Published Date

June 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 34: Shall I Go Back to School? (1945)

After thinking all this over, Pvt. Jones may say, “Sure, that’s fine. I’d like to know about all these things—who wouldn’t? But I’m not a cat with nine lives. I haven’t got time to become a scientist, or an artist, or a psychologist, let alone to try to be all of them. I’ve only got about a couple of years of school coming to me under the GI Bill. I’ve got to use that time in getting prepared for a good job. What’s the answer?”

The answer is—Pvt. Jones can get some basic knowledge about many of these fields at the same time that he is getting technical training for his chosen occupation. He doesn’t have to try to be a “scientist,” as he calls it, in order to under-stand the fundamentals of science. He doesn’t have to take a college degree in psychology to understand the basic motives of human conduct. The answer is—general education.


What does that mean?

“General education,” as educators use the term, means education that is not directly pointed toward job training or special study. It consists of the minimum needed for a person to understand the world in which he lives. It attempts to give a person both knowledge of what the, modern world is all about and the ability to live in it.

General education courses may be taken in high school or college. They may be aimed to interest the average student or to challenge the most competent and advanced student. They are planned to be as complete as possible in themselves, so that the student who takes no further work in the field will understand the essentials and their relationship to his own life and environment. They will broaden his intellectual horizon and make him more effective as a citizen, a worker, a member of a home and family group, and as an individual.

Would you like to learn something about what’s behind people’s reactions and. how they can be influenced? How about a course in practical applications of psychology? Would you like to know about the creative writings which are a reflection of the American way? How about a course in American life and ideals in literature? Would you like to learn how to untangle truth from falsehood and misrepresentation in the things you read and hear? How about a course in straight and crooked thinking—usually called “logic”?

The role of guidance

“Sure,” says Pvt. Jones, “but why should I take courses in school? Can’t I get the same things in other ways-through reading, listening to the radio, and talking with people who know more about it than I do?”

Of course, Pvt. Jones can get a lot from these and other everyday sources. He probably will learn a great deal that way all his life. But the information from such sources usually comes to him in a haphazard, incomplete, and unrelated manner. Real knowledge and understanding have to be acquired in a systematic way.

What can the listener really learn from a radio talk on the role of world trade in relation to national prosperity and jobs if he doesn’t have any foundation in economics to tie it to? Does he know where to find the best sources of information on an interesting topic that has come up in conversation? How can he tell if a newspaper or magazine article he reads is biased and incorrect? Where can he learn the truth?

The job of the schools is to promote and direct learning as effectively as possible. They aim to show the student how and where he can-learn more about any given subject. They aim to sharpen his critical abilities so that he can distinguish the false from the true. Courses are organized so that each step leads naturally to the next one. Arithmetic is taught before algebra, for instance, and algebra before trigonometry.

Most people also need the continual expert guidance and suggestions of a teacher if they are to get more than a smattering of knowledge about any subject.

The provision of such guidance and suggestions is the main job of the schools.

Will there be much red tape?

Of course there will be some red tape when you go back to school. The amount of red tape will vary according to the type of school or training program you choose. But it will chiefly depend on what you have done about it ahead of time.

There is one requirement which every serviceman going back to school must meet-he must present his previous school record, both civilian and Army.

The amount of red tape can be reduced by doing two things. First, see that your previous school record, whether high school, college, or other, is sent to the institution you want to enter. This record should be sent several weeks before you plan to begin school.

Second, see that a complete record of your Army training and experience is sent to the school or college of your choice. A form has been prepared for this purpose: USAF1 Form No. 47 (Revised September 1944) “Application for Credit for Educational Achievement during Military Service.” Get a copy from your information-education officer or the nearest USAFI branch. Instructions on the form will tell you when and how to use it.

Doing these two things before you apply for admission will greatly speed up the process of registration and accept-ance by the school. The process of establishing credits will undoubtedly take some time. Men who wish to return to school may find their return delayed if they wait until the last minute before making any of the preliminary arrangements.

As another preliminary to getting started in classwork, the school or college of your choice may want you to take some classification tests. These tests may seem like more red tape. Actually they will help the school place you properly and may suggest possible short cuts that will save you time. You need not necessarily have had much formal schooling to do well on some of these tests. Consequently you may be able to “skip” courses you never have studied in a school. Already a few men have started college who never attended a high school. While such a jump from grade school to college is rare, there will be many examples of able men skipping a year or two of high school.

For further help

Men who are thinking about going to school after leaving the Army should talk to their information-education officers or personal affairs officers. These men, and sometimes chaplains, are in a position to give other preliminary educational information and advice. Some important matters, such as making financial arrangements, will have to wait until after discharge. At that time the Veterans Administration or other agencies can be consulted.

The chief sources of counsel and information available to soldiers after discharge from the Army include the following:

  • Discharge—separation or demobilization centers. Veterans Administration.
  • United States Employment Service (local community office). Counseling and vocational guidance service of local high schools and colleges.
  • Local information and referral centers for veterans. The American Red Cross.
  • State Bureaus of Veterans Affairs.
  • Local posts or chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled Veterans, and other veterans’ organizations.
  • Local Selective Service Boards.

Which way?

Well now, where are we? For some soldiers there’s no real problem about the direction they wish to go. Some have thought it all through and made their decisions. For others, individual circumstances will point definitely in one direction. Not all people can profit from further training. For the man who has fully used his aptitudes, further training may not be especially appropriate or helpful.

But the majority of the soldiers who are undecided will want to keep turning certain matters over in their minds. Things aren’t going to be the same at home as when they went away. The better preparation one has for a job, the better and more secure the job is likely to be. The government will provide substantial benefits for those who want to continue their education or training. Besides the job, there are other things worth learning about that make life a lot more interesting and enjoyable.

You have only one life to live. Where do you want it to lead you-or do you want to lead it? What’s the best plan in the long run? Now is the time to plan the rest of your life in order to get what you want out of living it.

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