MORTIMER SMITH, a well-known authority on education, and author of The
Diminished Mind, is the guest on this Facts Forum program. In addition to debating the questions outlined below on the effectiveness of the methods of American
education, he states that to attempt to adjust young people to their environment is
a healthy thing, and that it is a [unction of education. The regular panelists,
George Hamilton Combs, network news commentator and former Democratic congressman; Professor Hodges of New York University ;William Buckley, Jr., famed
writer ami lecturer; and Hardy Hurt, moderator, engage in a brisk discussion on
Does the Big White Schoolhouse
Educate or Degenerate?
How Effective are American Methods of Education?
Should There he More Discipline in the American Classroom?
Are Modern Methods of Teaching Reading and Writing More Effective Than
Those Used in the Little Red Schoolhouse?
BURT: What do you think? Should there
be more discipline in the American classroom?
Smith: Before I answer thai, and al
the risk of being perhaps a little pedantic, I would like to give a short lecture on what discipline is. Il seems to
me that in education, discipline has two
meanings. It means control of conducl.
and il means the process of directed
learning. That is, the teacher, it would
seem to me, has two functions. She heis
the function of controlling the classroom
from the point of view of order and
decorum, and she has the function of
having ei program which goes toward
directed goals. Now il seems Iii me you
can'l have education really withoul discipline in these two sense-.
BURT: Is there enough discipline in the
classroom today, then, in those two senses?
Smith: No, I would seiv thai in thai
sense there isn't enough discipline because we have been through a long
period in educational theory, il seem-
to me. where wc bene been told thai il
the hen her attempts to have too much
decorum and quiet atmosphere in the
classroom, she somehow or other dam-
ages the developing personalities of the
young people under her charge. We've
also been told lhal il is not the subjeel
matter that determines the nature of
educational program, but the child himself. Wc do need more discipline in the
classroom in those two senses, I think
we need an enlightened discipline, not
just discipline that says that—well,
whacking somebody over the knuckles
with a ruler is a good way of imparling
knowledge. I think discipline really is
not conspiracy against children. I think
il is actually the duty of adults lo
BURT: Mr. Smith, to what extent (and then
I'm going to ask Professor Hodges to get in
this little actl—to what extent, according
to your beliefs, are the American classrooms
Smith: To a very huge extenl they're
undisciplined in the two senses which I
mentioned at the opening of the pro-
BURT: But to what degree? Is there vast
undiscipline? Is it a spotty undiscipline?
Smith: I would say that it was spotty.
I have not too long ago taken a trip
across the country. 1 think lhat in my
estimation lhe amount of discipline
across the country is dependent on bow
orthodox the teacher is in following the
so-called modern poinl nf view in education.
BURT: All right. Professor Hodges, what
is your opinion?
Hodges: I'm jusl an amateur, too,
when ii comes to elementary education.
I don't want the professorial taint. I'd
like to be able to travel under mv own
steam on this particular discussion.
Regarding physical discipline, it's eil-
ways been a problem how to deal with
the restive young, at least, I would assume that, since Socrates, in 400 B.C.
wrote or was credited with making a
very bitter statement about the young
Athenian youth, the way in which they
crossed their legs, how restless they
were, hnw they were heedless of authority anel discipline. We mighl sav ibis i>
ei continuous problem. 1 don'l think lhat
you eem tie it into anv particular system. I think we've got tbe problem of
t\( rs FORI M NEWS, November, 1955