EDUCATION AND WEALTH
AN ADDRESS BY P. P. CLAXTON, L.L.D.,
COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION FOR THE UNITED
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
April 24, 1919.
LADIES and Gentlemen, and fellow citizens of the new Republic of the World: (Applause.)
I was reminded a few moments ago, when you sang "God Save The King" and "My Country 'Tis Of Thee," that some years ago I happened to be on the ocean on my way across to England. About half way across, in mid-ocean, we had an entertainment on board ship one evening, and after the entertainment had about finished we ended up by singing both together. About half the number on board were English and the other half were American. Some one went to the piano and played the air and on one side they sang "God Save the Queen" and on the other we sang "My Country 'Tis Of Thee." The words were different, the music was the same; the thoughts were somewhat different, the ideals and the hopes and the aspirations and the emotions were the same. (Applause.) It has been so with us, and it is with you on this side the border-line as it is with us on the other side; and probably it is true with all those who speak the speech that Shakespeare spoke, those who know that good old Anglo-Saxon tongue and its phraseology; it is dedicated to liberty, to freedom, to democracy
Dr. Claxton's position is sufficient to qualify him as one of the outstanding educationalists of the Continent. His wide and varied experience in the training of teachers in Normal Schools of the United States; his service as Professor of Pedagogy and as editor of various educational journals, give him a broad outlook on the general field of education. He has held his present position as Commissioner of Education since 1911.
Democracy may take one form or another but its principles and aims are the same.
I have been asked to speak to you on the subject of Education and Wealth. In a democracy, we are accustomed to say on the other side of the border-line, everything waits on education. Material wealth depends on education; civic righteousness depends on the education of the people; social purity depends on education, and the individual welfare and happiness, after all, is only a matter of education, because there can be only one final aim in life and that is culture, which is not a thing coming directly from a school, or from one particular study or another, but it is the deepening and widening and refining and ripening of the human soul that comes with good living, from working intelligently at something with strong will and good purpose, not for selfish gain but for the common good. (Applause.)
So it all comes back finally to education. It has been my fortune, for a good part of my life, to plead with the people, to argue with them, to urge them and their representatives, in legislatures and other tax-levying bodies, to support education more liberally, to give larger amounts of money for it, because like other things good it costs money: I have been constantly met with this reply, "Mr. Claxton, we believe in education as much as you do. It is a desirable thing, and when we have the money, and are able, we will provide for the support of the schools liberally." I had to find an answer for it because they would say to me, "Living is first, food and clothing and shelter, and the material things of life." So I set myself to find if there was any relation between. education and wealth, and if I could justify my cause before hard-headed business men. One day I had occasion, with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of my State, to go up into a little valley county in the mountains, the Cumberland Mountains, to what we call an educational rally. It was for the purpose of speaking to the people, urging them to vote upon them- ? selves a tax for the improvement of the schools in that county. We met a few people in the County Court House and about the time I was leaving a man came in, apparently a man of some native ability at least. He came and introduced himself, and said: "I am sorry I am late. I wanted to hear you fellows speak. I wanted to hear what you could say for education. I'm ag'in' it !" Well, I knew what he meant; he wanted to know what we could say for it from his standpoint of adding a few dollars to his fortune of material wealth, to the improvement of his material condition. On the way home that afternoon, on the train, I tried to answer it, and in order to get back to the beginning, I imagined myself a wizard with the power to wield or wave my wand over the State of Tennessee, (It was in that State of my birth) and over the United States and the rest of the world, and, as I waved it, a mist and darkness came down out of the heavens and settled on the minds of the people. The mathematician forgot his mathematics; the physician forgot his medicine and the lawyer forgot his law; and the people forgot all that they learned in and through the schools-all they knew of acquired knowledge. They forgot to read and write. Then I sat and watched things work, and it was an instructive kind of proceeding. I was on a train hurtling along at forty miles an hour towards the east; there was one coming down the track the other way, from the east towards the west. I watched them run in head on collision! No, the conductors were a little more cautious and they stopped, and the trains stood until they rusted and melted into dust. We could not send a telegram any more. Within less than an hour every steam engine in the State and in the United States ceased to throb; you could not read the steam gauge any more. Before long all the industries of that country, and throughout the country, and throughout the world had stopped. The next morning there was no free delivery of mail; the post office did not open; there were no newspapers to deliver; there was no letter transmitted through the mails. Nobody could read and write again. And then I watched the merchant as his supply of goods was exhausted; and when they were exhausted, he harnessed up his team to the wagon and drove as far as was necessary to find someone who had a supply of the kind of goods he wanted. There was no longer a commercial traveller; no longer possible to get on the train and go for them, when the goods were all exhausted. The agricultural implements were worn out, and the brides were broken down, and they could not make steel to make any more. We were about to have an election in that great Democratic State, but the election was never held for the ballots could not be printed. It was only a little while until our government went to pieces, and then we found the people ranging themselves behind and under the command of the strong men; and they were fighting, one against the other, for the possession of a little bit of the alluvial soil along the river where the loam was deep, that they might scratch it with a crooked stick, as they do in all the world where the "curse" of education has not yet come, either directly or indirectly. Then there was famine and pestilence and they sent for the physician, but there was none. They sent for the medicine man of the tribe and he danced and sang around the stricken, diseased person to frighten away the devils, but they would not go. Then they sent for the minister, but there was none.-Long ago the churches had been banished and the Book of Life and Light had been closed, and nobody read from it any longer. They sent then for a priest of their superstition and he said there is an angry God, and he put a bright young man on a stone altar and struck him to the heart with a stone knife, and offered his body a sacrifice to propitiate the anger of the God.
Then, I asked myself what would this man's -land on the river be worth under those conditions, and what would become of all the wealth of the country; how much would be listed on the tax assessor's books? I imagined, to get another angle on it, a great fire or some besom of destruction sweeping over the country, and everything we call wealth, except the natural resources, were swept away; but in the doing of that it seemed by some means there was a transformation of the people, and they came out of it all with a good modern high school education, knowing chemistry and physics and biology, and their practical application in industries in the harnessing of waterpower, in knowing the fertility of the soil and making it produce, and labor saving machinery; and a good large number of men, graduates of the colleges and universities and from the technical schools, with power to attract an intelligent group of men of good education below them, and in less than one generation it was all reproduced ten times over.
Then I made for myself a formula. It was like this, and I believe it is correct: There are three factors making up the product and wealth of a country and all else of the kind. These factors let us call "x", "y", and "z". "x" and "y", with man's assistance, makes up the product of material wealth. "x" is the natural resources of the country, the depth and fertility of the soil, forest resources, mineral wealth, the climatic positions and conditions of the country. The second, "y", is the native ability of the people. Whether they have native ability of a high character; whether they have heads three stories with a mansard roof; whether they have high ideals, as they may have by nature, or whether their constitutions have been sapped by the vices and follies of their ancestors before they were born, at airy rate, these two factors are fixed. You cannot change the climate of Ontario by legislation, or by legislature or parliament; you cannot change, by any kind of edict, the native ability of the people. It is what it is, and only through the slowly swinging centuries can you, by good living and by practical eugenics, change, a little bit, the native ability of the population of a community. The third factor is not fixed; it is variable; it is acquired ability, the thing you call education-knowledge of the forces of nature; skill in controlling and applying that knowledge, of your relation to your fellowmen; skill in adjusting yourself to your fellowmen, in all the conditions and in all the vocations of life. That is a variable quantity, as I said.
Then I began to follow up; and I let "6" represent the first, and "4" the next; and I said 6 times 4 is 24; 6 times 4 times 1 is 24 still; but 6 times 4 times 2 would be 48; and I believe that it would hold, and I made investigation and I found that it always does. So 6 times 4 times 3 is 72; 6 times 4 times 5 is 120; 6 times 4 times 10 is 240. I have done nothing to the 6 and nothing to the 4. There is no change in the natural resources, no change in the native ability; but I have done what every statesman, who is worthy of the name, knows is the central principle of statesmanship. I have worked it out, changing the factor that is changeable, and no one has yet found a limit to it. I have offered a reward, and it has been standing these twenty years or more, to anyone who will find any country, anywhere, the conditions of which do not justify the principle of that formula. If anyone will find anywhere a people living in a country of any kind, regardless of the natural resources of the country, the people there being well educated and all of them able to read and write, and a good large per cent. of them with the education of. the schools, the high school and the college, with a good percentage of them with training and skill, technical training in engineering and chemistry and agriculture and other things of the kind-if I find a people like that who are not rich and powerful, and growing richer, then my reward holds. Or, if you will find anywhere in the world, though it may be the soil is rich as the valley of the Amazon, though the climate may be such that it will produce all kinds of crops the year round, though it may be a people with as good native ability as ourselves when we wandered in the forests of northern Europe yonder, dressed in skins of wild animals, or dancing naked in the moonlight; if you find a people like that who are ignorant and illiterate, wherever they may be, who are not poor and growing relatively poorer, then the reward holds again.
I said, if this thing is a worthy thing, then here is a good argument for it. But the first time I tried it on an audience I was attacked by a minister who said I was lowering the ideal of education. Then I remembered that I had heard a good many sermons against wealth and money, but I had never known a preacher who had refused to take pay for his sermons, and until I did I thought maybe he was not in full earnest. After all, is it a worthy aim? Does our good old Anglo-Saxonism lie out of the heart of itself when it calls these material things wealth, that which wealth, that which doeth good? If it is properly used I believe that in itself it is not so low as it is some times considered to be.
I said last night to some of you who were present then, that, after all, no country has ever yet lived above the dead line of poverty. I know we think we do. I live in a country that has boasted of its wealth, but in the greatest and wealthiest cities there are millions of people who live in crowded tenement houses. I have believed it would be a good thing if every family in the United States had a home house that cost, let us say, $10,000. I like to live in a house costing that much. I don't find that it corrupts my morals or lowers my ideals, or that I want to quit and cease work because of it. Many of you live in houses that cost that much and you are surviving the effects of it, and probably others would just as well. We estimate in the United States having 250,000,000,000 of dollars and there are twenty million families. It would cost $200,000,000,000 to build homes for them at $10,000 per family, and would use up practically all our wealth.
There is no country yet that has had money enough to give a good home to all of its people, so that its children may not need to be born :n cellars and be crowded in garrets, and live down in ugly, dirty streets. No country yet where there has not been some people who were hungry,-some who were cold in the winter time, some who died because there was not sufficient medical attention. There is no country yet that I have travelled in where they have been able to build highways and bridge their streams so that they may travel one day as well as another, and not be bound in the prison walls of mud and water.
I find in every country that I travel through that there are little hovels on the mountain side yonder, and dirty places in the little village, and many of them are not places of civic pride to those who live there and those of the country side who come to them. I believe there is not too much money until you have money enough to do all of these things, money enough to give surcease, or wealth enough to give surcease from toil to the great masses of people who labor, so that they may go out and see a bit of this great world in which they live for a little while; and not too much wealth until they have wealth enough to pay their teachers and their preachers; and for all to live a good, honest, upright life, without the fear of poverty hanging over them, and able to do all of the things that will be necessary. Now, if that is true, then my formula holds.
Let me ask you, for instance, what is it that created the wealth of these modern years? Is it because we are stronger, or is it because through our knowledge of the forces of nature, through the things that come from education in one way or another, we have been able to work to better advantage? Have you stood, for instance, upon a railroad track and watched the train go by? It stops there and after a while the engineer, or the engineman, pulls a lever and the train starts. What power of muscle he has in his arm? It was not the power of his arm, it was a mathematical formula learned in the school that started it along. So it is elsewhere. It gives to the natural resources their real value. May I tell you a few instances that illustrate this for me? I am going to take them from my own native State, and you can apply them here.
Some years ago, I was travelling from the City of Knoxville to Nashville, Tennessee, and I stopped in a little hotel where you could get a 25 cent meal for 50 cents. (Laughter.) That was about all there was there, and I looked out while I was waiting for a train, over a little field of bottom land, and I said to the proprietor, "What is that land worth as farming land?" He said: "The man who owns it has just refused $200 for it." And I could remember when it could have been bought for $20, and my father could remember when it could have been bought for $2, and my grandfather could remember when it was bought and sold for practically nothing. What has given it this value? It was on the railroad, and across the river there was a great bridge spanning it, and the railroad trains came in there, and others had invented labor saving machinery on the farms -the planter and the reaper and the harvester and the threshing machine; and that railroad carried the result, the product of that field, out to the city, and out to New York and across to the sea; and then the ships carried it to feed the hungry millions elsewhere; and for that reason land that had .been worth $2 an acre had grown to $20 and then to $200, and it will probably cost twice as much now. But, as you stand there and watch the train go by, it is plastered over from smokestack to caboose with certificates of graduates from public schools and from high schools and colleges and technical schools, and no illiterate, uneducated man ever did anything for it, except the man who lifted up his pick and put it down where a trained engineer told him to do so. (Applause.)
I was born in the Southern Confederacy. It soon went to pieces and the people were reduced to poverty, and I can remember when my mother used to weave cloth, in a somewhat expert manner, on a hand loom. We had no money to buy things of the kind with. She could weave her four yards of cloth a day. The other day I was in a cotton factory down in the Southern States, and I said, where are the hands, the laborers, the operators? They were not there. I said how many do you need in here, and he said one woman, or girl, for every eighteen looms and a boy for every eighteen hundred spinners. Those looms would weave in a day 1,200 yards of cloth, and that woman standing there watching them would weave as many yards in a day as my mother, a rather expert weaver as she got to be, could weave in all the days of her years. Was it because this woman had better native intelligence? Was it because even she herself was better educated? I looked at those machines, capitalized intellect they were; scientific formulae had gone into them, and I watched them as they wove the cloth, and when a thread would break they had sense enough to stop and wait until the thread was attached again; or a bobbin was out and it could put in its own bobbin and go ahead again; and out in the warping room the same thing, giving a value to it.
I know where a piece of land sold at one time for 2 cents an acre, a large body of land. You can buy it now for $30 an acre if you will take it all. It was iust timber land. What gave it the additional value? Railroads were built through it. Men trained in the schools invented the band-saw, others invented planing machines and other machinery used in making furniture, and that timber can be brought out to the world, and it can be used in making things of comfort in our homes, things of luxury for your palaces, and for that reason it took on this value.
I told this story last night, about an acre of land--not an acre, but a piece of land in New York which was sold some years ago at the rate of $33,000,000 an acre. What gave it its value? Was it because it was more fertile than it had been. Was it because it had changed its position ? Or was it because of the schools of the United States educating the people, with other educated people of a continent behind it, and the railroads radiating from it, and the people trained as agriculturists, producing the harvest out in the West, and from the mines taking the raw material, the ore, and smelting it and making it into pig iron and then into steel, and then working it up till it comes down by canal and river to the seaport, and great ocean going steamers, going from that port to all the ports of the world; and men have made the subways and the trains go ten, fifteen or twenty miles an hour carrying people out, and surface cars and elevated trains; and have made structural steel and erected buildings fifty stories high on it, and you can afford to pay $33,000,000 because it is the centre of an intellectual net work of the nation.
What gives a value to land anywhere, at any place? Why it depends on what you can do with it. A good illustration we had some years ago out in Kansas. The western part of Kansas was rapidly settled in those early days; a wave of people went out there and then they began to recede and move back East or go further West, because they found with lack of rains they could grow their crops only one year in four or five. Then the experts of agriculture, working at it, found the process of dry farming by deep plowing and by conserving the water one year for use the next, and the lanas which had gone down to $5 or $10 an acre jumped to be worth $25, or $45, or $50 an acre. If you have an acre of land out there and it will, with a certain amount of labor, grow 20 bushels of wheat, the labor costs you 15 bushels and the profit is 5 bushels, the land is worth therefore that value of 5 bushels of whet per year. If, by greater knowledge or more skilful handling, if by understanding the fertility of the soil better, if by a process of selecting better seed you can make it, with the same amount of labor, produce 25 bushels, then the value of the land per acre doubles, because you get twice as much clear profit on it; and so it runs for all of it. A good illustration you have in your Niagara River here. I used to go to see that and I wondered at the beauty of it. I saw it as it leaped and roared over the Falls, and on to the sea it went. But now, in the process of engineering you are harnessing it, and a man told me yesterday that his wife, half way across the province, was milking her cow by the falls ' of the Niagara yonder. (Laughter.)
There is another side to this question of education and wealth. If by knowledge of the forces of nature, if by controlling them we may make them do our work, if we produce wealth so that we may gain some leisure, if we can make those forces of nature our obedient servants, then it makes possible a higher type of education that comes through leisure. We have all admired that beautiful culture of Athens. Ten thousand citizens free, with their beautiful culture that we still admire; a flower growing out of the dung-heap of the vices of humanity below; for each free man ten slaves; but with our modern ideals we cannot repeat that. We have come to the time of democracy and slavery has gone. No longer will a man eat his bread in the sweat of another man's face; no longer is it thought to lay the lash of unrequited toil on the back of another. But, if you can make Niagara Falls work for you, if you can make the chemistry of the soil do your bidding, if you may harness the winds, if you may make the electric current your messengers around the world, if you can make expanding steam and contracting steel do ten times, a thousand times as much as contracting muscle, then every man may have more than his ten slaves. He may have his hundred or thousand slaves to do his work and he is no longer a slave to his own material needs and it is possible to shorten the hours of labor. We have already got to something like eight hours and we are working in places on shorter hours still.
I remember years ago crossing from Norway, or Sweden rather, across to Scotland, and on board the ship was a man from Glasgow. Glasgow was then the one example City of the world. It had its eight-hour day and its half holiday on Saturday. I was talking with a business man about the condition there and I said it must be a great thing for the common people. What liberty it gives for the laboring man to have this half day on Saturday and all of Sunday. His reply was, "It is a curse to them, because they don't know how to use the time." He said, "The only thing they know to do is to get drunk and sober up by Monday." I think he was slandering a part of the city at least. (Laughter.) But it is true, unless you give them something else, if you may gain the time then it is possible for us to have a culture as sweet, as enabling, as high, as idealistic as was that of Athens or any country. We knew it in the southern States to an extent, where those planters had their fine kind of culture and their beautiful hospitable ways, supported by the labor of slaves; but, with a knowledge of the forces of nature, with the power of adjustment, with the ability to control, we can make these forces do our bidding; we have the power as Gods to transform and harness them and make them minister to our material needs, and so to free us for conversation, for thought, for reflection, for music, for art, for architecture, for all the things that make life really worth living, and to bring about the things I spoke about in the beginning as being the only true end of life, the culture, refinement and deepening of the soul. (Prolonged applause.)
Gentlemen, if your applause means you think what I said is true, the only thing I can say is what is said of an orator of olden times-of course I am not an orator--but they listened to one orator and they said, "What beautiful periods"; but when they heard the other they said, "Go, fight filth." If you believe what I said is true put your money into the schools of this good province of Ontario until there shall be no forgotten child of man, and no lost waif of a child, and until there shall be no individual who has not developed all the talent that he has, to do the work of building your part of the new world in the new democratic civilization. (Applause.)