Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Half empty

At a time when the shade of the Scopes Trial is being revived in Tennessee (just one of many monstrosities committed by Republican State Houses across the land as we reap the whirlwind of 2010 Tea Party movements), these undated words of Alvin Johnson ring as true as ever:

I maintain that the supplementing of half education is the more imperative challenge to the nation. It is not the working farmer nor the factory hand of the Middle West who keeps up an embarrassing propaganda for American isolationism in an era of worker solidarity or world downfall. That is the activity of the half educated. It was not the mass of the uneducated who espoused the Nordic myth or swallowed whole that preposterous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Listen to the half educated in Congress, and you will agree, the half educated are our real problem.
“The Future of Adult Education,” n. d. (New School Archive), 2;
qtd. in Steven Mark Ehrlich, “Transformative Adult Education, Institutional
Paradox and the New School for Social Research” (PhD Boston College, 1995), 68-69

The phrase "half-educated" seems to have come from Nicholas Murray Butler, at least it is so credited in Johnson's autobiography:

The New School was operating on the theory that the continued education of the educated is a vital national interest. Nicholas Murray Butler, with a true poet's sublime arrogance, had called America the "best haf-educated people in the world."The illiterate South Atlantic mountaineers are no menace to America. The somewhat literate McCarthys are a desperat menace. If we can't set up a scheme for educating the half-educated we shall have to fall back on illiteracy or semi-illiteracy for our salvation. 
Alvin Johnson, Pioneer's Progress: An Autobiography 
(University of Nebraska Press, 1960 [originally published 1952], 339

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