JULY 2, 1958
NEW YORK—Anyone who has heard William Benton talk about his trip to Russia in 1955 will be glad to see that much of what he has been saying is gathered into a book called "This Is the Challenge."
To me this book, if you have not been in Russia and seen the challenge for yourself, is "must" reading, for former Senator Benton sounded a warning before any of the rest of us had a chance to do so. It is a warning that all of us should constantly have in mind, for he believes that the Russian crash program in education is quite as important as sputniks or missiles and may have much more of an effect on deciding the world's situation.
He tells accurately what is happening in Russia, but he does more than that. He offers a program which he feels we should follow, and since there are not many people prepared to tell us what what we should do here, I think this advice may well have a stimulating effect on both our educators and our politicians. They perhaps need to realize o one basic fact, namely, that many years ago we had a great respect for education but that over the years we have become so accustomed to the opportunity for everyone to receive education that many of us do not consider it a privilege or something to be prized and much desired.
If books like this one can stimulate a return to respect for learning, I think a change in the attitude of the United States towards intellectual accomplishment will be a great advantage in meeting the challenge of winning to our side the uncommitted nations of the world.
The objectives of the U.S. in education are, of course, quite different from those of the Communists, but we must review our objectives and take a good look at what we desire to accomplish, namely, the development of an electorate able to understand the problems on which it votes, to form judgments, to think creatively and intelligently.
This book comes at a time of the greatest value to stimulate American thinking. I hope it will mean a thorough study of our schools and a willingness on the part of the American people to pay a greater amount for support of their school system in the hope that within a period of 10 years some of the intake in our prisons and mental hospitals can be cut down.
I was sad to read the other day of Lytel Hull's death. He has long been a neighbor in Staatsburg, N.Y., and his wife is a leader in philanthropic and musical circles in New York City. Their many friends will want to send Mrs. Hull their deepest sympathy.