JUNE 28, 1954
NEW YORK, Sunday—On Friday night I went to Bethel, Connecticut, to give a commencement address at the local high school, where 52 boys and girls were graduated.
Bethel is probably typical of the small American community. About half the youngsters are going on to college or to some further training, such as nursing or secretarial school. The others are going to work.
I drove out with one of the high school teachers and was much interested in her remark that she felt the high school had deteriorated after the obligatory school age had been raised to 16. In the old days, she said, only those young people who really wanted education stayed up to 16 years. Now they are all obliged to stay. For a few of them the answer is found in going to a trade school, where they can learn a skilled trade. But a number of them stay on and are bored, and it seems as though occasionally there is greater competition to see what can be left undone than in doing the best work possible. At this commencement, however, high scholastic honors were given, and one felt that the winners had done an excellent academic job.
I have always felt that if we required a longer compulsory schooling, it was important to have better teachers and to have a course of study which would meet the needs of all youngsters. It is true that some develop late and do not realize that academic training will be needed to get higher paid jobs and wider opportunities. One thing all young people should be told is that education never comes to an end. You can't stop learning just because you finish with school. If you do, you fall behind in the race; and it is a very competitive race in the world today.
You must go on taking every opportunity to learn that comes your way. Then you will be sure to move forward and not find yourself in one of those dead-end jobs which become so routine and so dull that life is just a round of the same thing day after day. If you go on learning, whether your actual work remains the same or not, you will still find that you are developing as an individual and broadening your interests along many lines. That in itself will make life much more interesting.
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The other day an old friend in England sent me an account of some proceedings in the House of Lords on the "Protection of Birds" bill. It is perhaps characteristic of the English that this august body should give time and thought to the birds of Great Britain. There was such unanimity of interest that my correspondent was led to remark: "What a pity it is that the Geneva Conference at some stage could not have introduced a protection of birds bill!"