School: the glue that holds us together

the glue that holds us together

Society educates in many ways;
the state educates through the schools.

A common experience many Americans share is school. School is the glue that holds us together when so many other things, like sex, race, culture, class, keep us apart. The history of schooling in America reflects this very notion of school as the glue that holds us together. Horace Mann expresses this notion in his opening remarks in his Twelfth Annual Report of 1848: "I proceed, then, in endeavoring to show how the true business of the schoolroom connects itself, and becomes identical with the great interests of society."(Mann,p80) While examining the notion of school the glue that holds us together, I will draw on examples from our readings to support my hypothesis.
In speaking about the function of the school in our nation's early years, Carl Kaestle says, "The school was emerging as the principal instrument of cognitive and moral teaching and as an important instrument of public policy."(Kaestle,px) The emergence of the school as a social agent, that helps connect us to each other, began with the Puritans and is still with us today as David Tyack concludes in his Public Schools in Hard Times, The school did not emerge suddenly as society's binding agent, but instead evolved slowly as Hiner explains, "The Puritans had great optimism in the educational efficacy of a Christian community and its two primary institutions, the family and the church."(Hiner,p8) The Puritan society was becoming more heterogeneous, the social fabric was coming undone, the Puritans had realized that Schools were born out of necessity, they filled a vacuum not provided by home or church. Evidence shows that the purpose of the school from the start was to give a heterogeneous society commonness. The school connected the parts of the society. The Puritans seemed conscious of society as a system and each of the educational institutions, home, church, community, and school, were the interlocking parts which held the society together. Evidence shows in their ever-growing heterogeneous society, that the Puritans looked to the school to serve as the glue or cement for their crumbling community. "The school could provide literacy and the most elementary spiritual instructions, but it was not designed to furnish the direct means of salvation."(Hiner,p17)
However, this notion of school as the glue to hold us together was a paradox because school was not available to all inhabitants. School was available for the white male only. Formal schooling, not informal schooling, that is. Parents were teaching thier children at home, as Emma Hart willard testifies. "My father, happily for his children, left to his family, used to teach us evenings, and read aloud to us; and in this way I became interested in books and a voracious reader."(Willard,p19) Emma Hart Willard provides evidence of informal learning. Women were educated to teach their sons, but formal female schooling will come later. The paradox rests in the fact that women were not given formal education but were expected to education their sons. How women taught thier sons or were expected to teach their sons without a formal education is an unanswered question. "Though American men had not moved directly to the definition of women as citizens, women were assigned a political role as the educators of sons who would become citizens, a duty for which the Republican Mother required improved education."(Schager,p337) Schwager is quick to point out this paradox as women's roles as their son's teachers are crucial and yet their own education was neglected. "The academy experience was a central paradox: women were responsible for the education of their sons, but their own education was not available."(Schwager,p343) This paradox is not wasted on Emma Hart Willard. She demonstrates the mixed messages young women were given when as a young child growing up she believed that one should not seek education above one's needs as young Emma Hart expressed to her parents one evening in fine oratory style, "on the folly of people's seeking to be educated above their means and prescribed duties in life."(Willard,p19) A fortnight later this idea would be altered to the extent an older Emma Hart Willard would boldly write a missive to the then Governor of New York, De Witt Clinton, requesting the approval to open a public seminary for "improving the education of females" which she justifies as being the "object of the happiness and improvement of her country, and of mankind."(Willard,p26) Even though schools were not available for all inhabit- ants, they still indirectly had an influence as the glue that holds us together.
In 1848, Horace Mann presented his Twelfth Annual Report, his summary and commentary about public education in Massachusetts, which provided an argument for the Common schools, "it may be safely affirmed that the Common School, improved and energized, as it can easily be, may become the most effective and benignant of all the forces of civilization."(Mann,p80) This suggests Mann believes that the Common School in Massachusetts are crucial to the betterment of mankind because the school, as he will outline in his report, will prepare the child for manhood and make the child a better citizen. The Common School, argues Mann is the best place to instruct citizenship and behavioral paterns which will only be of benefit to society, so as to maintain the status quo or at least not burden society. An example is as the child will learn health issues so as not to burden society, "But the want of health and strength is a dead loss to the community."(Mann,p81) Since these issues are not dealt with satisfactorily at home then, "for this thorough diffusion of sanitary intelligence, the Common School is the only agency."(Mann,p83) Another example is in teaching the concepts of democracy. "Education then beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men."(Mann,p- 87) Mann further contends that politics is not the domain of school but children should be exposed to political ideas in a neutral environment. "That political prosely- tism is no function of the school, but children should receive instruction of the great essentials of political knowledge."(Mann,p97) Mann argues that mankind has tried to bring to bear the mores of society onto its people in any number of ways, but one institution has yet to be brought in to be tried, and that is the school. "But this experiment has never been tried. Education has never yet been brought to bear with one hundredth part of its potential force, upon the natures of children, and through them, upon the character of men, and of the race."(Mann,p101) He further argues that it is to the benefit of society to bear the financial burden, because it is the one which will most profit by this investment, "and finally, he is taxed to support schools, because they are the most effective means of developing and training those powers and faculties in a child."(Mann,p104) Mann concludes by appealing to the Puritanical nature of his audience, "in a social and political sense, it is a Free school system which will supply the communion between man and his Maker."(Mann,p111) Mann provides a foundation for the notion of the school as the glue that holds us together.
Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment gave Black men citizenship. Their education became the charge of Northern white women, who weren't citizens and wouldn't be citizens until 1920. This is another example of the earlier mentioned paradox of the white woman who is providing the education to the citizens of America is not herself a citizen. First she educated her sons, and now she is educating the newest citizen, the freed Black man. This notion is noted in A Noble Work Done Earnestly, "Once established in the South, most teachers, however motivated, adopted a common set of ideas about the capacities and destinies of the free people."(Noble Work,p95) DuBois is quoted in his work, The Souls of Black Folk as saying "The schoolmarm was the contact of living souls."(Noble Work,p106-7) When speaking of Black education the dialogue between Booker T Washington and WEB DuBois must be considered. These two men spoke eloquently on the subject and provide further insight into the concept of schooling being the glue that holds us together. In a speech at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, later called The Atlanta Compromise, Booker T Washington recognizes the differences of the races and the need for education when he acknowledges, "It is the recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom."(Washington,p349) He advocates "the education of head, hand, and heart" of the Negro race(Washington,p350) which speaks to a union of the major body parts as intregal in making for a whole person, a metaphor for the macrocosm, mankind. If the part is good then it stands to reason the whole may be good. However, DuBois sees things differently. As this debate unfolds Washington develops a counter-argument when he defends his concept of industrial education, "Industrial training will be more potent for good to the race, when its relation to the other phases of essential education is more clearly understood."(DuBois,p355) He concludes that, "Education to fulfill its mission for any people anywhere, should be symmetrical and sensible."(DuBois,p356) As the nation moves beyond the Civil War, schools become more important as the glue that hold us together.
With the turn of the century approaching and the great influx of immigrants and industrial wealth, education takes on greater roles in connecting the very diverse nation together for the common good. Perhaps the notion of democracy and education is best exemplified by its champion, John Dewey. "All that society has accomplished for itself is put, through the agency of the school, at the disposal of its future members."(Dewey,p34) Echoing Horace Mann, Dewey suggests that education is the glue that will hold the nation together. He sees the changes coming and offers this advice, "whenever we have in mind the discussion of a new movement in education, it is especially necessary to take the broader, or social view. .. The modification going on in the method and curriculum of education is as much a product of the changed social situation, and as much an effort to meet the needs of the new society that is forming as are changes in modes of industry and commerce."(Dewey,p34) His contention is for a New Education because he knows that it is "in the schoolroom the motive and the cement of social organiza- tions are alike wanting"(Dewey,p39) and best achieved and administered. Dewey is well aware of the power of the school in affecting social change and providing the nation with the bonding agents to secure its future when he says, "when the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely, and harmonious."(Dewey,p49)
Barbara Solomon supports this notion of school as the cement of society when she says "The concept of the "whole woman" (and "whole man") served as the common ideal. Educators made out of every student activity an opportunity to instill ethical purpose. Physical, intellectual, and moral education were accorded equal importance in the life of the well-rounded college man or woman."(Solomon,p92-3) Not only does it support Dewey but it echoes Mann's words when she mentions "physical, intellectual, and moral education," the major sections of Mann's Twelfth Annual Report. That these two, Dewey and Solomon, attribute so much to Mann acknowledges Mann's contribution in identifying the importance of schooling as the glue that holds us together.
In her The Progressive, the Immigrant, and the School, Paula Fass quotes Kaestle as saying "schooling was to be broadly socializing experience" and then draws on history to make a point about a school as the glue that holds us together. This notion of the school as society's bonding agent is iterated in many voices in the Progressive era. Jacob Riis's opening in The Children of the Poor echoes Horace Mann, "The problem of the children is the problem of the state."(Fass,p19) Although Mary Simkovitch supported the desirability of industrial education she insisted that "the new education was a socializing process, and that "every system of education that attempts to train the 'whole man' must plan to relate the child to his family, his neighborhood, his state."(Fass,p31) Robert Woods believed "there is reality in the charge that the public schools are educating children beyond their station, though that is a very mean way to put it" echoing little Emma Hart, but Woods hoped to use the schools directly in the interests of efficient social order.(Fass,p32) The notion of "school as democracy's hope" portends The school as the glue that binds us together is clearly the problem facing the citizens of the twentieth century as immigration swells and as business booms as it was in earlier years. School becomes the instrument that connects the surging influx of people to the democratic ideals of their new nation and prepare a workforce for the burgeoning economy.
A new voice proclaiming the notion that schools are the glue that holds us together is stated firmly in 1932 by Professor George Counts of Teachers College in his Dare the School Build a New Social Order? when he says,
His plan is called "social reconstruction" which asked educators, and not businessmen, to be the builders of the new civilization. They were to be the "social frontier" thinkers. His advocacy of socialism because of the depression and need for collectivism made many nervous."(Tyack,p18)
The federal government got involved in education when Hoover appointed a group of leading educators to examine education. The importance in this event is that the federal government is taking an active interest in education. If education were not such an important institution this interest would not have occurred. They reported, "these 'folk-made' schools were the key to equality of opportunity: 'Our schools are relatively free from class stratification." Not convinced FDR had a committee which rejected this notion: "Public schools are far from being a ladder to the stars."(Tyack,p27) An interesting thing happens in education at this time, the government goes into the education delivery business when FDR created the "alphabet agencies," CCC, WPA, NYA, in his New Deal. Many of the agencies generated a competing educational environment to public education and used public funds. The students in these alphabet agency schools were "refugees from public education and wanted no more from traditional fare."(Tyack,p119) They would work during the day and go to school at night. These schools provided an alternative, "WPA teachers in such programs developed new educational methods and materials adapted to the cultures of their students. They had a strong commitment to schooling as a means of social change and an avenue of equality of opportunity."(Tyack,p114) The New Deal schools did have their supporters, the educator Harold Rugg regarded "the TVA as 'the finest social laboratory in our country,' a planned regional change that should be a model to students everywhere."(Tyack,p116) This notion countered what "the social reconstructionist believed, "Education for effective democracy .. is more than a job; it is more than a profession; it is a crusade."(Tyack,p48) Tyack contends that the government is drawing on historical references when it declares its interpretation of school as the glue that holds us together, "from the time of Horace Mann onward, educators have typically had a vision of what Dewey called 'a deliberately preferred social order' and of education's role in bringing that order into being."(Tyack,p58) In 1941 the Educational Policies Commission "recommended that the agencies should be discontinued and their functions transferred to the public educational system. That school leaders cannot afford to spend their time in guerilla warfare against federal agencies."(Tyack,p136) Government's involvement in the business of education supports the idea that they have realized that school is the glue that holds us together and that they had better be an active part of schooling.
When in 1954, the Supreme Court issued its Brown vs the Board of Education decision the government further demonstrated its interest in influencing the direction of schooling and further supports the notion that school is the glue that holds us together.
In speaking about the 1970's, Tyack reminds us of the voices from the past when he says, The school as the glue that holds the nation together has been a notion since the Puritans who held family and church in higher regard than the school, but acquiesced to the school to solve its problems of heterogeneity. In 1904 Adele Marie Shaw wrote The True Character of the Public Schools in which she considers how the school has become the educator of the family, "to educate the children of our adoption we must at the same time educate their families, and in a measure the public school must be to them family as well as school."(Shaw,p220) This idea of home and school is taking on new meaning today as parents can home- school their children. In fact the young lady who recently won the National Spelling Bee in Washington is home-schooled. Would Shaw boldly open up an expose on New York Public Schools today with the same words she used in 1904, "The future of this country is more than ever in the hands of the public schools."(Shaw,p218) As schooling embraces the Digital Age, educators have much to consider as they imitate the successes of the past, try not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and prepare the children for the future while considering the needs of the present: will the school be the glue that holds us together? Carl F Kaestle, Pillar of the Republic New York: Hill and Wang, 1995

N. Ray Hiner, The Cry of Sodom Enquired Into: Educational Analysis in Seventeenth-Century New England

Emma Hart Willard, Pioneering the Education of Young Women

Horace Mann, Twelfth Annual Report, 1848

A Noble Work Done Earnestly

Sally Schwager, Educating Women in America

Barbara Solomon, Women and the Modernizing of Liberal Education 1860- 1920

John Dewey, The School and Society

Booker T Washington, The Atlanta Compromise

WEB DuBois, DuBois Says No

Paula Fass, The Progressive, the Immigrant, and the School

Adele Marie Shaw, The True Character of the Public Schools

David Tyack, Robert Lowe, Elisabeth Hansot, Public Schools in Hard Times, Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press, 1984