Education in the 40's

By: Chloe McCune and Haley Blanchard

Hooked On Swing Dancing

Leading up to WWII

In the years leading up to the 1940’s WWII:

  • War exposed the deficiencies of American education.
  • Draftees were turned away because they were illiterate.
  • The public was unhappy about the unsteady education of past generations, and had a national movement to reform schools
  • Only 50% of the people in the U.S. had completed at least eight years of school.

By war's end:

  • more than five million young men had been rejected for educational and nutritional deficiencies.

WHY Change??

University attendance was down, foreign language and scientific training was inadequate. John Dewey, stressed the active participation of the child in the classroom, plural curriculum and educational tracking, and instruction in science and by scientific methods.

Debate over religious training:

In 1945, the Supreme Court ruled in McCollum v. Board of Education ruled that any religious instruction by a public school was unconstitutional. (contrast to the high value on religion in one room school houses.)

Classroom Climate

  • Continuing segregation of black students from white, and the poor quality of education often found in black segregated schools.
  • Most schools usually all boys or girls
  • Limited supplies
  • Kids at that time didn't have much money to spend, so at school they would learn to take care of their books, clothes and other belongings so they would last longer. They were taught to be patriotic and to support American soldiers.
  • Suspicion was that teachers might be indoctrinating their students in fascism, after the war the fear was that teachers were inculcating Communist ideology among their pupils.
  • Teachers were extremely strict with their students
  • Education was becoming more standardized in the 1940's, and rural schools were being pressured to change their curriculum's.
  • There were often 40+ students in each classroom
  • Students relationship with teachers was very formal
  • Children tried to help as much as they could by recycling old rubber tires and metal junk to make new weapons They also rolled bandages from strips of cloth, knitted blankets and warm sweaters and collected and sent packages of food to the American troops.



  • In 1940s, progressive educational philosophy, influenced by John Dewey, and New Deal liberalism predominant among educators, but new emphasis on science and technology emerges after 1957.

("father of Progressive education")

  • Interest in federal aid to education focuses on (1) unequal educational opportunity, (2) disparities between North and South, urban and rural, (3) inequalities between black and white segregated schools, (4) inadequate physical plants, (5) teacher shortages, and (6) outdated curriculum. But controversy over aid to sectarian schools, segregation, and local control prevent enactment of federal programs.


  • Educational Testing Service (ETS) sets foundation for standardized testing as the basis for admission to higher education, favors academic learning over progressive goals.


  • Anti-subversion laws passed by many states, including New York’s Feinberg Law, require loyalty oaths and aim to remove from schools employees accused of “treasonable or seditious” words or acts.


Dewey's concept of education put a premium on meaningful activity in learning and participation in classroom democracy. Dewey argued that curriculum should be relevant to students' lives. He saw learning by doing and development of practical life skills as crucial to children's education.

Aka- Father of Progressive education

1940s English primary school, playground, cloakroom, art class, gym