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Schiff, Mortimer Leo 
Educational preparedness 

[New York] 





Schiff, Mortimer Leo» 1877-1931* 

Educational preparedness; an address before the^ 
Association of urban universities at the College 
of the City of New York, on November 15, 1916. 

cover- title, 12 p. 

RESTRICTIONS ON USE: f^pro(iucUons may not be made wimout permissk>n Imm Columbia University LJbraries. 









DEO S 1 im 


An Address 



before the 


at the 

College oi the City of New York 
on NoveixA)er 15, 1916. 


It was with considerable hesitancy that I accepted the 
]&Titalion so kindly extended to me to address you this 
eTeningy as it seems aUnost presumptuous on my part to 
0peak <kf edacational matters b^ore a gathering of axp^rfai, 
such as this. We hear, however, so much these days about 
pfeparednen of all kin^, that it may be that a diaensdoii of 
the subject of educational preparedness from the point of view 
of a bnsiness man may be ol intoest to yom And in speaking 
of such preparedness, I refer as mnch to training for pnblie 
serrice, as for business. We need trained workers and in- 
telligent citieens and these onr educational system must 
provide. There are various kinds of national preparedness 
and ednoational preparedness is by no tneans the least of theae. 
Discipline, thoroughness and efficiency are not only military 
vurtttea, bnt also roqniaitea for industrial, commemal and eivie 
success. The survival of the fittest still holds true and just as 
BcHiie feU beeanae its people became decadent, so to-day, no aa* 
tion can live whose citizenship is shiffleBB, ineflBcient, indolent 
or iMdeqaately trained. 

It is perhaps particularly appropriate at the present time in 
Uua etiaia of the afi^aira of the world, when the future, yes, even 
the present is shronded in so much nnoertmaty and d<Nibt| far 
men following different callings, but pursuing the same ideals, 
t» tak« eemuMl together m to how gnmiaggeBMtttkm wm,f 
bast be trained to cope with the serious problems which it will 
hmm to iftoe and tiMntnatioim wfaioh it will have to moet. Mm 
of affairs, who are engaged in large business activities, profes- 
■ioaAl who by thoir ^ositioB t$m do to wmek to Imd 


public opinion and those actively engaged in the public serr- 
ice, should interest themselves in the problems of educatioii 
aud co-operate with educators and educational institations, so 
that these may adequately meet the educational needs of the 
times. The example of European nations has shown us how 
impartant it is tiiat an educational policy be adopted to 
tfain young men and women in thoroughness, efficiency and 
teeadth of vidcuu It is, for instance, quite hopeless for 
us to consider a real expansion of our foreign trade, unless 
we have available a body of young men whom we can 
send abroad well equipped to meet the competition of 
other nations and trained to market our products. Our com- 
metmal education has been lamentably d^oieot in this respee^ 
and it is a well known fact that we have been dependent almost 
eatirdiy upon tiie foreign trained and the foreign bom whoever 
we wished to find representatives for service in foreign coun- 
tries. Indeed, we have found that even for clerical positions, 
those coming from abroad are, as a rule, better trained and more 
efficient. It, therefore, behooves us to consider what improve* 
mrats or changes should be made in our present educational sys- 
tem, and what, if any, additional facilities should be provided 
to meet this situation. These are questions, the answwing 
of which requires most careful study and thought. There 
is no doubt that after the titantic stri^^, in whieh the 
European nations are so unhappily engaged, there will come 
a struf^le of almost equal intensity for industrial supremacy, 
in which all countries will strain every eflfort to be victorious. 
The present world war is, as it is, a battle between school- 
masters, as the questions at issue are those arising from 
different schools of culture, thought and philosophy. This 
will be no less the case in the competition for the markets of 
the world and much will, therefore, depend upon the training 
given by the different nations to their growing generations. 
That sober-minded and far-seeing men in Europe realize this 
is very appaxirat from many recent utterances. The dismpliae ^ 


and training, which the war has givra and is giving to foreign 
young men, is bound to be a tremendous asset to these coun- 
tries, when they can utilize these forces for peaceful pursuits. 

We must also consider, whether our present edncational 
system makes adequate provision for the preparation of 
young men for public life, and, if not, what we should do to 
shape it as to enable it to do so. At the present time, 
those who wish to devote themselves to public affisiza, 
whether federal, state or municipal, almost invariably study 
law and become admitted to the bar as a step towards this 
end. The legal profession has thus become almost our 
only gate-way to public life. I think we all realize 
that this has its disadvantages, and that other courses of 
training should be provided. The conception of citizen- 
ship has grown very materially among our people during the 
past years and we are gradually developing a body of young 
men, who are in a podtion to, and who desire to edueate 
themselves towards contributing their share of public service. 
Facilities for training towards this end aro sadly lacking and 
provision should be made that courses of instruction be avail- 
able for those planning such a career, just as they now are for 
the learned prof essiona 

We cannot depend, however, on collegiate education alone for 
accomplishing this and elementary and secondary schools must 
do their share by providing proper preparation. Whether they 
are doii^ so now appears very doubtful Iliere seems to be in 
our elementary and secondary education a lack of thoroughness, 
which, coming as it does in the formative period of a child's life, 
is apt to have very far-reaching eflFects. There is apparently not 
enough thorough tesching of fundamentals and the old-fashioned 
three R's no longer seem to be receiving the attention which they 
should. I think you will bear me out that the luuid wiitiqg 
alone of the average High School graduate is enongh to 
disqualify him for many positions in the business world. 
I do not wish to oriticise our educational qrstem, but I 

thii&k that 70a, gentlemeu, dealing as you do with higher 
edncaiioD, will agree that in many instances tiie material 
with which you have to deal is unsatisfactory, and 
that a very large number of young men imd young women 
come to college improperly or inadequately prepared. 
Chie of the greatest faults in this oonneetion, which 
has come under my observation, is that our young 
people are not taught to eoncenteate. Theire can be no real 
efficiency without the power of concentration, and it seems 
a pity that more steess is not laid upon tius important factor. 
Another thing in which our schools seem to be deficient is in 
the matter of discipline* If the students cannot be disci- 
plined with regard to their attendance, behavior and the like, 
then fbeie ia little chance of disciplining their minds. Posi- 
tive knowledge is what is needed, not guess work. The world 
deals with facts and bluffing does not lead to success. How 
often do we hear a child, or evcm an old€Mr rtadent say : " I 
do not remember, I learned that last year," or even worse, 
guessing at the answer to a questicm ? There seems to be too 
little reviewing of what has gone before, with the result that 
th^ is but little accurate «id tiu>rough knowledge. How 
many graduates of our schools or even of our colleges, can 
name cocreotly the countries of the worlds their capitals and 
their most important natural resources, or even state correctly 
' all the states of the United States, to say nothing of their 
capitals? It may be said that if these faults exist* why 
try to develop our collegiate system? This does not seem 
to be a sufficient reason for not undertakii^; tiie 
work, as one great advantage in making rigid the 
requirraients of higher education, is the effect upon secondary 
and elementary education. There is no doubt that if the col- 
l^ate standard is high, there must be a beneficial reaction 
upon the preparatory schools. 

In this connection, may I point out that there seems to be a 
traidency in Commercial High School education to emphaoie 


too strongly clerical subject matter, such as book-keeping, busi- 
ness arithmetic, stenography and typewriting, business corre- 
spondence, etc. While these courses are important and must 
be provided, they must not be permitted to become academic, 
instead of vocationaL They are apt to lack intensiveness and 
the teachers have often, T fear, not had practical training in 

There appears to be a steadily growing belief on the 
part of the American people in the value of systematic 
school trainii^i^; first, in the desirability of making ele- 
mentary education available for all and, secondly, in pro- 
viding proper courses of instruction for spedal tmining for 
the vocation which the student wishes to adopt. Business is 
no longw a trade, but a profesdon, and it is jmt as important 
that young men, who wish to adopt business or public careers, 
should have the opportunity of educating themselves along 
lines which will enable them to do so, as that Law Schools 
should be provided to train lawyers. Medical Colleges for doc- 
tors uid Technical Schools for enginews. When that is done, 
the boy, who is expecting to enter the higher lines of business 
or of public service, will as invariably look toward a college or 
university to secure a part of his training, as does the 
lawyer, physician, or ei^neer. The faoUities for this pur- 
pose are of but recent development and those thus far 
provided are still inadequate to meet the demands. 

As is doubtless known to many of you, we tried to do some- 
thing along these lines a short time ago here in New York, but 
unfortunately our plan failed of fruition. The underlying 
thought was that there should be real co-operation between 
bumness men, educators and tiie municipality, each contrib- 
uting their experience and their efforts, so that somethii^ 
practical and effective m^ht result It would have been, to 
say the least, an interesting experiment and I am convinced 
would have been a dic^inct suooees. What the Gonunittee of 
Commercial Educi^on of the Chamber of Commerce of the 


Stato of New Ymk^ of wliioh I had the honor to be Chairman, 
planned to accomplish dnring the negotiatione in 1913 and 
1914, in co-operation with the Trnateea of the GoU^e of the 
City of New York and with the city authorities, was as fol- 
lows : It was proposed that there should be established in this 
City a College of Commerce and Administration mid a Mnsenm 
of Commerce and Civics, and that the old site of the CoU^eof 
the City of New York at Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street, 
should be utilized for this purpose. The City was to provide 
the aite and the Chamber of Commerce was to f orniah the sum 
of $500,000. for erecting the building and a fund of $200,000. 
lor tiie mtablishment of a Maseum, which awns had been as- 
sured to the Chamber. The City was to equip the building 
and to undertake to maintain the College and pay the running 
expenses of the Museum. The College and Museum were 
to be administered by a Board of Trustees, consisting of 
representaiaTeB of the City of New York, of the Collie 
of the City of New York and of the Chamber of Commerce of 
the State of New Yorik. Frequent conferraoea were held be- 
tween the parties interested and it was believed that an agree- 
ment had been reached on subetantially all material points, 
but finally the plan failed, because, coming as this did, 
shortly alter the outbreak of the European war, tiie City did 
not feel justified in authorizing the expenditure for annual 
maintenance, which would have been required from it. Nego- 
tiations having continued for more than two yearo, the donors 
had to be released from their pledges and the plan, therefore^ 
had to be abandoned. The donors had most readily acquiesced 
in the delays and consummation of the plan, but as its accom- 
plishmmt seemed impossible within a reasmable time, it 
hardly seemed fair to hold them any longer to their pledges. 
There is mo doubt in my mind that the repras^tatites of the ' 
City were as desirous as were those of the Chamber and of the 
CoU^^ to consummate the plan, but changed financial condi- 
tions led some of the city offidals to believe that it was better 


to defer indefinitely or even abandon the establishment 
of the College and of the Museum. The general consensus 
of opinion of all consulted at that time was that there 
was need in tibe City of New York for an institution on 
the collie plan, which should inelude in its curriculum 
and give particular emphasis to oontinuation classes 
holding their sessions in the late afternoon and to evening 
classes and lectures. By an institution on the college plan, 
we had in mind one similar to a College of Arts and Scfenoes, 
in that it would have substantially the same entrance requifie* 
ments, would afford the same mental discipline and culture 
training and would lead to a baccalaureate degree, with pro- 
visions made, however, that practical experience and special 
knowledge might be permitted to take the place of certain 
counts in the entrance examinations and an inoentive thus be 
furnished to young men, who had not been able to complete a 
high school course. 

It seemed particularly appropriate that such an institution 
for higher commerciiU and administrative tnoning should be 
maintained by the municipality and that instruction should be 
made available to all. Whether the instruction should be 
absolutely free, or whether some moderate (should^^argg^ be 
made, or deposit required, was a question which was left for 
future determination. The tendency in all collegiate education 
seems to be to make it possible for capable youth to shorten 
the period of study by one at two years, and it would probably 
not be easy to hold for four years the ambitious and capable 
secondary graduate, whose entxance into a remuneratiTe 
position did not depend upon a diploma from a College of 
Commerce. While it was our opinion that the College of Com- 
merce, which we had in mind, should provide primarily a four 
years' course, we felt that facilities should be extended for 
completion of the course in three years, and that the work 
should be so arranged, that, even those attending only one or 
two years, could take advantage of complete courses and de- 


rive benefit from the education thus rooeiTed. We planned 
that the requirements for entrance should be similar to those 
now required for entrance into tiie City Oollege» except that 
particular stress should be laid upon commercial subjects. 

We planned further that the College should provide c<»i* 
tinuatiou and evening classes, with well arranged and self- 
oontained coursee, aTulabk for those young men who were 
already employed, but who desired to extend their knowl- 
edge of commercial subjects. To the end that the greatest benefit 
might be secured from this department of the work, steps had 
been taken to secure the co-operation of the merchants of the 
city, BO that they wonld not only readily permit, but actiyely 
encourage their younger employees to make use of the facilities 
thus extended. It was also planned that the building in which 
the College was to be boused should provide adequate space 
for the installation of a Museum ol Commeioe and of Civics, 
which should, as one of its purposes, serve as a laboratory for 
the students. In our opinion this would have proved one ol 
the most valuable educational features of the proposed College 
and would have filled a need, which I regret to say still exists 
in this City. In addition to the great reaction which such a 
College and Museum would have had on the entire educa- 
tional facilities of this City, we felt that it would serve five 
great purposes. It would provide facilities ; 

1 : For the trainii^ for public service* 

2 : For the training of those ambitious to attain adminis- 
trative and executive positions. Young men of such ambi- 
tions would probably be willing to devote three or four years 
to a oourse of inskucti^ and ^tiiough ^eir number mi^^t 
possibly be limited, quality of training, rather than number of 
students would be the real test 

3 : For the training of those whose outlook upon life is 
practically limited to a permanent career of clerkship, wi^o 
would probably be willing to devote say two years to tikis 


4: For the training through late afternoon and evening 
continuation classes of those already employed, thus &iting 
them for better work and advancement. 

6 : For giving opportunity for commerci^ and civic inves*- 
ligations by the utilization of the faculty and the higher 
grade students for this purpose. 

In the two years, which have elapsed since tiie abandon- 
ment of this scheme, there is no doubjb that considerable pro* 
grees has been made in other directions in extendii^ the 
opportunities for commercial education and for training for 
public service. During this time Columbia, the Oollege ot 
the City of New York, Cornell, the University of the City 
<rf New Yoi^ and many otims, have eittier plumed or 
established Schools of Business and of Administration or 
have extended existing facilities. Much is stUl needed, and I 
am firmly convinced that the time is coming when as much 
emphasis will be laid upon providing proper educational 
facilities for training for business and for public service, as 
has heretofore been done for what has been considered a 
purely professional career. I do not feel competent to express 
an opinion as to the details of the curriculum, which educa- 
tional institutions should adopt for these purposes. These 
would have to be worked out by the proper faculties with 
great care. The important thing is tiwfe the curriculum be 
practical in its nature and avoid becoming too theoretical, for 
which reason a laige amount of field and laboratory work, in 
addition and supplemental to classroom instruction is advisable. 
The greatest difficulty which will have to be met is to secure 
proper instructors, as men who devote their lives to teaching 
a^e so apt to get oat of touch with practical affairs. Education 
is for life and the lives of most men are practical, rather than 
theoretical or scholastic. While a man teaching a technical 
subject can keep up to a great extent his contact with new 
developments and new methods by discussion with the prac- 
tical men whom he may meet, and by the study of technical 


books and pnblicatioiis, ibis is hardly possible for mem ieaehiiig 

commercial subjects or those dealing with pablio service. For 
these, there ue few text*books and publications and it is, as a 
rale, only those actiyely engaged in business ssxd in public life 
who are able to keep step with the times. 

In creating CSoIl^es of Commerce and Adminisira* 
tion, or developing existing facilities, particular thought 
should be given to the educational needs of young men who 
are not absolutely dependent upon finding at an early age an 
immediately pajring position. In othm w<Mrds, not to train 
clerks^ but to give young men, who are able to enter the busi- 
ness world on a favorable basis, without at once hating to eam 
their livelihood, or who have sufficient independent means to 
enter public life, an education to enable them to do so. I do not 
favor graduate schools for this purpose, except for the very lim- 
ited number who may wish to pursue special courses of study, 
but prefer colleges running concurrently with, but separately 
from Colleges of Arts and Sciences. This would not prevent 
fadltiles of other departments of a University being availed 
of, if feasible, but the student upon entering college should 
definitdy enroll hiuuself as a student in the Bchool of Ckm* 
merce and Administration, with a definite course of study 
mapped out for him, posdibly parUy required and pcurtly 
elective, leading upon its completion to a degree correspond- 
ing to the B. A. of the College of Arts. Provision could then 
be made for graduate study, in addition to this, leading to a 
Master's Degree. In pursuing this plan, the appeal would 
probably be to a more limited body of young men, but {kto- 
vision for the others could and should be made if the college is 
located in a large centre of population by providii^ afternoon 
and evening continuation classes and courses. Government, 
as weU as business, is becoming more and more sdentifie 
and we need trained officials for domestic, as well as 
for Icmign sinnrice. A Ck>llege of Commerce of this 
nature lends itself particularly well to this pur- 


pose and without much addition to its curriculum can readily 
provide the proper facilities for such tnuning. In fact it should 
be not only a College of Commerce, but also one of Administra- 
tion, of Public Service and of Oines, and its graduates equipped 
to enter any one of these fields. Connected with such a college, 
if in any way powible, there should be a Museum of Com- 
merce and of Civics, with ample library facilities to oonstitats 
a laboratory and place of reference. 

While it is somewhat a matter of detail, may I repeat 
here a suggestion in regard to the method of teaching 
foreign languages, whidii I have made from time to time 
to various educators, with whom I have had the privilege 
of coming in contact. It seems to me that our 
collegiate system of teaching languages is wrong, in 
that the spoken language is neglected, and too much raaphasis 
is laid upon the literature and written language. It has been 
the experience of everyone, I believe, thi^ the average coU^e 
graduate, who has not had special outside facilities for learn- 
ing modem languages, is unable to speak them or even to vnrite 
them properly, notwithstanding the fact that he may hare 
studied them during his school and college course. It 
would be well, after the student has reoeived a snf*- 
ficient grounding in the language in quesyon, to have some 
definite subject, if possible <Mie connected with the 
country of the language in question, actually taught in 
tiiat lai^piage by a native of the country* instance, 
with the development of our trade vrith South America, a 
knowledge of Spanish is becoming more and more necessary, 
and it might be well to try the experiment, after the student 
has h ad a certain preliminary course of instruction in Span- 
ish, to have some subject, such as, let us say. South American 
commercial geography taught by an Argentine in Spanish. 

One of the results of the European vrar has been the im-* 
petus given to our foreign trade, but if we wish to continue 
this expramon, when conditions sU over the world be* 

oome normal again, which we all hope may be sooo, we musk 
telan on fpowing yoakh ill woxk a Bialmelr as to mAB tkeaa 
available for this purpose, so that we may be no longer so 
lai^y dependent aa hexeboion wpon loiaign tnilied and 
foreign bom. Ifte itaiiofia now unhappily at war will need and 
will use the best of tiieix brains for their own reoonstruction 
md for tha leeovery of ^air foreign markets and we ahidl 
require in this country, in fact need now^ an efficient and well 
trainad body of young men^ if we wirii to aoanpete witti other 
countries and maintain and extend our position in international 
tnde. It seraia palrtieolarly appropxii^ that you, gantiamw^ 
associated as you are with Urban Universities, should take 
thB lead in this, as it is tha eitias prinarily whioh f oraiah tha 
best fsmlities for such training. The greatest business enter- 
prises of the world are at your dooxu rad I know yon oaa 
seeare without difficulty the oo-operation of business men to 
make them available to you as laboratories. These, combined 
wilh sdentific and well planned eonrsas of instraction, will giTe 
us a system of commercial education second to noneuid enable 
m to |HK>Tide for oar growing trade a&d araEnnerea and for oii^ 
public service, a body of young men really efficiently and 
ettMHteij piepaved