American Mission


By JAMES MARSHALL, Member of the Board of Education of the City of New York, and Vice-Presidentof the American Association for an International Office for Education

Delivered at the annual convention of the Colorado Education Association, Grand Junction, Col., October 26, 1944; and at Denver Col, October 27, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 162, 185-189.

WHENEVER I come to Colorado—and I have been here quite a number of times now—I am impressed by how far away you are from the great world beyond the Rockies and the Alleghanies—not so far in miles—tragically near in miles in this age of super-bombers and robot-bombs—but far away in spirit. We who live on the coasts would do well to come more often to the Central and Rocky Mountain States to understand with greater sympathy the feeling of remoteness and security that these great distant spaces bring. You, too, would profit by occasional visits to these regions where close commercial and frequent cultural contacts with lands beyond the oceans cause the inhabitants alternately to relish and to dread those contacts and where we do not have the sense of security which mountain ramparts bring to you.

In war time we can see eye to eye on the proposition that we must defeat our enemies and do all in our power to beat them rapidly and decisively, to keep them from our shores and to spare as many lives of our own young men as we can. But in peace you tend to be blind to the mote of your remoteness and we tend not to see the beam of the outer world in our eyes. I believe that this blindness comes from our common failure to think more in terms of action, less in ideas or quotations—and, of all people, we who are connected with education are the most prone to this form of failure.

Our tendency to think in verbal terms rather than in those of action has confronted us with problems of peace without a national program of action in peace. In a last minute desperation—and of all times in the throes of a presidential campaign—we are seeking in terms of action and behavior for the meaning of the glib phrase "winning the peace."

What are the problems of winning the peace? So far those which have received important attention relate to economics, boundaries and the policing of aggression. Much of this attention is still verbal. If action is planned we know little or nothing of the plans. It is true that concrete suggestions have been made by the Bretton Woods Conference concerning the stabilization of currencies and financing long term loans for rehabilitation or the development of industry in countries financially strapped. So far so good. If international commerce is to start again businessmen must have some certainty of the value of the dollar, the pound, the kroner, the ruble, the yen or any other currency in terms of which their transactions are made. A sort of cooperative loan association of nations is necessary, too, if Europe and China are to be able to restore their railroads and heavy industries destroyed by the war. Credit must be pooled if the poor and impoverished nations are to be in a position to restore or improve their standards of living; and if they are to be able to buy from us they must have goods as well as raw materials to sell to us.

So far so good. There was also a conference on food and agriculture held behind closed doors. We know nothing of these peace plans. Perhaps they include plans of action which will give meaning to the bare words of the Atlantic Charter concerning raw materials. We do not yet know what action is proposed to give life to those words.

Those conferences are important moves towards a functional collaboration of nations but they are still too fluid to support popular interest or to enlist popular support; and it is on the support of people, not just of government officials, that institutions for peace must be founded. I shall have more to say on this point.

We hear rumors, too, of new boundaries for Russia and China, Poland and Germany; that Britain intends to hold her own; that we plan to hold new bases in the Pacific. These, too, are matters vital to the winning of the peace. Above all else, boundary settlements will determine whether the tone of our attitude and that of other peoples towards the peace will be aggressive or cynical or enthusiastic.

The matter of boundaries has importance because it involves a double psychological impact. First of all, will it orient the minds of people towards imperialism and irredentism—towards taking more land for exploitation in the manner of the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries or regaining lands formerly possessed as was the case with Italy andGermany? If so, the climate of men's minds must inevitably be aggressive. Or, will the territorial settlements be such as in the main to create a conviction that injustice has been done on a wide scale? If so, we shall lack a sense of moral lightness in the peace. But if we are to believe that the peace which is established ought not to be tampered with or risked, then we must have a conviction of its rightness.

Then there is also the greatly talked of question of the international use of force to maintain peace and the organization of the nations for that purpose. On these points the meetings at Dumbarton Oaks are focused. There seems to be a consensus of the leaders that the great powers of the world, perhaps with the assistance or consent of the smaller powers, should maintain peace by force. To this effect is the statement of Mr. Churchill on May 24th when he said: "For the purpose of preventing wars there must be a world-controlling council comprising the greatest states which emerge victorious from this war who will be obligated to keep within certain minimum standards of armaments for the purpose of preserving peace." President Roosevelt indicated on June 15th that the executive council of the world body he was thinking of should include in addition to the great powers "a suitable number of other nations." He set forth the purpose of an international organization, which "would be to maintain peace and security and to assist the creation, through international cooperation, of conditions of stability and well-being necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations." Both the Democratic and Republican platforms speak in similar terms and both party platforms provide for a world court. The Republican statement, however, adds the thought "that peace and security do not depend upon the sanction of force alone, but should prevail by virtue of reciprocal interests and spiritual values recognized in the security agreements." The Soviet Government has proposed an international air force to maintain peace.

Only the Chinese have as part of their program at Dumbarton Oaks emphasized the importance of creating an international agency to deal with the basic problem of educating the peoples of the world in each other's ways.

There seems to be little dispute that in so far as Germany and Japan are concerned the nations can agree—and that we as a people can agree—to the immediate joint application of force to police our enemies and suppress aggressive acts on their parts. The real issue arises as to the use of force to suppress aggression by other nations or in other circumstances. Shall the President, for example, have power without consulting Congress to use our army, navy or air force together with those of other nations in suppressing aggression by Britain against China or by Russia against Turkey or by France against Italy?

Is there a fair distinction between the use of force to make effective our victory over Germany and Japan and the use of force to maintain peace generally? I believe there is a fair distinction which has been clarified by Senator Vandenberg's statement to Walter Lippmann, in which he said: "When I say that 'the world's criminals of today must be so permanently demilitarized that they can never back the criminals of tomorrow' and when I say 'to this end the immediate and continuous availability of allied (military) force is indispensable.' I mean to set this problem off by itself as separate from any other problem which may require the use of force."

This makes sense. It means that we shall see the war through against our enemies. It means that we shall not withhold our hands at the critical moment and permit Germany or Japan to catch their second wind as we did with Germany in 1918. It means that we shall not allow them a minute between rounds to recuperate and come back with lethal blows when we have floored them this time. It does not follow—it cannot follow without overthrowing our American concept of constitutional government—that we should, to use Mr. Lippmann's phrase "give a blank check in advance to the President to use the armed forces of the United States in unforeseeable and hypothetical disputes." Only in a dictatorship could an administrative officer have such power. In Great Britain the Prime Minister would have to have the consent of Parliament, because by the passage of a mere motion of lack of confidence Parliament could oust the Prime Minister and reverse his action. Under our form of parliamentary system the President must have the support of Congress expressed through a resolution declaring a state of war. This is our method of paralleling the British to secure ourselves against the arbitrary action of executive power.

When it is said that no blank check to use the armed forces of the United States should be given to the President, must this mean that we should not have international organization or international police to maintain peace? Not necessarily. The real questions are the nature of the international organization and how it will be motivated and how controlled. What do we mean by policing the world? The question has been well put by Margaret Mead in her book And Keep Your Powder Dry:

"When we talk of policing the world, this is meant to be a transition from armies to police, from seeing the world as a set of warring national entities to seeing it as one civic unity. Yet it would be well to inspect very carefully the character structure which is developed among police, whose principal occupation is stopping other people from doing things, guarding the status quo, walking beats, keeping order, but unconcerned with what that order is. In order to give ourselves the moral authority of an order which does not yet exist, we would dub ourselves police instead of setting about the job of inventing an order worth policing. To call ourselves police of a non-existent, unplanned order is as idle as to dream that we, by ourselves, or with any one ally, can build the best world form which could be built."

What Miss Mead says is perfectly correct. You do not solve anything by merely saying that you will have policemen. Whom are they to police? Who is to direct them? What are the social aims of the people who have direction of the police? The Gestapo is a police force. There have been police forces in some of our cities tied up with gangsters. The Holy Alliance following the Napoleonic wars regarded itself as a sort of police force to destroy all efforts on the part of the peoples of Europe to escape from serfdom and the remains of medieval feudalism.

What would be aggression and who should determine when a nation was an aggressor? Suppose that the Burmese were to attempt to revolt and set up a self-governing independent state of their own and the British poured in troops to retain Burma as a colonial possession, to hold their own, to use again Mr. Churchill's phrase. And suppose China directly or indirectly were to give aid to the Burmese. Who would then be the aggressor, the Burmese, the British or the Chinese? Who would be policed and by whom?

I raised these questions because it seems to me that they bring up a lot of matters which are related but which have not yet been considered as related subjects. The whole matter of boundaries is involved in the question of what is to

be policed. The whole question of imperialism is involved in the question of what are the social aims of the people who are to control the police.

Have we not learned by this time that we cannot settle the affairs of nations by force or by words? To quote again from Margaret Mead:

"But, in a very terrible sense, our enemies still have the choice of weapons, for the very simple reason that the weapons, the tools we need to build a peaceful world, have not yet been invented. It is not merely that they, warring states, attacked us and so forced us to fight. It it also that in the intervals when they were sharpening up their weapons and refurbishing their arms, we had no alternative to offer that was good enough."

People will not stop fighting merely because they are told that it is wrong or wicked to fight. They cannot take that position because when they are confronted with enemies who do not respect the right of others to differ from them and who try to terrorize others, they must be met with the same weapons, the weapons of force, the weapons of aggression. But it does not follow that the answer is police—unless we have also organized society in other ways to desire peace, unless we have established a culture in which force is regarded as a necessary exception and not a constant preoccupation.

Let me put it this way. Do you think for a moment we would have a peaceful society if everyone were considering continually how each move he might make would affect his position as a fighter? Yet that is what the foreign policy of nations has essentially been. We have moved with an eye to our prestige and our military bases. How far could a local police force be effective if the only function of government was the suppression of violence? The reason a police force is effective is because internally we have social organisms devoted to trying to recognize the heeds and demands of our citizens and to adjust them equitably; and because, furthermore, in a general way—an imperfect way it is true—we are united in a common belief that we want to work things out together. "What counts," as Raymond Gram Swing has said, "is not the machinery but the will to use the machinery." And what he might have added is that it is a sense of justice, of fitness, of the rightness of a situation which sets off that will to use the machinery and determine its use.

There will be many injustices in the world but essentially organized society must accept the moral principle of justice as its aim. Thus we find that civilization progresses as governments are founded not on arbitrary decision, not upon a posse comitatus, a gang of vigilantes, but based on law. This is implicit in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This was the great tradition of Rome too. It was the tradition of free France following the overthrow of the Bourbon tyrants. It has been the tradition of Anglo-American government.

If we accept these aims, if we accept these principles, then the machinery for peace must be not merely a police force without law and without a tribunal to determine who is and who is not an aggressor. Nor can international organization be just a series of agreements concerning the stabilization of currencies, banking and credit cartelization and the cost of raw materials. It must also contemplate an effort to build up economic standards. But above all else, the machinery for peace must bring about mutual understanding and respect. It must, to use the phrase of psychologists, condition people around the world to desire mutual understanding and respect.

If there is to be a machinery of peace that will be effective, it must rest upon and be infused by a world culture which, at least in so far as maintaining the peace is concerned, is of one mind. There can be any number of differences in other respects; there can be cultures which respect the assembly line, which revel in hand-work or which are devoted to agriculture and fishing; cultures devoted to capitalist ideologies or communist. There can be cultures in which religion and the philosophy of rationalism are enthroned and there can be cultures in which pragmatism or materialism or scientific method are most revered. In so far as the peace of the world is concerned, such cultural matters are for individual peoples or groups of people to work out to their own satisfaction. But if there is to be world peace, there must be general acceptance of the proposition that the release of aggressions through war is an evil thing, that positive steps must and can be taken to substitute other methods of obtaining satisfactions, and that war is not an inevitable human activity. Psychologists may argue as to whether aggression is an instinct or a drive or an acquired characteristic. I do not think, however, that they would claim that men were born with an instinct for war. Certainly there have been civilizations and certainly there have been periods in all civilizations without wars. Warfare has been a useful and at times necessary social mechanism to achieve the ends of peoples and nations only because there was no other means of securing rights, of securing food, of securing justice, of securing dignity; or because there was no other effective method for suppressing hordes driven by hysteria that would not respond to ordinary controls and who knew no self-restraint.

We Americans have taken one of the greatest wilderness areas in the world and in a minute part of the history of mankind have tamed it. In this new land we have made communication between its furthest corners more intimate and rapid than communication which exists between neighboring villages on continents whose histories go back beyond the written word. We have invented and used machines on farms to make it possible to eliminate want. There need not be hunger or malnutrition any longer in our land. We have invented machines to make life comfortable and varied and assembly lines to produce such machinery at a rate that can eliminate much of the drudgery and physical discomfort that has harassed men, and particularly women, since the dawn of history. We have through medical science, public health administration and hospitals almost doubled the life expectancy of Americans since the days of the Revolutionary War and removed the terror of plague. In spite of our lack of satisfaction with all that goes on in our schools and all the conditions under which teachers must work, we nevertheless have one of the most widespread systems of education in the world, and a higher proportion of our population which has gone beyond the elementary phase of education than in any land at any time. We have solved problems—we have solved them because at heart the American people is an ethical people. It is built upon stocks of all the world who came here largely because they had ideals which they believed could be realized here and nowhere else. And because the American people is an ethical people it has had a moral drive to achieve and maintain the four freedoms. It has devoted its best efforts to achieving and maintaining the right to think and speak freely, the right to worship freely and to the elimination of want and terror from among its people. Merely because we have not in all respects succeeded, merely because there are still persons and groups in this country which do notlike to hear unpleasant things said or reported or who are bigoted against Catholics or Jews or Negroes or Mexicans, just because there are still people living in squalor and at times in hunger, just because there are people who still fear unemployment or mob violence or discrimination, we have not become cynical or bitter or defeatist. We still believe and hope, as did our ancestors who settled in this land, who developed it and enriched it and made it a continuing land of promise. Here is a vitality and a power based on this moral strength which can be tapped, and which I believe the American people want to tap, to bring about a moral order in the world.

It is not that we want other peoples to do things and see things and say things and worship things as we do. It is that we want a world which, if it is not respectful of differences, is at least tolerant of them, a world which will not just sit down and accept as inevitable that the aggressive tendencies in men must every so often fester and burst with the putrescence of war. We have a call for leadership. We have more security than any other nation in the world today and we can afford to take the chances of leadership better than any other nation in the world.

That leadership, it seems to me, must be directed into channels which will develop international mechanisms for peace, in a world culture which wants peace. Instead of decrying the so-called isolationism which has existed between the Alleghanies and the Rockies, I would rather exploit the feelings of security and optimism and the love of the quiet and peaceful pursuit of a self-reliance in life out of which I believe that so-called isolationism has stemmed. Let us combine this spirit of the great middle regions of our country with that of our seaboards, which look abroad, and let us inspire them with that moral drive, that American need to do things successfully in the belief that it is morally right to do things successfully. Let us take the leadership in evolving something better than a police force based upon the military strength of great nations.

Nothing is more typical of our America than two phrases that have come from this war—one the statement of a G.I. who, when a reporter dove into his foxhole, exclaimed: "This is a hell of a way to earn a living"; and the other the statement of that chaplain in the Pacific who in the excitement of battle shouted, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." We are not an aggressive people which likes its wars. Almost to a man we regard it as "a hell of a way to earn a living." But what we need to do now is indeed to praise the Lord and pass a new kind of ammunition. That ammunition is a will to understand others and it is to be forged in classrooms.

What does this understanding of others mean? It is far more than knowing something of the history, literature, economy, geography and language of other nations, even if we could possibly know any substantial part of what there is to know of these things. It means understanding as well the basic fears and hopes and drives of others. We must understand today, for example, why so many Russians fear us, are afraid that because we have a different social order we want to destroy theirs; and they must know similarly that many Americans fear Russia for the same reason. Our handling of the Polish situation and Russia's part in it are evidence of such fear and have stimulated misunderstanding. We must understand that the British, a large part of whose economy has been destroyed by this war, are afraid that we will monopolize foreign markets which they require to rebuild their country; and they must know that many of us fear their imperialism which may create dead areas from which we will be excluded. We must understand that China is afraid that Britain will keep its grip on Hongkong and that we will demand usurious terms to help rebuild China after the war, and that it fears Russian aggression in Mongolia and Manchukuo; and China must realize that we fear, for causes deep in our own guilt-ridden history, races that are not white. It was Russia's fear that Great Britain and we might gang up on her that was apparently the cause of the failure of complete unanimity at Dumbarton Oaks.

After the last war we knew very little of these things. We did not understand the terror that Great Britain had of another strong power threatening it from the continent and France's fears that Germany would rise again. We thought that we had done a job and could walk around the block for a while and we did not see for this reason that, lacking other assurances, France had to form her cordon sanitaire and Great Britain had to revert to the anxious role of balancing power. We did not see, because we did not understand, the anxieties which were at the base of their actions; we did not realize that we contributed to bringing about a situation which must have led to further war. We would not accept war as a national end but we failed to find a substitute for war as a method of expression of national need. In the international field we were neither destructive nor creative; we just sat tight. We did not fumble the ball; we did not carry the ball; we just lost it on the downs. The aggressors took it over.

Our army, even our feeble pre-war army, maintained a war college. But the great peace-loving mass of the people had no peace college. There was no organized planning for how to maintain peace. There is none today. We cannot in this world hope for enduring peace if we are not prepared to accept a part in an international organization which in the limited field of international relations can declare law; we cannot hope for enduring peace if we will not participate in and abide by the decisions of a court established to determine claims between nations and empowered to adjudge the guilt of aggressors; we cannot hope for enduring peace if we are not ready to participate in the enforcement of such judgments based upon such law.

As I said before, it is on the support of people, not merely of government officials that institutions for peace must be founded. Most of us will not give this support to words alone. We want those words to attach to institutions, to acts which become in turn symbols of our faith. If, then, we are to enlist people around the world in the support of enduring peace, we must provide institutions capable of action such as I have described. This is certainly a more just, a more constructive and, in the long run will prove, a more effective procedure than merely to establish an international police force, one more instrument of aggression, to keep ourselves in order.

I have also suggested that to establish enduring peace we I must create a world culture in which force will be regarded as a necessary exception and not as a constant preoccupation, that whatever may be the internal cultures of nations, internationally there must be a general acceptance of the proposition that the release of aggressions through war is an evil thing and that positive steps must and can be taken to substitute other methods of obtaining satisfactions; that war is not an inevitable human activity.

I do not believe that it would take much effort to make the American people almost unanimous on these points if they could feel certain that this world cultural idea was becoming grounded in other lands as well. I do not believe that the American people would be so resistant to the idea of world organization if they had more conviction thattheir partners would not be states controlled by cliques and tyrants but were represented by governments responsible to their people.

There would appear, then, to be a need for an international institution which would stimulate a greater understanding by the nations and peoples of the world of each other, which would raise the level of education and would act both as a vehicle for the spread of cultural attitudes towards enduring peace and another institution upon which to center our loyalties. This is why many of us believe that lit is wore essential to create an International Office for Education than to create an international police forces—more important, too, than an international court.

For, unless there is a readiness on the part of the people of the world to accept responsibility in an international setting and at the same time a capacity in the people to understand and control their international institutions, those institutions may too readily be abused by the official technicians who happen for the moment to be at the controls.

In some respects, an international agency for education would be analogous to the International Labor Organization, with its function of stating industrial labor standards, gathering statistics and other information, and stimulating international arrangements in the labor field. In its broader phases, however, such an educational body would be more aptly described as an international engineering or consulting service for education.

The most obvious task of such an agency is to set standards of education at various levels, such as elementary, secondary, university, and adult, so that in developing schools and universities, nations may know the consensus of opinion as to how they ought to gauge success or failure, how many years children should be entitled to schooling, and in what fields children and adults should be enabled to improve themselves.

The two principal jobs of such an organization, however, are to offer leadership to school systems and to assist in international understanding and good will.

An international office for education could on request give expert advice to schools and school systems in all parts of the world. Only a small part of the population of the world is now living in lands in which education has developed to such an extent that it reaches the great mass of the people, and if education is to spread, nations without such educational coverage will require the aid of technicians from other lands.

Such an organization can assume leadership in assisting the nations to meet through adult education the problems of adjusting demobilized armed forces and workers in war industries and of the resettlement of refugees. Many new tasks will have to be learned by people if the world is to make its devastated areas and industries fruitful and productive again. Many people will have to be helped through education to find a security which they have never known or which was blasted by the bombs of war and replaced by the anxieties of homelessness.

Such an international organization could also set up schools for administrators and teachers to train personnel for those countries which after the war will be inadequately staffed and which will not at first be able to set up their own schools for administrators and teachers or which will lack the background for such an enterprise. We must never forget that there are not only vast areas in which there have never been many trained teachers or school administrators but also areas in which, accompanying the shattering of physical equipment, there has been a liquidation of personnel.

Such an organization, too, could recommend and supervise the distribution of funds to repair devastated school systems and universities and stimulate new ones if the United Nations determine upon a policy of relief and rehabilitation of schools. Rehabilitation, however, is only one area, and it is to be hoped only a temporary phase, of international education. It is, therefore, a mistake to headline this phase, as unfortunately our Department of State has been doing.

In addition to these functions of leadership, an international organization for education can provide a much needed center for the exchange of experiences and techniques in the field of education and cultural relations. School systems and nations, even school systems within each nation, tend towards provincialism. Men gain understanding and acceptance of one another by pooling experience and ideas. Schoolmen can transmit these gains to the systems which they represent.

Such an organization can, through government support, facilitate the international exchange of students, professors, scientists, and artists. It can create commissions to prepare curriculum materials to bring about better international attitudes and understanding. Never again should our schools be put in the position of having to depend upon the propaganda agencies of other lands in order to learn of those lands. This gave the Axis nations an easy opportunity to prepare in the minds of foreign peoples those doubts which were the first nutriment of the fifth columns.

Finally, such an organization can set up commissions to stimulate bilateral and other agreements between nations, and to eliminate from their textbooks matter causing international ill-will, or contempt or misconceptions by one people of another. The Scandinavian nations have led the way in the matter of encouraging international understanding through textbook revision. Just think what similar action might accomplish in regions of mutual national suspicions such as the Balkans.

Let us not delude ourselves with the idea that we can win the peace merely by destroying our enemies. Let us not be confused by the suggestion that the powerful nations of the world can, with or without the collaboration of smaller nations, maintain enduring peace through the instrumentality of a police force uncontrolled by law, uninspired by a craving for justice and undirected by any other institutions authorized to establish law and proclaim justice. Let us not imagine that such institutions as we may set up or such treaties of peace and good will as we may sign will work of themselves, will be anything more than ink on paper and bureaucrats in office, unless we raise the level of education and make possible the communication of our ideas and ideals, our hopes and our fears between the peoples of the world. Let us not close the book of this war with the words "Peace, Peace when there is no peace."

The antithesis to war is not absence of gunfire with guns cocked; it is not an interlude between fighting filled by psychological warfare. It is an affirmative thing; it is comprised of those very things which are the foundations of our ethics, the moral basis of our religions and the practices of our democracies. There is a call for leadership, a call to the moral sense of America, a call to the old Yankee capacity to make anything with a jack-knife and a piece of string, a call to our American drive to make a success of the things we enter into. There is a very special call to American teachers to assume leadership in presenting to the world their knowledge that education does not have to lead to destruction and death but can open avenues to peace and plenty.