JULY 25, 1956
NEW YORK—The National Education Association already is beginning to make its plans for a nationwide celebration of its centennial. A birthday party will be held nationally on Thursday, April 4, 1957. It has been set so far ahead so there will be plenty of time for every group throughout the country to make plans, and the association hopes that this is the best of possible dates, since it has tried to find a time which would be convenient for everyone.
The NEA centennial, of course, undertakes any number of events throughout the year. I think that it should be valuable to every community in that it will afford us an opportunity to review education in the United States over the past 100 years.
We will have a chance to evaluate the position of teachers in our communities and the needs of education as a whole. None of us doubt that there is need for more schools, because most of us live in communities where schools already are overcrowded.
How do we get these schools? How do we bring proper understanding to our representatives in the state and national lawmaking bodies?
No one will ignore that this problem is tied to the problem of segregation in our schools. We should explore the best way of meeting these problems and of achieving the desired result of obedience to the Supreme Court ruling. And such communities as can do so, should do so as quickly as possible.
Where there is need for preliminary measures, we should see that those steps are under way, for all our children suffer when we do not have adequate space to house them properly during the school period.
We should explore the need for teachers and how to improve the quality of teachers. No matter how good the buildings are, unless the teachers are well-trained and have the gift of imparting information and making their students curious, the buildings themselves will accomplish nothing.
We also need to study whether in any way the schools have failed our youngsters in the setting of standards and the enforcement of discipline. All of us have to learn discipline sometime in our lives, and it is better to learn self-discipline than to have it forced upon us by others.
But this requires wise handling by those in authority and, in view of some of the things which psychiatrists are telling us today, it might be well to revise some of the curriculum, particularly in the high school years.
These are the things which the centennial of the NEA should give us an opportunity to explore in every community in the country.