Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Problems of the Age: 18: The New Education

Problems of the Age: 18: The New Education

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 19, 2011

For links to other parts of this series, see this chart.

For a statement on the unofficial nature (i.e., personal interpretation for discussion purposes, not necessarily representative of church doctrine) of these lessons, see this notice.


Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.

By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner

XVIII. – The New Education

Crumbling of Our Old Educational Systems. – Will our modern system of education be also shot to pieces? While the great guns on the battlefields are tearing up the earth in the most terrible manner, the forces behind them are at work everywhere in our social structure. Great wars make great changes, and there are ample evidences that new educational demands will soon be made upon all the nations of the earth. If changes come there must be a breaking up of our modern system. What is wrong with it will be revealed in the great emergencies that confront the world today. They are testing out the fortress of man for new responsibilities. We must think of education in the making and stability of man, and in his preparedness for the emergencies and rapid changes that are overtaking the world today. What have we found wanting in our present world demand for the high level of efficiency? First of all we are reminded that we are physically unfit. We must, according to present estimates, examine 2,500,000 men to raise an army of 500,000. It did not require a war to bring home to us the fact that there has been for a long time a deterioration in our physical manhood. Not long since we had forced upon our notice that there was a great increase in the death of men along about the ages of from 45 to 50. It speaks of a race rapidly run.

Physical Side of Education. – The city is gathering into its great maelstrom of vice an ever increasing percentage of youth who seek employment of a genial nature, employment as free from physical toil as possible. Vice, impute atmospheric conditions, and ease, are making great inroads into the physical powers of life. It is the business of education to give the proper direction to life. Our educators seem to think that if they give a young man a start he will keep on going. Do they help him to move along the road of his permanent well-being, or do they simply give him a vision of things that he may think about or talk about without doing them? Educators are forever focusing the eyes of the youth upon the pages of a book, till they not only force an ever increasing number to wear glasses, but actually force them more and more to see by the vision of others.

Evils of Our present System. – Not long since I picked up a so-called curricula of studies for our public schools. It contained thirteen subjects to be taught to children under fourteen years of age. What a lot of superficial dabblers our schools must turn out in an age of intensive application! If you object, you are told that the law makes it so. Who made the law? It was put through by our legislators. But who told our legislators it was what we really needed? A bill was deferentially put into their hands by some committee of school men. Who are these school men? They are those who have studied books during all the years of their youth, and in manhood went back to teach from the same books with which they had been educated. The people have grown to think that what our educators recommend must be for the best good of our children. It is just as if we started out to make all our children school teachers. Only a few become such, and the great masses of them are thrown out into the struggle of life after they had been fitted not for what they really have to do, but for the things they rarely think about after they leave the school room. If we further object, we are sagely counseled that the real mission of education is culture, an intellectual refinement.

Culture. – some years ago a number of young men knocked at the doors of Harvard University for admittance. They were duly referred to a dean who would pass upon their entrance. In assigning the young men to their work, one of them asked about some “cultural”subject. The dean was unsympathetic, and told them plainly what he thought of culture. He was a man of affairs who had been in active life and knew something of what men really needed in a practical world. To emphasize his point he related the following story of two farmers. “These men,” said he, “had met one day at a partition fence between their farms to talk. One addressing the other, asked John what culture was; ‘These people going up to Arlington for a summer outing are always talking about culture. They say, he’s cultured, she’s cultured, and oh my, how I do love culture! What do they mean?’ ‘Well, you know what wheat culture and potato culture is, don’t you?’ came the prompt reply. ‘If you take out the wheat and the potatoes, then you have culture.’”

The story had a very pronounced effect. Some effort has been made along the line of industrial training in recent years, but there has been a constant opposition to any suggestion that such a training should bear any relationship to a trade-school. In agricultural training, men fit themselves, more frequently for a position in private or governmental employment rather than for the farm, thus keeping theory and practice as far apart as possible.

A Suggestion. – A change is certain to come. It would be hazardous to prophesy just what that change will be. It is not unlikely that at some future time we may witness a school something on the following plan: Let us imagine a school on a 10,000 acre tract of land divided into lots of from five to twenty acres each. These lots might be set apart for the growth of wheat, alfalfa, fruit, sugar beets and a variety of other farm and orchard products. In the center of the farm could be located administration and school buildings. About the farm could be located houses for the boys and barns for live stock. Here each boy, upon entering the school, would be assigned to a lot according to the class of industry preferred b him and his parents. Under a skillful teacher he would begin his work at the school farm in such a practical way as to make him master of the kind of work he had chosen. If he raised beets a certain share would be turned over to him as az remuneration, and the balance kept by the school for its support. During a number of successive years he would change from one lot to another and thus acquire special knowledge in fruit raising, animal industry, or farming. Certain hours of the day he might receive class instruction from seed time to harvest along the lines of his professional work. In winter the school room would be open to him where, during certain hours of the day, he would enjoy scholastic and manual training. Such a school might be confined to summer work and the boy return to his home for the regular school, provided always that manual training be a compulsory part of his education. His physical upkeep would thus be assured, and the artificial training in a gymnasium would be eliminated.

A Change Needed. – another reformation that is likely to come is the introduction of men of affairs into the preparation of our school curricula. They should not be left entirely to school teachers. Such a body of men might well act as a sifting committee in all work to be submitted to the legislature, and to be adopted by school superintendents for the use of schools. We must educate into life, not away from it. Too much time is given to books and too little to the practical side of our natures. From the age of twelve, half the training should be on a school farm and only half the time in the school rooms. Life in action should be the aim of all our education.

Our young people enter the public school at the age of six. At about fifteen they pass into the high school, and at about twenty into the university, where they remain till they are twenty-four. Then, if they want a professional training, they take four or five years abroad. At thirty they take up the real work of life. They really begin life too late. The business or economic side of life has been wholly neglected. As they naturally become leaders of thought they are poorly equipped for the practical leadership of those whom they greatly influence. Our peculiar system of state education eliminates religious instruction which is after all the basis of moral force. Education is not simply a business that has to do with the intellectual side of life. To supplement our imperfect methods, the Latter-day Saints have introduced the religion class movement where children after regular school hours may receive instruction in religion and morals. There is a new awakening to the fact that our youth are deficient in spiritual insight. All the God-given attributes of man’s life must be cultivated if he is to fulfil the law of his creation.

It is further a fact that our schools are making dangerous inroad into the nervous energy of our young people. Whether nervous energy is lacking in them, or whether the call upon their energy is too great, the fact remains the same. Our educational system grinds all children alike through the same mill, because the system has become a machine that must work at a given speed.

Revelation of God to Joseph Smith. – “That whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent?” (Doc. and Cov. 29:49).

It is devoutly to be wished that some of our educators having knowledge would repent.

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doc. and Cov. 93:24).

The words are put in italics by the writer to accent the value of the knowledge of things. We prattle too much about ideals that have little reality in them. The slogan of our educators is ambition for those intellectual refinements which relate more to the speculative side of life, than to the useful and practical.

“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doc. and Cov. 130:19).

We believe in the eternal value of things, a knowledge we may take with us to another world, a world in which we shall work, and not sit and fold our hands and sing forever. “Faith without works is dead,” so is knowledge.


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