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(caption title) The Patriotic Teacher
Robert Herring Wright
Greenville, N. C.
East Carolina Teachers Training School
Call number C370.5 T76 v.4 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Appears In Training school quarterly. Vol. 4, no. 2 (July-Sept. 1917)
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ROBERT HERRING WRIGHT
"I firmly believe that the training of children is as important as furnishing food, or munitions, or as going out to fight in the trenches."
"It is good pedagogy to take hold where the student is interested, leading from that to something else; therefore I make no apology for talking about the war. Many of you are already personally interested now, and before long you will have brothers in France. I have been wondering if you know how big this war is."
President Wright then attempted to give his listeners some conception of the magnitude of the war. He asked them if they realized what it meant for one-half of the world to be at war, and gave them some concrete comparisons to enable them to grasp the vast sums of money it is costing. For example, he told them that enough money had already been spent to pave every railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific with twenty-dollar gold pieces; that the United States had already appropriated enough to give every human being in the world four dollars apiece; that enough men are fighting to make four lines of soldiers, two steps apart, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
All forces are now turned to the destruction of human beings and of wealth, he said. Many more people than in the whole of North Carolina have been killed, and many, many more than that have been wounded, and yet it costs $15,000 to put one soldier out of commission. He portrayed some of the horrible destructive forces now used.
"If, when Governor Jarvis was a boy, some one had prophesied that two years after his death men would be fighting three miles in the heavens, on the earth, and in the earth to the depth of thirty or forty feet, and under the depths of the sea, he would have been called a wild, impractical dreamer; no one then could even dream of what we actually see and know today.
"America," he declared, "has taken the foremost position in the nations of the world. The world's capital is now Washington. If any prophet had dared predict that this would be true in the twentieth century he would have been considered an idle dreamer; any Englishman would have known he was a false prophet."
President Wright then gave a clear idea of America's place among the nations of the world, and proved his statement that Washington is the capital of the world politically and financially. "Delegations of the most distinguished men of the world, from the greatest nations of the world, gather there holding conferences, risking their lives by coming themselves instead of sending messages, coming to see what America will do. Does this not prove that Washington is the political center of the world?"
"It is the political center because ideas are radiating out in every direction. It is the banking center, the financial center, as America is lending money to the Allies and is feeding the world and fighting for the freedom of mankind freely and willingly. It took England two years to do what we did in two months, that is, to draft recruits for the army so that those who could best be spared would be taken and the others would be left at home."
He prophesied that there would be a unifying of religious beliefs and interests so that the Protestants and the Catholics will unite as Christians until there will be a world-wide Christian religion. "When the war is over there will be a new world politically, socially, financially, and religiously."
"Man will have more respect for his fellow-man; all distinctions will be shot to pieces; it will make no difference whether he hauls coal, runs a bank, is a minister, runs a train, has a little store at the cross-roads, is a rural mail-carrier, or what not, a man's a man. Honest people are going to rule the world; there will be a clear union of man to man, a clear union in the political world, and men will agree to disagree and still be friends, but Truth will be the center of all. The voice of the people will be the voice of God, and in the multitude of opinions Truth will be found.
"In the social changes the snob will be done away with; the man or woman who does things will count, and not the one who inherits rights and property. A new method of distribution will make a new nation financially. 'Love one another' will be the key to the new life."
Here Mr. Wright told a story of the trenches that showed that love was still alive among men, and that there would be friendly intercourse again when this horrible nightmare was gone. He put these questions to his audience, "What have you to do with it? What is your mission? You will be training the first generation that will try out the new ideas," he said. "What is your part in this industrial, commercial, religious center of the world? I firmly believe that the training of the children is as important as furnishing food, or munitions, or as going to fight in the trenches."
"The greatest era of change that has ever come over America is ahead of us; different conditions must be faced, and we must know how to
adjust ourselves to these changed conditions; there is not a revolution, but there has been a change of ideals and of attitudes; we are not the same we were even twelve months ago. It is of the utmost importance that American young men and women be given right ideals and right training. The responsibility rests on the teachers, and, although it has ever rested on the teacher, today the responsibility is greater than ever before; the whole world is looking to the American teacher. If we are going wrong the whole world will be led astray. It is as much a patriotic duty to educate as to produce.
"If I could get the ear of every American youth I would say, 'Go to school, young man.' The world never needed educated young men and women as it will need them from now on. If you want to serve your nation, your State, and your God, prepare for work; then work. Don't be a slacker; be a volunteer."
Mr. Wright said that when war was declared he sat down, took a survey of his life, trying to find what he ought to do for his country; and, after seriously considering all possible ways in which he could serve his country, he was firmly convinced that his work should be right here; this is the place where his life would be of the greatest service. "The work being done in an institution of this kind is as important as any work being done anywhere else in the world.
"You are doing the greatest service when you are teaching. You are doing your patriotic duty now, this summer, when you spend your money and time to equip yourself for better service as a teacher.
"Eliminate the schools, and a people revert to savagery. Each generation of children are born savages, and will remain so if they are not trained. Of course, all the educational forces are not in the school; but the school is the most important of the organized forces, not even excepting the ministry, and no one has a higher regard for the ministry than I have. The minister has a chance to teach one day in the week, whereas, the teacher has from five to seven days, for the teacher often does community work on Saturdays and teaches a Sunday School class on Sunday.
"You should give the best in your lives to the children you teach, and unless you do you are not doing your full duty. Be conscientious, earnest, sincere in all your dealings with the young life that is intrusted to your care. You may feel that you can live one thought-life and another life of deeds, but your thought-life will radiate from you and the child will get to the core of your life and realize what your thought-life is.
"Let me urge you, as you guide children, guide them conscientiously and seriously and honestly. What a blessing if all would deal in absolute honesty with all others! You cannot do a dishonest thing without a child's finding it out.
"There is no place in the world's hive for drones. Give the children training that will enable them to live, and to do something so they will not be drones. This is the time of the year when the bees take a drone out and kill him."
Mr. Wright proved that North Carolina was a great place in which to work. "The soil is of great fertility, the natural resources vast and undeveloped; in fact, North Carolina
is the garden spot of the world." He asked his audience if they knew that there were places in North Carolina where they actually did this: cut the timber from the land, burn the brush, ditch the land, then take a stick and jab a hole in the ground, drop the seed in the holes, then go off and do nothing else until harvest time, then harvest fifty bushels of corn to the acre. He told of hearing one man deplore the fact that he had to plow deep now; when asked how deep, he said, "6 or 7 inches."
"We are not awake," he said; "we do not realize our blessings, we do not see what is around us. The boys and girls should be brought up with their eyes open to the opportunities around them. It is your duty, fellow-teachers, to enable these boys and girls to see; it is yours to develop their powers so that they will have a willingness and a desire to develop the natural resources. Beaufort County alone has enough rich land to feed North Carolina.
"The reward will not be to you in dollars and cents, but it will come to you a hundred-fold. Seeing the fruit of your labor is in itself great reward.
"My parting injunction to you is, remember you are rendering to humanity and the world the greatest service possible for you to render if you educate the coming generation. Hold this in mind, Educating is as important as fighting and farming. This is your duty. Don't be a slacker. Do your bit."