The Diminished Mind
By Mortimer Smith, Henry Regnery Company. 20
West Jackson Boulevard. Chicago 4. Illinois, I9S4,
150 pp., S2.75.
Mortimer Smith, who six years ago
annoyed some educational circles with
bis little book. And Madly Teach, has
done it again. In this volume, subtitled
"A Stud) of Planned Mediocrity in Our
Public Schools." he offers a trenchant
yet good-natured and temperate study of
the plans of an educational hierarchy
which would seek to subordinate educational values lo an aim nf reconstructing
society along colleetivist lines.
Mr. Smith has no quarrel with the
many improvements in teaching techniques. Hut he does take sharp issue
with lhe Social Reconstruction theory
which regards lhe public school system
eis em instrument tu he used for lhe construction of a new seeeied order. He lakes
issue, also, wilh the Life Adjustment
theory (supported by the I .S. Office- of
Education) which blithely assumes that
00 per cenl of our young people are incapable nf being educated in the treuli-
tioneil sense, or else will not need such
education. This philosophy proposes lhal
these- "uneducables" he "adjusted" lo
the society in which they shall live.
rather than l>e actually educated. One
educator even goes so feir as to propose
it as "an excellent program for all American youth.
The Life Adjustment program bodes
ill for the general basic literacy of public school graduates. One educator, in
an article published in the Bulletin of
the National Association of Secondary-
School Principals, heis slated lhat "it is
iii-t as illeeL'ieed tn assume lhat everv
boy musl hr able to read as it is theit
each one must he able to perform on
the violin."' A National Education Association subsidiary concedes lhat "reading lo comprehend newspapers and
magazines reasonably well'' is a worthy
aim. Well, lhat appears to be aboul
enough literacy lo satisfy tbe requirements of "Newspeak."
This age is seeing ei great dialectical confusion of the English language
indeed, strangely reminiscent of
"Newspeak" in George Orwell's novel.
Th.- tendency and ultimate of this dis-
torting of vvords is the corruption of the
language in which ideas were expressed
in earlier years. Rendering lhe language
01 our religious, cultural, and political
heritage unintelligible could accomplish
the purposes nf "Newspeak" even more
surely than would physical destruction of
the literature itself. Parents vein, have
children in schools geared to lhe Life
Adjustment theory, ami who wish these
young people to he able I.. read well lhe
classical English of the nineteenth and
earlier centuries, may find it advisable
to undertake this education eit home.
Quoted is the minimum blueprint for
a Federal Education Authority, offered
by Theodore Brameld, professor of educational philosophy at New York I niversity. Mr. Smith dues nut mention thai
Profi'ssor Brameld has distinguished
himself by joining a number of Communist fronts and hy acting els ei sponsor
of the Communist Jefferson School of
Social Science (Budenz: The Techniques
oj Communism). Professor Brameld
" \u educational system la) supported
heavily hy federal taxation, supplemented hy local resources, and controlled hy the service state; thi offering
completely free universal education from
the nursery school through the university and adult levels; , gearing curri-
culums, teaching, guidance, and administration to the purposes of the economy
of abundance, service state, scientific
society, and esthetic order; iih bringing
newspapers, radio chains, and other instruments of public enlightenment into
direct cooperation with education under
similar controls."' (Brameld: Patterns oj
Educational Philosophy, World Book
Co., Yonkers, N. Y., p. 662.) [Emphasis added.]
BLUEPRINT FOR BRAINWASHING
This passage occurs in ei leading textbook—one used for the training of teachers, lhe blueprint reads like one for et
completely collectivized emd "brainwashed" society. "Service state" and
"scientific society" are dialectical ex-
pressions which have ;i clearly defined
meaning and usage.
We might ice eill lhal the aim of using
the schools for "social reconstruction'
toward a Marxist society was clearly
stated in the 1933 "Call lo the Teachers
of ihe Nation," issued hy I In Progressive
"If llie teachers are to play a positive
and creative role in building a better
social order they will have to emancipate themselves completely from the
domination of lhe business interests nf
the nation... recognize lhe corporate
and inter-dependent character of the contemporary order and transfer the democratic tradition from individualistic to
colleetivist economic foundations....
'Ihis would involve . . . the wide adoption
uf the principle of social and economic
planning. . . . First of all if lhe profession is In he a factor in the process of
social reconstruction, its members must
prepare to struggle cooperatively and
valiantly for their rights ;in,| ideas. . . .
They must uphold the ancient doctrine
of academic freedom.... The progressive-minded teachers of the country must
unite.' iii ei powerful organization, mili-
tantly devoted lo the building of ei better
social order. ... In the defense of ils
members ageiinsl tin- ignorance of the
masses and the malevolence of the privileged such an organization would have
to be equipped with the material resources, tin- legal talent, and the trained
intelligence necessary tei wage successful
warfare in the press, tlie courts, and tlie
legislative chambers nf the nation. To
serve lhe teaching profession of lhe
counlry in this way should be one of
the major purposes eif the Progressive
Mortimer Smith's corrective for
"198!" educational practices is simply
stated: "American public school education will onlv throw off the incubus of
these Iwo false philosophies by restoring
the centrality of the individual in education. We must adopt again thc idea thai
the purpose of education is lhe improvement of the individual anil when we
achieve this we ran he assured thai the
quality of lhe group will rise and so-
ciety will he sounder."
SURVEYS UNWHOLESOME SITUATION
The Diminished Mint! presents a
searching study of an unwholesome situation thai has grown up and which
would he more severe were it not for
the decentralization nl puhlie education.
Politically active groups are. however,
able lo exercise ei considerable degree of
nationeil control. This is a hook which
should he re.ul hv everv parent, teacher.
Sun.lav School teacher, eunl individual
who works witli young people. The author's dry humor makes his presentation
enjoyable as well as highly informative.
It is this reviewer's opinion thai there
must be no neglect of education in basic
lileracv sufficient lo deteit and reject
premises emd proposals leading to totalitarian systems, 'lhe rejection of a philosophy which would repudiate ultimate
truths in favor of pragmatic testing, ami
lhe refusal lo accept mediocrity, is cssiai-
tieillv individual. Any individual, alerted
to the ways and purposes nf "Newspeak,
has it within his capacity lo insist upon
and preserve a higher standard.
In his closing sentence Mr. Smith
points lo this requiremenl on the pari of
the individual: "Nol until individual
man rebels againsl mediocrity, spiritual
illiteracy, and group subservience will
our unique experimenl of universal education become once again a bright Imp''
and promise in American life."
The defense of freedom musl res'
upon its practice. Indiv idual freedom can
he maintained onlv hv the individual.
Its maintenance cannol be delegated I"
groups, organizations, leagues, or nth1'1'
corporate bodies, because il inheres i"
the individual. Liberty, wilh which all
men are endowed bv their Creator, de*
fiends upon acknowledgment of its source
and upon adherence to ihe principle
which inulergird il. ll is the conoomiteu1'
of understanding of those' moral abs"'
lutes which pragmatic philosophy denies-
G. W. lo \K\to\n. Jr.
FACTS FORUM NE WS, August, 195'