The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


NEW YORK—It is sad news to read that Democratic leaders have been obliged to give up the President's school aid plan for this session of Congress. There never seems to be the slightest difficulty in getting all the money we need for military defense, but there is a total lack of comprehension that an educated people is the only real defense for a democracy.

It is not only education, of course, that keeps one a democratic citizen. We know that Germany, a highly educated nation, fell before Fascism. In that case, however, it was because they allowed their education to regiment the thinking of their people. I remember as a girl in Germany marvelling at the way signs were obeyed in public places. You did not need a policeman to tell you that you were not allowed to walk on the grass. A little sign told you, and no German, whether young or old, disobeyed that sign.

One may call this discipline, and of course a certain amount of discipline none of us can well forego. But self-discipline growing out of wise discipline in early youth is quite different from real regimentation of the mind. German education had a tendency, at least in the ordinary type of school, to create a certain amount of regimented thinking. This does not mean there were no rebels; but they were the exception rather than the rule.

To be a citizen of a democracy you must learn self-discipline, but you must also have education. The tools by which one learns must be given to every child. How far we use those tools depends on ability and inclination, but at least a possibility must exist to develop your mind to the limit if you have the desire.

Congress, which is supposed to be closer to the people than the Senate, tabled all educational measures in the Rules Committee on July 18, partly for religious reasons and partly for economic. The vote was close, only 8 to 7. But one vote was enough, and none of the educational bills in the House will come to the floor for consideration. Secretary Ribicoff has presented a new plan containing alternative provisions to those in the tabled bill. Neither the Speaker of the House nor the Senate representatives would comment on his suggestions, however, and it is quite plain that on the whole they think it would be better to wait till the next session of Congress.

It is not understood by a great mass of people in this country that education is as important to our nation in the struggle against Communism as any other factor. The Soviets respect only power. Probably their first category is the power of industrial production. Here, our economic procedures in this country never allow us to have full production and to put all of our people to work, largely because doing so would to a certain extent cut the profits of big company management and stock holders; and this is one of the things which makes the Soviets sure that in the long run their economy will be stronger and more powerful than ours.

The Soviets next lay an enormous stress on education. They feel in the long run they will have more and better educated people than we have, and this is power. They also do not feel that we make it possible for everyone in our country to have adequate medical care. They stress this because a healthy people is another sign of power. Military power, in short, is only one sign of power. All these other things enter into their calculations.

The most difficult thing for us to do is to accept the fact that the economy of the nation may be stronger when we have everyone employed except those who from a practical standpoint are unemployable, even though this means that top salaries to management and the return from invested capital may be somewhat lower than in the past. The Soviets feel that we will not be strong enough to accept this change in our economy which will mean an overall strengthening. That is what makes the Soviets so convinced that they will "bury us."

E. R.

(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 14, 1961

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.