Douglas J. Slawson
“This is a solid legislative history of the fight over federal aid to education from 1918–1932. The research is thorough and the topic is important.” —John McGreevy, University of Notre Dame
Between World War I and the Great Depression, progressive educational administrators at Teachers College of Columbia University joined hands with the National Education Association (NEA) to establish a federal department of education and a national system of schooling. This carefully researched book recounts their efforts and the resistance mounted by Catholics who feared that this reform movement would spell the end of parochial education.
The efforts of the educational trust were supported by a number of organizations that fostered civic progressivism, including two organizations not usually associated with reform: the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Masonry and the Ku Klux Klan. Both of these groups advocated a federal department of education, a national university, and compulsory public schooling. Although the NEA never went on record as favoring compulsory public education, its close association with the Southern Scottish Rite and its failure to distance itself from the KKK convinced Catholics that the NEA intended to use a department of education to drive parochial schools out of existence. The church countered the NEA’s efforts through intense political lobbying by the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC). Douglas J. Slawson’s fascinating look at a relatively unexplored episode in American history recounts fourteen years of maneuvering and counter-maneuvering by the NEA and NCWC over attempts to establish a federal department of education and compulsory public schooling.
This detailed study will appeal to historians, educators, and anyone interested in the history of federal participation in education, society in the 1920s, or Catholic civic engagement.
“In this well-researched volume, Slawson covers an important period in the debate over religion and public schools. Slawson details the conflict over public education between American Catholics and Protestants from the end of WWI to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a clear and meticulous manner, the author sheds light on a forgotten part of church-state history. Recommended.” — Choice
“Slawson certainly deserves a place on the research shelf in every Catholic school since his work explains the reluctance of Pastors and Bishops in the 40s, 50s, 60s and even the early 70s to accept any governmental financial aid seeing in that a move toward federal control of the schools.” — Catholic Library World
“The meticulous and massive documentation (forty-nine pages of endnotes) will make Slawson’s study the definitive work on this important but neglected aspect of twentieth-century American Cahtolicism.” — The Catholic Historical Review