Address before the Livingston County Institute

"Teachers should be encouraged to enter teacher training schools with the idea that they are embarking on a permanent career. The mental attitude of teachers must be changed so that the biggest and most difficult decision would be the decision to leave the teaching profession, not the decision to stay in it. How can this be accomplished?"
Pontiac, IL • March 04, 1957

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an unusual pleasure for me to have the opportunity to speak before teachers. Members of Boards of Education in large cities like Chicago talk mostly with administrators and superintendents. It is a rare occasion for a school board member to be face to face with such an imposing audience of living, flesh and blood, classroom teachers.

School board members, in fact, spend so much time with administrators that last week I found myself in Atlantic City at a convention being attended by 20,000 of them. However I didn’t feel so bad after I heard one speaker tell this story.

A psychologist had given an examination to a group of students. One question was: “If a cow’s tail were a leg, how many legs would a cow have?”

The psychologist reported the results as follows: All students who answered “4" were headed for mathematics. Calling a tail a leg, they realized, did not make it one.

The second group has the tendency to analyze the idea of designating the tail as a leg and discussed at some length to what extent the tail could fulfill the function of a leg. They wanted to analyze and to experiment. According to the psychologist, obviously these were natural scientists.

And there was a third group. When asked the question they nodded their heads very gravely, pursed their lips, and without looking directly at the questioner, replied: “Now that’s a good question.” These were future administrators.

Following my visit to Atlantic City I participated in the Alumni Day activities at Yale University where I spent seven years -- not all as an undergraduate. I went to the Yale Law School, too.

At this Alumni Homecoming there was a panel of high school principals talking about the needs of secondary education. One member of the panel was the new headmaster of Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, an excellent school for college preparatory work. Before becoming the new headmaster, he was an Episcopal parish priest. He had been only 2-½ years at the job, and had come to the headmastership with no previous background as a teacher, or even as an administrator. After 2-½ years a friend of his said to him, “George, you certainly have changed. I used to be able to get an answer out of you. Now it takes you five minutes to say yes or no.” To which George replied: ‘Thanks for that compliment, Fred. I know now that I am an educator. “

Educators or administrators, you are all experts on education, This I know. Why? Because everyone in the U.S.A. is an expert. You are teachers, and therefore, at a meeting of experts such as all of you, it behoves the amateur to confine his remarks to areas in which his personal background, interests, and proclivities may shed an oblique light on the main subject. I shan’t invade the professional area, therefore, by attempting a direct discussion of the problems of teaching as such.

What I would like to emphasize today is the fact that most people are looking to education for leadership. People have a right to look to professional groups like yours for leadership. You can dispense with the tactics of political pressure groups. They are out-of-date for educational associations. The people don’t want politics or pressure. They want performance, professional performance, superior, Grade “A” educational performance from associations like yours.

Emphasis must shift from concentration on buildings, bond issues, parking space, boilers and other physical facilities. Instead, the public wants to know what we are thinking and doing about educational content of our school programs. They are asking about our curriculum requirements, higher academic history, literature and science.

They know that a leader must mould events as well as be moulded by them, and that he must raise his followers to his level of action, rather than be dragged down to theirs. And those levels must be the highest educational levels we can create.

Members of Boards of Education can be helpful in stimulating professional educators to concentrate more and more on educational substance. But you, teachers, you, yourselves are the ones on whom the final burden of achievement, success or failure rests.

Only recently at the budget hearings of the Board of Education in Chicago I heard substantial evidence that the American people are relying on education and are willing to give education all necessary help.

Listen to these quotations from the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry’s official statement on the 1957 budget of our Board of Education:

“ is apparent both from the standpoint of increased enrollment of young people in the schools...and the industrial expansion bringing additional people to our city that the school population of our city will increase and consequently will impose an even greater burden on our educational facilities. Our association has long espoused the advantages of Chicago, and encouraged business location here and, therefore, it recognizes the budgetary needs of the Board of Education must increase, and keep pace in the ensuing years to adequately provide for the educational needs of our people.”

“We willingly support the school budget as submitted and we will continue to do so when and where the needs and requirements of our educational system, as here, are supported by good management and justifiable plant improvements.”

Or, consider these excerpts from the Civic Federation of Chicago, one of leading taxpayers’ groups:-

“Schools building program is supported again by the Civic Federation. We will give full support to proposed $50-million bond issue in legislature, and will urge voters to adopt such a measure.”

“...We compliment the general superintendent for the “master teaching” plan, and for the progress in television instruction...”

“Compliments are also in order for the Superintendent’s on operation casts, and increase in revenue by careful investment of idle funds.

“The Civic Federation endorses these items on the Board of Education’s legislative program: –

"--Additional $50-m11lion bond issue far school buildings.

--Increase in State reimbursement for special education.

--Legislation to permit State’s sharing the cost of summer schools.”

“Local and state taxpayers will continue to provide money for adequate schools. As costs mount these taxpayers will insist on constant reexamination of policies for economic use of the school dollar.”

And note these recommendations from the City Club of Chicago: -

“1. School Building. We endorse the Board of Education’s request for permission from the State Legislature to hold a referendum in June, 1957, on a new $50-million bond issue for school buildings. It is the view of the education committee that the need for school buildings is so great in Chicago that it constitutes the kind of emergency which justifies another $50-million bond issue to finance the building of schools.

2. School Building Fund Tax Rate. We approve of the Board’s request for legislation to raise the building fund tax rate from 10¢ to 25¢ so that it may become possible for more schools to be built on a pay-as-you-go basis, rather than through the delayed payment system of bond issues.

3. Junior College. The education committee reaffirms the support of the City Club for the proposal that the Board of Education work actively to secure legislation to the effect that the State of Illinois provide at least $200 per full-time equivalent student in the junior college program.

4. Summer Schools. We commend the Board of Education establishment of free summer schools, and for the steps that have been taken to integrate the summer school program into the regular school program. We approve of, and support, the Board of Education’s recommendation that state aid be granted to support the regular program of education in Chicago’s summer schools.

5. Text Book Fund. The education committee concurs with the Board of Education’s recommendation that the rate for the text book fund for Chicago schools be increased to $.035 per $100 of assessed valuation from the present maximum of $.025.”

There are many indications to assure and reassure every person in this room that informed people, alert citizens, are today ready, willing and able to provide the best educational program our country has ever enjoyed. But just at the moment when public acceptance of education is at its peak, we find an overwhelming lack of teachers to carry on the job.

This shortage is caused in part by the low birth rate of the 30’s. Statistics we now have show the biggest child population in history, aged zero to 20; increasingly large population of older people, aged 50 to 80, but a decreased number of working people aged 20 to 40 – the age to which we must look for new teachers, new scientists, new political leaders, new businessmen, lawyers, doctors, etc., etc.

The Ford Foundation reports that the numbers to be educated in our country will continue to grow. The quantity and quality of the educational program must expand, too. And yet as life itself becomes more complicated and the amount of knowledge increases, the teachers: shortage reaches serious proportions. Nearly 350,000 more teachers will be needed by 1965 and there are no signs anywhere that such an increase in teachers will be met by all training programs throughout the nation. It is likely that the shortage of fully qualified teachers will approximate a quarter of a million by 1965, if present conditions continue.

Substantial increases in salaries, now on the way, somewhat relieve the situation. But salaries are now the highest they have been in years, and the teacher shortage is the most acute it has ever been. It is not likely that in the foreseeable future the schools and colleges can compete favorably with salaries being paid by business and industry.

It is more probable that the shortage will be met principally in some other manner, – by lowering standards for certification and teaching, by increasing pupil-teacher ratios, by tapping and training some unusual sources of teacher supply, by taking some steps to reduce the number of teachers needed — increasing the effectiveness of the teachers available, or by some combination or variation of the preceding solutions.”

As far as I am concerned, however, one important avenue of teacher supply has not been sufficiently explored.

Today too many qualified teachers are not teaching. They have left the teaching profession to get more pay in other professions, to find increased prestige in some other walk of life, to get married, and for many other reasons. But, the fact remains that thousands of qualified teachers are not teaching in the classrooms of America today.

It is a problem which the teachers and the public must face together. We must determine how the teaching profession can meet the challenges offered by other careers, and we cannot conclude, in my judgment, that salary increases are the sole answer. Today I should like to suggest for your consideration several points which might be helpful in retaining more of our qualified teachers.

First, our teacher recruitment and training program should be reexamined. Teacher candidates should be more carefully screened and those without distinct promise and strong career motivation should be eliminated. It is much better, in my judgment, to accept fewer candidates than accept lower standards. I think we should eliminate, insofar as possible, any easy way to get a teaching certificate. The position of teacher should be hard to reach, and the teacher should feel that he or she has achieved something valuable and enviable when finally the teaching certificate is handed to him.

In Chicago, for example, we have changed the admission policies of the Teachers’ College and the curriculum, too. Until 1956 any graduate of a recognized high school could enter teachers college. The mortality rates were high and much valuable time was list trying to make teachers out of unlikely candidates.

In 1956 entrance requirements at the Teachers’ College were changed so that applicants are now denied entrance unless they have a reasonable chance of completing the professional curriculum.

Back in 1948 any student who graduated from the Teachers’ College automatically received a Certificate to teach in Chicago Public Schools. Moreover, graduates from Teachers’ Colleges in other parts of the State of Illinois and the United States were not permitted to take the examination for teacher in Chicago’s public schools. These two requirements dated from a previous era and in 1948 they were woefully out of date. Beginning at that time, therefore, our teacher examinations of Chicago have been open to those from out of state as well as from Chicago.

At the most recent examination, candidates represented 36 states and more than 200 colleges. That’s one example of an improved method of recruitment.

Also, we have changed the time of year in which our teacher examinations are given. Now a student planning to graduate in June can take our examination in February and thus learn well in advance of graduation whether he or she will be qualified to teach in Chicago’s public schools. In previous years our examinations were held only in June and many potential teachers in Chicago’s public schools were lost to other school systems by that time.

Right now we are exploring the possibility of giving our Chicago teacher examinations in points as far distant as New York, Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee. Our theory is simple: Why should a teacher be required to come all the way to Chicago at a time of our choosing solely to take our teacher examination? If we want to open doors of opportunity to teachers from other colleges, it seems to me we should make it easy for them to take our examinations.

We have started personalized placement based on personal interviews of all new teachers, giving them for the first time an opportunity to select schools in various parts of the city rather than be subject to an arbitrary placement by our personnel department.

While these charges in our recruitment policies have been underway, we have matched them with changes in the curriculum of our Teachers’ College. In 1926 Chicago Teachers’ College was only a two-year course. 66 hours were required and of these 66 hours, 44 were devoted to professional courses which heavily emphasized pedagogical techniques. Today Chicago Teachers’ College is a four-year course. 130 hours are required for graduation. Of these, only 39 are required in professional subjects. The remaining 91 are all devoted to general education and free electives.

Even the 39 required hours in professional teacher training courses are by no means exclusively pedagogical in nature. Than include strong courses in child development, children’s literature, and the history and philosophy of education. Some of these could legitimately be included under the heading of general education. It is apparent, therefore, that Chicago Teachers’ College is becoming an institution where standards of performance are being improved year to year.

As a result of these new policies today 90% of Chicago Teachers’ College graduates are successful in passing our teacher examinations in competition with students from colleges all over the country. The Teachers’ College has been improved, and at the same time the Board of Education in Chicago has been able to obtain the services of teachers whose bachelor’s training has been received in other colleges, and these number more than half of the total number of teachers now in the Chicago Public School System.

During the period of teacher training, the standards of performance should be rigidly high. The spirit of the candidates should be carefully nurtured, and the challenge and adventure of a life of teaching should be stressed. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that the greatest men of antiquity were known first as great teachers, and later as philosophers and men of culture.

It was no accident that Alexander the Great living in the hills of Macedon sent to Greece for the greatest teacher he could obtain in order to raise the intellectual lives of his subjects. And who was sent to him, and what was the price Alexander the Great was willing to pay? You have guessed it. Aristotle was sent to Alexander the Great as Greece’s greatest representative of the teaching professions. And the price? Alexander the Great rebuilt, from the ground up, the entire city in which Aristotle had been born. I wonder if the United States America would rebuild the entire city of Hiroshima in return for Japan’s greatest teacher. The price might be $2 or $3 billion.

Teachers should be encouraged to enter teacher training schools with the idea that they are embarking on a permanent career. The mental attitude of teachers must be changed so that the biggest and most difficult decision would be the decision to leave the teaching profession, not the decision to stay in it. How can this be accomplished?

Teachers as a whole should be held to higher standards of performance and conduct, so that no doubt could exist in the mind of any potential young teacher (or anyone else) as to the honor and dignity of the teaching profession. The promotion system among teachers should be reexamined, and methods developed to allow rapid promotion of promising teachers. Competition and opportunity for advancement should be made a part of the daily life, and the trend toward the levelling off in salaries or in status should be reversed.

In Chicago, for example, we have had a three-year probationary period for teachers, but as far as I know we have never dropped a teacher because of unsatisfactory professional performance during the probationary period. The time has come in my judgment, to use this probationary period as it was intended to be used. We should institute comprehensive evaluation questionnaires like “fitness reports” in the Army and Navy, to determine the mental attitude and teaching ability of those who wish to become permanent members of our teaching force. Such questionnaires should be balanced with personal interviews conducted by specialists in this work, so that we can melee specific, recognizable progress in eliminating time servers and incompetents before they enter the teaching profession.

Automatic promotion based only on sonority should be modified. Sonority is important and should be given due weight in determining a teacher’s readiness for advancement in pay, but we have reached a sorry pass indeed if sonority is the only basis for determining whether an individual deserves more pay for more and better work.

Recently T. R. McConnell, Director of a Carnegie Foundation financed research project at the Berkeley branch reported that students preparing for college teaching ranked lower than the average college student. He reported further that students who received a bachelor’s degree in education ranked 17th in a field of 20 college majors. It is quite apparent from these statistics that education is not attracting the best possible brainpower.

I want to emphasize that the classroom teacher is the backbone of our educational system. The teacher’s career must not be subordinated to the staff or specialists groups, no matter what their special problems or opportunities. Our educational system will lose its vitality and our students will receive mediocre training if the professional classroom teacher is not regarded, and rewarded, as well as any other group.

The problems of dull and burdensome administrative details should receive the attention of all persons In positions of administrative authority and responsibility. Paper work should be cut, not just talked about. The heavy load of reports and forms should be reduced. One can easily understand the boredom of the younger teacher trained to fulfill a special duty and function in our society when she or he finds himself spending a disproportionate amount of time attending to clerical details.

Fortunately, in Chicago we have enough flexibility among our top level personnel that from time to time we can dispatch one or two of our best people to study successful methods which have been tried in other communities. For example, recently we sent two of our administrative personnel to Jackson, Michigan, to study methods by which IBM equipment might be used to maintain attendance records, registration records, and the results of tests given to students. We wanted to know what effect IBM calculation of these results would have upon teachers, clerks and others. Our objective was to remove from the backs of teachers part of the record-keeping which today burdens them. As a result of this study, serious consideration is being given to installing these IBM machines in our schools and thereby giving the teacher, as well as the principal, more time in which to concentrate on her duties as a teacher and not as a keeper of records.

The curriculum, the intellectual atmosphere, the spirit, and the inspiration of our teacher training institutions must be stiffened and heightened to encourage in all students the highest devotion to truth, a stimulated spirit of inquiry, and a willingness to take up the challenge to conformity and complacency.

You who are already teachers - how much, if at all, have you been encouraged to believe and remember that education is an art -- and that the essence of art includes what the artist omits, as well as what he puts in? What courses are we prepared to omit? And why?

Are we prepared to state what syllabus of courses constitutes a sound and complete educational program? Or, are we literally in the business of producing specialized workers for a hungry industrial machine, acceding to the most vocal demand in our respective communities?

I’m sure we all agree that merely to impart skills is not the totality of education. But, if such is not the case, what are we doing to awaken intellectual curiosity in our students? What are we doing to teach them why self-discipline and restraint are part of creativity in work, as in art? What are we doing to stir up a desire for self-education, and the know-how to pursue it after graduation?

I have no brief and glib answers to these questions. There are none. But, l hope I have conveyed to you dedicated and distinguished teachers some feeling for the public desire to improve the quality of our educational program -- not merely to add to the quantity or to the utility of the courses we teach.

It is well to be prepared for life, as it is -- but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is. Education must play a vital role in helping thousands of our young people to realize that this world can be improved, and that they can play an important part in building a better life for themselves and for their children.

Yesterday in church St. Paul’s famous Epistle on charity was quoted in its entirety. One part struck me as particularly applicable to teachers. It was this: -

”...Charity never falleth away. Whether prophecies shall be made void or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.”

Today hydrogen or atom bomb explosions could literally devastate the world, destroy knowledge, cause tongues to cease, make prophecies void. But, as St. Paul said – even then, charity would not fall away.

You teachers are daily practitioners of charity, and your work will not fall away. For you give of yourselves to children, every day, all day.

There is no more noble charity, no more exalted work than yours.

Impervious to threats, dedicated to children and the welfare of others, may you carry on your charity and gain the eternal rewards you so richly deserve.

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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