Topics in the News
Americanization and Education
Education for Immigrants.
The United States began as a "melting pot" of immigrants from all parts of the world. During the 1920s a major problem of American education involved the training of new immigrants. As the decade began, there were almost five million illiterate people, ten years of age or older, in the total population. Since most of the newly arriving immigrants settled in the larger cities, illiteracy in those cities rose as high as 15 percent. Among the foreign-born it was not unusual for the rate of illiteracy to be 25 to 35 percent. Therefore, many new educational programs were established to alleviate the illiteracy problem of these new Americans.
Efforts toward Assimilation.
Following World War I, a national movement to assimilate immigrants into American society was organized. The Federal Bureau of Education and the naturalization division of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service prepared a federal textbook on citizenship training. All accredited schools received the textbook free of charge. In 1921 the National Education Association (NEA) established a Department of Immigration Education to help introduce new immigrants to American culture. Americanization bureaus were established by statute in many states, and most of these bureaus are still in operation in the mid 1990s. During the 1920s churches, labor...
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Citizenship and Education
Awakening the Spirit.
In order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse society, educators developed new educational methods. Fundamental changes in the character, purpose, and direction of American education took place during the decade. Professor Ellwood P. Cubberley of Stanford University believed that education should be used to effect an "awakening of the spirit of fair play and good sportsmanship and to develop high ideals of honor and righteousness in social and civic life." In the 1920s educators throughout the country sought "to promote literacy and citizenship," primary focuses of the public schools.
Education for Citizenship.
More and more citizens believed that knowledge was power and that education led to virtue. Voters thus supported the development of new courses and teaching methods that enlightened leaders of public schools recommended. "Education for citizenship" described the Cubberley principle that students who mastered the tools of learning and were trained for personal service and group cooperation would both develop their own ambitions and become better citizens. Cubberley argued that if public-school students "are given an understanding of industrial life and social institutions, the best of their personalities are developed, their ideals of life are awakened, and they are guided into lines of work where they...
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The Courts and Education
Lusk Laws of New York, 1920-1923.
Sen. Clayton R. Lusk, chairman of the legislative committee investigating sedition in the state of New York, led the New York legislature in passing a series of laws in 1920 and 1921 aimed at public-school teachers. These laws required teachers to obtain certificates of loyalty and character from the state commissioner of education. For nearly two years teachers called for the repeal of the so-called "Loyalty Laws," and in 1923, under the leadership of Gov. Alfred E. Smith, they were repealed.
Ban on Teaching Foreign Languages.
During World War I, Nebraska, along with ten other states, passed laws that forbade the teaching of foreign languages, especially German, in public and private schools. These laws were instituted as safeguards against "dangerous" political and cultural influences from abroad. In 1923 the Supreme Court ruled, in Meyer v. Nebraska, that laws banning foreign-language teaching were unconstitutional.
Private School Prohibition.
The Oregon legislature in 1922 passed a law to compel all schoolchildren to attend public schools. The Oregon law was aimed at closing parochial and other private schools, which were regarded as breeding grounds for unacceptable—that is, non-Protestant—religious beliefs. In Pierce v....
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The Courts, Politics, and the Chicago Schools
The Chicago Federation of Teachers (C.F.T.) was founded in 1897 by a group of female elementary-school teachers. Led by Ella Flagg Young, Catherine Goggin, and Margaret Haley, the C.F.T. membership grew rapidly after the turn of the century, enrolling more members than did the National Education Association. One of the goals of the Chicago teachers was to win better working conditions and higher salaries. Discovering that, contrary to Illinois law, Chicago's public utility companies were not paying taxes upon the value of their franchises, the union brought lawsuits against these companies. C.F.T. lawyers won these suits, which forced the utilities to pay fair taxes. Similar lawsuits were filed and won against the Pullman and Swift Companies. Although the C.F.T. expected that the increased funding generated by these taxes would be spent on teachers' salaries, the board of education instead used these new revenues to build new schools and repair older ones.
In School and Society in Chicago (1928), noted scholar George S. Counts argued that education and politics were intermingled in American society, especially in Chicago. "Machine politics" had been a part of American life since the Civil War, and Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson and his political machine meddled with the Chicago board of education and the...
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Between 1906 and 1908 the development of education as a field of study at universities commenced. In 1925 Cubberley strongly advocated requiring an introductory course in education for all students in universities, colleges, and normal schools. During the 1920s the growth of the number of professors in departments of education led to the division of this general introductory course into six or seven different courses, which would later be further subdivided. Certain educators questioned this fragmenting process because students who might have elected to take a more general education course often resisted taking several narrowly defined courses; they thus would miss pieces of the curriculum. Critics claimed that as a result many students studying to be teachers were lacking a comprehensive overview or philosophy of education and teaching methods.
In-Service Training of Teachers.
During the 1920s many small departments of education advanced into important schools and colleges of education throughout the United States. Typically the two-year normal school evolved into the four-year teachers' college, partly in response to increased demand for in-service training for already experienced teachers. There was a rapid growth in...
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Population Growth and Education.
Following World War I the population of the United States grew rapidly, with approximately thirteen million children not yet of school age, twenty-five million children between the ages of five and fifteen, and ten million students between the ages of sixteen and twenty. During the decade Americans became more and more interested in child education, health, and welfare. Total losses by death yearly in the population of the United States were approximately two and one-quarter million, a substantial reduction from previous decades. Since a greater number of children survived to adulthood than ever before, more of them were filling classrooms. Other facts concomitant with the increase in public-highschool enrollment during the decade included rural to urban population mobility, the increased influence of U.S. society, and a cultural awakening to the educational needs of children. The United States thus experienced great expansion in the public elementary and junior high schools.
Junior High School Growth.
The junior high school system in the United States evolved rapidly during the 1920s. Even before 1910, reports of various professional education committees urged that schools be organized to include junior highs in a 6-3-3 plan. This plan consisted of six years of elementary school, three years of junior...
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Funding for Education
Taxes and Education.
Although popular interest in education was widespread during the 1920s, troubling questions about its funding constantly arose. Before the institution of the federal income tax, which came with the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in February 1913, most schools were entirely dependent upon appeals to citizens for permission to tax and thereby fund their pedagogical or building programs. The federal income tax promised to provide a more reliable and equitable source of support for education throughout the nation. But, in fact, federal funding was not substantial and therefore did not have much of an impact until after the 1920s; instead, public education remained largely dependent on state and local taxes for its financial support. In 1924, for example, school systems in the United States received approximately $4 million from the federal government, $262 million from the individual states, and $11/3 billion from local sources. But the percentage of money allocated to education from these tax sources remained low, and many people, then as now, deplored taxation, however valuable the service it provided. In 1920 Americans invested more than twenty-one times as much in luxury items than they invested, through their tax dollars, in education.
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The Scopes Trial, 1925
One of the most incendiary issues facing Americans in the 1920s was the teaching of the theory of evolution. The clash between religious fundamentalism and science resulted in the widely publicized trial of John T. Scopes. On 21 March 1925 the Tennessee legislature had enacted a law prohibiting the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools. During the Scopes trial the right of teachers to convey to their students findings of biological science about the origins of human life rather than imparting the biblical account found in Genesis attracted worldwide attention.
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Sport and Education
Throughout the twentieth century, college and university leaders have attempted to integrate athletics and physical education into student life. After World War I, intramural sports programs were developed; coaches of athletics became members of faculties; university administrators sought greater control over intercollegiate athletics; and critics called for reforms in intercollegiate sports.
In the early 1920s Harvard and Yale developed intramural programs of competition in an attempt to provide "sports for all." These programs emphasized activities—tennis, swimming, canoeing, golf, horseback riding, and badminton, for example—that would be carried over to life beyond college. On many campuses physical-education teachers organized class, interfraternity, and interclub competitions in a wide variety of sports.
Coaches as Teachers.
Although prior to World War I collegiate coaches were not usually members of faculties, during the 1920s many universities required these coaches to teach as well as coach and thus to become faculty members. The expectation that a coach would occupy not only the athletic field but also the formal classroom gave rise to more highly educated coaches in all sports. Moreover, these teacher-coaches became instrumental in...
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Butler, Nicholas Murray 1862-1947
PRESIDENT OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Nicholas Murray Butler was instrumental in remaking Columbia College into Columbia University during his tenure as a philosophy professor (1885-1901) and as the university's president (1902-1945). Under his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, Columbia University experienced tremendous growth in staff, students, and facilities. Butler founded the Teachers College as a key part of the university in 1889, and during the 1920s he hired John Dewey, William Heard Kilpatrick, and George S. Counts to teach in the Teachers College. Butler also worked to standardize college-entrance and teacher-certification requirements. In addition, he was active in national and international politics, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for his work on the Pact of Paris.
Butler was born into a middle-class...
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Dewey, John 1859-1952
EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHER AND PROFESSOR
John Dewey was an innovator in the fields of education, psychology, and philosophy, His theories of education were radically different from those previously employed in America and brought him to the forefront of the movement known as "progressive education." Dewey's influence was not limited to America, for at various times during his life he served as educational consultant to Japan, China, Turkey, and Mexico. He believed that research as well as teacher training should be part of the mission of any university's education department. In addition, Dewey was one of the most prominent moral philosophers of the twentieth century.
The Laboratory School.
After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1879, Dewey taught high school for three years before entering Johns Hopkins University, where he received his doctorate in philosophy in 1884. After ten years at the University of Michigan, he became head of the department of philosophy,...
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Dorsey, Susan Miller 1857-1946
SUPERINTENDENT OF THE LOS ANGELES SCHOOL SYSTEM
First Female Superintendent.
Susan Miller Dorsey made her mark as superintendent of the Los Angeles public-school system. During her tenure the system experienced huge growth in the number of students and employees. Dorsey managed this growth well, making the Los Angeles system a model for the country.
Background as a Teacher.
Miller was born in Penn Yan, New York, the daughter of James and Hannah Benedict Miller. After attending the local public schools and Penn Yan Academy, she majored in the classics at Vassar and graduated with a B.A. in 1877. At Wilson College in Chamberburg, Pennsylvania, Miller taught Latin and Greek for a year before returning to Vassar to teach in the classics department. In 1881 Miller married a Baptist minister, Patrick William Dorsey, and they moved to Los Angeles where he accepted a position at the First Baptist Church. She was a social-welfare worker, and their only child, a son, was born in 1888.
Joining the Los Angeles System.
Dorsey was teaching at Baptist College in Los Angeles when in 1894 her husband deserted her and took their son with him. Two years later she accepted a position at Los Angeles High School, again teaching Latin and Greek. Dorsey served as department chair...
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Kilpatrick, William Heard 1871-1965
William Heard Kilpatrick is commonly seen as a popularizer of John Dewey's theories of education. In a sense he was even more radical than Dewey, his former mentor. During his tenures as professor at Mercer College, Columbia University, and Bennington College, he expanded the scope of "progressive education," creating classes centered upon interaction with students rather than upon the authority of the teacher.
No Report Cards.
Kilpatrick graduated from Mercer College in Macon, Georgia, with a B.A. in 1892 and an M.A. in 1893. Following a year of study in mathematics at Johns Hopkins, he served as teacher and principal in various Georgia public schools. While holding these positions, Kilpatrick did away with report cards and student punishments. After further training at Johns Hopkins, he returned to Mercer as a professor of mathematics in 1897. In 1904 he was made acting president of the college but left two years later because his liberal religious ideas were unacceptable to the school's trustees. After a year of teaching in Ohio, he studied under John Dewey at the Teachers College of Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1912.
Kilpatrick began teaching at the Teachers College in 1909. He was an...
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Lowell, Abbott Lawrence 1855-1943
PRESIDENT OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Reform of Harvard.
A lawyer and a largely self-taught expert on government, Abbott Lawrence Lowell during his tenure as president of Harvard University (1909-1933) remade the university, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. He stressed the importance of community at the school, revamping the residential system. Lowell was also instrumental in the installation of course concentrations. As president, Lowell attracted some of the best minds to Harvard's faculty, whose academic freedom he strongly defended. In politics Lowell played an important role in both the League of Nations debate and the case of Sacco and Vanzetti.
Lowell was a member of one of the oldest and most prominent families in Boston and the brother of astronomer Percival Lowell and poet Amy Lowell. After attending private schools in Boston and Europe he enrolled at Harvard, where he excelled, especially in the field of mathematics. He graduated cum laude and entered Harvard Law School in 1877, from which he received his degree in 1880. With his cousin...
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Woodson, Carter Godwin 1875-1950
HISTORIAN AND PUBLISHER
Foremost African American Historian.
Carter Godwin Woodson is widely known as the father of African American studies in the United States. As an educator he encouraged blacks and other Americans to learn more about African American contributions to the history of the United States. During his lifetime he did more to advance this field of study than any other person, producing seminal works in the field. In addition, through his efforts as a publisher he provided other scholars in the field with the means to disseminate their research.
Woodson's parents were former slaves, and he was one of nine children who grew up on a farm near New Canton, Virginia. Work on the farm frequently required the children to miss school, which hampered Woodson's academic progress. In 1895, at the age of twenty, he finally entered high school, graduating two years later. While working as a teacher, Woodson studied at Berea College in Kentucky, graduating with a Litt. B. degree in 1903. He then enrolled at the University of Chicago, and, after teaching for four years in the Philippines, he received his B.A. in 1907 and his M.A. in 1908. In 1908 he became a student at Harvard, working on his doctorate (granted in 1912) while teaching high school in Washington, D.C. He was dean of the liberal...
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People in the News
Katharine Lee Bates retired in 1925 after a forty-year teaching career at Wellesley College. Among her collections of poetry, travel, and drama were Yellow Clover (1922) and The Pilgrim Ship (1926). Her poem "America the Beautiful" was put to music.
Mary McLeod Bethune was the founder of the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, which was merged with the Cookman Institute for Men to form Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach in 1923. Bethune served as president of Bethune-Cookman until 1942.
Charles William Eliot, who from 1909 to 1910 edited the fifty-volume Harvard Classics series known as "Dr. Eliot's Five-Foot Shelf of Books," published A Late Harvest, a collection of his writings, in 1924.
In 1922 Bernhard Edward Fernow, noted forester and educator, retired as editor of Forestry Quarterly and the Journal of Forestry, both of which he had founded.
Author and editor Glenn Frank in 1925 was chosen as president of the University of Wisconsin where he brought about educational reform and in 1927 recruited Alexander Meiklejohn to establish and run the Experimental College.
In memory of his son, Simon Guggenheim in 1925 founded the philanthropic John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to provide financial support...
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Frank Frost Abbott, 64, Princeton University history professor and author of Roman Political Institutions (1901), 27 July 1924.
Henry A. Beers, 79, Yale English professor best known for his History of English Romanticism (1899), 7 September 1926.
T. G. Bergen, 81, president of the Brooklyn Board of Education, 13 March 1929.
Maximillan D. Berlitz, 67, teacher and founder of the Berlitz Schools of Languages, 6 April 1921.
Albert J. Beveridge, 64, former United States senator and historian whose best work was the two-volume, Pulitzer Prize-winning Life of John Marshall (1916, 1919), 27 April 1927.
Melville Madison Bigelow, 74, lawyer and professor at the University of Michigan and Harvard University; he wrote influential law textbooks and histories, including History of Procedure in England from the Norman Conquest (1896), 4 May 1921.
Ezra Brainerd, 80, former president of Middlebury College, 8 December 1924.
Oscar Browning, 86, historian, educator, and author of An Introduction to the History of Educational Theories (1888) and History of the Modern World (1912), 6 October 1923.
Ernest De Witt Burton, 69, University of Chicago...
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John Franklin Bobbitt, Curriculum-making in Los Angeles (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922);
Bobbitt, How to Make a Curriculum (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1924);
John Seiler Brubacher, The Judicial Power of the New York State Commissioner of Education: Its Growth and Present Status with a Digest of Decisions (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1927);
Brubacher, Scientific Method in Supervision: The Second Yearbook of the National Conference of Supervisors and Directors of Instruction (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1929);
Edmund de Schweinitz Brunner, A Church and Community Survey of Pend Oreille County (New York: Doran, 1922);
Julian Butterworth, Principles of Rural School Administration (New York: Macmillan, 1926);
M. M. Chambers, "Every Man a Brick," in The Status of Military Training in American Universities (Bloomington, I11.: Public School Publishing, 1927);
George S. Counts, School and Society in Chicago (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1928);
Counts, Secondary Education and Industrialism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929);
Counts, The Selective Character of American Secondary Education (Chicago:...
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Important Events in Education, 1920–1929
- The U.S. Census reports 21,578,000 students in public schools. College enrollment is 597,000 students, while U.S. population exceeds 100 million.
- The Lusk Laws require New York teachers to take loyalty oaths.
- Junior colleges open in Arizona and Iowa.
- Ellwood P. Cubberley of Stanford University publishes The History of Education.
- In February, psychologist John B. Watson resigns his professorship at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, after rumors surface that he had dated a former student following a divorce from his first wife.
- In May, Arthur Holly Compton becomes Wayman Crow Professor of Physics at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, and one of the most highly paid professors in the U.S.
- In September, Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, opens the first graduate school of geography.
- In September, educators Ernest Jackman and Helen Parkhurst in Dalton, Massachusetts, first use the Dalton Plan of instruction.
- In November, Susan Miller Dorsey becomes the first female superintendent of the Los Angeles schools.
- From December 4 to December 10, teachers and administrators celebrate the first American Education Week.
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