Everything But Money Part IV: On The Value Of Trade Skills

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I

Part II

Part III

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There are many kinds of intelligence. At the moment, academic intelligence is being honored far above vocational intelligence. Only when the teachers and parents will come to truly believe it will the child also believe that his talent, whatever it is, is good, that he will be respected for his labors, that a job well done in any field of human endeavor is truly an achievement, whether it is cerebral or manual. Tribute is long overdue the future tillers, toilers, makers and menders who will keep our physical environment from falling apart at the seams.

We owe an apology to the nonacademically-minded young man who is not college bound. How often do the newspapers print the pictures of vocational school graduates who have made the most of their mechanical gifts? In June of each year long columns appear in the newspapers listing the names of the Westinghouse, Merit, and other scholarship winners. Rarely are the achievements of the vocational school youngsters similarly publicized. Why no fanfare for the future plumbers, painters, bakers, mechanics? We are not fooling the kids. Is the mechanic, by implication, a less important human being than the scientist? We keep on asking, “Who is going to do the plumbing?” Certainly not any young man whose honest labor is not respected as much as that of the scientist.

The members of juvenile gangs come mostly from the ranks of the nonacademically-minded youngsters who resent their exclusion from places of honor reserved for the “smart kids.” In retaliation they create honor rolls of their own, social orders in which they can achieve positions of prestige. The very names of the street gangs indicate their hunger for status: the Dukes, the Kings, the Royal Ambassadors, the Princes, the Lords, the Barons.

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Debora here: This is something I feel strongly about. There’s been a general exodus in America from manual jobs to corporate “office jobs,” which has created its own set of problems. One, there aren’t enough good office jobs to go around, so a lot of young people are finding themselves buried in college debt with no employment prospects to show for it. Two, we’re running short of skilled laborers. Example: here in California the roads are absolute crap. Even freshly-laid asphalt is rough, bumpy and uneven. It’s like no one knows how to properly build a road anymore. We need to woo young Americans back into skilled trades before the infrastructure completely falls apart. Three, the lack of social respect for manual labor has led to an appalling decline in pay scales and benefits. People like to say, “We hire illegal immigrants to do the job that Americans won’t do,” but that’s not true at all. Most young Americans would be happy to take a manual labor job if it payed a living wage, offered reasonable benefits and didn’t treat its employees like disposable trash. Four, all these sedentary office jobs are wreaking holy hell on our collective health. As a nation we are overweight, under-exercised, depressed and discontent. Most of those miserable cubicle slaves would be astonished to learn how much happier they’d feel after a day of satisfying physical work that fits their particular talents. But they’ve been told that that kind of work is beneath them, and they believe it. And don’t even get me started on all the sweatshops in other countries manufacturing virtually every product that Americans use or wear, because it’s cheaper to enslave children and pollute countries with looser industrial regulations than it is to practice domestic environmental responsibility while giving workers safe conditions, fair pay, reasonable benefits and humane treatment.

I…seem to have hijacked Sam Levenson’s post, so I’ll stop here. More tomorrow.

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Everything But Money Part III: On Social Development

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.

Part I

Part II

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Once we have done everything to insure the child’s recognition of himself, we have to make clear to him the relationship between his self and the selves of others. The nature of the individual’s involvement with other individuals cannot be taught too early, since this involvement starts with the child’s first breath and does not end until his last.

In a society which believes in education for all, the ultimate objective becomes living with all, even with those you don’t like. Social justice should have nothing to do with personal likes and dislikes. The Scripture says “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It does not say you have to like him, nor does it say “See footnote A regarding color, shape of nose, texture of hair, ethnic classification.”

…We make much of “toughening our youth.” They are tough enough. What they need is softening. Our education is heart-less. It is more important for the child’s first reader to say “Love, Dick, love” than “Jump, Dick, jump.”

…We underestimate the ability of our children to understand mercy, sympathy, and generosity. Just as they can be taught that flowers are pretty and dresses are pretty, they can also be taught that behavior can be beautiful or ugly, sweet or sour, kind or unkind, just or unjust, tender or cruel. Self-expression includes what not to say as well as what to say, and what you say is more important than how well you say it. It is just as vital to approach the world with an open heart as with an open mind. Boys should not be taught that it is unmanly to cry. Men should not be ashamed to weep at injustice. When men will weep at the horrors of current history the world may become better. The world needs a good cry.

…Every lesson should end in a moral and should answer the question, “In what way, directly or indirectly, does this lesson make for better human beings, a better country, a better world?” The acquisition of facts and skills for their own sake is generally accepted as education. Knowledge can be destructive of all that the human race considers sacred. The soul needs education as much as the mind.

…What good does it do a young American to know the subjunctive if he feels no sympathetic pain for a foreign child of his own age who goes to bed hungry every night of his life? The travel posters on the classroom walls never showed such scenes. Who would travel three thousand miles to see a little girl with a twisted spine carrying her sickly little sister on her back? Let no child be called “educated” until he has seen and discussed the ugly pictures and made some moral commitment to the advancement of other human beings beside himself, a commitment not to be his brother’s keeper, but his brother’s brother.

The world has had its fill of educated brutes, “brilliant” men who have led great masses of people back to barbarism. I have seen as much personal cruelty among college professors as amongst illiterates. Personal inhumanity is not unusual in college departments which teach the “Humanities.” I learned this at the tender age of twenty-one when my own college elected me to the Spanish Honor Society, but dissuaded me from applying for a full-time teaching position because the department “policy” at that time was opposed to “inbreeding,” a policy which at that same time did not apply to qualified students of other faiths.

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Everything But Money Part II: On Finding One’s Voice

This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson. Read Part I here.

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I regard overcrowded classrooms as a major menace to individuality. It is possible to educate masses but quite impossible to teach children in masses — especially little ones. I was involved in this futile procedure as a public-school teacher…I have seen the lifeless faces of children whose selves had never been revealed even to themselves, whose unique message will never be delivered. We should hold annual services at the grave of the Unknown Child to remind us of the millions of living children who never really come alive, whose souls remain in limbo in spite of our humanitarian declarations about the sanctity of the individual. Never to discover one’s self is never to be free. The road to personal freedom goes from cognition to self-cognition, to self-recognition, to the supreme joy of recognition by others.

A “class” is an arbitrary grouping of seemingly homogenous beings, no two of which are any more alike than two snowflakes. If it were possible to place children under a microscope, one would find the least of them inspiringly beautiful, distinctively designed. When we gather too many, flakes or children, the loveliness of individuality is lost and what we get is all white, the ultimate in neutrality.

There should be no more than fifteen children in any class. This is now being done for the “special” child. All children are special. They are not created equal. They are created different. There is hardly a child without some gift worth developing, some manifestation of his special being. All gifts are equally important. Each child’s contribution to the human race is to be celebrated with much rejoicing. It is the teacher’s duty to discover the seed of possibility in each child, to talent-scout the souls of little children, to insure to growth and fruition of what is best in this child, whether it is a talent for science, music, art, plumbing or gardening — to nurture his innate ability, to help him toward self-determination through a heightened awareness of his abilities by supplying educational hearing aids to amplify the inner voice for those who cannot hear it by themselves. His voice, once identified, becomes his purpose in life; this will be the voice that will speak his message. In an overcrowded class, as in any class, there is a good chance that only the loud voices will be heard.

In a society which claims to value individuality we have come to place so high a premium upon conformity in children that any deviant from the “norm” is promptly pounced upon as maladjusted. This, too, is a penalty imposed upon the exceptional child because of the large class. The child who feels, talks, thinks and behaves like all the rest is “doing fine.” Like the chameleon, he has learned to camouflage his identity to keep out of trouble. He presents no problem to the teacher. A good teacher should be disturbed when a child accepts everything in his environment, or even worse, becomes a hypocrite, junior grade, and feigns acceptance for fear of being declared an eccentric. The maladjusted child may be the true leader of his group. The fact that nobody follows him does not prove that he is wrong. No child should be declared maladjusted until we have given serious consideration to the possibility that we may be maladjusted, not he. He may be the one who is right, honest, sensitive, profound, and motivated by higher standards than the rest of us. Is it morally right to require adjustment to a society which is maladjusted? It is possible, even in a democracy, that the majority may be wrong. Inability to accept the status quo is not necessarily a sign of weakness. If the founding fathers of this country had all been well-adjusted we would still be a British colony.

…This country abounds in college graduates who have not yet found themselves, bewildered young men and women who wander from campus to campus in search of a “major,” not yet aware of the fact that the real major is one’s self.

Too many people end up earning a living, very often an excellent one, at work they do not love, work that bears little relation to their talents, or at best, does not “interfere” too much with their private lives. The world is full of these unhappy successfuls: doctors who should have been artists, and vice versa; dentists who should have been shoemakers, and vice versa; lawyers who should have been drummers, and vice versa. All are vocational misfits and malcontents who during their schooling were either separated from their talents or never were introduced to them. Ideally, a man should have only one regret about his work — that it ends. He should hate death primarily because it leaves his work unfinished. We are a hobby-happy country because so many men do not find joy in their work. They are split personalities living out lives not truly their own. They will never be at peace with themselves.

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Japan and Russia, 1905 (Part III)

This is an excerpt from a school essay written in 1905 about the Russo-Japanese War, entitled “The Destiny of the Far East.”

Part I

Part II


In view of the present struggle in the far east it is perhaps of general interest at this time to consider the possible results. This war is one which involves not only the interests of Japan and Russia, but its ultimate outcome is certain to affect the material and moral welfare of the entire world. The far-Eastern question, like that of the near East, is made up of a group of problems which cannot be solved by isolation.

Who can forecast the destiny of Russia? With a total war-footing of almost three million in troops, an irresponsible monarch, a discontented populace, and the doctrine of hereditary aggression as the ruling motive of imperial action, can we hope for peace? That liberty in the full sense of that debatable term should come to Russia this year or next is impossible, for her people have not yet reached that stage of advancement to be capable of governing themselves. Russia has been stamped not only as the most despotic, but most barbarous of civilized nations. On the other hand the rise and growth of the Japanese empire to the stature of a world power is the marvel of the twentieth century. (In Japan we see the rising of a new sun but can only dream of what it will be when it reaches its glorious meridian.) The chief characteristics of the Japanese people are summed up in the assertion that they are honest, ingenious, courteous, frugal, animated by a strong love of knowledge and faculty of imitation, and possessing a sentiment of personal honor exceeding that of any other nation. It is but just to say that victory should come to the people whose achievements along the line of progress have been such as to surprise civilization. For Japan the war is a national necessity, she must expand or die.

Russia’s traditional friendship with this country is very much ridiculed by many of our newspapers, her civilization and government are condemned, and her trade policy in the far East is criticized as a menace to our commerce there. Our papers recall with pride the fact that it was an American Commodore Perry, who in 1804, opened Japan to civilization, and they now look upon Japanese ascendancy as the hope of Asia. Japan is not only fighting the battle of progress and civilization in placing herself in opposition to Russian advance in Asia, but she is standing as the champion of commercial rights in whose main tenance no nation is so vitally interested as the United States. With Japan paramount it is the belief of the observing class that American trade and influence in Asia would enjoy a rapid growth; while with Russia paramount it is believed that our merchants would find the door closed against them.

Russia may be grasping and aggressive: she can afford to leave the whole of Korea to little cramped up Japan. But this does not warrant the assumption that she represents reaction while Japan is the champion of liberalism and progress in the present contest.

The great purpose of Japan has not been to win victories so much as to impress upon the Russian government the absolute futility of Russia maintaining in the far-East such an empire as would menace the national existence of Japan. When we think that the main point of the Japanese demand was that of carrying out the Russian pledge to the Peking Powers,to maintain the administrative entity and territorial integrity of the Chinese Empire — a Mckinley-Hay policy which Russia had bound herself to keep by a sacred pledge alike to the United States and other Peking treaty signers as Japan. American sympathy must be with a nation that has made this common grievance, and peculiarly American grievance, all her own, and inasmuch as the battle of the Japanese nation is to punish Russia for the shameless perfidy in sight of the world in Manchuria, and to enforce the Russian promise of the open door for all the world in China, the Japanese nation’s battle is ours.

Manchuria and Korea treaties and the rights of settlement are but the flying flags of the skirmish line by the side of the great issue which drove little Japan into the last of independent Asiatic lands to fight for the independence of the yellow race in Asia. In reality, China is sick, and only Japan can save her. If Russia wins the Asiatic sun will set to rise no more, and China like India, Japan like Turkey, will be subject to the European system and its oppression. If Japan wins China will be reorganized under Japanese influence and half of Asia, and a third of the human race will enjoy liberty and self-rule. Whether Japan be victorious or defeated in her great struggle with her mighty foe, the moral victory of the Japanese people seems already to be absolutely complete and it is impossible to overestimate the value of it. She pursues no egotistic purpose, but seeks the subjugation of evils hostile to civilization, peace and enlightenment and her victory might well result in a great advantage to the peace, prosperity and true religiousness of the entire world. Besides she has proved the reality of her own physical and spiritual ideals. Let us hope the sun of Japan is now rising and her far-famed victories are but the heralds of what is to be when it reaches its full glorious meridian.

The heart of every American leaps with pride and reverence when he beholds the bright and glittering folds of the “Stars and Stripes;” but his patriotism is not mere hollow idolatry of national strength and grandeur but is genuine adoration and gratitude for the full measure of freedom and protection from the oppressors’ power. Fierce and long were the struggles for freedom from the rule of oppression, and because of these struggles our sympathies always go out to any nation struggling for its rights among nations, but victory always perches on the banner of right. He who neither slumbers nor sleeps, and who even marks the sparrow’s fall, holds also the destinies of nations in His hands.

Let us hope that back of this fierce war-cloud the gentle beams of peace are even now ready to burst forth in rich splendor, shedding their magnificent rays of goodwill and brotherly love over both friend and foe, and dissolving the gloom of hatred and oppression.

Let us hope that the consummation of this struggle will hasten that golden age of Peace when men of skill and resource will cease to seek the destruction of their fellow-men; when the sword shall be sheathed and drawn no more forever; and all humanity, regardless of race or caste, shall unite in the consummation of that one crowning principle: “The fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of all mankind.”

~ Finis ~

Delivered by Clyde Jenkins, Cable, Ohio.

May 5, 1905


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Japan and Russia, 1905 (Part II)

This is an excerpt from a school essay written in 1905 about the Russo-Japanese War. Read Part I here.


Now go with me for a moment and look in upon this situation from the Japanese standpoint. If Russia is fighting for the accomplishment of what she regards as her imperial destiny, for her commerce, her prestige, and her standing as a great oriental power, Japan, on the other hand, is battling for something far more vital — for her very existence as an independent nation. She has seen the Russians march across the vast continent of Asia until they reach the shores off which their own islands lie. She has seen them take Saghalien from her by the right of the stronger hand. She has seen them rob her of Port Arthur, the prize she won by her victory over China, and take it for themselves. If she continued her advance by absorbing Korea, Japan’s position would be irretrievably ruined. A glance at the map will show that Korea is, as a Japanese statesman declares, an arrow pointed at the heart of the island empire. Geographical and ethnical reasons make it imperative that Japan should have Korea.

We of the United States have notified the world that we will go to war rather than permit any European nation to encroach upon the American continent. Certainly we cannot blame the Japanese if, after seeing Russia absorb one stretch of Northern Asia after another, they are not willing to stand by with idle hands while she removes the last barrier between themselves and their quenchless earth-hunger. They refuse to let her plant her guns in sight of her shore. They decline to accept a situation so ruinous to the standing of Japan, so menacing to her existence as a nation. If they must go down before the Russian advance, they would rather go down fighting than standing still. Such is the spirit that animates every soldier and every sailor of Nippon in the present struggle.

While she disclaimed any intention of formally annexing Manchuria there were so many signs of permanent control by Russia in that province that Japan had taken alarm. being unable to reach any agreement, Japan struck the first blow by attacking the Russian fleet in Port Arthur on February 8, 1904. Japanese troops began to move into Korea on Feb. 18 and began a series of campaigns unexcelled in brilliancy by any of which history tells. Two and one-half months sufficed for the occupancy of Korea. The Japanese army now pressed northward and began the invasion of Manchuria. The story of the land campaign in Manchuria is one of an almost unchecked Japanese advance and a brilliantly executed Russian retreat. The main interest of the war has without a doubt centered about the siege of Port Arthur, which lasted from June to January and was marked with terrible losses and great gallantry on the part of both besieger and besieged. This town surrendered to the Japanese January 1st. The surrender of Port Arthur is followed by many minor battles which for the most part resulted disastrous to the Russians. On March 10 was fought at Mukden the most tremendous battles of modern times, if not all history, and resulted in a disastrous defeat to the Russians and their being caused to resume their retreat northward with the army of Nippon in hot pursuit. The smallest of the so called civilized powers fought it against Russia, the largest empire on earth, geographically speaking, and, as all military Europe told us, the greatest of military powers. Although peace seems in the far distance, Japan is now virtually in possession of all the points in dispute, while Russia, with broken prestige in Asia, faces a political and economic crisis at home.


To Be Continued!

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