Decisions about public education must be made on a local level
Herring reflects on southern leadership and education, insisting that decisions about public education must be made on a local level.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, May 16, 1987. Interview C-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
I don't need my colleague from New England or New
York to tell me what quality consists of. I could go into a great
dialogue about the quality of the writing of history because it has been
dominated by Harvard and Yale, with a very provincial view of the
American Revolution, for example. They think we didn't do
anything down here about it. Ten years before the Declaration of
Independence, the first armed resistance to British tyranny occured at
Brunswick on the Cape Fear River below here. The first state in America
to call for independence from Great Britain was North Carolina in the
Halifax Resolves. It was before the Declaration of Independence. They
pooh-pooh the idea of the Mecklenburg Declaration. I don't
know whether that occurred or not, but Halifax certainly is well
New England has distorted the picture of its folk heroes, Paul Revere for
example. The Britannica says there is no evidence he
ever made the celebrated ride that Longfellow wrote about. I know that
Cornelius Harnett made a ride, several of them, and it's well
documented but not celebrated. So I am not for any New England prejudice
about what constitutes excellence in education. Don't get me
wrong. I enjoy and like to believe everything that Washington Irving and
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Longfellow and all of these people
wrote—James Fenimore Cooper about New York. I read them in my
grandfather's library when I was a child, and I dearly love
the stories. And I have a passle of first cousins living in Connecticut
that I grew up with, and I am not prejudiced against them.
What I insist on is that Thomas Jefferson and others of his ilk found the
answer to excellence in education and excellence in government, and it
is pure democracy. We cannot tolerate totalitarianism in education
anymore than we can in politics. The only place that we can tolerate it
at all is in the military, and that has to be under civilian control.
You see how it has gotten out of hand here under Reagan and Mr. North,
Colonel North, or whatever he is, Admiral North. He decided that he had
the know-how to solve all of our international problems, misguided young
fellow. No doubt he had the best intentions in the world, and he had the
shortcut answers. The Carnegie Corporation is in the control of people
of ilk mind. So, I would say without any apology whatsoever,
it's the wrong idea. The genius of American education is that
it is a grass roots operation. It has been from the
beginning. It started in the churches, and it finally became a public
duty by the community first—neighbors getting together and
creating the American public school system with their own local effort.
North Carolina again was the first state in the nation to recognize and
establish a statewide school system in 1931 and '33 during
the Depression. We established one of the few systems that is statewide.
But we jealously guard the right of the local people to determine policy
in education. If you don't believe that, I know it from first
hand experience. We established the community college system at the
state level, and realizing our history in that respect that there had to
be a grass roots effort or it would…
- WILLIAM DALLAS HERRING:
I don't know whether I'm telling what you need to
know or not.
- JAY JENKINS:
Exactly right, the way it is.