• U.S.

Education: One for the Money

4 minute read

Whether the U. S. gets its money’s worth for the $2,000,000,000 it spends each year on public education is a matter of perennial dispute between taxpayers and educators. Last week a group of experts, who had just completed the most ambitious inquiry into this question ever made in the U. S., told New York, which spends more than any other State ($277,900,000), that it does not get its money’s worth. Their proposals for making New York’s school dollars do a better job were broad enough to fit most of the other 47 States.

Three years ago the Rockefeller General Education Board gave $500,000 for this study because New York illustrates the best and worst points in U. S. education, has big city systems and many rural schools. A Board of Regents survey committee, headed by Owen D. Young, picked tall, spectacled Luther Halsey Gulick to make the survey.

Dr. Gulick, 46, is director of the Institute of Public Administration and a professor at Columbia. A Republican, he helped draft President Roosevelt’s executive Reorganization plan. One of his hobbies is invention, one of his inventions, a voting machine (not yet in use).

With a staff including such top-rank educators as Princeton’s President Harold Willis Dodds and University of Chicago’s Professor Charles Hubbard Judd, Dr. Gulick probed and tested schools throughout the State (but paid little attention to self-sufficient New York City), interviewed 45,900 parents, educators, employers, labor leaders, taxpayers, boys & girls in and out of school. Result was an eleven-volume report.

Worst failing of New York’s schools, reported Dr. Gulick and his fellows, is that they do a bad job of educating high-school youth. Almost all boys & girls today enter high school. Four-fifths do not go on to college. Still largely classical and college preparatory, however, high schools “fail to give boys and girls a scientific point of view and an understanding of the world,” funk their job of making good citizens. High-school youth, said the report, is “hardboiled” about democracy and freedom “and inadequately prepared to do what is required to preserve either.”

Dr. Gulick’s chief recommendation: let high schools add two years to their course for pupils who are not going to college; let elementary schools end at the sixth grade, let the pattern of elementary, junior and senior high-school education be 6-4-4, 6-5-3, or 6-3-5. In the first six years of secondary schools youngsters should get a general education in science, human relations, world history, community life, mathematics, the arts. In the last two years boys & girls aged 18 to 20 should be given general vocational training (“sound general knowledge undergirding a family of occupations”). Training for specific trades in school is expensive and unwise, says Dr. Gulick, because of the rapidity of technological changes.

Some other recommendations:

¶ Provide free kindergartens for all moppets.

¶ Double the number of State scholarships for college (now 3,000). Since New York already has enough colleges and universities, Dr. Gulick advises it not to establish junior colleges or a State university.

¶ Give rural teachers long-term tenure, raise their minimum salaries from $800 to $1,200.

To improve New York’s public schools as Dr. Gulick’s committee recommends would cost some $38,000,000. But he contends that the State can save more than $40,000,000—$2,000,000 net—by consolidating rural schools, enlarging their classes to 25 or 30 pupils, reducing interest charges on school building by more rapid debt reduction, and chiefly by eliminating some 8,000 teaching jobs as elementary school enrollments decline because of the falling birth rate.

Well aware that most surveys of education end in libraries, Dr. Gulick lost no time in starting a campaign to translate his $500,000 report into action. This week the Public Education Association in Manhattan gathered many a bigwig to hear Dr.

Gulick and Mr. Young plead for a better deal for New York’s pupils and taxpayers.

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