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Should Teachers Unionize?-President Harding as a Salesman-Paris-itic PoliticsA New Angle on Americanization-Representative Government in India-Will America Build Her Parthenon?-Defeating the Oil Famine.
teamsters strike, and so on; but as far as the practical effect of the agitation is HOULD teachers organize concerned, it registers approval of
themselves into unions and
Ma question is to the fore
Nine tenths of the written and spoken discussions of this issue are confined to the imperative urge to unionization implied in the glaring needs of teachers in matters of finance and freedom. The nation-wide debate on this problem has revealed a regrettably uncritical attitude toward the method proposedtrade-unionism. With only a few heartening exceptions, those who advocate the complete unionization of the teaching profession have frankly accepted trade-unionism as the best immediately practical approach to the problem of industrial and professional relations. It is true, of course, that many teachers, with an almost senatorial attitude of mind, have qualified the proposal of unionization with many reservations, promises that teachers will not strike as
SHOULD TEACHERS UNIONIZE?
Even those who oppose the unionization of teachers have, in the main, opposed it upon the hopelessly unreal grounds of professional dignity and a supposedly desirable, but actually undesirable, neutrality of teachers on all social and economic matters. I have looked in vain through the current literature of this agitation for any general recognition of the question that is in the foreground of all fundamental thinking on the modern industrial problem. The question that is challenging all students of modern industry, the question that every teacher should ask and attempt to answer before advocating or denouncing the unionization of teachers is this, May not trade-unionism as represented by the American Federation of Labor be a passing phase in the evolution of industrial relation?
My own belief is that trade-unionism, a goodly measure of which will always be necessary, has about outlived its usefulness as the dominant factor in the struggle for better industrial and professional relations. I am convinced that teachers are to-day contemplating alliance with a type of labor organiza
tion that enlightened labor will in time scrap in the interest of more statesmanlike organizations and more effective methods. Teachers who to-day unionize as trade-unions and affiliate with the American Federation of Labor may later discover that the movement that seemed a band-wagon proved a hearse.
When a penman indulges in such dogmatism, the common decencies of discussion demand that he place his cards on the table and frankly state the grounds of his opinion. Do not jump hastily to a conclusion. This is not the introduction to a reactionary tirade against organized labor, in the social usefulness and imperative necessity of which I ardently believe, as the reader will later see. Why, then, this cocksure statement that it would be a mistake for American teachers to unionize and affiliate with the American Federation?
Many opponents of such a move fear that affiliation with the American Federation of Labor would tend to turn teachers into radicals. I do not share this fear. My objection to such an affiliation is not that the American Federation of Labor is too radical, but that it is too conservative. By radical, of course, is here meant the habit of going to the root of a problem, not the popular perversion of the word which makes it mean the habit of making trouble for trouble's sake. The American Federation of Labor has done, is doing, and will continue to do an immense service for the workers of the United States in improving their economic status; but the plain fact is that the federation is contributing nothing to the industrial thought of the time. It is in the rear rather than in the vanguard of industrial statesmanship.
But let us look a little more closely into the alternatives the teachers face. Negative criticism of this sort is always a challenge to constructive suggestion. Let us accept the challenge.
Broadly speaking, there are only two practically possible ideals battling for control of industrial relations. These two ideals are militant trade-unionism and industrial democracy. Between these two there is no half-way house that will afford more than transient
shelter. In between there is only a medley of palliatives, temporizings, and opportunisms. Teachers, with their growing class-consciousness, must frankly choose between these two-militant trade-unionism or industrial democracy. Teachers must decide definitely whether they are to regard industrial and professional relations as a problem of warfare between competing groups or as a problem of representative government by coöperating groups.
A frank choice of either can be respected and can be made productive of good in the correction of certain immediate abuses, but anything less than a whole-hearted going over to one side or the other can, in my judgment, produce nothing but confusion and ineffective antagonisms.
For instance, what point can there be to a half-hearted unionization of teachers, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, but foregoing the right to strike? This is the proposal we hear on every hand. But teachers' unions stand to lose more than they will gain through affiliation with the American Federation of Labor unless they frankly join the ranks of militant tradeunionism and go the whole way on collective bargaining and striking. Such non-striking unions will sooner or later degenerate into the same sort of organizations as the old teachers' associations, which have signally failed to create professional solidarity, achieve for the mass of teachers better working conditions, or materially improve their economic status. Such unions will still be armed only with the weapons of moral suasion. And the grand adventure of exerting moral suasion is not enough to create and sustain an effective teachers' organization.
A teachers' organization must possess some more concrete power to wield if it is to be more than an amiable sewing circle passing pretty, but powerless, resolutions. There are only two practically possible ways of their exercising such power: one way is by adopting the tactics of collective bargaining and striking; the other way is by teachers' becoming responsible parts of a national educational system organized on the basis of representative government, by
creating and administering an educational democracy to match the industrial democracy that is coming with all the inevitableness of a glacier or the march of the stars.
Again, do not jump hastily to a conclusion. I am raising none of the objections frequently made to the American Federation of Teachers and its affiliation with the American Federation of Labor.
Certain opponents of the American Federation of Teachers raise holy hands in horror at the prospect of its meaning class domination of the schools. But we already have class domination of the schools. It is the class now dominating the schools that is raising the bogey of labor domination. We should probably have quite as good educational policies under the dictation of Samuel Gompers as under the dictation of some local street-car magnate whose major interest is in seeing the school system a sort of institutional pæan to the God Of Things As They Are. We should probably get quite as good results from the honest, human, amateur counsel of a labor leader as from the counsel of the occasional drab-minded, reactionary, visionless business or professional man who say it softly serves on our boards of education.
Other opponents of the American Federation of Teachers argue sophistically, like thirteenth-century theologians, that teachers have no business flirting with organized labor, because teachers are not employees; that they are not employees because they receive salary instead of wages. The American Federation of Teachers can, at least, charge this group of opponents with an atrophied sense of humor. Perhaps the teacher enjoys a little greater sense of security as to tenure of employment than does the day laborer, but in every other sense the teacher's problem is very much the laborer's problem. The teacher is less like the lawyer or physician with his fees than like the day laborer with his wages. And who can say that the average teacher's stability of tenure is not less than the stability of tenure enjoyed by the average employee of an established business firm?
Still others affect to believe, or at
least to assert, that, if teachers join the ranks of organized labor, freedom of teaching will be destroyed and teachers will become the terrified slaves of labor leaders and the enforced purveyors of labor propaganda. Heaven knows there is little enough freedom of teaching now. The history of American education, from public schools to graduate cloisters, is checkered over with instances of sinister censorship. Even in this late day of enlightenment, in certain universities, if a teacher thinks a thought of a later vintage than 1776, he must do it with a weather eye on the watchful trustees of dead men's estates. No sane person desires any form of organized censorship over the teaching mind of the nation. But the disinterested student of American schools refuses to grow disturbed over the menace of labor influence on the liberty of teaching. If labor had some access to the inner circles of our schools, it might inject into the situation a wholesome corrective to the dangerous dominance of boards. and benefactors.
None of these objections are, in my judgment, valid. The one fundamental objection to throwing the teaching profession into the ranks of American organized labor is based not upon what the American organized labor might do, but upon what American organized labor is. American organized labor is militant trade-unionism, a fighting organization without a philosophy other than the philosophy of the battle-field.
Trade-unionism has been, and still is, necessary; but it is an opportunist and transitional movement on the road to an ultimate organization of industrial relations upon the basis of representative government in industry. If I were a day laborer instead of a desk slave chained to a type-writer, I would belong to a union. But trade-unionism is not a solution of the labor problem. Trade-unionism is industrial militarism. The one worthy goal of an industrial civilization is industrial government on a democratic basis. To reach this goal, we must have industrial statesmanship in addition to trade-union strategy.
Somebody whispers that this is the counsel of perfection. In a sense it is. The plain fact is that the industrial
world is not ready for industrial democracy. Democracy, even in politics, cannot reach a high efficiency without something approaching a homogeneous people, a high level of average intelligence, and a general willingness on the part of all to accept responsibility. These factors are even more vitally necessary to the success of industrial democracy. Let us honestly admit that these raw materials of democracy cannot be found throughout the labor force of many industries. The adventure toward the democratization of industry must be made with vast patience and ceaseless education.
But-and here 's the nub of the matter-these essentials of democracy exist in the teaching profession. Democratic government will work in the average school, although it might not yet work in the average industry. The teachers of America have the opportunity to blaze a new trail for American labor instead of blindly copying the past methods of American labor. The teachers of America can give us the first dramatic nation-wide example of a "labor force" democratically administering their common interests. They can set the standard of achievement for American labor. Will they do it?
Nobody cherishes the idea of teachers' striking, but the gain might be worth the gamble if every teacher in the United States joined in a "general strike" of educators and refused to "take up school" until there had been effected an agreement on the complete reorganization of the American school system on the basis of representative democratic government.
I offer no detailed blue-prints of an educational democracy, but we shall linger in the dark ages of education until representatives of the rank and file of teachers sit on all boards that decide questions of educational policy, of teachers' salaries, working conditions, and the like. The personnel of many boards of education in American cities is a sad commentary upon the educational vision of our country. A few weeks ago I told an audience of three thousand teachers about a little Missouri village in which the board of education had two members who could
neither read nor write. Three thousand teachers laughed. Yet it is possible to find on boards of education in big American cities men who, relatively, are as little fitted by temperament, training, and vision to settle the educational policies of a great city. Educational policy and the major part of educational administration must ultimately rest in the hands of teachers if our educational system is to give a square deal to its servants and render an effective ministry to the mind of the nation.
Then, too, the school-room itself must be democratized. The average American school-room is a little autocracy presided over by an educational kaiser or kaiserin. We are trying to teach the meaning of Americanism with the methods of Prussianism. We are constantly dinning into the ears of students that the essence of American democracy is self-government, and from kindergarten to university we rarely give them the chance to practise self-government.
This, then, is the challenge to the teachers of America: give to American labor a dramatic illustration of what its next achievement must be-industrial democracy. If the educational intelligence of America is not sensitive enough to see or courageous enough to accept this challenge, then I for one am heart and soul in favor of every American teacher's joining the American Federation of Teachers and demanding that the organization, for the time being at least, go the whole way of trade-unionism instead of temporizing in a make-believe union that frowns at bad conditions, but may not strike. For anything is better than allowing the present penurious policy of the nation toward its teachers to persist.
But, let it be said again, it is not low pay alone or primarily that is causing the exodus from the teaching profession. The myth of dignity has been blasted. As President Davis, of Hunter College, has said: "The claim that teaching is more refined, has shorter hours, involves less strain than office work is pretty well exploded." The necessity of self-support is causing teachers to demand better pay, but self respect is causing them to demand self-government. This is the next step.
PRESIDENT HARDING AS A SALESMAN
OMEBODY has said that the
Sfailure of the League of Nations
in the United States was a failure in salesmanship. Let us not be drawn aside into a discussion of the soundness or falsity of this particular statement, but examine the general proposition, which is beyond question true, that many statesmen fail to carry through sound and creative policies because they are poor salesmen.
Nothing could be more to the point at this particular time when we are all speculating upon the possibilities of Mr. Harding's success or failure in pulling together the disheveled mind and distracted energies of the nation, to say nothing of the more challenging task of rightly orientating our country to the
altered international situation.
All human society rests upon salesmanship. The salesman is the sparkplug of civilization. Nothing of permanent value has come down to us from the past save by the grace of good salesmanship on the part of somebody. A great writer must be a good salesman or his writings will not live. Of course by this it is not meant that the great writer must be an adept in hawking his wares or advertising himself, but that his writings must be constructed in consonance with the principles of salesmanship. The art of literature, in one sense at least, is the art of capturing the reader's attention and then charming or convincing his mind. And that is salesmanship.
We moderns would know nothing of Plato but for the fact that Plato was a good salesman. And Socrates can still give pointers to ad writers. It may be said, without courting the charge of irreverence, that the triumph of Christianity has been, in a very real sense, a triumph of salesmanship. Behind the Nazarene there were no regiments, he controlled no syndicate of newspapers, nor were Palestinian bill-boards plastered with his pronouncements. By the sheer force of a superior pedagogical method, which is only another way of writing salesmanship, he captured and has held the attention of the planet.
No man can succeed as President of the United States unless he is a good good
salesman. And to sell a policy to the more than a hundred million folk who constitute this democracy is a more difficult task than any other salesman faces. Mr. Harding will succeed or fail in exact proportion to his ability to "sell" his policies to his associates, to members of the Senate and the House of
Representatives, and, above all, to the American people.
What are the things that make a man a good salesman, be he peddler or president? In the grand, but depleting, adventure of selecting and purchasing the furnishings for an apartment I have
just met a furniture salesman extraAfordinary-Mr. McAvoy by name. ter all, whether one is dealing with the League of Nations or a kitchen table the principles of salesmanship are the same. For that reason, it may be both interesting and helpful to set down the four salesman, and to note the fact that these things that make this man a superior four things are as vital to Mr. Harding's success as President as they are vital to Mr. McAvoy's success as salesman. Here, then, are the four strokes that make the picture of this effective sales
I. HE KNEW HIS CUSTOMER First, he knew his customer. The moment I entered his section of the store with my wife he called me by name and made some passing comment upon my connection with THE CENTURY MAGAZINE. Iglowed and mellowed under his ministry of personal attention. I knew, of course, that he had secured his knowledge of my name and profession from Mrs. Frank the day before, when she had gone on a reconnoitering expedition through the store, but I loved him none the less for his hypocrisy. I was his customer, and he knew me! I met another salesman in the same store several times during a purchasing period of two weeks. Now he would call me Mr. French, now Mr. France, and occasionally Mr. Glenn, but rarely did he hit upon the name I inherited from my father.
Somebody may suggest that this illustrates my vanity rather than Mr. McAvoy's salesmanship. Perhaps, but the point is that all customers are