Topics in the News
A Contested Issue.
In the 1940s the principle of academic freedom—that university teachers should be free to teach whatever their training and conscience command them to teach—was challenged. Several sensational academic freedom cases developed, signifying increasing political pressure on academia. Some cases were directly related to the volatile politics of the time, especially the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 1940s, but other cases reflected long-standing public suspicions of academia and of intellectuals, especially in terms of their sexual restraint and racial attitudes.
(The entire section is 1537 words.)
American Education Abroad
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was an "international agency for education to promote understanding and cooperation among the peoples of the world as a guarantee of peace." Aside from peacekeeping initiatives and its efforts to prevent the bombing of university cities such as Oxford and Heidelberg, it also aided, through U.S. military occupation, governments in the postwar recovery of schools in Japan, Germany, and their allies. The aim of UNESCO was to restructure the educational foundations of toppled governments so as to facilitate the rebuilding process. The constitution of UNESCO was adopted in November 1945 by representatives of forty-four countries who met in London. In 1946 the organization became a standing agency of the United Nations. UNESCO provided funds for renovation to 362 libraries destroyed in the war. It also funded the reconstruction of four Belgian museums; the rebuilding of 1,326 churches in Yugoslavia; and the restructuring of 1,500 schools in France. One of the aims of UNESCO was the disestablishment of Shintoism in Japan and the denazification of Germany. With this aim the army employed under the Marshall Plan many scientists, educators, and students with the primary goal of teaching world peace. Toward this goal of global harmony UNESCO sought to promote the arts throughout the world and to ease racial tensions,...
(The entire section is 371 words.)
The Core Curriculum and the Great Books Project
The Core Concept.
In the period after World War II American universities debated a proposal to restructure postsecondary and secondary curricula around a "core" of courses devoted to the humanities. The foremost proponent of this idea, University of Chicago president Robert M. Hutchins, hoped it would cultivate a public familiarity with what he called "the tradition of the West." Educational curricula prior to the 1940s included many humanities disciplines—literature, art, music, political and social philosophy—but the dominant curricular tendency was toward the sciences, economics, and psychology. Curricula at the time also tended toward specialization and fragmentation; many progressive educators, for example, argued that education could be streamlined by having engineers study engineering rather than take classes in music appreciation. Hutchins criticized such a philosophy as simplistic, arguing that narrow, specialized education undermined tradition and led to a technical, mercantile culture without a strong set of values. His core-curriculum idea was designed as a corrective to what he believed to be an overly materialistic society. It was designed to instill a sense of values in a culture preoccupied with sheer monetary advancement.
Hutchins and several associates, including Clifton Fadiman, Mark Van Doren, Scott...
(The entire section is 1410 words.)
Property and Funding Given to Schools.
Traditionally, American schools were locally funded, but that began to change during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. Following World War II the U.S. government sold approximately 106,000 acres of land and 2,500 buildings at an average cost of less than 3 1/2 percent of the fair value of the property to establish 5,500 schools and universities. Surplus military equipment, including such windfalls as 27,000 surplus typewriters, was also given to schools.
The School Lunch Program.
In 1940 the federal government provided more than $12 million in meals for elementary and secondary school students; this grew to some $92 million in 1949. There were abuses in this program, such as price gouging and kickbacks, but the program was defended by former president Herbert Hoover, who coordinated the European Food Program after World War II and recognized the correlation between nutrition and education.
Educational Facilities for Defense.
Education was needed for military personnel in order to promote war research and technical training. Federal funds for these areas of study at the university level in 1939 amounted to more than $160 million. However, by the mid 1940s the
(The entire section is 674 words.)
Gi Bill of Rights
Reason for Development.
The GI Bill of Rights was established for two main reasons. First, it was considered appropriate to compensate veterans of World War II for their services and sacrifices. Second, it was absolutely necessary to reintegrate military personnel into the civilian economy. Even before servicemen had been sent to Europe and the Pacific during the war, it became obvious that some plan would have to be developed to absorb the sixteen million veterans after the war was over. Thus, the seventy-eighth U.S. Congress enacted the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill of Rights, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law in June.
Originally Congress desired simply to reward each veteran with a bonus payment, but a more ambitious plan emerged from debate: the establishment of a program to help veterans help themselves. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act provided for tuition, fees, books, and a monthly subsistence payment while veterans were in school; it also provided the vets with the opportunity to set up their own businesses, buy their own homes, and receive financial aid. The GI Bill was much more far-reaching than any other plan for veterans' benefits previously drafted by Congress. It benefited able-bodied veterans, and it used nonmilitary institutions throughout the country without federal...
(The entire section is 1196 words.)
The curriculum for high schools before the 1940s was highly disorganized and variable. Student bodies of every race, cultural background, and religion defied singular, unified curricular planning. Although every state by law compelled attendance in high school through the age of sixteen, depending upon the state in which one lived, education could be rigorously academic, insufficiently academic, or fundamentally vocational. In 1941 high schools nationally offered no fewer than 274 subjects, although only 59 of these were traditional academic courses. During the New Deal, moreover, educators and New Deal administrators debated whether New Deal programs or high schools should be responsible for the nation's youth. Professional administrators were furthermore divided among those who favored a college-preparatory curriculum in high schools and those who favored vocational training. Finally, a mania for progressive education had many curriculum proponents arguing that their ideas were "progressive"—whether it had anything to do with John Dewey's rigorous philosophy of progressive education or not. The American high-school curriculum was, in other words, in a state of disarray.
Unskilled and Delinquent.
The disorganization of American high schools reached a crisis level during World War II. The Naval Officers' Training Corps...
(The entire section is 1371 words.)
Problems in Higher Education
Late in the 1940s administrators determined that schools needed larger facilities to accommodate increased enrollments. Of course, higher enrollment figures meant the need for additional faculty, but there was no money budgeted with which to pay them, and there simply were not enough qualified individuals to fill the demand. Further burdening the system was the diminishing funding for endowments, as fewer gifts were given to the schools because of increasing taxes. By the end of 1949 the number of grants for research began to increase with the money coming from government and industry, mostly in the sciences, but this was the only bright spot concerning funding for higher education.
(The entire section is 693 words.)
Research and Educational Sociology
Research Concerning Education.
Educational research in the 1940s indicated a need for the reformation of high schools and the expansion of junior and community colleges. Responding to such studies, traditional educators demanded substantial amounts of further research; before initiating major changes schools needed to be sure that such reforms would produce the desired results, they maintained. Thus, research on American education became a growth industry in the 1940s, as well as the subject of many philosophical debates over the role of American education.
The bulk of the burgeoning discipline of educational research during the decade addressed four areas: school administration, curricula, student development, and pedagogy, or teaching methods. Debates soon formed over the changes and implementation of ideas posited in these four areas. The war had demonstrated the need for an expanded scientific community, but educators argued that overemphasis on science in the schools would come at the expense of a liberal education.
Researchers attempted in the 1940s to develop appropriate sociological techniques with which to study various aspects of education. One of the leaders of the movement was British scholar Karl Mannheim, who published several...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Secularization of Public Education
Changes in Focus.
Education had always been linked with religion in Western culture. After World War II, however, educators became more interested in secular issues and concerned themselves with teaching democracy and other sociological ideas. Secularization became widespread, although there was much protest from religious
(The entire section is 965 words.)
Segregation in the Schools
Segregation in education meant separating black and white schoolchildren from one another, forcing them to attend black-or white-only schools. A national issue, segregation was most prominent in the South, where it was enforced by law and where it fit into a broader pattern of social segregation and political oppression of African Americans known as Jim Crow. The Jim Crow school system was patently unfair to the educational aspirations of millions of southern blacks. In many cases no institution of high training would accept black students; at the primary and secondary levels, white school boards badly underfunded black-only schools, failing to provide adequate facilities, textbooks and instructional materials, or qualified teachers. In 1949, for example, Clarendon County, South Carolina, spent $179 on each white child enrolled in school but only $43 on each black student. While public education was generally in dismal condition throughout the Deep South, the conditions in black schools were often appalling. Black students generally had to make do with used textbooks and broken school furniture, hand-me-downs from better-funded white schools. Black classes were often held in dilapidated, aged buildings, with inadequate heat and light. In 1947 students at the all-black R. R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, took their instruction, with winter coats on for lack of heat,...
(The entire section is 1077 words.)
Teacher Shortages and Strikes
Teacher shortages during the 1940s were caused by poor salaries and bad working conditions. Most small communities could not afford to pay even minimal teacher salaries; the average pay was thirty-seven dollars a week. This, coupled with the idea that most teachers were usually responsible for additional activities such as overseeing clubs, athletics, or other social events, made the profession unappealing to most people. After the war there were massive shortages in all fields, so the prospect of teaching was unattractive to all but those who felt called to the profession. (Anyone smart enough to learn a skill could earn more money in another field.) This situation led to an educational crisis and general alarm about the poor quality of teachers. As one Harvard University professor noted, he had "yet to find a first-class person who was preparing to teach in the public school system."
The New York Times estimated that more than six thousand schools would close in 1947 due to the lack of instructors and that seventy-five thousand students would have no schooling as a result. In 1947 teachers on average had one year of education less than their counterparts of the 1930s, One commissioner of education summed up the crisis by saying, "We no longer ask whether an applicant can read or write. If she...
(The entire section is 585 words.)
Women in Education
World War II opened up many new possibilities for women. Expanded opportunities and better-paying jobs meant that they no longer would be forced into the stereotypical roles of teachers, secretaries, or housewives—while men were in the military, at least. War industry allowed them to be blue-collar workers, such as welders and taxi drivers, as well as business employees. Given the opportunity, women left education in droves. Colleges were quick to understand the implications of having more women on career tracks, and many developed curricula tailored for women.
Before the war, women's colleges prepared their graduates for marriage and for home. Courses developed included child development, hygiene, home economics, and decorating. In 1924 Vassar College instituted a curriculum specially designed to educate women along the lines of what were supposed to be their chief interests and responsibilities: motherhood and the home. In contrast, with the American entrance into the war Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute enrolled its first female student; the Curtiss-Wright Company sent eight hundred women to college to learn engineering; and other companies began hiring female chemists, lawyers, and brokers.
Harvard Sets the Pace.
Separation of the sexes had...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
Ackerman, Carl William 1890-1970
DEAN OF COLUMBIA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
Freedom of the Press.
One of the first systematic instructors of journalism in the United States, Carl William Ackerman was moved by the belief that if the press does not police itself, it will be policed from outside. There-fore, he saw a great need for journalistic education to enhance potential journalists' understanding of press etiquette and standards. Influenced by his days as a war correspondent, he perceived that an unsystematic presentation of the news leads democracies to horrible wars.
Ackerman's work as a journalist began in 1915 when, during World War I, he was a correspondent for the United Press. In 1917 he became a special writer for The New York Tribune, reporting on France, Spain, Switzerland, and Mexico. In 1917 he also began writing for the Saturday Evening Post By 1919 he was in Siberia with the Allied forces as a correspondent for The New York Times. He became director for the Foreign News Service for the Philadelphia Ledger in 1919 when he returned to the United States. From 1921 to 1931 he worked in public relations, first as president of his own company and then as assistant to the president of General Motors.
Ackerman was appointed...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
Adler, Mortimer 1902-
EDUCATOR, PHILOSOPHER, AND AUTHOR
Great Books Pioneer.
Mortimer Adler became well known during the 1940s when he, Robert M. Hutchins, and others challenged the academic world by attempting to establish a Great Books curriculum for undergraduates beginning in 1946. Taking up writer and educator John Erskine's proposal of 52 books—reading one per week—and expanding it initially to 176 books before revising it to 76, Adler felt that the reading and understanding of these classics would provide all of the background an undergraduate would require. He convinced Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, to implement his plan. While its success was limited on the larger scale, it did receive some acceptance at extension campuses, where the Great Books idea became something of a fad; courses, seminars, and lectures became popular among aspiring weekend scholars.
Early Scholarly Success.
Adler was a brilliant student whose scholarship was second only to a self-described "anal-erotic compulsion—the need to order and arrange things and keep them rigidly fixed in the order I have imposed on them." His personality won him few friends and many detractors, and in 1923 he was denied his baccalaureate degree from Columbia University, where he was first in his class after finishing his degree work in three years,...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Blanding, Sarah G. 1898-1985
COLLEGE PRESIDENT, CHAIR OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF NEW YORK STATE WOMEN'S COUNCIL
From Social Scientist to Home Economist.
Sarah Gibson Blanding began her career as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kentucky in 1937, Her credentials included a year of study at the London School of Economics (1928-1929). She remained at the University of Kentucky, later becoming the dean of women, until 1941, when she became director of the New York State College of Home Economics at Cornell University. During her tenure there wartime demands for home-economics services quadrupled. She expedited requests for help by promoting food and nutrition education, childcare techniques, conservation and preservation of war materials in short supply, mass feeding, and maintenance of equipment.
Blanding's efforts at Cornell did not go unnoticed. During the last years of World War II Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York appointed Blanding to several state government posts, including director of the Human Nutrition Division of the State Emergency Food Commission and consultant to the State Defense Council's Division of Volunteer Participation. But her work was not limited to the local or state levels. As the war progressed, she was selected as the only female member of several national committees, which...
(The entire section is 531 words.)
Holt, Andrew David 1904-1972
The Last NEA President of the Decade.
As the president of the National Education Association (NEA), the world's largest teachers' organization, Andrew David Holt took control of the organization in 1949 at a point when education in America was at a crossroads. By the time of his inauguration the organization boasted a membership of eight hundred thousand. One significant event of his election year was the adoption of a resolution by the NEA called "Preservation of Democracy," which facilitated the purging of Communists from the ranks of the NEA and from the schools. The doctrine became part of the McCarthyism of the 1950s.
Holt reached the presidency of the NEA after serving for twelve years in the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) while he worked as principal of the training school and director of teacher training at West Tennessee State College. In 1937 he completed his Ph.D. from Columbia University, was elected secretary-treasurer of the TEA, and was named editor of The Tennessee Teacher. He also joined the board of directors of the Tennessee Congress of Parents and Teachers, spending a great deal of time traveling around Tennessee and the rest of the country talking to teachers, students, and civic organizations. Among his greatest accomplishments during this period...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
Hook, Sidney 1902-1989
A well-known college professor who expressed views on virtually all the major political and social issues of his times, Sidney Hook was among the notable American intellectuals whose political thinking underwent a major shift between the 1920s and the late 1940s, as he and other leftists became increasingly disillusioned with the Soviet Union. Hook embraced Marxist theory in the 1920s, but by the beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s, he had turned to a conservative defense of democracy.
Hook was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and began studying philosophy as an under-graduate at the City College of New York. After receiving a B.S. in 1923, he began teaching in New York City public schools and enrolled in graduate studies in philosophy at Columbia University. Hook got a master's degree in 1926 and won a university fellow-ship to continue his doctoral studies with philosopher John Dewey, who had a profound influence on Hook's thinking. He completed his doctorate in 1927. His dissertation, The Metaphysics of Pragmatism (1927), displays Dewey's influence and includes a preface by Dewey in the published version. Hook began as an instructor in philosophy at New York University in 1927 and continued to teach philosophy there until his...
(The entire section is 761 words.)
Hutchins, Robert M. 1899-1977
UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT, EDUCATIONAL INNOVATOR
"The Tradition of the West."
President of the University of Chicago by the age of thirty, Robert M. Hutchins's sudden rise to prominence in education was due to his ability to put educational philosophy into an accessible public form. An arresting speaker, Hutchins gave over one hundred speeches a year, most of them deploring the state of American education. Hutchins condemned egalitarianism and progressive education. Something of an elitist, he also feared that the increasing specialization of society was undermining its civilized foundation. His solution was to advocate a classics-based education designed to familiarize all citizens with "the tradition of the West." In the 1940s such an educational philosophy had enormous appeal, especially after the barbarism of the Nazis. It also appealed to those who feared the communism of the East and those who were anxious over the increasingly amoral use of technology. Hutchins's attitudes toward education offered Americans certainty after the unsettling developments of the...
(The entire section is 1737 words.)
Lattimore, Owen 1900-1989
Owen Lattimore, who served from 1938 to 1941 as director of the Walter Himes Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University, was a noted Asian scholar whose expertise was put to use by the United States government during World War II and the subsequent reconstruction of Asia. In 1941 he was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as political adviser to Chiang Kai-shek of China, an appointment based mainly on his understanding of China, Manchuria, and Inner Mongolia.
More Overseas Posts and Recall to Duty.
In late 1942 Lattimore became the deputy director of the overseas branch of the United States government and was in charge of the Pacific operations with the Office of War Information. He remained in this post until June 1944, when he was asked to return to China as a member of the vice-president's diplomatic party. He resigned in 1945 so that he could return to his initial love, teaching. However, his return to academic life was short-lived. In October 1945 President Harry S Truman asked him to become the special economic adviser to Edwin W. Pauley, whom Truman had named as the head of an economic mission to Japan. This request was due in part to the impression that Lattimore during his diplomatic career and in his writings had consistently supported...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Patterson, Frederick Douglas 1901-1988
COLLEGE PRESIDENT, FOUNDER OF THE UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND
President at Tuskegee.
In 1935 Frederick Douglas Patterson became president of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, one of the foremost African American institutions of higher education in the country. His stated purpose at the time of his inauguration was not only to increase the vocational training of his students but also to raise them to higher levels of academic competency and thus make them more qualified wage earners. He is also remembered for his creation in 1943 of the United Negro College Fund, an organization dedicated to raising and distributing scholarships to deserving minority students.
After adding courses on the principles of nutrition and dietetics to the curriculum of Tuskegee, Patterson oversaw the adoption and growth of the federally sponsored school-lunch program. He felt that this program must be expanded because academic achievement rested on a strong nutritional base, which many underprivileged children lacked. He firmly believed that for Tuskegee to thrive, the school had to reach its potential students before they fell victim to poverty.
The Carver Foundation.
In the early 1940s Patterson's administration also established the George Washington Carver...
(The entire section is 538 words.)
Studebaker, Mabel 1901-1983
EDUCATOR, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
In 1925 Mabel Studebaker became a teacher in the Erie, Pennsylvania, public-school system, where she taught science at various levels for many years. During this time she gradually became active in local, state, and national teaching organizations. She eventually became a champion for the rights of educators, whom she felt were underpaid and over-worked. She wrote many articles for various publications about the general need for improvement of educational standards in the United States. She felt that teachers needed to unite nationally in order to improve conditions and standardize salaries. She believed that improved conditions for teachers would have a beneficial effect upon democracy in general.
Tour of the United Kingdom.
In the fall of 1945 Studebaker was asked by the British government to visit eighty-five primary schools in Great Britain in order to encourage greater understanding between elementary teachers in Great Britain and the United States. She and three other American teachers met with their British counterparts to discuss how best to educate children. The result was a pamphlet, written by Studebaker and the three teachers, called "Boys and Girls of the United Kingdom."
(The entire section is 303 words.)
People in the News
Professor Jacques Barzun suggested in The Teacher in America (1945) that the United States does not possess the best of all possible educational systems.
Myrtle Hooper Dahl, president of the National Education Association in 1941, led its annual convention in planning a national teaching employment service, a teaching program to educate ten million illiterate people, and a plan to train teachers of other subjects in math and science.
In 1940 Clarence A. Dykstra was granted an indefinite leave of absence as president of the University of Wisconsin to serve as the U.S. director of the Selective Service.
In March 1949 Albert Einstein published a portion of his autobiography. In the excerpt he discussed his own education and his repugnance for learning only to pass examinations: "It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."
In 1949 New York State Senate majority leader Benjamin Feinberg proposed a bill to purge Communist teachers from the state public school systems. The bill passed, giving the New York Board of Regents the right to weed out "subversive" teachers.
A twelve-part series by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Benjamin Fine on problems in American...
(The entire section is 522 words.)
James Rowland Angell, 79, psychology professor and president of Yale University (1921-1937), 4 March 1949.
Leonard Porter Ayres, 67, author of monographs on education, 29 October 1946.
William Chandler Bagley, 72, education periodicals editor and opponent of progressive education, 1 July 1946.
Charles A. Beard, 74, historian and director of the Training School for Public Service in New York (1917-1922), 1 September 1948.
Isaiah Bowman, 71, former president of Johns Hopkins University, 6 January 1950.
Percy Holmes Boynton, 70, University of Chicago English professor whose textbooks were widely used, 8 July 1946.
William Brandenburg, 71, president of the American Association of Teachers Colleges, 29 October 1940.
Nicholas Murray Butler, 83, president of Columbia College, Chicago (1902-1945), 7 December 1947.
Morris R. Cohen, 67, widely acclaimed author and professor of philosophy at City College of New York, 28 January 1947.
James W. Crabtree, 81, secretary of the National Education Association (1917-1935), 9 June 1945.
Wilber Lucius Cross, 86, Yale University English professor and governor of Connecticut...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
R. K. Bent and H. H. Kronenberg, Principles of Secondary Education (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949);
Paul Blanshard, American Freedom and Catholic Power (Boston: Beacon, 1949);
F. J. Brown, Educational Sociology (London: Technical Press, 1948);
James Conant Bryant, Education in a World Divided (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1948);
Oliver C. Carmichael, The Changing Role of Higher Education (New York: Macmillan, 1949);
F. Clarke, Freedom in an Educative Society (London: University of London Press, 1948);
Committee on Work Conference on Higher Education of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, Higher Education in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947);
A. Davis, Social Class Influences upon Learning (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1948);
John Dewey, Problems of Men (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946);
Newton Edwards and Herman G. Richey, The School in American Social Order: The Dynamics of American Education (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947);
Henry Holmes, ed., Fundamental Education (New York: Macmillan, 1947);
(The entire section is 296 words.)
Important Events in Education, 1940–1949
- Students numbering 12,640,000 are enrolled in the federal lunch program at a cost of around twelve million dollars.
- The United States census lists nearly ten million adults as virtually illiterate. The median number of years of school attendance by persons over the age of 25 is 8.4.
- In June, the U.S. Supreme Court affirms a Pennsylvania law that allows any schoolchild who refuses to salute the American flag to be expelled. The Court reverses this ruling in 1943.
- On August 5, the National Education Association calls on educators to contribute to the nation's defense by fostering faith in American democracy.
- On October 3, the president of Columbia University calls for the resignation of faculty members who do not support the Allied cause.
- On March 17, the New York Board of Higher Education votes to dismiss City College faculty members who belong to communist or fascist organizations.
- On July 1, deferment of military service for college students is eliminated.
- In July, Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge fires University of Georgia Dean of Education Walter Dewey Cocking, a proponent of racial equality, which leads to widespread resignations and the loss of accreditation for the university....
(The entire section is 1238 words.)