Speech to Jewish Big Sisters

Standard Club | January 21, 1958

In the Military they call it firepower -- when they talk of machine guns vs. rifles. Intellectually we must have the same ratio.

Today I have no desire to pose as a modern Cassandra, a Chicago Cassandra, predicting the downfall of everything we cherish and respect. Yet I think it is important, necessary, and honest to express the opinion that many leaders of our country political, educational, social and economic -- are failing in their obligation to tell the truth to the youngsters of our day.

"We are asleep [in America] and the devil is doing his work," says an American released only recently after six years in a Communist prison.

Today Soviet Russia, we are told, is spending 10% of its national income on education; Great Britain 8%; the U.S.A. only 3%. Even in the depression ridden 1930's we spent 4%.

Today in Soviet Russia, we are told, 50% of all university graduates enter the teaching profession. In the U.S.A. the scarcity of teachers is posing a threat to the whole concept of maximum educational opportunity for all.

Today in Soviet Russia few qualified boys and girls fail to obtain an advanced education. In the U.S.A. 1/3 of the top 20% of all our high school seniors fail to graduate from college. Another 200,000 promising youngsters do not even "make the jump from high school to college."

We can't continue to waste youth -- our most precious national and natural resource -- in this way. Recently I expressed the problem in these words:-

..."In the Military they call it firepower -- when they talk of machine guns vs. rifles. Intellectually we must have the same ratio. The Russians have millions more people than we do. The Red Chinese have 600,000,000. We've got to be -- everyone of us -- as smart as ten communists..."

We live in an era of radical social, economic, and cultural change throughout the world. Yet most of us in the U. S .A. still concern ourselves with "business-as-usual." We urge our youngsters to go to college. Why? Because they will get a better job, improve their social position, gain entrance to better clubs, meet people higher on the social scale, make more money.

These reasons are typical of our American attachment to material goods and our desire, each of us, to make a personal fortune. But in any society, as Plato wrote in The Republic, "What is honored is cultivated and that which has no honor is neglected."

We have honored businessmen, lawyers, doctors, bankers and management experts, but America needs sages, saints, scholars and statesmen master-minds and master-spirits. We shall never get an adequate supply of them, however, until superhighways and supermarkets take second place to super-schools and super-churches.

We have neglected to emphasize to our youngsters that the five most important functions in American life are represented by the church, home, school, work and "civic-political" service. We haven't urged them to prepare themselves for leadership in these fields. We haven't taught them to abhor mediocrity. Nor has the older generation accepted its share of the inevitable financial burden. The time has now come for action. Our money and our energies must be channelled into five all-important areas where the major effort of our children, too, must be spent.

POINT #1: We need to spend more money on our universities and schools. Money will not cure all our academic problems to be sure, but without it we can kiss goodbye any hopes we may entertain for leadership in tomorrow's world. Without original, creative thinkers, we shall never produce the new ideas needed in an atomic, space-ship, inter-cultural world of growing populations and many races. Education is essential to survival in the next fifty years.

POINT #2: We need to tell our young people there is ne substitute for hard work. Vice President Nixon's 14-day week may be feasible in mass production industries. But automation and electronic calculators will never replace the need for rigorous mental discipline, or, the individual effort needed to produce a first-class thinker. Even today in the era of the five-day week, no important, influential, or powerful man or woman in American life works less than six days a week. No such person ever has or ever will. Ask Walter Reuther, Chief of the U. A.W., when he last worked 14 days a week. His answer will be "never."

POINT #3: We need to tell our boys and girls that excellence takes time to achieve. A master mind, master spirit, master craftsman is the work of years, not days.

POINT #4: We need to tell them to avoid the idea of "get rich quick," get results quick, "make a fast buck." True greatness, the kind of greatness America needs to survive, will come from boys and girls whose lives will follow a schedule, perhaps something like this one:-

Age 16-30 Study and learn; absorb new ideas and thoughts, build a solid home life. Develop habits Of silence and contemplation.

Age 30-50 Gain practical experience, Don't fear changes in jobs or career. Continue study habits. Develop confidence.

Age 50-70 Time of greatest capacity to produce.

We need to tell our children to check the lives of Winston Churchill, Pope Pius XII, Albert Schweitzer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Konrad Adenauer, Mahatma Gandhi to learn the most important truth: those who drink longest and deepest at the wells of learning and contemplation will have the greatest resources for leadership.

POINT #5: We need to advise our young people to give maximum time to the liberal arts, "The arts of free men," those studies which help to liberate man from the restrictions of ignorance and superstition, and lift the burdens of vice and corruption.

Does all this sound difficult to accomplish? Does it sound boring, costly, time consuming? If so take heart.

Many American communities are facing up to these important problems. Many are attempting to change incorrect attitudes of children and adults. Many are attempting to arouse new understanding of the importance of education, the need for hard work, and the other points I mentioned.

For example, let me explain how we in Chicago are working on these problems in our public school system.

Let me show you how we are attempting to inspire, cajole, exhort, rebuke, excite, and toughen the new citizens needed for the 2nd half of the 20th century.

FIRST: I said we need to spend more money on our schools and universities. Well, in Chicago, here is what we have done.

1. New buildings.

a) $150 million in bonds

b) 1950-1960 will probably be twice as big as any in history

c) 1930-1950 - 52 buildings cf. Our budget for 1958 - 53 buildings 20 years vs one year! But: school population at 15,000 per annum. 6 years we increase by an amount equal to all Milwaukee.

2. New teachers' salaries

a) Single salary schedule 1953

b) $500 1954 - $350 1957 -- $4,350.00 as of January 1959

c) From 15th place to 2nd in all America

3. New recreation program.

a) 1921-1946 - 63 playgrounds - 25 years no change 1¼¢ tax levy - no change

b) 1946-1956 - arguments and talk but no more playgrounds

c) 1956-1958 - 148 new playgrounds equipped and improved for Chicago's children

4. New health program.

5. Improved guidance program. (Pupil Personnel Program) 1955 - Only in high schools. 300 adjustment teachers. Budget - $88,000 1958 - In all 7th and 8th grade centers in elementary schools in more than 50 elementary schools Budget $111,000 - 25% increase

6. Improved Psychological Program Bureau of Child Study Psychologists from 1 - 7,500 children in 1954 1 - 500 children today

7. New Program for Mentally Retarded Since 1952 - 38% increase in pupils 31% increase in number of classes TMH added to EMH Cooperative Research Project

SECOND: I said we needed to tell our young people there is no substitute for hard work. Here are some things we have done to put teeth into that platitude.

1. New requirements for high school diploma.

English: Before, 4; After, 3

Social Studies: Before, 2; After, 3

Mathematics: Before, 0; After, 2.

"Greater Depth in Learning"

2. Increased "flunks" in elementary schools. No (1951-1952 3.55%) Significant change change (1952-1954 3.76%) 1% jump in 1954; (1956-1957 - 6.01%) 1% jump in 1955; 1% jump in 1956;

3. New program for "Gifted Children."

Before 1938 - 6 "programs"

In 2 years - 1955 and 1956 - increased more than entire period 1930 to 1954!

4. New requirements for admission to Chicago Teachers Colleges.

10% refused admission - first time in 20 years

Higher academic requirements

More liberal arts: 44 - 24 reduction in pedagogical courses

5. Stop issuing transfers from high school to high school. 1936 - 18,000 Tell where to go and they obey 1956 - 41

6. Increased authority to district superintendents and to principals.

POINT #3: I said we need to tell our children that excellence takes time to achieve. What have we done about that? Here are some points:-

1. Opened free summer school program so children can work more, learn more, advance more rapidly into higher education.

cf. 12 months school year

27,000 children last summer,

$l million - nothing from State of Illinois.

2. Increased emphasis on "Go to College' in Guidance Program.

a) Illinois State Scholarship Program.

3. Focussed attention on "drop-out" rate -- slowing down number of children who quit school at 16.

a) Dunbar Vocational

b) Hess 7th and 8th grade centers

c) Manley 7th and 8th grade centers

4. "Sprinkled" Junior Colleges in easy-to-reach locations in all parts of Chicago.

a) Number of students increasing while University of Illinois, etc. go down.

Well, I could go on giving you the facts, showing you that determination and intelligent planning can accomplish wonders, yes, even miracles, to equip our children for a new world with- new problems and new opportunities. In summary, perhaps it would be best to say only this:-

Never in world history has education been available so cheap, or so easy, as today in Chicago. Every Chicagoan can complete a two-year junior college education almost without moving from his TV Set. English, biology, history, mathematics, etc. via TV are being offered free to all citizens. Remember, too, that many graduates of Chicago Junior College get scholarships to finance a complete college education at the University of Chicago, at Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, or Loyola, You don't have to go away from home. First class education is available right in Chicago's institutions of higher education.

Add these factors together and we 'can surely agree that of all living human beings Americans are luckier than 99%. We are the 1% who must lead, inspire, and save the world, for the world is either lost or saved in every generation.

The expression"to make a break-through" has become a popular way to describe a great advance in human thought, experience, or knowledge.

Today we need a new break-through, a new vision, to create unity among men. Only through education and the rigors of true religion, only through hard work and fervent prayer, through humility and detachment from our own values, even the cultural or national ones, can we hope to attain such a unity.

This is the destiny and task confronting our boys and girls in the decades to come, 1960-1990. My sincere hope is that we of the older generation do not fail them now -- by providing a cheap, adulterated education; a pale, watered-down religion; a cynical disregard for the sanctity of marriage and the home; a smart-aleck attitude toward work which idealizes the "big operator" who "gets by" on the least effort.

Instead, let us hope we shall develop future citizens who will give us reason to be proud that the country of Washington and Lincoln has provided new and equally humble, leaders for a world desperately in need of guidance, help and courage.

Closing was extemporaneous.