Are Our Public Schools Democratic? January 5, 1913

Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer, January 5, 1913
“We have had pressing upon us from the kindergarten through the elementary school a wholly new scope and breadth of education and have had pressing down to the high school another great congerie of studies that seem to be absolutely necessary for the student to know something about; and in the elementary school the two things have come together like a lumberman’s jam. Something has got to give way; we cannot have a shorter school day, more vacations, and more holidays, and longer summer vacations; we cannot keep on cutting off at every end our time of study and then pour in an infinitely increased content of education.
“The teachers are getting nervous prostration by wholesale trying to do the impossible – putting a gallon into a pint; and the children are following, too, in their wild rush for knowledge. You cannot simply set children to repeat and memorize, to do the mere things that mean the saying over and over and over of something enough to make it so that it cannot be forgotten, but we have got to have something that attracts the attention and holds the power of acquisition immediately, and so we have come into an era of demonstration. We have pushed the laboratory from the post-graduate course in the university down into the elementary schools and we are pushing it more and more, and now somebody ( I believe it is Mr. Edison) says that we are going to get our education quick, on the run, by the moving picture that is going to pour into us, as we stop for a minute between sandwiches, all that we need to know.”
Q: Does the speaker of the evening think that the right meaning of democracy ought to be taught in the schools?
A: Yes, I do. What’s more, my son, I think it should be lived in the schools.

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