English, Department of


Date of this Version



College English, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Feb., 1942), pp. 495-502


After the declaration of war upon us by the Axis nations, it seemed the editors of College English that the members of the College should, as soon as possible, co-operate in determining how best to fulfil our special responsibility throughout World War II. As a first step, we invited twenty-five teachers of English in colleges and universities to suggest how we should meet this professional emergency.

The Planning Commission of the N.C.T.E., at their meeting in Chicago during the Christmas holidays, and the College Section, at their meeting in Indianapolis with the M.L.A., considered general and basic wartime policies for the National Council. The result of these deliberations will be presented in the March College English.

To assemble a preliminary survey of opinion on the teaching of English in World War II, we had to act quickly in order to meet the deadline for the February issue. Nine letters from college men and women came back in time to be included in the symposium. The weakness of the small number, however, is overcome by the strength of the unified and obviously representative character of the responses. Teachers of English believe in the permanent value of the work they are doing. In peace or in war the discipline of the humanities is a way to decency in human relations. Those who have written for the symposium agree that our time of emergency requires of us, as teachers of English, a more vigorous concentration than ever upon clear expression and broad, permanently vital reading.

We will need to make curriculum changes, and individually we will perform special wartime duties; but the initial message from outstanding college teachers is that we must do the job for which we are trained: help others to realize the power which emanates from great literature to live humanely in the midst of conflict.