NOVEMBER 18, 1952
NEW YORK, Monday—Day after day in all walks of life we meet people who are so worried about the state of the world that to them hardly anything is worth doing. For instance, they do not want to start new methods of education and can hardly bear to think of building anything because they are sure we are going to be engulfed by communism and that unless we suppress this terrible evil in our midst we are all going to be lost.
It is rather refreshing to talk to someone who recognizes that we run dangers not only from communism. Being a German, and an anti-Nazi, this person realizes that his own country faces a real danger from a return to Nazism. He, however, has the nerve to look into the future and decide that this can be remedied by changing German teaching. And he insists that you must begin with the child before he is five years old.
Of course, if you are sure that the human race is not going to be able to resist communism or fascism during the years until the next generation grows up, then it may seem to you uninteresting to study the ideas of a man like Dr. Ernest Theophil Thun. But if you have some hope that we are going to survive the next 20 years, what this professor is doing in his institute in Pederborn, Germany, will interest you very much.
Dr. Thun has been here to look at our institutions and has decided that there are some things he would like to copy, such as our method of testing children, and he wants to keep in close cooperation with us in this country. He says a teacher should not meet a child just in the schoolroom but should watch a child at play and get to know him as an individual, not just as a student.
"I believe the ability to criticize and make independent judgment can be taught," Dr. Thun says. "If German children can be helped to develop their full potentialities this will be the best insurance against a Hitler."
Those of us who have felt that one of the dangers of Germany always lay in the unquestioned obedience taught the child will find Dr. Thun's approach to the problem a hopeful sign. Perhaps we, in this country, should gain a little confidence from this because if Germany has time for education we certainly have time to give it consideration also.
To save ourselves from the panic and fear of the unknown, which we are suffering under at the present, we should teach our youngsters why democracy is important to them. What does it offer them that is better than communism and fascism? What are the ways that you practice it and how do you tell the Communist or the Fascist by his approach to everyday life?
If these things were known and understood by our children we need not be afraid that they would be lured into subversive activities. It would be well to study Dr. Thun's institute for child observation and see if we could learn something from him just as he says he has learned something from us.