- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Mar 1943, p. 396-409
- Langford, George B., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Recent interest in education, especially in education as a solution to various problems and social ills. The role of education in shaping the destiny of nations. Education as a force for revitalizing our democratic form of government. The problem of apathy on the part of the public generally towards our political institutions and how this has affected political development which lags far behind economic and scientific development. Teaching the principles of democracy. How the traits of character are related to our form of government. The writings of Lord Moulton, an eminent British jurist and parliamentarian and his careful analysis of human activities, divided into three categories or domains: enforcement wherein our activities are controlled by positive law; the domain of absolute choice, wherein we are free will agents to do what we wish; the domain or the land of "obedience to the unenforceable." A detailed discussion of this analysis follows. Character as the seed bed of democracy, and character building as the essential preparation which must precede the training of the principles and practices of democracy. How character building occurs. The importance of the public school teacher as a national asset. An examination of the teaching profession. Re-educating a generation of youths in the Axis countries as one of the great post-war tasks. A generation without any well defined political convictions here in Canada. Understanding how young Canadians came to have their present attitude. The influence of home life. The role of the university in maintaining democratic principles and practices. The obligation of the university graduate to the state. The need for leaders in all walks of life. The price of war in loss of life. Ensuring that every young man and woman of intelligence and promise in Canada is educated to the limit of his and her capability. The increasing cost of a university education. The need to teach democracy successfully.
- Date of Original
- 11 Mar 1943
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- Full Text
EDUCATING A DEMOCRACY
AN ADDRESS BY GEORGE B. LANGFORD, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.
Chairman The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, March 11, 1943.
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Gentlemen of The Empire Club: Before a guest-speaker is formally presented at any of our meetings, it is the duty of one of the members of the Executive Committee, delegated for the purpose, to obtain certain information for the use of another member of the Executive Committee in compiling the material which appears on the announcement card. In the case of our guest today, application was made personally to him, and, as I have worked with him and feel that his reply is so typical of the man, I am venturing to take the unusual course of reading that reply, by way of introduction.
He says: "According to our telephone conversation of some weeks ago, I was to send you a photo of myself and a biography. I do not know what your requirements are regarding the latter, but I hope that the following will more than suffice
Born in Toronto (giving the year); early education in Calgary, Alberta; university education at University of Alberta, University of Toronto, Cornell University; degrees, etc., B.A.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S.C.; professional practice as geologist for Ontario Department of Mines; Ventures Limited; McIntyre Porcupine Mines Limited; private practice as consultant. Worked in mining camps throughout Canada, Newfoundland, Cuba and South America; since 1937 Professor of Mining Geology at University of Toronto.
Will you kindly advise me where I am to send my manuscript for the radio people to censor it?"
He hoped that that skeleton would "more than suffice" and asked direction as to where he should send his manuscript "for the radio people to censor it". And more, he made use of all kinds of contractions throughout the brief note. This letter is a gem. It demonstrates the result of training, study and disposition. It shows, for example, that our guest is a student of literature and has learned that one of the qualities for which critics look is "contrast". As even "by taking thought" he cannot, even by a cubit, shorten his six feet six inches of stature, his literary instinct tells him that, for the sake of contrast, he should shorten its record of accomplishment, which he has most certainly done.
There are many items of interest which he omitted from that brief biographical sketch, such as, for example, one that appeared in the last issue of the University of Toronto Monthly, just to hand, announcing that he had been elected a Councillor in the Mining Branch of the Ontario Association of Professional Engineers, an honour upon which this Club congratulates him.
Gentlemen: Dr. George S. Langford, Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Toronto, who will address us on the subject, "Educating a Democracy". (Applause.)
DR. GEORGE B. LANGFORD: Mr. Chairman, Guests and Members of The Empire Club: I am certainly very grateful to you for the honour that you have done me in asking me to be here today. That is no perfunctory statement. The ideas which I am going to discuss have been convictions of mine for some time and the opportunity to discuss them publicly is decidedly encouraging. Therefore, in thanking you, I do so in all sincerity.
In this day and age there is a great urge for a speaker to be swept away by the importance to him, at any rate, of his topic. He puts it forward as a cure-all for the current ills of the day. I trust that I have not fallen into this trap for my topic is one that concerned us before the war, is of importance at the present moment, and will be increasingly so when the war is over. Its immediate solution will not contribute materially to our war effort, but it will contribute much to the holding together of the country and the Empire in the days that lie ahead.
In recent months we have all seen or heard educational matters referred to with growing emphasis on their importance. Quite often we hear that the cure for such and such an issue is to educate the people. In the United States a recently issued postage stamp has these four words in bold type on it, "Security, Conservation, Health, and Education". Thus the importance of education is officially recognized, and given equal status with these other leading national issues. This is not because of the illiteracy of people today, or the need for a better and wider-spread teaching of the three R's. People generally, and our leaders specifically, are at long last realizing what education can accomplish in shaping the destiny of the nation. We have only to look at the important part played by educational methods in welding the Russian nation together, or in making the Axis countries the great powers which they have been. It can be as important a force for revitalizing our democratic form of government as it was in inculcating political doctrines into the minds of the peoples in the Axis countries. That is why the importance of education is being stressed today. But it will only become such a force through the will and determination of our people. Let us not be blind to the issue before us. We all realize that there is a tremendous apathy on the part of the public generally towards our political institutions, and because of this lack of interest, political development of the country has lagged far behind the economic and scientific development. This condition must be rectified if we are to have a balanced state and stability within our borders. Because education can do much to bring this about, it is one of the most important tools we possess today.
Teaching the principles of democracy is one of our most important problems and at the same time it is one of the most difficult ones. It is not merely a matter of putting another course in the curriculum, and leaving the burden of instruction to the school teacher. We cannot discharge our duty as easily as that. The problem of making democratic citizens has its beginnings in the home and the primary schools, where the children are given the moral and ethical background necessary for the maintenance of self government, and then the political practices of our country can be successfully added. This was the practice followed in Germany. The Nazis taught the children a belief that the Germans were a master race -a belief that they were hedged in and denied living room and access to the raw materials of the world-and a hatred of Jews. When these beliefs were firmly driven home, it was comparatively easy to teach the young and receptive minds the principles of a system which would rectify all these ills. The teaching of democracy involves two similar steps, even though what we teach is diametrically opposed to the Nazi doctrines. In the parlance of the gardener, we must carefully prepare a seed bed before we can plant the seed. This simile can be carried further by saying that the success of our planting depends directly on the care and thoroughness with which the seed bed was prepared. In the Axis countries the seed bed was hatred and fear. In the democracies it is the principles and practices of correct conduct, which embraces such concepts as morality, ethics, self-discipline and a sense of duty-commonly referred to as traits of character. You may wonder just how these traits of character are related to our form of government. The relationship was made startlingly clear by Lord Moulton, an eminent British jurist and parliamentarian. He did it by a careful analysis of human activities, which he divided into three categories or domains.
The first is the domain of enforcement, wherein our activities are controlled by positive law. At the other extreme is the domain of absolute choice, wherein we are free will agents to do what we wish. Between these two, lies a great and important domain or land which he called the land of "obedience to the unenforceable". Here belong all those actions which we do because of a sense of duty, fairness, taste, custom, manners or convention. Because of one or the other of these reasons, society differentiates between what is right and what is wrong, and it has, or should have, the self discipline to force itself to take the proper course. The actions which belong to this domain must not be confused with free will actions which we can do or not as we see fit. Actions in this domain are obligatory, and our principles are our guide in dictating what action we, as individuals, will take. Lord Moulton also called it the "domain of manners" and stressed its importance as follows: "The dangers that threaten the maintenance of this domain of manners arise from its situation between the region of absolute choice and the region of positive law. There are countless supporters of the movement to enlarge the sphere of positive law. In many countries-especially in the younger nations-there is a tendency to make laws to regulate everything. On the other hand, there is a growing tendency to treat matters that are not regulated by positive law as being matters of absolute choice. Both these movements are encroachments on the middle land, and to my mind the real greatness of a nation, its true civilization is measured by the extent of this land of obedience to the unenforceable. It measures the extent to which the nation trusts its citizens, and its existence and area testify to the way they behave in response to that trust. Mere obedience to law does not measure the greatness of a nation. It can easily be obtained by a strong executive, and most easily from a timorous people. Nor is the license of behaviour, which so often accompanies the absence of law, and which is miscalled liberty, a proof of greatness. The true test is the extent to which individuals can be trusted to obey pelf-imposed law."
Many of the things concerning which we usually consider ourselves as free will agents, must be thought of as moral duties, i.e., in the domain of manners, and we must possess sufficient moral rectitude to recognize them as such, and exercise self-discipline to ensure that we do our duty. Otherwise, the governments have no choice but to take over such functions, or to pass laws compelling us to do them. Such encroachments on the domain of manners are common today because of the necessities of war, as in the compulsory saving feature of The Income Tax Act, but they have been going on for years, as is evidenced in such laws as those which prevent people from spitting on the sidewalks.
These and other encroachments should not be looked upon as the administration's desire to assume dictatorial powers; they are a measure of the degree of society's failure to carry out its duty as citizens. Furthermore, a proper sense of ethics and duty, and an ability for selfdiscipline inspire a respect for positive laws, and conversely, when these personal qualities are lacking a disregard for laws is engendered. Unless a populace can discipline itself in the matter of manners, duty, convention, etc., it will be impossible for the same populace to operate a system of self-government by positive laws, which is the essence of democracy. The close association between these traits of character and the successful maintenance of a democratic state is thus emphasized. The mainspring of our form of government is the personal ethics of our people. We consider democracy as the highest development in the line of self-government, because it is government by a people with a high sense of ethics.
Character is the seed bed of democracy, and character building is the essential preparation which must precede the training of the principles and practices of democracy. Character building is a matter of training and teaching, and is usually done in the homes, the churches and the schools. The home influence, generally speaking, has been deteriorating as an active force, for years. It is now deteriorating at an accelerated rate because of war conditions. This is borne out by the facts that the parents of 7,000 of Toronto's school children are now working away from their homes, and, a recent statement by the Mayor of this city to the effect that juvenile delinquency has now reached such proportions that it is one of the major worries of the administration. We cannot look to the homes of the country to supply the impetus necessary for a revitalization of the nation's character. It is not my intention to comment on the influence of the church, other than to say that it is the only organization in our midst devoted primarily to this most important task, and as such merits a much greater measure of support than it receives. The other element, the public schools of the country, must take on an ever increasing share of this task of character building, but before this can be done, they must have a staff capable of doing it. The teaching of morals and ethics can be done only by a combination of precept and example, and it requires a superior type of person to accomplish this.
I venture to say that each one of you can remember some teacher who exercised a profound influence for good in your life. We must attract more of just that type into the public school staffs. This is not a criticism of public school teachers. By and large throughout this country the taxpayer is getting good value for his school taxes, but the wages paid to school teachers are not high enough to attract many of the best of our young people into the teaching profession. This has resulted in a general lowering of the standard of the profession with a consequent loss of public esteem. If you have any reason to doubt this, ask yourself the following questions: "Did you ever suggest to your children that they follow the teaching profession?" "If not, why?" When you have honestly answered these questions you have the verification of my statements and also you hive automatically found the answer as to why the teaching profession does not appeal to more of our intelligent youth.
Today, when we realize the importance of the public school teacher as a national asset, are we going to allow this great profession to languish for the want of money? Some people suggest that teachers are adequately paid, but look at the figures. The average salaries of public school teachers in Canada in 1941, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, varied from less than $500 per year in the Maritimes to a maximum of $1,300 per year in British Columbia. It is of interest to note in this regard that unofficial army figures show that the percentages of men who failed to pass high school entrance varies inversely with these salary figures, that is, where average salaries are highest, there are the lowest number of failures, and where salaries are lowest, there are the greatest number of failures. Because we use the dollar mark as the measuring stick for achievement, we must be prepared to pay higher salaries to our teachers. Here in Ontario, we ask young men to train for a profession in which the average salary that they can hope for, on which to establish homes, is less than $150 per month. You can easily imagine what to expect in the way of applicants.
One often hears it said that one of our great post-war tasks is to re-educate a generation of youths in the Axis countries. They must be disillusioned regarding their form of government and taught the virtues of ours. While this may be so, we overlook the fact that there is in Canada a generation without any well defined political convictions. These young people will turn with enthusiasm to any form of government which offers them the right to a decent living, and if we do not get there first with the principles of democracy, we can rest assured that someone else will teach them some other doctrine.
Before we criticize these young people for their disbelief, let us try to understand how they came to have their present attitude. In the course of my work I frequently have an opportunity to exchange ideas with the students of such topics. It has been my experience that these young men often have in their minds an indelible picture of the financial difficulties which they and their parents experienced five to ten years ago. This has led to grave doubts concerning a political economic and social system which allowed such conditions to arise, to persist, and largely to adjust themselves. Added to this, they have scarcely ever heard politics and politicians discussed by their parents or older people, in anything but the most disparaging terms. Under these conditions, how can we expect our young people to have anything but contempt for our political institutions, and incidentally for us for maintaining them. We of the older generation have a fundamental belief in these institutions. We recognize their faults, but we feel that underlying it all, there are good qualities which will eventually come to the surface. The young people do not share this fundamental belief, largely because we have not taught it to them. All they know is from their observations, which even the most rabid protagonist of democracy will admit, leaves much to be desired.
Too often we fail to realize to what an extent our children look to us for guidance. We all have moments when we highly-minded tell them about the virtues which we hope they will acquire, but we overlook the fact that we are continually setting an example in those vital matters which belong to the realm of obedience to the unenforceable. So faithfully have these youngsters aped us, that at the annual campus elections this year, for the various committees which are responsible for the general management of Hart House--a job which in the students' lives is comparable to civic matters in yours--only 21 percent of the electorate voted. This figure compares only too unfavourably with the last civic election in Toronto.
When we as mature citizens fail to play the game to the limit in the realm of obedience to the unenforceable, our example becomes a flagrant excuse for the next generation to follow suit. Thus a deterioration sets in. In the teaching of the principles and practices of democracy, I am afraid that the home influence has been an important factor in undoing the good that formal education might have done.
Let us look at the role of the university in maintaining democratic principles and practices. One occasionally hears it said that the university is a hot bed of radicalism. This I flatly deny. I have heard radicalism discussed more often and with more enthusiasm outside the university halls than within. Furthermore, I have pointed out how complicated a process the maintaining of democracy is, and how the different elements in our society must all play their part. Therefore, before any one party casts any aspersions on anyone else, he should examine his own armour very carefully.
I wish to touch upon the obligation of the university graduate to the state. This is something which many graduates never recognize. This failure is, perhaps, chargeable to the failure of the professors to bring this matter to the attention of the students. If we were running a night club, we would have a better developed technique for presenting our patrons with their checks, but between gentlemen one hesitates to tell another that he is under an obligation. We shall have to rectify this. In the educational side of our universities we have a twofold purpose. By means of general purpose courses we stimulate intellectual development, and by means of specialized courses we prepare men and women for professional careers. In either case the individual benefits either from an elevated place in society, or economically, or both. Since most universities in Canada are supported by public funds, this means that the average taxpayer, whose children do not attend university, is maintaining such institutions for the benefit of others. Is he merely doing this so that our children can achieve a favoured place in society that is denied to his? Obviously, there is another reason. Colleges and universities were first started in this country in order to develop an educated class, whose members would show an active and intelligent interest in national affairs, thus setting an example to the remainder of the populace, and from which leaders in public life would arise. That fundamental reason is still behind the principle of state supported universities, although it is nearly lost sight of today. As long as we have state supported universities, the graduates of such institutions are under a great obligation to the public. That obligation can only be discharged by the graduates devoting a part of their talents to the service of the state. We cannot all enter public life, but, we can all take an intelligent, and when necessary, a vociferous interest in the nation's affairs. University graduates should move in a sphere in which their opinions on national matters are sought and respected, be that sphere large or small. If they will not accept this responsibility, they are traitors to our system, and they should never have received the benefits of a higher education.
There is another aspect, and this is the final one, of our educational system which I would like to mention. Today we need leaders in all walks of life, as we never did before. During the last war, and for a few years after, one used to hear it said frequently that many of our potential leaders were left behind under the white crosses of France's battlefields. That is undoubtedly so, and today we are burying the potential leaders of another generation. This is the inevitable price of war, and we must be prepared to pay it. This tragic loss makes it imperative that we should develop every potential leader in our coming generations. We must insure that every young man and woman of intelligence and promise, in Canada, is educated to the limit of his and her capability. I am not advocating university education for everyone, for I do not believe that such is necessary or desirable. What I do advocate is the removal of the present financial obstacle that is preventing many of these potential leaders from attending university, and in the rural districts often preventing them from attending high schools.
Many of you who have left your university days far behind, and have not financed children through a college education in recent years, do not appreciate the true situation today. In recent years there has been a gradual increase in fees until today, financial means is almost as important as intellectual ability if one is to go to university. This condition has been forced oil the universities because costs have increased faster than the increases in Government grants and endowments. Twenty years ago the cost of operating our universities and colleges in Canada was borne as follows: 50% by the governments, 20% by the students, 30% by endowments, etc. today these figures have changed so that now the governments contribute 42% instead of 50%; the students now pay 33%, instead of 20%, and the endowments are now 2570 against 30%.
Generally speaking, it is not possible for students today to earn sufficient money in summer work to put them through a year's studies. I know of mining students who have gone on contract work in the mines, and by a stroke of good luck made quite a stake-but such cases are very rare. In spite of loan funds, bursaries and scholarships, which in Canada have never been on a particularly generous scale, many bright young people are kept out of our universities because they cannot afford to go. What we need are state bursaries so administered that a definite percentage of the leading students in every high school and collegiate in the land will be able to go to university. I do not think that such students should be picked on scholarship alone--they must be chosen for all-round proficiency. However, it should be known to every student in our schools that if he can measure up and be in the top 5 or 10% of his class, a university training is his birthright.
The ideas I have brought forward are current among members of the teaching profession. I have not overemphasized the importance of the part that education can play if given the opportunity, but it is not possible to make any progress along the road without a large measure of public support. We can teach democracy successfully. We must teach democracy successfully. Democracy cannot survive unless our educational systems are definitely attuned to their job, but they must have the public behind them. We have the machinery but it must be overhauled if we are to do the job, and we cannot waste any time in getting started on that overhaul job. (Applause.)
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Gentlemen, the Bryces are in the ascendant today. We have the Very Reverend Peter Bryce ask the blessing. We are going to ask Mr. R. A. Bryce, better known as "Bob" Bryce, to thank the speaker. Mr. R. A. Bryce is the President of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and is a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Toronto. Mr. Bryce, will you please thank Professor Langford for his thought-provoking address.
MR. ROBERT A. BRYCE: Mr. Chairman, Guests of Honour, Dr. Langford: To choose me to reply to such a learned address as we have had on education, I think is not a good selection. I am more of a rough miner than I am an educationist. However, I think Dr. Langford has tackled this problem like he tackles a geological problem. He has given you certain limits to work between and then you will find the ore and if you are successful, you will find the good ore.
I would like to say this, in verification of what Dr. Langford has said relative to students and their being able to borrow money from certain funds of the University. I think I am correct in stating that less than one per cent of that has been unreturned. They have all paid it back, with less than one per cent bad debt. I think that is quite a remarkable thing that when a boy borrows money for his education he pays it back. I think that stands pretty well for the university graduates. But if we had more funds I think it would be better. How we are going to get them, I don't know. In these days of taxes people probably have enough to provide for themselves and their immediate families when they die, rather than having it to give to institutions for education and otherwise, but the running of a university is an expensive problem, as we have found out. The Government figures they have to spend money on other things and when they don't get a few of the things they expect to make money out of, they shorten up on education. They think that is one of the things they can cut down.
However, I think Dr. Langford has given us a wonderful address. There is a tremendous amount of meat in it if we study it more carefully afterward and think about it, and I am sure that everybody here, Dr. Langford, is going away with a much better idea of education than when they came, and on their behalf I wish to thank you. (Applause.)
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Thank you, Mr. Bryce. You are quite right about the returns in connection with scholarships. I happen to be Chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Alumni Federation of the University of Toronto, and I know your figures are approximately correct. We have very few losses in connection with loans made to students.
One of our difficulties at the present time has been to get enough money to finance, particularly the medical students, because, as you know, the term has been shortened on account of war requirements and in that connection the medical student has not time to go out through the summer as he used to do to earn a little money to enable him to finance the following year. The Government has very kindly stepped in but there are other sources of supply. It is a difficult problem to finance a great many of these young students, particularly in dentistry, medicine and engineering. The Arts students still have a little edge, as it were, in that particular connection.
Professor Langford, you have heard the vote of thanks, so ably voiced by Mr. Bryce, and you have heard how it was received by your audience. Again we thank you for taking the trouble to prepare this paper and to come and deliver it to us today. Thank you, Sir.