AUGUST 29, 1959
NEW YORK—Because my mind has been so occupied with our Hyde Park school problems for the past few days, I have a few more things I should like to bring up.
It seems to me that the average parent is more concerned about such things as transportation, cafeteria services and extracurricular activities than he is with the very important subject of what is taught his children in school.
I suppose many parents feel that subjects have changed so drastically since they went to school that they cannot even help their children a great deal with their lessons, at least after they pass the early grades.
It is true that methods have changed greatly in recent years, and the content of a school curriculum is very different. This content has to change from time to time to meet the needs of the world in which we live.
Twenty years ago the knowledge of languages seemed much less important than it is today. Today languages are probably one of the most important things for our young people to learn. And history and economics cannot be neglected, even if the major subjects, as many people believe, are to be mathematics and science.
To really know the history of any country one must also know its literature, so today, I think, a child must have a broader general background than was necessary 25 years ago. This change in our needs intellectually has come because of the great changes in transportation and communication throughout the world.
Another factor is the two different philosophies of government that are now opposing each other and trying to gain supremacy. The basic difference, of course, is the consideration to be given to man as an individual. Under the Communist theory man exists to serve the state. Under the democratic theory the state exists to serve man. This basic difference creates a different approach to the individual. In one case the individual is all-important; in the other the power of a group of individuals, which constitute the state, is all-important.
You educate differently because you hold these different concepts. In our country, I think, our educators have an obligation to explain more fully than they do to the people, particularly the parents, what the reasons are that we need educated citizens today and why there must be great differences in the type of education we now offer our young people.
I have heard many older men and women say, "I got on very well with reading, writing and arithmetic. I only went to school for four years and I don't see that my children are getting anything much more worthwhile than I did."
If the children are not reaping more advantages, then it is because the parents had such limited backgrounds that they are not able to grasp and realize how differently their children need to be equipped to meet the world of today. They had better start out and improve their education as quickly as they can.