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But there is no reason,
except the opposition of parents who want privileges for their
children, why every child in every civilized country to-day should not
be guaranteed by the community an equal opportunity in public education
and an _equal chance for promotion in the public or semi-public
service_, which soon promises to employ a large part if not the majority
of the community. _No Socialist can see any reason for continuing a
single day the process of fastening the burdens of the future society
beforehand on the children of the present generation of wage earners_,
children as yet of entirely unknown and undeveloped powers and not yet
irremediably shaped to serve in the subordinate rôles filled by their
parents.

But the reformers other than the Socialists are not even working in this
direction, and their claims that they are, can easily be disproved. Mr.
John A. Hobson, for example, believes that the present British
government is seeking to realize "equality of opportunity," which he
defines as the effort "to give equal opportunities to all parts of the
country and all classes of the people, and so to develop in the fullest
and the farthest-sighted way the national resources."[85] But even the
more or less democratic collectivism Mr. Hobson and other British
Radicals advocate, if it stops short of a certain point, and its
benefits go chiefly to the middle classes, may merely increase
middle-class competition for better-paid positions, and so obviously
_decrease_ the _relative_ opportunities of the masses, and make them
_less equal_ than they are to-day.

Edward Bernstein, the Socialist, says: "The number of the possessing
classes is to-day not smaller, but larger. The enormous increase of
social wealth is not accompanied by a decreasing number of large
capitalists, but by an increasing number of capitalists of all degrees."
Whether this is true or not, whether the well-to-do middle classes are
gradually increasing in each generation, say, to 5, 10, or 15 per cent
of the population, cannot be a matter of more than secondary importance
to the overwhelming majority, the "non-possessing classes," that remain
outside. Nobody denies that social evolution is going on even to-day.
But the masses will probably not be willing to wait the necessary
generations and centuries before present tendencies, should they chance
to continue long enough (which is doubtful in view of the rapid
formation of social castes), would bring the masses any considerable
share of existing prosperity.

To secure anything approaching equality of opportunity, the first and
most necessary measure is to give equal educational facilities to all
classes of the population. Yet the most radical of the non-Socialist
educational reformers do not dare to hope at present even for a step in
this direction. No man has more convincingly described what the first
step towards a genuinely democratic education must be than Ex-President
Charles W. Eliot of Harvard, perhaps our most influential representative
of political as opposed to social democracy.

"Is it not plain," asks President Eliot, "that if the American people
were all well-to-do they would multiply by four or five times the
present average school expenditure per child and per year? That is, they
would make the average expenditure per pupil for the whole school year
in the United States from $60 to $100 for salaries and maintenance,
instead of $17.36 as now. Is it not obvious that instead of providing in
the public schools a teacher for forty or fifty pupils, they would
provide a teacher for every ten or fifteen pupils?"[86]

The reform proposed by Dr. Eliot, if applied to all the twenty million
children of school age in the United States, would mean the expenditure
of two billion instead of three hundred and fifty million dollars per
year on public education. Ex-President Eliot fully realizes the radical
and democratic character of this proposed revolution in the public
schools, and is correspondingly careful to support his demands at every
point with facts. He shows, for instance, that while private schools
expend for the tuition and general care of each pupil from two hundred
to six hundred dollars a year, and not infrequently provide a teacher
for every eight or ten pupils, the public school which has a teacher for
every forty pupils is unusually fortunate.

Dr. Eliot says that while there has been great improvement in the first
eight grades since 1870, progress is infinitely slower than it should
be, and that the majority of children do not yet get beyond the eighth
grade (the statistics for this country show that only one out of
nineteen takes a secondary course). "Philanthropists, social
philosophers, and friends of free institutions," he asks, "is that the
fit educational outcome of a century of democracy in an undeveloped
country of immense natural resources? Leaders and guides of the people,
is that what you think just and safe? People of the United States, is
that what you desire and intend?"

In order not only to bring existing public schools up to the right
standard, but to create new kinds of schools that are badly needed, the
plan suggested by Dr. Eliot would take another billion or two. He
advocates kindergartens and further development of the new subjects that
have recently been added to the grammar school course; he opposes the
specialization of the studies of children for their life work before the
sixteenth or seventeenth year, favors complete development of the high
school as well as the manual training, mechanics, art, the evening and
the vacation schools, greater attention to physical education and
development, and, finally, the greatest possible extension and
development of our institutions of higher education. He also advocates
newer reforms, such as the employment of skilled physicians in
connection with the schools, the opening of public spaces, country
parks, beaches, city squares, gardens, or parkways for the instruction
of school children. He specifies in detail the improvements that are
needed in school buildings, shows what is urgently demanded and is
immediately practicable in the way of increasing the number of teachers,
paying them better and giving them pensions, indicates the needed
improvements in the administration of the school systems, urges the
development of departmental instruction through several grades, and the
addition of manual training to all the public schools along with a
better instruction in music and drawing.

There are still other improvements in education which have already been
tested and found to produce the most valuable results. Perhaps the most
important ones besides those demanded by Dr. Eliot are the providing of
free or cheap lunches for undernourished children, and the system,
already widespread in England and the other countries, of furnishing
scholarships to carry the brighter children of the impecunious classes
through the college, high school, and technical courses. Even this
policy of scholarships would lead us to full democracy in education only
if by its means the child of the poorest individual had exactly the same
opportunities as those of the richest. _It is not enough that a few
children only should be so advanced; but that of impecunious children,
who constitute 90 per cent of the population, a sufficient number should
be advanced to fill 90 per cent of those positions, in industry,
government, and society, which require a higher education._

There is no doubt that this actual equality in the "battle of life" was
the expectation and intention of those who settled and built up the
western part of the United States, as it has been that of all the
democracies of new countries. But this reform alone would certainly
require not one but several billion dollars a year; as much as all the
other improvements mentioned by Dr. Eliot put together. We may estimate,
then, that the application of the principle of democracy or equality of
opportunity to education in accordance with the present national income,
would require the immediate expenditure of three or four billion dollars
on the nation's children of school age, or ten times the sum we now
expend, and a corresponding increase as the wealth of the nation
develops. This would be a considerable proportion of the nation's
income, but not too much to spend on the children, who constitute nearly
half the population and are at the age where the money spent is most
productive.

Here is a program for the coming generation which would be indorsed by a
very large part of the democrats of the past. But nothing could make it
more clear that political democracy is bankrupt even in its new
collective form, that it has no notion of the method by which its own
ideals are to be obtained. For no reformer dreams that this perfectly
sensible and practicable program will be carried out until there has
been some revolutionary change in society. "I know that some people will
say that it is impossible to increase public expenditure in the total,
and therefore impossible to increase it for the schools," says Dr.
Eliot. "I deny both allegations. Public expenditure has been greatly
increased within the last thirty years, and so has school expenditure"
(written in 1902). But Dr. Eliot doubtless realizes that what he
advocates for the present moment, the expenditure of five times as much
as we now invest in public schools, at the present rate of progress,
might not be accomplished in a century, and that by that time society
might well have attained a degree of development which would demand five
or ten times as much again. Dr. Eliot is well aware of the opposition
that will be made to his reform, but he has not given the slightest
indication how it is to be overcome. The well-to-do usually feel
obligated to pay for the private education of their own children, and
even where public institutions are at their disposal they are forced to
support these children through all the years of study. This is
expensive, but this very expensiveness gives the children of the
well-to-do a practical monopoly of the opportunities which this
education brings.



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Keywords: instead, hundred, democratic, reform, instruction, educational, through, majority, require, increasing
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