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After the Civil War, the guaranteed customer was not a thing prudent businessmen were willing to surrender. Could there be some different way to bring about uniformity again without another conflict? Vast fortunes awaited those who would hasten such a jubilee. Consolidation. Specialization. These were the magical principles President Harper was to preach forty years later at the University of Chicago. Whatever sustained national unity was good, including war, whatever retarded it was bad. School was an answer, but it seemed hopelessly far away in 1865.
Things were moving slowly on these appointed tracks when a gigantic mass of Latin, and then Slavic, immigrants was summoned to the United States to labor, in the 1870s and afterwards. It came colorfully dressed, swilling wine, hugging and kissing children, eyes full of hope. Latin immigration would seem to represent a major setback for the realization of any systematic utopia and its schools. But a president had been shot dead in 1865. Soon another was shot dead by a presumed (though not actual) immigrant barely fifteen years later. Rioting followed, bloody strikes, national dissension. It was a time tailor-made for schoolmen, an opportunity to manage history.
The Americanization movement, which guaranteed forced schooling to its first mass clientele, was managed from several bases; three important ones were social settlement houses, newly minted patriotic hereditary societies, and elite private schools (which sprang up in profusion after 1880). Madison Grant was a charter member of one of the patriotic groups, "The Society of Colonial Wars." All compartments of the Americanization machine cooperated to rack the immigrant family to its breaking point. But some, like settlement houses, were relatively subtle in their effects. Here, the home culture was inadvertently denigrated through automatic daily comparison with the settlement culture, a genteel world constructed by society ladies dedicated to serving the poor.
Hereditary societies worked a different way: Through educational channels, lectures, rallies, literature they broadcast a code of attitudes directed at the top of society. Mainline Protestant churches were next to climb on the Americanization bandwagon, and the "home-missions" program became a principal gathering station for adoptable foreign children. By 1907 the YMCA was heavily into this work, but the still embryonic undertaking of leveling the masses lacked leadership and direction.
Such would eventually be supplied by Frances Kellor, a muckraker and a tremendous force for conformity in government schooling. Kellor, the official presiding genius of the American-ization movement, came out of an unlikely quarter, yet in retrospect an entirely natural one. She was the daughter of a washerwoman, informally adopted out of poverty by two wealthy local spinsters, who eventually sent her to Cornell where she took a law degree through their generosity. After a turn toward sociology at the University of Chicago, Kellor mastered Harpers twin lessons of specialization and consolidation and set out boldly to reform Americas immigrant families.
Her first muckraking book, Out of Work, was published in 1904. For the next two years she drafted remedial legislation and earned her spurs lobbying. By 1906, she had Teddy Roosevelts personal ear. Six years later, she was head of the Progressive Partys publicity department and research arm. Kellor, under William Rainey Harpers inspiration, became an advocate of industrial efficiency. She despised waste and disorder, urging that "opportunity" be rationalized and put under controlthe first hint of School-to-Work legislation to follow in the waning decades of the century. Work and licenses should be used as incentives to build national unity. Discipline was the ticket, and for discipline, carrots were required as well as sticks.
Charles Evans Hughes, then governor, made Kellor the first woman ever to head a state agency, appointing her director of the Bureau of Industries and Immigration in New York. By 1909, supported by prominent allies, she organized a New York branch of the North American Civic League, a Boston-based, business-rostered outfit intended to protect the national status quo from various foreign menaces. Under her direction, the New York branch developed its own program. It isnt clear how much of the Boston agenda they carried onit had mainly involved sending agents into immigrant communities to act as industrial spies and to lead anti-strike movementsbut in any case, by 1914 Kellors group was writing its own menu.
It opened by demanding centralized federal action: Americanization was failing "without a national goal." Her new "Committee for Immigrants in America" thereafter proclaimed itself the central clearinghouse to unify all public and private agencies in a national spearhead to "make all these people one nation." When government failed to come up with money for a bureau, Miss Kellors own backerswho included Mrs. Averill Harriman and Felix Warburg, the Rothschild bankerdid just that, and this private entity was duly incorporated into the government of the United States! "The Division of Immigrant Education," while officially federal, was in fact the subsidized creation of Frances Kellors private lobby. Immigrant education meant public school education, for it was to compulsion schooling the children of immigration were consigned, and immigrant children, in a reversal of traditional roles, became the teachers of their immigrant parents, thus ruining their families by trivializing them.
When WWI began, Americanization took over as the great national popular crusade. A drive for national conformity pushed itself dramatically to the forefront of the public agenda. Kellor and her colleagues swiftly enlisted cooperation from mayors, school authorities, churches, and civic groups; prepared data for speakers; distributed suggested agenda and programs, buttons, and posters; and lectured in schools. When Fourth of July 1915 arrived, 107 cities celebrated it as "Americanization Day," and the country resounded with the committees slogan "Many Peoples, but One Nation."
Now Kellors organization transmuted itself into "The National Americanization Committee," shifting its emphasis from education to the breaking of immigrant ties to the Old World. Its former slogan, "Many Peoples, But One Nation," was replaced with a blunt "America First." In this transformation, children became the sharpest weapon directed at their parents home culture. Kellor called Americanization "the civilian side of national defense." She appeared before a group of industrialists and bankers calling itself the National Security League to warn of coming peril from subversion on the part of immigrants. One of the most distressing anomalies confronting Kellor and the NSL was an almost total lack of publicizable sabotage incidents on the domestic front in WWI, which made it difficult to maintain the desired national mood of fear and anger.
9There is some evidence American social engineering was being studied abroad. Zamiatins We, the horrifying scientific dystopia of a world government bearing the name "The United State," was published in Russia a few years later as if in anticipation of an American future for everyone.
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