2. History of School Speech-Language Pathology

Compulsory Education

Compulsory education, meaning that all children had to go to school, began around 1919 and spread across the states. There was resistance to universal education.  Some citizens believed education should be reserved for elite members of society. For them, education was a privilege, not a right. Many early school speech correction teachers were educated in the period of elitism and exclusionary programs.

Children who were not represented mainstream groups were denied attendance in pubic schools even though compulsory education laws said they should be in public schools.  Speech correction teachers were from mainstream groups but their professional roles were buffeted by compulsory education changes.

Native American Children

Native American children were forced into boarding schools, with the effect of segregating them from white children and teachers:  “The American Indian boarding school, as an institution of assimilation, was designed to suppress the culture, language, and spirituality of American Indian nations throughout the United States. Such institutions were built and operated throughout the country, controlled by non-American Indian government agents and churches. During the late 1800’s and into the mid-1900’s, boarding school attendance was mandated.”  American Indian / Indigenous Education, 2011.

Black American Children

The Civil War ended in 1865 but civil rights debate continued past Reconstruction.  In 1915, D. W. Griffith’s released, “Birth of a Nation,” a film sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.  Black people are humiliated in the film. ”The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, protested premieres of the film in numerous cities. It also conducted a public education campaign, publishing articles’ protesting the film’s fabrications and inaccuracies, organizing petitions against it, and conducting education on the facts of the war and Reconstruction” (Wikipedia).  Lillian Gish became was a star in Birth of a Nation.

Jim Crow Laws enacted by states inspite of the constitution kept black children separate from white children in public places and schools. Segregation was against the law but it was impossible to enforce politically until the 1960s.  Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka (1954) ended separate schooling, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending Jim Crow laws.

Immigrant Children

In the early 1900s floods of immigrants were passing through Ellis Island and these children needed social services of all kinds including schooling.  Advertisements were spread around Europe for people who wanted opportunity in the U. S.  If they were ill when they arrived in New York from the long boat ride, they were sent back.   For the elite, they were a source of labor and profit taking.

Poor and/or immigrant children’s rights to go to school were ignored. They worked in sweatshops, factories, coal mines and farm service.  Child labor laws were finally proposed in 1916 (see Keating-Owen Act of 1916).

As a part of a Smithsonian exhibition we have a description by photographer Lewis Hines (Wikipedia, 2011):

“Over and over, Hines saw children working sixty and seventy-hour weeks, by day and by night, often under hazardous conditions. He saw children caught in a cycle of poverty, often so ill-paid that they could not support a family on their earnings alone, and had to rely on their children’s earnings as a supplement for the family’s survival. He saw children growing up stunted mentally (illiterate or barely able to read because their jobs kept them out of school) and physically (from lack of fresh air, exercise, and time to relax and play). He saw countless children who had been injured and permanently disabled on the job; he knew that, in the cotton mills for example, children had accident rates three times those of adults.”

Immigration contributed to educators view of “foreign children” as “dumb,” dirty,”and “lazy.” There was prejudice against foreign speakers.

Professor Robert N. Barger brought forth posts as late as 2004 on selected topics in American education, developed cooperatively with student assistance.  Highlighted is the “Progressive Period.” Tonjia Miller wrote on the influence of business on education from 1880 to 1920.:

“During the progressive period American business and industry rapidly expanded. Along with the increase in business and industry came an increase in the amount of immigrants entering the United States. Mr. Friedrich Winslow Taylor helped the expansion of industry with the “efficiency movement.” This movement was basically concerned with making the factories more efficient in producing more with less cost, effort and material.

The schools were influenced by this efficiency movement. The school was viewed essentially as a workplace and learning was perceived in terms of productivity. The amount of children that were immigrating to the United States with their families increased as well. Elwood Cubberly, a turn-of the century historian, stated that schools should be like factories. Referring to the teachers as the factory workers and the students as the raw material to be turned into the product which was to meet the specifications of the needs of the 20th century.

Cubberly believed that the public schools’ mission was to assimilate the new immigrants into a nation that would remain English speaking and thinking. He was quoted as saying that Public Schooling would implant “The Anglo Saxon conception of righteousness, law and order, and popular government” into the immigrant children. The children who could not be processed to completion were considered as scraps. Therefore they were considered to be dropped out of the production line which is where we get our most accurate definition of “drop outs.”

Due to the large family size of the immigrant families most parents wanted to send children into the work force instead of school. These families wanted to benefit from the income they would receive if more of the family worked. This lead to the Compulsory Attendance and the Child Labor Laws. The Compulsory Attendance laws were mandated by each individual state to ensure that the immigrant children were in school receiving an education and not working in industry.”


Handicapped Children

The story of handicapped children is disturbing beyond exclusion from public education (http://www.n appe4kids.org/idea/history.html, 2011).  NAPPE (Network of Advocates for Promising Practices in Education) summarizes historical material on the topic:

“In 1889, the Committee on Colonies for Segregation of Defectives reported to the National Conference on Charities and Corrections that custodians of the mentally ill had persuaded the American people that the mentally ill were dangerous and were getting lots of money for public institutions to segregate them.  The Committee recommended the Conference launch a campaign on all fronts to persuade the American people that the feebleminded, epileptic, idiotic and palsied were likewise dangerous, so they could get the money too. 30 Proceedings, National Conference on Charities and Corrections 248-49 (1903). They did. And they did!

By 1920, every state in the country adopted statues which by force of law in every state excluded handicapped children from the schools; provided for their segregation into lifelong custodial institutions, and provided for their involuntary sterilization.

The public pamphlets which drove the statutes in every state , used similar titles and similar content :

The Menace of the Feebleminded in Pennsylvania (1913).

The Menace of the Feebleminded in Connecticut (1915).

In later comments such statues working against the handicapped were compared to Jim Crow laws.

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