III. The Characteristics of Good Teaching in HistoryIn March, 1958, The University of Nebraska at Omaha presented the first Missouri Valley Conference for Collegiate Teachers of History. By contrast with the latest conferences the program was quite simple and the attendance somewhat modest. It was appropriate that the largest audience assembled on Friday evening to hear John D. Hicks deliver a special lecture. Since the initial venture the Conference has continued to grow and to fill a need in the professional lives of many historians in the area who cannot make the long journeys to distant cities to attend the meetings of other and older associations. The format of the Conference has remained substantially the same. It was at the closing meeting on March 15, 1958, that the writer gave the lecture on good teaching. Reflection upon the nature of history has produced some strange and contradictory statements, Ä so many, in fact, that perhaps it would be best to say with Carlyle, "Happy the people whose annals are blank in the history books." But some would be sure to reply with Cicero, "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born, is to be ever a child." As in the case of many problems in the realm of the intellect, Cicero's words provide a valid introduction. In considering the problem of the teaching of history, I am an utterly unrepentant advocate of history as the heart of the humanities, and the keystone of the liberal arts curriculum. In history, as in the other humanities, the primary problem of teaching is the difficult one of knowing enough to teach, and in history as in the other humanities it is sufficient that knowledge be pursued and passed on for its own sake. In recent years knowledge has not been prized for its own sake. As a consequence there has been a "creeping trend" toward illiteracy. Until six months ago the climate of public opinion seemed to be more tolerant of life adjustment education than of basic subject matter courses. One could read arguments to the effect that what seemed to them to be working so well in the elementary and secondary schools should be extended into the first two years of college. Some people were worried about the mounting rate of juvenile delinquency, but scarcely anyone had bothered to relate it to an educational diet that produced empty kids. Some parents
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got excited because it was said that Johnny could not read, but few of them turned off their television sets long enough to ponder the meaning of a parody on a well-known couplet, If Johnny can't read and Ivan can,
Who is then the gentleman?
And then there came from far out in space the faint "Beep" of an instrument mounted in an orbiting satellite launched by the Russians. I hope you will forgive my first venture into doggerel, using the old song "Ramona" as the point of departure,
Nikita, Nikita, I hear your Sputnik bells in space.
Nikita, Nikita, they are saying that you've won the race.
There it was on that October day, the first Sputnik was launched by people whom we had underestimated. Unexpec- ted by the great majority of our people, but still it was up there Ä a kind of bell in a tower of space, tolling the end of an era and heralding the dawn of a new age.
It is unnecessary to review the almost hysterical reaction to the launching of the first orbiting satellite by Russian scientists. The impact was dramatic, perhaps traumatic would be a better word, and well nigh universal. As much in anger as in fear experts, would-be experts, and self-appointed experts focused their attention upon our educational system as the source of our alleged national humiliation. Immediately responsible persons in government agencies and in foundation offices began to compete with each other in announcing projects to place more emphasis upon science and mathematics and programs to produce, and I use the word advisedly, to produce more scientists, technologists, and engineers. Empire builders in the favored disciplines licked their academic chops in anticipatory glee as they contemplated the banquet of dollars and prestige that awaited them. State boards of education hastened to announce new curricula that would rival, if not exceed, the Russian emphasis on science subjects and mathematics. Without too much exaggeration it may be said that we are being treated to one of the most curious phenomena in our history Ä presumably intelligent persons
History as knowledge of the past 53
on the one hand denouncing the Russian form of government and viewing almost everything Russian as a threat to our way of life, while on the other hand they are advocating with all the eloquence at their command the adoption of the Russian structure and objectives in education. Thomas Farrell, a faculty member in the Department of English at the University of Michigan, has said of this development,
In our present state of near panic about the apparent lag in our scientific achievement, the point of view of the humanist is not a popular one. Any suggestion that education is primarily to develop a fine human being will probably be looked upon as the merest wisp of dream stuff. Yet I cannot accept the current frenetic proposals to sovietize education.... I cannot willingly participate in the cattle drover's technique of luring youngsters into the study of science and allied fields by combining social pressure and special material inducements.
Surely the recent converts to basic subject matter courses in science and mathematics are not familiar with all of the implications of Russian education. At the risk of becoming vulnerable to the charge of making invidious comparisons, may I quote a small segment of George S. Counts, in The Challenge of Soviet Education.
The growth of Soviet power would have been impossible in the absence of the phenomenal development of Soviet education. In fact, apart from the dictatorship itself, the program of organized education, launched, molded, and expanded by the Communist party is the key to the understanding of the mighty colossus. More than any other great state in history, it has marshalled all the forces of organized education to achieve its purposes and advance toward its distant apocalyptic goal.... They have employed the full force of education not to maintain the status quo, but to change the course of history and the nature of man.1
According to Counts, Soviet education has reduced the illiteracy rate from 60 to 65% to 5 or 10%; played a basic role in the preparation of millions of skilled workers, technicians, and specialists; made an indispensable contribution to the training and equipping of the mightiest armed force on the earth today; transmitted the rudiments of
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scientific knowledge to a vast population not far removed from serfdom; gave successive generations of youth a sense of mission in the world, and endeavored, probably with a measure of success, to imprint on the minds of people inhabiting one-sixth of the land surface of the globe the basic doctrine, outlook, values and loyalties of Marxism-Leninism.
The current tempest over our educational system has given some people a chance to say "I told you so." These folk are the ones who have been crying, as voices in the wilderness, that our educational philosophy, curricula, and procedures are wholly inadequate. Among these voices has been that of Arthur Bestor, our fellow historian. He must feel that every time the Sputnik or Muttnik orbited overhead it was underlining some of the things that he had been saying about basic education. Some of Bestor's wounded critics may still feel that he is wandering aimlessly in the land of the Phiistines, but folk of the opposite persuasion hail him as the prophet, the very Moses, of the return to fundamentals in education. Some of these people in their optimistic excitement have permitted themselves visions of schools where students will study the so-called solid subjects instead of social dancing, family living, and automotive navigation. Some historians may have gone so far as to imagine that students in high schools will be taking courses taught by teachers trained in history. These people seem to believe that a revolutionary change has occurred in American education.
But it is precisely at this point that I wish to enter a motion of dissent. Those historians who believe that the present hysteria over science and mathematics will result automatically in increased emphasis upon history, as history, are much too naive and optimistic. Behind and beneath all of the tumult and shouting there remains as firmly embedded as ever the principle that has fruited in such a dreary and barren kind of education. This is the principle that knowledge is of little or no value unless it can be put to some functional or vocational use. This is the principle that has survived Sputnik to become the yardstick against which the disciplines will be measured. This is the principle that has become one of the most universal and most deeply embedded of the several kinds of anti-intellectualism. Some historians willing to
55 History as knowledge of the past
capitalize on the pervasiveness of functionalism and wishing to play the role of consulting architects in building the new society, have welcomed the opportunity to play a direct role in prompting good citizenship, democratic living and international understanding. Perhaps some have been willing to enlist their discipline as well as themselves in support of some economic or political program. Others have acquiesced in the development of conformity by substituting value judgments and generalizations for factual information. The pre-Sputnik climate of opinion was on their side. The conflict between East and West, Russia versus the United States, was said to be primarily in the realm of ideology. To the functionalists the material accumulated over the years by the historical profession was directly relevant to the struggle. A generation of Americans had grown up who were conditioned to the "use" of history to bolster political and economic programs on the domestic level. Learned members of the profession produced reports on historiography which seemed on the whole to argue that the teaching of history should be utilized as one route to a new domestic order. If true for the nation why not for the world? Without pushing this line of reasoning too far it seemed safe for them to conclude that the contents of the historical storehouse possessed direct relevance to the burning issues of the day.
But this is not the case right now. The historian who believes that functional or social science history will be included among the favored disciplines of the post-Sputnik era is dwelling in the never-never land of make believe. He is in for a rude shock when, on behalf of his discipline, he is required to answer such questions as, What can your field of knowledge do to produce a satellite? Or a trip to the moon? Or to "Zero-in" a missile on a target after a 6,000 mile ride? Almost in the twinkling of the eye the touchstone of functional education has changed from "togetherness" and social improvement to raw physical power. Getting up the highest, with the fastest and deadliest, and the soonest is the new gauge by which all educational enterprises are to be judged. It is not too difficult to imagine a weary traveller still called history coming at last to the Golden Gates that guard the lush meadows of federal dollars, the green groves of
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foundation grants, and the over-flowing streams of local revenues, which surround the castle of functionalism, only to be stopped short by some Euclidean creature with the question Ä "What can you contribute to winning the technological race with the Russians?" Unable to reply with statistically correct precision, history will be shunted off into the desert to dwell with the other castoffs and rejects.
To abandon metaphor in favor of plain language, the historian will be unable to justify the significance of his discipline in functional terms at a time when the only test is the production of X times 2 number of scientists, simply because Russia has produced X number. There will be no national television programs to exalt the historical profession and to enlist new recruits under the banner of Clio. There will be no national conferences to explore new channels of support for historical research; no wide array of scholarships and fellowships to lure the gifted youth into the historical profession; no weighting of examinations nor loading of the testing dice in favor of youngsters with high scores on the historical sections of a battery of tests, and most certainly there will be no suggestions that history teachers shall receive a larger share of funds set aside for salary increases. Nor will corporations or foundations rush forward to sweeten the pot in order that the same end may be achieved by a different route. No serious-minded educator will rush into print to propose a Smith-Hughes program for the benefit of history. The pedagogical game of functionalism will be played in the immediate future more universally and with more aggressiveness than has ever been the case in the past, but the rules have been changed so that the historians cannot compete, even if they wanted to.
So where does this leave the teachers of history? Out in the desert areas of higher education where knowledge must have a material, vocational, or functional application, or in the fertile fields of knowledge that are the humanities? I believe that the cathartic effect of Sputnik should bring every wayward historian back into the original home of the discipline. Of course those diehards who know a bit of scripture could point out that nations like individuals can work so hard trying to save their lives that they lose their
History as knowledge of the past 57
souls, and argue that it is the responsibility of teachers of history to assume a messianic role. But I doubt if even such a lofty, functional role would win much attention from the people who are devoting their minds and resources to excelling the Russians in the production of Einsteins and von Brauns. Of course the teacher of history will share with his colleagues in other disciplines the benefit of increased emphasis upon subject matter, but in the end he will be forced back upon his own talents as a teacher. He must stake everything on his ability to teach. Without crutches or props; without subsidies or special favors such as rigid course requirements the teacher of history will be out on the open seas of education developing interest in his courses, attracting students into his classes, and winning recognition on the basis of his performance. This is precisely the position that the history teacher who views history as the heart of the humanities should want to occupy. The challenge to the teacher of history is to assure the survival of his subject as a humanistic discipline in a system composed largely of required and functional courses.
In meeting this challenge gadgets, gimmicks, and gizmos will not help the history teacher very much. Whether he lectures or conducts discussion sessions or uses visual aids will depend upon his individual preference and talents. In the classroom the excellent history teacher may vary from the quietly enthusiastic type to the charismatic and dynamic ones. Although I do not intend to dispense even a small dose of methodolatry I do not wish to discount the importance of method. Training in historical research should fruit in an appreciation of the importance of method for the historian. The continuous discovery of new material in his area of research should be reflected in a constant awareness of the possibility of new ways of organizing and presenting data. The effort to redress the balance between method and subject matter does not justify carelessness or ineffectiveness in the classroom. But over and beyond all matters of technique and procedure the excellent teacher of history must possess a profound respect for the individual and a profound respect for knowledge. These two characteristics are singled out in order to focus attention upon two corrosive
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influences that are still present in much of our educational theory and practice. The first of these is the emphasis upon a kind of homogenization process expressed in life adjustment courses, group-thinking, and conformity to group decisions The second is the general acceptance of the kind of anti-intellectualism that glories in generalizations, specializes in functional objectives, and leaves the intelligence of students unenticed and unstimulated.
The phrase "profound respect for the individual" is used deliberately to permit discussion of at least two meanings of the word individual. In the first instance I regard it as a synonym for the word unique in order to focus attention upon this characteristic of every historical event. The historian looking at the rich and seamless tapestry that is the past, knows that every thread whether of the warp or the woof is different from the one next to it. He knows that after he has followed patiently and carefully many of the separate threads, that there will be numerous tears and jagged holes in the fabric that represents his best effort to reproduce the tapestry. Even so he will not be tempted to say that the answer to his problem lies in the assumption that because superficially all the threads seem to be the same, they are in fact the same. The creativity of the historian does not derive from his ability to prove a supposition that was the fruit of his imagination, but in being able to see the whole scene after he has looked carefully at the separate, unique components. He does only what he is able to do. He knows full well that those who come after him will have access to data that were not his, and to procedures that were unknown to him. He knows that his word will not be the last word on the subject. Not that an event that has occurred will, in some fashion, occur again. And not because some shift in the contemporary scene will change the event or alter its intrinsic meaning. The materials in the historical storehouse are rich and intricately complex, but there is no "Big Play-Back" in history. Because each event that has occurred is engraved in the granite of remorseless time and space, it possesses intrinsic meaning and no person can separate this meaning from the context in which the event occurred. There can logically be no such thing as rewriting the historical record in the sense of altering
History as knowledge of the past 59
or changing the sequence or intrinsic character of events. History as the written record, is rewritten rightly only as a result of increased knowledge. The idea that every generation must write its own history viewed from the premise of the granitic record of unique events is as illogical as the idea that every generation must select the genes and chromosomes of its ancestors. This emphasis on the uniqueness of each event does not mean that all the past is pure chaos; that events happening in time are like grains of sand in a shifting dune; or drops of water in a limitless sea. Nor does it call for some extrinsic formulation that will seem to give meaning to history for a day, and then be obliterated by the fancies of tomorrow. It simply means that the historian as man is simply man, and not God and that no matter the sophistication of his technology, he cannot discern finally and certainly the pattern of historical events.
I have emphasized the historian's respect for the individual event in history in order to emphasize the importance of the history teacher's respect for the individual person, whether student, colleague, historical character, or participant in present-day developments. Of all persons on a faculty the teacher of history should cherish and safeguard this foundation stone of intellectual freedom, of the right of a student to accept or reject a teacher's interpretation as distinguished from his information; and of the right of an author to have his book published as he has written it and wants it to be. But the implications of this concept go even deeper into the everyday activities of the teacher of history. He cannot indulge in guilt by association techniques simply because his victims are dead and cannot answer back. But this is what he does when he leaves the impression with his students that all American businessmen of the generation after the Civil War were "robber barons," filthy rich, contemptuous of their customers, and traitorous to their country, simply because they lived at the same time as Jim Fisk and Jay Gould. The teacher who leaves that impression does not base his interpretation upon evidence because the field of business history is virtually untouched. For the historian to lump all persons in a group as exploiters or
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conspirators or stupid just because one or a few of them are known to be vulnerable to such charges, smacks of historical irresponsibility. I have often been intrigued by the fact that in the field of law we utterly reject ex post facto legislation and view its prohibition by the Constitution as a guaranty of an important individual right, but in the field of history this rule does not seem to be operative. On frequent occasions individuals are moved out of chronological context and are compelled to answer questions that had not been asked when they were alive and plead to charges that were not crimes when the acts were committed. I have never quite understood why Alexander Hamilton is so uniformly presented against the background of a remark that he probably never made, "Your people Sir, are a great beast," when it is thought to be of no significance in discussing Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to mention that he said, I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand." My point here is not that the Holmesian remark is the key to the character of a distinguished jurist, but rather that it falls short of historical responsibility to characterize Hamilton in terms of a remark which it is not certain he made. More recently Roger Brooke Taney has been defamed by the allegation that he coined the statement, "a negro does not have any rights that a white man is bound to respect." Historians are not justified in putting words in the mouths of men or ideas in their heads when they cannot be heard in rebuttal; nor is the blighting of character any the less reprehensible because it takes place in a book rather than in a committee room.
But the loss of respect for the individual has had another effect that threatens even more pernicious developments. I refer to the almost obsessive preoccupation with the Group Ä always spelled with a capital G. I must confess to a feeling of nausea when I hear or read about group engineering, group integration, group equilibrium, group dynamics, group-thinking and social physics, or even of the more elementary forms represented by such pseudo-educational activities as life adjustment courses and training for group living. I agree fully with the remark attributed to a young pastor, "I firmly believe that when individual men will abrogate their moral
History as knowledge of the past 61
responsibility to machines and the group, then we have arrived at the state of hell on earth." There is more than a little truth in the statement that, "In an age of conformity and among men who take their cues from the group, the intellectual is a deviant." One is chilled by the fact that group-thinking, and its legitimate offspring, conformity, may become a national philosophy and that there may be less room for the deviationist here than in Russia. Leighton H. Johnson, San Francisco State College, says that the fundamental mistake in much group discussion is to exalt the group to such a status that it completely overshadows the individuals who compose it. He continues,
The elevation of the status, rights, and welfare of the group over the status, rights, and welfare of individual personalities within the group, did not bother zealous advocates of group process. They apparently failed to realize that this preferential attitude toward the group, and the consequent de-emphasis of the standing of individuals, is the basic tenet of collectivism and the fundamental assumption underlying collectivist thinking.2
When one remembers that for more than three centuries the individual was central in American thinking, he is appalled to hear people speaking of "the planned manipulation of the individual into his group role" and the same folk asserting that the road to salvation lies in a trained elite that will benevolently manipulate us all into group harmony. If it appears that I am unduly alarmed, may I remind you that a younger and much better known historian than I, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., described the probable outcome of the present trend toward conformity as an "homogenized society" in which "the bland would be leading the bland." Another writer some years ago remarked,
If the drift continues... .man will finally have engineered for himself an equilibrious society. Gelded into harmonious integration he will be free from tensions and frustrations, content in the certainties of his special function, no longer tantalized by the sense of infinity. He will at last have become a complete bore.
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The solution of this writer is expressed in equally picturesque language, "Lest man become an ethical eunuch, with his autonomy sacrificed for the harmony of the group, a new respect for the individual must be kindled."
I would not wish to be misunderstood on the subject of conformity. I have a feeling that much of the anguished outcry against conformity comes from avowed subjective-relativists who believe that values and principles vary with time and circumstance. A few years ago when the trends of the times seemed more to their liking, some of the people who today denounce conformity were among those who insisted that everyone agree with them as the price of intellectual respectability. I believe that there is a body of principles which does not vary with time and circumstance; which is the same today as it was in 1950, 1944 and 1936. I am appalled to know that an educator has said in print, "When the teacher relinquishes a faith in absolute values and substitutes a faith in mankind's ability to reconstruct values continuously for himself, the way is open for creative teaching...."3 The subjective-relativist who today is denoun- cing conformity is only the victim of his own philosophy, but there are some of us who are tempted to say "a plague on both your houses," and are disposed to believe that the real solution is to attack the philosophy that has produced the blight on the individual.
But many people will ask, "Has the teaching of history had anything to do with all of this?" I think that it has. As historians we have consented to the use of the subject matter of our discipline to promote all kinds of functional objectives. Emphasis upon the individual did not have much chance of survival in the age of John Dewey's influence upon historians. According to a sympathetic analyst, "Dewey's ethical conception of history makes it a functional study," first to aid in determining what is best for the governed and then to elicit their consent to the program, while kidding them into believing that they are acting as free individuals in a democratic society. If many historians of a decade or a decade and a half ago subscribed to this view we are indeed partly responsible for the dreary kind of conformity that has suffocated the individual. Even Max Lerner has said that
History as knowledge of the past 63
human personality has been straight-jacketed by the conformists and has lost itself and its uniqueness in the mass. In his perceptive discussion of the qualifications of the good teacher, William T. Hastings, president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, emphasized respect for the integrity of the human mind. Said Professor Hastings, "Let him [the good teacher] encourage each student to fight the way to his own independent judgment. The life of dogma is in the death of the creative human spirit."4 Because in history as in the other humanities, creativity is at bottom a lonely thing, the teacher of history will have an infinite respect for the individual.
At several points during the past few minutes I have come close to anticipating my second basic characteristic of the excellent teacher Ä a profound respect for knowledge for its own sake. I know that this view is looked upon in some quarters as pedagogical heresy, well deserving of the most extreme form of anathema. On the other hand, in my opinion it is the only premise that makes any sense out of the profession of historian and the only reason why he should stay in business. To reject the emphasis upon knowledge is for the historian an act of dissolution. Knowledge is his stock in trade. If he gives it up as a primary goal and ingredient he might just as well take intellectual bankruptcy and close up shop. The immensity and variety of historical materials warrant this conclusion. The subject matter of history is as broad and as rich as life itself, and it is as deep as the span of recorded existence. It is as varied and as complex as the subject matter of any field of study because in a sense it includes every field of study. Millions of people through centuries of time, scattered over the entire earth, each one different, living under all sorts of conditions in all sorts of places; doing all sorts of things: worshipping and working; planning and producing; writing and painting; governing and being governed; learning and teaching; fighting and loving Ä all of this and much more is grist for the historian's mill.
Rightly understood and rightly pursued the study of history is far more complex than many fields of study that are ordinarily thought to be the most intricate. To understand the basic problem of the historian as he tries to produce an
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accurate and meaningful account of what happened one hundred years ago, try to imagine what the task will be of those who in the year 2058 attempt to describe our day and generation. The best trained man alive today, with all of the benefits of science in communications, in computing machines, and in mobilizing data cannot do it, even though he is living amidst the events that are transpiring. In a sense the historian of the future will be expected to do what the contemporary of today cannot do. It is true that the factor of perspective makes the task of the historian easier than that of the contemporary, but even so trying to produce a faithful picture of the past is task enough for any field of study. Here it is that the historian must labor, always seeking the truth and always knowing that he will never know the whole truth. In the tradition of the humanities the role of history is to add its bit of knowledge, incomplete though it may be, to the intellectual storehouse. Knowledge of expression of thoughts in literature; of formulations of values in philosophy and religion; of creative achievements in all of the arts; of the deeds of engineers and scientists, of politicians and statesmen; knowledge of all of this and much more needs to be passed on from generation to generation, so that what has been, becomes a part of what is, and what is to be, simply because people know that it happened. This is task enough for any discipline.
But some of our colleagues want desperately to use the knowledge of the past to control the present and plan the future. They are quite willing to double as academic obstetricians in order to preside over the birth of a new discipline Ä functional history. They foresee an unlimited future of great significance as historical facts are brought to bear directly upon present problems. But the functional historians should temper their enthusiasm by considering the probability that the newly born infant will desert the house that is history, and the community that is the humanities, and go to dwell among the sciences, vocational subjects, and technical fields of study. There in the congenial company of planners, probers, and pathologists, this newest offspring of history will seek to work its way to academic respectability. Or a second possibility is much more likely to become a
History as knowledge of the past 65
reality. The offspring will turn upon its parent and devour it, leaving a cavernous void in higher education to match the empty chair that was history on the secondary school level. If functional history prevails, history as a field of study will cease to float in a state of ambiguity half-way between a humanity and a technical vocational subject. History as a record of unique fact will be replaced by a history whose content is determined by the shifting tides of educational whimsy and the changing hues of the political horizon. Subject matter will be selected not because of its intrinsic importance, but because of its relation to a present problem. Thus history may be one thing today and quite a different thing tomorrow. This type of functional history will doubtless acquire a jargon as well as a nomenclature; stress techniques and interpretations over knowledge and subject matter; develop laws, curves, and classifications, and in the end, be devoted to converting both past and future into a never ending present. To sharpen the contrast it may be said that humanistic history is like a great tree in its natural setting with roots running back through the soil of time and live foliage to delight and inspire many generations; functional history is like a Christmas tree cut down and set up in the village square. It is bright with lights and baubles, but lasts only a short season and then is thrown away. The axe of functionalism makes the difference.
In advocating their view, some teachers of history who are functionalists are openly contemptuous of knowledge for its own sake. Not so long ago a series of articles appeared in a journal which concerns itself with the teaching of history. At various places the author remarks,
History is a hodge-podge of data. It's in a worse mess than biology was before Darwin.... I am not opposed to pure research.... But if the research comes up with no useful generalizations, it simply results in more research. That is research for the sake of research, but not for the sake of the betterment of mankind's lot.... And before the teacher can preach the value and necessity of history, he must be convinced of its value and necessity himself. He must be convinced that he can draw useful conclusions, valuable generalizations, and learn `the lessons of history' .... The
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teacher himself must be greatly concerned with trying to understand the present, and avoid becoming a stuffy old fuddy-duddy completely immersed in the past. He should be immersed in the present.... But from the point of view of utility and necessity....history should be taught with the aim of attempting to solve social problems.5Perhaps these views will be dismissed as the enthusiastic argument of one person, but the teacher of history who believes that knowledge is fundamental should ponder the contents of the Report of the President's Commission on Higher Education which appeared some years ago. The following excerpts seem to leave little room for history as one of the humanities.
Effective democratic education will deal directly with current problems. This is not to say that education should neglect the past Ä only that it should not get lost in the past. No one would deny that a study of man's history can contribute immeasurably to understanding and managing the present.... It is wisdom in education to use the past selectively and critically in order to illumine the pressing problems of the present.... At the same time education is the making of the future. Its role in a democratic society is that of critic and leader as well as servant; its task is not merely to meet the demands of the present, but to alter those demands if necessary, so as to keep them always suited to democratic ideals. Perhaps its most important role is to serve as an instrument of social transition, and its responsibilities are defined in terms of the kind of civilization society hopes to build.. .The crucial task of higher education today...is to provide a unified general education for American youth.... But the knowledge and understanding which general education aims to secure whether drawn from the past or the living present are not to be regarded as ends in themselves. They are means to a more abundant personal life and a stronger, freer, social order.... General education undertakes to redefine liberal education in terms of life's problems as men face them, to give it human orientation and social direction, and to invest it with content that is directly relevant to the demands of contemporary society.... General education is liberal education with its matter and method shifted from its original aristocratic intent to the service of democracy.6
History as knowledge of the past 67
Here is a brand of anti-intellectualism that many people in the academic world have refused to recognize. These folk have denounced attempts of political leaders to circumscribe the activities of scholars and teachers, but they have acquiesced in the spread of a kind of dry-rot that poses an even greater threat especially to those who are in the humanities or more broadly in the liberal arts. Historian Max Savelle defines the basic function of the University community as "the expansion and dissemination of learning." I believe that. Historian A. Whitney Griswold, now president of Yale, in pleading eloquently for the restoration of the liberal arts to their rightful place in the curriculum, asserts that for centuries they have been "the intellectual and spiritual sustenance of free men."7 Ernest Stabler brings the whole matter into sharp focus when he says,
Thus one strand in the anti-intellectual pattern of American life may be attributed to those schools which have lost touch with the intellectual tradition and have abandoned the liberal arts. Graduates of such schools can hardly be expected to understand the role of the intellectual in American life and to appreciate the necessity for intellectual independence.8All of us know that the teacher of history has functional pressures from every conceivable source. A study has revealed a total of 1,400 objectives for teaching American history. This is truly a smorgasborg of functionalism. Of all the causes that seek insistently for our support, I have found it most difficult to deal with the group of objectives that are urged upon religious grounds. I am told that knowledge alone is not enough; that somehow the teacher who is also a professing Christian must do more than exude a Christian aura while imparting knowledge; he must seek to use the materials of history to support objectives that are distinctively religious in character. I select this example because I yield to no one in the conviction that Judaeo-Christian principles are the most precious aspect of our heritage, but still I cannot believe that the subject matter of history should be used in the classroom in propagating and perpetuating them. At the same time I know of no justification for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that is more valid than the simple statement that if
68 GEORGE L. ANDERSON
an omnipotent Creator created something or if in his infinite wisdom He permitted a sequence of events to occur, surely it is worth the time and energy of finite man to study and learn all that he is able to learn about these developments. On this premise knowledge is its own sanction and does not need the support of functional objectives.
Fortunately for the cause of higher education in the United States, Nathan M. Pusey is president of Harvard University. I know that some have said that he "was chosen to carry a standard for educational conservatism and tends to speak like a Puritan `saint,' Ä like one of the elect." Perhaps this is because at the core of his belief in liberal education is his emphasis on spiritual potentiality and intellectual power. I presume that a man would sacrifice some popularity by saying as President Pusey has said, "Present trends in education are making people happy illiterates." More germane to our subject are two statements, one on liberal education and the second on the good teacher. "Liberal education," President Pusey has said, "is the central concern of the American college and the potential leaven of a good society because of its commitment to knowledge, trained intelligence, clarified purpose, deepened concern, maturity, judgment, sympathy, and insight Ä these things and spiritual energy." After asserting that the creative teacher should be morally rooted, Dr. Pusey continued, "Devotion, knowledge, imagination, quick intelligence, patience, concern for others, awareness of beauty, grasp on principle, attractive personality Ä these are the great qualities that make creative teachers."9 The distinguished educator to whom we referred earlier Ä William T. Hastings, president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa on one occasion asserted that "...above all other qualifications [of the excellent teacher] is that primary attachment so obvious and sometimes so terrible, the love of the truth, and dedication to the pursuit of it, lead where it may." It does not seem to me that the two men are too far from saying that infinite respect for the individual and infinite respect for knowledge are the two basic characteristics of the excellent teacher.
History as knowledge of the past 69
1.McGraw-Hill (New York, 1957).
2."Abuses of Group Discussion," School and Society, 85 (November 9, 1957), 324-325.
3.Ernest Wesley Cason, "Teaching Creative Freedom as a Moral Issue" Phi Delta Kappan, 38 (March, 1957), 235.
4."Strait is the Gate." The American Scholar, 27 (Winter, 1957-58), 70-78. Quotations are from page 76.
5.Sydney Spiegel. "Motivation through Generalization," The Social Studies, 47 (May, 1956), 176-177.
6.Higher Education for American Democracy, Harper and Brothers (New York. 1947), passim. Quotations are from pages 5-6 and 49.
7."The Cost of Freedom: an Academic View," Bulletin of the American Association of Colleges, 43 (March, 1957), 7-13, especially 12-13.
8. "The Intellectual and America Today," Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, 43 (June, 1957), 331.
9.For one statement of President Pusey's views see his "The Exploding World of Education," Fortune, 52 (September, 1955), 198 ff. A brief analysis and commentary is contained in Maxine Greene, "Especially the Faith," School and Society, 84 (April. 1957).
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