Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education

Paula S. Fass

Oxford University Press 1989


Part One -




Though a marginal factor in American Social life, schools were being lauded as the cure all by the early twentieth century.  It has been a huge part of our national dialogue and each of our private lives.  Her contention is that the shape of public schools reflects our encounters with diversity and outsiders.  It was hoping to make them industrious Americans, but they too in the process transformed the institutions and what being American could mean.


-- Chapter One –

The Progressive, the Immigrant and the School

P. 13    Carl Kaestle has written about the ways in which schooling in nineteenth century America was entwined with the developing capitalist economy, the ethos of republicanism, and the values of an ebullient Protestant middle class.  The hoped for outcomes included high-minded character, a religiously derived morality, and industriousness oriented to social progress – virtues understood to be essential to effective republican citizenship.  The chief end was to make GOOD CITIZENS, not to make precocious scholars or the secrets of getting wealth.

            By the late nineteenth she thinks the fate of the republic was no longer an issue.  Economic success, loyalty to the state and the incorporation of a heterogeneous population presented new goals.  And while we have satisfactory accounts of the common schools, we do not have the same for progressive education.  It is characterized by different groups (labor unions, socialists, city managers, middle class reformers, journalists etc) each push their special interest.  Dewey and Cremin’s coherent accounts are being challenged. 

            She will focus here on the professional reformers and how they understood social problems and older concerns about republican citizenship informed their idea of cultural investments in school.  They addressed the paradox that American expansion required the infusion of outsiders, but the outsiders threatened to dissolve the culture and its links to the past by their presence.

            They had two unqualified solutions: 1) Education was a transparent social good and 2) that all should be educated and were capable of it. 

            They had to deal with the industrial changes afoot.  The moral order and social meaning were lost.  This perception augments their social problem viewpoint.  Between 1860 and 1890 thirteen and one-half million and three quarters of many cities’ populations entered the us.  In many industries one half to two-thirds of the workers were immigrants.  The new immigrants were portrayed as more alien, transient, autocratic, less family-oriented, less literate, darker and not worshippers of the Protestant god.

            Citizenship had been inseparable from autonomy.  Work was the basis of this autonomy, self-identification and self-worth.  Early 19th century reformers were Whigs.  Independence was also tied in with agriculture.   The cities did not raise folks to the same degree of independence.  They problematized the relationship between work and citizenship.  

            Reformers increased their attention to the leisure, family life, health, and housing of the poor (their private lives).  Work had lost its moral force in the factory.  It did, however, make you aware that life was fast paced and that you were a part of a larger concern.  But the work is not educational.  Felix Adler founded the Ethical Culture Society.  He pushed the non-religious sense of “calling” as an intense identification with work. But he knew industrial work could not be a calling. 

            P. 19 Reformers called upon the government to intervene and compensate.  Jacob Riis’s first sentence in his The Children of the Poor is “The problem of the children is the problem of the state.”  Americans had invested the family with great purpose and importance throughout the nineteenth century.  Along with the church ad school they had a moral mission.  Now it was seen as another place of work. 

            The family divested of work and work of meaning they sought to reform school because they could not reform work or societies’ direction at large.

            P. 21 society shook all, but schools remained intact.  Support for them was very broad based  Unions, socialists, families and populists loved em.  Education has long been a part of our cultural faith.  Without compulsory attendance laws, many had attended, but it was not universal.  Elementary education was all most could expect.  Expanding the length and mission of schools was at the heart of education reform efforts.  Most high schools were public.  In 1870, only 2.7 percent of all students eligible for four-year high schools were in public schools.  By 1890 it was 4.2 percent.  The private schools did latin to prepare for college, public schools were to be more preparatory for life. 

            Riis noted that the poor were nearly all foreign. 

            P. 23 The evangelical nature of early 19th century Protestantism was being called into question by secularization and science.  Furthermore, new theories of child rearing, Catholics and foreign language groups and socialists challenged the simple mission.  Reformer’s emphasis on the tenacious characteristics of immigrants also complicated the definition of Americanism.  In light of their implicit discoveries about culture, education became a much subtler matter for reformers than common schools had been.  They found neighborhood ethnic organizations and garnered that education was the process of total socialization.

            The schools were to become an integral part of these neighborhoods.  Schools were not to be didactic instruments of morality and citizenship.  Instead, schools were to be democratic and participatory.  They would recreate the communities that cities had replaced.  Vocational ed was kept as a moral instrument.  It was very craft oriented.  They were not unaware of the danger of education becoming class education.  Handling the forces of nature was to help him rise up.  They found the widely pushed purely academic curriculum inappropriate for a boy who would drop out at 14.  Work was to be the center of common socialization, not highbrow academics. 

            Pg. 30 The reformers found the relationship between the family and neighborhood problematic and so inserted the schools into the community.  Immigrant kids were hampered by language problems, siblings needing care at home and parents that undercut the school’s authority.  Whereas administrators were worried about efficiency and order, progressives wanted to work around the realities of the kids.  The schools also had to be sensitive to the fact of diversity and that all kids could not be treated uniformly.  But this meant industrial training for those cultures suitable for it. 

            The progressives appreciated diversity, but also found it disturbing.  They thought it provided energy, and yet needed to be unified.   With the “flavor of mind” of each group, you did not want to educate folks beyond their station, but fit them into it.   They wanted change and growth built upon the strength the communities provided.  Without alienating them from their folks, they wanted progress.  These are not contradictions, but the essence of progressive school ideology.  They were all interested in reconstructing the society. 

            Progressive education set the terms of the educational debate throughout the twentieth century.  It defined the issues for school administrators long after those pressing issues were less urgent. 


-- Chapter Two –

Education, Democracy, and the Science of Individual Differences

            Thomas took a cultural view of differences.  But others took the inborn view.  IQ testing extended powerfully into schools as a result.  Whether to educate all or only those who can absorb it became a tension.  The inborn was emphasized.  Why?

            Pg. 37 First, by emphasizing schooling as socialization, knowing the particular child became important. Hence the reliance on IQ tests.  Secondly, progressive school reform was a part of progressive managerial reform.  Social reform was generous, but managerial reform was efficient. 

            Between 1890 and 1940 the proportion of all children from five to seventeen attending school went from 44 percent to 74 percent.  During the same period the expenditure per child went from 17 to 105 dollars and attendance days went from 60 to 130.  Amidst this growth, IQ helped deal with heterogeneity. 

            In the 19th century most only got the rudiments of literacy.  Before 1880 no state even had an effective compulsory education law.  Mobility usually depended on connections, marriage, capital, skills gotten through work, strong work habits, sobriety and ingenuity.  As this system of advance eroded, school took over.  They thus socialized humans and advanced them where the community had previously done both. 

            Not so much the college bound academics, but the physical, mental, emotional growth, interests aptitudes, present and future relationships became foci.  Schooling for life.  Complicating this mission was that in 1908 71.5% of students had foreign-born fathers in NY.  57.8 in other 37 other cities was found.  40.4 percent were retarded (behind in their work) the Dillingham Commission found.  They were overage, not performing, not progressing and not learning. 

            P. 43 Keeping them in longer was facilitated by fights against child labor and stronger school attendance laws.  By 1920 they had been successful on both fronts.  By 1930, 90.0 percent of all fourteen and fifteen year old children of native white parents were in school, while 91.3 percent of mixed and 92.6 of immigrant parentage were in school.  But this brought in those who were most often failures.  Retardation showed that something was wrong with the schools and the kids. 

            P. 46 A brief history of Binet’s test and Louis Terman and WW I IQ testing follows.  Continuing, results were correlated with differences in region, education, race and country of origin of WW I draftees.  The public was riveted by lower scores for blacks and recent Italian and Slav immigrants on tests administered in English and native languages.  Thus the army made racist arguments, not conclusively, but publicly.  This intensified awareness of individual and group differences. 

            Binet wasn’t concerned with how much of your intelligence was from the environment and how much from nature.  But we took to its promise of measuring innate and unchanging potential like a fish to water, a bird to the sky and a building to the city.  Perhaps that is because it offered the promise of being able to deal with all these different sorts of peoples in an efficient and easy to conceptualize way.  It seemed to stand apart from culture and captured our concern with race and education. 

            Progressives were confused by the intersection of race and culture.  The use of IQ had an influence on the immigration exclusion acts of the 1920s.  But it was a mixture of racism and culturism. 

            IQ allowed the educators to shift the blame of inadequate school to the inadequacy of the pupils. 

            Pg 51Education reformers, such as Mr. Dewey, shifted emphasis from the acquisition of the accumulated wisdom of the past, to the unfolding of your inner potential. 

            Edward Cubberly wrote the introduction to Lewis Terman’s The Measurement of Intelligence.  He said that choice of study, juvenile delinquency and separation into tracks could be done via IQ.  It was convenient that schools, hit with a huge task, could limit aspirations via IQ.  For all this to work, the thing measured by IQ had to be reified.  Again, separation into tracks for the better fitting of individuals was a big implication of IQ. 

            The reliance on IQ narrowed Dewey’s “whole-child” approach.  One facet of the individual was to be emphasized.  It would be mean spirited and wrong to say that educators used IQ to exclude newer immigrants.  The switch from the idea of acquiring information to the process of learning facilitated this trend. 

            Pg. 56 Schools were also urged to provide other social services.  The schools never became the vital centers of community life envisioned by educators.  They became more than just learning centers though.  Free lunches, nurses guidance clinics, speech therapy, summer recreation, and other services joined in the mission.  Though ad hoc in the 1920s, these services came to be seen as integral to equal educational opportunity by the late 30s.

            Leonard Covello got Italian introduced as a language option in high schools. His vision of a community school is one that respects and affects the community of the district everyday.  But this was respecting the immigrant culture, on the one hand, and an attempt to tame it on the other.  The visiting teacher was an example of this.  They were to remediate the family and if necessary report misconduct to SPC officials.

            Reaching out to the community was also expressed in having courses for al levels of folks.   Black people at Jordan High School in LA were preparing to become chefs.  Jews in mercantile, Swedes in mechanics.  Thus were folks “scientifically” routed.  George Counts’ study showed that those who come from good backgrounds will do well and vice versa.  One principle found via questionnaire that kids would leave school if they were not trained for a job.  Thus practical student concerns, ethnic background and school retention were linked.  But, in fact, those enrolled vocational classes were more likely to drop out.  School was seen by many as an escape from manual labor.

           By 1930, when 60 percent of all high-school age youth were in school, the motives for attendance were more varied.  But once schools limited you via vocational training, what they could offer you –in terms of a better life – was cheapened.  Businessmen preferred folks with general, rather than specific, skills.  Skills taught were often outdated as they were being taught. 

            P. 67 With child labor laws, kids were not at work.  How to keep them in the school and off the streets?  John Dewey saw mental and manual work as intimately related.  The commercial tracks were to keep the less desirable’s kids accounted for.  So the new democratic schools were less about adapting the kids to what they needed, in some respects, than confirming preconceived notions about them.  And IQ testing, vocational education, age grouping, systematic tracking became what were what educators of the time came to think of when the word “progressive was used.”  It was not Dewey’s vision of releasing potentials for social progress, rather it was the need for efficiency.  Every person was pegged to go where they were best suited from top to bottom came to be what was meant by democratic education.   Intellect had notin’ to do wit it.  This was in part based on the ‘realization’ that not all the eggs in the basket are sharp. 

            Our unity was not to be taught explicitly as to derive from our having been individually and efficiently sorted.   


-- Chapter Three –

“Americanizing” the High Schools: New York in the 1930s and ‘40s

            P. 73 Children of immigrants, in the 1930s, were moving into high schools and even colleges.  High school used to be a major unattainable achievement for most.  Some used them on the way to college.  Most never saw them.  We now link them up with elementary schools as much as we do with colleges.  Age, not level of academic achievement, came to make you a high school student.  These became, in the thirties, signs that your ethnic enclave had arrived as he schools, like the neighborhoods, were ethnic enclaves. 

            Making Americans was to be done based on the adolescent’s proclivity for clannishness.  They would learn to be decent citizens by self-directing their own social, civic, athletic and academic affairs.  Extra curricular affairs took off. 

            Training for leadership and school spirit became goals and the extracurricular activities became the repository for the old common school ideal.  Having fun exploring who you potentially are became important.  And these after school activities became a messier fit for the science of education.  In the 30s and 40s 4/5th participated in some club.     P. 80 She did an ethnic analysis of the clubs.  Jews and native whites were always over represented in the clubs.  Jews were more active than native whites.  Italians and Germans didn’t join as much.  Blacks and Irish were between the Italians and Germans and the whites and Jews. 

            Irish men never joined science, orchestra or dramatics.  Jews and Blacks didn’t do much religious stuff.  No black was a student body president or head editor.  3/4ths of blacks were in groups, but the range they were in was narrow.  They did tons of track team activity.  They did a little basketball, but not many other sports.  Jews did basketball, natives did football.  Perhaps track being individual and non-contact was more comfortable for blacks.  Women did not differentiate so much in sports. 

            Women were less ethnically oriented overall.  But Jewish women did literary activities.  When a woman was an editor it was a Jew.  Italians, blacks and Irish did not do newspapers.  The exception was yearbook.  Whites and Irish headed them.  Irish men, natives and even Germans were overrepresented as class presidents, but especially native whites were.  Jews, Italians and blacks were underrepresented.  Jews were president in overwhelmingly Jewish schools.  In lower offices, Irish were still overrepresented. 

            Celebrity status went to whites (whatever “celebrity status” is).  Males for achievements and females for their beauty and grace.  Jewish men achieved this more than Jewish women. 

            Jewish men dominated academic clubs such as science.  Native men also participated.  Italians, Germans and Irish were only weakly involved and blacks not at all.  Jewish women did not do academic clubs.  Italian women were the strongest in academic clubs in sharp contrast to Italian men.  Jews and Irish began to send women to school much earlier and keep them there longer.  Only the most academically ambitious Italian women were encouraged to stay.  After blacks, Italians were the poorest and most likely to need to drop out for monetary reasons.  If anyone was going to graduate, from an Italian family, they would push the boy as a future breadwinner. 

            P. 89-90 Ethnic stereotypes are often not across both genders.  In social activities we see the strongest correlation between ethnicity and participation patterns.  Jews did more extracurricular generally than others and more in service too.  Blacks made a good showing here.  This might confirm their desire to participate being channeled into less high profile activities.  Little teamwork was needed here so the risk of exclusion was less.

            Jews and Irish went separate ways on politics, sports and politics v literary activities, science and academic clubs.  Native men were least restricted in their choices but high profile in social ones. 

            P. 92 There are three routs to assimilation: schools where native patterns dominated, schools where one ethnic group dominated or schools where no one was in control. 

            George Washington high school was rich, Seward Park was less so.  Seward Park was 74% Jewish.  Blacks were even more widely involved in activities there than other places, especially black women.  So blacks here were more welcomed. 

            Jews participated less vigorously at SP than at other schools.  As the majority, they didn’t need to strive as hard, they could assume social acceptability.  The one area where they totally dominated was politics. 

            The GW Jewish experience was very different.  Jews were active strivers at GW but they didn’t capture positions with power and prestige.  Native men took these (presidencies, yearbook, football, celebrities).  Jewish women were less affected and were all over. 

            The folks at GW had arrived economically and Italians were, thus, uncharacteristically active.   They for once ignored football and did social stuff.  They avoided the Jewish dominated academic clubs.   Academics, formal and informal, at GW were even more than elsewhere a Jewish arena for achievement. 

            Native men were one-fifth the population at GW and held one-half of the celebrity positions.  They represented the archetypal ideal of assimilation. 

            P. 96 Evander Childs and New Ultrecht were suburban, largely white and lower-middle to middle class.  At EC Jews (44%) and Italians (17%) met a large contingent of natives (19%) who had previously dominated.  NU was more Jewish. 

            At NU Italians were underrepresented in the social world (Jews controlled these).  Italian men tended to cluster in the glee club, religious clubs and football and showed an unusual interest in academics.  Italian and Jewish separation suggests both marked distinctions in choices and the probable exclusion of Italians from the most sensitive political and social areas. 

            At EC Italians ruled social activities.  Blacks were absent from most activities other than service where 75 percent of all black men were involved and in track which had ½ of the black men.  Native men were in every part of EC’s extracurricular world.  As was true at GW, Jews were bested by natives for the most prestigious posts, the presidencies and editorships. 

            P. 98 The differences in the experiences of Jews and Italians at EC and NU seems to have had less to do with the economics than with the demographics of the schools and their surrounding neighborhoods.  Between 1933 and 1945 the Italian population went from 10 to 23 percent as the native population shrunk from 26 to 14.  They were rising where as in NU they were a constant minority by a slim margin.  At EC Italians were not an outgroup but one of several minorities. 

            At Theodore Roosevelt High School (TR) in the Bronx, Jews experienced an even sharper set of constraints than at EC.  It was in an old Irish neighborhood flooded by Jews and Italians.  Jewish youths were frequently harassed by Irish and churches became involved in these controversies.  Certain activities were Irish.  Men participated more than elsewhere in religious activities as it was a source of identity there.  Irish and natives were particularly dominant in politics and active in the newspapers. 

            P. 99 But elections to the presidency, a source of evidence for her shows, six male presidents – three native, one Irish and Jewish and one Italian.  Sure, Natives are overrepresented, but this is far from exclusionary (except for blacks).  Still she points out that Irish and Natives controlled 2/3rds of the presidencies while only being 1/5th of the population.

            Italian men made an unusually strong showing in academics there.  One woman was elected president, Irish, other political offices were dominated by Irish women too.  The marked preference of Jewish women for literary activities is nowhere better illustrated than at TR.  Jewish men apparently, far more than Jewish women, felt the brunt of power. 

            Bay Ridge was and is an all female school.  It was thus considered safe and so a lot of Italian women (highly protected by their culture) went. Italian women participated much more widely here and so show the above.  It was also largely non-Jewish (6%)  but regardless of environment Jewish women were into literary interests.  Italian women dominating social clubs may reflect the lack of religious clubs.  The four black women were highly active.  Women tended in all schools to demonstrate fewer sharply defined ethnic patterns. 

            P. 102 High School of Commerce was uni-sex and vocational.  It had a lot of Irish and blacks.  Irish who couldn’t get into Catholic schools often went vocational.  Blacks went from 3 percent in 1933 to 15 percent in 1947.  Jews went from 31 to 15 percent in the same times.  Jews led in student activities.  All editors, two of nine presidents, but no science.  Irish were heavy in politics and other political offices and sports.  They also eschewed science. 

            Germans, here, and at other schools clustered heavily.  They were prominent among presidents glee club and drama. 

            Perhaps the prominence of Jews in extracurricular reflects that it looks good on college apps and they were going.  But choices clustering also reflects ethnic preference even among those who viewed their parents old world affiliations with disdain or pain. 

            Ethnic groups had different experiences at different schools.  Woman often made different choices than their ethnic brothers.  And ethnicity seems to not have been as consistently expressed by women as men.  Economics had an effect Italians and blacks did more at schools where their escape from poverty allowed them to. People did mix a lot.  Natives had prestige, Jews had academic ambition and blacks had exclusion generally. Irish and Italians dominated religious clubs.  These were features of the larger world that they were introduced to in public school.  Ethnicity was a strong source of guidance and a continuing source of identification within the mass culture and the impersonality of the school.  The schools not only did not succeed in destroying the ethnic affiliations of the students, it encouraged and supported and therefore, strengthened them.    

            P. 109 Here she walks a fine line between blame for the schools creating this situation and failure to appreciate the strength of cultures.  “A Jew, in most places, found a richer set of contexts for personal development and more social approval than an Italian.”  Found or made? 

            P. 110 “In education, we are all more or less progressive, since we assume that doing well academically is a positive objective, and therefore anything that inhibits this – race, sex, class, ethnicity – is an impediment to progress.”  Not all associations that reduce academic achievement are bad.  These reflect different expressions of and strategies of assimilation.  Schools blunted the edges of cultures, allowing some characteristics and stopping others.  It identified strengths of groups and helped them in a socially approving manner. 

            P. 111 “Separating culture from society may be useful heuristically, but it has neither the feel of reality nor the sense of history.”  The immigrant child was not just like his parents.  The ethnic groups experienced each other in a space and shaped that space. 


Part Two -



-- Chapter Four –

New Day Coming: The Federal Government and Black Education in the 1930’s and ‘40s

            P. 116 Intro quote says it is unjust to have healthy illiterates (re: black) unaffected at home while others (re: white) go fight.

            Blacks were small in NYC where progressives were and were treated as if they did not exist by most education policy makers.  In the 30s and 40s blacks rarely saw high schools.  They were largely illiterate.   FDR’s putting the Federal government into education changed this.  The opening of schools to immigrants had never resulted in a federal policy or significantly disturbed politics.  Most progressives saw themselves as above politics and Federal involvement was seen as unconstitutional.  The Federal government came in when optimism was hurting in the 1930s and during the war.  As such it saw black education not as a pedagogical issue, but a social issue. 

            On the eve of the Great Depression Hoover appointed a National Advisory Committee on Education.  Issued in 1931 it suggested that some of the increasingly expensive schooling be paid for by the Federal government.  This was partially urged due to the recognition of how uneven school expenditures were in the country.  This was acceptable as long as it “does not delegate to the Federal Government any control of the social purpose and specific purposes of education.”  At the end of the report the presidents of Negro institutions of higher learning asked for some state proportionality in spending on blacks.  The report overall thought that black education would develop as the needs of the black people developed.  Schooling was not a force for social reform, and equal schooling could not produce social equality. 

            P. 120 Throughout the 1930s the NEA would stand behind the Hoover committee.  School reform, not national reform was their goal.  They wanted to be professionals and had no particular interest in blacks. Hoover, by contrast, did not entirely ignore blacks.  The National Advisory Committee on Education, again, had three black educators and he appointed Ambrose Caliver as a senior specialist on Negro education to the Office of Education.  But they were still an addendum that would not spur federal policy.  This would require education problems, not successes, to take center stage.  The NEA was not going to publicize these.  It would require that Federal money be pointed when allocated, the NEA was not going to push for this. 

            FDR had no education agenda.  Caliver was a frustrated surveyor and meeting organizer.  The Office of Education only thought in terms of general monies.  The New Deal entered education parallel to public state education. 

            Hopkins and Ickes administered the Alphabet soup to provide relief.  They did school construction and repair, teacher employment, courses in literacy and naturalization, vocational training and rehabilitation, nursery schools, correspondence courses, educational radio programs.  They did no education policy at all.  The CCC originally thought the participants would pick up what they needed to learn on the job.  It became clear that they needed direct instruction, especially in literacy.  They also created academic programs just to occupy folks.  By 1938 – 39 more than 90 percent of the members of the corps were enrolled in some instruction, averaging four hours per week. 

In 1937 Congress formally organized their educational programs by giving each camp a school building. 

            p. 124 the NYA was even more administratively fragmented.  Established as an autonomous part of the WPA in 35, it was to allow students in secondary school and colleges to continue their education.  They helped 500,000 a year, but had no contact with the Office of Education until 1940. 

            There were also educational programs run by the WPA.  It also professed no education policy.  But all New Deal programs spoke to the nature and role of education in America.  They were work oriented and they were aimed at the poor.  They implied a criticism of established educational offerings and demonstrated what the feds could do.  They also created the idea that all that could, should be in college regardless of economic background. 

            P. 126 Aubrey Williams told a Harvard audience that the division between academic and vocational education had been overdone.  It was a hold over of the difference between the gentleman and the laborer.  He said that such a division was dangerous to our democracy.  He then did the standard, and largely true, denial that the federal government had interfered in the local control of education.  They had worked outside of the classroom, but touched those previously ignored and raised the specter of social reform.  It showed the Feds could have a role in economics and education.

            Finally the New Deal program’s attention to the problem of blacks was wholly unprecedented.  Of course, Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the National Council of Negro Women (appointed to serve as head of the Negro Affairs Office in the NYA, was behind much of this attention.  100,000 black adults were reported to have learned to read and write because of the WPA program.  Williams also saw black progress as a top priority.  300,000 black youth participated in the NYA.  A special fund only applied to blacks and helped 4000 college and graduate students. 

            CCC camps were segregated.  In response to any slight pressure CCC camps for Negroes were cancelled or moved.  The CCC was run by the War Department, the NYA run by Williams and Ickes was able to do more.  Its ad hoc nature allowed Bethune to have much influence that shielded FDR from political implications.  The program was especially strong in Georgia.  Throughout the South, black high school enrollment rose 126 percent. 

            P. 133 These programs also created professional black leadership dedicated to black advances.  It propelled them towards demands for justice. 

            P. 134 The NEA largely thought the Federal Education programs a threat to their power and democracy.  But the New Deal did not lay foundations for post-depression programs.  So the New Deal, in part, raised expectations it could not fulfill.  Also, the New Deal programs did nothing to break down the separate but equal situation. 

            In Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Education in 1938 professional educators were in a minority.   Black concerns were no longer relegated to an appendix, but were fundamental to the report as a whole.  It had a broad perspective that recognized the school as a socializing agency.  Hoover’s had looked at school as an extension of the neighborhood, Roosevelt’s as a means for bringing democracy about and national goals.  It legitimized a right to an education.  It took ka less than strident pose, in the end, when it pointed to a lack of funding and the solution being equalized federal funding as the goal.  It accepted, then, segregation and did not address local inequalities in appropriations. 

            The reports recommendations were not adopted as WW II interrupted all and gave power back to the NEA. 

            P. 139 The War did not stop federal education, but switched it to the Department of War.  They were not interested in justice but an immediate payoff in manpower.   It also put the Army in the glare of nervous publicity concerning inequality. 

           From the beginning of the war blacks were about twice as often to be categorized as 4-F and be rejected for service.  The situation was worse in the South.  80 percent of the blacks were in classes IV and V on the Army General Classification Test (AGCT), as against 30-40% of whites.  41% of whites and 17% of blacks had graduated high school between 1941-5, but this statistic does not address the shorter years and lower teacher standards at black high schools.  Three of four black registrants came from the South. 

            P. 142 Induction standards were first at 4th grade level and John Hershey, selective service director, thought everyone in America had reached that standard.  In 1941 Hershey called on the War Department to “cosponsor with this headquarters a project that has as its objective the correction of illiteracy.”  In June of 1943 the Special Training Units were created to address the needs of the more capable grade V men, and non-English speakers and illiterates.  It was largely, though, designed with blacks in mind.  The percentage of Vs in white units was not a problem the rejection rate of blacks necessitated the action. 

            P. 145 Mental capacity, rather than literacy, was made the criteria for induction of all personnel.  In June, 1943 all limits on the induction of illiterates were lifted.   Between this time and September 30th, 1945 217,000 strictly illiterates were inducted (almost ½ black) and the top two-fifths of Category V men.  This brought the total to well over 300,000 in the STUs.  Overall, 139,000 of 321,000 blacks inducted were in these categories. The Fourth Corp area was the deep south and ½ were from there. 

            The STUs were segregated.  1,271 of the 5,291 teachers were black.  The goals were a modest fourth grade level and understanding of war aims.  The maximum stay was 12 weeks with some 16 week exceptions.  Failures left with an honorable discharge.  The Army was never satisfied but Ginzberg and Bray noted that only 10 percent were failures in school and their military performance was adequate, as good as that of comparable soldiers who had not required instruction in literacy.  Schooling helped 348,000 illiterates during the war and another 35,000 in the Navy 45 % of whom were black. 

            Ginzberg and Bray found that one-half of the graduates of STUs sought further instruction after the war under the GI Bill.  Blacks were equal to whites in their postwar pursuit of education.  And more than whites, they sought non-agricultural learning. 

            The implications went beyond the particular attainments of the participants.  The army realized that the AGCT was partially an achievement test.  Whereas inferiority was the bombshell of the WW I induction procedure, illiteracy was of the WW II one.  By the end of the war the army had pub itself on record as supporting the teachability of blacks.  They used the better than whites graduation rate of blacks from the STUs to prove it.  They got to the fourth-grade level faster than whites did. 

            At Fort Benning the army sought to raise the educational level of black soldiers to an 8th grade level.  The biggest program was in post-war Germany in 1947.  The program was a success and peaked in 1950.  It raised the AGCT scores by an average of 20 points.  Morris MacGregor wrote of this program at the Grafenwohr Training Center. 

            Caliver, who headed the Office of Education for three decades and was always an outsider in policy pushed for Adult Education.  But remedial education seemed less important in the 1950s than cutting edge science to the Feds. 

            P. 154 On the eve of the Brown decision, Ginzberg and Bray wrote of how weird it was that the poor inequitable distribution of education in America was not an issue.  They only hit the radar at all due to the New Deal and W W II and then only peripherally.  Unintentionally they set a precedent for Federal action. 


-- Chapter Five –

The Female Paradox: Higher Education for Women, 1945 -63

            Women entered education concern differently than blacks or minorities.  They had always done well in school and did not figure in the IQ debates.  Apart from the special vocational offerings for them, the curriculum for women and others was equal.  Women had politely taken their high school degrees and retreated to homes. 

            P. 157 However, women in the middle of the 19th century began to vocally demand and receive places in institutions of higher learning.  It was in the area of voluntary higher education that women began to create a ruckus.  By 1920 they represented almost one-half of all college enrollments.  During the war they were more than half.  The female paradox was that women were receiving more education than they needed and this became a big issue in post-WW II times.  By 1950 the proportion of women in institutions had plummeted to 30 percent, lower than at any point in the twentieth century. 

            P. 158-9 White thought that women’s arts, cooking, should be honored with a place in the college curriculum.  This was taken seriously as a progressive and democratic use of education.  In the late twentieth century women’s education had been thought of as equal.  That was when Latin and classical studies dominated.  In the early twentieth it went to broad based liberal arts – a broadly non-utilitarian education whose stated goal is a lively familiarity with the full range of civilized thought and activity in the sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.  Liberal Arts came to be the touchstone of women’s ed. In the 1920s and 1930s a more mother prep curriculum was advocated.

            A course on Euthenics, or race development, at Vassar emphasized the responsibility of women for human survival via child development.  This was again progressive as it was a scientific sorting proper to the age.  It involved hands on teaching methods.  Late forties and early fifty’s were all about the family and colleges prepared women in droves for this.  Liberal arts would not fit them and/or make them discontent.

            Between 1920 and 1940 the percentage of folks getting degrees went from 3.5 to 9.7.  During the same time it went from 1.7 to 6.6 for women.   Many went without attaining a degree.  Time magazine and the country were generally upset that women were wasting their time with liberal arts when they could get a practical women’s education.  White was seeking to ennoble women’s education as university worthy.

            P. 165 WW II sent women to work and into laboratories.  After the War women employment steadily increased.  By 1957 they were 22 million strong and accounted for one-third of the total work force.  ¼ were divorced or widowed.  The college educated were more likely to be working and stayed longer.  47% were employed outside of the home.  Only 30% of those with less education.  This especially was women over 30.  Educators started to see that women had to be educated for dual careers.  The Minnesota plan was the most explicit formulation of this model. 

            Technical and Junior colleges took the lead in creating appropriate curriculum beyond the regular shift back to Liberal Arts.  Medical records, stenography, dental hygiene and business arts were offered.  These did not challenge traditional schools cause they were work oriented.  Some were worried that women were being shuttled into dead-end programs.  They used the vision of shifting women’s lives to shore up the utility of a general liberal arts education.  These debates, on the whole, backed up the pro-liberal arts position. 

            P. 171 The American Association of University Women said the triple goal of career, happy home and service to her fellow man was best attained via Liberal Ed.  Homemaking was seen as a career as much as any other so the home versus career dichotomy is false.  Liberal Arts was an investment in family intelligence.  It was ironic that liberal arts curriculum was the banner of woman’s equal attainment in the beginning of the twentieth century later became a broad banner to wrap around her matrimonial girdle.  White started the 1950s, by the 1960s women’s needs were seen as so broad that nothing but a new version of liberal arts would do. 

            Mueller was forward thinking in that she wanted full professional education for women.  She was willing to do what few other participants in the discussion of the fifties were willing to do, to dismiss the issue of woman’s family role as irrelevant to her schooling.  Studies found women did want marriage and children before twenty five and three kids.  Not being engaged as a college senior was a stigma for most women.  Lack of role models and fears about demonstrating “masculine” characteristics, feelings of female inadequacy and the general cultural assumptions created this, Heist’s report said.  No women thought that they would never marry.  Some saw this as a result of the education of youth and others as inborn in women. 

            P. 180 Komarovsky defended liberal education against, manual work for women.  She saw the problem not in the college, but in society not allowing women to flower in any direction they could.  This was not the college’s fault. 

            Women were walking around with a matrimonial dream in front of them and so did not take their studies seriously enough.  Still the liberal curriculum created conflicts concerning roles and self-conceptions.  It also hurt them in the schools as they thought being outstanding academically hurt their chances of getting a date.  And their college careers were not designed to create professional momentum.    They were aimed at a job after children, not a career.  Being in school took away from their early childbearing and pretty years and so set them back.  And they thought they’d pick up how to run a house on the job.  They were not being served by the liberal arts curriculum in either way.  It was not until later in their suburbs that they thought about the wasted resources of the college days. 

            P. 185 We have now settled into an aggressive pattern of equal rights for professional preparation.  We can easily dismiss the questions of the past.  But we can see that the educating of women who would not be entering the work force was not a chimera for society then.  Limited family and social resources exist.  Schools exist within a specific cultural context that defines the problems they are asked to address and usually sets the limits of their effective action. 

            White’s vision lost, in part, because the universities as research institutions could not just retool so quickly.  Thus liberal arts came to be central to the curriculum instead of function or utility.  It was a preparation for graduate studies.  But students were not satisfied with this reasoning.  No wonder women panicked in their senior years.  If they did not get married, liberal arts didn’t prepare them for much professionally.  Liberal arts as a focus shows that a university bent on educating the masses cannot be all things to all folks.  


-- Chapter Six –

Imitation and Autonomy: Catholic Education in the Twentieth Century

            Catholic schools were a reaction to the public schools taking up more and more of socialization.  This is a countercurrent, from one perspective, to the death of social life currently decried.  From the 1860s or so, shortly after public schools really took off, Catholic schools have been a reaction, to them.  Hap the public schools not expanded aggressively in the twentieth century, it is safe to say that the Catholic schools would have stayed a small expression of community autonomy.  Instead, by mid 20th they educated 14 percent of school kids and in 1962 included five and a half million children.

            Not all Catholic children have been able to find a space in them.  Only 50% of Catholics got in. 

            P. 191 Catholic schools are in the Thomist rationalist psychology tradition.  They heavily emphasize character formation, discipline, the unity of learning and high levels of academic proficiency.  This was true long after public schools redirected their interest from the subject to the child.  They also resisted the adjustment model.  They have seen the difference between their schools and the secular as the difference between ideal and material.  They are first and foremost defined by being religious. 

            But these schools have had to deal with ethnicity, language, academic evaluation, and competition with public schools.  They have the same universe of problems that other schools have. 

            Not until the 1930s did much Catholic education go beyond the 6th grade.  Based on the parish, these were small local homogeneous communities without funds for high school.  They could not provide the wide curriculum of a high school.    

       The push for these schools came from child labor laws and compulsory education laws. 

            By 1949 nearly 500,000 students went to Catholic high schools.  Over a million by 1960.  But 1/3rd were run by private religious orders. 

            Many Catholics did not attend them, due to lack of facilities and selective admission and promotion policies.  They selected their students academically and let the public schools take the rest. 

           After World War Two increased enrollment meant they had to widen the curriculum to include non-college prep stuff.  But it was still an extension to Latin teaching.  James Coleman in the 1980s found that seniors in Catholic schools had taken more math, science, English and foreign language. They were about discipline and academics more than the child centered, utilitarian values of public schools. 

            Pg. 198 the Reverend John F. Dwyer, in 1936, said “Culture, or the building up of individual character, is best accomplished by means of general and not specific training.  No better way of imparting these skills [mental discipline] has yet been found than the old classical course.”  Certainly it is not in those schools and systems where a false theory of democracy dictates the curriculum, and makes the slowest boy of the slowest class the norm of the group’s achievement; and where the curriculum is solicitously fitted to take in the lazy dullard who belongs in school only by the fiat of American education law.”

            Wide offerings were considered synonymous with academic watering down.  Plus these schools did not have money to expand beyond the core.  50% of the schools excluded those of below normal I.Q.  Many also had academic standards for admission and more than half an entrance exam.  The median IQ for 12th graders was in the 74th percentile.  They also preferred native born Irish and German Catholics to immigrants,  poles and others.  Only 10% were immigrants from non-English speaking countries.  At a time when the large majority of Catholic parents were immigrants.  The Pastors did not encourage newer immigrant children to continue to college. 

            This made them extremely effect agents of a specifically Catholic form of Americanization, since German and Irish natives were the status groups.  Ethnic hierarchy within Catholic education is usually not talked about.  But this has paid off in success.  More Catholics who go to Catholic high school go to college than public schoolers. 

            The traditionalism of Catholic schools did not go unchallenged.  Progressive forces touting the unique potential of each child exerted influence.  But most never spoke John Dewey’s name without venom.  They thought they taught the whole child, spiritually.  The fundamental unity of the human personality, values, purposes, and relationship to God were one. 

            One Catholic did not like the exclusion or the humiliation those who could not handle abstract curriculum were subjected to.  They were teaching children, not subjects as the cant goes. 

            P. 207 By late 1940s and 1950s IQ was a huge part of Catholic administration.   Even a religious institution had to use “scientific” techniques for pedagogical efficiency.     They had to deal with the pressure to adopt public school trends and defend their conservative ways.  Extracurricular activities for example.  The public schools had created popular ways to get youth buy in, Catholics mostly got parental buy-in.  Low teacher prep and finances meant that they had to rely on pride to defend their schools. 

            J. O’Connell in Are Catholic Schools Progressive? Tore into John Dewey. His naturalism was most hated.  Also his denial of sin and depravity the denial of the duality of man’s nature, the denial to the teacher of an effective role in shaping the child’s mind and will, the denial of real ends and purpose to education.  They said the techniques could be incorporated without accepting the philosophy that gave birth to them. 

            But they accepted some of these techniques and thus Catholic schools were Americanized by the 1950s. 

            There have always been more female students in Catholic schools than male.  The parents, being conservative, were probably drawn to the segregation by gender.  This allowed the Church to talk frankly about the women’s matrimonial role.  This may explain why college was less attractive to Catholic females than males. 

            Those who went to college were to know that the perfection of love is service.  Female catholic colleges did not have to leave the fold to adopt the liberal arts curriculum others touted for females.  They also became very professionally oriented after WW II.  But liberal arts as prep for parenting was a focus.  It allowed moms to avoid emotional decisions and rather be led by reason and faith. 

            Pg. 217 Catholic schools segregated out black students.  This was well into the seventies.  Blacks never taught whites.  Catholics have shunned vocational education, but used it in predominantly black schools.  As late as 1957 they established all black schools.  In 1960 they were still doing it in practice.  They have historically had segregated churches and congregations.  Black nuns could not find colleges to train them in the South. 

            Well into the twenties and thirties Catholics were being taught religion in their parent’s language.  Blacks were taught black history and black pride.  But there was no linguistic rational for black schools.  They were there to keep them away from whites. 

            While every Catholic child belongs to Christ’s Mystical Body, immigrant children also belong to distinct communities.  Ethnic conflict within the church and resentments about Irish control of the hierarchy forced the American church to a de facto fragmentation of parishes by ethnicity.  They used native tongue instruction to keep loyalty of new immigrant groups. 

            Polish sisters, staffed at a Lithuanian school were accused of teaching Polish ways.  The protection of first-born pride schools meant the schooling received was uneven. 

            The parish schools were a great transition institution for immigrants.  They bridged language and cultural gaps.  NOTE THAT this was a need.  The cultural adjustment is not automatic.  Poles were very devoted to Catholic schools.  Italians preferred public school.  The ethnic identities of Catholic schools started to subside by the interwar years.  Still Irish were the most enthusiastic, Italians and Hispanics less so. 

By the sixties people went because they did not like public schools, ethnic and linguistic considerations were gone. 

            In 1955 sociologists Peter and Alice Rossi found Catholic school attendees to be more ambitious and less family oriented than Catholics in public school.  Ethnicity had been replaced by the triple melting pot of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. 

            James Coleman found blacks in Catholic schools were nearly as ambitious as whites.  Catholic schools by the late 1970s were integrating institutions for advancement, not ethnic schools for the poor. 

            The Catholic school has always been a blend of ideals and expediency, but always thought to be more than a tool for adaptation. 

            Catholic schools advantages were the ability to select, but also like-mindedness.  The parents were all motivated.  They could also ignore problems by shipping them to the public school.  They had all the advantages of local control without most of the disadvantages.  The parents submitted to the higher ups as they had intimacy with them.  If you didn’t like it you could leave to public school. 

            The academic emphasis became attractive to the ambitious.  Their traditionalism went from being a source of defensiveness to a source of pride.  They did selective adoption of the progressive precepts. 

            P. 228 James Coleman showed Catholic students out achieve public school kids regardless of class and ethnic background.  Their students divisions of class, race and ethnicity while public schools echo them.  It has done so by homogenizing their backgrounds in a way that public schools were supposed to but failed to do.  Ironically the less democratic Catholic schools have registered more democratic gains. 

            Coleman said the difference is in the specific form of Catholic instruction.  Coleman has suggested more choice to increase the homogeneity of the parental backgrounds also. 



            Pg. 229 Citizenship, morality, mobility, assimilation and now justice and equality have been the goals of schools.   They have taken the place of church in our unity and offered paths to salvation.  The evangelical tone of reformers makes the religion of education analogy truer. 

            It has also embodied liberal values: Individual self realization and freely available opportunities.  It aims squarely at this world and so gets caught in its quagmires. 

            The outsider has forced the hand of the schools out into the open. 

            In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the social problem of immigration was the preeminent issue for schools.  They gave control and the language of opportunity to the situation.  By the second and third decades the magnitude of immigration and diversity meant they had to refine their methods and thus adopted IQ.  This unnecessarily reified group differences, yet was an attempt at meritocracy. 

            The tension between control and diversity was complicated by the children’s reluctance to give up their ethnicity.  Schools created the ability of ethnic groups to have somewhat different, while, similar experiences. 

            The belief that all had their particular place at the table was a bad bargain for blacks.  Blacks have also, however, embraced the gospel of education.  The New Deal and WW II allowed them to enter the education church.  They entered into what Mary Bethune called “the American program.”   The Army showed blacks could learn.

           WW II also had a huge impact on women.  Women’s role in schools had been solid, but their role in society was not. 

            It is ironic that American education liberalism has permitted the development of Catholic schools which are in no small way opposed to liberalism.  Public schools have recently started to learn from their example.  This is in some ways too bad as the public schools have embraced the progressive education agenda.  They have thus been able to keep their doors wide open to all levels of ability and commitment and stressed that the goals of individuals are as important as those of society.