What has been done with man can be done with men, if the world tries long enough and hard enough. And as to the cost—all the wealth of the world, save that necessary for sheer decent existence and for the maintenance of past civilization, is, and of right ought to be, the property of the children for their education.
I mean it. In one year, 1917, we spent $96,700,000,000 for war. We blew it away to murder, maim, and destroy! Why? Because the blind, brutal crime of powerful and selfish interests made this path through hell the only visible way to heaven. We did it. We had to do it, and we are glad the putrid horror is over. But, now, are we prepared to spend less to make a world in which the resurgence of such devilish power will be impossible?
Do we really want war to cease?
Then educate the children of this generation at a cost no whit less and if necessary a hundred times as great as the cost of the Great War.
Last year, 1917, education cost us $915,000,000.
Next year it ought to cost us at least two thousand million dollars. We should spend enough money to hire the best teaching force possible—the best organizing and directing ability in the land, even if we have to strip the railroads and meat trust. We should dot city and country with the most efficient, sanitary, and beautiful school-houses the world knows and we should give every American child common school, high school, and college training and then vocational guidance in earning a living.
Is this a dream?
Can we afford less?
Consider our so-called educational “problems”; “How may we keep pupils in the high school?” Feed and clothe them. “Shall we teach Latin, Greek, and mathematics to the ’masses’?” If they are worth teaching to anybody, the masses need them most. “Who shall go to college?” Everybody. “When shall culture training give place to technical education for work?” Never.
These questions are not “problems.” They are simply “excuses” for spending less time and money on the next generation. Given ten millions of dollars a year, what can we best do with the education of a million children? The real answer is—kill nine hundred and ninety thousand of them quickly and not gradually, and make thoroughly-trained men and women of the other ten thousand. But who set the limit of ten million dollars? Who says it shall not be ten thousand millions, as it ought to be? You and I say it, and in saying it we sin against the Holy Ghost.
We sin because in our befuddled brains we have linked money and education inextricably. We assume that only the wealthy have a real right to education when, in fact, being born is being given a right to college training. Our wealth today is, we all know, distributed mainly by chance inheritance and personal favor and yet we attempt to base the right to education on this foundation. The result is grotesque! We bury genius; we send it to jail; we ridicule and mock it, while we send mediocrity and idiocy to college, gilded and crowned. For three hundred years we have denied black Americans an education and now we exploit them before a gaping world: See how ignorant and degraded they are! All they are fit for is education for cotton-picking and dish-washing. When Dunbar and Taylor happen along, we are torn between something like shamefaced anger or impatient amazement.