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EDucation And The Labor Movement

by Dr. George A. McA. Miller, Ruskin College.
American Federalist Magazine January 1902

 

Every thing that would promote progress must reckon with education. The reason for this is that education is the fundamental thing in all progress. Humboldt says,'' The finest fruit earth holds up to its Maker is man. To educate man is the first duty. Trade, law, science and religion are only the scaffolding where- with to build man."

The fundamental forces of social life may be reduced to four. They are religion, government, industry and education. The solution of the social problem depends upon the formal adjustment of these forces. The difficulty of harmonizing them is due, in great art, to hereditary conflict. Government has been jealous of religion because the church as often usurped the alleged functions of the state. Religion has hated government because the state has often usurped the alleged functions of the church. Industry has hated both because the shop and the market have been but the slaves of the church and the capitol. Education, whose mission it is to harmonize all of these forces for the perfection of the race, has languished because the school has in all ages been made not simply the "hand-maid," but the liveried flunkey or the peripatetic policeman of the church and the capitol, and, in more recent times, of the market.

With this heritage of worse than Highland feud to deal with what hope is there of harmony ?

The chief hope is found in the fact that industry is asserting its supremacy ; that doing is taking precedence of both praying and ruling. The doer at last comes to his own.

The market is today supreme. The church and the capitol are chained to its chariot. The school, enjoying somewhat more freedom, is still but a contraband of war, snatched from the church and the capitol and set, like Vulcan, to forging and riveting bonds for the new slavery instituted by the market. To change the figure for greater clearness, yonder towers the market mounted with a Maxim. Its right wing is the capitol mounted with a flag.

Its left wing is the church mounted with a cross. In the rear rise the smoke-piercing chimneys of the factory. Yonder on the heights, overlooking all, and growing yearly in splendor of equipment by appropriations from the market, frowns the school. Why is the school there? Because each generation must be taught to protect the market and its adjuncts in its present status or it can not stand.

If education, as represented by the school, thus commands the situation for the maintenance of the present order, why may it not, without change of position, be made to command the situation for a new order ? It has only to train its guns upon the market instead of upon the factory to remove forever the Maxim which crowns it and to call industry, as represented in the factory into the market and its wings, and to place over all in the place where the Maxim rested the flag and the cross, making Government spell equality, religion, brotherhood and industry development. Then may it vacate the fort on the heights, and with the capitol, the church, the market and the factory, lose its identity in the harmonized life of the world. Then may it appear that there never was any real conflict between religion and government, or between either of these and industry, but only between the selfish, ambitious mechanism misrepresenting these forces.

But to do this the school, if possible, must demonstrate within itself the essential unity of these things. Is this possible? The question can be answered better by action than by argument.

Let organized labor make its demand that the school, from the kindergarten to the university, shall cease to be a mere police force for protection of the "vested interests '' of the few, and that it shall become the means for the development of all that is best in the life of all. Then may it come to pass that religion, in its social aspect, will be but the correction of government. That government will be but the direction of industry. That industry will be but the perfection of education, or the highest development and expression of the life of all.

 

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