A Time for Growth, a Time for War, a Time for Leadership: 1937-1947

Sherry L. Field and Lynn M. Burlbaw
As the United States struggled through the Great Depression, and inevitable conflict in Europe began to surface, American schooling remained resilient. The economic crisis brought about by the Great Depression and the political and ideological crises brought about by World War II inevitably brought change into the nation's schools - in curriculum, in organization, even in a shortage of teachers. Especially in the social studies, the Second World War was likely the catalyst for major and rapid changes in curriculum in the schools (Davis 1981; Nelson 1986; Jones 1990; Garrett 1990; and Field 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1995). In January 1940, Erling M. Hunt, the first editor of Social Education, remarked, "However few the issues that have been definitively settled, the 1930s can scarcely go down as a period of quiet or drifting in social studies teaching" (1).
The National Council for the Social Studies was still a fairly small organization in 1937, and many changes were to occur as World War II approached. Dues for membership in the Council were $3.00, and included a $2 subscription to Social Education. Three meetings were held during the year, and they were scheduled to coincide with annual conventions of the American Historical Association, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National Education Association. An independent meeting had been added to the schedule. It was planned around Thanksgiving holidays, "because the hotels in New York would be available then." According to Howard R. Anderson, President of NCSS in 1940, "three decisions reached in the late 1930s greatly increased the effectiveness of the NCSS as a professional organization: (1) to have an independent annual meeting; (2) to edit and publish its own magazine, Social Education; and (3) to have a full-time executive secretary" (Anderson 1970, 803).

Significant debate about what should be taught in social studies surfaced after World War I and continued into the 1937-47 time period. Mehaffy (1987) noted in his study of World War I curricular changes the trends toward an emphasis on teaching modern history rather than ancient history, the importance of "citizenship training" during social studies, a new interest in current events teaching, increased and revitalized emphasis upon geography, highlighted teaching about democratic values, and much debate about the use of new visual aids in elementary and secondary classrooms. A survey of schooling during the years 1930-1940 likewise held that the study of modern history seemed to be firmly rooted in American schools, but that the majority of courses offered relied upon traditional materials and made no attempt to make connections with contemporary history in the making. For example, one school study unit on dictatorships did not mention a modern world in crisis (Bruner, Evans, Hutchcroft, Wieting, and Wood 1941).

Publications of the Council
During the 1930s, NCSS embraced an ambitious publications agenda and published yearbooks, a curriculum series, bulletins and a new journal, Social Education. Before this endeavor, "only two bulletins had been published prior to 1928, and the first yearbook appeared in 1931" (Anderson, 1970). An overriding focus of the publications during the ten years between 1937 and 1947 was the attempt to clarify what the social studies was to remain or to become: either a unified body of knowledge or a series of related disciplines. Responding to new social needs and conceptualizing educational theory and practice were two issues that consistently appeared in the pages of social studies publications. Erling M. Hunt, editor of Social Education, noted in one of the first Editor's Pages that:
Two contrary views of education confront teachers today: one, that education is concerned with passing on our cultural heritage and preserving the status quo; the other that education is concerned with enabling individuals both to adapt themselves to a changing society and make that society better. (1938, 77)
According to Hunt, the first view shamelessly avoided controversy, and the second either sought out controversial issues or "at least believed that they must be confronted in schools" (1938, 77).

In 1937 and 1938, "at the suggestion of Howard E. Wilson, social studies educator at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Secretary-Treasurer of NCSS from 1936-1940, the Board of Directors of NCSS appointed a Publications Committee" (Murra 1995, 57). This committee consisted of three members to serve three-year terms. The original members were: Wilbur Murra, Chairman, to serve three years; Fremont Wirth, to serve two years; and Edgar Wesley, to serve one year. According to Murra, planning for publications prior to 1938 had been organized loosely, and the President-Elect of NCSS was charged with selecting the "subject of the yearbook to be presented at the annual meeting at which he would take office as president" (1995, 58).

NCSS Yearbooks
The twelve yearbooks published during the period 1937-1947 focused on topics for the improvement of social studies teaching and the clarification of educational theory and practice. They included:
1937 Seventh Yearbook Education Against Propaganda
1937 Eighth Yearbook The Contributions of Research to the Teaching of Social Studies
1938 Ninth Yearbook The Utilization of Community Resources in the Social Studies
1939 Tenth Yearbook The In-Service Growth of Social Sciences Teachers
1940 Eleventh Yearbook Economic Education
1941 Twelfth Yearbook Social Studies in the Elementary Schools
1942 Thirteenth Yearbook Teaching Critical Thinking in the Social Studies
1943 Fourteenth Yearbook Citizens for a New World
1944 Fifteenth Yearbook Adapting Instruction in the Social Studies to Individual Differences
1945 Sixteenth Yearbook Democratic Human Relations
1946 Seventeenth Yearbook The Study and Teaching of American History
1947 Eighteenth Yearbook Audio Visual Materials and Methods in the Social Studies

Many of the editors and chapter authors of these yearbooks were leaders in the National Council for the Social Studies and various professional organizations related to curriculum and teaching. Among the noted names were Edgar B. Wesley, Professor, University of Minnesota; Edgar Dale, Associate Professor, Bureau of Educational Research, Ohio State University; W. G. Kimmel, Associate Editor, The John C. Winston Company; Wilbur F. Murra, Instructor, Harvard University; J. W. Wrightstone, Bureau of Educational Research, Ohio State University; I. James Quillen, Professor, Stanford University; Paul R. Hanna, Professor, Stanford University; James A. Michener, then director of social studies at the secondary school of Colorado State College of Education; A. C. Krey, Professor of History, University of Minnesota; Lewis Paul Todd, Erling M. Hunt, Columbia University; William Van Til, and Hilda Taba.

Of particular interest to social studies teachers in a world hurtling toward World War II was surely the Seventh Yearbook, Education Against Propaganda, and the first yearbook of this study period. Several authors called attention to the growing crisis overseas, seeing it as an ominous foreboding for the future. For example, in his chapter, "Propaganda and Society," Harwood L. Childs, Associate Professor of Politics at Princeton University, noted that as World War I came to a close:

numerous writers in this and other countries carefully studied the war-time experience, and the new generation of rulers sought to profit from it. In the recently created dictatorships abroad, the War gave a special impetus to the conscious, purposeful analysis of methods of social control. And in a very real sense the rise of Hitlerism in Germany today is to a large extent an outcome of the Leader's recognition of the significance of this war-time experience. (Childs 1937, 6)
Likewise, Harold D. Lasswell, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, wrote:
It is obvious that whoever controls the agencies of communication will probably use them for propaganda. In the Soviet Union, in Fascist Italy, or in National Socialist Germany, it is not difficult to discover who runs the chief channels of news and comment. Government control is paramount, and those who control the government control the press, radio, motion picture, and platform. (Lasswell 1937, 16)
Other authors in this volume on propaganda offered information intended for classroom use, such as "How to Read Domestic News" (Casey 1937); "Propaganda and the Radio" (Cantril 1937); "Teaching Resistance to Propaganda" (Biddle 1937); and "Teaching Students in Social Studies Classrooms to Guard Against Propaganda" (Price 1937).

Curriculum Series
The first publication of the Curriculum Series, The Future of the Social Studies, came out of press in November 1939, and was reprinted in March 1940. James A. Michener, the editor of Curriculum Series: Number One, asked twenty leaders in social studies education to write statements of what, in the opinion of each, the best curriculum in the social studies might be. Each was asked to state in detail "the specific content, types of content, or types of experience" to be included in the ideal curriculum for the twelve or fourteen years of the elementary and secondary schools .... It [the publication] furnishes, we hope, a picture not necessarily of what is now being done, but of what leaders in the educational world think should be done in the field of social studies. (emphasis in original, Michener 1939, iii)
The volume made a strong impression on the field of social studies. According to Wilbur Murra, then chair of the Publications Committee of NCSS, "On November 24, 1939, Michener chaired the general session of the NCSS 19th Annual Meeting in Kansas City, at which The Future... was presented and discussed. The session lasted 2 hours" (Murra 1995).

A need was seen for the publication of other curriculum series that would inform professionals in their practice and curriculum planning:

In the meantime, a Committee on Curriculum was created. This committee was not immediately involved in anything about The Future of the Social Studies. But, The Future... made a big splash upon publication during the first week in November 1939.... The Curriculum Committee decided to issue a sequel to The Future in 1940, the new book to be entitled Courses and Units in the Social Studies (title changed for its second edition to Program and Units). The Curriculum Committee proposed to designate the 1940 book as "Curriculum Series: Number Two," and that involved a retroactive designation of The Future... as "Curriculum Series Number One." This designation on The Future... was first used on its second printing ... in March, 1940, and in publicity about it coupled with publicity about "Number Two." (Wilbur Murra, personal communication to Cleta Galvez-Hjornevik, December 8, 1977)
Four Curriculum Series publications were printed between 1939 and 1945. They were, with editors noted:

Number One The Future of the Social Studies, Proposals for an Experimental Social Studies Curriculum, James A. Michener, Editor, 1939.
Number Two Programs and Units in the Social Studies, Henry Kronenberg, Editor, 1941.
Number Three Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School, W. Linwood Chase, Editor, 1943.
Number Four Social Education for Young Children: Kindergarten and Primary Grades, Mary Willcockson, Editor, 1945.
Of the four curriculum series mentioned here, Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School (Chase 1943) was the only one directly related to wartime teaching, and it provided riveting, practical advice for elementary classroom teachers, grades K-8. A description of this volume and its contents is provided in greater detail below.

In addition to the Curriculum Series, National Council for the Social Studies also published Bulletins for the improvement of instruction in social studies. The Bulletins, designed primarily to serve as guides and references, included content on appropriate test items (e.g., Bulletin No. 6: Selected Test Items in American History, published in 1936, revised 1940; and Bulletin No. 11: Selected Test Items in Economics, published in 1939). Others focused on the use of materials and topics to be taught by social studies teachers (e.g., Bulletin No. 10: The Constitution Up to Date, published in 1938; and Bulletin No. 16: Teaching the Civil Liberties, published in 1941). Bulletins 8 through 20 were published between 1937 and 1945.

Social Education
The first issue of Social Education appeared in January 1937. The funds that enabled its publication came indirectly from a grant given to A. C. Krey of the Commission on the Social Studies. As Edgar Wesley, an early leader in National Council for the Social Studies, remembered:

Krey had a grant as I recall, $350,000, and when he got through-I don't know whether by oversight or by prudence-he had $40,000 left. And that was a great sum.... The Executive Secretary of the American Historical Association at that time was Colliers Reed, who was a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. (Wesley, oral history interview, 1968-1969)
Reed intended to use the extra money to publish a history book on the medieval period. Edgar Wesley suggested instead that the money be given to National Council for the Social Studies, an organization Reed had never heard about. Wesley recounted:
I did a little explanation; I told him a little about it, that we were few in numbers, weak in financing, undecided in thinking, and all that.... I didn't try to deceive him on what the organization could do.... The American Historical Association said they would appoint a committee, and fortunately, I was appointed to that committee by the AHA. They got other sympathetic colleagues appointed by the National Council, so that we really had a National Council Committee, although technically it was a committee of the AHA. But it was, shall we say, loaded with National Council people so that we really took that $40,000 and established Social Education. (Wesley, oral history interview, 1968-1969)
From its beginning in 1937, Social Education published articles with theoretical perspectives whose purpose was to question the purpose and need for social studies, and articles with practical suggestions whose purpose was to improve instruction in social studies classrooms. The journal also became a barometer of the world's changing political situation, as the United States joined the world in watching the events in Europe.

International issues grew in importance, and the predominant emphasis was on Latin America, Canada, and Asia. In 1939, only five articles in Social Education had international issues as a focus, but by 1945 fifteen articles appeared with international emphasis. In February 1943, Social Education provided information about four texts written for high school use about China, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Throughout the war, Social Education reported the publication of numerous pamphlets and books on Latin America and Asia, especially "to fill gaps in instructional materials" (Hunt 1943). Heightened awareness about Latin America and Asia was indicated by numerous advertisements in Social Education for newly published books and other materials. Many of the references to Latin America noted the potential of the region for supplying the United States with raw materials (Jones 1990).

Social Education reflected typical classroom practice of the era in articles written by classroom teachers, curriculum directors and school administrators, and by university researchers. For example, the use of current events in social studies classes was documented at different times during the war (Gemmecke 1943; Meredith 1945). Erling Hunt noted that increased current events teaching often was the only indicator of change in the social studies curriculum during the war years (1943). Meredith's 1945 survey of secondary social studies offerings revealed numerous new courses added to existing social studies programs across the nation. For example, school districts across the nation reported adding courses in Latin American History, International Relations, Culture of Canada and Latin America, Global Neighbors, Far East, Pan American Relations, Pacific Area and Far East, and Asia and America. This survey also noted the shifting emphases of existing courses in schools. Of the 29 states reporting, 26 reported increased emphasis of Latin America in history courses, 18 denoted more attention to the Pacific, and 17 stated that the Far East was emphasized more heavily. Of 22 cities represented in the survey, 16 reported additional emphasis on Latin America and the Far East, and 15 reported heightened teaching about the Pacific.

The Social Studies React to War
Policy suggestions for wartime social studies to be given a place of prominence in wartime education quickly appeared. Especially significant to elementary social studies programs were three reports issued by the National Council for the Social Studies. The Social Studies Mobilize for Victory and Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School appeared early in the war. The Social Studies Look Beyond the War: A Statement of Postwar Policy was issued later, in 1944.
The Social Studies Mobilize for Victory
"All segments of ... normal life in 1942 were preoccupied by wartime policy," according to Roy A. Price (1970), President of NCSS in 1942.
The Social Studies Mobilize for Victory was published during Price's term of office. It was authored by the NCSS Commission on Wartime Policy, organized in September 1942. The Commission on Wartime Policy drew upon one hundred of social studies' and education's most prominent leaders, including Charles Beard, W. Linwood Chase, Erling M. Hunt, James A. Michener, I. James Quillen, and Hilda Taba. The Commission was chaired by the distinguished Howard E. Wilson, professor of education at Harvard University. The document was adopted formally by the National Council for the Social Studies at its annual meeting in New York City on November 28, 1942. Sixteen pages in length, the policy report offered a broad overview of wartime changes suggested for the social studies curriculum. Among its recommendations, it called for study of the world at war, an accelerated civic instruction, an understanding and appreciation of the democratic way of life, an understanding of the interrelationships of industrial and social forces, an increased geography education, an emphasis on economic aspects of the war, an attack on racial and national hatred, and a study of postwar reconstruction. Probably because of its nature as a kind of policy report rather than a detailed curriculum guide, no more than two paragraphs of text accompanied each major recommendation.

A summary of the report, written by Wilbur F. Murra, Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Social Studies, was published in at least two educational journals, The Texas Outlook and Educational Method, in March 1943. The full report was republished earlier in the January 1943 issue of Social Education. Murra's summaries (1943a, 1943b) emphasized three major assertions of the NCSS wartime policy: civic education is essential to the morale, efficiency, and wisdom of the nation; the core of civic education is the social studies; and the present crisis calls for changes in social studies programs. The specific subject-area material in Murra's identical articles urged:

Not surprisingly, Murra's summary of The Social Studies Mobilize for Victory did not identify specific activities, accelerations, and enhancements which teachers would find practical, given the length of the document. Lacking, too, was a timeline which could be helpful for the planning of specific grade-level units and activities and any recognition of the importance of studying countries other than the United States' allies.

Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School
Perhaps the most influential policy document for wartime elementary social studies education was published in September 1943 by National Council for the Social Studies. Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School, edited by W. Linwood Chase, professor of education at Boston University, provided substantive lesson plans including evaluative measures, suggestions for the teacher, and references which were missing from earlier NCSS publications. Unlike NCSS's first policy report, Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary School contained descriptions of concrete, practical activities by which social studies education could be augmented in the nation's schools.
"The Story of the War: A Learning Unit for Intermediate Grades" launched Chase's (1943) report. This plan included several sections of background substantive content, including information about the causes of the war, the enemies, national war aims, "The Four Freedoms," and the United Nations. In each section's narrative, aims for children were included. For example, in the section titled "The Enemy," children were to understand what life was like in a dictatorship and "then draw from it the corresponding parallels in the American way of life" (2). Lest young Americans become anti-German or anti-Japanese, Chase advised teachers to "try to help children feel that the people in the enemy countries are human beings like ourselves" (3). This section concluded with a set of pupil activities and suggestions for the teacher with which to implement the stated aims. Representative pupil activities featured a comparison of dictators from present and past times; a picture collection of planes, warships, tanks, guns, and military uniforms and insignias; maps showing German and Japanese expansions; a collection of heroism stories; and a drama about "The Four Freedoms."

A helpful section of Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary Schools focused on "War Duties of Young Citizens." Chase recognized the need for children to understand problems enlarged by war, such as the necessity to conserve war materials and accept substitutes willingly, to appreciate the huge financial costs of war and the consequent need to buy savings bonds and stamps, and to accept wartime rationing willingly and to understand its necessity. "War Duties" contained several substantial units of study. The units about war production included topics such as war costs, war price controls, war rationing, and war conservation. Each contained desired aims and outcomes, understandings and skills, background material, suggested activities, and evaluative suggestions (Chase 1943).

The most extensive unit, "War Production," had been prepared by the Rhode Island State Council of Defense. Desired outcomes for elementary grades 4-6 included an understanding of the diminished supply of goods available to civilians, an appreciation for increased manufacturing demands, a recognition of national efforts to produce needed goods, and a desire to learn more about American war production. Skills outcomes for the unit included an ability to use simple charts and maps relating to war production and war locations, ability to use a war vocabulary, and ability to compare wartime and peacetime production. Sixteen activities were suggested for classroom use. They included making scrapbooks with production-related information; painting characterizations of war workers; reading about construction of ships, tanks, and airplanes; graphing and keeping bulletin boards on war production; and studying local plants whose manufactured products changed because of war needs. The evaluation guides were simple and consisted of the inquiries, such as, "Do pupils understand why America must increase production?", "Do pupils understand some of the ways in which the production has been increased?", and "Do pupils appreciate the necessity for changes in their daily lives brought about by war production?" (Chase 1943, 8).

A straightforward section advocated the use of a period in the daily schedule for current events in elementary social studies classrooms. Chase recommended regular current events periods which "should not be used for indiscriminate accounts of major disasters, flaming headlines, or mere chit-chat" (1943, 14). Contributions from the sixth-grade class of Cleveland, Ohio, teacher Frances Todd Kinsey illustrated possible activities for use by other teachers. Activities from her "Who's Who in the United States Today" unit of study included reading Time magazine, The Young Citizen, and current events; reports about prominent citizens followed by class discussions; assembling a bulletin board of current events and heroes; writing biographies; drawing; and presenting a quiz program for other sixth-grade classes.

In addition to teaching about the war in social studies classes, teachers were urged to promote loyalty to the principles of democracy in various ways. Endorsing the emotional nature of patriotism, Chase advised social studies educators to make use of pageantry, flag salutes, pledges, rituals, the singing of the national anthem, patriotic music, dramatizations, exhibits, bulletin boards, posters, artistic creations, motion pictures, radio programs, assembly programs, stories of heroes, and slogans. He suggested possible titles for patriotic pageants, including "I Hear America Singing," "Our Heritage," "The Gifts of Our Ancestors," and "Why I'm Glad I'm an American." A poem composed by the fifth-grade class of teacher Elizabeth Perry, Driscoll School, Brookline, Massachusetts, intoned typical patriotic sentiments in its final verse:

This war is for democracy
The people's war,
Where each must do his share -
The men and women of the United Nations,
The men and women of the invaded countries,
The men and women on the battle fronts,
The men and women in the factories,
The boys and girls in school,
All work and fight,
All fight and work,
To save our way of life,
To save democracy. (1943, 19)
While activities such as this group-composed poem above were encouraged, Chase urged teachers to be mindful of preventing "outward manifestations from becoming substitutes for real devotion"(18). Obviously, teachers should wholeheartedly promote the rituals and pageantry of patriotic symbols and stress a deeper meaning to young citizens. Children should also be helped to articulate a personal meaning of democracy clearly and convincingly as part of their wartime patriotic duty.

Complete with background substantive material, recommended instructional materials, reading lists, nature of materials presented, and unit activities of practical applicability, Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary Schools provided a usable, important guide for social studies teachers. The varied sources provided for the report from six states (e.g., Oregon, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, and New Jersey) were indicative of widespread implementation of similar units of study and classroom activities.

The Social Studies Look Beyond the War
Long before World War II came to an end in 1945, NCSS members began to envision what the world would be like after the war. The Social Studies Look Beyond the War: A Statement of Postwar Policy was published in November 1944 and was authored by Erling M. Hunt, Mary G. Kelty, Allen Y. King, Merrill F. Hartshorn, and Roy A. Price. All were current officers of NCSS except Price, a Board of Directors member and former President. Like its two predecessors, The Social Studies Mobilize for Victory (1942) and Wartime Social Studies in the Elementary Schools (Chase 1943), The Social Studies Look Beyond the War was quite significant. This statement of policy highlighted many of the accomplishments and improvements in education made by teachers during the war. NCSS members, like other educators across the nation, expressed eloquently a desire for a peaceful world that would benefit from the many hard lessons learned during World War II.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation at the time of Brotherhood Week (February 20-26, 1944). He noted that "all men are children of one father, and brothers in the human family, and ... brotherhood must prevail." Indeed, various efforts were being made in the name of intercultural education (Field 1995). Teachers were urged to "talk about the peace which is sure to come. Point out that fathers, brothers, uncles, and others are fighting for peace and world order" (Stevens 1943, p. 65). As the war continued, many schools modified or realigned their social studies programs to meet the need for intercultural education. Buoyed by public attention to the atrocities being committed overseas and to the social problems stemming from intolerance in the United States, the work of social studies educators expanded to meet these needs as well. They sought to advance changes in educational goals such that young Americans would be prepared to maintain the peace to come without resorting to violence. To maintain the home front during chaotic times was a monumental task. National Council for the Social Studies and its members rose valiantly to the occasion during these years, exhibiting professionalism, wisdom, and leadership. It met extraordinary challenges - and met them well. n


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Sherry L. Field is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Science Education at the University of Georgia. Her research includes the history of social studies and social studies teaching, historical thinking of children, and the nature of social studies instruction. Lynn M. Burlbaw is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A& University. His research includes the foundations of education and curriculum, social science teaching and learning, and geography knowledge acquisition.