Biographies & Memoirs

17. The Schools and the Problem of Peace

BY VIRTUE OF its geographic situation the United States is in the fortunate position of being able to teach a rational pacifism in its schools, without having to fear for its security. For there is no serious danger of a military attack from the outside, and as a result no compulsion to educate youth in a military spirit. On the other hand there is the danger of treating this problem purely from the emotional point of view. Yet little is gained by mere wishful thinking, without a clear grasp of the essential difficulties of the problem.

In the first place it ought to be made clear to youth that the United States may be at any time drawn into military involvements, even though a direct attack on the country need scarcely be feared. Mere reference to America’s participation in the last World War is sufficient proof of this. Even Americans can hope for true security against being drawn into military involvements only from a satisfactory solution of the problem of peace in general. It is necessary to warn against the view that political isolation of the United States from the outside can result in adequate security for Americans. Instead a serious interest in an international solution of the problem of peace must be awakened among young people. In particular must youth be given a clear understanding of the grave responsibility which American politicians have assumed by failing to support Wilson’s grandly conceived plans after peace was concluded, thus impairing the effectiveness of the League of Nations.

It must be pointed out that the mere demand for disarmament is futile, so long as there are great nations who are prepared to attain their future position in the world by means of military expansion. The reasonableness of the position represented by France, for example—namely that the security of the individual countries must be insured by international institutions—must be set forth. To achieve such security international treaties for common defense against those who break the peace are necessary but not sufficient. Instead, military defense resources must become internationalized by amalgamation and exchange of forces on a grand scale to such an extent that the military forces stationed in any one country cannot possibly be used exclusively for the purpose of pursuing the goals of that country.

To prepare the nations for such effective insurance of the peace, this vital problem should be clearly and sharply brought to the attention of young people. The spirit of international solidarity too should be strengthened and national chauvinism combatted as a harmful force impeding progress.

Schools ought to be intent on presenting history from the point of view of progress and the growth of human civilization, rather than using it as a means for fostering in the minds of the growing generation the ideals of outward power and military successes. In my opinion the use of H. G. Wells’ World History should be highly recommended from this aspect.

It is of indirect yet nevertheless considerable importance, finally, that in the teaching of geography and history a sympathetic understanding be fostered for the characteristics of the different peoples of the world, especially for those whom we are in the habit of describing as “primitive.”

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