One of the persistent battles that women have in their work is making their voices heard or counted. Teachers are perhaps the most obvious and prominent example of this effect of a gendered profession.
As early as the 1920s, others were writing about how teachers should be trained and how education should be measured. Again, as this blog asserts, women who opened their own schools were in a stronger autonomous position to manage the education they provided. Feminist activists founded the Brookwood Labor College in 1921, the same year Bryn Mawr was organized for women workers.
The very next year, the push to structure education from outside the profession began. William A. McDall proposed 14 theses on measuring student achievement and William Kilpatrick published Foundations of Method three years later on teacher education. The American Historical Association in 1927 charged that academics favored teaching rather than research. This prompted a slew of male academics to focus on educational research rather than practice. A great divide widened between those who taught and those who told them how to teach.
After WWII, these efforts reached massive levels. Nothing short of a wholesale effort to dictate what teachers should do in the classroom ensued. Women led schools and pioneering work began to dwindle as other segments of the society, run by men who did not teach, took it upon themselves to “manage” education
1940s Government: 1948, Education is a Right, UN
7 Supreme Court cases from 1923 to 1948; 9 in the 1950s alone
Universities: 1948: BF Skinner criticizes traditional education; 1949 Ralph Tyler Principles of Curriculum and Instruction; Spock changes childrearing
Business, including Media: New York Times criticizes knowledge of history 1943; Ford criticizes US education 1944
1950s Universities: 1950 Bruno Bettleheim says we are not meeting emotionally disturbed children’s needs; Talcott Parsons says education must socialize 1951; Arthur Bestor, Jr standards are declining; 1955 Rudolph Flesch Why Johnny Can’t Read; 1959 John Goodlad says schools should be ungraded;(Madeline Hunter will later leave Goodlad’s school); 1959 C P Snow arts and humanities have too big a gap.
Business: 1953 schools must deal with religion; 1955 In a quest for drama, the most negative and selective picture of public education was shown in Blackboard Jungle, first Hollywood movie about education; 1955 Milton Friedman wants school vouchers; 1958 Life magazine compares US education to USSR’s.
Ideas to change education continued to churn out of universities at a pace that would be impossible to implement and evaluate, all created by men with no input from women teachers who actually had the experience that would make these ideas more grounded or even feasible.
When Rosa Parks was asked by the eminent talk show host, Studs Terkel, what the Highlander Center had to do with the fact that she chose not to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama on that fateful day in early December 1955, she answered quite simply, “everything.” As a result of its educational efforts on behalf of integration, the state of Tennessee closed Highlander in 1960 on bogus charges and auctioned off all of its property, only to have it reopen shortly thereafter under a new name and charter. (John Hurst http://www.reimaginerpe.org/node/1172)
Popular Education is, at root, the empowerment of adults through democratically structured cooperative study and action, directed toward achieving more just and peaceful societies, within a life sustaining global environment. Its priority is the poor, the oppressed and the disenfranchised people of the world—ordinary people. The Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee was founded at Highlander.
Yet Malcolm X would say “When you have poor neighborhoods you have poor schools. When you have poor schools you have poor teachers.”
So how did education, which is about the development of people, become America’s scapegoat?
In subsequent posts, we chart the the relentless and deliberate nature of efforts to oppose teacher’s voices as equals at enormous cost. This cost can no longer be paid as we witness the chaos resulting from it. We also look at teacher’s voices today but also the one element that needs to be restored and expanded, almost totally missing since 1921.