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Education: Plain Words from the Dean

2 minute read

Millicent Carey Mclntosh believes in speaking her mind. She has been doing it for 26 years as a teacher of girls (at Bryn Mawr and Brearley), and for the past year as dean of Barnard, Columbia University’s little sister. Last week, at the New York Herald Tribune’s annual forum, Dean Mclntosh made one of her most outspoken speeches, which had considerably more muscle than the inaugural address of Columbia’s President Eisenhower (TIME, Oct. 25). Said she:

“Our highly esteemed civilization . . . destroys the very qualities which have produced it: initiative, independence, intellectual resourcefulness. A generation . . . born in confusion, suckled in tumult, reared with cars, radios, movies, comics and picture magazines, can hardly [grow up into] reflective, sober, well-rounded young people . . .

“It is difficult now for parents to hand on to children clear-cut standards of what is right and what is wrong in the relations of the sexes . . . The air is blue with insistent voices . . . analyzing behavior as ‘normal’ which in the past we were accustomed to associate with the gutter.

“. . . [Progressive school teachers] who have concentrated on the [development of personality] have succeeded often in developing superficial, egocentric young people, lacking in discipline and woefully ignorant of the great cultural and religious traditions through which man has emerged from group savagery into individual freedom . . .

“[It is] our business as educators to . . . provide a moral synthesis which can guide our students wisely through a mass of contradictory [views] . . . It can be provided only though freedom of inquiry and discussion, and by . . . the personal idealism of [teachers] aware of the moral and spiritual implications of knowledge . . . Graduate schools and colleges which glorify research and publication at the expense of the art of teaching are guilty of a grave and perhaps irreparable sin against civilization. Communities which spend millions for alcohol, cosmetics and amusements, and what is left over for schools, are committing spiritual suicide. [We are] letting our world slide into an abyss of technological and moral confusion . . .”

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