NOVEMBER 15, 1957
BELOIT, Wis.—The change that seems to have come over us on the matter of reporting what is going on in the Soviet Union is a healthy one.
For years past we have had no reports of any kind as to conditions in the Soviet Union, its educational system, its manner of medical care, its advances in science. This apparently was due to the period in which we lived—a period in which we were all so thoroughly frightened by communism that nobody dared speak the word, much less report a study of any kind.
This stage of fright and, therefore, of lack of knowledge seems to be over. And now we have a report on a two-year study made by the Office of Education on education in the Soviet Union.
It may be that ex-Senator William Benton of Connecticut was partly responsible for having stirred up interest in what was going on in education in the U.S.S.R., because when he returned from that country he made it his business to tell everybody in Washington and elsewhere that he thought education in the Soviet Union was a challenge to us. I had hoped he was reaching the ears of important people, but I feared that not a great deal would be done about it.
Our newspapers, however, covered fully earlier this week this Office of Education report, which frankly states that the Soviet Union since 1927 "has shown almost fantastic gains in every level of education."
Thirty years ago, the report says, the country's (the Soviet Union's) 10-year primary-secondary school system had 11,500,000 students. Today it has more than 30,000,000. It is, of course, stressing science and engineering. And, the report indicates, the Russians have attained quality as well as quantity in education. The Soviet high school graduate, at the end of 10 years, is better educated than the American graduate after 12 years.
The report goes into detail on the priority given different subjects and the curriculum at different age levels. There also is a section on languages which I think we should note.
Every city in the U.S.S.R. I visited the last September had at least one institute for languages, and I think there are very few people in the Soviet Union who do not know at least two languages besides their own and speak them fluently.
Among the young people, I thought English seemed to be a very popular language, but I am sure that German seems equally important to them because of Russia's proximity to Germany and the fact that they can see the way the Germans are forging ahead in their war recovery program. Quite a number of machines I saw in Russian factories came from Germany.
Scientists in the Soviet Union are given both economic advantages and respect in the community. We should do the same for our scientists.
The disappearance of the Pan American World Airways plane in the Pacific was one of those mysterious occurrences which makes everyone wonder about possible sabotage or of failure in mechanical equipment or in human beings which we have not yet learned how to avoid.
One cannot help but have a feeling of great sympathy for families of those aboard this plane. We take trips by air so much for granted now that it seems even more difficult to accept the tragedies that occur from time to time.