Magazine article Liberal Education

1945 Opening the Doors of Opportunity: Liberal Education and the Veterans

Magazine article Liberal Education

1945 Opening the Doors of Opportunity: Liberal Education and the Veterans

Article excerpt


Since the GI Bill radically changed U.S. higher education, the question arose as to whether (then) AAC was involved in the planning and implementation of the GI Bill that brought service men and women to college and university campuses. The answer is that the Association was deeply involved, if one looks at the guest speakers at AAC's Annual Meeting of January 10 to 12, 1945, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At this meeting, the presidents in attendance heard about postwar planning from such speakers as Archibald MacLeish, poet and assistant secretary of state, who spoke about the democratization of communications after the war. General George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the United States Army, spoke "off the record" (because he did not want his talk in the press before he had presented this proposal to Congress) on the topic "Compulsory Military Training." Charles H. Bolte, chairman of the American Veterans Committee, a disabled veteran and alumnus of Dartmouth College Class of 1940, spoke about the impact of the GI Bill on the nation's campuses.

There are several papers taking a variety of angles regarding the returning veterans entering the colleges and schools. AAC members were persuaded of the merits of the GI Bill; they also recognized the personal and educational difficulties involved in veterans' entry into higher education. Although it was delivered on January 15, after the meeting, over the Columbia Broadcasting System, a paper by Francis F. Gaines, president of Washington and Lee University and president of AAC for 1944-45 (Guy Snavely was executive director), was published with the proceedings. It is a succinct statement about veterans' education including liberal education. -EDITOR

Opening the Doors of Opportunity: Liberal Education in the Veterans' Program

One historic event in this epoch that has recorded much history is an unprecedented compliment paid to education.

Through all the centuries peoples in crisis have turned to education. Twenty-seven centuries ago, to an Israel that was in blackest night of military disaster and economic depression, Isaiah offered as ultimate comfort: "Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the waters of affliction, nevertheless shall thy teachers be not removed." In our own crisis of military peril, this nation turned to the schools. In direct service to the maintenance of this war, the whole educational system of America, and particularly the institutions of higher learning, proved a resource comparable with the training facilities of our enemies, though we had certainly not matched them in planning for military efficacy. Our schools trained multitudes of men and women, some in uniform and some in the ranks of specialized production; our schools made available laboratories for varied research; our schools sent from faculty ranks a great group, perhaps the greatest group, of specialists for expert inquiry; our schools developed on the campus an alert and energetic young citizenship, which worked with distinction in its own field and proved influential in stimulating effort among other zones of our society.

The compliment paid education, however, does not rest upon a recognition of this wartime contribution. The tribute to education is in the fact that the government provides for further training of these veterans as security and promise for the days of peace. Never before have so many doors of opportunity been opened to hundreds of thousands of American youth. Never before has a nation so completely vested its hope of a better, as well as a secure, future in the training of its youth.

For a better world

This program has met with what is practically unanimous accord. The American people feel that the provisions of what we know as the "GI Bill of Rights" are just an attempt at restitution -as far as any restoration is possible-of the bright and important years requisitioned for national defense. Our people feel, moreover, that society needs to recapture the talents, the potential, of all the boys and girls-by now two full academic generations of them-now in uniform. …

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