freedom; without knowledge men cannot rule themselves; without knowledge men are blind. The long history of mankind shows that free men again and again have lost their liberties simply because did not know the consequences of the choices which they were making or accepting. Democracy, therefore, beyond all other social systems and faiths, must make (page 66) provision for the enlightenment of the people. It must do this or perish.


The Faith in Knowledge


One of the major articles of the democratic faith is that the human mind can be trusted and should be set free. The road to the liberation of the mind is through knowledge and understanding. Democracy therefore must be devoted, with an ardent and sustained devotion, to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and understanding.

            This means first of all that the spirit of inquiry should be sedulously fostered, that the channels of investigation should be kept open, that neither vested rights nor social privilege should be permitted to halt or pervert this process, that generous provision should be made by society for the prosecution of research and study in all fields, that men should be encouraged to abide by the verdict of knowledge.

            This article of faith means also that no barriers should be raised to keep knowledge and understanding from the people, that, on the contrary, every effort should be made to bring enlightenment to all. Only thus can freedom be preserved and strengthened from generation to generation.


The Question of Relevance


All forms and kinds of knowledge, however, are not equally relevant to the task of serving the cause of political freedom. Even a totalitarian regime, though disseminating a vast amount of falsehood and propagating a distorted view of history, must transmit large bodies of thoroughly dependable knowledge to the young, knowledge that will contribute to the achievement of the purposes of the dictatorship. Through careful selection knowledge, like loyalties, may assist in producing obedient and efficient slaves of state or despot. A democracy should guarantee to the members of each new generation the knowledge, the insights, and the understandings that will give them power and make them masters of the state and their rulers. It should guarantee them knowledge that will enable them to safeguard and extend their freedom in the contemporary world – knowledge that is relevant to the defense and strengthening of the values, purposes, and loyalties of a society of free men.


The Question of Selection


            The selection of such knowledge from the inexhaustible stores available is a task of supreme urgency and difficulty. It is certainly a task that cannot be performed by children or even by a single teacher, however competent and devoted, working in isolation from his colleagues. It can be performed adequately only by pooling the resources of the profession and enlisting the cooperation of all sections of the American community.


What Are the Patterns of Social Knowledge?


            The approach to the task of selection should be made in terms of the needs of a free man bent on guarding and extending his liberties. This calls not for the memorization of the dates and episodes of history, nor for and encyclopedic comprehension of social practices, nor yet for a simple acquaintance with a vast number of current ‘issues,’ but rather for insight, understanding, and perspective.

            The free man today is familiar with certain great patterns or bodies of social knowledge and thought:

First, he has knowledge of the nature of man in society

Second, he has knowledge of the history of mankind

Third, he has knowledge of the long struggle to liberate the human mind and civilize the human heart

Fourth, he has knowledge of the nature of the present crisis

Fifth, he has knowledge of the weaknesses of American democracy

Sixth, he has knowledge of the promises, the methods, and the achievements of the totalitarian movements

Seventh, he has knowledge of the resources, achievements, and promise of American democracy.


            The giving of such knowledge to the young is a responsibility of democratic education.

            First, the free man has basic knowledge of the nature of man in society. He knows that man is the most variable and versatile creature on the earth; that he lives under the compulsion of imperious appetites and desires; that he is capable of subjecting these cravings to varying degrees of rational control and even of sublimation; that he is endowed with inventive and creative talents of unpredictable import; that he builds cultures and institutions and modes of life which in turn mold and change him, increasing his powers redirecting his energies, modifying and refining the expression of his primitive appetites, and developing ever new purposes and longings. He knows that , whatever their origins the motives of man, as he is found in history, are many, diverse, and conflicting; that he is capable alike of heroism and cowardice, selfishness and avarice, mercy and cruelty; that he can engage in the noblest and the meanest of exploits; that he can throw himself with equal ardor into a great crusade for human betterment or into a pogrom or a lynching party, into a movement to build or to destroy, to rescue to to slay. He knows that man is fated to live in no particular order of social relationships; that he can fashion and sustain both despotisms and free societies; that he can be stirred to action by the scoundrel as well as the saint; that in time s of institutional crisis when old ways falter and eesires are frustrated he can be led into the most violent and irrational forms of behavior. He knows that with such a creature the defense and advance of human freedom require ceaseless vigilance and are fraught with hazard and uncertainty.

            Second, the free man has basic knowledge of the history of mankind. He sees the long human adventure in full perspective, from the first appearance of man on the earth down to the present age of industrial civilization. He is familiar with man’s long struggle for mastery in the animal kingdom, his wanderings and migrations, and his differentiation into races and peoples; with his record of invention and discovery, his development of the practical arts, and his advances from hunting, fishing, and trapping to agriculture, animal breeding, manufacture, and machine industry; with his creation of language and number, his founding f the great social institutions of family, school, church, and state, his perfection of the arts of war and government, and his building of cities, nations, and empires; with his search for truth, justice, and beauty, his creation of art, religion, science, and philosophy, his efforts to penetrate the mystery of existence, to master his earthly infirmities, to remake the world in the image of his own hopes and ideals. He knows, too, of the wars of classes, sects, and peoples, of the triumphs of despots and madmen, of the heroic struggles against tyranny and oppression, of the succession fo social and political systems, of slavery and serfdom in their varied phases, of victory and defeat for human freedom, of progress and catastrophe. He knows the human story in both its darker and brighter shades, those manifestations of stupidity and cruelty which place man beneath the brute as well as those heroic and sublime episodes and achievements which give him the stature of the gods, those tender and selfless acts and sentiments which make him only a little lower than the angels. He knows the world as it is today, the distribution of natural resources and populations, the diverse patterns of technical and cultural development, the boundaries of nations and relations of peoples, the rise and spread of the new despotisms.

            Third, the free man has basic knowledge of the long struggle to liberate the humand mind and to civilize the human heart. He is at home in the great liberal and humanistic heritage. In the thought and achievements of the thinkers, artists, prophets, and scientists of all ages and countries. He has followed the struggle for freedom of thought, the effort to make the concept of humanity include all peoples and races, and the story of democracy from earliest times. With especial care he has studied the course of the struggle for human freedom on the North American continent – the disintegration of feudal institutions and outlooks, the leveling influence of the frontier, the establishment of the early agrarian democracy, the overthrow of the system of Negro slavery, the immigration of the underprivileged and oppressed of other lands, the rise of organizations of working people. He is familiar also with the struggle to separate church and state, establish the public school, foster humanitarian movements, and overthrow the principles of authoritarianism in various fields. He is fully aware of the great successes of his people. He is equally aware of their failures and of the forces and trends tending to obstruct and divert the march of their democracy.

            Fourth, the free man has basic knowledge of the nature of the present crisis in domestic and world relations. He knows that this crisis cannot be traced solely or even chiefly to the machinations of evil men, but rather that it is largely a result of profound dislocations in the culture and social structure produced by advances in science and technology. He realizes that these new forces have gradually and ever more rapidly transformed the economy and the underlying conditions of life – bringing in new forms of production and exchange, increasing the role of capital goods, adding invention to invention and discovery to discovery, harnessing the inanimate forces of nature, creating novel materials and processes, rendering obsolete old occupational skills and knowledge, changing the modes and instruments of warfare, extending the range and speed of communication, widening the reach of the market, breaking down family and community boundaries, destroying the independence of farm and locality, integrating society on an ever vaster scale, producing new class divisions, interests, and conflicts, modifying traditional conceptions of property, reducing the role of competition in the economy, fostering organization and cooperation, placing a premium on planning and control, putting new burdens on government, accelerating the tempo of life, altering the relations of nations, compounding economic crisis and catastrophe, ushering in an age of potential plenty, intensity, and variety, and generally thrusting men into t world vastly extended, intricate, an overwhelming. Moreover, he sees technology placing such power in the hands of man that he is now able to destroy those natural resources which constitute the basis of human society and even shatter to bits the delicate fabric of civilization itself through the violence of war, revolution, and counter-revolution.

            Fifth, the free man has knowledge of the promises, the methods and the achievements of the totalitarian movements. He knows how the dictators, taking advantage of the misery and anxiety arising out of the domestic and world crisis, hold out to their populations the promise of a new heaven and a new earth; how they organize their forces in a drive for power, employing the democratic processes to destroy faith in democracy, arousing bitter hatreds between classes and races, spreading confusion in all ranks and divisions of the population, violating the canons of honesty and fairness, resorting to individual and mass terror whenever possible, and appealing indiscriminately, as occasion suggests, to the vices and virtues of men. He knows how totalitarian parties, entering a democracy from the outside in the guise of a beneficent international movement, serve in actuality as agents of foreign governments, undermining the morals of the people, creating divisions, and promoting treason. He knows also how totalitarian parties, growing out of the domestic soil, exploit the sentiment of patriotism to betray the interests of people and the cause of freedom. He is familiar with the fact that certain dictatorships have extraordinary achievements to their credit – that they have reorganized the economy, abolished unemployment, extended the opportunities of schooling, built a powerful military machine, and waged successful wars of aggression. He knows that some of these achievements, taken by themselves, are worthy of commendation. But he knows that the pattern as a whole constitutes an unrelieved human catastrophe.

            Sixth, the free man has knowledge of the weaknesses of American Democracy. He knows that the great changes wrought by technology have gravely complicated the economic foundations of free society, that a strong tendency to concentrate ownership of productive property in fewer and fewer hands is plainly discernible, that an increasingly large proportion of the people have become dependent on others for bread, that unfortunate class cleavages are appearing in American life. He realizes keenly that until these tendencies are corrected democracy will be in peril. He knows also that the far-reaching changes produced by technology have created a condition of severe and chronic instability in the economy. He is familiar with the recurrence of depressions and crises of increasing scope and intensity which throw millions of men and women out of work, restrict the opportunities open to youth, keep the level of production far below its possibilities, and engender a sense of insecurity and anxiety in all ranks of the population. He knows further that the emergence of industrial society, with its vastly extended boundaries and its complicated structure, is placing enormous burdens of understanding and devotion on the shoulders of the ordinary citizen. He wonders whether this citizen will be able to carry such burdens. In a word, the free man knows that American democracy is facing a crisis of unprecedented scope and intensity. He knows and is profoundly concerned.

            Seventh, the free man has knowledge of the resources and promise of American democracy. He knows that that democracy represents today the hope of the friends of human freedom everywhere. He knows that with its unique heritage of popular liberty, its long experience with free institutions, its matchless natural riches, its advanced technology, and the energies and talents of its people, it can defend itself against attack from abroad, bring security and relative material abundance to all, and at the same time achieve and give substance to ever higher conceptions of justice, mercy and beauty. He knows that it is possible to revive for the youth of America a vision of a good society – good for even the humblest citizen – which has been the possession of the American people throughout a good part of their history. He knows finally, moreover, that only such a vision can produce that unity which is essential to the repulse and rout of the forces of dictatorship and barbarian in the world.


The Obligation of the School


The program here outlined places upon the school the gravest of moral obligations. It entrusts to the teachers, to supervisors and administrators, to members of boards of education, to all who have any part in shaping the materials of instruction, a responsibility of supreme difficulty, urgency, and importance. It gives to these people the opportunity to weaken or strengthen the heritage of human freedom. If knowledge is to liberate the mind, it must be precise and true. To the extent that falsehood and misrepresentation creep into the teaching, organized education betrays the most sacred of trusts and corrupts the springs of democracy. Only the highest standards of devotion and competence, honesty and integrity can be tolerated. Without the slightest desire to deceive or mislead, the school should strive to give to the young the knowledge necessary for free men. If the school fails in this, it will betray the faith of the founders of the great systems of public education. If it fails in this, it will assist in opening the gates to totalitarian advance in America.


Chapter VII: The Discipline of Free Men


The democratic faith is sustained and fulfilled by the discipline of free men. Loyalties and knowledges are not enough. Without discipline, loyalties, however deep and abiding, can avail but little; without discipline, knowledge, however precise and comprehensive, must remain ineffectual and sterile. It is in this domain, say the apostles of contemporary dictatorship, that the Achilles heel of free society is to be found. It is here, say the friends of despotism in all ages , that the fatal weakness of democracy resides – a weakness that is certain to impair its moral vigor in times of calm and paralyze its powers of action in times of storm. To the champions of authoritarian rule discipline and liberty are contradictory terms.


The Nature of Discipline


The friends of democracy must meet squarely this challenge of the dictators. They must perceive clearly that the problem of discipline is real and inescapable. They must see that discipline is an essential ingredient of all effective action, of all purposeful behavior. To refuse to deal adequately and unequivocally with this problem is to insure defeat and disaster.

Discipline means the putting of loyalties and knowledge to efficient use, the ordering of life in the light of understanding and toward the attainment of purpose. It involves the subordination of the near to the remote, of the present to the future, of the lesser to the greater good. It involves the restraint of the impulse of the moment, the regulation of desire, the postponement of satisfaction, the sacrifice of immediate comforts and pleasures, the choice of the harder way when the easier way is open. Discipline is never indulgent; it may be rigorously exacting. But it assumes this severe form, not because there is virtue in severity, but rather because such is the condition of achievement.

The crucial role of discipline in the life of the individual is evident on all sides. Even the most modest success, whatever the standards of judgment, requires labor and sacrifice, the restraint of impulse, and the intelligent coordination and direction of energies toward some chosen goal Whether the goal is good or bad from the standpoint of a given set of moral values, whether it calls for service to or exploitation of one’s fellowmen, whether it is the building of a doll-house, the winning of an athletic contest, the robbing of a hen-coop, the amassing of a fortune, the organization of a band of criminals, the becoming of a good farmer or carpenter, the cultivation of love or friendship, the defeat of an enemy, the attainment of a political office, or the achievement of eminence in the arts or sciences, an appropriate discipline is absolutely essential. In advancing toward any goal, even the most nefarious, more or less rigorous self-denial is required.

The role of discipline in the life of society, though perhaps less evident, is equally crucial. It is with this question of social discipline, moreover, that the present study is primarily concerned. The discipline necessary to sustain and fulfill the democratic faith must be a social discipline.

Every society or group must achieve an appropriate discipline or perish. If it lives wholly in the present, if it shows no regard for the future, if it fails to employ knowledge in guarding its long-term interests, if it can neither frame nor achieve purposes embracing the general welfare, if it is paralyzed by conflicting impulses and passions, it cannot long survive. Without discipline a society suffers decay from within or falls a prey to aggression from without. Without discipline a society, however vast its material possessions or great its membership, is helpless in the presence of crisis.

Psychologically, social discipline is a form, though a peculiarly severe form, of individual discipline. Since the group has no existence apart from its members, those habits and dispositions which constitute social discipline must reside in the individual. The group calls upon the members to sacrifice not only immediate to remote interests, present to future interests, but also personal interests, both immediate and remote, present and future, to the general welfare. In times of great danger this sacrifice may assume the most extreme forms – surrender of property, of loved ones, and even of life itself. Such sacrifice is seen in the mother who toils without thought of self for the welfare of her family, in the boy who refuses to betray the members of his gang, in the citizen who gives hours of labor to the work of his political party, in the statesman who, resisting all temptations to personal aggrandizement, devotes his life to the goal of his country and the advancement of mankind.


Democratic and Totalitarian Disciplines


To say that every society, from the most free to the more despotic, requires discipline does not mean that the problem can be solved in the same way in all societies. Social discipline, like loyalties and knowledge, is diverse in moral quality and purpose. To each social order of faith, to democracy no less than to dictatorship, there an appropriate discipline. Moreover, the discipline which sustains the one will tend to destroy the other. A serious danger in the present crisis is that the friends of democracy, in their haste to correct a possible weakness, may unwittingly thrust upon the American people the discipline suited to a totalitarian regime. It is imperative, therefore, that the special character of the discipline of free men be clearly understood.

The discipline of a totalitarian regime is the discipline of slaves. The responsibility of framing the purposes of society and of coordinating the energies of the people is lodged completely in the dictatorial authority. The role of the ordinary man is to follow, to obey, to trust, to love, even to worship the “leader”. The motivation employed in the achievement of the desired discipline is varied. The individual may be persuaded to bow to the will of the dictator by stark fear of the lash, the concentration camp, or the firing squad. In the early days of the introduction of a totalitarian system into a society that has experienced a measure of political freedom, resort to such methods of persuasion may be widespread and decisive. But there are other methods which become increasingly effective as the regime endures. All criticism is suppressed and the dictator is presented by every agency of propaganda as a superman or even as a semidivine personage who unites in himself all virtue, wisdom, and power. If his projects are attended by success, it is not difficult to evoke from great masses of people the attitudes of love and worship, of surrender of self. The courage and self-abnegation displayed by German youth in the present war (WW II) give clear evidence of the effectiveness of the appeal of the dictator.

The discipline of democracy is the discipline of free men. The responsibility, both of framing the purposes of society and of coordinating the human energies essential to the fullfilment of those purposes, is placed squarely on the shoulders of ordinary men. In a democracy all of the people, in the light of their knowledge and in obedience to their basic loyalties, impose upon themselves, voluntarily and resolutely, the restraints necessary to the guarding and advancing of the common interest. Although resort to physical force will occasionally be necessary in the development of the required discipline, the emphasis is placed on conviction, on understanding of consequences, rather than on fear of punishment by some authority. The motivation is preponderantly the inherent appeal of ideas and values to be conserved and not the smile or the frown of a superman. The educational task is to achieve the degree of devotion to the general welfare that the totalitarian systems arouse toward the person of the dictator. This means that democracy must be presented to the young as a way of life and a social faith immeasurably superior to all others.

            The moral superiority of the discipline of free men requires no defense in America. Indeed, such superiority has even been conceded by the enemies of democracy. Friends and foes agree, moreover, that the general achievement on the part of a people of the discipline upon which a free society rests is a slow and tedious process. The despots of today and of other times go further and say that such achievement is impossible, that it is “contrary to human nature”. They contend that men in the mass are incapable of self-discipline and must be subjected to unremitting external controls; that the only alternative to authoritarian rule is chaos and the progressive degeneration of moral standards and social conscience; that the vast majority of men are creatures of impulse; that ordinary human beings are born to be slaves. Although the defenders of democracy must reject without qualification this specious appeal to history and nature, they must at the sme time recognize the difficulty and urgency of the task. If free men fail to achieve the degree and quality of discipline which the stern conditions of the present epoch require, if they fail to marshal and organize their energies they may lose the struggle with the new despotisms. Here is the essence of the moral challenge of dictatorship to democracy.


How Can Democratic Discipline Be Achieved?


            From earliest times men have experienced great difficulty in achieving the measure and kind of discipline necessary to sustain a free society through the generations. The sources of this difficulty are many. Some inhere in democracy itself; others are found in survivals from preceding ages of bondage; yet others are engendered by the ever changing balance of social and cultural forces. But perhaps the most serious source of difficulty has been the failure of free societies to see the problem clearly and to address themselves to the task of developing in the young the appropriate discipline. The discharge of this task is the third essential part of any program of education for democracy.

            The achievement of democratic discipline in the young requires the correction of those deficiencies which are altogether too widely present in American life and character. The chief of these deficiencies are:

·         First, misunderstanding of the nature of democracy

·         Second, ignorance of social realities

·         Third, lethargy and indifference regarding the general welfare

·         Fourth, devotion to individual success

·         Fifth, susceptibility to demagogy

·         Sixth, absence of common loyalties

·         Seventh, weakness of democratic loyalties

·         Eighth, undemocratic practices and dispositions inherited from the past.


            The life and program of the school should be directed toward the correction of each of these deficiencies.

            The first deficiency to be corrected is a profound misunderstanding concerning the nature and imperative of democracy. It is commonly assumed that democracy is a form of society which guarantees freely and automatically to its members the possession and enjoyment of personal privileges. It is sometimes assumed further that the problem of social discipline does not appear in a democracy, that such discipline is either hostile to the spirit of individual liberty or capable of being acquired without conscious effort on the part of anybody, that a democratic society very obligingly runs itself and requires of its members merely that they attend strictly to their own private affairs. The school should demonstrate to the young through experience in the community and through study of human history and institutions, that no society, whether bound or free, can long survive the conduct of life in conformity with such misconceptions.

The second deficiency to be corrected is ignorance on the part of the individual of social realities. In a free society, where responsibility for great decision rests upon the ordinary citizen, such ignorance in times of crisis may prove fatal. Let the devotion of the individual to the common good be ever so strong, let his loyalty to all the values of democracy be ever so deep, if he is unaware of imminent difficulties and perils, he will take no action, he will make no sacrifice, he will concentrate on personal interests. In the recent tragic overthrow of democracy in the Old World the friends of human liberty were generally unaware of the nature and the imminence of the danger confronting them; in the present conflict the British people were not stirred to vigorous action until practically all their allies on the continent of Europe had been destroyed by the political methods and mechanized armies of Hitler. Today millions of American citizens, following in the footsteps of their English cousins, are profoundly ignorant of what has been taking place and insensitive to the possible consequences of recent decisions and happenings, They do not realize how precarious are the foundations of free institutions in the emerging complex and dynamic age of industrial civilization. The school should direct its program of instruction to the overcoming of this conditio0n of ignorance and to the arousal in the young of a sense of deep concern regarding the future.

            The third deficiency to be corrected is lethargy and indifference regarding the general welfare. This state of mind tends to be particularly prevalent among persons, both young and old, enjoying security and comfort. Such persons often resent the intrusion into their pleasant world of harsh and disturbing events. They prefer ‘to take things easy,” to enjoy week ends in the country, to put off until tomorrow, to believe that the deluge is not coming, at least not in their time. They are unwilling to pay in time and devotion the full price of liberty. They refuse to accept responsibility for themselves and even become indignant toward those who take seriously their civic duties or who would arouse them from their world of slumbers. The may salve their consciences by resorting to wishful thinking, by convincing themselves that everything is all right, by nourishing the delusion that in any event “God” is on their side and that “right” is certain to prevail. Many are perhaps overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task of guiding the destinies of a nation or by a sense of the helplessness of a single individual in the presence of a world in revolution. In this situation the school should endeavor by precept and practice, to give to every boy and girl a feeling of personal responsibility for participating actively in making, obeying and enforcing social and community decisions.

             A fourth and closely related deficiency to be corrected is an inordinate devotion to individual success. If individual success were gauged in terms of service to society, there would of course be no problem here. But in American democracy the standards of achievement have tended too largely to be nonsocial or narrowly social in character. In obedience to the doctrine that each individual should mind his own business, that by minding his own business he will contribute most to the general welfare, that the “least government is the best,” and that able men should not enter public service, the common interest has been neglected. Worse than that, as the history of political corruption in the United States shows, a large part of the population has come to look upon government as a taker of bribes and a dispenser of favors, as an alien interest to be outwitted and cheated. American democracy today has too few “public men” – too few men who place the welfare of society above or on a par with their personal fortunes. To survive in times of crisis a democracy, more than any other form of society, requires citizens who voluntarily and eagerly offer their services to the community. Through its study of occupations and careers, through its choice of biography, through the conduct of its own life, through its distribution of rewards, the school should strive to alter the current standards of success and achieve a more general devotion to social welfare.

            A fifth deficiency to be corrected is susceptibility to the arts of demagogy. From ancient times demagogy has been one of the most common and fatal diseases of democracy; in these years demagogy has been employed successfully in one country after another to destroy free institutions. Ambitious men, thirsting for political preferment and power, flatter the people, applauding their vices and acclaiming their errors, pandering to their prejudices and passions. Even responsible political leaders often hesitate to speak unpleasant truths and make promise after promise that cannot be fulfilled. Rival demagogues, striving to outbid one another in the popular favor, have been known to lead a society from one absurdity to another and eventually to disaster. At the end of the First World War Allied statesmen who desired to heal the old wounds by making a generous peace with Germany were prevented from doing so by the demagogic appeals of their competitors to the passions aroused by the conflict. Later, when they might have saved the German Republic by moderating some of the more severe provisions of the treaty, they deliberately refused to act lest they be driven from office. Still later, after Hitler’s rise to power, the spread of a powerful pacifist sentiment through the British people causes political leaders to hesitate to launch a program of defense adequate to meet the Nazi challenge. The school should reveal to the young the dangers of demagogy, train them in the detection and repudiation of specious appeals and programs, and rear them in the hard discipline of knowledge and truth.

            A sixth deficiency to be corrected is the absence among the people of common loyalties. Every great modern democracy is marked by racial, national, religious, and class differences. If these differences flame into hatreds of sufficient intensity, all sense of community of interest disappears and society degenerates into a melee of warring factions. As already noted, demagogues aggravate these differences and hatreds for purposes of personal advantage and the prospective dictator exploits them in his struggle for power. The danger lies in the fact that full democratic discipline requires a conception of welfare that embraces and is felt to embrace all elements of the population. In the measure that this condition disappears, common loyalties and purposes, the basis of the discipline of a free society, are bound to disintegrate. In most of the free societies of Europe that have fallen before the advance of foreign dictatorships such a state of disintegration was far advanced before the totalitarian armies crossed their borders. The school should endeavor to give to the rising generation, and to practice them in, a body of loyalties out of which common action may be established on a rational and just foundation. This means a body of loyalties which guard the interests of all and require the exploitation of none – the loyalties of a society of free and equal men.

            A seventh deficiency to be corrected is the weakness of democratic convictions and loyalties. There is abroad today a form of moral agnosticism or nihilism, according to which all men and all institutions are inherently depraved and corrupt, democracy is but a cloak to cover the most ruthless forms of exploitation, nothing is worth fighting or dying for. The origins of this mentality are doubtless diverse. It may be traced in part to the succession of disillusionments of the past twenty-five years, in part to a sterile intellectualism lacking moral foundation and positive affirmations, in part to the bitter experiences of the millions overwhelmed by the depression, in part to the mixture of hypocrisy and bewilderment manifest in the utterances and programs of some of the spokesmen of democracy, and in part to the moral and intellectual shallowness of much of life in the early years of this mechanical age. Youth have sensed the severe discrepancy between professions and proposals of reform, between the prevailing conditions of life and the articles of the democratic faith. Having sensed these things many have revolted and turned either to cynicism or to the doctrines of totalitarianism. The school, working intimately and responsibly with the community and with all democratic forces in society, should create a compelling vision of democracy in America and relate its program to the realization of this vision. Thus it would give to the young and authentic foundation in life and experience for the democratic loyalties.

            An eighth deficiency to be corrected is a pervasive heritage from the past of undemocratic practices and dispositions. No people has ever developed a completely democratic discipline as no people has ever established a true democracy. Even in the oldest of the democracies the legacy from a preceding age of human bondage is preserved in a thousand ways. It is evident in the behavior of leaders and led in politics, in the thirst for power by the few and the worship of power by the many, in the response of millions to the glamour of military glory and conquest, in the readiness with which multitudes violate and surrender political rights. The sons of men who fought for independence and freedom love to be bossed, to be told what to do, to worship some hero on a pedestal, to surrender selfhood. In a remarkably prophetic passage, Mussolini said many years ago that men are “tired of liberty”, that the youth of today “desire order, hierarchy, and discipline”. In times of crisis, such as the present, men are strongly tempted to exchange the hazards and responsibilities of freedom for the security and submission of despotism. It is not enough therefore that the school order its own life in accordance with democratic principles. This great institution, through which man deliberately strives to perfect himself, should turn the light of sympathetic criticism and understanding on the life of society and obtain the cooperation of other agencies in the progressive elimination of the undemocratic heritage from the past.


The Teaching of Discipline


            At no time in the history of American education has a concerted effort been made to rear a generation in the discipline of free men. Indeed, at no time has the teaching profession been fully aware of the problem. While there has been much talk about discipline, there has been little attempt to relate the discussion tot eh great purposes of democracy. Opposing schools of thought on the question have generally assumed that in the educative process, as in life, discipline and personal liberty are in conflict. But whereas the one has been inclined to identify education with discipline, the other has tended to associate it with liberty. Though both of these emphases are needed in the schools of a free society, the conception of discipline held by the one group is as deficient as the conception of liberty held by the other.

            The first school of thought has believed that discipline must be imposed by an arbitrary and all-powerful authority; the second that it will develop from within in any properly conducted education. The former have believed that men must be disciplined before they can be entrusted with liberty; the latter that they must be freed from all restraining influences before they can achieve the discipline of freedom. The confusion here has arisen from two opposing views of human nature, both of which are fallacious and, in spite of superficial differences, fundamentally alike. Members of the first school, like all supporters of authoritarian doctrine, have assumed that man is evil by nature and must be remade according to a pattern imposed by some external power; members of the second, like all followers of the romantic tradition, have assumed that man is good by nature and should be permitted and encouraged to develop in accord with his own inner tendencies. The fact seems to be that man is neither evil nor good by nature, but rather becomes evil or good, according to a given set of standards, as he grows to maturity in a given society or culture.

            The discipline of free men cannot be achieved by subjecting the young for a period of years to the regimen of a slave. Neither can it be achieved by allowing the young to follow their own impulses and take over the process of education. It can be achieved only by living for years according to the ways of democracy, by rendering an active devotion to the articles of the democratic faith, by striving to make the values and purposes of democracy prevail in the world, by doing all of these things under the guidance of the knowledge, insight, and understanding necessary for free men. That this involves a highly complex and difficult process of learning is obvious. It requires a school environment and a school life organized deliberately to give boys and girls experience in democratic living – a school environment and a school life from which the obstacles to the achievement of democratic discipline are removed. Above all, it requires the influence of a teacher who in his activities in both school and community practices the discipline of a free man.




Chapter VIII: Freedom and Control


            Control is always a crucial problem of organized education. A given program may be rendered ineffective or even hostile to its avowed purposes by the mode of control adopted. Like loyalties, knowledge, and discipline, the method employed should be in harmony with the fundamental principles and values of the entire educational undertaking. The pattern of control suited to a democracy is clearly inappropriate for a totalitarian order. Conversely, a pattern effectively consistent with the purposes of dictatorship is dangerous to a regime founded on popular rule. In the case of the education of free men the problem of control presents peculiar difficulties. Political control over the process of intellectual and moral development suggests the negation of freedom.


The Broad Contours of Democratic Education


            The object of a system of school controls is to insure the achievement of purpose and the maintenance through the years of the kind of program desired. An understanding of the nature of the control adapted to the making of free men requires, therefore, a brief review of the broad contours of democratic education in relation to society and culture. These contours may be outlined in the following six characteristics of democratic education:

  • First, democratic education is devoted to the realization of the democratic faith
  • Second, it is marked by integrity and honesty in all relations
  • Third, it is sensitive and responsive to the changing conditions of life
  • Fourth, it is independent of the passions and narrowly partisan struggles of the moment
  • Fifth, it is sensitive and responsive to the changing hopes, ideals, and problems of the people
  • Sixth, it is free from the domination of private persons and groups.


            An elaboration of these six characteristics will reveal the conditions that the control od democratic education will be expected to establish and maintain.

            The first characteristic of democratic education has been the center of analysis and exposition throughout this volume; it has, as its all-embracing object, the realization of the democratic faith. It is not education for dictatorship, for either the old or the new despotisms. Neither is it an education for all orders of society and for all moral systems. It is frankly an education deliberately and systematically designed to defend, strengthen, and more completely realize in America the articles of the democratic faith; to rear a generation of free men equipped with the loyalties, the knowledge, the discipline necessary to enable them to maintain their heritage of freedom and to transmit that heritage in full and growing vigor to their children. It is an education designed to imbue boys and girls and youth with the courage and the determination to struggle for the ever more complete fulfillment of the vision of a society of security, liberty, justice, and beauty for all. It is an education that takes its social obligations seriously and refuses to confine the teaching of democracy to a special subject to be given at a special time by a special teacher. It is an education permeated, colored, and shaped throughout its entire program by the values, the ideas, the spirit of democracy. The task of establishing and maintaining an education of this character in a society beset by the domestic and world forces of totalitarianism requires understanding, inventiveness, and vigilance.

            The second characteristic of democratic education, like the other four still to be considered, is implicit in the first; democratic education is marked by personal integrity and honesty in all relations. From the relations between the janitor and the superintendent to the relations between the teacher and the pupil, this characteristic represents and application to the work and life of the school fo the first and most basic article of the democratic faith – belief in the unqualified worth and dignity of the individual human being. Since the teacher – pupil relation is the vital element in all education, it is imperative that this relationship be marked not only by complete integrity and honesty, but also by a spirit of mutual confidence, respect, and even affection. In a democracy this means, above all, that the teacher must express the democratic faith in his life; that he must set an example of probity, fearlessness, and sobriety in both school and community; that he must avoid even the appearance of suppressing knowledge or tempering convictions in response to either reproof or flattery, threats or bribes. The teacher – pupil relation is one of the most sacred relations in a free society. Let this relation be corrupted and the education of free men is rendered impossible. But to achieve and maintain this relation pure and undefiled will unquestionably arouse the opposition of all enemies of democracy.

            Democratic education, in the third place, is sensitive and responsive to the changing conditions of life. The free man must be prepared to defend and advance his liberties in the world in which he lives and not in some hypothetical world, nor in a world that has passed away, nor yet in all possible worlds. He must know, moreover, that contemporary society, with its sciences and technologies, is highly dynamic, that it is capable of changing even basic structures and patterns with remarkable swiftness. Particularly must he be made familiar through the school with those changes which affect the foundations of American democracy, those deep-flowing currents of the culture and the social order which condition the fortunes of free institutions through the generations. The point to be emphasized here is that while democratic education must avoid absorption in the immediate and fleeting event, it cannot escape into some peaceful Elysium far removed from the struggles of men. It must be closely related to and profoundly influenced by the course of social and cultural change. Particularly must teachers be prepared to reveal to the young with utter candor and realism those trends and tendencies which bring promise or threat to the democratic faith. Indeed, amid the profound and bewildering changes of the age they should help their pupils to find in the great heritage of human freedom a stabilizing force, an abiding factor, a source of hope, a kind of lode star to give direction and purpose to their lives. This also is likely to encounter hostility on the part of the powerful elements in the community.

            The fourth characteristic of democratic education is the complement of the third; although such education is sensitive and responsive to social change, it is at the same time independent of the passions and the narrowly partisan battles of the moment and is dedicated to the service of the longtime interests of children and society. In this respect it is to be distinguished sharply form its totalitarian counterpart. Though related to politics and the political struggle, in the sense that it is shaped ultimately by political forces, it is neither politics nor the servant of politicians. According to the philosophy and practice of the new despotisms, on the other hand, organized education is politics or at least the handmaiden of politics – the school is an agency, like the army or the police force, established and maintained to serve the purposes, whether great or small, or the dictator. Democratic education, though an integral part of the total social process, does possess an independence, a quality, an integrity of its own. It has its own canons and obligations which must be protected from the heat of the political battle and defended against the encroachment of political personages and parties. It must remain true to its special purposes and obligations. It must ever seek to enlighten, to view in perspective, to keep alive the spirit of reason and understanding, to cultivate the method and outlook of science. Such an emphasis is easily misunderstood even by the friends of democracy. It is sure to be opposed by the foes of human freedom.

            Fifth, democratic education is sensitive and responsive to the changing hopes, ideals, and problems of a people. It was for the purpose of fulfilling certain hopes, of realizing certain ideals, of solving certain problems of their common life that the American people originally established their system of public schools. It is, moreover, from the hopes, ideals, and problems of the great masses of ordinary men and women that democratic education derives its life. The school, therefore, must make a special effort to keep close to the people – close to farmers, mechanics, clerks, and housewives – close to all who by reason of birth and circumstance have received less than their rightful share of the cultural heritage – close to the humble as well as the proud., If this vital connection is severed, democratic education either enters a period of formalism and decay or, losing its devotion to the cause of human liberation, becomes the agent of some privileged order or tyranny. This is not to say that democratic education merely awaits the mature formulations of the people, that it has no responsibility to shape and clarify popular hopes, ideals, and problems. It does have just such a responsibility. It should even go beneath the process of clarification and sharpen sensitivity to the conditions out of which issues arise. But the point of central interest here is that teachers, realizing the dynamic quality of the age, should keep themselves in the stream of history, refuse to become a class apart, identify themselves fully with the life of the community, and relate the educational program to the interests of all the people. Here too is a feature of democratic education which is always difficult to maintain and which powerful forces are always tending to submerge.

            The sixth and last characteristic of democratic education to be considered is the complement of the fifth; though sensitive and responsive to the changing hopes, ideals, and problems of the masses of the people, democratic education cannot permit itself to be drawn into the service of any private person or group. It must be free from the immediate domination of any an every minority, class, party, church, sect, or organization bent on using the school or the teacher to promote its special purposes or its special conception of public purposes. Though the school should always be peculiarly sensitive to the correction of injustice and to the improvement of the condition of the underprivileged, its central function is to serve, not the interests of any part of society, but the general welfare. The hazards and difficulties attending the maintenance of this principle in the present age are evident to anyone who reads the newspapers, listens to the radio, or even follows the conversation of street and market place. Every American community, as well as the nation as a whole, literally seethes with “pressure groups” which, speaking in the name of the common good, strive to promote partisan interests and doctrines. Increasingly have these groups sought to shape the program and emphasis of the public school. The right to assemble and organize, to criticize, advocate, and petition is, of course, one of the most precious rights which a democracy guarantees to its citizens. This right, however, creates conditions which complicate and make difficult the conduct of a program of education for democracy.


Democratic Education and the Will of the Majority


            The dilemma of public education in a democracy derives not from the pressures of minorities, embarrassing and dangerous though they may be, but from the unqualified exercise of authority by the articulate majority. The widespread belief that the assumption of power over the school by popular government (which presumably expresses the collective judgment and will of the citizens) automatically removes all difficulties, requires very critical examination. Of equally doubtful validity is the belief that democratic education may be regarded as any education which the people, operating through political institutions, may happen to desire or approve. If the analysis of the present volume and of the immediately preceding paragraphs is sound, these beliefs are not to be trusted. The touchstone of democratic education is to be found by no means in the simple assent or assertion of a majority but rather in its power to preserve and advance the cause of democracy. If an educational program undermines the loyalties of free men, fails to give the knowledge necessary to the defense of human liberty, or cultivates an authoritarian discipline or no discipline at all, it cannot be called democratic even though approved by overwhelming popular majorities. The fact that a people may have the power or the legal right to establish a school program which will eventually lead to the abolition of that power or right only makes the problem more acute and urgent. If a democracy is to have democratic education, the school must be protected not only against the assaults of minorities but also from the caprice and ignorance of the majority. A central task of democratic education is to educate a democracy to desire, to support, and to defend a program of democratic education.

            The difficulty arises from a conception of government which democracies have inherited from ancient and modern despotisms. Under this conception, which is to be found in its pure form in contemporary dictatorships, government is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good, justified in doing whatsoever it wills within the orbit of its rule and incapable of making a mistake or committing a wrong. To this government the inhabitants are subjects who find the meaning of life in obeying its commands. Although the democracies have generally repudiated the harsher features of this conception and introduced safeguards of personal liberty, they have failed to develop a wholly satisfactory conception of their own. The fact in a democracy the inhabitants are supposed to be free men who control government in their own interest and employ its agencies to serve their purposes seems to have created confusion. In practice friends of democracy have not rejected wholly the totalitarian doctrine that government can do no wrong. If it is fouded in some way on the expressed will of the people, they are inclined to assume that all of the conditions essential to the guarding of human liberty are satisfied. This position is fundamentally unsound.

            This crucial problem is brought to focus in the field of education. If a democratic society is a society of free men who direct government to the service of their purposes, the exercise of governmental authority over the schools and thus over the minds of the citizens constitutes something of a contradiction. The danger is ever present that a government of the moment or of a generation will employ this power to change the mentality of a people and convert free men into subjects. If no limits to its action are recognized or respected, there is always the possibility that democratically established government, through the prescription of educational programs and the suppression of thought and the spirit of inquiry, may gradually mold the character of a people according to the totalitarian pattern. The fact that it might do this with the purest of motives and in the name of freedom would not affect the consequences. The essence of the matter is that it would drive from the school that integrity of person which is perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the free man and without which education cannot serve democratic purposes. The removal of the danger inhering in governmental control of education requires the repudiation of the totalitarian conception and the general acceptance in theory and practice of a government of limited power and jurisdiction.

            This brings the analysis to the question on ultimate authority and loyalty. From the standpoint of education, human liberty, and personal integrity, here is the most fundamental distinction between democracy and despotism. In a totalitarian state the authority of government is unlimited and is concentrated in the dictatorial power, whether that power be a person, a family, a class, a political party, a military caste, or a holy order. To this power the individual is required to give unqualified and uncritical loyalty; from its decisions and commands, however capricious, he has no recourse. In a living and enduring democracy the authority of government is limited. It is limited y laws, constitutions, and precedents, by institutional arrangements and accepted procedures, even by the prevailing ideas of a people. Also the loyalty of the citizen is qualified. It is qualified by the legalizing of criticism and opposition, by the conception of government as an instrument and servant of the general welfare, by a body of ideals and values which transcend the authority of officials and practices. Whatever may be the incidence of brute power, the individual in a democracy may claim the moral right to appeal from the acts of government to the guarantees of the laws, from the guarantees of the laws to inherited conceptions of right and wrong, and even from inherited conceptions of right and wrong to the voice of his own conscience. Free men know that government can do evil – that it can commit the most terrible crimes recorded in history.

            The solution of the problem of control of education is not to be found in the transfer of all power to the institutions and officers of government. Such a solution, even though the state is responsive to the general will, constitutes a wholly inadequate safeguard of the education of free men. While the voice of the people has been called the voice of God, man’s experience with popular rule demonstrates the falsity of this ancient maxim. Government must, of course, play a major role in the organization and conduct of education. Indeed, adequate provision in the modern age for this great service is utterly impossible through reliance upon private enterprise and resources. But at present the ordinary American citizen possesses no adequate conception of the complex body of relations involved in the establishment and maintenance of a program of education dedicated to the realization of the democratic faith. The control of such a program must express a delicate adjustment among the agencies of government, the profession of teaching, and the people.

Chapter IX: Government, The Teacher, and The People


            Control of democratic education should be lodged completely with no single authority. The power of any one body or agency to shape a process so central to the development of free men should always be subject to effective limitations. Although ultimate decisions must inevitably rest in some way with society as a whole, the conduct of the public school should involve the close interaction and cooperation of government, the teachers, and the people. If this cooperation is to be most effective and fruitful, it must express in the fullest possible measure a general condition of mutual trust and understanding rather than a precarious balance of rival and jealous forces. To each party thus involved in the control of public education – to government, to the teacher, and to the people – belong appropriate responsibilities and obligations.


Responsibilities and Obligations of Government


            The fundamental responsibility of government is to establish and maintain from generation to generation the broad conditions under which the education of free men may be carried on. Having set the framework within which the work of the school may be conducted, government should guard this framework and guarantee to the teaching profession and the educational authorities freedom and opportunity for the intelligent and loyal discharge of their duties, intervening directly only in case of evident breach of trust. This, rather than the detailed development, administration, and supervision of the program of education, is the responsibility of democratic government. In discharging this obligation government should:

  • First, establish a special authority for the general conduct of the public school
  • Second, provide generous and sustained financial support of the educational undertaking
  • Third, insure the broad, thorough, and democratic training of the teacher
  • Fourth, safeguard the integrity of the teacher
  • Fifth, refuse deliberately to make full sue of its own power over the school


            The first responsibility of government is the establishing of a special authority for the general conduct and supervision of the school. The primary object of such a measure is to associate education from the fortunes of partisan politics, protect it in some degree from the passions of the moment, identify it with the more abiding interests of society, make it an object of especial solicitude on the part of the people, and thus give to it a unique status among governmental functions so that it may operate according to the cannons of democratic education and serve most effectively the cause of free men. In originally setting up special boards to outline broad policies and watch over the public school, the American people revealed a sound instinct and a remarkable perception of the realities in the situation. From the standpoint of the fortunes of democracy, organized education plays a peculiar and exalted role. More than any other creature of government it serves the more distant future. The consideration to be given supreme emphasis here, however, is that democratic education as outlined in this volume, cannot be conducted successfully under the threat of police power. It can be so conducted only when guaranteed a large measure of independence and security.

            A second responsibility of democratic government is to provide generous and sustained financial support for organized education. This is required, first of all, by the basic articles of the democratic faith. According to that faith, the cultural heritage of mankind, the heritage that makes possible the intellectual and moral development of the individual, belongs to all men and not to any privileged order or race. Since the public school is society’s special agency for opening the doors of this heritage to the young, it must be made generally and evenly accessible to all. The loyalty of a people to the democratic faith can perhaps be gauged most readily and effectively by its effort, in bad times as well as good, to equalize the opportunities of organized education and assure to every child his full birthright as a human being. T second and equally compelling motive for providing generous and sustained material support for the public school is social necessity – to meet the threat of despotism, to build the spiritual defenses of democracy, to insure insofar as possible that the entire population shall acquire the loyalties, master the knowledge and achieve the discipline of free men. Even under the most favoring conditions democracy requires an appropriate education; in an age like the present such education is an essential part of the price of survival. To neglect the rearing of the young today would be one of the surest means of undermining the moral authority of free society and encouraging the spread of totalitarian doctrines.

            Provision for the broad, thorough, and democratic training of the teacher constitutes a third responsibility of government. If organized education can play even a small part in the battle to preserve the great heritage of human freedom against the sweep of dictatorship, the selection and preparation of those who are to be entrusted with the immediate conduct of the public school constitute and undertaking of the deepest gravity. Only the choicest young men and women should be admitted to training – young men and women of fine human quality and reared in the tradition of democracy. Besides embracing technical preparation equal in thoroughness to that required by the most exacting of the professions, the program of training should make careful provision for equipping these young people to discharge the heavy social obligations of the teacher. It should give to them, not only they narrower skills and knowledge of the calling, but also in exceptional measure the loyalties, the understandings, the discipline of free men. It should communicate to them the full scope of their opportunities and responsibilities as teachers of democracy; it should imbue them with a sober and inspiring conception of their profession. Such a program of training should be provided for all teachers and particularly for those who aspire to positions of leadership in the educational system. Only if government recognizes the seriousness of this problem and establishes the rigorous and appropriate type of training here suggested can the American public school be expected to serve the cause of democracy fully and effectively.

            A fourth responsibility of democratic government is to safeguard the integrity of the teacher and to encourage him to grow to his full stature. Government should guarantee to the teacher of proven worth a just wage, economic security, reasonable tenure, opportunity for continued study, and protection from the assaults of all busybodies and pressure groups seeking to impose upon him and the school their special and peculiar brands of morals and patriotism. It should guarantee to him the right to search without hindrance for the truth and to convey the truth as he finds it, in conformity with the canons of good teaching, to his pupils. It should guarantee to him the right to share in shaping educational programs and policies and in setting the conditions of his work. It should guarantee to him the right to live the life of a full-fledged citizen, to participate actively in the political, social, and cultural life of his time, to enjoy all the privileges and discharge all the obligations of a free man. It should guarantee to him the right to organize with his fellows and thus to make the collective voice of the profession heard in the councils of the local, state, and national community. In order that these guarantees may be respected and enforced, government should provide for the creation of appropriate tribunals before which all grievances may be presented and adjudicated. And it should provide the measures here outlined for safeguarding the integrity of the teacher, nit in the interest of teachers, but in the interest of the education of free men. If boys and girls and youth are not brought under the influence of men and women of the finest type, truly democratic education is not possible. If the American people desire to defend the democratic faith against assault from within or without, they can scarcely pay too high a price to place such men and women in the public schools of the country.

            A final responsibility of democratic government in the realm of organized education is to retrain itself and refuse to make full use of its power. It should of course observe meticulously the canons of simple honesty and decency, refusing to be a party to the prostitution of the needs of the school to the granting of favors, the building of private fortunes, and the founding of political machines. Beyond this it should resist the tendency, almost universal in the sphere of government, to increase and extend its authority – to prescribe the details of the educational program, to select textbooks and pass upon the methods of instruction, and to usurp gradually the functions and responsibilities of the profession. Democratic education cannot live in a strait jacket; it refuses to respond to threats and commands; it requires opportunities for deliberation and choice; it thrives only under conditions of trust and confidence. While guarding education from the pressures and encroachments of other forces, government should not make the mistake of imposing a host of its own regulations and prescriptions. Rather should it use its great power to guarantee to the public school the freedom essential to the organization and conduct of education for democracy.


Responsibilities and Obligations of the Teacher


With freedom go corresponding obligations. The state can establish and maintain the conditions under which the education of free men is possible. It is powerless itself to provide such education. To make the possibility actual is the responsibility and the opportunity of those who work in the school. In order that the teacher may discharge the responsibility and rise to the opportunity thus indicated he must:


  • First, maintain a steadfast loyalty to the democratic faith.
  • Second, achieve and sustain high professional competence.
  • Third, participate actively and intelligently in shaping educational policy.
  • Fourth, establish and maintain a condition of mutual trust, understanding, and sympathy with the people.


            The first responsibility of the teacher is to maintain a steadfast and informed loyalty to the values and processes of democracy, to the several articles of the democratic faith, to the interests of children and the cause of human freedom.  He should see clearly that education is fundamentally an adventure in human relationships. He should see too that education is not a neutral process and should recognize the far-reaching social, political, and moral implications and consequences of all that he undertakes. In the work of the school and in the life of the community he should exemplify the spirit of democracy. He should struggle without ceasing to apply these principles to neglected fields, to keep alight the lamps of reason, to champion the interests of the underprivileged and the downtrodden, to combat the forces of totalitarianism, whether of domestic or foreign origin – to make democracy work. In a word, he should take democracy seriously and strive to make it prevail in the world, giving himself fully to its service and enlisting at every opportunity the energies and enthusiasms of his pupils. An example of democracy in his own life, he would exert upon the young a powerful and lasting influence for human freedom.

            The second responsibility of the teacher is to achieve and sustain a high level of professional competence, to take full advantage of the facilities for study and growth provided by society.  Besides mastering the technical aspects of his calling, the teacher should strive to achieve a deep understanding of the nature, history, fortunes, and present condition of democracy in America and the world. At the same time he should endeavor to see his calling in relation to the defense and further realization of the democratic faith. He should sense in teaching something more than a mode of gaining a livelihood, something more than a matter of hours, wages, and conditions of work, something more even than a career suited to his tastes and pursued amid pleasant and stimulating associations and surroundings. While resisting stoutly all efforts on the part of either privileged groups or the general public to exploit him, he should see teaching as an opportunity to achieve moral purpose in his own life, to participate effectively in a vital social undertaking, to labor and fight in the great tradition of human freedom, to serve his people creatively in one of the most critical and dynamic ages of history. The discharge of the duties associated with such a calling demands a level and quality of competence which no body of teachers anywhere in the world has ever fully achieved. But never before has any society faced squarely the problem of the education of free men.

            A third responsibility of the teacher is to participate actively in shaping educational policy and providing educational leadership for community, state, and nation. He should be ready at all times to devote time, energy, and thought to improving the program of the school and to working for the removal of inequalities in educational opportunity. In the struggle to abolish autocratic procedures in the conduct of education inherited from the past, he should be prepared not only to enjoy the privileges of greater freedom but also to assume all necessary responsibilities, however arduous and disagreeable. Thus, if he works, as he should, for increased security for members of his calling, he should at the same time advocate, devise, and support measures necessary for the improvement or the removal from the schools of poor and incompetent workers. If the organized profession ever degenerates into a defender of its own vested interests, it will insure the bankruptcy of democratic education. Participation in the shaping of educational policy, moreover, should be regarded, not as a privilege to be enjoyed at the option of the teacher, but as an inescapable obligation to discharge. The ultimate success of democratic education depends on the readiness and the competence of the ordinary teacher to recognize and discharge such obligations.

            A final responsibility of the teacher is to establish a condition of mutual trust, understanding, and sympathy, not only with community leaders and representatives, but with all the people. He should realize fully that here is the only trustworthy support of the democratic faith, that, if by reason of ignorance or sloth the people fail, all hope for a society of free men must perish from the earth. As he should take advantage of every opportunity to establish close and friendly relations with parents and citizens, so he should resist every tendency to erect barriers between himself and the community. He should refuse to identify himself with any narrow group or class, to assume a position of social or intellectual superiority, to nourish the pretensions and the snobbishness which have sometimes characterized the “educated”. He should manifest that natural and unaffected spirit which is both a requisite of learning and a badge of the truly educated, as it is one of the first evidences of wisdom.  Having established himself in the trust and confidence of the community, he will then be able to make of the school a vigorous and effective instrument of American democracy.


Responsibilities and Obligations of the People


            The people – the public, the citizens, the parents – are not without heavy responsibilities and obligations in the establishment and maintenance of a program of democratic education. Quite apart from their relations to government they have duties to discharge. In a democracy public education, like politics, is bound by the cultural, civic, and moral abilities and qualities of the people. Indeed they constitute both the basic source and the final judge of the program of the school. Although they may be misguided and perverse, there can be no appeal from their decisions. The major responsibilities of the people are threefold:

First, to achieve a more adequate understanding of the nature of democratic education

Second, to guard public education against attacks

Third, to establish and maintain a condition of mutual trust, understanding, and sympathy with the teacher

            The first responsibility of the people is to achieve a more adequate understanding of the nature of the problem of rearing a generation in the democratic faith. In spite of the long and deep devotion to the public school, they have never, as already indicated, seen this problem clearly and comprehensively. Molded by conceptions prevailing before the emergence of their own democracy, they have been content with practices and outlooks unsuited and even hostile to the education of free men. Today, after a full century of experience, their ideas about this crucial enterprise remain defective and inadequate. They do not yet see that democratic education possesses a peculiar quality which can be attained only under very special conditions. The establishment of such conditions – conditions which have been outlined in the foregoing pages – is an obligation which they cannot leave with safety to any organized minority or to the institutions of government. The entire argument of the present volume therefore is addressed quite as much to the American people as to the members of the teaching profession.

            The second responsibility of the people, having achieved the necessary understanding, is to guard public education against attacks from powerful and interested minorities. This means that they must take their civic obligations in relation to the conduct of the school far more seriously than they have been wont to do in the past. They must inform themselves on the issues and endeavor to place on boards of education persons who understand the meaning of education for democracy and are prepared to give that meaning substance. They must be alert to all efforts on the part of groups and organizations to pervert the process of tuition to their special purposes and be ready to support the constituted authorities in the discharge of their duties. This is difficult, but it is not enough. Something far more difficult is necessary. They must practice self-control. They themselves must refrain from ill-considered attempts to run public school. In the harrowing times that seemingly lie ahead, when passions may be grievously inflamed, the discharge of this responsibility will be peculiarly difficult. But the more difficult it becomes, the more essential will it be.

            The third responsibility of the people is to establish and maintain a condition of mutual trust, understanding, and sympathy with the teacher. Their obligation here is no less than that of the profession. They should know that in the measure that this bond is broken, in the measure that the teacher is made to feel himself an alien in the community, the school cannot serve as an agency for the education of free men. They should see that personal integrity is an indispensable qualification for anyone who would serve as guide and counselor of the young in a democracy. Particularly should they exercise caution and forbearance in believing charges of disloyalty sometimes made by uninformed and malicious persons and groups against the profession. Being drawn from practically all ranks of the population and having been reared under the influence of American life and institutions, teachers as a class are thoroughly representative of their people and deeply devoted to the ideals and interests of their country. Parents and citizens, therefore, if they believe in democratic education, should be quick to give to the teacher the confidence essential to the encouragement of honest and thoughtful instruction. In the relations between school and community a spirit of tolerance and charity is required from both sides.


A Moral Awakening


            If these were ordinary times, the exposition of the principles that should govern the control of democratic education could close at this point. But these are not ordinary times. Mankind is passing through one of the most critical ages of all history; human society is being shaken to its foundations, the social and political structure of the world is being transformed, inherited institutions are being altered, new doctrines and philosophies profoundly hostile to the idea of individual liberty are sweeping over the earth, the tide of despotism is rising among the nations, democracy is on the defensive everywhere. This situation calls for a general and swift moral awakening of the whole people – for a realization that their dream of a society of free and equal men on the North American continent may be submerged for generations.

            If the new despotisms should triumph in the Old World and divide the earth among a few great military states, the position of democracy in America clearly would be in dire and lasting peril. But even if those forces should be vanquished in the terrible struggle now unfolding, even if the new despotisms and everything for which they stand should be overcome, the crisis of democracy would continue in acute and threatening form. It would continue until those conditions which have bred the totalitarian movements have been removed – the instability of economic institutions, the failure to utilize in the common interest the advances of science and technology, the widespread sense of insecurity and uncertainty, the feeling of frustration among the youth, the fear of war and national aggression, the inequalities and injustices among classes and peoples, the severe discrepancies between the ideals and practices of democracy. To meet the current threat of the dictatorships from abroad and to remove the underlying conditions encouraging the growth of despotism at home will require a deep and sustained moral awakening on the part of the American people. From this awakening, government, the teacher, and the citizen should derive inspiration and unity of purpose in the control and direction of the entire educational undertaking.

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