Ideals and Realities.
Long before the 1930s the public school was a symbol of American democracy. In many ways it represented the promise of America: a place where hard work and achievement were rewarded, where brilliance was mined from the ore of raw talent—a necessary starting point on the road to success. Pedagogues from Thomas Jefferson to John Dewey argued that the future of the school and the future of democracy were one, that the school was the only nonauthoritarian institution capable of instilling the self-discipline necessary for a self-governing nation. The distance between the American ideal of school and the reality of American schools in the 1930s, however, was striking. Lip service for education was freely available, but financial support for schools and good salaries for teachers went begging. A financially pressed public prioritized its limited resources, and the schools lost out. Early in the decade a blue-ribbon panel of the National Economic League issued a list of "Paramount Problems of the United States"; in 1930 the condition of education was fourteenth among their concerns; in 1931 it was twenty-fourth and in 1932 thirty-second. During the Depression most Americans decided they could not afford their love affair with the school.
The Bottom Line.
The goals and ideals of education in the 1930s were in sharp...
(The entire section is 1686 words.)
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