This post reflects on the film: As American as Public School 1900-1950. Through these reflections, the following three questions will be answered:
1) What is the focus of the era?
2) What is our view of children and adolescents at that time?
3) Who are the key players in society?
What is the focus of the era?
Initial Goal: Make every working man a scholar, and every scholar a working man. Changes to: Documentation of academic progress.
- School was the place where the American dream was nurtured
- Among the general population, there was tremendous pressure to get an education
- Thousands of students attended school part time for lack of space in school buildings.
- During the depression, many children worked instead of going to school, approximately 2million.
- As these numbers became known, progressive Americans suggested that too many children were working as opposed to going to school- they suggested creating and enforcing labor laws.
- Schools, under progressive ideals, became a place of training rather than memorization.
- The training in school caused students to “fall in love with America”
- 1920’s schools grew to become more than just teachers. Secretaries, mentors, counselors, janitors, cooks, and administrators where just a few of the positions necessary to run a school. This turned the “one teacher” classroom school into a multi-level bureaucracy.
- It was at this time that career tracking was first introduced introduced. People thought of going to school as a way of getting a job.
- Intelligence tests sorted students into categories for tracking.
- IQ tests were used to determine the quality of people by ethnicity, race, and class even by the military to decide who got desk jobs and who had active duty.
- Segregated schools often placed students of diverse ethnicity into industrial schools.
- 1940’s: Life-Adjustment curriculum sought to teach relevant lessons to daily life.
What is our view of children and adolescents at that time?
- Older children were seen to be “good students” if they started working at 15 to support the family.
- Tremendous pressure to get an education
- Children learning by doing.
- Students were seen as the future, intelligence tests sorted students into categories for career tracking.
- Progressive schools heavily invested in the lives of students, yet tracking did not provide all students an equal opportunity of learning. Often women were taught home-making skills, while men were taught a trade. Minority students were taught simple routine tasks which prepared them for factory work.
Who are the key players in society?
Progressivism vs Traditionalist Math and Science
- “The School and Society” –Dewey- Father of Progressive Education. Dewey believed that if schools were anchored in the lives of the child, things would be different. Schools would be hospitable toward children.
- Gary, Indiana Schools: These were extreme progressive school. One specific school, Emerson School, had large athletic fields, playground, zoo, and a lagoon with swans. At Emerson School, students moved from class to class each hour. Under this system, students were not stuck to a desk hour after hour as they had been in more traditional schools. Other schools had such commodities as a Metal Forge, Auto-mechanics center; as well as places dedicated to art, nature, animal care, and recess. Under the Gary program even reached into health and hygiene. However, many immigrants were convinced through propaganda that the Gary plan prepared children for industrial work- not professional careers. As a result, schools returned to the more traditional teaching methods with an emphasis on American patriotism.
- Theodore Roosevelt: “America has room but for one language.” With this philosophy, New York began a new radical “English Only” philosophy in its schools.
- Sputnik spoke volumes about the Russian education. To Americans, it said that Russian education was better than that of America. After Sputnik, math and physics courses became top priorities.
This film is part of a series of four called:
School- “The Story of American Public Education”
It was produced by PBS and narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. For more information see link: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/