Chapter 3: 1911 - 1920 3:1:-- Background Information

Emergence of Concept of "Pre-Vocational" Education

Unfortunately not online fulltext, the book discusses "masses", "vocational", "pre-vocatioal" and "education".

Student Dropout Rate Extremely High

One of the major problems of the pre-World War I generation of school reformers was halting this "premature" school leaving, or, as generally called, "stemming the high drop out rate".

While educators investigating why the K-12 system was in turmoil, and perhaps disagreed on the statistics were really saying, all agreed that the school "drop-out" rate was "too" high. And there was surprising unanimity on where the blame lay for this deplorable situation.


Robert Hunter claimed in 1904, as many as 10,000,000 were in poverty

About 30 per cent of the workers in the industrial states are employed only a part of each year, and, in consequence, suffer a serious decrease in their yearly wages, which, in the case of the unskilled, at least, means to suffer poverty. Nevertheless, the estimate that somewhat over 10,000,000 persons in this country are in poverty does not indicate that our poverty is as great proportionately as that of England. But it should be said that a careful examination would, in all probability, disclose a greater poverty than the estimate indicates.

These figures of poverty have the weakness of all estimates. But even if it were possible to prove that the estimate herein given, of the extent of poverty, is in error, the fact for which I contend is not disproved. Poverty is already widespread in this new country, and knowing this to be true, it seems the height of folly that the nation should disregard so absolutely this enormous problem of misery that not even an inquiry is made as to its extent or as to the causes which add to its volume.

Source: Robert Hunter, Poverty, New York: Macmillan Co.; London, Macmillan & Co., 1904, page 62. Hunter is only one of a virtural army of "muckraker" journalists and other writers who wrote (famously) about the presence of poverty in America, and its impact. Read more here about children and poverty.

Incompetent Teachers

A National Education Association report of 1910 revealed that of 600,000 public school teachers, 300,000 had no special preparation for their work

Source: Carl Weinberg, Humanistic Foundations of Education Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972, page 53.

The National Education Association approves the ever increasing demand for better qualified teachers in the common schools. This higher standard must lead logically to a longer tenure and to a compensation more nearly commensurate with the quality of preparation and with the nature of the service rendered.

Source: American Education 13 page 38

Compulsory Education Laws Not Effective

The text below is the first of an extensive article in the 1911 Cyclopedia of Education,


The princiciple of compulsory education has been recognized at intervals in history ever since it was made prominent in the laws of Solon and Lycurgus. Charlemagne and Luther were advocates of the idea. Self governing communities have assumed the right to protect themselves from the dangers of ignorance. With the extension of suffrage has come the necessity for education, and universal suffrage cannot logically exist without compulsory education.

Early Laws.—The earliest law for compulsory education within the territory of the United States was probably that in Virginia in 1646 which "enjoined" overseers and guardians of orphans to educate them. Fiske says: "There was after 1646 a considerable amount of compulsory primary education in Virginia."

B. G. Northrup, secretary of the Board of Education for Connecticut, says in his report for 1871, "Connecticut was one of the first states in the world to establish the principle of compulsory education. Its code of laws adopted in 1650 contained provisions for compulsory education. In 186!> a Connecticut law forbade manufacturers to employ children under 14 "who have not attended school at least three months each year." In 1872 Connecticut fully established compulsory education.

Massachusetts, in 1642, enjoined selectmen to see that children and apprentices were able to read English. In 1834 children under 16 who did not attend school three months each year were prohibited from factories. A formal compulsory education law was passed in 1852 fixing 12 weeks each year as a minimum of attendance, 6 of which must be consecutive. In 1870 the period was extended to 20 weeks.

cross-section for four-sided post

ineffective compulsory education laws:-- even as late as 1918, for practical purposes, compulsory education laws didn't affect children over 14

Curriculum Not Meeting Needs

Agreement existed that curriculum didn't meet either the interests or the needs of children. To say that the curriculum wasn't meet­ing the interests or the needs of children implied at least three things:

the curriculum wasn't meeting their interests;

it wasn't meeting their needs;

and it wasn't suited to their intellectual capabilities.

One of the best-publicized findings to come out of the report of the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial Education was that of the "two wasted years," the years 14-16. the actual document on the Web:-- Report of the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, but the link above -- to an issue of the Manual Training Magazine -- leads to a good summary and selected passages; the box below has a fragment:

(the actual document on the Web:-- Report of the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, but the link above -- to an issue of the Manual Training Magazine -- leads to a good summary and selected passages; the box below has a fragment:

The Commission discovered thousands of children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, out of school, out of work, or working at lowpaying, dead-end jobs, a problem to themselves and the community, "the most important question which faces the educa­tional world today."

Source: Columbia University, Teachers College, Educational Reprints, No. 1, Report of the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Education (New York, 1906), pp. 25, 30-31.]

Why were they out of school?

The Commission's chief investigator, Miss Susan M. Kingsbury, a social worker, stated that it was the opinion of most school officials that the schools were at fault, school didn't appeal to children:

"the great lack is in the system, which fails to offer the child of fourteen continued schooling of a practical char­acter."

What the children wanted was vocational education.11 [11 Ibid., pp. 18, 44, 87.] This view was to gain immediate and widespread acceptance. Thus, the editor of Manual Training Magazine dismissed out of hand the exigencies of pov­erty, inadequate teachers and ineffective compulsory education laws as possible explanations of why children left school.

"Children leave school because they do not like to go to school, because the work is distasteful to them and offers them little or nothing that they conceive to be of value in their lives. It is useless to attempt to explain the great loss in school attendance on other grounds."

Source: "Why Children Leave School," Manual Training Magazine, XIV (Apr. 1913), 360; Helen M. Todd, "Why Children Work: The Children's Answer," McClure's Maga­zine, XL (Apr. 1913), 74; "What Children Who Leave School Really Need," Survey XXX (May 24, 1913), 273-74; Lovejoy, pp. 84-86.

For Jane Addams,

"An aston­ishing number of boys would doubtless stay in school two years longer if both they and their families were convinced that their education had a more direct bearing upon their future wage-earning"

Source: "Discussion," National Society for the Promotion of In­dustrial Education, Bulletin No. 6, Part II 1908, 94.

Sample Pre-Vocational Program: Portland Maine:-- Ellwood Patterson Cubberley, The Portland Survey 1915

Purpose of the Pre-vocational Courses

The pre-vocational courses appropriate to this intermediate period should serve two ends, not dissimilar in their demands:

(1) they should prepare for the vocational courses of the secondary period those pupils who continue in school beyond the intermediate period; and

(2) they should give those pupils who conclude their schooling with this period some practical and definite preparation for entrance into some particular field of usefulness.

These pre-vocational courses should be distinguished from each other, as well as from the literary courses, by the immediate practical study which should be prominent in each one of them. These practical studies, to meet Portland's needs, should look toward at least five radically different types of service, as follows:

1. Commercial

(a) Clerical service, involving bookkeeping and typewriting

(b) Selling

2. Manufacturing and mechanical

(a) Woodworking trades — particularly general carpentry and cabinet-making

(b) Metal-Working trades

(c) Electrical trades

(d) Sewing trades

3. Agricultural

4. Home-making

5. Printing and bookbinding

If children were offered industrial train­ing the schools' holding power would be enormously increased. But the argument went further to assert that if vocational training was not what the children wanted, it was what they needed. And needed on several counts.

The "Masses"

At the turn of the century, American school reformers began to note the appearance in the public schools of that vast category of the population known as the "Masses."

(Aside: As a term of social description, "Masses" often has ambivalent meanings. From the analysis of this term by Raymond Williams (Keywords New York: Oxford University Press, 1983 2d ed) Masses has a long and complex history of usage, tracing back in England at least to the 17th century. In the modern social sense, Masses has at least two distinguishable kinds of meanings. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in much American conservative thought, Masses was a term of contempt.

We have already noted reaction to the waves of immigrants that hit America's shore in the 2d half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries Masses described a many-headed multitude or mob: low, ignorant, unstable, too feeble to be “democratic” in the sense the conservatives thought correct.

To Progressives, Masses could describe the same people, but now seen as a positive -- or potentially positive -- social force. Edited by Max Eastman, The Masses was a radical magazine. See Eric Homberger, American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900-39, 1986

Often, however, the several senses are not only fused but also confused.


the large numbers of the Masses: either the "many-headed multitude" or the "ignorant majority";

the mode adopted to reach the Masses: manipulative or populist;

the assumed lack of taste of the Masses(vulgar or ordinary);

And, they were convinced, the Masses, the vast majority of school children, were destined to follow manual pursuits.

In the box below, for example, Charles W. Eliot -- at the time president of Harvard University -- argues that it would by prudent for America to increase funding of its education system:

The Test of Popular Education

But some sceptic may ask, how do we know that even the expenditure the country now makes for education is worth making? And again, how do we know what the results of popular education are? What test is there for the efficiency of popular education? Let me try, in conclusion, to answer these grave questions.

In the first place, as I look back on the progress of American education since the Civil War, I think I see that education is the one agency for promoting intelligence and righteousness which has unquestionably gained power in the United States during the last half-century -- the one agency which has not only retained its hold on the democratic masses, but has distinctly gained more and more public confidence, and received from the democracy greater and greater moral and material support.

The democracy has believed more and more in the efficiency of schools and colleges; and schools and colleges have more and more taught and acted out democracy. This is only saying, on the one hand, that the popular masses perceive that it is in large part the schools and colleges which implant in successive generations democratic ideals and make them fit to be free; and, on the other, that the schools and colleges believe in the democratic ideals, and fervently desire to promote brotherhood, unity, and the practical acceptance of the Pauline doctrine, "every one members one of another".

Can we say of any other of the organized inspiriting and moralizing forces in American society that it has gained strength and increased its influence during the past fifty years?

The efficiency of legislatures and the respect in which they are held have unquestionably declined, since the Civil War. American legislative assemblies, municipal, state and national, have repeatedly shown themselves unable to solve, or even begin to solve, the new problems which have arisen in rapid succession out of the incredible changes in industry, commerce, and transportation. In other words, legislatures have not been able to keep up with American progress in other fields.

Source: Charles W. Eliot, More Money for the Public Schools New York: Doubleday,1903 pages 169-170.

Eugene Davenport and Charles W Eliot on "Education for Efficiency"

Davenport was Dean and Director College of Agriculture and Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Illinois.

Eugene Davenport, Education for Efficiency Pp. v, 184. Price, $1.00. Boston:D. C. Heath & Co., 1909.

In this little volume the author enthusiastically advocates universal education in its literal sense. But if education becomes truly universal, objectors argue, the washerwoman's daughter will not return to the tub, nor the ditcher's son to the ditch; we will have an army of officers, but no privates to do the fighting. The author answers this argument by showing that education of the right sort does not educate away from industry and the common walks of life. Merely admitting the "masses" to school does not constitute universal education, the schools must be actively fitted and adapted to the "masses."

Having demonstrated that industrial or vocational education is necessary, the author throws the whole weight of his influence against the establishment of separate industrial schools. Such schools train the operative rather than educate the citizen; they lose in breadth more than they gain in directness. But if the high schools delay longer in adding industrial courses, the industrial people will secede, and separate trade schools will be established to the permanent detriment of our system. The latter part of the book show how agriculture, at least, may make its way into existing schools without detriment to other courses, but vastly to their advantage.

(My search for Davenport's book also uncovered this one: Charles William Eliot, Education for Efficiency, and The New Definition of the Cultivated Man 1909, the author of the book in the box directly below. This is from page 1:

Education for efficiency is my subject. By efficiency I mean effective power for work and service during a healthy and active life. This effective power every individual man or woman should desire and strive to become possessed of; and to the training and development of this power the education of each and every person should be directed. The efficient nation will be the nation made up, by aggregation, of individuals possessing this effective power; and national education will be effective in proportion as it secures in the masses the development of this power and its application in infinitely various forms to the national industries and the national service.

Let me say at once that this education for efficiency is not a training which should cease with youth. On the contrary, it should be prolonged through adult years, until the powers of the mind and body begin with added years to decline. It has been too much the custom to think of education as an affair of youth, and even of the earlier years of youth; but it really should be the work of the whole life. Because the large majority of American children cease to go to school by the time they are fourteen years of age, it by no means follows that their education should cease at that early age. More and more, of late, regular and formal provision for a continued education is made in public school systems, through beneficent endowments and by private enterprise. The prolongation of the period of formal education for a considerable minority of American children, and the provision of summer schools, evening schools, trade schools, correspondence schools, business colleges, and reading circles of many sorts, with public libraries and book clubs, illustrate the increasing prevalence of the new idea that education is to be prolonged through adult life, and may be carried on in a systematic and active way long after the individual has begun to earn his livelihood in whole or in part.

Now all education at every stage of life comprehends two processes — the training of powers and the acquisition of knowledge. Childhood and youth are the time for acquiring new mental processes and functions and for exercising and strengthening the memory. The child initiates new processes of thought and establishes new mental habits much more easily than the adult; but the adult, with trained powers, has an immense advantage over the child in the acquisition of information. The important thing in childhood is, therefore, to train the child in as large a variety of mental processes as possible, and to establish as many useful mental habits as possible. During this training an immense body of information will be incidentally acquired, but not so rapidly as the same person grown up can acquire it.

Masses even found its way into official documents, including the

Report of the United States Industrial Commission on the Relations and Conditons of Capital and Labor Employed in Manufactures and General Business; volume 2; Testimony ... Review and Digest, volume XIV. Washington, DC: Government Printing Ofiice, 1901

D Effects of immigration 1 General evil effects Mr REYNOLDS says that the inrnshing immigration is the great cause of the depression of wages and of such bad general conditions as appear in the sweated industries. One of the worst features of it is that the immigrants of each race settle in undigested masses in our great cities Under these circumstances they become assimilated to the American life only very slowly. Among the children especially there is a strong tendency to moral degeneration. The people have been torn away from the moral traditions of their old country and they have not yet adjusted themselves to the conditions and the moral traditions of the new. There is a relaxation of the feelings of moral obligation. It takes a considerable time to gain a new hold of moral principles and moral ideas. The Jewish population of New York is astonishingly industrious and astonishingly ambitions for education. It has done much to raise itself out of the mire. The trade unions have become a little stronger and general conditions have made some slight progress. But now come the Italians crowding into the garment making trade and throwing themselves on the necks of the Jewish garment workers before the Jewish garment workers have sufficiently established themselves to cope with the dangers and evils of this new immigration.....

Source: Report of the United States Industrial Commission on the Relations and Conditons of Capital and Labor Employed in Manufactures and General Business; volume 2; Testimony ... Review and Digest, volume XIV. Washington, DC: Government Printing Ofiice, 1901, page cxxvii

From Sol Cohen The Industrial Education Movement, 1906-17 American Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Spring, 1968), pp. 95-110.

In 1910, 90 percent of Americans made their living by one industrial pursuit or another. Only five percent would attend a college or university. In his Presidental address to the Nationa Education Addrees in 1908 , specifically speaking about "widespread demand for industrial education", Lorenzo D. Harvey, President of Stout Institute, Menominee, Wisconsin said,

In very recent years a widespread demand has arisen for what is termed industrial education. The remarkable thing about this demand is that it is not a local demand. It exists in every part of the country, in urban and rural communities alike; the demand comes from all classes of people, the farmer, the professional man, the manufacturer, the laboring man, and the student of education. It means different things to different individuals, but to all it means something which does not now exist in our present system in any adequate form.

To the farmer it means education that will fit the boy to become a more effective farmer and that will present inducements to him to remain upon the farm;

to the manufacturer it means training that will give him skilled workmen and more efficient foremen and superintendents, or the kind of scientific training that fits one for the research work necessary for the discovery of new or improved industrial processes;

to the professional man it means a rather indefinite broadening of educational opportunities; to the laboring man, a better opportunity for his children than he has had;

to the student of education it may mean any one or all of these and very much more.

For some critics, analyzing the state of education, including industrial education, it was a question of

"adapting by far the larger proportion of the population to their environment."

What America needed was a system of public education adapted to

"the industrial masses, who are the people."

Social workers, in the urban trenches, concurred.

"Whether we like it or not," declared Mary Flexner of the Henry Street Settlement, "conditions make the children wage-earners. What the schools can do is to make them effective and progres­sive earners."

Selected Sources: James Joyner, "Some Dominant Tendencies in American Education," National Education Association, Journal of Proceedings and Addresses, 1909, pp. 53-54; Mary Flexner"Plea For Vocational Training," Survey, XXI (Aug. 7, 1909), Page 654; Lorenzo D. Harvey, "The Need, Scope, and Character of Industrial Education In The Public Schools," NEA Journal, 1910, p. 80; Nicholas Murray Butler, "Vocational Education: An Address" (1913), page 6.

Some Critics Claimed That There Were Limits of Intelligence: -- "We Need Vocational Education!"

During the nineteenth century almost the whole of scientific thought in both America and Europe accepted race inferiority, and much of this sentiment continued into the 20th century. Leonard Ayres in 1908 in his extremely influential Laggards In Our Schools concluded that the course of studies in our city school systems

"are adjusted to the power of the brighter pupils. They are beyond the powers of the average pupils, and far beyond those of the slower ones."

For the children of the masses, many educators and other opinion makers claimed, public education had to be reshaped along vocational lines to help the [masses] adjust to an occupation that, because of their staion in society, they were destined to follow.

And an argument was also advanced that vocational training was needed because it was the only kind of education the children could understand and appreciate, the kind of education best suited to their intellectual capacities.

This dim view of the capacities of the children was shared by some leaders of the settlement movement. In 1911 two leading social worke­ers asserted: So far as consecutive application to accepted cultural studies is concerned, full disclosure of the facts shows comprehensive lack not only of background but of latent instinct. Among people whose powers are fundamentally manual, and whose prospects lie chiefly in the direction of those powers, educational service must necessarily be turned into channels of industrial training. 18 [18 Robert A. Woods and Albert J. Kennedy, The Settlement Horizon (New York, 1911), pp. 136-37.

Investigators of the dropout problem re­inforced these negative notions about the intellectual caliber of the school population.

As early as 1899, for example, John Dewey was proclaiming – a claim that seems odd for possibly "the liberal thinker of the day"

-- "in the great majority of human beings the distinctively intellectual interest is not dominant. They have the so-called practical impulse and disposition."]

Five years later, in 1904, not a sympathetic observer of the “great unwashed”, G. Stanley Hall — a follower of Herbert Spencer, the father of the concept, Social Darwinism, — called attention to "the great army of incapables" in the public schools.

Sources: John Dewey, The School And Society (Chicago, 1900), page 42; G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence New York, 1904, volume II, page 510.]

For Nicholas Murray Butler, the question of vocational education was the question of "adapting by far the larger proportion of the population to their environment." 13 [13 Nicholas Murray Butler, Vocational Education: An Address (1913), p. 6.]

Social Darwinism in the Academic World

In the academic world – and a lay audience sympathetic to social-darwinist thinking -- certain parallel characteristics between the origin and diffusion of the concepts Stereotypes, Ethnocentrism and Social Distance are striking.

All three concepts were articulated first by a theoretician, diffused next in a widely circulating book, and then operationalized in social science experiments. Admittedly, locating theoretical discussions of “ethnic stereotype” before Walter Lippmann (1922) is a stretch, but can, I believe, be achieved. Albert Galloway Keller, Societal evolution: a study of the evolutionary basis of the science of society 1915

The books in mind are respectively, for (1) ethnocentrism, William Graham Sumner's Folkways. 1906; for (2) social distance, the Robert Park and Burgess “textbook” anthology of sociological writing, Introduction to the Science of Sociology, first published in 1921, later reissued in 1924, and became the “bible” of the discipline, basically transmitting the principles of sociology to a generation of students, and (3) for stereotypes, Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion. What is said about the two concepts above also holds for “ethnocentrism”.

For the academically inept, the unscholarly, the misfits, the solution was industrial training. This argument had great appeal, and, as Professor Krug puts it, like the proverbial bad penny, kept turning up.19 [19 Krug, pp. 227 ff.] The school reformers' stated concern with the needs and interests of children can, however, be overemphasized; the needs and interests of American industrial society no less than those of the children conspired to demand vocational education.

Plea For Vocational Training

For the children of the masses the whole system of public education had to be reshaped along vocational lines to help them better to adjust to the life they were des­tined to lead. But the argument was also advanced that vocational train­ing was needed because it was the only kind of education the children could understand and appreciate, the kind of education best suited to their intellectual capacities.

For the academically inept, the unscholarly, the misfits, the solution was industrial training.

[American Peril and/or American Menace]

With dramatic suddenness, by the last years of the nineteenth century America emerged as the world's foremost industrial nation, and a power­ful rival to England and Germany in world trade. The epithets, "Amer­ican peril" and "American menace," terms frequently employed by Europeans to describe this new giant in their midst, amply testify to this phenomenon.20 [ 20 Edward C. Kirkland, Industry Comes Of Age: Business, Labor, and Public Policy, 1860-1897 (New York, 1961), chap. xiv, "The American Menace Abroad"; Richard H. Heindel, The American Impact On Great Britain, 1898-1914 (Philadelphia, 1940), chap. vii, "The American Peril"; Harry Cranbrook Allen, The Anglo-Saxon Relation­ship Since 1783 (London, 1959), pp. 110 ff.]

America seemed to awake somewhat later than the rest of the world to this new fact of international life. It was a great awakening. Nothing, said an official of the U. S. Bureau of Education in 1904, has tended to open the eyes of Americans more than the consternation and concern of foreign nations. To them, the "American peril" is a real one. No American, he continued, does not take pride in this forced tribute to American strength and greatness.21[21 Howard J. Rogers, "The Relation of Education to Industrial and Commercial Development," Educational Review, XXIII (May 1902), 493.]

Such sentiments could unloose visions. In volume of output, the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education noted in 1915, the U.S. leads the four great manufacturing nations of the world. But, it continued, we had only begun to contest for world markets. Pointing to the more than one and a half billion peo­ple living outside the Big Four but dependent upon them for manufac­tured goods, the Commission observed, "the rewards offered in this world trade are beyond comprehension." 22 [22 U. S. House of Representatives, Report of the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education (2 vols.; Washington, D. C., 1914), I, 22.]

If rivalry in trade and commerce was destined to be the warfare of the future, as many were predicting, then Americans were determined to carry off the victor's share of the spoils. At last, declared one schoolman, America is coming into her own. She is coming to recognize a two-fold ideal --"industrial supremacy and per­fected democracy. . .. Industrial supremacy is America's rightful ideal." 23 [23 Alvin E. Dodd, "Better Grammar Grade Provision For The Vocational Needs of Those Likely to Enter Industrial Pursuits," Manual Training Magazine, XI (Dec. 1909), 98; Andrew S. Draper, Our Children, Our Schools, And Our Industries (Syra­cuse, N. Y., 1907), p. 88; Frank T. Carlton, Education and Industrial Evolution (New York, 1908), p. 136; Ellwood P. Cubberley, Changing Conceptions of Education (Bos­ton, 1909), pp. 49-50; "Industrial Education Necessary to the Economic Development of the United States," National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, Bulletin, No. 15, p. 1911.]

Now the question of the recruitment and proper training of a new-style army, an industrial army, assumed in the United States the same urgency it was assuming in England, and had assumed a generation earlier in Germany. The officers for this new army would be recruited and trained in the engineering and scientific and business schools. Here was no problem. But industry desperately needed privates (it was esti­mated that the country's labor force required at least 1,000,000 additions annually) What the new industrial order needed was "the training of recruits for our leading mechanical industries"; the services of an army of semiskilled workers who would "adjust nicely [to] the industrial ma­chine"; "high privates who can adequately meet unexpected situations and an industrial rank and file who shall rise to the possibilities of the less skilled type of work"; an army of privates, obeying orders, "keeping step, as it were, to the tap of the drum." 24 [24 Paul H. Hanus, "Industrial Education," Atlantic Monthly, CI (Jan. 1908), 60; Woods, Charities and the Commons, XIX, 854-55; Frank T. Carlton, The Industrial Situation: Its Effects upon the Home, the School, the Wage Earner and the Employer (New York, 1914), p. 69; David E. Wells, Recent Economic Changes (New York, 1888), p. 93. See the discussion of the problem of recruiting and training of workers in Kirk­land, Industry Comes of Age, chap. Xvi.]

What the schools had to pro­vide, therefore, was an education with a vocational bias -- one which would predispose the children to enter the factories and manual trades, impress them with the "dignity of labor," and equip them with "indus­trial intelligence"; some facility with handling tools and machines, basic literacy to enable them to read and understand directions, and discipline enough to enable them better to conform to the requirements of large- scale, rationalized factory routine.25 [25 See the general discussion in Paul H. Douglas, American Apprenticeship and Industrial Education (New York, 1921), p. 76; Kirkland, Industry Comes Of Age, chap. Viii.]

The privates, the rank and file, would have to be recruited and drilled in the public schools. Here was the problem. The American boy, many pointed out, was uninterested in manual occupations. To the American boy, mechanical labor was just a little bit servile. And worse yet, the American public school did little or nothing to make such work more enticing. Indeed, the schools positively tended to unfit youth for such work. In the course of his Annual Message to Congress in 1907, Theodore Roosevelt declared: "Our school system is gravely defective in so far as it puts a premium upon mere literacy training and tends therefore to train the boy away from the farm and the workshop." 26 [26 Quoted in Krug, p. 225.]

American public schools were too literary in their spirit, scope and methods. In an address to the NEA, Andrew S. Draper, Com­missioner of Education for New York State, complained: Our elementary schools train for no industrial employments. They lead to nothing but the secondary school, which in turn leads to the college, the university, and the professional school, and so very ex­clusively to the professional and managerial occupations.27 [27 Andrew S. Draper, "The Adaptation of the Schools to Industry and Efficiency," NEA, Journal, 1908, p. 70; James E. Russell, "The School and Industrial Life," Edu­cational Review, XXXVIII (Dec. 1909), 439; Charles R. Richards, The Problems of Industrial Education," Manual Training Magazine, VIII (Apr. 1907), 127; Hanus, Atlantic Monthly, CI, 60.]

The public schools were criticized for encouraging ambitions to soar too high. Draper asserted that the program of the public school and the influence of the teachers, acting upon our national temperament and aspirations

"have led an undue proportion of youth to literature and scientific study which too often ends either in idleness or insipidity, or in professional or managing occupations for which they are not well pre­pared and which are already overcrowded."

28 [28 Draper, NEA, Journal, 1908, p. 69; Draper, Our Children, Our Schools, and Our Industries, p. 56.]

James Joyner, in a presi­dential address to the NEA in 1909 lamented that the demand of the masses for the same kind of education that the favored few have tradi­tionally enjoyed has led to an overcrowing of the professions and led children of the industrial masses away from the pursuits of their fathers. While Dean James E. Russell of Teachers College, Columbia, thought­fully inquired in 1906:

How can a nation endure that deliberately seeks to raise ambitions and aspirations in the oncoming generations which in the nature of events cannot possibly be fulfilled. If the chief object of government be to promote civic order and social stability, how can we justify our practice in schooling the masses in precisely the same manner as those who are to be our leaders?29[29 Joyner, NEA, Journal, 1909, p. 80; James E. Russell, "The Trend in American Education," Educational Review, XXXII (Nov. 1906), 39; Russell, "Democracy and Education; Equal Opportunity for All," NEA, Journal, 1908, p. 157.]

There was a crying need for labor. Many Americans were apprehensive that if the schools were not given a vocational bias, there would be no one to tend the machines, go down into the mines. Adults would. But would their children? And if the latter did, how efficient would they be? And the children of today were the workers of tomorrow. As the Commis­sioner of Education asserted in 1909, in the course of an address to the NEA,

"there is no doubt that industrial education is needed to perpet­uate the prosperity of our industries. This aspect of the case has been widely discussed and may simply be taken for granted here."


[30 Elmer Ellsworth Brown, "Industrial Education As A National Interest," NEA, Journal, 1909, p. 288; Carlton, The Industrial Situation, pp. 65-67; Frank F. Bunker, "Reorganization of the Public School System," U. S. Bureau of Education, Bulletin, 1916, No. 8 (Washington, D. C., 1916), p. 115.]

The need was so great that the demand for industrial education filtered down to the lower grades, and generated a proliferation of other progressive in­novations in the schools. At first, the main thrust of the industrial education movement was aimed at the high schools. Very shortly, however, the limited value of this objective became apparent. Not only had the children to be recruited into the vocational high schools or into vocational tracks in comprehen­sive high schools but, more important, children weren't staying for the high school course. They were leaving in large numbers before the end of the eighth grade. The problem was one of keeping them in school up to the eighth grade and exposing them to some form of vocational train­ing before they left.

In other words, by 1907 or 1908 the problem of voca­tional training in the public schools had become the problem of the elementary schools. The problem was one of adjusting the work of the elementary school for those who upon graduation, or upon dropping out before graduation, entered the world of work. Out of the search for some solution to this problem came the theory of "differentiation." The upper grades were to differentiate between the needs of those children preparing for high school and higher education, and those children whose education would be terminated with the elementary school. Some educators called for the organization of "intermediate industrial schools," or "junior industrial high schools." Others proposed that the upper grades of the elementary schools, the seventh and eighth grades, be devoted to "pre-vocational" education. Others, that the upper grades offer alternative courses of study: general, commercial and vocational.31 [31 "Elementary Industrial Education," Manual Training Magazine, X (Oct. 1908), 165; James E. Russell, Educational Review, XXXVIII, 437; Charles DeGarmo, "Re­lation of Industrial to General Education," School Review, XVII (Mar. 1909), 152; Frank M. Leavitt, "Industrial Education In the Elementary Schools," Manual Training Magazine, IX (June 1908), 378-79; Ben W. Johnson, "Industrial Education in the Elementary School," NEA, Journal, 1910, pp. 253-60; Draper, NEA, Journal, 1908, pp. 76-77; Krug, pp. 237-41.


Once in motion, it was inevitable that the drive for differentiation would im­pinge upon the lower grades.

The statistics on early school leaving, if nothing else, ensured that it would. As early as 1907, James P. Haney of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, urged a modification of the elementary school program beginning in the sixth grade. In 1908, the Society at its Chicago meeting came out for the intro­duction of "elementary industrial education in some form."

In 1910 the Superintendent of Schools of Cleveland, Ohio, introduced a plan of differentiated courses of instruction beginning in the fifth grade in the public schools of that city. And by 1910, in the public schools of Gary, Indiana, Superintendent of Schools William Wirt was actually demon­strating a scheme of vocational training beginning in the fourth grade. By 1915, John Dewey and many other progressives would be singing the praises of the Gary Plan.32 [32 James P. Haney, "Vocational Work for the Elementary School," Educational Review, XXXIV (Nov. 1907), 339-40; Haney, "The National Society For the Promotion of Industrial Education," Manual Training Magazine, XI (Oct. 1909), 33-34; William H. Elson and Frank P. Bachman, "Different Course For Elementary School," Educa­tional Review, XXXIX (Apr. 1910), 361-63; Elson and Bachman, "Need of Different Elementary School Courses," Elementary School Teacher, X (Dec. 1909, 202; Win­throp D. Lane, "Education and Work: A Twilight Zone," Survey, XXIX (Nov. 23, 1912), 227-28; John and Evelyn Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow (New York, 1962), chap. x Examples of "pre-vocational" work in grades six to eight may be found in Frank M. Leavitt, Examples of Industrial Education (Boston, 1912), chap. x.]

The enthusiasm for differentiation reached its peak at the Cincinnati meeting of the Department of Superintendence of the NEA in 1915 with the passing of a resolution bestowing approval on the

"increasing tendency to establish beginning with the seventh grade, differentiated courses of study aimed more effectively to prepare the child for his probable future activities."

According to the record, only one educator, Superintendent William H. Maxwell of New York City, spoke out against the resolution. He found the notion unacceptable that children of twelve and thirteen were prepared to choose their future course of instruction and presumably their life's work.33 [33 NEA, Journal, 1915, pp. 256-57.]

Partisans of vocational training were in agreement with Maxwell that youngsters were hardly prepared to choose wisely their course of studies and their life's work. This is where vocational guidance enters the pic­ture. Implicit in the notion of differentiation is the elective principle.

Vocational Guidance Movement

And implicit in the principle of election (a principle which, inciden­tally, by 1915 had been in retreat on the college level for at least a dec­ade), is the wise guidance of children. Children needed direction; in­dustry needed recruits. Out of these imperatives came the vocational guidance movement. The two movements went hand in hand. The same faces were active in both movements; their objectives were identical. In November 1910, the first National Conference on Vocational Guidance and the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education met concurrently in Boston. Felix Adler, Paul Hanus, Robert Archey Woods, S. McCune Lindsay, Charles R. Richards and David Snedden were among the more than three hundred delegates from more than thirty-five cities who mingled at both conferences and discussed ways of adjusting the public schools to the social and industrial needs of the day.34 [34 The 1913 convention of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education became the occasion for the organization of the National Vocational Guid­ance Association. Meyer Bloomfield, "Vocational Guidance and Industrial Education," Survey, XXV (Nov. 26, 1910), 319-20; John M. Brewer, History of Vocational Guid­ance: Origins and Early Developments (New York, 1942), 137-41; Krug, p. 242.]

As the School Review commented editorially, "the relation which exists between vocational guidance and vocational training is so intimate that these two conferences may very well be considered as one." 35 [35 School Review, XIX (Jan. 1911), 57, ed. Charles Prosser, Secretary of the NSPIE, before the annual meeting of the National Education Association in 1912, asserted that vocational education and vocational guidance are necessary in meeting the problem of fitting the great mass of our people for useful employment. "Each is the handmaiden of the other and each is indispensable to the success of the other," NEA, Journal, 1912, p. 647. See also U. S. Bureau of Education, Report of the Commissioner for the Year Ended June 30, 1912, I (Washington, D. C., 1913), 24.]

With the drive for industrial education each year picking up more and more momentum, a problem arose. The high school was, or was fast be. coming, the educational ideal of the middle class throughout the length and breadth of the land. It was necessary to assure these parents who looked forward to sending their children to academic high schools that vocational training was not intended for their offspring. Vocational guidance was one answer. The "neighborhood school" concept was another. It was as evident then as now that neighborhoods tend to be inhabited by families of roughly similar social rank. Vocational train­ing would not be for all children. The socio-economic status of a neigh­borhood would dictate the particular course of study to be followed in the neighborhood elementary school. Ellwood Cubberley advocated the idea, and approved it in practice in 1915 in Portland, Oregon. Frank McMurray recommended this procedure in 1913 for the elementary schools of New York City. But perhaps the earliest, certainly the most candid explanation of the neighborhood basis for differentiation came in 1910 from William H. Elson, Superintendent of Schools of Cleveland.

Superintendent Elson called for different courses of study for the elemen­tary school, courses adapted to the needs of varying districts and of par­ticular groups of children. "It is obvious," Elson asserted,

that the educational needs of children in a district where the streets are well paved and clean, where the homes are spacious and sur­rounded by lawns and trees, where the language of the child's play­fellows is pure, and where life in general is permeated with the spirit and ideals of America—it is obvious that the educational needs of such a child are radically different from those of the child who lives in a foreign and tenement section. . . .36 [36 Elson and Bachman, Educational Review, XXXIX, 357-59; Elson and Bachman, Elementary School Teacher, X, 202-3; Ellwood P. Cubberley. The Portland Survey: A Textbook on City School Administration Based On A Concrete Study (New York, 1916), pp. 274-78; Paul H. Hanus, School Efficiency, A Constructive Study Applied to New York City: Being a Summary and Report on the Educational Aspects of the School Inquiry (New York, 1913), pp. 15 ff.]

This neighborhood concept of education, with its implications of class education, came strangely from the lips of American educators. Indeed much that was spawned by the industrial education movement was strange. Certainly there were many children among those now flock­ing into the public schools who would not profit from an exclusively academic education, but this was also true of children who lived in neighborhoods with carefully manicured lawns. But the advocates of industrial education were not simply calling upon the public schools to include more subjects like shopwork in the curriculum, not simply calling for the establishment of more vocational schools. They were call­ing for the transformation of the school system along industrial lines; for the displacement of the traditional general education by an industrial education; or, if this proved unfeasible, for the establishment of a "dif­ferentiated" system of public education. It has not been generally realized how radical these notions are. How subversive of old ideas, of traditional American principles. The contrast was usually drawn between the dem­ocratic education of America and the class education of Europe of which Germany was most often singled out as the prime offender.

In Europe, Americans like to say, a boy's career was fixed by his family's tradition and financial resources.

In Europe a boy entered an occupation similar to his father's. But in America, educational opportunity was divorced substantially from the individual family's capacity to pay and from its social position.

In America, the public schools equalized the opportun­ities of rich and poor, gave all a fair start in "the race for life." This ideal of the availability of free, quality, public education, regardless of the social status of the prospective student, had been a vital part of American democratic ideology. One of the proudest boasts of Americans had been that their public school system, with its "ladder" organization, came nearer the realization of the ideal of democratic education than any other country in the world; that there was no cul-de-sac in American education. Each stage led to the one higher, from the kindergarten to the university. Further, that public education in America was characterized by the desire to prolong as late as possible, for all children, the years of general education, thus putting off as long as possible separation of stu­dents by future calling in life, usually to the high school years, certainly not before the age of fourteen or fifteen. No one said it better than the venerable

Charles W. Eliot who, in 1905, declared:

In a democratic society the classification of pupils, according to their so-called probable destinations, should be postponed to the latest pos­sible time of life. It is common in Europe to classify children very early into future peasants, mechanics, tradespeople, merchants, and profes­sional people, and to adapt deliberately the education of children from a very early age to this decreed destination. In a democratic society like ours, these early determinations of the career should be avoided as long as possible, particularly in public schools. For example, the point in the program of the public high school at which pupils who are going to college diverges from the pupils who are not going to college should be placed as late as possible, not in the interest of the college, . . . but in the interest of the pupils whose educational careers should not be too early determined.37 [37 Charles W. Eliot, "The Fundamental Assumptions of the Report of the Commit­tee of Ten," Educational Review, XXX (Nov. 1905), 330-31. Practically all European countries made provision for early differentiation: in Germany at about the age of ten, in England at eleven or twelve. Foreign commentators of all nationalities, what other criticisms they may have had about American education, agreed on this; American public education was about as democratic as the ingenuity of man could make it.]

But now, toward the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Americans were in a new mood. In 1907, Robert Archey Woods asserted, "it used to be thought and still is thought by some that it is contrary to the genius of American principles of social equality that any young per­son should select his own calling, or that he should have it selected for him at an early age. Every boy and girl is a possible occupant of the White House. Such teaching is far more weirdly Utopian than that of our present day social dreamers." 38 [38 Woods, Charities and the Commons, XIX, 855.]

And by 1908, Charles W. Eliot, baffled by the urban-industrial America which seemed so suddenly to have over­thrown the world he was accustomed to, was advocating the very doctrine he had so eloquently attacked just three years before. In that year, in an address to the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Educa­tion, Eliot advocated trade schools for children "who are unfortunately obliged to leave the regular public school system by the time they are fourteen, or even earlier." On this same occasion, Eliot called upon elementary school teachers to assume a new responsibility. They "ought to sort out the pupils and sort them out by their evident or probable destinies." A year later Eliot was describing American society as being divided into four "layers," each possessing its "distinct characteristics and distinct educational needs." 39 [39 Charles W. Eliot, "Industrial Education As An Essential Factor in Our National Prosperity," National Society For the Promotion of Industrial Education, Bulletin No. 5, 1908, pp. 9, 12-13; Eliot, "Educational Reform and the Social Order," School Review, XVII (Apr. 1909), 217-19.]

Ellwood Cubberley advised:

"Our city schools will soon be forced to give up the exceedingly democratic idea that all are equal, and that our society is devoid of classes, as a few cities have already in large part done, and to begin a specialization of educa­tional effort along many lines in an attempt better to adapt the school to the needs of these many classes in the city life. . . . The new and exten­sive interest in industrial and vocational training is especially significant of the changing conception of the school and the classes in society which the school is in the future expected to serve." 40 [40 Ellwood P. Cubberley, Changing Conceptions of Education, pp. 56-57, 53.]

Not only was the American educational tradition now to be dismissed as "weirdly Utopian," but attacked as undemocratic. In an astonishing turnabout, differentiation was to be achieved in the name of "democ­racy." More and more in the literature of the industrial education move­ment, American public education is disparaged as "undemocratic," "class" education, really benefiting only a small proportion of the chil­dren in the schools, those preparing for college and the professions, and not providing equality of opportunity for the vast majority. The "educa­tional publicist," said Eliot, "must keep in mind the interests of the 95 per cent of the children, rather than those of the 5 percent; . . ." The professional and managerial classes, Dean Russell of Teachers College declared, are well provided for in the public schools. We must see to it that the "common man" is equally well provided for. To John Dewey, all education was vocational; the present system of education in America was undemocratic because it provided vocational training only for the future professional classes. It was almost inevitable that one educational­ist, Commissioner Draper of New York State, would exclaim, "Germany is educationally more democratic than the United States." 41 [41 Charles W. Eliot, Changes Needed In American Secondary Education, Publica­tions of the General Education Board, Occasional Papers, No. 2 (New York, 1916), p. 18; Russell, Educational Review, XXXII, 30; Russell, "Democracy and Education: Equal Opportunity For All," pp. 155-58; Russell, Educational Review, XXXVIII, 450; John Dewey, "Learning How to Earn: The Place Of Vocational Education In A Com­prehensive Scheme of Public Education," School and Society, V (Mar. 1917), 331-35; Draper, Our Children, Our Schools, and Our Industries, pp. 7, 44; Draper, NEA, Journal, 1908, p. 74.]

To be really democratic, American public schools had to offer the children of the masses the privilege of vocational education, and as early as possible.

One final note. It is necessary to look, as John Higham has suggested in another connection, to "status rivalries," to the persistent social ten­sions embedded in the fabric of our social organization, the intense com­petion for status and position in a society featuring social mobility.

By the opening years of the twentieth century, Americans were beginning to feel crowded and cornered. The frontier was losing most of its ability to keep hopes high; the historic census of 1890 officially declared the frontier, the open road westward and upward closed. Many native Amer­icans were becoming apprehensive about the decline of mobility and opportunity. At the same time they were witness to the spectacle of the "new immigrants" quitting the slums in conspicuous numbers, their children flocking into the elementary schools, crowding the high schools, pushing into college, and scrambling for jobs in the white collar world and the professions. As the immigrants climbed, obstacles were thrown across their paths. They were increasingly shut out of clubs, summer re­sorts, private schools. They found it increasingly difficult to enter college fraternities and college faculties. Restrictive covenants became common in urban residential areas. Job opportunities began to contract. Thanks to the researches of Higham and E. Digby Baltzell, among others, all this is well known.42 [42 John Higham, Strangers In The Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (New Brunswick, N. J. 1955); Higham, "Another Look at Nativism," Catholic His­torical Review, XLIV (July 1958), 147-58; E. Digby Baltzell, The Protestant Establish­ment: Aristocracy and Caste in America (New York, 1964).]

I think the public schools were also affected. It required no great amount of original thought, especially if one were familiar with European precedents, as American school reformers were, to realize that the schools can serve to promote or restrict social mobility, that schools can dampen ambition or cause ambition to soar. Industrial education was another answer to the swift upward thrust of the new immigrant. In short, a growing apprehension that competition for prestige and position were becoming, in pre-World War I America, too keen, is an important factor in the industrial education movement. The zeal with which Pro­gressives pursued industrial education right into the lowest grades of the elementary school cannot be understood if this factor is overlooked.

Still, the temper of the American public was more democratic than that of many of its erstwhile school leaders, inside or outside of education. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 restricted federal aid to schools offering vocational training to persons over fourteen years of age who had laid the foundation of a general education in the elementary school. As one disappointed advocate of vocational training pointed out, the Act refused to recognize the junior high school as "the vocational preparatory school of the future." 43 [43 Paul Kreuzpointner, "The Smith-Hughes Act From A Layman's Standpoint," School and Society, VIII (July 27, 1918), 103.]

With passage of the Smith-Hughes Act, the steam went out of the industrial education movement. No doubt the movement resulted in more choice and flexibility in the school system. But it left another legacy, not so beneficent—the widespread conviction among American schoolmen that in a system of mass education, the academic side of school work was inappropriate for a majority of the nation's children.