Department of Education Battle, 1918-1932
Public Schools, Catholic Schools, and the Social Order
Hardcover | 9780268041106 | May 2005
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.
Douglas J. Slawson is vice president for student services at National University in San Diego, California.
“Slawson's book is most concerned with the Smith-Towner Act of 1918 and successor bills that, depending on one's perspective, promised or threatened federal funding, centralization, and control of education throughout the country.” ~American Historical Review
“This is a solid legislative history of the fight over federal aid to education from 1918 to 1932. The research is thorough and the topic is important.” ~John McGreevy, University of Notre Dame
". . . The book is an exceptional historical work. Little was known about these issues and the role of the NCWC in protecting the Catholic educational system, while trying, best as could be done in the situation, not to portray the Catholic Church as hostile to public schools. The author left no stone unturned in his relentless quest to report what was going forward, and how people and editors were interpreting, and misinterpreting, what was happening." ~American Catholic Studies
"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
"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 Catholicism." ~The Catholic Historical Review
"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