"I believe in a liberal education as a necessary condition for the maintenance of a liberal democracy," writes Matthew Well, vice-president of the American Federation of Labor, in today's Alumni Dulletin.
Born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Well came to this country at the age of eleven. He learned English, and finished grammar school when he was 15 years old.
Studied in Evenings
Apprenticing himself to a photo-engraver, Well continued to study in evening school for three years. At last he was admitted to the bar in Illinois, but at the same time he became more interested in union activities and became president of his labor union.
"It was in the workshop and the union that I first got my introduction to America and my early education," writes the man who is new president of the union Labor Life Insurance Company, sponsored by the A. F. of L.
In the shops there is a liberal education, for there he learned practical economics and "a good deal about human relations between workers and employers." He continues, "Courses are given in college on industrial relations, but no one can quite appreciate the relationship between workers and management or among workers themselves, unless he has worked at the bench.
Key Is Self-Reliance
Furthermore, the workshop developed, asserts Well, "self-reliance, dependence on one's own initiative and imagination." But it is in the trade unions that thousands of young citizens go to school.
Not only do they find training in Parliamentary practice, but every public question, both domestic and foreign, comes up for discussion in the meetings. "The Union is concerned with questions of broader public interest than merely wages and hours and working conditions."
"Liberal education, with its emphasis on the development of the citizen for adjustment to a changing civilization, has a unique and increasingly important opportunity in days to come."