Volume V - No. 6
Parks for Appreciation of Country
BY CARL P. RUSSELL,
(An excerpt from an address delivered by Dr. Russell on November 29 at a session of the annual Eastern Regional Conference of the National Park Service)
Conservationists and educators throughout the United States have engaged in 1940 as never before in a searching analysis of existing methods of providing citizens with a basis of knowledge of all things American. They have done this because they believe that democracy depends fundamentally upon the wisdom of the people.
Reports and publications prepared in connection with these studies reflect the high resolve of all workers who have participated in the program to defend their government, their democratic institutions, and their ideals against the antisocial forces now sweeping the world. They point in unison to the fact that preservation of American traditions, the teaching of history, and the popular interpretation of natural history can make important contribution to the preparedness program. One of the discerning observations made in these studies of social needs comes from the pen of Archibald MacLeish of the Library of Congress:
Gradually it has become apparent to a multitude of Americans that an important educational aspect is to be found in the public enjoyment of parks; that scenic and scientific appreciation, historical-mindedness and national patriotism are intensified through their use. The National Park Service has committed itself to a policy of preserving, and presenting by striking examples, the comprehensive and varied story of earth forces and the progress of civilization in this country. From the standpoint of scope, the Service programs now connect and constitute expression of much that is essentially American. In short, the National Park Service is situated most advantageously to develop a national perspective in social traditions and esthetic appreciation of all that America has and stands for.
Making this wealth of national expression accessible and understood to millions of citizens is the great responsibility and opportunity of the National Park Service. That such work has a direct bearing on national morale and preparedness for war is apparent. The Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments, during its October meeting in Washington, anticipated National Park Service cooperation with the Army and Navy in presenting to the armed forces of the nation the story of the national parks and historical reservations. Its recommendation:
In conclusion, it may be stated that 1940 has witnessed a critical review and reexamination of those public agencies engaged in educational activities contributing to national understanding of American values and democratic principles. National Park Service programs stand out in high relief among the activities directed toward attainment of citizen appreciation of our national heritage. Because of the advantageous position of National Park Service areas in the social scheme, they are to be recognized as especially well situated to develop a national perspective in native values and democratic ways.
Probably we do not place too high an appraisal upon the value of Service programs when we assert that they constitute one of the most potent agencies in effecting mental preparedness and maintaining national morale.
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