Educational Policy for the Long Pull
Disagreement among leading educators on the wisdom of drafting 18-year-olds reflects the general conviction that national policy is now being made not for a few years of intensive struggle but for a prolonged period of world tension and uncertainty. A conference of school authorities was told last September by a spokesman for the National Security Resources Board: “We may go through a decade or more as a garrison state. We may move into a long and very serious war, and even if such a war were successful, we would at that point be face to face with a world on the edge of chaos.”
Because the country may remain in a state of semi-mobilization for one, two or three decades, schoolmen are concerned not only with immediate effects of the draft on colleges and universities but also with long-term effects of the defense program on the whole educational system. The prospect of a long pull ahead distinguishes the present situation from that faced in 1940–41 when the country last began to prepare for war. Other differences add to the magnitude of both present and future problems in education.
Public schools are already hard pressed to find room for the children born in the 1940s—in larger number than in any previous decade of American history. Enrollments in elementary schools in 1950 were 1.8 million above 1940. Immediately ahead is the problem of providing facilities for the 3.7 million children born in the peak year 1947. Over 3.5 million babies have been added to the population in each subsequent year, and in 1950 there was an upturn in the marriage rate. High enrollments in the lower schools, added to shortages of teachers and buildings, have forced resort to split sessions and other curtailments on a scale not needed in World War II.