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Title: The Goslings: A Study of the American Schools

Author: Upton Sinclair

Illustrator: Art Young

Release date: June 9, 2021 [eBook #65576]

Language: English

Credits: KD Weeks, Tim Lindell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)


Transcriber’s Note:

Footnotes have been collected at the end of each chapter, and are linked for ease of reference.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.

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(Now in Print and Obtainable)

The Goslings
A Study of the American Schools

Author of
“The Goose-step,” “The Brass Check,” “The Profits of Religion,” etc.
Pasadena, California
Copyright, 1924

All rights reserved.

First edition, January, 1924, 5,000 copies, clothbound, 5,000 copies, paperbound.


  Introductory ix-x
I. Land of Orange-Groves and Jails 1
II. The Adventure of the University Club 8
III. In Which I Get Arrested 13
IV. The Empire of the Black Hand 19
V. The Schools of the “Times” 22
VI. The Teachers’ Soviets 26
VII. A Prayer for Freedom 32
VIII. The Price of Independence 36
IX. The Regime of Reciprocity 40
X. The Spy System 44
XI. Lies for Children 50
XII. The Schools of Mammon 54
XIII. The Tammany Tiger 59
XIV. God and Mammon 62
XV. Honest Graft 66
XVI. A Letter to Woodrow Wilson 72
XVII. An Arrangement of Little Bits 77
XVIII. The Luskers 81
XIX. To Henrietta Rodman 87
XX. Melodrama in Chicago 94
XXI. Continuous Performance 98
XXII. The Incorporate Tax-Dodging Creatures 102
XXIII. The Superintendent of Trombones 109
viXXIV. The City of French Restaurants 113
XXV. The University Gang 119
XXVI. The Ward Leader 125
XXVII. The Romeo and Juliet Stunt 130
XXVIII. The Inventor of Five Sciences 135
XXIX. The Land of Lumber 140
XXX. The Anaconda’s Lair 146
XXXI. The Little Anacondas 151
XXXII. Colorado Culture 154
XXXIII. The Domain of King Coal 159
XXXIV. The Homestead of the Free 164
XXXV. Is a Teacher a Citizen? 167
XXXVI. Introducing Comrade Thompson 173
XXXVII. Millers and Militarism 179
XXXVIII. Newberry Pie 184
XXXIX. Beets and Celery 186
XL. Boston in Bondage 191
XLI. The Open Shop for Culture 195
XLII. Corrupt and Contented 203
XLIII. The Scenes of My Childhood 209
XLIV. The Brewer’s Daughter-in-Law 212
XLV. An Autocracy of Politicians 216
XLVI. The Calibre of Congressmen 221
XLVII. The Local Machines 224
XLVIII. The Steam Roller 228
XLIX. The Dispensers of Prominence 234
viiL. A Plot Against Democracy 240
LI. The Plot Fails 244
LII. Mormon Magic 249
LIII. The Funeral of Democracy 253
LIV. The Fruits of the Sowing 258
LV. Teachers to the Rear 263
LVI. Bread and Circuses 269
LVII. Schools for Strike-Breakers 275
LVIII. The National Spies’ Association 279
LIX. Babbitts and Bolsheviks 284
LX. The Schools of Socony 290
LXI. The Riot Department 296
LXII. The Blindfold School of Patriotism 301
LXIII. Professor Facing Both-Ways 307
LXIV. Poison Pictures 312
LXV. The Book Business 315
LXVI. Ten Per Cent Commissions 320
LXVII. The Superintendent-Makers 324
LXVIII. The Church Conspiracy 330
LXIX. Catholicism and the Schools 334
LXX. The Practical Church Administrator 341
LXXI. Faith and Modern Thought 344
LXXII. The Schools of Steel 349
LXXIII. The Schools of Oil 353
LXXIV. The Country Geese 357
LXXV. The Schools of Snobbery 362
viiiLXXVI. A School Survey 369
LXXVII. The Educational Mills 377
LXXVIII. Descensus Averno 381
LXXIX. The Teacher’s Job 385
LXXX. Teachers’ Terror 389
LXXXI. The School Serfs 395
LXXXII. The Teachers’ Union 402
LXXXIII. The Teachers’ Magna Charta 406
LXXXIV. Workers’ Education 410
LXXXV. The Goose-step March 417
LXXXVI. The Goose-step Advance 423
LXXXVII. The Goose-step Double-quick 428
LXXXVIII. The Goose-step Review 432
LXXXIX. The Call to Action 440


Life has given you one of its precious treasures, a child; a body to nurture, a character to train, a mind with endless possibilities of growth, a soul with hidden stores of tenderness and beauty—all these are Nature’s gifts. Modern science has shown that within the child’s soul lies magically locked up all the past of our race; also, it is evident that within it lies all the future of our race. What our children are now being made is what America will be.

You send these little ones to school. Twenty-three millions of them troop off every week-day morning, with their shining faces newly washed, their clothing cleaned and mended. You bear them, you rear them, with infinite pains and devotion you prepare them, and feed them into the gigantic educational machine.

You do not know much about this machine. You have turned it over to others to run. Every year you pay to maintain it a billion dollars of wealth which you have produced by real and earnest toil. You take it for granted that this billion dollars is competently used; that those who run the machine are giving your twenty-three million children the best education that forty-three dollars and forty-seven cents per child will buy.

The purpose of this book is to show you how the “invisible government” of Big Business which controls the rest of America has taken over the charge of your children. In the course of a public debate with the writer, in the Civic Club in New York City, May, 1922, Dr. Tildsley, district superintendent of the public school system of that city, made the statement: “I do not know any school system in the United States which is run for the benefit of the children. They are all run for the benefit of the gang.” This statement, made upon high authority, is the thesis of “The Goslings.” Come with me and let me show you what is this “gang” which runs the school system of the United States; how they got their power, what xuse they make of it, and what this means to the bodies and minds of your twenty-three million little ones.

To assist the reader in finding his way through a big book, I give traveling directions:

Pages 1 to 22 take you behind the scenes of that “invisible government” which is now ruling America, including its schools. Pages 22 to 59 show in detail what this “invisible government” is doing to the schools of one large American city—Los Angeles. Pages 59 to 93 study the schools of New York, and 94 to 109 those of Chicago. Pages 109 to 224 deal with school conditions in a score of other large cities. I realize that this is a large number; but then, many people are interested in these cities. You will find both melodrama and humor in the stories; and if there is too much, you can skip!

Beginning at page 224 is a study of the state and national machines of the school world; and whatever else you miss, do not miss the National Education Association, and how it was stolen from the teachers of America—there is no drama on Broadway to equal that for thrills. From 275 to 329 you will find a score of powerful Big Business organizations which have assumed to take control of our schools. From 330 to 349 comes the Catholic Church in relation to the schools—this in addition to details given in a number of cities. From 349 to 417 you will find a general survey of the school situation from the point of view of both pupils and teachers. The concluding chapters discuss “The Goose-step” and its critics, and developments in the college world since its publication.

A Study of the American Schools


I begin this study of the American school system with Southern California, because that is the part of the country in which I live, and which therefore I know best. It is a representative part, being the newest and most recently mixed. We have all the races, white and black and yellow and red; but the great bulk of the population is of native stock, farmers from the Middle West who have sold or rented their homesteads and moved to this “roof-garden of the world.” It is our fashion to hold reunions and picnics for the old home folks, and there are few states that cannot gather thousands of representatives.

We have the most wonderful climate in the world, and soil which is fertile under irrigation. Our leading occupation is selling this soil and climate to new arrivals from the East. We are eager traders, and everything we have is for sale; you can buy the average house in Southern California for two hundred dollars more than the owner paid for it, and I know people who have sold their homes and moved several times in one year. Also, we have struck oil, and this sudden wealth has fanned our collective greed. We boast ourselves “the white spot on the industrial map.” Hard times do not touch us, we build literally whole streets of new houses every week, and labor agitators are banished from our midst.

The intellectual tone of the community is set by a great newspaper, the Los Angeles “Times,” created by an unscrupulous accumulator of money. The “Times” has now grown enormously wealthy, but it still carries on in 2its founder’s spirit of hatred and calumny. It boasts of being the largest newspaper in the world—meaning that it prints the most advertisements. You pay ten cents for the Sunday edition, and have two or three pages of Associated Press dispatches with the life censored out of them; after that, you grope your way through a wilderness of commercialism. I stop and wonder, how can I give the reader an idea of the intellectual garbage upon which our Southern California population is fed. I pick up this morning’s paper, and find a cartoon on the front page, our daily hymn of hate against Soviet Russia; the cartoon is labeled in large letters: “Out of the Fryingpansky into the Fireovitch.” As the naturalist Agassiz could construct a whole animal from a piece of fossil bone, so you may comprehend a culture from that piece of wit.

We have several hundred churches of all sects, and our “Times” prints pages of church news and sermons, and double-leaded two-column editorials invoking the aid of Jehovah in all emergencies. But the real spirit of the staff breaks out on the other pages; when it is necessary to represent Los Angeles in a cartoon, their symbol is a sly young prostitute with sparkling black eyes and naked limbs. Once upon a time such pictures were purchased surreptitiously and handed round by naughty little boys; but now they are delivered every morning by carrier to everybody’s home. One of the features of our life is “bathing beauties”; young ladies in thin tights parading the boardwalks of the beaches, winning prizes from chambers of commerce and lending gayety to Sunday supplements. Any new stunt is worth a fortune to one of these ladies; one day a lady has gilded her legs, and the next day a lady has butterflies painted on her back, and next—most elegant of all—a lady appears with a bathing-suit and a monocle.

The men, thus summoned, come in droves. Competition is keen, and the ladies are strenuous in defense of their meal-tickets, and when one trespasses upon another’s rights, we have a thrilling murder story. Our lady murderesses are a leading feature of Southern California life; sometimes they shoot, and sometimes they poison, and sometimes they go to the nearest five- and ten-cent store and buy a hammer, and beat out the other lady’s brains. Then they are sent to jail, which is a career of glory, 3with photographs and interviews in every edition of the newspapers, and a sensational trial with full details of their many lovers and their quarrels. Autobiographies written in prison are featured in Sunday supplements and advertised on billboards; and finally comes the climax—a magical jail delivery. We know, of course, that nowhere in America can the jails hold the rich, but out here in Southern California the rich don’t even wait to be pardoned by presidents and governors—they tip their jailers twenty-five hundred dollars and walk right out. “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage!”

Fifteen years ago the writer had haunting his mind what he thought was to be a great blank verse tragedy. The scene of one act was to be laid several hundred years in the future, and the crowning achievement of that time was an invention whereby music could be made audible to people all over the world. The scene was to show a great musician, whose inspiration was being thus conveyed to humanity. And now we have this invention—somewhat ahead of time! Our radio in Southern California is presided over by the “Times,” and the invisible government decides what is safe for our hungry masses to hear.

Our plutocracy has just built for itself a new hotel, a sultan’s dream of luxury, costing several million dollars. The opening of this hotel became the great historical event of Southern California; there were several pages about it in the newspapers, and it was announced that a certain prominent person, would convey his inspiration to the multitude over the “Times” radio. In a hundred thousand homes the hungry “fans” put on their ear-caps and awaited the sublime moment; and meanwhile in the Hotel Biltmore a great part of the guests got royally drunk. The orator had his share, and his inspiration over the radio took the form of obscenities and cursing; the horrified “fans” heard his friends trying to stop him, begging him to come and have one more drink; but he told them they were a set of blankety blank blank fools, and that he knew what he was going to say, and it was nobody’s blankety blank blank business. This continued until suddenly the radio was shut off, and the fans were left to silence and speculation!

Also, we have Hollywood; Hollywood, the world’s 4greatest honey-pot, with its thousands of beautiful golden bees swarming noisily; Hollywood, where youth and gayety grow rotten before they grow ripe. If you say that Hollywood is not America, I answer that you have only to wait. Hollywood is young America.

Of course our hundreds of churches are not entirely inactive. We have revivalists, who furiously denounce the sins of Hollywood, using the most up-to-date slang; and groups of men and women, instead of going to the movies, gather in Bible classes and learn the history of the Hittites and the succession of the kings of the Jebusites. You can hear sermons over the radio—that is, if you have a high-priced set, and can tune out the jazz orchestras. The cheaper sets hear everything at once, and you can dance to the sermons or pray to the jazz, as you prefer.

Who runs this new empire of the Southwest? It is run by a secret society, which I have named the Black Hand; consisting of a dozen or so of big bankers and business men, hard-fisted, cunning and unscrupulous profiteers of the pioneer type, a scant generation removed from the bad man with a gun on each hip. They are the inner council and directing circle of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association; with a propaganda department formerly known as the Commercial Federation of California, and now camouflaged as the Better America Federation. Concerning this latter organization, you will find much information in “The Goose Step,” pages 129-132. It occupies the entire floor of a large building, and has raised a fund of a hundred and sixty thousand dollars a year for five years for its campaign of terrorism. Like all criminals, it operates under many aliases: the American Protective League, the Association for Betterment of the Public Service, the Associated Patriotic Societies, the Taxpayers’ Association, the People’s Economy League, the Tax Investigating and Economy League, the Americanization Committee, the Committee of One Thousand, the Committee of Ten Thousand, the Parent-Teachers’ Associations, the Board of Education, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Police Department of the City of Los Angeles.

Ours is an “open shop” city; that is, the business men and merchants are forbidden to employ union workers, 5and if they disregard this rule they are blacklisted, their credit is cut off, and they are driven into bankruptcy. When a new man comes into town and sets up in business he is politely interviewed and invited to join the gang; at the same time he is given his orders, and if he disobeys, he moves on to some other part of the world, or down into the ranks of the wage-slaves. So perfect is the system of the Black Hand, so all-seeing is its spy service, that the Young Women’s Christian Association could not prepare and mail out a circular letter asking for funds without every merchant in the city having on his desk by the same mail a letter from the Better America Federation president, warning him that the Young Women’s Christian Association is supporting the eight-hour day for women, the minimum wage law for women, and other immoral propositions.

We have a “criminal syndicalism law” in California; the public is told by the Black Hand and its newspapers that this law is to punish men who advocate the overthrow of government by force and violence. Under this law eighty men are now coughing out their lungs in the jute mill at San Quentin prison, under sentence of from two to twenty-eight years. As I write, one of these men collapses under the strain and refuses to work longer in the jute mill, and seventy others are being tortured in “solitary” because they “strike” in sympathy with this comrade. No one of these men has ever had proven against him, or even charged against him, any act of force or violence or any destruction of property. They were convicted because the Black Hand of California pays three hundred and fifty dollars a month to several hired witnesses, who travel about from place to place testifying before juries that ten years ago, when they belonged to the I. W. W., they, the witnesses, personally burned down barns. Because of this testimony men who have recently joined the organization, and have never burned down barns nor advocated burning down barns, are sentenced to the jute mill.

The public does not know, and has no means of guessing that the law on the statute books against “criminal syndicalism” has been modified by the police who enforce it to read “suspicion of criminal syndicalism.” That means that any man may be arrested at any time that any 6police official does not happen to like the way he has his hair cut, or the red flower in his button-hole. Crime and suspicion of crime are the same thing in our legal procedure, because men once thrown into jail are held there “incommunicado” without warrant or charge; they are not permitted to see attorneys, and their friends cannot find out what has become of them. They are starved and beaten and tortured in jail; so there is no longer any difference between innocence and guilt. The eighty convicted in the state’s prison suffer less than the many hundreds of unconvicted in jails and police stations all over the state.

What this means is that the Black Hand is trying to smash industrial unionism. They have got the old-line unions cowed; they have purchased or frightened most of the leaders, and driven them out of politics, and are no longer afraid of them. But now comes the new movement, the mass union, the portent of the New Day. They are fighting this as furiously as the Spanish Inquisition ever fought against heresy; but to their bewilderment and dismay they are repeating the age-old experience of the torturer and the despot—the blood of the martyrs is becoming the seed of the church!

There came a great strike at the harbor. “San Pedro” is a part of our city, where the ships come in laden with lumber and pipe and cement for the endless new streets of homes. Our army of real estate speculators and contractors and bankers are reaping their golden harvest, while several thousand longshoremen slave, literally fourteen and sixteen hours a day of back-breaking toil, handling these heavy materials. They clamor at the docks, bidding against one another, fighting and trampling one another for a chance of life. And here is a ring of grafting employment agencies, secretly maintained by the Shipyard Owners’ Association, draining the last drops of energy from these wretched wage-slaves. The old-line respectable unions are out of business, and everything is serene for the masters; but suddenly comes a flare-up—three thousand men on strike, and one or two hundred I. W. W. organizers spreading the flames of revolt—and just when we thought we had sent the last of them to San Quentin for twenty-eight years!

The strike tied up the harbor and tied it tight. For 7more than two weeks not a ship was unloaded, and all the building operations of all the speculators came to an end. One day the “Times” would deny that there was any strike, and next day it would declare that the strike had been broken the day before, the next day it would declare that the strike would be broken the day after next. And in the inner circle of the torturers and despots, such confusion and such fury as you will hardly be able to imagine.

You have taken up this book, expecting to read about the American school system; and now you are being told about a strike! It happened that this strike came just as I was settling down to write “The Goslings.” I got arrested; and this experience plows a furrow through one’s mind. Now I sit at home and think about the schools, and naturally, I see them in relation to this series of events—they become one more device of the strikebreakers.

I ponder the problem, how to start this book. I want to show you the invisible government which runs your schools, for its own profit, and your loss. This power is the same power which runs your politics and industry; here in Los Angeles, the very men who smashed the union of the shipyard workers also smashed the councils of the school teachers. Indeed, as chance willed it, the two jobs came together and became one job; so that every lie told against the strikers was a lie against the teachers, and every dollar wrested from the shipyard workers was balanced by a dollar stolen from the schools.

I ask myself, therefore: How can I do better, at the beginning of this book, than to tell you what I saw at the harbor? This strike was a blazing searchlight, thrown into the very vitals of our invisible government; if you will follow it, you will see the whole system, and understand every detail of its mechanism. So I ask you to set aside for the moment all questions of labor unions, criminal syndicalism, anything of that sort; come with me as a plain American, believing in the Constitution, believing in the people, and their right to run their own affairs. Follow the story of this labor struggle—and before you get to the end of it you will magically find yourself reading about the schools, and learning who has taken them away from you, and why they have done it, and what it means to you and your children.



The first step in this narrative is to explain how it happened that the writer of this book, a muck-raker and enemy of society, was in the office of Mr. Irwin Hays Rice, president of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association of Los Angeles, and chief of the Black Hand, at the very moment when Mr. Rice was conspiring with his fellow chiefs for the smashing of the harbor strike. This story is amusing in itself, and not altogether alien to education.

In April, 1923, I received a letter from the secretary of the University Club of Pasadena, my home city, asking if I would consent to lecture before the club on the subject of “The Goose-step.” I replied that I was busy, and made it a rule to decline invitations to lecture. Then came a telephone call from a member of the club, begging me to reconsider my decision; here were a group of men, influential in the community, some of whom had read “The Goose-step” and thought they could answer me, and wanted a chance to try. It would be an adventure for them, and might teach me something. To oblige a friend, I accepted, and the lecture was announced at a dinner of the club, and the announcement was published in the local newspapers—upon the club’s initiative, please note.

At once the Black Hand got busy; and a week or two later a gentleman called at my home, obviously embarrassed and pink in the face, explaining that he was the president of the University Club of Pasadena. The executive committee had held a meeting the previous evening and decided that in view of certain objections, I should be respectfully requested to consent to have the lecture called off. Knowing my community, I was sympathetic towards the blushing respectable gentleman—an ex-naval officer who would have faced the guns of a foreign foe, but dared not face a new idea. I answered that I would be content to have the lecture forgotten.

But an hour or two later a newspaper reporter called me up, asking if I had heard that the action of the University Club had been taken at the instance of William J. 9Burns, head of the Burns Detective Agency and chief of the United States Secret Service. Naturally, I was interested in that news; as a matter of tactics, when I find a man like Burns after me, I go to meet him head on. I at once telegraphed, asking Mr. Burns if it was true that he had called me “a dangerous enemy of the United States government.” The result was a tangle of falsehoods, and if I proceed to untangle them, do not think that I am rambling. Before we get through with this book we shall discover that the big private detective agencies are an important part of the educational system of the United States, and so what we learn about Mr. Burns and his methods will be to the point.

The great detective telegraphed me from San Francisco that my name had not been the subject of discussion at any time during his visit to Los Angeles. I was not satisfied with that, and telegraphed again, saying that I wanted to know if he had mentioned me at any time in Southern California, and if he had done so, would he say openly and for publication what he had said against me. In the meantime there had been published a United Press dispatch from San Francisco, quoting Mr. Burns as saying that if he had mentioned me, it had been “as a private individual and not as a government official.” Therefore I pointed out to Mr. Burns that he could not say anything about me as a private citizen; whatever he said would be assumed by everyone to be based upon information he had got as head of the United States Secret Service. This brought a second telegram from Mr. Burns, as follows:

Replying to your second wire, I made no statements concerning you as a private citizen or government official at Pasadena or elsewhere, nor have I ever undermined the character of you or any other person. I want to also deny that I ever made any statement to the United Press as stated in your telegram, and for your further information let me assure you whenever I express myself concerning you or anyone else I will not hesitate to admit it.

That seemed explicit, and I was prepared to accept it. But you note that it left the United Press in a bad light; and representatives of the United Press took the matter up, and wired their head office in San Francisco, receiving the information that the interview with Mr. Burns had been given to Frank Clarvoe, one of their most trusted and experienced men. Mr. Clarvoe had 10been with Mr. Burns in his hotel room when the telegram from me arrived, and Mr. Burns had allowed Mr. Clarvoe to make a copy of this telegram, and had dictated a reply, slowly and distinctly, so that Mr. Clarvoe could write it down. The manager of the United Press added that this was evidently one of those frequent cases where parties talk and afterwards wish to deny it.

In the meantime I had been interviewing the executive committee of the University Club of Pasadena, holding over the heads of these gentlemen the threat of a slander suit, and thereby inducing each of them in turn to state upon exactly what basis he had repeated the statements about Mr. Burns and myself. So the report was definitely traced to Mr. Irwin Hays Rice, president of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association of Los Angeles, and one of the chiefs of the Black Hand. Mr. Rice, in a conversation over the telephone, had stated to the secretary of the club that Mr. Burns had described me as “a parlor pink and a dangerous enemy of the United States government.”

So now I had a clean-cut issue of veracity between Mr. Rice and Mr. Burns, and it seemed worth a trip to Los Angeles to find out which was the liar. I went in on a Monday morning, and fate was unkind to Mr. Rice—he had been out of town over the week-end, and had not read anything about the controversy, nor had anyone in the University Club taken the trouble to call him up and warn him. I took the precaution to bring my brother-in-law, Hunter Kimbrough, as witness to the interview, and Mr. Rice received us in his private office. I explained my point of view: he and I were antagonists on opposite sides of the class struggle; I had my opinion of him, and freely granted him the right to have his opinion of me. The only thing I took exception to was the fact that in discussing me he had made use of the name of Mr. Burns.

Mr. Rice is one of these two-fisted men of action, quite different from the president of a University Club. His answer was prompt and explicit: “Anything that I say once I’ll say twice. It is a fact that at a recent gathering, in the presence of myself and several business men of this city, Mr. William J. Burns stated that you were ‘a parlor pink and a dangerous enemy of the United States government.’”

11“I thank you, Mr. Rice,” I replied. “Now I am wondering what you will have to say to this telegram”; and I put into his hands the telegram from Mr. Burns, declaring: “I made no statements concerning you as a private citizen or government official at Pasadena or elsewhere, nor have I ever undermined the character of you or any other person.” “What have you to say to that, Mr. Rice?” I asked, and Mr. Rice replied: “Well, I will say that I am surprised.” It was unnecessary for him to say that—his face showed it!

Mr. Rice refused to name the other men who had been present at the interview, but he remarked that the gathering was of such a nature that it was manifest to everyone that Mr. Burns was there as a private citizen, and not as chief of the United States Secret Service. Do you think I would be reckless if I should guess that it was a gathering of the chiefs of the Black Hand, and that Mr. Burns was there in his other capacity, as head of the William J. Burns agency of espionage and strike-breaking?

That the William J. Burns agency is thus employed regularly by the Black Hand of Southern California is something which I have known for several years. Turn to Chapter LXVI of “The Brass Check,” and you will find there the story of how Sydney Flowers, returned soldier and editor of the “Dugout,” was smashed by the Black Hand in Los Angeles, because he refused to permit his paper to be used as a strike-breaking agency. I did what I could to aid Flowers and save him from the penitentiary, and as a result the Black Hand attempted a “frame-up” against myself. Wishing to know just who was responsible for this, I thought I would employ the most famous and most reputable detective agency in the United States. With my attorney, Mr. John Beardsley, I called at the office of this agency and interviewed the manager. As chance willed it, the district manager, the high-up person who travels about the country overseeing the affairs of the agency for Mr. Burns, was also present at the interview.

I explained the case, confidentially of course, stating that I had suspicions that the trail might lead to the office of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association and its Los Angeles “Times,” and that I wished the agency not to take the case unless they would be in position to follow 12a trail to such a quarter. The two managers requested a little time to think the matter over, and that afternoon they gave us their decision: the William J. Burns Detective Agency, because of the embarrassing possibility explained by me, could not undertake to investigate this “frame-up.” Then I went to another detective agency in the city, and when I told the manager about this incident he laughed heartily and told me that the Burns Agency did all the secret work for the “M. and M.” Incidentally, this man told me that he himself could not take the case, because his business would be ruined if he did; nor would I find any other detective agency in the city which would take the case. And in this he was correct.

To complete the story of the Burns Detective Agency, I will also mention that just prior to America’s entry into the World War this agency was conducting a spy service in the United States for the German government. Shortly before the sinking of the Lusitania, the Burns’ agency had men stationed in American munition plants and was secretly selling information to German government agents, who were gathering knowledge of munition shipments for the purpose of torpedoing munition-laden vessels. The head of Burns’ New York office, Gaston B. Means, admitted under oath that he delivered reports in a secret place to an unknown man to whom he was directed by the German government spy, Paul Koenig. The Burns agency perpetrated against the United States government a gigantic frame-up designed to supply von Bernstorff with perjured evidence for diplomatic use against the United States government. Tug boat captains were hired by a nest of German military spies under the direction of Burns’ New York agent, Gaston B. Means, the captains being induced to swear to false affidavits to indicate that they were carrying supplies to British vessels outside New York harbor in violation of the laws of neutrality. In this frame-up the Burns agency was caught red-handed, but was given immunity from prosecution because its clients could better be caught by holding this club over Burns’ head. Recently, when the Workers’ Party called a mass meeting in our national capital, at which Robert Minor was announced to tell this story, the use of the hall was mysteriously withdrawn, and Mr. William J. Burns, in his capacity as chief of the United States Secret 13Service, raided the offices of the sponsors of the meeting and arrested a dozen men.


The purpose of the previous chapter was to explain to you the series of events whereby it came about that Upton Sinclair, muckraker and enemy of society, was in the office of the president of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association of Los Angeles, at ten o’clock on the morning of Monday, May 7th, 1923.

My brother-in-law, Hunter Kimbrough, and myself had come without appointment; at the same time two gentlemen came in who had an appointment—so a polite clerk explained. I had not presented my card, and no one there knew either Kimbrough or myself; we were invited to sit down, and did so, while the other gentlemen were escorted into the inner office. We made no effort to listen to what went on, but we had to hear it, because the door of the inner office was left ajar, and the talk was carried on in tones which caused the clerks in the outer office to drop their work and look at one another and grin.

“Who is that?” asked the young lady stenographer.

“That’s Mr. Hammond,” was the answer of the chief clerk. “He owns a couple of hundred thousand acres of timber land, and he’s got about twenty ships tied up at the harbor.”

“Oh,” said the young lady stenographer, “then he’s got a right to pound on the table.”

He exercised his right, and pounded, and cursed so freely that the young lady was moved to get up and close the office door; but still we heard the uproar. The substance of it was that the San Pedro strike, which had been on for about two weeks, must be smashed without another day’s delay. Mr. Rice argued and expostulated; they were doing their best. Finally he promised there would be “a meeting” that afternoon, and arrangements would be made. That you may understand clearly, I explain that Mr. Andrew B. Hammond, president of the Hammond Lumber Company, is one of the big “open shop” despots of San Francisco, a bigger man even than Mr. Rice; and 14he had come down on the night train to lay down the law to the timid crowd at Los Angeles and insist that his ships be moved. Wishing to make sure there was no mistake in identity, I engaged the head clerk in conversation, asking him how long he thought “those irate ship-owners” would stay in there. He rose to the bait and discussed the “irate ship-owners,” assuring me that they would not need to stay much longer; the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association was not going to have any trouble in opening up the harbor. Subsequently, as part of the preparing of this manuscript, I wrote to Mr. Hammond, asking if he cared to deny that he was in Mr. Rice’s office at the hour specified. He did not reply.

Come now to San Pedro, where three thousand men are fighting to get their babies a chance to grow up into full-sized human beings. They have won their strike, they have won it strictly under the law; they have kept order rigidly—having even smashed the boot-leggers, to the great dismay of the police! Here again I do not have to ask you to take my word for it: Police Captain Plummer, in command at the harbor, stated to my brother-in-law, Hunter Kimbrough, in the presence of several witnesses, that he had no fault to find with the I. W. W., they were fine fellows, and had kept order through the strike. Also he stated in the presence of witnesses: “I smashed that strike.” Before an investigating committee of the clergymen of Los Angeles he stated: “Yes, I said that, and I’ll say it again.” Officer Wyckoff—who arrested us—stated to Hunter Kimbrough, in the presence of two ladies, whose signed statements I have, that “Black Jack” Jerome, the strike-breaker, had brought in hundreds of gunmen, heavily armed; Captain Plummer had disarmed them, but someone saw to it that they received another supply of arms.

Mr. Hammond and his Shipyard Owners’ Association and his horde of gunmen having failed to provoke violence, or to move the ships, Mr. Rice must act; and how is he to act? For ten or twenty years he and his Black Hand have been preparing for precisely such an emergency; they have been buying both political machines, and controlling the nominations of all candidates, so that now they have their own governor, their own legislators, their own mayor, their own city council, their own chief of police, and their 15own judges. They control the governmental machine from top to bottom; and they give the orders, let this strike be smashed.

The man who put through the job is Asa Keyes, then deputy district attorney, since promoted to be district attorney as reward for his efficiency. “The mayor is not handling this situation,” said Chief of Police Oaks to me. “The man we’re getting our orders from is Asa Keyes, and if you want to speak at the harbor, see him.” Keyes is the man who has been enforcing the “suspicion of criminal syndicalism” law; he pays an army of secret agents and provocateurs, and a year or two ago he stated to two different informants of mine: “I have spent between four and five thousand dollars, trying to ‘get’ Kate Crane Gartz and Upton Sinclair. If ever I become chief, I will spend ten times that amount to ‘get’ them.”

Mr. Rice, Mr. Keyes, Chief Oaks, and Captain Plummer attended the “meeting” which Mr. Rice promised to Mr. Hammond. “I have attended several conferences of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association,” said the naive Captain Plummer to Hunter Kimbrough, in the presence of witnesses. “Mr. Rice was present and Mr. Marco Hellman, and others.” Marco Hellman, the biggest banker of Los Angeles, we shall hear of again before long.

In the early days of the strike a Presbyterian clergyman and Harvard graduate was arrested while addressing the strikers, the charge being “blocking traffic.” Police Magistrate Sheldon, in sentencing him to jail, said: “Why don’t you hire a hall, or speak upon private property? Then you will not be molested.” The strikers thought this was good advice; they found a piece of vacant land, whose lessor was willing for it to be used for mass meetings, and on this land, known as “Liberty Hill,” the strikers held numerous meetings. At one of these meetings a group of them raised the flags of fifteen nations, with the American flag at the top, and the flag of Russia included. There were Russians among the strikers, and presumably they thought their country had a right to be represented.

This incident took place five days after the meeting between Messrs. Rice and Hammond, and it afforded the pretext for which the police were waiting. “You’ve lost your constitutional rights now!” shouted Captain Plummer, and he arrested twenty-eight men for the crime of 16raising the red flag. Again and again, in negotiations with the police officials, and with Mayor George E. Cryer, we were told that this act of raising the red flag afforded complete justification for the abrogation of all civil liberties at the harbor. It seems therefore worth notingnoting what happened some three weeks later, when these men were arraigned in court upon the charge. Police Magistrate Crawford declared that in his opinion everyone who displayed a red flag should be sent to prison, but unfortunately the Supreme Court of California had declared the red flag ordinance of the city of Los Angeles unconstitutional!

In the three days that followed, the police arrested a total of six hundred men; they arrested hundreds for attempting to speak on Liberty Hill; they arrested hundreds for singing and cheering on the street. Any slightest sign of sympathy with the strike or with other arrested men was enough to cause a man to be tapped on the shoulder by the police and told to report at the police station. Crowds of men were surrounded on the street, loaded into trucks, carted off to the police station, and packed away in cells. George Chalmers Richmond, Episcopal clergyman from Philadelphia, was arrested when walking along the street, having in mind the criminal intention of addressing the strikers when he reached the place of meeting. A restaurant proprietor was dragged out from behind his counter and thrown into jail, upon the charge of helping to prolong the strike—that is, he had fed the strikers and their children. In describing these incidents, the Los Angeles “Times” stated that the police announced their intention “to arrest all idle men at the harbor.”

The city of Los Angeles boasts of being the fastest growing city in the world, but its jails have not grown at all in the last thirty years. To describe them as death-traps would not be using reckless language, but merely quoting from reports of one public body after another which has investigated and denounced them. The jails were already crowded; and here were six hundred more men suddenly thrust into them! Some of the “tanks,” built to hold twenty or thirty men, were required to hold a hundred, and it was literally impossible for all the men to sit down at once. All the jails were swarming with vermin, there was no bedding obtainable, and the food was 17atrocious. These things not being enough, wanton cruelty and torture was added. In one of the “tanks,” because the men persisted in singing, the jailers sealed up all the ventilation and turned on the steam heat for two hours. Ninety-five men were in this hole, and many of them swooned. Other men were chained up by the thighs, so that they could not quite sit down. We have the affidavits of several men to the fact that Chief of Police Oaks personally reviled the prisoners, calling them liars and degenerates; and when one of the men spoke up and said this was not true, Oaks called him out from the “tank,” and in the presence of many witnesses struck him in the face and knocked him down again and again, pounding him until the chief was exhausted.

Such was the situation on May 15th. The “Times” for that morning announced that the city council had appropriated money to build a stockade, in which to hold the strike prisoners, and all the remaining strikers at the harbor were to be thrown into this pen. I was about to begin the writing of this book, but I found it impossible to keep my peace of mind in a “bull-pen” civilization, and decided to do what I could to remind the authorities of Southern California that there is still supposed to be a Constitution in this country.

With seven friends I went to interview the mayor that afternoon. The interview lasted an hour, and developed curious notions upon the part of the chief executive of a large city concerning the meaning of civil rights. According to Mayor Cryer, all the arrests which had been made night after night on Liberty Hill, and the complete abrogation of the rights of freedom of speech and of assemblage, were justified by the fact that somebody unknown had violated the unconstitutional ordinance of the city of Los Angeles against the displaying of a red flag. The wholesale arrests of hundreds of men upon the street day after day were justified by the fact that on one occasion some rowdy unknown had shouted: “Here comes Captain Plummer, that fat prostitute.” I said: “Mr. Mayor, according to your way of reasoning, if some one were to upset a peanut stand on Broadway and steal the peanuts, you would feel justified in arresting everybody in sight and closing the thoroughfare to traffic for a month.”

Our mayor is a politician, and cautious. He would 18not say that it was the duty of the police to smash the harbor strike, neither would he say that a group of American citizens had the right to proceed to Liberty Hill and there read the Constitution of their country and explain to all who might care to hear them the meaning of the Bill of Rights. His proposition was that we should go to the harbor and ask permission of Captain Plummer, and if Plummer refused, the mayor would “review” his decision. To this we answered that the essence of the situation was time; the strikers were being robbed of their rights every hour, and civil liberties were not subject to review by either a police captain or a mayor. The upshot of the hour’s argument was that Mayor Cryer made the specific promise that he would telephone to Captain Plummer and instruct him that we were to be “protected in our constitutional rights, and not molested so long as we did not incite to violence.” Let it be added that at his next interview the mayor denied that he had made this promise.

Now, I shall not take up space in detailing what happened to our little group. Suffice it to say, we repaired to the harbor, a dozen ladies and gentlemen, with two lawyers; and in an interview with Chief of Police Oaks we were informed that if we attempted to read the Constitution of the United States on Liberty Hill we would be arrested and jailed without bail. Four of us, Prince Hopkins, Hugh Hardyman, Hunter Kimbrough, and the writer, did attempt to read the Constitution. I personally read Article One of the first amendment, and was then placed under arrest. Kimbrough started to read the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins remarked, “We have not come here to incite to violence.” Hardyman remarked, “This is a most delightful climate.” For these words they were arrested—all four of us for “suspicion of criminal syndicalism.”[A] We were held “incommunicado” 19for eighteen hours, and an effort was then made to rush us into court a few minutes before closing time, and have us committed and spirited away again, so that we could be given the “third degree”; but this plot was balked, owing to the fact that a confidant of Chief Oaks betrayed it to my wife, and our lawyers got to the court and demanded and obtained bail. A week later we went again to the harbor and held our mass meeting, and said to ten or fifteen thousand people everything that we had to say. Next day the police turned loose all but twenty-eight of the six hundred men they had arrested; and some three weeks later a police judge threw out the case against us four. So ended our little adventure in “criminal syndicalism.”

A. Extract from a letter written by a student of Washington University, St. Louis, now visiting in Santa Monica, California: “The St. Louis papers had only short accounts, which said that Upton Sinclair and several other I. W. W. had been arrested on a charge of Syndicalism. And my friends out here tell me that a raid was made when Upton Sinclair, after having submitted a most innocuous abstract of his speech to the authorities, exhorted a strikers’ meeting to break loose, smash all windows in sight, and dump the street-cars off the tracks. He also attacked the integrity and honor of the chief of police.”


Let us now survey the situation in Southern California as I settle down to the writing of this book. The storm has blown over for the moment. Twenty-eight of the strikers—the best of their leaders—have been shipped off to the jute mill for from two to twenty-eight years. The others are back in the slave-market, bidding against one another for the lives of themselves and their families. Those who were active in the strike are black-listed; even though they own homes at the harbor, they cannot find employment, but must sell out and move on. And meantime, the men who robbed them are enjoying the “swag.” Mr. Andrew B. Hammond has gone back to San Francisco, to the comforts of the Bohemian Club, and the Pacific Union Club, and the Commercial Club, and the San Francisco Golf Club; while Mr. I. H. Rice continues to run the political and business affairs of Los Angeles.

Some lovers of fair play have organized a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, to teach the people of this community the elementary idea that the Constitution applies to the poor as well as to the rich. True to our program of the open forum, we call upon Mr. Rice and courteously invite him to set forth his ideas of constitutional rights to one of our audiences. Mr. Rice declines the invitation, and so does Mr. Harry Haldeman, president of 20the Better America Federation, and so does Mr. Marco Hellman, the banker, and So does Captain John D. Fredericks, congressman-elect of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce—it is reported that they put up twelve thousand dollars additional salary for him, because so important a man could not afford to go to Congress otherwise!

Among the “tips” which came to me in the course of the struggle was one to the effect that Captain Plummer and Chief Oaks were each presented with a gold watch as a tribute of gratitude from the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association. At a hearing before the Ministerial Union I had opportunity to ask Captain Plummer about this matter; he admitted with evident embarrassment that he had got a gold watch. I asked him if it was engraved in acknowledgment of his services to the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association; his answer was that it was engraved “From the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association for services to the community.” He added, somewhat naively, that he could not imagine how I had got that information. “No one but Mr. Rice and the jeweler were supposed to know about that watch!”

With six hundred men packed into the filthy jails of Los Angeles, some of them with faces bloody from the fists of Chief Oaks, the chief himself went off to the convention of chiefs of police at Buffalo. He went in glory, taking the policemen’s and firemen’s band of sixty pieces; the expenses of this tour being in part paid by the protected under-world, and in part loaned by Marco Hellman, banker and chief of the Black Hand. Mr. Hellman went to the station to see the party off, and on their return he went again to welcome them. Day by day we followed in our newspapers the progress of this tour; they had royal receptions in our biggest cities—and also in Lebanon, Missouri, the village which contributed our great chief of police to the world. The local newspaper mentioned that Mount Vernon was the birthplace of George Washington, and Springfield, Illinois, was the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln!

In the meantime, our Civil Liberties Union was collecting affidavits of men who had been beaten and starved and tortured in jail. We presented these affidavits to the mayor, and the mayor referred us to the city council; we 21presented them to the city council, and the city council referred us to the police commission; we presented them to the police commission, and the police commission referred them to the committee of the whole. As I said at one of our mass meetings: “It is called the committee of the hole because it hides and nobody can find it.” We were told that the charges would be considered when Chief Oaks came back; the chief came back, and went before the City Club, and in a burst of glory stated that if anyone had charges against any police official he would personally take them before the grand jury. Whereupon we made application to him to present to the grand jury the charge that Chief Oaks had beaten prisoners in jail—and he did not keep his promise. We had brought the charges before the Ministerial Union of the city, and the ministers appointed a committee to investigate; this committee met, and heard many witnesses, but took no action, and has never met again.[B]

B. While the rest of this book is being written, Chief Oaks becomes involved in a factional dispute in the Police Department, and his enemies publish affidavits by the police officials of a neighboring town, to the effect that Oaks was arrested a few days ago, while parked in a lonely road with a young woman and a half-gallon jug of whiskey. So Oaks is no longer chief, but plain lieutenant of police, and is telling his friends that he intends to have the inscription cut from his gold watch and to sell it.

The ministers were prejudiced against us, because of something they had read in the “Times”; a statement that the United States Department of Justice had investigated the American Civil Liberties Union and ascertained it to be “the defense branch of the I. W. W.”: this on the authority of “Agent Townsend of the Department of Justice.” We went to call on the head of the Department of Justice in Los Angeles, and learned that there was no “Agent Townsend,” nor had the Department obtained any such information concerning the American Civil Liberties Union. We then called upon the managing editor of the “Times” and presented this information. He promised to look further into the matter; and next morning he published another statement, reiterating the charge, this time giving a formal signed statement by “Agent Townsend of the Department of Justice.” The matter was put before the Department of Justice at Washington, which replied in writing that there was no such person as “Agent Townsend 22of the Department of Justice.” A copy of this was mailed to the “Times,” with an offer to submit the original. But the “Times” made no reply, and published no retraction. I go into these minute details, because later on I shall assert that the “Times” deliberately lied about the school teachers of Los Angeles; and I wish you to understand that I mean exactly what I say.

The theme of this book is the schools—public schools and private schools, primary and grammar and high schools; and now I have to carry out my promise, to show you that this same Black Hand of Southern California controls our board of education, putting its own representatives thereon; that it controls our school funds, wasting them in graft; that it controls our teachers, browbeating them and underpaying them and denying them their rights as citizens; that it controls our children, drilling them, suppressing them, putting poison thoughts into their minds—so that they shall come out perfect little bigots, prepared to hate and if necessary to tar and feather and lynch those people who try to apply real Americanism to America, and to protect the rights of the poor as well as of the rich. In other words, what the Black Hand wants, and what it has made for itself, is schools which will turn out a generation of children who will stand for all the infamies I have just narrated, and will regard them as right and necessary and patriotic actions, and the men who perpetrate them as courageous public officials and high-minded patriots.


Naturally, we have to begin with the “Times”; and at the very outset, to show you what the “Times” wants from our schools, I narrate the experience of Mr. M. C. Bettinger, until recently a member of the board of education, and for thirty-eight years connected with the educational system of Los Angeles. In the year 1906 Mr. Bettinger happened to be in the office of Superintendent Foshay, when that gentleman was packing up his belongings and preparing to retire from his job. He took out of his desk 23a bale of papers two inches thick, fastened with a rubber-band. “Thank God,” he said, “at least I don’t have to pay any more tribute to the ‘Times.’ These are receipts for money which I’ve had to pay to that paper upon one pretext or another for the past eleven years!”

Or consider the experience of Dr. E. C. Moore, who succeeded Mr. Foshay as superintendent. In the year 1907 the National Education Association held its convention in Los Angeles, and in the guide-book prepared for it was an article by General Otis, publisher of the “Times,” denouncing union labor. Dr. Moore had the courage to cut out these passages, and for this General Otis set out to “get” him, and in due course did so.

Dr. Moore’s blunder was that at Christmas time he sent out an order to the principals of schools to be guarded in their proceedings so as not to give offense to any class of people. This was a routine notice, its significance being that Jewish children should not be compelled to take part in religious ceremonials obnoxious to their faith. But Otis saw in it his opportunity; Superintendent Moore was attacking the Christian religion and undermining the basis of all morality! Should such a man remain superintendent of the educational system of a Christian community? The “Times” printed literally pages of attacks upon this basis, interviews with clergymen and parents, and reports of sermons denouncing Dr. Moore, who was thus forced to move on to Yale University.

Next came John H. Francis, and he had a wonderful idea. He was going to have junior high schools all over the city, and the youngsters were to have stenography and typewriting and bookkeeping and manual training—perfect little clerks and shop foremen turned out in two or three years! Francis was a man with a passion for education, a wonderful platform orator; he got his junior high schools, and the fame of them spread all over the United States. But they cost a pile of money, and they didn’t perform the wonders which the business men had hoped for; instead, they got the youngsters interested in music and art and dramatics and debating—and got them organized, so that you couldn’t take these things away from them without a riot! So the Black Hand lost all their enthusiasm for Superintendent Francis, and they 24tried on him their favorite device of the detective agency and the woman scandal. Recall my statement that the big private detective agencies form an important part of the educational system of the United States!

The president of the board, who was elected to oust Superintendent Francis, was Judge Walter Bordwell, before whom Clarence Darrow was tried. Bordwell was a flabby and repulsive looking man, with the manners of an Irish section-boss; he was a relative of Chandler, and a pet of the “Times.” In 1918, shortly after ousting Francis, Bordwell became the “Times’” candidate for governor; and, as part of his campaign, an assistant superintendent of schools sent a letter to teachers asking them to vote for the Judge. The name of this assistant is Mrs. Susan Dorsey, and I ask you to remember her, because a little later we shall find her rewarded for her fidelity by being made superintendent of schools; we shall find the teachers of Los Angeles presuming to go into politics in the interest of the schools—and Mrs. Dorsey insisting that politics must be rigidly excluded from the system!

Along with Judge Bordwell was elected Mr. Washburn, ex-banker, whose one idea of school administration was to keep down the taxes; Mrs. Waters, the widow of a bank president; and Colonel Andrew Copp, an officer in the state militia. Mr. Bettinger, at that time assistant superintendent, tells me anecdotes which show the attitude of these people toward education. “We don’t want you to come here with opinions,” said Mrs. Waters; “we want you to obey orders.” And in almost the same words Colonel Copp addressed a delegation of teachers who came to him to complain of inability to get supplies. “Don’t come here with your views of things,” stormed the Colonel; “what we want you to do is to do what you’re told.”

In the course of discussion before a board Committee, Mr. Bettinger made so bold as to give his definition of education: “to aid in the unfoldment of a human mind.” Colonel Copp was so furious that he was hardly able to keep still until Mr. Bettinger finished. “Education?” he cried. “I’ll tell you what education is! Education is getting a lot of young people into a room, teaching them a lesson out of a book, hearing them recite it, putting down 25a mark in figures, and at the end of the year that’s their record. That’s what education is, and we are going to have that and nothing else in Los Angeles.”

Judge Bordwell had gone to New York to put the problem of the Los Angeles schools before the great mogul of plutocratic education, President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia. He came back with Albert Shiels, a product of Butler’s educational enameling machine, who was to make a survey. Shiels was an accountant, not an educator; also, under the charter of the city, he was ineligible for superintendent, not having lived a year in the state. But a little thing like a charter provision would not be allowed to block the will of Judge Bordwell. Dr. Shiels was made superintendent and started publishing anti-Bolshevik propaganda in the teachers’ paper, and circularizing the teachers with such literature. He published in President Butler’s “Educational Review” an article assailing the Soviet government, which article contained no less than one hundred and twenty-four misstatements of fact. Challenged to debate this issue, Dr. Shiels wrote to me: “I believe it is contrary to good public policy to place Bolshevism and its practices on a par with debatable questions.”

But Dr. Shiels soon became disgusted with the crudity of his political masters, and went back to New York to take up a pleasanter job for Nicholas Miraculous. The new president of the school board, a banker and perfect plutocrat by the name of Lynn Helm, selected an assistant superintendent, formerly a teacher of Latin and Greek, as the new boss of the schools. He stated as his reason that he knew she was “safe”; and time has proven that he was a good judge of employes. Mrs. Susan M. Dorsey rules the system as I write, and you will have a chance to watch her in action. For the moment it may suffice to record that for thirty years she has been a member of the Baptist Temple, Reverend J. Whitcomb Brougher, pastor. When “Billy” Sunday came to Los Angeles, some people found fault with him, and Rev. Brougher rushed to his defense, describing Sunday’s critics in the following highly educational language:

The dirty, low-down, contemptible, weazen-brained, impure-hearted, shrivelled-souled, gossiping devils do not deserve to be noticed.... Scandal-mongers, gossip-lovers, reputation-destroyers, 26hypocritical, black-hearted, green-eyed slanderers.... Corrupt, devil-possessed, vile debauchés.... Immoral, sin-loving, vice-practicing, underhanded sneaks.... Carrion-loving buzzards and foul-smelling skunks.

If anyone wishes to take charge of one hundred and seventy-six thousand school children under the Black Hand, he may learn from this how to train himself; for better remembering, I have put the directions into a poem:

Five days in the week
Teach Latin and Greek;
On Sundays, an hour,
Go listen to Brougher;
And seven days weekly
Obey Mammon meekly.


It is the thesis of the business men who run our educational system that the schools are factories, and the children raw material, to be turned out thoroughly standardized, of the same size and shape, like biscuits or sausages. To these business men the teachers are servants, or “hands,” whose duty is the same as in any other factory—to obey orders, and mind their own business, and be respectful to their superiors. Whenever by any chance teachers dare to have ideas of their own, or especially to ask for higher wages, these teachers are treated precisely as we have seen labor unions treated by the Black Hand of Southern California.

In 1916 and 1917, something happened which shook the teachers of Los Angeles into action; their wages were suddenly cut to about forty per cent of what they had been before. Or, to put it in the more common formula, the cost of everything the teachers had to buy with their money increased a hundred and thirty per cent; and meantime their wages remained as in 1914. They were unable to live, and fifty-six per cent of them were forced to do additional outside work. So the teachers’ associations began a salary campaign, which for the first time brought them out of the classrooms and into contact with the real life of Los Angeles. The campaign lasted intermittently 27for four or five years, and the outcome of it was tragedy for the teachers and comedy for the reader.

One of the purposes for which Mrs. Dorsey had been made superintendent was to hold the salaries down; and in her effort to break the resistance of the teachers, she served notice upon them that they must sign their contracts for the next year before the end of the old term—and this although legally they had until twenty days after the end of the term. She would be very sorry not to see their faces next year, she told them, and smiled amiably. When some said that they did not want to return, her smile was still amiable. “You’ll be back,” she said. “Teachers have gone out before this and tried to do something else.”

The president of the City Teachers’ Club made herself obnoxious by calling a meeting of the teachers for four o’clock one afternoon—that is to say, after the closing hour of the schools. Mrs. Dorsey, desiring to forestall her, closed the schools at half past one that afternoon. Hitherto Mrs. Dorsey had maintained that the schools must never be closed for special occasions; but now she closed them, and called the teachers together at half past one to listen to an address of her own. Some teachers thought it was her idea that they should be tired out and go home before their own meeting at four o’clock!

But the dissatisfaction of the teachers did not abate. A hundred of the best had left, and three hundred more were refusing to renew their contracts for the coming year; so the business men realized that some concession had to be made. Manifestly, it would not do to let it come as a result of teacher agitation; it must be due to the loving concern of business men. Mr. Sylvester Weaver, head of the “education committee” of the Chamber of Commerce, was called in, and he organized a committee of leading citizens, including Harry Haldeman, president of the Better America Federation. Somebody had “put over” on the teachers a publicity agent, a gentleman with a big cigar in his mouth and a gold watch-chain across his waistcoat. He now advised the teachers to drop their agitation and allow the business men to handle it; let the grand committee retire and do some grand thinking. So for five weeks the teachers preserved an awed silence.

28They wanted a flat raise of a thousand dollars a year, and they proved that this amount was not enough to raise the lowest salary to ante-war standards. The committee, when it finally emerged from its thinking-bee, endorsed this demand; but at once the business men set up a howl—and so Mr. Weaver wrote to the board of education that he regarded the thousand dollars increase for teachers as a great and noble ideal to be worked for—in the course of time! The committee went before the board of supervisors, which said that it would be impossible for the teachers to have that much money; the committee went before the board of education, which said there was no use asking what the supervisors refused. The discontent of the teachers burst into flame again; the committee retired and did more thinking; and finally it was announced that the taxpayers of Los Angeles intended to perform an act of unprecedented generosity toward the teachers—every single one was to have a raise of three hundred dollars a year!

This amount made the average salary just one-half what it was before the war; and in a month or two rents went up and absorbed most of this. One landlord said to a teacher friend of mine: “You’ve just got a raise, and I’m going to have my share!” Recently the Chamber of Commerce of Hollywood invited the hungry teachers to a banquet, and informed them that for the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year they should learn to live on respect. On the place-cards of the hungry teachers they printed “A Tribute”:

To the Teachers of Tomorrow’s Manhood and Womanhood:

To you, who bless mankind by the devotion of your lives to a noble vocation, we declare our gratitude! In your charge we have placed the responsibility of tomorrow, and your performance of that sacred duty makes us all your debtors. Your calling is the highest in the social order; your reward is the most valued of possessions—respect.

The advantage of this salary campaign to the teachers was not the money, but the education they got. For the first time a few of them began to think about their board of education, and who was on it, and why. Some even took up the suggestion that the teachers’ organizations should affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. What indignation this excited in our “open-shop” city 29should hardly need telling; the Better America Federation set forth its ideas in a two-column advertisement in the newspapers of San José:

Teachers must keep aloof alike from politics and industrial discussions. Teachers are beginning to be regarded as wards of the State. Teachers, like soldiers, owe their first and only allegiance to the State.

The faculty at Jefferson High School decided that they would like to hear both sides on this problem of affiliation with labor, so they made up a questionnaire, and sent it, first, to fifty teachers’ organizations which were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor; second, to fifty which were not affiliated; and third, to all those which had been affiliated and had withdrawn. This would seem calculated to bring out all sides in the discussion; but the board of education issued a peremptory order that the procedure should cease. I have a written report of this incident from the teacher who interviewed Mr. Helm, the banker president of the board. Here is one paragraph:

Mr. Helm spoke very decidedly against the committee’s right to continue its investigation, stating that its plans were “propaganda of the worst sort.” He said the board had told the teachers what they (the teachers) were to do, and that was the end of it. He declared there was but one side of the question of injecting anything to do with “labor” into any teachers’ organization. He said it was impertinence to ask the board what it thought about such a matter, because it had put itself on record in no uncertain terms. He said the board reflected the “will of the people” in this regard. When questioned as to who “the people” are, he replied, such concerns as the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce, “which are responsible for the upbuilding of the city.” He said when it was suggested to have “that man Stillman” (president of the American Federation of Teachers) to speak before the teachers at institute, these representative business men of Los Angeles asked, “You’re not going to permit that, are you?” And he told them, “No, indeed!” He remarked that the board expects the teachers to see to it that “labor” does not get any recognition in the teaching profession.

Some of the teachers now decided there ought to be a different sort of people on the school board, and they called in a group of liberal citizens to their help. A committee met, and a representative ticket was nominated, and a house-to-house campaign was carried on. The Black Hand opposed it, but not very ardently—a circumstance 30which would have awakened the suspicion of the teachers, if they had not been so new to public life. The entire “teachers’ ticket,” as it was called, was elected in the spring of 1921; and to the consternation of the poor teachers, two of the members resigned, and three others went over to the Black Hand, and so the board was deadlocked three to three, and nothing could be done. The board spent the rest of its term arguing over the choosing of a seventh member. The three liberal members had one candidate, Dr. Oxnam, a public-minded clergyman; while the three Black Hand members brought in a new candidate every week, until they had suggested most of the Tories in Southern California. Their favorite candidate was a brother-in-law of Harry Chandler of the “Times”; and after him they had three ex-presidents of the Chamber of Commerce!

One of the guiding thoughts of the liberal campaign had been that teachers know something about teaching. They now prepared a timid proposal for a “Teachers’ Advisory Council,” to consult with the superintendent and the assistants as to the welfare of the children and the schools. Such councils exist in many cities in America, and the teachers of Los Angeles thought their plan would be welcomed by their new “liberal” board of education. So little did they understand the methods of the Black Hand! One morning the “Times” came out with a frightful story, all the way across several columns; there was an underground conspiracy among the teachers of Los Angeles to establish a “teachers’ soviet”! A group of blood-thirsty “Reds” were scheming to take control of the schools from the duly elected board of education, and have the taxpayers’ money spent and administered by labor unions!

One of the teachers who was active in this movement, and who in a long editorial was branded as a dangerous “radical,” was Miss Wilhelmina Van de Goorberg. This, as you will note, is a terrifying foreign-sounding name; but it wasn’t foreign enough for the “Times,” which made it Von instead of Van. This lady’s parents came from Holland when she was a child, and the “Times” staff know her very well; but they changed her from innocent Dutch into devilish Prussian!

The Black Hand was sending Colonel Andrew Copp, 31whose ideas on education we have learned, to denounce the “teachers’ soviets” before the City Club and the Woman’s City Club. The Chamber of Commerce resolved to make an “impartial investigation” of the question, and appointed a committee, and a teacher was invited to appear before it to defend the new idea. Two teachers went, and found Colonel Copp on hand. The teachers were permitted to speak briefly, and then they were questioned, in tones that might have been used to naughty pupils. “Suppose the board of education refuses to carry out the orders of your teachers’ councils, what are you going to do then?”—and so on. Colonel Copp spoke at length, making a series of false statements; after which he packed up his papers and marched out, refusing to answer a single question. The chairman declared the meeting adjourned, without permitting the teachers even to deny the falsehoods!

This was a regular habit of Colonel Copp, it appears; a group of high school teachers interviewed him after one of his addresses, and pointed out to him a number of flat misstatements he had made. He said he would “investigate”; but a day or two later he repeated the misstatements, and refused to correct them. When a teacher asked him how he could do such a thing, he turned his back upon her.

For months the “Times” continued its denunciations of the “teachers’ soviets”; and, of course, they succeeded in crushing the hydra-headed monster. There come a hundred thousand new people into this community every year, and these people know nothing about local matters except what they read in the “Times.” When the “Times” tells them day after day that there is a band of secret conspirators, in sympathy with Moscow, trying to undermine the school system and destroy the morals of the children, they really believe it, and go to the polls and make their little “x” marks on the ballot, according to the pattern set before them in the “Times”! And so it is that four thousand highly trained experts are denied all opportunity to have effective say concerning the education of the children.



There is an election of the school board in Los Angeles every two years. The Black Hand laid their plans to elect a complete board in the spring of 1923; they went at the job in grim earnest, sparing neither trouble nor expense, and the story of what they did reads like a chapter from a muckraking novel.

The ruling group held a series of meetings: Harry Chandler of the “Times”; “Eddie” Dickson of the “Express,” evening newspaper of the Black Hand; Captain Fredericks, congressman-elect of the Black Hand; Harry Haldeman, president of the Better America Federation; E. P. Clark, proprietor of one of our biggest hotels, and principal financial backer of the Better America Federation—these and half a dozen others constituted themselves “the Committee of One Thousand” for the purpose of electing a “citizens’ ticket” of seven members for the school board. A little later they decided to expand into “the Committee of Ten Thousand”—this in spite of the fact that at no one of their meetings were they able to collect more than thirty-seven people!

Their ticket comprised an assortment of hard-boiled reactionaries. At the top of the list stood Jerry Muma, their most active representative on the previous board. Mr. Muma runs a big insurance business; and just as the campaign was getting under way there was made public the affidavit of a prominent architect in the city, to the effect that Mr. F. O. Bristol, agent for Muma and likewise a candidate for the school board, had come to the architect soliciting insurance, and pointing out that Jerry Muma, as head of the building committee of the school board, controlled much valuable business of an architectural nature. “Mr. Muma believes in reciprocity,” said Mr. Bristol, significantly. This affidavit caused the Black Hand to take Jerry Muma from the head of its ticket; but they left Mr. Bristol!

Also they left on their ticket Mr. Frederick Feitshans, president of the Los Angeles Desk Company, in spite of the fact that this gentleman admitted to a committee of 33the teachers that he was at present selling many thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture to the schools of Los Angeles, and that while under the law he could not sell it to the schools after he became a member of the board, there was nothing to prevent his selling it to an agent, and this agent selling it to the schools. As reward for Mr. Feitshans’ refinement of sensibility, the gang members of the old board did their best to jam through a contract with the Los Angeles Desk Company for seventeen thousand dollars’ worth of furniture before the new board came in!

Also, there was Mrs. Lucia Macbeth, wife of the vice-president and general manager of our biggest cement company—and this with fourteen million dollars’ worth of new buildings to be handled by the new board! A terrible discovery concerning Mrs. Macbeth came out during the campaign: she smoked cigarettes! She admitted this to a committee of clergymen who visited her, but promised that if she were elected to the board she would give up smoking; and naturally the church people of Los Angeles could not lose such an opportunity to bring a lost sheep into the fold.

Also, there was Mr. Odell, a lawyer, one of the members of the old board, who had voted “right,” and who, as a Mason, brought many votes; a retired hay and grain merchant, who stated naively to the committee of teachers that he was tired of playing golf and wanted something to do; the wife of a real estate and insurance man; and another lawyer, who represented the bond house of Mr. Babcock, the gentleman who was selected by Captain Fredericks as campaign manager to put this reactionary school ticket into office. Mr. Babcock’s firm got the handling of several millions of the school bonds; and this firm sends out literature, signed by Mr. Babcock, attacking government ownership, and advising the public to put its money into private enterprises. So you see how Big Business and the schools tie up! On this board almost every kind of interest which preys on the school system was boldly represented; and to elect it every power the Black Hand could wield, both inside and outside the system, was wielded, and every slander that could be whispered concerning the opposition was spread upon the front page of the “Times.”

34“No politics in the schools!” runs the formula; which means, quite simply, that no one must oppose the Black Hand. The rumor was spread that the “teachers’ board” was pledged to oust Mrs. Dorsey; and so for every teacher the issue was one of “loyalty to the chief.” Many were intimidated—I know one teacher who was told by her principal that if she gave out literature for the “teachers’ ticket” she would be summoned before the grand jury! Others were bought with promises of promotion—the system is honeycombed with intrigue of that sort. The principals’ clubs went boldly into politics, cheered on by the “Times” and the “Express.” One school director, a pet of Mrs. Dorsey, used the school time and the school’s long distance telephone for a whole day calling the Masons in the school system to a meeting at which they were told how to vote.

I have before me a letter from a school principal telling me how a certain political woman came to him, offering him, in exchange for his support in the gang, a written promise of a high school principalship. This offer was turned down and the principal wrote his wife, who owns a dairy: “Keep the cows. We may need them.”

In apologizing for telling so much about the harbor strike, I promised to prove that the same men who smashed this strike were running the school system of Los Angeles, and smashing the teachers. Now comes the proof. As it happened, the campaign for the election of the school board was going on all through the harbor strike and the formation of our Civil Liberties Union; and among the few who came forward to stand for this union was the Reverend G. Bromley Oxnam, pastor of the Church of All Nations, and candidate for the school board on the “teachers’ ticket.” At our first mass meeting of protest, held in Los Angeles three days after the release of Hopkins, Hardyman, Kimbrough and myself, Mr. Oxnam was asked to lead the singing of “America” and to open the proceedings with a prayer. This he did; and so all the fury of the enemy was turned upon him. The kept preachers of the Black Hand denounced him from their pulpits, and also before the Ministerial Union, and before the City Club. Nothing more was needed to defeat a candidate for the school board than to associate him with Upton Sinclair, notorious Socialist and muckraker. 35Day after day the “Times” pounded upon this theme, both in editorials and in news. The Better America Federation circulated alleged stenographic transcripts of speeches by Mr. Oxnam, which “transcripts” were made up in their own offices, and were the opposite of Mr. Oxnam’s beliefs.

Understand, Mr. Oxnam was not the head of this ticket; he was only one of seven. But from the day he stood upon the Civil Liberties platform, the ticket became the “Oxnam ticket,” and his candidacy was an effort of Upton Sinclair and the “soviets” to take possession of the schools. All the minor organizations of the Black Hand, the business clubs, the women’s organizations, the little educational bosses—all these adopted resolutions denouncing the conspiracy to turn the schools of the city over to the “Reds.” There is very good reason to believe that the praying of a prayer for the Constitution of the United States not merely cost Mr. Oxnam his election to the school board, but cost his associates their election as well. So, at the risk of making my story too long, I print the prayer that Mr. Oxnam prayed, and that a stenographer took down for his protection:

Our Father, we lift our voices to Thee in Thanksgiving. We are thankful that Thou hast created us thinking beings. We are thankful that we are not mere automatons, but that Thou hast given to us freedom of choice, and that in large measure our own destiny and that of our brothers lies in our own hands. We pray Thee, that just as Thou hast granted to us the right to think and to speak, so too we may grant to our citizens the right to think and to speak, to the end that that glorious day may come at last when all men share the abundant life Jesus of Nazareth died to bring to men.

Give to us, we pray, the spirit of tolerance. May we be willing to listen to our brother with whom we disagree. But O God, as we pray for tolerance, we pray too that we may be men of conviction. Give to us an open mind, but give us also the strength to stand for our convictions even if it take a Calvary Cross to win them. May we never bow the knee before insolent might. Help us to be tender and just, loving and righteous, never turning aside from the needy. Give to us that virtue that was Christ’s—forgiveness. May we even love those who despitefully use us. Keep before us ever the example of the One who was despised and rejected of men, yet who could pray forgiveness for those who crucified him.

We thank Thee for America, her traditions, her history, her place in the world. We thank Thee for our forefathers who won for us the liberties we so easily inherit. Give to us their spirit. Fire us with the desire to bring to men the ideals for 36which they died. Give us Life, give us Liberty, give us Happiness. Give us the strength to stand for Life, and Liberty, and Happiness. We thank Thee for the Constitution of our Republic. We thank Thee that the people united to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare. May we stand worthy of them today. Give to us the courage today to stand as Americans insisting upon the maintenance of those principles upon which our Republic was founded.

In Christ’s name we ask it. Amen.


There has existed for the past twenty years inside the school system a secret oath-bound society of the school men known as the “Owls,” whose members pledged themselves to consider first the interests of this group. They served the Southern Pacific Railroad in the old days when this machine ran the state; they now serve the Santa Fé Railroad and the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce and the Better America Federation, and the other organizations of the Black Hand. For twenty years the system had one man, an assistant superintendent named Lickley, who declined to join this society. He had also refused to make the various anti-social pledges which the Better America Federation has required of every candidate for the school board and of every school official. In the 1921 election Mrs. Dorsey pleaded with Dr. Lickley, advising him “as a mother” not to support the “teachers’ ticket.” He supported it; and so in the interests of “harmony” it was necessary that he be driven out of the system. The intrigue against him came to a head during the election campaign, and became an issue in this campaign.

In telling the story, I have to devote two paragraphs to some Los Angeles school principals. I apologize for taking up your time with people you never heard of before, and will never want to hear of again. But you will find, as we go on, that the school system of America is one system; when you read about school principals in Los Angeles, you will be learning about school principals in every other big American city. Also, I would suggest that if men are important enough to be put in charge of 37your children, they ought to be important enough for you to know about.

In the course of Dr. Lickley’s duties it became necessary for him to consider charges against a principal by the name of Doyle. Seven witnesses made affidavit that this principal had kept liquor in the school building, contrary to law; that he had offered them this liquor, and that his habits were generally known to the students, and were a cause of demoralization in the school. It was testified that this liquor had been brought to Doyle by Italian boys, whose parents were making it, and that these boys had thus obtained immunity from school duties and from punishment. It was also testified that he had knocked down David Rutberg, a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy, by striking him in the eye. It was further charged that Doyle, while principal of an evening school, took other teachers away from their classes and spent the time with them gambling in the basement. For this and other reasons Dr. Lickley recommended Doyle for dismissal. We may complete this part of the story by stating that Mrs. Dorsey and her school board have blocked every effort for a hearing of these charges. Doyle is still in the system, and the board has jumped him over two entire divisions, and elected him principal of one of the biggest schools in the city. When this caused a scandal, the men who had made the charges against Doyle were summoned to the superintendent’s office, and efforts were made to browbeat them into withdrawing their sworn statements.

Immediately after Dr. Lickley’s action in the Doyle case, charges of insubordination and disloyalty to the system were preferred against Dr. Lickley by Doyle and others. I will list these others: first, a man named Lacy, whom Dr. Lickley had dropped from the principalship of a school upon the charge that he had come to school in a state of intoxication, that he was unable to perform his duties, and that he had misappropriated the funds of the Schoolmasters’ Club. Next, one Cronkite, who, according to Dr. Lickley, was demoted from the position of supervisor, because of “incompetence, laziness and objectionable conduct to other members of the department.” Next, a principal named McKnight, who, according to Dr. Lickley, left the principalship of one school because of “serious and reprehensible misconduct.” Next, one 38Dunlap, who was charged by Dr. Lickley with having stolen public property; also with having carried on a private business as insurance agent in school and in the board of education offices, urging the employes under his supervision “to buy insurance, oil stocks, automobiles, real estate, etc.” Another man, I am told, had been disciplined by his Masonic brothers for taking a woman upstate with him. Another was turned out of a night school because the young women teachers would not stand his conduct toward them; he was put in charge of the jail night school—it being apparently assumed that such pupils would not be troubled by his morals. During the campaign the men under charges were in conference with Mrs. Dorsey, enjoying her confidence and carrying out her plans. I want to make clear my own position as regards the matter: I do not say that these charges are true; I say that they have been published by responsible persons, and that neither Mrs. Dorsey nor her school board have cared enough about the good name of the schools to answer the charges or bring the men to trial.

Mr. Herbert Clark, recently promoted by Mrs. Dorsey, came to Mr. Bettinger with a proposition: they had “got the goods” on Lickley; they wanted to take him out and put in one of their own gang; they would let him stay as an assistant, but with minor duties; and if Mr. Bettinger would consent to this program, they would make him the next superintendent of schools in Los Angeles. Mr. Bettinger refused, and then the gang took the charges before the Municipal League, which asked to have them in writing, and to have them sworn to; but instead of doing this, the gang induced a poor old lady to bring the charges before the county board of education, asking that Dr. Lickley’s license as a teacher be revoked. The old lady had understood that the charges would be secret—but whiff! they were spread out in the “Times”!

This county board was a gang affair—two of them members of the “Owls,” one of them the brother of an old Southern Pacific Railroad henchman, who ran the recent Water Power campaign for the Black Hand. A third member was the father of Lacy, one of Dr. Lickley’s accusers! In the course of the election campaign, this accuser went to a meeting of the Los Angeles City Teachers’ Club, and started to speak. His right to speak 39was challenged, because he was not a member; whereupon he paid his fee, received his membership card, and made his speech. It proved to be a series of false statements concerning Dr. Oxnam—that Oxnam had been in jail recently, and that he had been barred from speaking in the city of Long Beach. Some of the teachers objected, and succeeded in silencing Lacy, until Oxnam could appear to answer the charges. Oxnam wrote, demanding that Lacy produce his evidence, and challenging Lacy to appear at the next meeting of the teachers. Lacy declined to appear, whereupon the Teachers’ Club expelled him.

There were two sets of charges against Dr. Lickley, one set of which they published, and the other of which they whispered. They had been shadowing him with detectives for years; they had followed him on train journeys and steamer trips, and wherever he drove in his automobile. Sometimes there were as many as four people devoting their attention to him; one of these men got drunk and admitted that he was shadowing Dr. Lickley for the gang. They were trying to get what they call a “woman story” on him; as we go from city to city you will find this such a common device of the Black Hand that you will learn to take it for granted.

The Lickley stories served their purpose—of helping to beat the “teachers’ ticket.” The candidates of the gang were elected without exception, and Dr. Oxnam came out next to the bottom of the poll. The charges against Dr. Lickley were dismissed, on motion of the attorney for the opposition; whereupon Superintendent Dorsey informed Dr. Lickley that if he still stayed in the system she would put him in a solitary room in the Grand Avenue School, with curtailed duties, without a stenographer, and without even a telephone. It happens that Dr. Lickley is a lawyer, and can earn far more at his profession than he was getting in the school system. He had before him a long and nasty fight, with the cards stacked against him. He tendered his resignation, which the new board accepted.

Some maintain that he should have stayed and fought it out. Suffice it to say that one of the factors upon which the Black Hand counts, when it puts its scandal bureau to work, is the probability that men of refinement will choose to go their own way as private citizens, in 40preference to having slanders about them published in the newspapers. If you take that to mean that Dr. Lickley was guilty and ran away, all I can answer is what Mr. Bettinger tells me; that he rented a room in the upper part of his home to a typist, who, hearing him speak of Dr. Lickley, remarked: “Why, I typed all the reports of the people who investigated his life; he didn’t do anything wrong.”


We now have the Black Hand in undisputed control of the school system of Los Angeles; their seven dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries meet, frequently in secret session, and carry out the will of their masters. Let us see what this means for the schools, the teachers, the children, and the public.

First of all, graft: it means that the handling of twelve million dollars a year is in the hands of people who have no conception of any other ideal in life but that of money-making. They would, of course, deny this indignantly; while denying it, they will be teaching the children in the economics classes that pecuniary self-seeking is the only principle upon which a civilization can be built. They will be glorifying greed by high-sounding phrases, such as “individualism,” “laissez-faire,” “freedom of contract”; they will be ridiculing any other ideal as “utopian,” the product of “theorists” and “dreamers.”

Here are more than nine hundred school buildings, and the system has never had a real building expert. The best architects in the city do not trouble to bid upon school buildings; they know that these contracts go to those who, in the phrase of Jerry Muma, “believe in reciprocity.” The whole business system of the schools is antiquated and tied up in red tape, all of which is sacred because it represents somebody’s privilege. The 1921 board ordered a business survey of the schools, employing the financial expert of the State Board of Control; a minute and detailed report on the school system was made—and was turned down and suppressed by the gang.

41Quite recently Mr. F. W. Hansen, purchasing agent for the schools, resigned his position, stating that the system was “an institutional mad-house”; all his efforts to save money for the taxpayer had been thwarted by the business manager. Mr. Hansen had wished to go out and develop additionaladditional sources of supply, as the purchasing agent of any commercial organization would do. He went directly to the manufacturers of ink-wells and saved from thirty to forty per cent. He cut the price of waste-baskets from $9.60 to $6.85 a dozen; and so on through a long list of savings.

But you see, if you go directly to the manufacturers, you cut off the profits of jobbers and wholesalers, and these are prominent members of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association, who “believe in reciprocity” and “the encouragement of home industry.” When you buy from novelty houses for $38.00 calendars which the local dealers are selling for $100, you are causing unemployment for a bookkeeper in Los Angeles, who keeps track of this transaction for the local business men. Still worse heresy, when you go to San Francisco and buy reed for $1.50 which costs $3.53 in Los Angeles, you are boosting the most bitter rival of our City of the Black Angels. When you buy lubricating oil for twenty-seven and a half cents a gallon, which meets the test better than that which the city has been getting for fifty-four cents a gallon, you have some oil men on your neck. Mr. Hansen had a long fight with his superiors before he was even permitted to sign his own letters asking for prices in transactions such as this.this.

Mr. Hansen insisted upon getting competitive bids for the supplying of colored crayons. The business manager told him to “lay off this”; the city had been using Prang’s crayons, and there was none so good. The bid on Prang’s water colors had been forty dollars; when the competition started it came down to twenty-five; there were other brands offered for eighteen, and the art supervisor of the schools made tests, and could find no difference in quality between them. The old board split on this issue—the members of the “teachers’ ticket” stood out, trying to save the taxpayers $1,204.07 on this single purchase. The new board is now in, the city is paying the higher prices, and somebody is getting the “rake-off.”

42And yet, in spite of this orgy of spending, the teachers cannot get supplies. I have before me the Los Angeles “School Journal” for October 24, 1921, giving a report of a committee of teachers which had been appointed to investigate the question of school supplies. Here are six pages of closely printed details, covering every sort of school material. Some forty or fifty teachers testify. No one knows when supplies ordered will be received, the time is usually from six months to a year. Tissue paper was “called for repeatedly for two years. First amount received one year ago.” Desks ordered in the spring of 1918 had not been received two and a half years later. Half a class in agriculture was idle, because garden tools were missing eleven months after ordering. Text-books in English for the teacher’s desk received “sometimes six months later, sometimes a year.” Again, “I have been asking for bookkeeping desks for five years.”

I talked with the head of a department, who had kept a careful record, and had never got supplies in less than six months, and sometimes had waited two years and a half. There were some repairs to be done to laboratory tables, and application for this work was made in the spring, so that it could be done during the summer vacation. In the fall, after school had started, along came the carpenters and the painters to do this work. Said this teacher: “The city was paying me fifteen dollars a day to teach two hundred pupils, and then it paid another fifteen dollars a day to workmen to keep me from teaching the pupils.”

All this is petty graft; and the thing that really counts is Big Business, which is not considered graft. This board has the placing of magnificent new high schools which the city is building for the children of the rich, and which determine the population and price of real estate for whole districts. It goes without saying that these schools are put where the active speculators want them; three such schools are now going up in districts where there is practically no population at present. Meanwhile the old, unsanitary fire-traps in the slums are left overcrowded and without repairs. They have passed a regulation districting the city, and compelling the children to attend school in their own district. The children of the poor may not travel and attend the schools of the rich! 43This year there are no schools at all for many of the children of the poor, and sixty thousand of them are on part time.

The reason for this is the ceaseless campaign of Big Business to starve the schools. In the columns of the “Times” you will read that the “Times” is a friend of the schools; but the teachers noted that this did not keep the “Times” from backing the treacherous program of the “Taxpayers’ Protective Association,” which lobbied through the state legislature the notorious Bill 1013, which forbade any community to increase its tax rate more than five per cent over that of the year before. The lobbyists of the association solemnly assured the teachers’ representatives at the state capital that this bill would not in any way affect the schools, and so they let it get by. Then, to their consternation, the teachers discovered that it would completely hamstring the schools! The tax rate of the previous year had been unusually low, because there had been a surplus; now, under this new law, most of the schools would have to close down.

The teachers got busy and circulated petitions, and defeated this law by referendum. Then the Taxpayers’ Protective Association tried to throw out the referendum, and the teachers had to pay an attorney a thousand dollars of their own money to argue the case before the Supreme Court. You will not be surprised to hear that the principal backer of this Taxpayers’ Protective Association is Mr. E. P. Clark, principal backer of the Better America Federation; in other words, the association is simply one of the aliases of the Black Hand!

And now this Black Hand has elected its own governor of the state, on a program of “economy,” which means the starving of every form of public welfare activity. The school appropriations have been cut to such an extent that the teachers’ colleges are crippled and the whole system is in despair. You see, what money California has to spare just now must go into a new state penitentiary here in the South; the Black Hand is planning more campaigns against “suspicion of criminal syndicalism.” A couple of months ago, while I sat in my cell at the Wilmington police-station, my fellow prisoner, Hugh Hardyman, quoted a remark: “I would rather be in jail laying the foundations of liberty than at liberty laying the 44foundations of jails.” In California you take your choice between these two.


It goes without saying that in such a school system promotion goes by favoritism. The system of examining and grading teachers at the present time is a farce. These examinations are partly written, partly oral, and partly references; the references are submitted as confidential, and one of the assistant superintendents marks them, without any assistance. So far as the oral examinations are concerned, it is purely a question of getting before an examiner who is your friend. Mrs. Dorsey, the superintendent, will say: “Send So-and-so to my committee”; and it will be done.

Mr. Bettinger, while assistant superintendent, discovered that the deputy superintendent was giving the clerk a list of names of those who were to be passed as favored by people of influence. He tells me how later on Jerry Muma, at that time “boss” of the board, came to him with a friend whose daughter desired to take the examination for high school teacher. Mr. Bettinger explained the routine; the examination must be taken in such and such a way, etc. But Mr. Muma was not satisfied. He said that he had heard these matters could be arranged more expeditiously. Finding that Mr. Bettinger did not take the hint, he said: “Wait a minute,” and went out. He was gone five minutes, and came back, saying: “It will be all right; Mr. Shafer (an assistant) will have this young woman come before him.” Mr. Muma, you remember, is the dealer in life insurance who “believes in reciprocity.”

Mrs. Dorsey is a very devout church member, and the churches are strong in her support; so when a woman teacher came to her, complaining of having been seduced by the principal of her school, Mrs. Dorsey was greatly incensed. When the teacher’s story was substantiated by the wife of the principal, Mrs. Dorsey—so I am informed by Dr. Lickley—summoned the man to her office and demanded his resignation. But she had been led in her 45excitement to overlook the realities of politics in her school system. This principal had a powerful friend, an ex-judge who was high in the councils of the Black Hand. He called on Mrs. Dorsey and presumably explained to her the concrete facts about the administration of schools. Anyhow, the matter was suddenly dropped; and Mrs. Dorsey has just been presented with a reappointment for four years, with a salary raise from eight thousand to ten thousand a year.

The thing for which I indict this elderly lady superintendent is her pitiable subservience to the power of wealth, and the glorifying of commercialism in her school system. She has made the schools a “boosting” agency for reaction; it would be no exaggeration to say that she has handed them over to the bankers to be used as a collection agency to get the children’s money. One teacher tells me how her principal came back in great excitement from a meeting of principals summoned by Mrs. Dorsey, at which the details of a “thrift campaign” had been explained. All the children must start savings banks at once; the Chamber of Commerce was furnishing the banks, also posters, which must be put up in every schoolroom. Some time later the principal came into a room much disturbed; there was no poster up in that room, and what was the matter? The teacher explained that the wind had blown it down; it had been up for two months. The principal fussed about, and would not leave until it had been tacked up again.

The children were hounded to start their bank accounts; some were taken out and paraded around the block, with banners reporting the percentages of bank accounts in each class. The teachers also were hounded; you were a failure if your children did not reach a certain percentage. A man from the bankers’ association came around to make a speech: “The principal is going to give you a bank; the superintendent expects that every one of you will have a dollar saved up.” And every month there was a bulletin from Mrs. Dorsey. Meantime the bankers’ association, in the literature it sent out, was explaining that it was spending more than one dollar per child upon this school campaign, but it would pay well, because the children would get the bank habit.

Mrs. Dorsey has a formula of subservience which 46she is accustomed to repeat to her teachers and subordinates: “We must please the business men, otherwise they will not vote the bonds to keep our schools going.” That she has grounds for her fears was shown by the statement of Mr. Edwards, self-appointed financial boss of the school board. The teachers and the public were demanding a fifteen-million-dollar bond issue for new schools; but when the proposition came before the board, it had been changed to nine millions, and Mr. Edwards’ explanation was simple: the heads of the Chamber of Commerce had drawn a line through the fifteen and made it nine! “That’s what we’ll vote just now,” they said; and as a result of those strokes of the pencil, sixty thousand children are now condemned to part-time instruction!

If you think this a matter of small importance, let me tell you of one teacher who had a class of incorrigible children. Out of nineteen boys, seventeen confessed to her that they had burglarized houses or stores. The ages of these boys were from thirteen to sixteen, and in the majority of cases their mothers had been compelled by poverty to go to work outside the home. The boys would take the money they stole and go to beach resorts, and spend it all in one night. These boys had had three years of half-day school sessions, and told the teacher that they had started their careers of crime while turned out on the streets instead of being in school.

As I finish this book, Mrs. Dorsey issues a bulletin, informing all teachers that the schools are to celebrate a “Chamber of Commerce Week.” It is solemnly ordered that “children of the first five grades write to their father or guardian a letter on some phase of the work of the local Chamber of Commerce, or on the benefits to the city of the activities of that organization”; and teachers of all other grades shall “use the functions, activities, or achievements of the local Chamber of Commerce as suggestions for themes and orations. Pamphlets dealing with the activities of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce will be placed in the mail-boxes. The co-operation of principals and teachers is urged.”

I have before me a copy of the pamphlet in question. The Chamber of Commerce, which cut the school appropriation from fifteen million to nine million dollars, and put sixty thousand children on part time, now has the 47effrontery to state to all school teachers and pupils: “The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has worked for every bond issue asked for by the Board of Education, until now the city has more than 900 public school buildings for its 176,000 children.” Upon learning of this “Chamber of Commerce Week,” the American Civil Liberties Union hastened to apply to the board for a “Civil Liberties Week,” and in a written statement afforded the board many reasons for making the children acquainted with the importance of protecting civil liberties. It goes without saying that the Board of Education of the Black Hand made haste to vote down this riotous proposition; and likewise another for a “union labor week.”

Of course there has been, and is, a campaign of terrorism to drive out the few rebel teachers from the system. One high school principal was told by Judge Bordwell that he would be promoted if he would remove several teachers accused of liberal ideas. When the principal said they were good teachers, the Judge said: “Can’t you get something on their morals?”

That the Black Hand directs spying by the school children on their teachers is something you do not have to take my word for; you may take the word of Mr. Harry Haldeman, president of the Better America Federation. Speaking at a banquet given by his supporters in the Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles, Mr. Haldeman said in substance: investigators have been placed in various schools and colleges in this state and throughout the United States, whose business it is to take note of the utterances of teachers, professors, or students, and report to the headquarters of the Federation. If any utterances are reported which are not to the liking of the Federation, means will be taken to have the teachers or professors discharged. So far as the students are concerned, they will be shown the error of their ways. If they prove obstinate and fail to take heed, steps are to be taken to prevent their getting employment. And if you should find any of these statements incredible, let me add that Mr. Haldeman made the same speech in many other places; he made it at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, and you will find in “The Goose-Step” what the San Francisco “Call” published about it.

They control the board, the superintendents, the 48teachers, and the pupils; they even control the parents. For twenty years Los Angeles has had an excellent group of organizations called Parent-Teachers’ Associations; the parents come to the school buildings for meetings with the teachers, to discuss the welfare of the schools. But this machinery has gone the way of everything else—it has been taken over by the Black Hand. I talked with a lady who was president of one of these branches, and saw the whole intrigue from the inside. There are prominent women, paid agents of the Better America Federation; while others are paid by the “Times” in the coin of prominence and applause. If you support the politics of the “Times,” you become “the distinguished Mrs. So-and-So”; your picture is printed, your speeches are quoted, and your honors are recited at length.

These agents of the Black Hand have their plans always laid in advance; they are aggressive, they pretend to know the laws and by-laws, and brush the ordinary parents out of the way. At one of the general meetings of the association they rushed through an endorsement of military training in the schools. There were only thirty or forty people present; no one had any warning of the program, nor any opportunity to discuss this important question; yet next morning this action was announced in the “Times” as representing the sentiments of thirty-one thousand parents! One lady, objecting to this procedure, brought up a discussion of the matter at her branch; she proposed that they should have speakers to present both sides of the question. Her principal was “furious” that she should have brought such a proposition up in his school.

In order to prevent the parents from having an effective voice, they have amended the constitution to read that there shall be “no interference with the administrative functions of the board of education”; so now, if there is anything they want to hush up, they simply call it “an administrative function of the board of education”! In order to keep the teachers from having any voice, they frequently call the business meetings at hours when the teachers are busy in classroom. One teacher who has spent something like thirty years in the system, tells me that he has never yet been able to attend a business meeting of the association in his school. The representatives 49of the school at these meetings are the principals and their office staff. The teachers pay one-third of the dues, they furnish the bulk of the program work—but they have nothing to say about policy.

“Politics” is strictly barred; but, as everywhere else throughout the system, this rule works only one way. The associations are forbidden to endorse any candidates; but during the recent election the “Times” announced that they had endorsed the candidates of the Black Hand—and when the “Times” says a thing, that thing might as well be true, because ninety-nine per cent of the public believes it. On another occasion these political women rushed through an endorsement of some of their judges, and Mrs. E. J. Quale, the press chairman, handed in her resignation in protest. The executive board accepted her resignation, but kept the fact out of the records and out of the newspapers—thus concealing Mrs. Quale’s protest from the membership.

“No politics in the P. T. A.” It was not “politics” when Harry Atwood, author of “Back to the Republic,” came to talk about the Constitution, and devoted nine-tenths of his time to attacking the initiative and referendum. The “politics” began when some one ventured to ask for a speaker who was known to favor the initiative. There is an executive committee for the purpose of controlling speakers, and no one could be permitted to speak unless his name had been approved by this committee.

The biggest issue in the state just now is that of public or private control of water power; the whole future depends upon this, and to keep the public in darkness concerning it is the one big purpose of the Black Hand, to which all other purposes are subordinated. So in this water power fight the control of the Parent-Teachers’ Association has been most clearly revealed. In the last election campaign the proposal to issue bonds for public development of water power was beaten by the corporations; subsequent investigation by the state legislature revealed the fact that the Southern California Edison Company, a private water power corporation, had contributed $107,605 to carry this campaign. They had paid $26,000 salary to a campaign manager, who had formed the “Women’s Committee of the Los Angeles Taxpayers Association.” He had a professional publicity agent, a 50woman, and “three or four other ladies who went around making speeches.” There was one item of $4,019 for “special literature,” signed with the name of the “Women’s Tax and Bond Study Club”—and this, according to the admission of the campaign manager, was for circulation among the Parent-Teachers’ Associations. During the campaign, the speakers for public ownership were barred; but now, by order of the superintendent, the Edison Company is taking its propaganda directly into the schools!


Needless to say, those who run this school machine for the Black Hand are vigilant to keep modern ideas from the children. They excluded the “Nation” and the “New Republic” from the high school libraries shortly after the war; and they have recently refused to rescind this action. There was a debate on the subject before the Friday Morning Club, a ladies’ organization, and Mrs. Chester C. Ashley, ex-member of the board of education, waved before the eyes of the horrified ladies the current issue of the “Nation,” June 6, 1923: let them inspect the cover and see what poison was prepared for the minds of their children:

His Letter to the Law-breaking Chief of Police of Los Angeles

The Better America Federation picked out as its text-book of patriotism for the schools a work called “Vanishing Landmarks” by Leslie Shaw, ex-secretary of the treasury, a comical old Tory who glorifies the Constitution as a bulwark of special privilege. “Only Socialists, near Socialists, and Bolsheviki clamor for democracy,” declares Mr. Shaw; and he says it is wise for representatives of capital to be permitted to organize, and the only danger begins when federations of unions are formed. Incidentally he denounces, as part of the revolutionary program, the woman’s suffrage amendment! The Better America Federation spent twenty thousand dollars to put a copy of this book into the hands of every school teacher; they wanted it adopted as a text-book in all 51elementary schools—and this in a state where the women have had the ballot for twelve years! As one teacher remarked to me, the slogan, “Votes for Women,” is to be changed to “Lies for Children”!

For the Pilgrim Tri-Centennial the Better America Federation prepared a beautiful text-book for the schools, full of reactionary propaganda; this they gave away, and they had a list of eloquent orators, also to be given away. Then they produced a text-book “Back to the Republic,” by Harry Atwood, denouncing the initiative and referendum as treason to our forefathers. The publishers announce this as “The Outstanding Book of the Age,” and it was distributed to every teacher. Let me quote you a few of its theses: “Promiscuity, or free-love, is to the domestic world what democracy is to government.... What gluttony is to the individual, democracy is to government.... What drunkenness is to the individual, democracy is to government.... What discord is to music, democracy is to government.... What insanity is to thought, democracy is to government,” etc., etc. And understand, this in a text-book! Teachers were expected to compel little children to learn this by heart, and to recite it!

Next came “The Citadel of Freedom,” by Randolph Leigh, a product of Nicholas Murray Butler’s educational machine. It was written as a Columbia doctor’s thesis, and is a panegyric of the Constitution, in which every reactionary influence in our history is glorified, and every popular influence sneered at. I have read the galley proofs of this book, as submitted to the school board of Los Angeles, and they bear at the top the tell-tale label, “Times.” Mr. Leigh appeared personally before the board of education, offering to put a copy of this book into the hands of every student orator. He was backed by a committee, including Chandler of the “Times” and Haldeman of the Better America Federation, who offered a prize of fifteen hundred dollars, or “a de luxe summer tour of the Mediterranean country,” for the best oration by any high school student using this book and its references as source material. A liberal representative on the school board objected, saying that the students should have an opportunity to hear both sides. Mr. Leigh said that he had done all the research work. The board member 52answered: “Our students are trained to do their own research work.” And Mrs. Dorsey sat there and did not say one word in defense of her school system!

Reactionary teachers are appointed for the express purpose of repressing originality and independence in the students. What are their standards and ideals was charmingly revealed by one of them who was discussing a certain pupil with a friend of mine. This pupil was a “leader,” said the teacher; “I know she’s a good leader—you give her something to do and she’ll do it beautifully.” The consequences of such training are seen in the so-called “Ephebian Society,” an organization formed to interest the high school alumni in public service. The choicest of the high school graduates are picked out each year, and this is a great honor—while you are graduating. After that you discover it to be a farce; because the members of the society meet and the authorities in control forbid them to take up any vital subject whatever. The Ephebians meet in the rooms of the board of education, and are permitted to spend their time raising money for the Travelers’ Aid Society, or superintending the Newsboys’ Christmas Dinner! I talked with this year’s president of the society, Lee Payne; they will never get him again, he said.

This same young man told me of his experiences when he was selected to deliver the valedictory of his class. He asked to have a liberal teacher as his guide, but was compelled to have a reactionary teacher. She assigned to him a commonplace theme, and he rejected it, and wrote on the subject of “Labor’s Right to a Share in Industry.” When he brought in his address, the teacher refused to let him deliver it; it was “too Bolsheviki,” she said, and told him that when he went into a garden he must see the beautiful red roses, and not the thorns. She practically rewrote the address for the student, and he took it off and wrote it again. The controversy continued up to a day or two before commencement, when the boy finally had to deliver an address which did not represent his own convictions.

I have mentioned favoritism among the principals and teachers; needless to say, also, that children who come from poor homes, and especially the children of foreigners, are slighted. A boy came to see me, Clarence Alpert by 53name, a sensitive lad, conscientious and idealistic; with tears in his eyes he told me how he had been turned out of Lincoln High School by the principal, Miss Andrus. I was familiar with the name of this lady. In an address to the school assembly she had referred to “that notorious disloyalist and traitor, Upton Sinclair.” I wrote a letter to the lady in which I mentioned my support of the war—you may find it in “The Brass Check,” pages 205-7. I served notice upon her that she would make a retraction of her statements or face a libel suit, and she preferred the former alternative.

The boy whom she had now expelled had refused to salute the flag. He was a Socialist, and believed that the flag stood for capitalism. Miss Andrus sent for him, and stormed at him; he was a Russian Jew, and she knew his kind from her experience at Hull House. They were dirty, rotten scoundrels; they were people with no ideals and no country; they were cheap material, who could not be made into good citizens and were not entitled to an education. Miss Andrus tried her best to get young Alpert to name some of the teachers who had encouraged him in his ideas; the boy was threatened with immediate dismissal if he refused to name them, but in spite of the fact that he had “no ideals,” he stood firm! Finally he was given three days in which to make up his mind and salute the flag.

Then—so the boy explained to me—one of his teachers labored with him, explaining to him that he was under a misapprehension about the flag. To be sure it was used by capitalism at the present time, but that was only because it had been stolen; in reality the flag stood for the highest ideals ever conceived by mankind, and it was our business to preserve it for those ideals, and to take it away from the exploiters and rascals. Alpert agreed to that, and went back to Miss Andrus and told her that he had realized his mistake, and that he was now ready to salute the flag as she required. But she declared that he was a hypocrite and a coward, and should not stay in the school. I went to a friend of mine, a wealthy man who happens to be a liberal. He called up a member of the school board, who went to see Miss Andrus; so in two or three days the boy was restored to school, from which he has since been graduated.

54The schools are starting in this fall with what they call “codified patriotism”; a whole outfit of flummery contrived by the American Legion and the professional hundred percenters. The flag must be exactly at the top of the staff, and you must raise it briskly, and lower it slowly and reverently; you must raise your hat with your right hand, and women must put their right hand over the heart. The legislature has passed a bill, requiring that American history shall be taught “from the American viewpoint”; no longer is it to be taught from the viewpoint of truth! The children are to learn that Alexander Hamilton was a good American, but the soft pedal will be put on Thomas Jefferson. They will not be taught that the Mexican War was a disgraceful foray of greed, and that Abraham Lincoln denounced it in Congress. Instead, they will be taught all about the “Red” menace—with the columns of the “Times” for source material. At last commencement time at least six addresses by students, dealing with this subject, were featured by the “Times” in its radio service, which is devoutly followed by hundreds of thousands of wage-slaves in our community. All these addresses, of course, had been carefully censored; one or two of them were “repeated by request,” and the announcement was made that you could have a printed copy of them by application to the “Times.”


What becomes of the children under this regime of the Black Hand? I have talked with scores of teachers, and their testimony is unanimous, that the children’s minds are on anything in the world but study. I choose the great “L. A. High,” because that is where the children of the rich attend. One parent, a woman of refinement and sense, has tried to keep the tastes of her daughter simple and wholesome, but she tells me it is impossible, because home influence counts for nothing against the overwhelming collective power of the mass. The child comes home thrilled with excitement, telling of what the other girls have; and she must have what they have, or her happiness is ruined. It is all money; their ideal is the 55spending of money, their standard is what things cost. I know a lad, who tells me gravely that a fellow can’t have anything to do with girls these days; they have no interest in you but for the money you spend on them, and unless you are rich you cannot “go the pace.” About this school you will see the automobiles parked for blocks; and, of course, the youngsters who drive these cars are the social leaders, they run the school affairs, and they get the girls.

The schools are given up to athletic excitements and “assemblies”; “Aud Calls,” the students term them—that is, calls to the auditorium. They come to practice cheering; they follow the cheer leader, who tells them: “That wasn’t loud enough. Now give one for the team.” The young people come out from these affairs trembling with excitement, and they have no mind for their studies the rest of that day. Out in the halls are students waving balloons which they have bought in the bookstore; on athletic occasions, you see, it looks so lovely if everybody in the bleachers is waving toy balloons with the school colors. They will just get settled in class with their toy balloons, when there comes a call for “fire drill.” Or if such diversions are lacking, the pretty young things take out their vanity boxes and proceed to powder their noses and smear red paint on their lips, while the poor unhappy teachers are trying to put something into their silly heads. I have walked through the corridors of a high school and counted a dozen of the young things performing these toilet operations while chatting with their beaux.

How can the teachers combat such forces? There is only one way, and that is by making the studies interesting, by taking up live topics, which awaken the initiative of the students, and reveal to them the delights of thinking. Several teachers have tried to do this, and the stories of what happened to them are amusing; but unfortunately I cannot tell the stories, because each would identify a teacher, and no teacher dares take that risk! I can tell about a girl who wanted to write a thesis on “The Social Motive in American Literature.” Here was a real subject—but the principal of the school forbade it.

Also I can tell how, during the war, seven high schools took part in a debate: “Resolved, that the nations of the world should adopt the program of the League to Enforce 56Peace.” You can look back now and see that it was our going into the war blindfolded, our utter failure to know anything about the issues of the peace, that made the great tragedy of Europe. Do not get this League to Enforce Peace confused with pacifist organizations like the Peoples’ Council; this was a perfectly respectable organization, with ex-President Taft as president! But Mr. Jack Bean, a member of the school board, rushed to the “Times” with the charge that the high schools of Los Angeles were carrying on propaganda for immediate peace! The “Times” took it up, and for three days published scare articles accusing two students, Lee Payne and Mildred Ogden, of being pro-German. Young Payne assures me that their only mention of Germany in the entire debate was to quote President Taft’s statement that if the program of the League to Enforce Peace had been in action in 1914, Germany would not have dared to begin the war. But the solemn asses on the board passed a resolution, solemnly forbidding the debating of peace; and the “Times” solemnly printed their resolution under the caption: “Win the War!”

How far the Black Hand is willing to go in this program of cutting out the brains of the school children you may judge by the fact that in 1921 Assemblyman Greene introduced, and the Better America Federation tried to jam through the state legislature, an act providing for the expulsion from the schools of “any teacher who shall disparage to a pupil in the school where said teacher is employed, any provision of the Constitution of the United States of America, or who shall orally make to such pupil any argument or give to such pupil any written or printed argument in favor of making any change in any provision of said Constitution.” And this, you understand, in face of the fact that the Constitution itself provides for its amendment, and has been quite legally and constitutionally amended no less than nineteen times in our history! Think of a school teacher being forbidden by law to discuss with a pupil the desirability of an amendment prohibiting child labor!

A still more curious incident occurs while I am finishing this book. There is in Los Angeles an organization called the Young Workers’ League, an educational society of the Communists; they held a debate on the subject of 57Communism versus Capitalism, and not being able to get anybody to defend capitalism, they appointed their own speakers, who naturally didn’t do it very ardently. Three lads, one of them a high school student, the other two just graduated, attended the meeting and found themselves dissatisfied with this defense; they rose up and said they could do better, and the result was the planning of a debate. The Young Workers’ League hired a hall, and the three students spent a good part of their summer vacation preparing for the contest. Two or three days before it came off, the Young Workers’ League distributed announcement cards in the high schools, erroneously referring to the students as “three representatives of a high school debating society.” Immediately thereafter the one high school student was informed by Principal Dunn of the Polytechnic High School that he must not take part in the affair. Mr. Dunn did not take this action on his own initiative, he explained, but under instructions from Mrs. Dorsey, who had investigated the matter.

On the afternoon of the day set for the debate, the secretary of the Young Workers’ League appealed to me. Being interested in the cause of free speech, I went to see Mr. Robert Odell, attorney and president of the school board. After hearing my account of the matter, Mr. Odell said that the only objection he could think of was that the debate might not be fair, the audience might be packed against the students. My answer was that I would agree to act as chairman, and see that there was no interruption of the speakers. Mr. Odell agreed to ask Mrs. Dorsey to see me immediately.

It was then four o’clock in the afternoon, and I called on the superintendent, and listened while she explained to me at great length that the schools could not under any circumstances permit students to represent them in public debates unless the students had been selected by the schools. In reply I assured Mrs. Dorsey that I agreed with her absolutely; but if that was all the school authorities wanted, why not require the high school student to state to the audience that he spoke as an individual, and without authorization from his school? I offered as chairman of the debate to make this announcement with the utmost explicitness.

I pointed out to Mrs. Dorsey the singular position in 58which her schools would be placed by the preventing of this discussion. A large audience would be sent from the hall convinced that the authorities were afraid to let their students face the arguments of the Communists. The students would have to meet Communists in political life, so why not let them practice while in school? Mrs. Dorsey gave me her answer, and I understood it to be that if I would make the announcement as promised, the school authorities would not concern themselves with the debate in any way. I then got the three students together and gave them this information. They reported themselves as anxious to debate, and greatly disappointed at the outcome; but they were not willing even to come upon the platform without first having talked again with their school and college superiors. They would not go into details; but evidently something had been said to them which had taught them caution. Said one of them, significantly: “You know, Mr. Sinclair, the schools can get along without us very easily if they want to.”

Then I tried to arrange for the affair to come off two weeks later, and wrote to the school authorities. What happened between the authorities and the students I do not know; one of the latter, in a letter to me, apologized because he could not “go to the heart of it.” He added: “This much I can tell you—that the determining factor in this case is the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association.” That the lads were wise in keeping out of the debate was shown by the fact that I received from Mrs. Dorsey a special delivery letter, repudiating the understanding of the matter which I had got from her. Said Mrs. Dorsey: “You pressed for assurance that the boys would not be punished by school authorities if they took part in the debate. This assurance I declined to give, stating again that the schools were not a party to the debate and must not, therefore, be involved in any program of arrangements therewith.” So there you have the lady!

At the hour that I was chasing about Los Angeles, interviewing school authorities and trying to save this debate, two enormous bruisers were pummeling each other into insensibility at the Polo Grounds in New York City. One was the champion bruiser of North America, and the other was the champion bruiser of South America, and the two Americas held their breath, awaiting the outcome. 59That was entirely respectable; that did not threaten the capitalist system, so no one stopped the pummeling, and no one stopped the school children of Los Angeles from reading the newspaper bulletins about the great event. But here were three serious students who were not interested in bruisers; three self-supporting boys had put in all their spare time during vacation, preparing to defend the faith of the schools; and the school superintendent of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association steps in and frightens these boys into silence, and disappoints an audience of a thousand working people who have assembled for an intellectual treat. Such is “culture” under the Black Hand!


You shake your head and say: “I had no idea of such things; yes, Southern California must be very bad indeed!” But I beg you not to fool yourself in that way. Southern California is exactly the same as the rest of industrial America. In the course of this book we shall visit the Bay Cities of California, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley; also Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, in the far Northwest. We shall visit a number of cities scattered across the continent—Spokane, Butte, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit; on the Atlantic coast we shall visit New York, Boston, Worcester, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington. We shall have glimpses of many towns, and of the rural schools in many states; also we shall not overlook the private schools and the big “prep” schools, where our youthful aristocracy is made ready for the gladiatorial combats and the social intrigues of college.

In all these regions we shall find the plutocracy in control of business and politics; and we shall find the very same interests, and as a rule the very same individuals, in control of the schools. Whether or not they use the methods of the Black Hand depends purely and simply upon one question—to what extent the subject classes are attempting to protest. If the subject classes make no protest, there is no violence by the master class. If the subject 60classes attempt to protest, then there is whatever amount of violence is necessary to hold them down.

I begin with New York City, because that is the headquarters of our financial, and therefore of our intellectual life. It is from New York that we are controlled, both in body and in mind, whether we have any idea of it or not. As it happens, I know New York and its schools at first hand, having spent my boyhood and youth in the city.

The Black Hand of the metropolis is known as Tammany Hall; and under its shadow I went to school, and also to college—a free, public college, full of Tammany professors. In my home the father of the family was drinking himself to death; it was Tammany saloon-keepers who sold him the liquor, it was Tammany politicians and a Tammany police force which guarded these saloons while they defied a dozen different laws. In that city hundreds of thousands of children were wondering, just as I wondered, why all powers of the state were used for their destruction, instead of for their aid. With the dope-rings and the bootleggers flourishing as they are today, there must be ten times as many children asking this question; and with exceptions so few as to be hardly worth mentioning, all the power of the schools and the colleges, as well as of the pulpit and the press, is devoted to keeping these children from finding out. They kept me from finding out until I had entirely come out from under both the physical and the intellectual control of the Black Hand of New York.

Tammany Hall is an old-style pirate crew, wearing modern clothing and operating systematically at looting the richest of all modern cities. Its symbol is the Tiger. In the days of my boyhood people still remembered Tammany as it was run by Tweed, who carried off a great part of its cash and sold a great part of its belongings. In my day the chief was a grown-up gangster and bruiser by the name of Richard Croker, who stated to a committee of the state legislature, “I am working for my pocket all the time.” His method was to make systematic collections from the brothels and gambling-dives and saloons; also, of course, from the contractors who wanted to charge half a dozen prices for the paving of streets and the removing of the garbage, and other jobs for which a city has to pay.

Even in my day the Tammany chieftains, like other 61successful bandits, were beginning to grope their way toward respectability. Every bandit in America wishes to become respectable—the test of respectability being that you get a hundred times as much loot. The financiers of Wall Street—the banks and insurance companies and the New York Central Railroad, which were organized as the Republican party and controlled “upstate”—used to fight the Tammany machine year after year, and be beaten, for the simple reason that Tammany controlled the polling places in the East Side slums, and distributed free coal to the poor in winter and free ice in summer, and therefore could count upon loyal “repeaters” and ballot-box staffers at election time. During my youth, the financiers, finding that they could not oust the Tiger, came to terms with it; such men as Whitney and Ryan, the backers of Tammany, were making so many tens of millions out of traction steals that they left the police graft as small change to their political subordinates.

I had an opportunity to observe this transformation at first-hand, for the reason that part of the profits were at my disposal. A friend of my boyhood was founder and president of a big financial concern, which wanted to come into New York. He went to the chiefs of Tammany, and took one of them for his New York manager, and distributed generous blocks of stock to Croker and his henchmen. At once his concern became the official house for that class of business, and the word went out that every politician and every city employe must patronize it. I remember as a lad sitting at luncheon with this friend, hearing him denounce the evil-minded men who criticized our business leaders, the master minds of our country; then presently the conversation changed, and this friend told me how he had just obtained the nomination of one of his managers as state treasurer, and how much he was paying to the campaign fund of the Democratic party, expecting to get it back many times over in the form of business with the state.

Today the chiefs of Tammany Hall are great financiers, and the efforts of the Republican party to win elections in New York City are largely formal. How completely the two parties are one, you realize the instant there is prospect of a Socialist candidate being elected. Immediately the leaders of the two old parties get together and 62agree upon a ticket, and their watchers at the polls unite to slug the “Reds” and stuff the ballot boxes. Afterwards, when the Socialists collect evidence of these crimes, the Democratic officials of the city and the Republican officials of the state unite in doing nothing about it. And so the Black Hand rules New York.


The education of a million children, and the control of twenty-five thousand teachers in the metropolis, is entrusted to a school board of seven people. The president of this board is a leading real estate operator; the retired president, still a member of the board, is a manufacturer of chemicals, who profiteered extensively during the World War; the next member is a manufacturer of cigars; the next is a leading real estate operator; the next is the private physician to the mayor of the city; the next is a woman of wealth and leisure, who represents the Tammany machine; the last is a lawyer. As always, you will note that there is not one educator on the board. There are few who know anything about education; but all know about business—especially those kinds of business which are transacted with school boards.

What are those kinds of business? To be able to pick the location of handsome new schools is worth a fortune to real estate interests; and that this is regularly done in New York is not my charge, but that of the comptroller of the city. To be able to determine the placing of contracts for school buildings and supplies is worth a fortune to any member of a political machine; and I talked with a former clerk of the school board, who told me he had seen so much graft that he had run away from the sight. I do not mean that this Tammany school board personally carries off the money, as it did in the days of Tweed; the method now is “honest graft”—that is, the placing of school contracts with companies in which your wife’s relatives and the members of your gang are interested. The amount to be expended in New York amounts to a hundred million dollars a year, and Tammany gets it all. At least four of the members of the board are “dummies,” 63having no function save to vote as the machine directs. All of them are Democrats, and the majority are Catholics; that is to say, the educating of a million American children is in the hands of people who teach that public education is a crime against God.

So it comes about that the principal indictment of this Tammany regime is not the money it spends, but the money it withholds. New York is the wealthiest city in the world; the masters of the city have money for palatial town houses, for country estates many square miles in extent, with homes as big as summer hotels; they have money for private yachts as big as ocean liners, and for luxurious motor cars by the tens of thousands; but they have no money to provide a decent education for the children of the poor. While their own children go to elegant private schools, the children of the poor are herded into dark, insanitary fire-traps, some of them seventy-five years of age; and even of these there is an insufficiency! Ever since my boyhood the refusal of New York City to accommodate the children who clamor for an education has been the blackest crime of the Tammany ruffians. At present one-third of the children are on “part time”; that is, they are turned out of school after two or three hours, to make room for another relay. The rest of the day they pick up the vices of the streets; and if they are made into young criminals, the city is ready and able to build whatever jails may be necessary.

Two years ago a committee of women representing a score of civic organizations—the Women’s Municipal League, the Women’s Department of the National Civic Federation, the Civitas Club of Brooklyn, the Women’s City Club, the League of Catholic Women, etc.—made a careful study of forty of the school buildings of New York City; they reported that twenty out of these forty were fire-traps, old wooden buildings with narrow stairways and no fire escapes. Sanitation was reported “bad” and “wretched” in twenty-one of these schools, and “fair” in eleven more. Twenty-one out of thirty-six were in need of repairs, twenty-seven had only dark basement playgrounds, and so on. I quote a few phrases, just to give you the flavor of these reports:

Boys’ toilets terrible; no basins and towels.... Toilets old and in bad condition; foul air unavoidable.... Plumbing too 64old to operate, inadequate and unsanitary; few basins and no towels.... Garbage dump nearby, inexcusable menace to health and comfort of the children.... Twelve toilets for twelve hundred boys, old, bad conditions, bad odor. No repairs in years, furniture and woodwork almost falling to pieces.... Fearfully dilapidated; paint and repairs needed on walls; stairs worn down to danger point.... Buildings so old as to be beyond repair, should be abandoned.... Insufficient lighting and ventilation; two rooms with only one window, eight rooms with only two windows.... Fire escapes incomplete and badly constructed.... Wooden buildings, no fire escapes reported.

These reports were given wide publicity; the ladies waited six months, over the summer vacation, and then came back to see what had been done. Out of twenty-three buildings reported dangerous as to fire conditions, twenty remained unchanged. Only two out of twenty-two schools had made any improvement as to provisions for the comfort of the teachers. As regards sanitation, fourteen had been improved, twenty-three had not been changed; and so on. How much the public authorities were concerned about such matters was shown by the experience of the Teachers’ Union, which prepared for an exhibit of the Public Health Association a series of posters and charts showing the physical condition of the schools. “Over nine hundred thousand children suffer from lack of a good ventilation system,” declared one of these posters. “No soap, no water, no towels,” declared another; and so on. Privately the nurses of the Health Department at this show all admitted that the posters represented the truth; but for three days the man who was then commissioner of health and the man who is now commissioner of health sought desperately to compel the Teachers’ Union to remove these posters; failing in this, the publicity agencies of the show cut out all the press notices of the teachers’ exhibits.

What this means to the teachers was set forth to me by the victims. One was teaching a class of children on a dark stone staircase. Another was teaching in a room on a level with the elevated railroad, with trains coming and going on four tracks; she would have to stand in the middle of the room and shout in order to be heard by all the pupils; and this in a new school, just built! An inspector of some sort came along and entered on his report, “room noisy”; the teacher was denied promotion, for some reason 65which could not be explained, and it was over a year before she could get the matter straightened out—the words “room noisy” had been taken to mean that she did not maintain discipline!

Another woman was teaching physical culture in a dark basement, with water always on the floor. She had seven classes every day, with fifty children in each class; and the gas lights were so feeble that she could not see the children she was supposed to be teaching. She said to one boy: “Stand with your feet together.” He answered: “There’s a puddle of water under me.” And when the physical culture classes got through with this hole, it became a play-ground for the other children!

I am reluctant to introduce into this book any statements which may add to the income of the Grand Imperial Kleagles of the Ku Klux Klan; nevertheless, it is impossible to discuss school conditions in such cities as New York, Boston, St. Louis and San Francisco without mentioning the fact that we have in our country some ten or fifteen million people, held by fear of eternal torment in subjection to a priestly system, which repudiates democracy, repudiates freedom of opinion and of teaching, repudiates everything we know as Americanism. The Catholic church denies the power of the state over marriage and divorce, and above all things else, it denies the right of the state to educate the child. I am going to prove that in detail before I finish; for the present I merely point out that in city after city we shall encounter this influence.

The Catholics, you see, have their system of parochial schools, in which the children are taught the priestly view of life. The church is enormously wealthy, and some of these schools are, as buildings, very fine. Manifestly, the priestly admonition to the faithful, to send their children to church schools, will be much more effective if the public schools are old and filthy and insanitary; and more especially if they are fire-traps! Tammany Hall is a semi-religious institution, maintained by the votes of Irish and Italian and Polish Catholics. Practically the entire list of public officials are Catholics—and this includes the majority of the public school board and of the superintending force. So, to the natural greed of the plutocracy is added the power of priestly intrigue. Mr. Stewart Browne, 66president of the Real Estate Board of New York, attends every hearing of the Board of Estimate, and of other public bodies having anything to do with appropriations for the schools. His one function is to prevent appropriations; and with the secret help of the Catholic prelates, he succeeds. Thus we observe, in full operation in our modern age, the ancient alliance between the secular arm and the spiritual; we see God and Mammon united to rivet the chains of wage-slavery upon the poor.


On the top of my desk as I work is a five-foot shelf of big envelopes, containing data on the school systems of various cities. I take one envelope, and sort out its contents, marking the material with the letters, G, F, P, and R. That is to say, Graft, Favoritism, Propaganda and Repression—the four products of education by Big Business. Under the letter F in New York City I find the grievances of scores of teachers with whom I talked. Their story was all the same: the system is brutal, the system is rigid, the system is honeycombed with politics and dishonesty.

It fell to my lot while in the city last year to take part in a public debate with some of the school officials at the Civic Club. To my statement that Tammany was running the schools, Examiner Smith rejoined that all promotions in the system depended upon civil service examinations—he knew, because he did the examining. But when he was pinned down, he admitted that the twenty-six district superintendents, the eight associate superintendents, and the thirty high school principals were all excluded from the civil service list; and here, of course, are the prizes for which everyone is striving. At that very moment the schools were in an uproar because of the appointment to a superintendent’s position of Mrs. Grace Forsythe, a Catholic lady who had not even high school qualifications; also of Margaret McCooey, sister of one of the Tammany bosses. Milo MacDonald, a Catholic, had been appointed principal of a high school from the rank of ordinary teacher; Henrietta Rodman told me of another teacher, 67a Catholic, who took the examination for elementary principalship and failed, and was appointed to a high school principalship. Other cases have happened since.

These are a few out of scores of cases that were detailed to me. I was told of a Catholic who took an examination, and then was permitted to withdraw his papers and write up a new set at home. It is a matter of record that Mr. Somers, member of the board of education—a super-patriot, who called the Teachers’ Union treasonable—let off a clerk of the school board who had been proven guilty of misappropriating funds; also another who was charged with letting people get copies of examination papers in advance, and of selling information to candidates. Both these people, Catholics, got off with a fine of a few days’ pay, and both are still in the system.

A form of “honest graft” which has been widely developed under this Tammany regime is the writing of text-books by school officials. Many of the text-books in use in the public schools of New York bear the names of people in the system; in many cases they were written by teachers, but officials have put their names upon them, and get the greater part of the profits. The principals recommend these books for use, and the board of superintendents adopts them. Former Superintendent Maxwell had a large income from books published by the American Book Company which he himself had not written; and a number of the district superintendents get their share. The New York “Globe,” discussing the case of Maxwell, showed how in his position he had the power to increase the sales of his own books; and this same power is possessed by all the gang. I was told of one head of a department with a book to sell, who got himself transferred three times to different parts of the city—starting in the High School of Commerce in Manhattan, from there to the Commercial High School of Brooklyn, and then to Long Island—and in each place he took with him his commercial arithmetic. The teachers did not want it, but in every school the other texts were thrown out and the new one introduced. All over New York—and all over America, as we shall find—there are school basements and cupboards filled with discarded text-books, or new text-books which are so bad that the teachers will not use them.

Needless to say, many of the Tammany superintendents 68and principals are ignorant men, utterly unfitted for scholastic duties. I look back on my own days in the College of the City of New York, and recall the comical old boys whom the Tammany machine appointed to teach me literature and philosophy and Latin, and other high-brow subjects. Therefore, I was not surprised to be told of a superintendent who talks about “algebray,” and who says: “As I was a-saying,” etc. The French teachers find amusement in the efforts of superintendents to pretend that they know French. I talked with a charming lady of Spanish birth, who attempted to get by one of these examiners, but he reported her French as “very bad”; she “ran all her words together.” Anyone who has listened to a Frenchman talk will appreciate the humor of this comment; one might say that the first qualification for speaking good French is to run your words together to the utmost possible extent. This lady went to see Professor Cohn, head of the department of French of Columbia University, and one of our leading French scholars. He reported that she spoke French “like a native,” and took occasion to add that he knew the examiner in question, and knew him to be ignorant of French.

This lady got her appointment; but presently she discovered that the head of her French department didn’t know any French; necessarily, her pupils discovered it also; and that made her unpopular with her superior. She was refused promotion upon the ground that she was “a non-conformist.” She told me of her adventures in trying to get something explicit from the examiners; she called several times upon Examiner Smith, the same gentleman who debated with me at the Civic Club. Mr. Smith was in a hurry to catch a train, and asked the lady to tell him her story while he was washing his hands in a lavatory. She was so fastidious as to think that was not quite a courteous examination!

I talked with a young man, who had been for many years in the system, and with whom they had not been able to find fault; his ratings had been “double A” from the beginning of his career. But what chance had the system to hold an energetic man, who saw all promotion depending upon favoritism and graft, and saw himself condemned to a subordinate position, taking orders from pompous ignoramuses? The desirable positions in the 69system are few—the Board of Estimate sees to that!—and the struggle for them is tense, and the way of promotion is the way of intrigue. Here were people giving courses to teachers, instructing them how to pass examinations for promotion—and then these same people conducting the examinations! Here were examiners with agents out touting for them! (You see, they teach what is called “salesmanship” in the New York schools; and evidently, they practice what they teach!) My young friend went out into the business world, and is making a good living. He explained the difference this made in his life; when he met business men, he was an equal among equals, but as a teacher he had had to tremble before a board of examiners who could not have passed one of their own examinations.

“I do not know of a school system in the United States which is run for the benefit of the pupils; they are all run for the benefit of the gang”; thus District Superintendent Tildsley, debating with me before the Civic Club. Dr. Tildsley added that by “the gang” he meant the superintendents, the principals and the teachers. It was kind of him to add the teachers, but some of them in the audience did not appreciate his compliment. There is quite a group in the New York schools who are really concerned for the children, and feel no sense of solidarity with the bigoted autocracy which at present holds the power.

“It is the duty of a teacher who knows of anything wrong in the school system to complain to her superiors about it,” said the pious Dr. Tildsley; and there came a chorus from all over the room: “Yes, and lose her job!” Dr. Tildsley was pained by the suggestion that a teacher might encounter trouble as result of just complaints, made at the proper time and in the proper manner. As it happened, however, I had spent that morning in the home of Mr. James F. Berry, a teacher of mathematics at DeWitt Clinton High School, who had been for twenty-three years in the system, and took seriously the idea that a teacher has responsibility for teaching conditions. Mr. Berry made complaint against the grossest kind of evils in the school—cruelty to pupils, dishonesty, and acts of injustice by those in authority. As a result, his career in the system was one long misery. He was denied promotion to which he was justly entitled; and he put in my hands a 70little diary, in which he had kept the record of two decades of struggle for his rights. I glance through it and find entries such as this:

Mr. Tildsley exemplified today his arbitrary and disagreeable way of dealing with those under him, by making a perfectly groundless accusation against me. It was easy to disprove, and then he virtually apologized, though with no sign of regretting his accusation. I have observed this practice of sweeping statements by him, and if they are not promptly disproved one feels that he takes them for granted as true and admitted, and such an impression does not make for good-will.

I shall before long show you how at this same DeWitt Clinton High School there has been established with official sanction an elaborate system of espionage; a teacher drawing full salary devotes the greater part of his time to training pupils to spy upon other teachers, and when these pupils bring reports of unorthodox ideas and utterances, the pupils are praised for a meritorious service. But in the case of Mr. Berry I find that the disposition to report genuine evils is described by Dr. Tildsley as “a tendency to tale-bearing which lessens efficiency!”

Why Dr. Tildsley did not like the “tale-bearing” of Mr. Berry is easy to understand. In 1914 Dr. Tildsley was principal of the DeWitt Clinton High School, and when he was moved on to a higher position, two of his favorite teachers in the school, who were in line for principalships, and who have since been made principals, took five hundred and twenty-five dollars out of the “general organization fund” of the school—that is, money contributed by the students for student activities—and used it to purchase a silver service which was presented to Dr. Tildsley. The source of this money was kept a secret, but Mr. Berry learned about it, and wrote to the president of the board of education, pointing out that this was a clear violation of the law, as well as a great injustice to the pupils, most of whom were poor and many self-supporting. Had not one teacher been turned out of the system for accepting a box of candy from her pupils? A scandal was threatened, but it was hushed up, the newspapers co-operating by not publishing a line. Dr. Tildsley returned the silver service, which was sold, I am informed, to George Sylvester Viereck. For nine years Mr. Berry has been persecuted because of this affair; while Dr. Tildsley was promoted to be deputy boss of the gang!

71They have a method of punishing teachers which they learned from the police department in New York. Every now and then some policeman takes it upon himself to enforce a law which his superiors are using as a means of extortion; they will shift this policeman to the Bronx, and a month later they will send him to Brooklyn, and a month later to Staten Island, and so on—the poor wretch spends the greater part of his life on street cars, getting to his job and back. In the case of a teacher they wait just long enough for her to get settled in a new home, and then they move her again. It is something understood by all teachers that anyone who opposes the principal will find herself “transferred,” or lowered in ratings, or will have hard classes, or longer hours with no more pay. Said one to me: “Any teacher who brings charges against a principal is ruined. It matters nothing what the charges are: stealing school funds, or beating the pupils, or offensive advances of a sexual nature. All that happens is the principal denies the charges, and the matter is dropped; a teacher’s testimony counts for no more than the testimony of a Negro in the South.”

New York is not an “open shop” city, and so the teachers have a union. Its leaders suffer discrimination when it comes to promotion, but that does not break the union down. As part of the campaign against it, the authorities maintain a “yellow” union; that is, an organization which is supposed to represent the teachers, but can be controlled by the gang. The name of this is the “Teachers’ Council.” It purports to be a representative body, but the teachers do not vote directly, they vote for delegates from all organizations recognized by the board of education; and the insiders will belong to as many as ten or a dozen organizations, and will have a vote in each. The machine has its henchmen in all the key positions, and the surest way to promotion in the system lies in the rendering of this kind of Judas service. This “Teachers’ Council” is accustomed to attack the reputations of union teachers, and never give them opportunity to reply; the slander, whatever it is, will be quoted in the “Times” as representing the opinion of “twenty-five thousand organized teachers.” We are in New York now, not in Los Angeles, but you note that we still have our “Times,” and it is exactly the same kind of “Times”—it will publish 72any falsehood about an independent man or woman, and will give the victim no chance to answer.


Needless to say, the first duty of this Tammany school board is to enforce loyalty to the plutocracy; and, needless to say, this constitutes “patriotism” and “religion.” Mr. Aaron Dotey, Chief Spy of the DeWitt Clinton High School, brought in a report last year, charging a school teacher with having said that “patriotism is a murderer’s occupation and a traitor’s cloak.” It did not occur to Mr. Dotey that this might not be the teacher’s fault. The Chief Spy should have mentioned that a hundred and fifty years or so ago a leading Englishman of letters, a prize old Tory, made the statement that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

The hounding of the teachers by the scoundrels began at the very outbreak of the war. First, there was the “mayor’s pledge,” which they all were required to swear; this not being enough, there was another pledge contrived by the board of education. All the teachers were loyal, but not all of them were willing to swear away their right to think. There were eighty-seven conscientious objectors to the “loyalty pledges.” A number of these subsequently served in the army and made distinguished records; but intention to enlist did not save them from persecution at the outbreak of the war, nor did their war-records save them from persecution after they came back.

In the fall of 1917 there occurred an outbreak at the DeWitt Clinton High School. Dr. Tildsley arbitrarily lengthened the school day, when already the teachers and pupils were overworked. A deputation of pupils waited upon the board of education, to protest against the proposed measure, and were received by John Whalen, board member and prominent Tammany chieftain, who settled the matter as follows: “I want it clearly understood that neither the pupils nor the teachers will be allowed to run the schools. And I want you to understand that if you pupils don’t go back and behave yourselves I’ll close down all the schools. Do you understand?” The pupils went 73back and reported, and there was the beginning of a strike; also there was a meeting of the teachers of DeWitt Clinton, attended by more than a hundred, who adopted the following so-called “Whalen Resolution”:

First:—That it is the sense of this meeting that John Whalen’s assertion is contrary to the modern spirit of true democracy.

Second:—That remarks of this type and threats to close the high schools are detrimental to good discipline and good teaching.

Third:—It is the sense of this meeting that the autocratic assertion of John Whalen is subversive of the proper spirit underlying our educational institutions.

Fourth:—Be it finally resolved:

That the best interests of school administration demand the cordial recognition of the classroom teacher as a most vital influence in the educational system.

This, of course, was a direct challenge to the power of the gang; a revolt which must be put down at all hazards. Superintendent Tildsley came up to ascertain the names of the ring-leaders, and especially of the one who had drafted those incendiary words. The spy department was ready with the information; the criminal was Samuel Schmalhausen, a Jewish Socialist, twenty-nine years of age. It was resolved to drive Schmalhausen out of the system, and with him two other Socialist teachers, Mufson and Schneer. The spy department undertook to get something on these teachers without delay; and we are now going to hear a little story, which shows in detail exactly how a school spy department works.

In a day or two word was brought to Dr. Paul, principal of the school, that Mr. Schmalhausen had assigned to his pupils a theme for a composition, as follows: “Write an open letter to Woodrow Wilson, commenting frankly, within the limits of your knowledge, upon his conduct of the war against the German government.” Almost certainly some East Side Jewish boy would make that an occasion for disrespectful expressions; so Dr. Paul sent the head of his English department, Miss Garrigues, to Mr. Schmalhausen’s room. This lady rushed up in breathless haste and caught the pupils in the act of turning in their themes; she took possession of them, without giving Mr. Schmalhausen a chance to see them, and delivered them to Dr. Paul, who went over them. Among seventy-six themes he discovered one that justified 74his hopes—a bitter, sneering letter, written by a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy.

Dr. Paul, being skilled in intrigue, saw how this thesis would “go” in the capitalist press; his venom bubbled over and he exclaimed: “Now I’ve got him!” At least, Miss Garrigues on the witness stand testified that he said that. Dr. Paul denied it with asperity, and when asked to explain how Miss Garrigues could have thought she heard it, he described her as “an emotionally energized lady on occasions.” Poor Miss Garrigues—she was new to public life, and did not realize that the first essential to success is to be a fluent and tactful liar.

Dr. Tildsley came, and he also recognized the opportunity. He summoned Schmalhausen, and first pinned him down to the fact that he had written the “Whalen resolution”; then he set for this sensitive minded and idealistic young teacher an extremely cunning trap. You understand, Mr. Schmalhausen had not yet seen the criminal theme; and Dr. Tildsley did not let him see it now. He read him the first page of it—the first page being mild, and all the outrageous statements being found in the latter pages! So Dr. Tildsley trapped Mr. Schmalhausen into saying that he would merely make some minor corrections of expression in the theme; at least, Dr. Tildsley testified that that is what the young teacher said—Mr. Schmalhausen denied it. Later on Dr. Tildsley, consulting the rest of the gang, realized that his case did not look quite right, so he went back to the school, and read the entire composition to Mr. Schmalhausen, asking what would have been his action as a teacher in such a situation. Mr. Schmalhausen undertook to mark the theme as he would have marked it in the due course of his class work. His comments, written along the margin of the theme, were as follows:

Exaggerated, excessive emotionalism.... Is there any sanity in this assertion?... Do you take these remarks seriously?... For a thoughtful student this statement sounds irrational.... Recall President Wilson’s differentiation between the German Government and the German people.... Not accurately presented.... Foolish attitude historically.... Do you believe in its sincerity? (peace offer made by Germany).... Sorry to find this unintelligent comment in your work.... Why did you write this?

Mr. Schmalhausen was suspended from his duties 75without pay, and in due course was haled before a committee of the board of education. It is interesting to note that the chairman of this committee was none other than John Whalen, Tammany chieftain, who had started all the trouble by threatening to close all the schools! I have before me the testimony at the hearing, as published in pamphlet form by the Teachers’ Union. John Dewey describes it as the most comic document of the age, so it will pay us to read a few passages: first, the testimony of Miss Garrigues, as to why she considered Mr. Schmalhausen’s theme “an unwise assignment.” Do not fail to note from this passage the high standards of English expression which prevail in the English department of New York’s biggest high school:

Q. May I ask why you considered it an unwise assignment? A. I think the reason was that it was a little bit, in the nature of the wording, inclined to lead boys who were either pacific, I think is the real trouble, or were unpatriotic—this boy unquestionably was unpatriotic, I think—to express themselves very freely, which I do not know whether it is very wise for boys of that age to do.

Also you will wish to hear Superintendent Tildsley upon this same grave question. Dr. Tildsley was very sure that Schmalhausen had made a mistake in assigning such a theme. He explained in detail why the boys of the DeWitt Clinton High School were unfit persons to address imaginary letters to Woodrow Wilson. He said:

They are very much interested in the social life and the political life of this city; they are exceedingly fond of discussion and they have developed a rather high degree of critical ability and critical tendency, and the only thing that they like more than anything else I should say, is a discussion on social, political and economical topics; they are more interested in that than they are in being good or even than they are in athletics.

That students should be more interested in “a discussion on social, political and economical topics” than they are in athletics, would be recognized by any superintendent of schools in America as a state of affairs full of menace to our institutions, and under no circumstances to be tolerated. Cross-questioned further, Dr. Tildsley stated that he would not think it right to let boys in the DeWitt Clinton High School write on the negative of this topic: “We seek no selfish ends in this world.” He would not consider it proper to let them write on the negative of 76the topic: “Conscription is justifiable under a democracy.” He would not think it was proper to permit them to write an essay on the subject: “Revenue by bond issue or taxation.” After Dr. Tildsley had made these emphatic statements, the cross-questioner sprang on him the painful tidings that all three of these themes had been in the examination papers of the DeWitt Clinton High School of the previous week—officially adopted with the approval of his friend and admirer, the “emotionally energized” Miss Garrigues of the English department!

Mr. Schmalhausen was on the stand for a couple of hours; and as you read the testimony you recognize a man of culture and fine sensibility, a teacher profoundly conscientious, with deep respect for the personalities of his students. He told how he would have dealt with that theme if it had come up in his class; he would have questioned the pupil and showed him his ignorance, and tried to make him realize that his ideas were wrong. Asked if he disagreed with the opinions expressed in the theme, Mr. Schmalhausen replied:

Oh, absolutely, from head to foot. The subject matter is offensive from every point of view. Part of it is irrational. Part of it is crude and violent, the whole thing is a wrong frame of mind, and in my discussion with Dr. Tildsley, with which I took up a lot of time, I tried to explain clearly what influences in that boy’s social and economical and home environment were responsible for some of his sentiments. So far as I was concerned there was no implication at all at any time that I ever accepted the thought of that letter.

Nevertheless, Mr. Schmalhausen was driven from the school system of New York, and with him Mr. Mufson and Mr. Schneer. The offense of Mr. Schneer was that he had given to some of his pupils a list of books, with comments on their contents in the somewhat flowery style of a young man who takes great literature with sudden and intense seriousness. There were two hundred books listed, and a committee of the Schoolmasters’ Association undertook to mark ten of them which were especially offensive. One was Eltzbacher’s “Anarchism”—which turned out upon investigation to be a work opposing Anarchism, written by a non-Anarchist; poor Mr. Schneer had been trying to save his East Side Jewish boys from the snares of the extremists! Another was Romain Rolland’s “Jean Christophe,” one of the greatest novels and 77noblest works of culture of our time. A third was listed as “Sinclair’s ‘The Divine Fire.’” No one could guess why the committee should have objected to this eminently respectable novel; it occurs to me that Mr. Schneer’s failure to give the first names of his authors may have betrayed the schoolmasters into thinking that he had endorsed a book by my wicked self! I occasionally get letters intended for May Sinclair; so let me state that the author of “The Divine Fire” lives in England, and is not related to me, nor in any way to blame for my evil actions and writings—except that she occasionally writes me letters approving them!


The expulsion of these three teachers was, of course, a personal triumph for Mr. Aaron Dotey, Chief Spy of the DeWitt Clinton High School. The activities of the “Dotey Squad,” as the spies and informers are termed, were now extended to cover the entire system. The Chief Spy compiled a card index, with detailed information about suspected teachers. I have talked with some who have been privileged to inspect this catalogue, and have seen on Mr. Dotey’s desk a dossier of clippings and reports a foot high, relating to one group of rebel teachers in the system!

Mr. Dotey’s training for this work had been thorough; first, he was a sheriff; then, becoming a teacher, he was put in charge of the “corridor squad,” which has to do with discipline. He struck one pupil in the jaw and knocked him down for talking in line; he was accustomed to summon unruly pupils to his room and administer the “third degree,” calling them foul names, shouting and storming at them in a voice which could be heard all over the building, and which became a scandal throughout the system. One of the crimes of Mr. Schmalhausen was that he had proposed a program of student self-government, thus eliminating Mr. Dotey. To complete the picture of this furious old bigot, I mention that he was “converted” by his Catholic wife, which fact now puts him in line for a big promotion.

78The next teacher to fall a victim was Mr. Benjamin Glassberg, of the Commercial High School of Brooklyn, who was notified that he was suspended without pay. Mr. Glassberg’s hard luck was that a boy in his class had asked him “whether or not Lenin and Trotsky were, in his opinion, German agents or German spies.” I quote the exact words of Mr. Glassberg’s answer, as sworn to by thirty-five boys in the class; eight of these boys testified, and then the board got tired of hearing them, and the testimony of the other twenty-seven was entered by stipulation—that is, both sides agreed upon a statement of what the twenty-seventwenty-seven would testify in substance. Mr. Glassberg’s reply was that: “he did not think so, as Lenin and Trotsky had been busy circulating propaganda literature against the war among the Germans, thereby undermining their morale, and weakening their power in the war.”

Here was another Socialist teacher whom it was desired to “get,” and this was the chance to “get” him. There were forty-three boys in the class, and more than thirty were Jewish. The principal summoned before him, one at a time, two Jewish boys and ten Gentile boys, and questioned them as to what had happened in the class, trying to get them to say the worst possible things against Mr. Glassberg. A stenographer was present and took down what the boys said; then, according to the testimony of one of the boys, a most eager opponent of Mr. Glassberg, the principal “made an arrangement of little bits” of what the boys had said, and made it into a statement. The boys were summoned several times—for a period of eight weeks this coaching and rehashing of the charges went on, and meantime Mr. Glassberg was suspended without pay, and could not get the copy of the charges to which he was legally entitled! It finally became necessary for his lawyers to apply to the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, compelling the service of the charges upon Mr. Glassberg!

The statement, when finally prepared, was an obvious perversion of everything which even the most hostile of the boys alleged. This was, let remind you, a time when the principal news out of Soviet Russia was “the nationalization of women”; and here was a teacher, questioned by his students, and telling them the plain and obvious 79truth. Let me quote a little more of the testimony—and please note that I am quoting from the stipulated testimony of thirty-five members of the class:

Another boy in the class made a statement, though apparently rising to ask a question, to the effect that it must be that Lenin and Trotsky’s government was stronger with the people than the Kerensky government for the reason that it held on longer than the Kerensky government, and it could hardly be that the Bolsheviki were such thieves and cut-throats as represented if their government lasted so long. This boy’s statement Mr. Glassberg did not discuss at any length, because it was made at the end of the period, but did indicate in what he said that since the Lenin-Trotsky government had lasted longer than the Kerensky regime, this indicated that it must have considerable strength with the people. Another boy asked if information about the Bolsheviki was being withheld and Mr. Glassberg said that he was inclined to think so, and read certain questions which Senator Johnson had read in the Senate some time previous asking information about Russian conditions, and also referred to the fact that Colonel Robins of the Red Cross had been requested upon his return to this country by the State department, not to discuss the Russian situation, and also referred to a speech made by Major Thatcher of the Red Cross at a banquet in Boston at which he had defended the Bolsheviki from the attacks made upon them by some previous speakers.

Colonel Raymond Robins took the witness stand, and testified that upon his return from Russia he had been requested by the State Department not to discuss the Russian situation. Major Thatcher also took the stand, and testified to the truth of what Mr. Glassberg had said about him. It is interesting to note that the principal of the school informed some of the boys who were to testify at the hearing that Major Thatcher, an army officer of the highest standing, was “a criminal.” Also, a number of the boys told how the principal had attempted to intimidate them before they went upon the witness stand. To quote one case: “Do you know, boys, that Mr. Glassberg was charged with conduct unbecoming a teacher; therefore it means that you boys who are going to testify for Mr. Glassberg are UN-AMERICAN.” The boy’s reply was: “Mr. Raynor, do you know that when we are going to testify for Mr. Glassberg, we are going to tell what we heard in our class, and no more. We are going to tell the truth.”

Mr. Glassberg’s record as a teacher was produced before the board. His ratings during his entire five years 80had been the highest possible, this applying both to discipline and to teaching. Nevertheless, he was driven from the schools; and soon afterwards went Benjamin Harrow, whose crime was that he advised his students to read a magazine article by Thorstein Veblen. Also, according to the official statement of Superintendent Tildsley, “his favorite reading is said to be the ‘Nation,’ the ‘New Republic’ and the ‘Dial.’ He occupied a front seat at each session of the Glassberg trial, and seemed to approve sentiments expressed in favor of the Bolshevists.” In this same official document is given an idea of the cultural level of the district superintendent in charge of all the high schools of New York City; says Dr. Tildsley: “Mr. Harrow recommended his pupils to read an article in the ‘Dial’ of February 22, 1919, by Thornstein Veller!” Mr. Harrow did not wait to be tried before John Whalen and the rest of the thugs. He handed in his resignation, with a blistering letter to Dr. Tildsley, asserting:

You are using the school as a medium for conducting a campaign of propaganda in favor of the most reactionary tendencies of our day.... In short, you have made the schools an unhappy place for any sensitive American who refuses to accept your own individual conception of what constitutes Americanism, who prefers rather to accept what the founders of this republic conceived to be the true American ideals.

Also, while dealing with teacher casualties, I must pay honor to Dr. Arthur M. Wolfson, who was principal of the High School of Commerce, and resigned as protest against this White Terror. Dr. Wolfson knew that he was dealing with boys who came from Socialist homes, and he had conceived it his duty as an educator to take a stand of neutrality in the issues of the class struggle. He would teach his students the ideal of freedom of discussion, and a hearing for both sides. For many years he followed that program, and as a result there was in his school an atmosphere of tolerance and fellowship unknown in other New York high schools.

But it had been the custom when election time came round for the history and civics department to take a straw ballot for the presidency; and this time the dreadful discovery was made that three hundred and fifty-four out of the two thousand students had voted for Debs! It was proposed to tell this news in the school weekly, but 81the superintendent in charge ordered this paper suppressed, and rebuked Dr. Wolfson for taking the straw vote. Dr. Wolfson pointed out that the “Literary Digest” was doing the same thing. Also, if the students were for Debs, would it do any good to suppress the fact? Would it not be best to face the fact and deal with it? A little later Dr. Wolfson got his orders about Russia; no longer was there to be free discussion; he was to teach one view and only one view—that is, the official propaganda of the young secretaries of our State Department who, with their aristocratic Russian wives, were conducting a private war against the Russian people without authorization from Congress.

Later, Dr. Wolfson was ordered to enforce a rule forbidding the New York “Call” to be carried in class-rooms or study-halls. So he wrote a dignified letter to the board of superintendents, explaining: “Frankly, during the last two or three years I have not felt free to follow the intellectual habits of a lifetime.” Superintendent Ettinger came back with a letter to the New York “Times,” declaring:

I am very frank to confess that I dissent most heartily from the basic thesis set up by Principal Wolfson that it is the function of our schools to allow students and teachers to express their belief freely, to meet argument with argument, and not either overtly or covertly to suppress opinions which are held in honesty and in good faith.

It is not often that the gang is so frank as that, so we owe thanks to Superintendent Ettinger. Wishing to give him all the fame to which he is entitled, I mention that to a reporter of the New York “Call” he declared that he would bar H. G. Wells from the school forums of New York for having said that Lenin was a great man!


This campaign to make the schools safe for the plutocracy culminated in the passage of the so-called “Lusk laws” at Albany. Senator Lusk was a Republican machine politician, who accepted 137 pieces of silverware, worth a couple of thousand dollars, from New York police 82detectives, for whom he had got a salary raise. This did not put the Senator out of business, nor did it interfere with his laws, which disgraced the statute books of the state for four years. One of the laws was for the purpose of suppressing the Rand School of Social Science. They had already attempted this by a raid on the school and they now attempted it by a law requiring all schools to apply for a license. The Rand School refused to apply, and a long-drawn-out and expensive legal conflict followed.[C]

C. In “The Goose-step” it is stated that when the “Luskers” raided the Rand School they “threw the typewriters and the teachers down the stairs.” I am informed that this is an error; the throwing in question occurred at the office of the New York “Call,” the Russian People’s House, and other places. I talked the other day with a magazine writer who was present at the raid on the Russian People’s House, when a New York police detective ordered an inoffensive elderly Russian teacher to take off his eye-glasses, and then hit the man in the forehead with the butt of his revolver and crushed his skull. The offense of this elderly Russian was teaching algebra to other Russians.

Another of the Lusk laws provided for the expulsion of any teacher who “advocates a form of government other than the government of the United States or of this state.” Please note that this law did not forbid merely the advocacy of violent change, but also of peaceful change. Interesting light was thrown on this during the debate at the Civic Club, previously referred to in these chapters. Mr. Harry Weinberger asked of Dr. Tildsley the question: “Did you ever, in your entire experience in the school system, hear a teacher, either in school or out of school, advocate the overthrow of the government by violence?” Dr. Tildsley answered, “No.” The next question was: “Then what is the need of the law?” Dr. Tildsley did not answer that; he could not very well explain that the purpose of the law was to make it possible for inquisitors, appointed by the state and by the school board, to summon teachers without warning to a secret inquisition, to browbeat them and try to trap them into dangerous admissions, then to give secretly to the capitalist press false and garbled statements, to be spread broadcast over the country, and then to refuse to the teachers any record of the proceedings, or any protection against such outrages.

83The Teachers’ Union issued resolutions denouncing this legislation, and the bigotry and dishonesty displayed in its enforcement. Abraham Lefkowitz, an active member of the Union, was summoned before Dr. Tildsley and Superintendent Ettinger, to be questioned as to his authorship of these resolutions. Superintendent Ettinger had issued an official syllabus on the war, setting forth to all school teachers what they were to teach. It was a compendium of what we now know to be the knaveries of Allied propaganda, and included endorsement of universal military training. In the course of the questioning of Lefkowitz, Dr. Tildsley and Dr. Ettinger got into a wrangle as to whether universal military service and universal military training were the same thing. All this was taken down by a stenographer, and subsequently Mr. Lefkowitz demanded a copy of the record; when he got it, he found that it had been doctored, omitting a great number of the “raw” statements made by Ettinger, which the superintendent realized would not look well in print.

There was an open forum being conducted at the Commercial High School, under the direction of the Rev. John Haynes Holmes. The authorities now required that this open forum should submit a week in advance the names of all proposed speakers. They barred Frank Tannenbaum, an East Side boy who had gone to jail in 1913 as a result of a demonstration of the unemployed, and who subsequently, as a student at Columbia University, had made himself an authority on prison reform. They barred Lincoln Steffens for the offense of having been President Wilson’s personal investigator in Russia. Finally, some one asked Dr. Holmes a question about Lenin, and he replied that he regarded Lenin as a great statesman. For this they barred Dr. Holmes. Then came the Rev. Howard Melish, prominent clergyman of Brooklyn, who praised Dr. Holmes and condemned the board of education. After that the board issued a pledge, which must be signed by all speakers. Among those who refused to sign it was Rabbi Stephen S. Wise; and so the board closed the forum. As one of the teachers said to me, “What they want people to lecture about is Moonlight in Venice.”

This kind of thing had been going on in the New York school system for five years when I visited the city in the 84spring of 1922. At this time the state commissioner of education, in pursuance of the Lusk laws, had appointed an “advisory council” to investigate suspected teachers and deny them licenses. One of the members of this council was Archibald Stevenson, fanatical attorney for the Luskers. Another was Conde B. Pallen, editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia, and snooper-in-chief for the National Civic Federation. Another was Finley J. Shepard, husband of Helen Gould; you may read about this gentleman’s activities on behalf of the plutocracy in two chapters of “The Goose-step,” entitled “The Helen Ghouls” and “The Shepard’s Crook.” Another member was Hugh Frayne, Catholic labor leader, who has climbed to power upon the faces of the deluded wage-workers of New York.

The council was holding sessions at the Bar Association. I went up there, hoping to attend and to tell you about it; but I could not even learn in what room the sessions were being held. All I got to see was a row of suspected teachers, humbly waiting their turn to be browbeaten. And each morning I would read in the newspapers a relay of information, supplied by the Chief Spy. One teacher had said that he “wouldn’t believe atrocity stories unless they were given out by the government.” Another teacher had said that “the Russians were happier now than they had been under the Czar”; another that “Colonel Robins had not been given a hearing”; another that “New York couldn’t be worse run if the Germans were here”; another that “If we go to war I’ll run away and spend a year in the North Woods.” Even school teachers sometimes joke, you know, and I have already mentioned the fact that these teachers did not run away. Mr. Garibaldi Lapolla served as an artillery officer in France; and now he was one of those sitting on the bench, humbly waiting his turn to be browbeaten! Chief Spy Dotey admitted that he had given information against Mr. Lapolla to the Lusk committee!

Also, the Chief Spy issued a report full of charges against teachers. The Teachers’ Council, the “yellow union” maintained by the gang, enthusiastically adopted this report, and called for the barring of various persons from the school forums—the black-list including the names of Jane Addams and Lillian Wald! The State 85Department of Education addressed to principals of public schools a letter instructing them to prepare reports as to the loyalty of every teacher in the system. The principals were to list the names of teachers, and indicate those “for whose morality and loyalty as a citizen” they could vouch, and those “concerning whose morality or loyalty to the government of the United States or to the state of New York” they had reason to doubt. Weirdly enough, those about whom the principal knew nothing, were lumped in with the latter group. Every teacher was guilty until he was proved innocent!

And with these things going on every day—with school principals carrying step-ladders and peering over transoms to discover what their teachers were doing—Superintendent Tildsley had the nerve to stand up before an audience at the Civic Club and say in my hearing that there was no oppression of teachers for their opinions, and that no teacher in the system had anything to lose by being a Socialist! As evidence of the fact, he stated that he had a very good friend, a teacher of English in one of the high schools, who was a member of the Socialist party, and had even been a candidate for office on the Socialist ticket. This lady had never suffered any handicap from her political opinions and activities; Dr. Tildsley went on to say how he had been in her class not long ago, and had heard her explain to her pupils the meaning of the French Revolution, and he would not want the French Revolution explained to his own children any more fairly and intelligently than this teacher had done it.

When my turn came to answer, I said: “Dr. Tildsley does not name the teacher of English who has not suffered from being a Socialist. It happens that I know who she is, because I had dinner at her home yesterday evening, and she told me how Dr. Tildsley had come into her room and had complimented her upon the way she had explained the French Revolution to her students. New York is not the only city in which a teacher is fortunate in belonging to one of the old families, and being able to know the district superintendent as a social equal. But Jessie Wallace Hughan is the last woman in New York who would wish to take advantage of that social prestige. She is a woman with real convictions, and I am sure she will not mind my repeating what she said to me only yesterday 86evening—that since she has run for office on the Socialist ticket some teacher friends have been in such a state of fear that they are hardly willing to be seen speaking with her in public. And twelve years ago, when Miss Hughan was a student at Columbia, she was told by Professor Seligman, in charge of her work, that she could never have a career as a teacher, because she had joined the Socialist party. All the recommendations he gave her were for statistical and research work, never for college work!”[D]

D. Upon submitting proofs of the above to Miss Hughan, I received from her a statement as to her present position. Because she modified the pledge which she signed for the “Luskers,” reserving her rights to freedom of conscience and political action, she was denied a certificate of loyalty by this committee, and although the Lusk laws are now repealed, Miss Hughan has for six years been denied the rank and salary to which she is entitled under the school regulations. She writes: “My present and past principals have urged my appointment. I have letters from the officials responsible, making it clear that my radical beliefs were the sole ground for my non-appointment during the six years. They still refuse, however, to replace my name on the eligible lists; and I am now fulfilling the duties of head of department in the Textile High School, without enjoying the rank and additional five hundred dollars salary that should belong to the position.”

I had something even more definite than that, in answer to Dr. Tildsley’s statement that it does a teacher no harm to be known as a Socialist. It happened that I had been in the New York Public Library, collecting evidence from the files of the “Times,” and I had copied in my note-book an account from that newspaper (April 27, 1919) of a meeting of the Public Education Association addressed by Superintendent Tildsley. According to his friends of the “Times,” this great authority was reported as saying “that in his opinion there was no place for the Marxian Socialist in the New York school system, that there were quite a number of such Socialists in the system at present, that they should be dismissed”—and so on, a long summary of the speech, the substance being that such teachers should be excluded from the system in future.

This citation made Dr. Tildsley uncomfortable for a few minutes, but it did not do him any serious harm, for the simple reason that there were only a couple of hundred people present at this debate, and the news of his humiliation went no further. There were a number of reporters present, and next day the “Tribune” quoted Dr. Tildsley’s remarks at length (May 26, 1922), but did not mention the name of Upton Sinclair. Several other newspapers reported the debate, but only one of them, the “Herald,” mentioned my name. The “Herald” did it in the following 87fashion: “Among the other speakers were ... Upton Sinclair.” A newspaper man who was present told me that I might take this as a compliment; it meant that the reporters and editors having to do with the matter had read the “Brass Check”!


In city after city I found school conditions like these, and in every case I found a little group of men and women opposing them, facing every handicap and humiliation. In two cities the soul and inspiration of this protest was a woman: Margaret Haley in Chicago, and Henrietta Rodman in New York. Henrietta took me in charge, and like Virgil with Dante, led me through the seven hells. She would gather a flock of teachers, and sit by while they told me their troubles in chorus. I counted upon Henrietta to read and revise this manuscript; but last spring she died, and all I can do is to tell about her, and pass on her brave and loving spirit to the future.

Henrietta Rodman came of an old New York family, dating back some two hundred years. Her great-grandfather, Colonel Robert Blackwood, was a member of the First Continental Congress, and would have signed the Declaration of Independence if his death had not intervened. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that this fighting Colonial ancestor kept Henrietta in the school system in New York. Many and many a time he put on his ruffles and his cocked hat, and drew his rusty old sword and stormed into the presence of boards of education and superintendents, or into the columns of capitalist newspapers—to prove that his great-grand-daughter was not a Bolshevik nor an alien enemy! Under the shadow of his revolutionary banner Henrietta fought 88for true Americanism, with the fangs of the Tammany tiger in her flesh.

She was twenty-three years in the school system, yet she never lost her courage, her idealism, or her sense of humor. She was always full of energy, always pleading for the schools; to her pupils she was warm-hearted and loving, interested in new ideas, eager for new adventures. Her father had said to her: “Find the fundamental issue of your day, and concentrate on that.” The great-grandfather had chosen the issue of American independence; the father had chosen the issue of chattel-slavery; and Henrietta chose the issue of wage-slavery.

She had been teaching Latin at Wadleigh High School, and found that ninety-four per cent of the pupils were being forced out because they could not pass the examinations. She proceeded to teach them so that they could pass; but it was against the rule to teach that way, and the principal sent for her and scolded her. She persisted in passing her pupils, and so the city superintendent sent for her; a teacher had no right to criticize her superiors, he declared, and flew into a passion. Suddenly a light leaped into Henrietta’s eyes, and the sword of the old revolutionary colonel swished over the superintendent’s head. “If you storm at me like a primitive man I’ll shriek like a primitive woman!” So at once the superintendent calmed down!

They wanted to give her some real trouble, so they put her in charge of a hundred defective girls. At that time no one knew anything about psychological tests, or what to do with mentally defective children in the schools. Henrietta worked out a course of study by easily graded stages, which the most feeble-minded of them could follow. The principal of the school took this and published it as his own, and so stated before the board of superintendents. Some of these pupils were homeless and sick, and Henrietta got the class to adopt them; that was an unprecedented thing, altogether against the rules, and Henrietta was stormed at some more. They sent her to the Julia Richman High School, one of those terrible old barns that was built apparently before the use of paint was discovered. It was supposed to be one of the most democratic schools in New York City. “But,” said Henrietta, “we can’t call the teachers together, we can’t pass 89a motion, we can’t send a statement to the press or make an application to the school board, without first having the sanction of the school principal!”

There came the George Eliot incident, whereby the spotlight of publicity was turned upon this liberal teacher. She was teaching English, and some girl asked if it was true that George Eliot had lived with a man to whom she was not married. What was Henrietta to do? Should she tell the girl to hush, that was a naughty question? Or should she lie? She explained that George Henry Lewes had had an insane wife, and under the English law could not get a divorce; so he and George Eliot had lived as husband and wife, and had been so accepted by all their friends for the rest of their lifetime. One of the children took this home to her father, and the father took it to the priest, and the priest took it to the pulpit, and the New York “Times” took it to the whole city. There was a terrible uproar—it is so that reputations are made in the radical movement. We have to do something queer or unusual, something supposed to be shocking; and we must manage to be right while we are doing it!

Next came the uproar over married teachers. The board passed a rule that women teachers who got married should automatically lose their jobs; so the women took to concealing their marriages. But now and then one could no longer be concealed, and there would be a case of what Henrietta called “mother-baiting.” The board of education caught one woman about to become a mother, and Henrietta wrote a satirical letter to the newspapers. For this she was suspended for eight months without pay. As she said: “They fined me eighteen hundred dollars, and then they adopted my idea. They have always adopted my ideas, and have always fined me for making them adopt them.”

Henrietta, like myself, supported the war. She was head of a “team” that sold fifteen thousand dollars worth of Liberty bonds; but that did not save her from being “investigated” by military intelligence agents. They got hold of her pupils while she was away; the agents were suspicious, because she had been teaching from Frederic C. Howe’s book, “European Cities at Work.” They discovered that what she had been teaching from the book was city planning. But it was an offense at that time to 90let children know that the Germans planned their cities well!

Henrietta was summoned by Superintendent Tildsley. She had been making a disturbance because the spy department was having the pupils write essays on Bolshevism as a means of finding out what the children were being taught at home. Henrietta brought along a stenographer to take down the interview—so little trust did she have in Dr. Tildsley; but they would not let the stenographer take notes. They summoned her again before the board. She had written a letter to the Brooklyn “Eagle,” and the “Eagle” had not published it, but had turned it over to the board. They had an assistant district attorney present to try to twist her statements; they had no evidence, but they tried to get some out of her, luring her into testifying against herself. They furnished a stenographer for this meeting, and when she got the stenographer’s transcript it had been “doctored.” In American political life today you must realize that you are dealing, quite literally, with criminals in office, and there is no limit to what they will do to you.

At this time Henrietta was organizing the high school teachers, and the principal forbade them to meet unless he was present; so it was that the principals took to carrying step-ladders and peering over the transoms, to see if the teachers were violating orders. Said Henrietta: “One might think, if we are fit to teach the children in the schools, we are fit to meet and discuss our own problems and ideas. But, no! Here are a million children and twenty-five thousand teachers, and all the thinking for the whole system is to be done by twenty-two men. If anybody else presumes to think, that is impertinence.”

She explained the situation to me; teachers as a rule are people of quiet tastes, not good fighters, and the community knows nothing about how they are treated. For example, during the war-time, New York City agreed to cancel all its contracts for the purchase of school supplies, because prices had gone up, and it would not be fair to make the contractors fulfil the old contracts. But no one thought about the contracts with the teachers, and what was fair to them. The teachers suffered in silence, or retired to some other occupation, giving place to less 91competent people. And who gave a thought to the children, who were now to be taught by the incompetent?

It happened once that Henrietta met Mrs. Tildsley at a reception, and there was a discussion. “If you don’t like the way the schools are run, why do you stay?” asked the superintendent’s wife; to which Henrietta answered: “I stay because I am not willing to leave the children to Dr. Tildsley.” To me she said: “I have enlisted as if for a war. I am furiously patriotic; I believe in the future of America with all my heart and soul, and I am going to make freedom a reality here. I am going to stick to the death.” She did this.

We were sitting on the little roof-garden of the Civic Club one spring evening, and there were six or eight teachers in the group. I could not see their faces in the darkness, but I could hear their eager voices, their murmurs of assent to Henrietta’s statements. With a pencil and pad I noted down in the dark one after another of her sentences: “Tight mindedness and fear are the occupational diseases of teaching.... In the business world there is no such thing as unquestioned obedience; that belongs only in teaching.... There is more kowtowing in our schools than anywhere else in the world.”

She told me how she had been assigned to teach “Americanization” classes. There was a class of union painters, foreigners who had asked for help; naturally, they wanted a union teacher, and they chose Henrietta. But the superintendent in charge said that she was a dangerous radical, and they could not have her! Here was a school system with twenty-two per cent of its children, more than two hundred thousand, according to official statistics, coming to school suffering from malnutrition. According to the director of physical training, more than half the children who come to the high schools have physical defects. And if you try to do anything whatever about these conditions, if you have any sense of public responsibility for the poverty, the exploitation and neglect of children—why then, you are a Bolshevik and a social outcast!

A young teacher spoke up, a girl who had just begun work. The principal had given her mimeographed directions as to how to teach. There was a book containing all the problems, and day by day she read from these sheets; 92she was merely a phonograph. They would hold a stop-watch on her pupils to see the number of words per minute they could read, and they would rate her according to that. They figured what they called the “pupil load” of a teacher. Every teacher had to carry a “pupil load” of 710; that was the minimum, and they never let you get below it. There was supposed also to be a maximum, but they never minded driving you above it; they would report the extra pupils as “visitors.” Another teacher spoke up; she was teaching typewriting, and they had gone through the books and cut out a sentence of Emerson’s attributing to society some responsibility for criminals. That was radicalism!

Henrietta is gone; but her soul lives, and likewise the teachers’ union she helped to found. This book goes out as a call to the teachers and friends of teachers, not merely in New York, but all over America, to come to the aid of the children, to save the young and groping minds of the new generation from the bigotry and squalid ignorance which afflicts our adults. I quote you a letter written last year by a high school boy of Brooklyn, and sent to me by a teacher in that school. The teacher does not say how he answered this letter; read it and see if you would know how to answer, if such a letter came to you:

Brooklyn, N. Y., Aug. 31, 1922.

Dear Mr. ——:

I have never had the pleasure of being in one of your classes, but it will not deter me from writing to you. Somehow I believe that you are one who may be able to help us where I and my friend have pondered many, many hours and still could not achieve solution.

We are young—youths just upon the threshold of learning the way of our feet in the world of men. And when the week’s work is done and we have a day or two or three all to ourselves, what are we to do?

Bear with me a moment. All about us yawns the pit of mediocrity. With few exceptions, the men and women and the sweet boys and girls I meet jade on me. It is appalling—their unlovely spirit—mediocrity. They are without greatness, without camaraderie, never do much of anything that is virile and stinging and resentful, nor ever feel the prod and urge of life to will over its boundaries and be devilish and daring. I can see through them and beyond them, and all there is to see is their frailty, their meagerness, their sordidness and pitifulness. They are miserable little egotisms, like all the other little humans, fluttering their May-fly dance of an hour. As far as we are concerned in the matter they can go hang. We laugh at the ridiculous effrontery 93of their efforts to crystallize us in the particular mold of their two-by-two, cut-and-dried, conventional world.

Don’t you see? Beyond all of us and the spirit of us that is a-bubble whispers Romance, Adventure. We have read the books and are aflame with purple hints of a world beyond our world. When the week-ends roll around, we want to do novel and stirring things, we want to realize ourselves, to chance and boast and dare, to put laughter in our throats, and quicken the throb of our blood. Heavens! We have considered and counseled a myriad times, and the only conclusion we reached was that we were as abysmally ignorant of life as we were or thought we were profoundly wise.

We have no morality in the matter. We will be grateful for anything, providing it is provocative of the thrills and novelty we seek. And please do not consider any such insipidity as taking a hike to the country or a trip to Bear Mt. They are commonplaces, don’t you see? For instance, a séance with a medium would have been a glorious suggestion—or something more unusual. But this is only a sample of the many possible things that would lend color and individuality to our days.

So we who are merely young, appeal to you, a little naively perhaps, but with stern sincerity, in the hope that you who have passed through our stage of evolution may sympathize with us and may be able to help us in the way that we wish to be helped.

To me this letter is like a flashlight thrown suddenly upon the minds of the young people. Our whole problem of education is summed up in it; and I ask again: Would you know what to answer. I, for my part, would tell these lads to find one of the big strikes which are always going on, say in the clothing trades of New York, and attempt to read the Constitution and so come into contact with the realities of the class struggle. But, of course, a teacher who gave that advice would cease to be a teacher. Those who hold their jobs and get their promotions in the system are those who follow the mimeographed formulas, and see that the pupils read the required number of words per minute. The result is a newspaper item from the New York “Times” of May 26, 1922; I quote the first paragraph:

Two school girls were found yesterday afternoon, clasped in each other’s arms, lying on the floor of a kitchen of an apartment in the tenement house at 75 Van Alst Avenue, Long Island City. The room was filled with gas and the discovery was made just in time to save them from death by asphyxiation. The girls were Dora Boylan, 15 years old, daughter of a widow who occupied the apartment, and who at the time was at work in a factory near by, and Agnes Dougherty, also 15, of 28 Hunterspoint Avenue, Long Island City. They had made up their minds to die rather than go to school.



Let us take next the school system of Chicago. Here is a city of three million people, with representatives of most of the races and nations and tribes of the world; a great port, a great railroad center, a meat packing and manufacturing and banking center. The owners of these industries contribute the necessary cash, and finance alternately two rival political machines; candidates are chosen who are satisfactory to the “invisible government,” and with the help of four or five great capitalist newspapers the candidates are elected. The purpose for which they are elected is to protect Big Business while it plunders the city; incidentally, and on the side, the political officials plunder all they can.

The city being a strong union center, the school teachers are organized. The grade teachers form the Chicago Teachers’ Federation, and the business representative of this federation is Margaret Haley; one of those terrible people known as a “walking delegate”—that is, she goes about among the masters of the city, asserting rights for those who are not supposed to have rights. She is hated and slandered, but continues to clamor for the teachers. For a generation the school board and politicians in chorus with the capitalist newspapers have insisted that the teachers could not be paid a living wage, the city was too poor. Nearly twenty-five years ago Margaret Haley took up the question of tax-dodging by the great corporations, and I shall tell later on how she made five of these corporations pay taxes on their franchise valuations.

The business representative of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation lives always in the midst of some tumultuous political issue. She was in the midst of one when I arrived in Chicago, in May, 1922, the city being in the throes of a school graft scandal. The attorney for the school board had just been indicted by the grand jury, and the president of the board and many other members were soon to be indicted. Millions had been wasted—nobody could guess how much. At the same time the governor of the state was being tried for appropriating 95thirty thousand dollars of the state’s money; the jury acquitted him—and then some members of the jury got jobs from the governor, and were tried in their turn. The day of my arrival it was discovered that the chief clerk of the city jail had stolen thirty-six hundred dollars of the money taken from the prisoners. The Chicago “Tribune” published an editorial headed: “Is $10 Safe Anywhere?”

The answer to this question is No; and if you ask the reason, it is the Chicago “Tribune.” Turn to page 270 of “The Brass Check,” and read the story of how the “Tribune” robbed the school children of enormous sums. This paper, and also the “Daily News,” have their buildings on school land; and they got leases at absurdly low rentals, the leases extending for ninety-nine years, with no provision for revaluation during the entire period. In order to put this job over, the “Tribune” had got its own attorney appointed on the school board!

The affair created a tremendous scandal, and during the administration of Mayor Dunne there were some school board members not under Big Business control, and these attempted to have the leases declared invalid; whereupon the “Tribune” and the “News” started a crusade of slander against the school board and against Mayor Dunne, who appointed the school board. The “Tribune” calls itself “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” and is undoubtedly the most powerful newspaper in the Middle West. The “Daily News” is the most powerful evening paper; and the two of them, according to William Marion Reedy, “rallied to their support all the corrupt and vicious element of the Chicago slums, likewise the forces that could be controlled by the street railways and other public service corporations.” They elected a mayor who was their tool, and he, in defiance of law, turned some school board members out of office, and the courts upheld the leases! Here, you see, are two bands of highwaymen, operating under the cloak of “patriotism” and “hundred per cent Americanism,” and robbing the school children of Chicago of sums beyond estimate. Every politician and office-holder in the city knows that, and follows this high example; and so it comes about that $10 is not safe anywhere in Chicago.

The first place to which I went was Margaret Haley’s 96office. She gave me a chair, and started to tell me the news, but the telephone rang; it rang every few minutes during our chat, and I listened, and little by little this scene became unreal—it wasn’t a business woman’s office in Chicago, it was an act from one of those old-fashioned “muck-raking” plays which used to be written by Charles Klein and George Broadhurst and others, twenty years or so ago. You couldn’t produce such plays in America today, you would be sent to jail for “suspicion of criminal syndicalism.” In these plays the hero, an upright young politician, or maybe a newspaper man, would be hunting a band of grafters, and tied up in a tangle of plots and counter-plots. You would see him in his office, with breathless messengers running in; or at the telephone in swift conversations, giving orders and thwarting the moves of his enemies.

I had my note-book and pencil ready, and it occurred to me that you might be interested to hear two or three minutes of the conversation which goes on in the office of the business representative of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation, in these days of “normalcy” and “hundred per cent Americanism” triumphant. So I wrote a little scene from a play, a regular thrilling melodrama, with plots and counterplots, betrayals and raids and sudden surprises, grafters getting away with their loot and grand juries’ representatives bursting in upon them—all the stock stage material. But alas, when I brought it to Margaret Haley to read, I discovered that she had no idea she was dramatic, and didn’t like it; also, the particular bit of melodrama to which I had been witness had never been brought home to her, and her connection with it could not be revealed without pointing to certain very precious sources of information. And so my stage scene had to be “cut,” and you will have to learn about Chicago school graft from plain narrative prose.

The public schools of Chicago still have some land which the grafters have not stolen. There is a tract of one square mile on the outskirts of the city, and in 1921 a bill was introduced in the state legislature to authorize the school board to sell it to the grafters. The Teachers’ Federation protested, and received in reply a letter from Mr. Bither, attorney for the school board, saying that the expenses of holding this land for the schools were such 97that if the teachers insisted upon its being held they must be prepared to have their salaries cut five hundred thousand dollars! The business representative of the teachers investigated and ascertained that the cost of holding this land was literally and absolutely nothing; if any money had been paid it had been paid illegally. So Mr. Bither’s proposition came to this: the teachers must stand by and let the grafters rob the schools, or else the teachers themselves would be robbed!

Instead of bowing to this threat, the teachers appealed to the public; they demonstrated that the figures presented to the mayor by Mr. Bither, showing the money spent for running the schools and for teachers’ salaries, had been juggled. Mr. Bither had overstated the amount paid for teachers’ salaries by $868,000 and understated the amount paid for administrative salaries by $314,000. When he had wanted a big appropriation from the legislature, he had presented to this legislature tables showing that the teachers’ salaries were very low; but when he had wanted to keep the teachers from getting this money, he had presented to the mayor tables showing that their salaries were higher.

All this, of course, led the teachers to go thoroughly into the expenditure of school funds. Reports began to come to the federation from one source after another. The legislature had appropriated thirteen million dollars, for the schools, and the school board was spending it in a hurry, so that the business men would get it instead of the teachers. School principals were called on the telephone and compelled to order quantities of stuff—office furniture, chairs, desks, moving pictures, telephones, pianos, rugs, phonographs. A pamphlet issued by the Chicago Teachers’ Federation showed that the rate of increase of appropriations for “incidentals” in 1921 was ten times the rate of increase of the total appropriations for teachers’ salaries in 1921.

Then came the news of strange goings on among the “engineers,” the school custodians. It was charged that the vice-president of the school board had got increases in salaries for the engineers and they had generously paid to him the three months’ back pay included in the measure. The engineers came to the Masonic Temple to pay this money—between $75,000 and $125,000. 98Every man presented the exact amount, and they checked him up carefully. And later on they had a banquet, and presented with fulsome speeches a magnificent silver service. An amusing feature of this story is that the chief of police of Chicago furnished two “front-office men” to sit and guard the sums of money which the engineers brought in. You have to take every precaution, in a city where $10 is not safe anywhere!


I went away from Chicago in May; and coming back in June, on my way home, I discovered that this Chicago melodrama is a continuous performance. A new act was on, and the business representative of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation Was in the midst of another whirlwind. The city was on the point of getting a new president of the school board, and he was worse than the old one, if such a thing were possible. He was a physician, Dr. John Dill Robertson, formerly head of the Bennett Medical College, which had been exposed in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” February 7th, 1914. Margaret Haley had had the article reproduced photographically, with its headlines: “High School Credentials for Sale. Illustration of Irregular Methods by which Commercially Conducted Medical Colleges Admit Students Contrary to Law.” The article told how a student had applied to Dr. Robertson’s college, presenting credits for a year and a half of high school work, and the registrar of the college got him a certificate supposed to represent a full four years’ high-school course. They got this signed by a county school superintendent in Wisconsin, after the applicant had passed an examination for which the registrar furnished him both the questions and the answers! A copy of this article was mailed to every member of the city council of Chicago—but Dr. Robertson was confirmed by this body just the same!

Meantime the graft revelations continued. I have before me a pamphlet by Judge McKinley, chief justice of the criminal court of Cook County, detailing the devices by which the fake purchasing companies made their millions 99out of the schools. There are pages of details about such concerns, their imaginary offices, their contracts for every kind of material which could be used in a big city school system. There was a deal for a hundred thousand tons of coal, without any competitive bidding; another deal of $244,000 for “surplus Shipping Board boilers”—these being boilers offered for sale by the Shipping Board and purchased by a dummy concern, whose head was a former school board member. This man, Fitzgerald, had “never had a bank account until this sale took place”; and the boilers were bought on the recommendation of Davis, the president of the school board, described as “a nice little fellow who did what he was told.” Says Judge McKinley:

There was “the phonograph deal” of the Hiawatha Company, headed by State Commerce Commissioner P. H. Moynihan; “the six skinny cows” sent to the parental school, as milk producers for the three hundred little truants confined there; the stationery and school supply contracts between the board and Davis’ nephews; the tearing out of expensive plumbing in school buildings to “make work” for Metzger’s “steam heating and ventilating company”; the sale of coal in certain districts to the schools by certain firms who made contributions of 50 cents a ton to board officials; the “sale” of buildings on school property by Bither, the attorney for that board, and the “splitting” of the rents collected from tenants who continued to live in them for two years after they had sold them as additions to the Forrestville and Wendell Phillips schools.

You will wish to know the outcome of this particular act of the continuous Chicago melodrama. William A. Bither, attorney for the school board, and Edwin S. Davis, president of the board, were tried for conspiracy and acquitted, together with thirteen others, including the boss of the gang. Some witnesses had disappeared; others had “forgotten” what they had sworn to before the grand jury; but most significant of all, this clever board had taken the precaution not to pass rules governing its own procedure—and the court instructed the jury that in the absence of rules, the business manager’s rules held good! It was not a crime for board members to sell to their own friends and relatives, nor to sell to companies in which they, the board members, owned stock! It was not a crime to buy supplies without bids! It was not a crime to make bad bargains in purchasing! To have these things proven in court cost the people of Chicago some 100two hundred thousand dollars—in addition to the millions already wasted.

Chicago got a new mayor, who, by political subtlety too intricate to detail, got rid of the old school board, and of Dr. Robertson as president. The last word of the great medical educator was a letter to the new board, explaining the wonderful legacy he was leaving them, in the form of a commission to study the school housing question; and so, when I came back to Chicago in December, 1923, to read the proofs of this book, I found yet another act of the melodrama on, and the business representative of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation in the midst of another whirlwind! This commission and its Big Business masters had set out to foist upon the people of Chicago the wonderful new “platoon system” of schools, as it is now working full blast in Detroit, the very latest wrinkle in Ford factory standardization applied to the minds of children.

Needless to say, in a city where $10 is not safe anywhere, the schools are hideously overcrowded. There is a new building program, amounting to thirty million dollars, and this hurts the plutocracy even to think about. So one day, after a school board session, the kept press of Chicago exploded all over the front page with the news that the school board had discussed a wonderful plan to save all that money, and put half a million children on half time, and hire eleven thousand new teachers, and get double service out of the schools by running them nine hours a day, six days a week, twelve months a year on the “platoon system” as it exists in Detroit.

The first thing to be got clear about this newspaper story is that it was a simultaneous lie. The school board had not considered any such plan, either at its regular meeting or at any committee meeting. The Chicago Teachers’ Federation keeps a court stenographer at every session and has a complete transcript of every word that is spoken—this just because of the newspapers’ habit of shameless lying. But for some reason not easy to guess, the board members failed to make a formal repudiation of this published false news; the papers went on day after day outlining what the board was about to do; and so it was plain that some power behind the scenes was 101setting out to force the hand of a new and supposed-to-be-liberal school board.

The Chicago teachers decided to find out for themselves about this new Detroit system and how it is working. They sent a committee of nine class-room teachers, who did not wait the convenience of superintendents, but went right into class-rooms at the opening hour, and spent several days wandering about in the great assembling plants for goslings. They found Detroit teachers in secret revolt against the new system—and incidentally much puzzled to learn that it was being boosted in Chicago as a saver of money and building space. The members of the school board in Detroit had been having rows, and calling one another impolite names because of the costliness of the system; and as for space, one Chicago teacher asked: “Why aren’t you using the platoon system in this school?” The answer was: “We haven’t room enough!”

If it is not money and not building space, what is it? To quote the report of the Chicago teachers: “All special work is outlined, standardized, and supervised from some central authority, so that children derive no benefit from the originality and experience of the individual teacher, or from her knowledge of their particular needs. The teachers know the names of but few children in each group, because of the large numbers with which they deal.” Again: “If fatigue and inability to give attention are features of modern life, the children are certainly experiencing life.”

So it appears that this Detroit system is a contrivance to suppress every trace of individuality in school teachers, and make every one of them a phonograph, repeating formulas set before her in print; to prescribe not merely her words but her states of mind, and the “attitudes to be acquired” by her pupils. One teacher read me the specifications, and said: “It’s enough to raise the hair on your head.”

What is the “central authority” which now shapes the minds of all the children of all the wage-slaves of our great metropolis of automobiles? We shall inquire before long, and find that it is the same interlocking directorate we know so well. And here is their master achievement; how well they know it, how proud they are of it, 102you may learn from their official statement, written by the man who has the job in charge—Mr. Charles L. Spain, deputy superintendent of schools of Detroit. Says this great educator: “During the war the public schools came to be recognized as a powerful agency through which to spread propaganda. It is certain that society will expect more from the schools in this respect than in the past.” And he goes on to explain that the “platoon system” gets the children all ready, and every child in the building can be reached every day! When this new scheme has been set up in all our schools, big and little—and it won’t take them but a few years—it will be possible for Judge Gary or Mr. Morgan to press a button at nine o’clock in the morning, and by twelve o’clock noon every child of our twenty-three million will be ready to go out and kill the “Reds.”


It is important to note that a great part of the opposition to graft and propaganda and repression in the Chicago schools has come from classroom teachers. That is the real significance of a struggle which has been going on for many years, over the question of the teachers organizing and being affiliated with labor unions. Eight years ago Big Business put in as president of the school board a gentleman named Jacob Loeb, who proceeded to enforce a resolution forbidding teachers to belong to unions. Sixty-eight teachers were dismissed, of whom thirty-eight were officers or active members of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation. So this federation was forced to withdraw from affiliation with labor, and is still withdrawn.

Mr. Loeb was so satisfactory to the plutocracy that first a Democratic and then a Republican administration appointed him. A Hebrew workers’ union was induced to support Mr. Loeb’s candidacy by the statement that the Catholic Federation was opposed to it; but at this time Roger Sullivan, the Democratic Catholic boss, was secretly supporting the reappointment of Loeb by Mayor Thompson, the Republican boss! Mayor Thompson 103afterwards stated that Mr. Loeb cried in his office and begged for the reappointment. Anyhow, the Chicago teachers fought the “Loeb rule,” as it was called, and the unions backed them. So the Loeb rule has fallen into disuse, and Chicago is one city in which the teachers run their own affairs.

But, of course, the teachers are powerless to clean out the school system; it would be Bolshevism and Sovietism if they were to try. The teachers are mere employes, and the principals and superintendents are their “superiors”—this in spite of the fact that to be a grade teacher in Chicago you have to have educational qualifications, while the friends of politicians find it easy to pass the examinations for principalships.

In a city where $10 is not safe anywhere, most of the attention of the teachers naturally has to be devoted to the getting of a living wage. Throughout this book you will find stories of teachers in revolt over this question, so let me say once for all that the rise in prices which cut the salaries of teachers to less than half, was not confined to Los Angeles and New York; it was a universal condition. The teachers in Chicago showed that between 1897 and 1919, the increase in the cost of living had been 349 per cent, so, in spite of the raises they had won, their salaries had been cut squarely in half; they had lost a dollar a day in buying power from their 1897 salaries!

Yet the grafters were fertile in devices to keep the teachers from getting more money. Years ago, under the regime of Superintendent Cooley, they established a fake salary schedule; that is, they had one schedule on paper and another which they actually paid. They would grant increases, and then take them back; they would adopt schedules, and then suspend their operation; they would require examinations for admission to the higher salaries, and then pass but very few, and burn the papers in a great hurry. An investigation by the Teachers’ Federation showed that only sixty-two out of a possible twenty-six hundred were getting the maximum salary! They called this scheme the “merit system,” and it is still in use in many of our schools—the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association being a clearing-house for such bright ideas.

104Understand, there was a thousand dollar maximum, and the teachers had been trying for ten years to get it, in vain. And now somebody worked out a new arrangement; they were to get a raise if they got five points of credit in five outside courses of study. This was supposed to take three years—and keep them waiting meantime! But Margaret Haley discovered a loop-hole, an institute at which the teachers could take five courses in one year. The board had intended to change that regulation, but the teachers beat them to it; they rushed to the institute and registered for five courses at once. The teachers regarded this as a great lark; they swarmed into the place, and studied till late every night. The authorities pretended to be out of application blanks; but the Teachers’ Federation had some printed in a hurry!

Sixteen hundred teachers thus got in, and this broke the back of Superintendent Cooley’s scheme. He had assured the big business men of the city that he could hold down the salaries, but now he had a pain in the head and stayed in Europe; when he came back, he was made president of D. C. Heath & Co., one of the big school-book publishers. After that, the Commercial Club of Chicago made him its “educational commissioner,” and for five years paid him a salary to study the training of wage-slaves in Europe, so that he might come back and take charge of the “continuation schools” of the city. Make note, please that this gentleman was a past president of the National Education Association; we shall meet these “great educators” one by one in their home districts, and observe just what their greatness consists in.

I have mentioned how Margaret Haley made the corporations pay their school taxes. This happened in 1900—there was a shortage in the school funds, and the board of education went so far as to take away from the teachers money which had already been paid to them. The income of the schools was supposed to be derived from taxes; and Margaret Haley discovered that there were no assessments on franchise valuations being levied against corporations in Chicago. They were not even filing schedules, as under the law they were required to do. So the Chicago Teachers’ Federation set to work to bring mandamus proceedings against five public service corporations, 105and after three years of agitation and legal controversy, these five corporations paid six hundred thousand dollars in one year—of which nearly half went to the schools. Somebody composed a poem on the subject:

/* Mandamus proceedings were brought by the teachers Against the incorporate, tax-dodging creatures; “No, no,” said the ladies, “you cannot flim-flam us, We’ll keep up the fighting though every man damn us.” */

After that the big highwaymen resolved to put Margaret Haley out of business. The Chicago “Tribune” came out with a story that she had applied for a four thousand dollar pension, and it was then discovered that she had for seven years been collecting two salaries, one from the board of education and the other from the teachers. The “Tribune” had told so many lies about the teachers that it thought nothing mattered. But Margaret Haley brought a libel suit, and proved that she had had no salary from the board of education and that her salary as business representative of the Teachers’ Federation was precisely the same as she would have got as a school teacher. The jury brought in a verdict in Miss Haley’s favor, and she collected five hundred dollars from the “Tribune,” and presented it to the Labor party!

By way of countering the Teachers’ Federation, the politicians of Chicago have got up the usual fake organization. It is called the “Teachers’ League,” and nobody can find out who belongs to it, or who gives it the authority to speak for the teachers. But it speaks; and the “Tribune” and other kept newspapers take up its voice and broadcast it. This fake “League” is used for lobbying in the school board and the state legislature, and more especially for the slandering of union teachers. It appeals to every kind of ignorance and base prejudice; charging that those who run the Teachers’ Federation are “Bolsheviks,” and more terrible yet, that they are atheists! When the “Tribune” calls you names like this you cannot punish it; Henry Ford found that out when the “Tribune” called him an Anarchist! You know how much of an Anarchist Henry Ford is, and so you can judge how much of a Bolshevik and atheist the leaders of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation are! As I write this book, a superintendent and two instructors at the Chicago Parental School are suspended, as result of a coroner’s probe into the suicide 106of a fifteen-year-old boy, who hanged himself to escape torture. And I wonder, if I were to call the owners of the Chicago “Tribune” the murderers of this boy, would anybody sue me for libel?

It is time we gave some attention to the fate of the children, in this city where $10 is not safe anywhere. Let me take you to one Chicago high school as portrayed to me two years ago. This school gets up entertainments, which take the boys out of the class-rooms; pupils often fail in their classes, because they have been playing in an opera “to make money for the school.” Money is collected at such entertainments—and replaces scholarship as an aim. The school takes part in industrial exhibits; the boys work to prepare these exhibits, and prizes are collected, and the money goes into the general fund. When the state stops giving cash prizes, the school at once stops competing. The school publishes a paper; it is a wretched paper, of poor literary quality; the “boosters” have charge of it, and it makes money “for the fund.” A certain teacher in the school has become an artist, and has painted a beautiful picture; it is proposed to purchase this picture for the school, and some of the school funds are to be used for the purpose. The teachers and pupils have been working under heavy pressure to earn this money, but they are not permitted to have anything to say concerning the purpose for which the money shall be expended.

The boys know of such conditions, and so do the teachers; the school is, to use the phrase of one of them, “a hell of hate.” Poor and foreign-born parents, coming to the school, are insulted and abused. Teachers are scolded before their classes. The teachers take the matter up in a faculty meeting, and the principal is interviewed by a committee from the faculty, and hears a strenuous and detailed discussion of his conduct. The teachers object among other things to having their efficiency judged by their ability to sell tickets. The principal promises to reform, but does not, and finally thirty teachers sign a petition to the superintendent. Before delivering it, they have one more conference with the principal, who admits his faults—and then sets out to avenge himself, by demoting three of the teachers, and marking down the rating of another from the highest to 107a very low grade. A woman member of the committee is summoned to a “grilling”—in the course of which she hears all the other members of the committee berated. A day or two later there breaks out into all the newspapers of Chicago a scandal story, and the principal gives an interview hinting that “there is one example of radical teaching in the school.”

It appears that the Association of Commerce had asked that on Armistice day all the pupils should face the East, and silence should be maintained for one minute while everybody thought about the dead in France. But two students refused to face the East, and so the newspapers called them “Bolsheviks.” It was intended to implicate this brave woman teacher—although the two boys were not her pupils, nor even in her department. The boys were hauled up before the authorities, and questioned as to their “Bolshevism.” They admitted that they did not believe in war. As to facing the East, that was a Mohammedan custom, and one of them was a Jew, and neither a Mohammedan!

I could tell you of another school in which the lunchroom, supposed to be operated at cost, has been used for money-making. I could tell you of cases of cruelty to pupils, and the abuse of parents. I could tell you of one of Chicago’s few real educators, Principal McAndrew of the Hyde Park High School, who was forced out because he refused to promote the incompetent son of a school board official.

I have in my possession a statement signed by two Chicago high school boys, reciting how, at the instance of their principal, Mr. Lewis A. Bloch of the Marshall High School, they agreed to work for the board of education. They went to the office of the board at 460 South State Street, and Mr. Bachrach, in whose office they were put to work, agreed to pay them three dollars a week to cover their car fare and lunch. On the afternoon of the last day of the week Mr. Bachrach informed them that “suddenly and unexpectedly the Chicago Board of Education’s treasury had gone dry, and that the three dollars compensation could not be given us.” These boys ask me to withhold their names. Another boy states: “I have since found that this has been done time and again, and also with the same excuse at hand.”

108These Chicago schools are strenuous for the “Americanization” of the foreigners—which means despising the foreign children and calling them names. It meant in war-time the activities of spies—boys paid to report what this teacher has said, and that. Also, it means the repression of every kind of liberal activity. During the recent slaughter of the Jews by the Poles, the Jewish people in Chicago were stirred up, and organized a protest parade. Some Jewish children asked to be permitted to attend this parade; they got up a petition, and their request was denied. They argued that they had been allowed to attend all kinds of bankers’ parades and Association of Commerce parades; why not an anti-pogrom parade. The answer of their principal was that if they went to the parade they would all be “fired.” Nevertheless, the Jewish children went to the parade, and there were so many of them that they were not “fired.”

The schools of Chicago are a happy hunting ground for every form of reactionary propaganda. The War Department supplies “dope” for the high school papers, and it is published. The boys hate this military training, but they take it; as one boy explained to his teacher, “I’ve been bullied for two years; now it’s my turn to bully somebody else.” Many years ago Chicago had a great superintendent of schools, Mrs. Ella Flagg Young, and she tried to keep this curse of militarism away from the children. She introduced in courses for every grade a little time to be given to the teaching of peace; but the president of the school board, attorney for the packers who came to board meetings drunk, cut it out.

The bankers come to set up their golden calf in the schools; also the various commercial men who want to use the schools for advertising—putting their “dope” into the writing books. For example, the book-keeping classes copy pages of the transactions of Marshall, Field & Co. A recent investigation in the technical schools showed that employers were calling up for high school students, and even specifying their church affiliations. Such employers use the public schools to train their apprentices, and then violate the constitutional rights of citizens. The Yellow Taxi-cab Company sends to schools to ask if would-be drivers have union relatives!

The big Babbitts of the Association of Commerce, desiring 109flocks of little Babbits, arranged for organizing in the schools what they called “Junior Associations of Commerce.” The boys must be called out of class to listen to lectures by Mr. Sam Insull, monarch of all the gas tanks he surveyed, who made a tour of the schools to tell how he succeeded by never looking at the clock. Another business man told the kids that labor “slacked” during the war; and as many of these Chicago kids came from union homes, they resented it. When the grown-up Association of Commerce failed to support appropriations for the schools, the kids at one school got on their dignity and withdrew. Then the Chicago Federation of Labor had a bright thought—why should there not be a Junior Federation of Labor in the schools? Why should not labor leaders come to tell the kids how they succeeded by solidarity? A movement for this program was started, and the name Junior Associations of Commerce was changed in a hurry to Civic Industrial Clubs! How badly some labor representation is needed in Chicago schools you may judge from a story told me by a parent, whose little boy asked his teacher, “What is the militia for?” The answer was, “To put down labor strikes.”


We have now examined the public schools of three of our largest cities. We are going to visit a number of other cities, and it will be convenient to begin with San Francisco and cross the continent eastward.

San Francisco has a long and picturesque history of graft. Its Big Business is in the hands of descendants of gamblers and hold-up men, who have run its affairs in that spirit. Everything has been for sale, including the leaders of the exploited working class. The old line union leaders of San Francisco were, and to a great extent still are, agents made use of by business men against their business rivals. Some twenty years ago Eugene Schmitz, head of the musicians’ union, led the workers into politics, and was triumphantly elected mayor of the city. Behind the scenes as boss sat Abraham Ruef, a lawyer; and these two became almost as important in the world of graft as 110the heads of traction, water, gas, and electric light companies.

In 1906 came the earthquake and fire, and in the resulting confusion fortunes were made. Everything had a tax on it—the privilege of building a street-car line or the privilege of building a chimney on your home. Every form of vice was included—you may judge the moral tone of this community by the fact that one of the most prominent men in San Francisco “society,” a regent of the University of California, was shown to have invested trust funds in a “French restaurant” building, intended to be used for his own profit as a house of assignation; and after this exposure the gentleman stayed on as regent of the university!

One courageous newspaper editor, Fremont Older, and one public-spirited rich man, Rudolph Spreckels, undertook the exposure and punishment of these grafters. Francis J. Heney was put to work, and he made up his mind that for the first time in American history the big insiders, and not the little agents, were to pay the price. He went after Patrick Calhoun, president of the street railways; and the result was the most terrific civic convulsion in American history. Of course, all the interlocking directorate rallied to Mr. Calhoun’s rescue; they were equally guilty, and must stand or fall by their confederate. While trying the case in court, Heney was shot in the head, but he recovered, and the prosecution was continued; Mr. Calhoun was saved from the penitentiary only by the purchase of the jury which was trying him.

In spite of all the efforts of Older and Heney, the outcome was that to which we are accustomed; the little fellows were punished. Abe Ruef was sent to the penitentiary, while Schmitz was let off by the Appelate Court. Fremont Older, realizing that Ruef was merely a tool of the real criminals, became sorry for him and tried to obtain his pardon. Nothing was ever said about Ruef’s returning the plunder he had collected, and he is now living in retirement upon this. Ex-Mayor Schmitz has recently been re-elected one of the supervisors of the city. But he has now learned his lesson, and takes the orders of Herbert Fleishhacker, the banker who now runs both the city and state administrations. If you have read “The Goose-step,” you have made the acquaintance of 111Herbert Fleishhacker’s brother, Mortimer, who is the grand duke of the board of regents of our state university, and owns the “hell fleet of the Pacific,” the fishing vessels whose horrors are a legend of the San Francisco waterfront. It is interesting to note that Mortimer Fleishhacker has just appointed a new president of his university, an astronomer named Campbell, whose son is in the bond department of Herbert’s bank; and the new president has shown his loyalty to his masters by declaring in a public address that “higher education is a privilege and not a right.”

What has been the fate of the public schools of San Francisco you may judge when I tell you that a trombone player in the Schmitz orchestra was appointed superintendent of schools of the city, and held that high position for eighteen years. Alfred Roncovieri was a union man, representing what was supposed to be a union labor ticket; nevertheless, the teachers of San Francisco were persecuted for belonging to the American Federation of Teachers. They were ordered to withdraw, and some two hundred out of two hundred and fifty did so. At the same time the schools were open for the propaganda of the bankers and the militarists, and the usual spy system was installed by the business interests.

Mr. Roncovieri was an Italian Catholic, and the censorship of text-books was turned over to his Church; books on history, economics, biology and science had to be submitted to Father Wood of St. Ignatius College, who, with the help of a Paulist priest, decided whether they were suitable for the children of San Francisco. They rejected one book, “Builders of Democracy,” but through a mistake ninety copies of it got into the library of one of the high schools; the city had paid for them, but the Catholic censors ordered them out, and out they went.

Mr. Roncovieri conducted very pleasant “institutes” for the teachers, and was profuse in flowery compliments, telling them that they were “the finest teachers in the world.” (They had been appointed by the grafters, and had tenure for life, and a majority of them were Catholics.) He selected lists of speakers, and the Catholic brothers and fathers were prominent thereon. He cultivated his reputation as “the best hand-shaker in San Francisco”; also he saw to it that the incidental music at 112the institutes was of the finest quality—as an expert trombone player, that was in his line. How good care he took of the schools you may judge from the fact that in one of the largest and most crowded high schools more than one hundred windows were found to be broken and not repaired!

San Francisco kept on growing, and the schools kept on falling to pieces, and public agitation grew louder and louder. Various public bodies took the matter up, and finally a survey was ordered, and a committee was appointed by the United States Commissioner of Education. This committee visited 106 schools, and made 1818 visits to classes. They issued an exhaustive report of 649 pages, which you can get from the United States Bureau of Education. They criticized the schools of San Francisco very sternly, and called for a complete reorganization, amendments to the charter, new departments, and other radical changes.

Superintendent Roncovieri, needless to say, took offense at this report, and before the Teachers’ Institute he delivered a violent attack upon it. The report was defended by Mr. Addicott, of the Polytechnic High School, and so resulted several years of controversy. Roncovieri’s outpourings were featured in the San Francisco “Chronicle,” organ of Mike de Young, whom Ambrose Bierce pictured hanging on all the gibbets of the world. (See “The Brass Check.”) In the “Chronicle” of October 19, 1920, Superintendent Roncovieri described Mr. Addicott as “a clown,” “an idiot,” and “a boob.” These highly educational statements were followed by charges on the part of Mr. Gallagher, Catholic president of the board of education, to the effect that there was gambling going on at Polytechnic High School. Also it was charged that Mr. Addicott had suspended some pupils—though nobody could explain how the principal of a school was to keep the pupils from gambling if he were not allowed to suspend any of them. It must be especially hard for a principal to keep the pupils from gambling when the principal knows, and all the pupils know, that the big business men of the city are doing little else.

Not long after that Mr. Addicott committed two major offenses; he gave to the grand jury information concerning the wasting of school funds by the grafters, and he said 113something in public to the effect that the president of the school board had appeared at a school gathering under the influence of liquor. So Mr. Addicott, after a farcical trial before the Catholic board, was turned out of the school system, and the non-Catholic population of San Francisco proceeded to organize the Public Schools Defense Association. The students of the Polytechnic High School declared a strike, and there was a campaign carried on by means of mass meetings and leaflets, which made the public acquainted with facts which the newspapers had for years refused to print. What these facts were is the next subject for our attention.


Once more I am sorry to seem to play the game of the Grand Imperial Kleagles; nevertheless, it must be stated that two forces have had control of the San Francisco public schools for the past twenty years: First, the big and little business grafters, and second, Archbishop Hanna, who is pledged ex-officio to the undermining of the public school system and the building up of the Catholic parochial schools. The Catholic superintendent and the Catholic board had deliberately held down the construction program of the public schools. The money intended for these schools was stolen by the grafters, while building materials were sold at bargain prices or stolen outright for the parochial schools. The very furniture out of the public schools was taken—the Catholic children were sitting on chairs taken from the public schools, while the children in the public schools had to sit on soap-boxes. You may find this incredible, but it is a matter of public record; it was proven before the grand jury, and the documents are available for those who care to consult them.

Needless to say, not many take that trouble; the newspapers of San Francisco follow the rule of the capitalist press throughout the United States—attacks on Catholic institutions are barred. Public speakers were forbidden to hold meetings and to lecture on this question, by order of the chief of police. Colonel J. Arthur Petersen asked in the office of the superintendent of schools for certain 114records concerning school affairs, and Mr. Roncovieri threatened to shoot him. Later on, a mob set upon Colonel Petersen and tried to murder him in broad daylight on the streets of the city.

The most curious story is that of the sale of school desks. By order of the school director, Miss Jones, a Catholic, there were sold to the parochial schools nearly three thousand school desks, at from fifteen to fifty cents apiece. They were delivered by the city’s trucks to the various parochial schools, and the Catholic fathers and sisters signed receipts for them, and the city’s workmen, paid out of the city’s money, installed the desks, and cleaned and varnished them, using the city’s tools and materials. And three thousand children of the city were told that there were no accommodations for them in the public schools, but there was plenty of room in the church schools nearby!

I send the manuscript of this chapter to my friend, Fremont Older, editor of the San Francisco “Call,” and he writes me that he has never heard of these incidents. I take this as a curious illustration of the power of the Catholic church over public opinion. The facts concerning the theft of school furniture, books and building materials constituted the principal issue in the school election of 1921. I have before me seven pamphlets of the Public Schools Defense Association, in which the facts are given in minute detail; especially Bulletin No. 2, dated October 10, 1921, and Bulletin No. 3, dated October 20, 1921. The facts were also published and republished in a paper called the “Crusader,” especially the issues of June, September, and October, 1921. Mr. H. H. Somers was an active worker in the association, and he has sent me transcripts of the sales of school desks, which he personally rechecked from the records of the board of education.

The president of this board came to the defense of the gang declaring that the desks had been sold “to anyone who might want them.” But practically nobody got them except the parochial schools, and nobody knew anything about the sales but these same schools. The city charter provides that all public property which is “usable” must be sold at public auction, after being advertised for five days; a law which was not once complied with over 115a period of five years. The president of the board furthermore argued that the desks “were sold in small lots.” Concerning that you may judge for yourself; I quote from the records: Father W. H. O’Mahoney received two lots, a total of 235 desks, voucher 960, dated May 8, 1920, and voucher unnumbered, dated September 27, 1919. Father Peter C. Yorke received two lots a total of 200 desks, vouchers 812, November 26, 1917, and 912, September 22, 1919. Father Sullivan received 200 desks, voucher 610, September 8, 1916. Father Doran received one lot of 375 desks, voucher 816, December 2, 1918. This makes a total of 971 desks delivered in six lots. In addition to these, more than 2,000 desks went in lots of from 20 to 60 per delivery.

So great was the public excitement over these matters that on September 15, 1921, a crowd of five hundred women stormed the city hall. A Mrs. McCarthy declared that children at the Portola and Buena Vista public schools, from which desks had been sold, were having to sit on soap-boxes; another woman declared that her own child was sitting on a soap-box. The newspapers reported the incident, but briefly, and without mentioning the dread word Catholic. The grand jury took up all the charges, and conducted very thorough investigations.[E]

E. So many people have expressed incredulity concerning these matters that at the risk of repetition I quote one paragraph from the report of the school committee of the grand jury, the chairman of which was Mrs. Samuel Backus, wife of General Backus, former postmaster of San Francisco:

“Mr. Conkling, store-keeper, testified that School Director Miss Sallie Jones condemned the furniture and sold the same to private parties and schools, and the same were at once put into service. Miss Sallie Jones testified that she had ordered the sale of old desks, etc., and that the same were sold at private sale, and at the same time the Department was buying new furniture for the schools, as she would not put old desks or chairs in new schools built by bond money. This is in strict contradiction of the Charter. First, the furniture was not useless, and second, it was not sold at public auction. Most of the sales were made at 25 and 50 cents per desk, and replaced by new ones costing from six to ten dollars.”

Nor was it desks alone. Thousands of sacks of cement, intended for the public schools, were stolen from the board of public works, and other material, wood, steel, etc., was likewise delivered to the parochial schools. Because of the overcrowding in the public schools, the city had built over five hundred temporary shacks, costing one or two thousand dollars each; and it was estimated that more than half this amount had gone into graft. A school official in the course of his duties sent a cement man to estimate on cement repair work; the price asked 116was two hundred dollars; the official told him to add fifty dollars, “And you know what it is for.” On another job the man estimated two hundred and fifty dollars; he was told to add fifty dollars for the official; then he was told to add ninety dollars to this. A former storekeeper of the schools received fifty reams of paper, and was asked to sign for one hundred; because he refused to do this he was discharged from his position. It was shown that the city had furnished its Catholic board president an automobile costing over five thousand dollars. Other members of the board had had homes built at the expense of the city; the material was taken from the board of public works, the employes of this board helped to construct the buildings, and the time was charged to “school repairs.”

Also this grand jury committee brought out the fact that the laws had been repeatedly broken in the purchase of text-books for the San Francisco schools. Books had been bought in large quantities in defiance of state provisions, and at prices higher than those permitted. The committee listed a total of 11,161 books which could not be used at all. Among those who appeared before the grand jury was a Catholic member of the school board, Miss Alice Rose Power, who admitted that she had formerly owned five thousand shares of stock in a text-book company, and had assigned half this stock to the head of the company and the other half to her nephew. She still had a desk in the office of this company, and at the same time, as a member of the school board, had authorized purchases of text-books from this company.

I was told by teachers in San Francisco that there were store-rooms full of unused books, which had been purchased at much higher than the authorized prices; scarcely a teacher who did not report basements and cupboards in his or her school, piled up with books which 117could not be used. One teacher told me how, when it was known that this book graft was being looked into, great quantities of books were shipped to another school, and others were given to the pupils to be carried home. I recalled the stories I heard nearly twenty years ago, when I was investigating the glass factories in South Jersey; the state child labor inspector would telephone to a certain factory that he was about to make an inspection, and all the child workers would be gathered up and hidden away in the big passage through which the fresh air was driven to the blast furnaces!

Under the law, all these book companies could have been fined and made to take back the books; also the bondsmen of the school board members were liable for the amount of the graft. Some citizens hoped that this money might be collected, but their hope was vain. The foreman of the grand jury requested that while the investigation was under way, the Public Schools Defense Association would hold no more public meetings and give no more information to the press; the grand jury likewise gave out nothing, and so gradually the excitement died down. Then, to the dismay of the association, the grand jury adjourned without taking any action; and the members of the association investigated, and discovered that the foreman of the grand jury was a Catholic!

The book graft is an ancient and honored one in San Francisco history. If you visit the University of California you will be shown with pride the magnificent Bancroft library of old Spanish manuscripts. You are told that this is a memorial to H. H. Bancroft, the historian of California; and you get the impression that Mr. Bancroft donated it. As a matter of fact, he sold it to the state for a quarter of a million dollars; also, he sold his books to the schools—his great store-house of culture, the “History of California” by Hubert Henry Bancroft, three volumes at five dollars per volume. It was published by the author, and wide-awake young agents explained to school boards and superintendents that the great work was not yet complete; there was a shrewdly worded clause in the contract, whereby the purchaser agreed to take the succeeding volumes of the series.

The school authorities signed this contract by the thousands, and then the Bancroft mills began to grind! 118“The History of California” extended to thirty-three volumes, and then it was continued in the form of histories of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Central America, Alaska; it was like the magic salt-mill which made the sea salty! These volumes would appear every six months or so; they would be delivered at the schools, and the innocent teachers would take them in and put them on the shelves. Nothing was said about payment, and so nobody worried about it; until finally, after the series was completed, the bills were delivered—and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth among school boards of California. Many refused to pay, but Bancroft sued, and got judgments amounting to over a million dollars. I am told that there are schools way up in the hills which have a shelf of Bancroft’s history as their sole instrument of general culture. After that the Bancroft concern was a power in the school-book business of the state; it got the agencies for many of the big book concerns, and carried the school superintendents in its pocket.

Some time ago the people of California got tired of being robbed by book companies, and put through a provision for the manufacture of elementary school text-books by the state. All over the United States I found the book men incensed concerning this California procedure. They would present me with pocketfuls of literature, expensive pamphlets demonstrating the futility and extravagance of the California text-book program. I would listen politely, and accept the literature and ship it home, where it still forms a pile upon my shelves; but I do not need to go into it, because, having investigated the California situation, I know how the political machine is occupied to sabotage the public text-book scheme. The former state printer, Richardson, is now our governor, put in office by the Black Hand to starve the schools and build up the jails.

To return to San Francisco: there was an election campaign over the issue of reorganizing the school system, and this became of necessity an anti-Catholic campaign. The Catholics fought vigorously—some three hundred nuns were marched to the polls to cast their votes for the Catholic program, and the archbishop formally granted them absolution for the crime of taking part in politics! Nevertheless, the awakened people of San Francisco had 119their way. Mr. Addicott was reinstated, and Superintendent Roncovieri and President Gallagher of the school board retired.

San Francisco now has a new board of education. The president of this board is a department-store proprietor and strong Chamber of Commerce man, who admitted that he had completed his scanty education in a parochial school. The grand duchess of the board is the mother-in-law of Congressman Kahn, one of our most ardent militarists, and a close friend of the archbishop’s. The rest of the board consists of the sister-in-law of the mayor’s secretary; a prominent tobacco merchant; a prominent lumber merchant; a labor official who is employed in a bank at a salary of $150 a week, and who sends his children to the parochial schools; and finally, Miss Alice Rose Power of the Catholic church.

This board has imported a new superintendent from New Orleans, and I find a long article in the “Sierra Educational News,” state organ of the school machine, telling what a great educator he is. We shall see in due course how greatness is manufactured by these school machines, and for what purpose it is used. We shall see Superintendent Gwinn working with the gang when they stole the National Education Association away from the teachers; also we shall see him drawing up the “patriotism program” under which the N. E. A. turned its conscience over to the keeping of the American Legion. It is worth noting that he retains from the days of the trombones his deputy superintendent, who at the last election was caught taking eight hundred dollars from the Power Trust, for propaganda among the teachers against the public ownership bill.


We cross San Francisco Bay to Berkeley, and here is a city of sixty thousand people, cut in half by a broad avenue; on the one side live well-to-do commuters, retired army and navy officers, capitalists, and university students and professors; on the other side live shipyard and railroad workers, and servants of the rich. The city, both 120the rich part and the poor, is completely dominated by a medieval fortress on a hill, which I have called the University of the Black Hand, and which is officially known as the University of California. It has eleven thousand students, a completely intrenched bureaucracy, and a board of regents made up of the worst plutocratic elements in the state. Desiring to show how much he cares for “The Goose-step,” the newly elected governor of the Black Hand has just added to the board the greatest enemy of the public welfare in California, Harry Chandler, publisher and owner of the Los Angeles “Times.”

In 1911 the workers of Berkeley took thought of their own interests, and elected a Socialist clergyman as their mayor. This, of course, was terrible to the plutocracy, and they waged incessant war upon the Socialists, one of their principal agencies being the political science department of their university. You understand that the purpose of “political science” is to maintain the capitalist state; and what better practice for the students than to hold down the working class of their university town?

The head of this department was David P. Barrows, whom I have called the Dean of Imperialism: one of these military figures who make our cause easy by caricaturing his own. I have told the story of his career in “The Goose-step”—how he went to Siberia and directed President Wilson’s private war on the Russian people, and then came home and clamored for the shooting of all the Bolsheviks in America. On the strength of this program the Black Hand made him president of the university; a position he has just quit, because the Black Hand discovered that it needs, not merely a man who is “strong,” but one who is not stupid.

What do you do when you are Dean of Imperialism of a state university, and are set to hold down the local populace? You build up a political machine, precisely like Tammany Hall or any other machine. You pick a university representative to become mayor of the town, and you pick another university representative to run the school board. You have your experts draw up the city charter and all the laws and ordinances, so as to make it possible for you to have your way and for the people not to have their way. You summon your fraternities and put them into politics on the side of their fathers. You vote your 121students en masse in the city, in spite of the fact that they are not legally entitled to vote there. Your fraternity political leader gets five thousand dollars from the Key Route (street railways), and when a student exposes this fact on a public platform, you see this student mobbed and beaten. You collect campaign funds from the public service corporations and big business grafters in the usual political fashion, and pay them with the promise that when there are strikes you will use the students of the university to break the strikes; and whenever the occasion arises you carry out this promise. You drive from your university every professor who dares to lift his voice against the regime of the Black Hand. You kick out unceremoniously a student who dares to publish a paper reciting the facts about your activities. Such is “political science” in an American state university; such are the lessons which the students of the Black Hand learn in Berkeley, and go back to apply in their home cities and towns.

You might have the idea that at least a university administration would do something in the way of improving the schools of its city; but if so, you would be as naive as the people of Berkeley have been. The university-controlled system of Berkeley turns out precisely the same products as the New York system dominated by “Democratic” Tammany Hall, and the Chicago system dominated by the Thompson “Republican” machine, and the San Francisco system dominated by Banker Fleishhacker and Archbishop Hanna; those products being G, F, P, and R—Graft, Favoritism, Propaganda and Repression.

In the year 1913, when the Socialists carried their second election and got control of the schools, the school buildings were run down and filthy, with no paint and with vile, unsanitary toilets. Large sums of money had been voted, and nobody could find out where they went; the accounts were purposely confused for the concealment of graft. The school board was made up of political “dead beats” and grafters, representing all the business interests, including prostitution and booze. The teachers were browbeaten, the parents were insulted and driven from the schools when they tried to find out what was going on. The pupils were “fired” because of their own political activities, or the activities of their parents in opposition to the gang.

122The Socialists came into power, and their first demand was for the building up of the school system. They called a bond election, and the interests defeated this; subsequently the bond issue was carried, and there was a possibility of several hundred thousand dollars being spent without consideration for the grafters. This, of course, would never do; so the political science department of the university was called on, and it drew up a plan, which the city council put through, to appoint a special committee to handle this money; a “committee of citizens”—that is to say, the business grafters of Berkeley, in sufficient number to outvote the Socialists!

Mrs. Elvina S. Beals was a Socialist member of this school board, and also of the next school board, on which she constituted an unhappy minority. She has told me the story of her experiences, and put the documents into my hands. To become a Socialist school board member is like stepping into a lion’s den; save that there is no wall against which you can back up—the lions are on every side of you! There is nothing you do or attempt to do for the schools in which you do not encounter some business interest trying to make profit out of them.

If you tried to obtain a fair price for a building site, you made mortal enemies of some fellow board member, whose relatives were expecting to retire with a life competence from this particular deal. If you insisted upon enforcing the law requiring bids for school furnishings, you made enemies of those board members who had “friends” among the wholesalers. If you tried to have the board furnish stationery to the high school students at cost, the merchants of your city came in a body to make a protest to the board—you were ruining their business. The secretary of the Chamber of Commerce made an eloquent speech, asking who it was that paid the taxes to support the schools, if not the business men. If you tried to establish school cafeterias, so that poor children could get wholesome food at cost, you were ruining the restaurant keepers and the bakers. All these people would combine and form a little local Black Hand; they would start a scandal bureau and fill the kept press with misrepresentations; they would start a “recall” campaign against you, and pour out floods of slander upon you, and make you spend a small fortune to defend yourself.

123And here is the most significant fact: at the very front of this campaign of rascality and falsehood would be the university machine! Here was a school board giving away old houses to real estate men without bids; here was a coal man on the board giving furniture contracts to a friend; and in every such issue the university vote would be on the side of the grafters! The Socialists brought up the question of fire insurance graft. It seemed that whenever the local insurance men got hard up and needed cash, they went and insured a school; they had even insured one building which didn’t exist!

They had been charging as high as four dollars per hundred; but now the Socialists demanded bids, and forced the local agents down to a dollar-sixty per hundred, and in one case as low as sixty cents per hundred. The representative of a Pennsylvania company made this bid, and the law required that the city should take the lowest bid. Mrs. Beals urged that the law be obeyed; against her on the board was an official of the Federal Coal Company, whose president and secretary were at that time in San Quentin penitentiary, charged with defrauding the government by short-weight—and getting fifteen hundred dollars a month salary from the company while in jail! Also a prominent politician, who frequently came to board meetings with so much liquor in him that you could smell it across the table. Also a local political woman and finally the university professor. Here was a plain issue of whether or not the school board should obey the law; and the university professor of the Black Hand voted to disobey the law. After a whole day’s fight, Mrs. Beals forced a reconsideration on this matter; the professor stuck by the gang, but the woman and the coal dealer changed, and so the city of Berkeley was saved five thousand dollars.

Then came an old settler trying to sell some property to the board for many times its value. There was mysterious pulling of wires, and it was evident that the board was again going to disobey the law. So the Socialists raked up a forgotten statute, to the effect that the board could not buy land without the consent of the people. Under another forgotten statute they called a town meeting, which was most embarrassing to the grafters. The board dropped this proposition; also they dropped Mrs. 124Beals from the sites committee of the board, and put her on the supplies committee instead. Thus she saw another side of the system; one of the agents who sold school supplies told her he was glad there was now one school supplies committee in the state of California which did not have its hands held out!

The board, following the lead of President Barrows at the university, had made a ruling that the superintendent might dismiss teachers on recommendation from the principal, and without the right to see the board. But Mrs. Beals made it her business to see every teacher who was let out, and also to see those who were newly engaged. Iron fire-escapes were desperately needed, and with the help of the fire-chief Mrs. Beals got them. Also she got kindergartens in every primary school. Giving her entire time for the munificent salary of fifteen dollars a month, she had saved the city of Berkeley a hundred thousand dollars. But now came war and glory; the board members were called upon to sign a resolution to the effect that they would perform any service that Woodrow Wilson might request; and when Mrs. Beals very wisely hesitated at this, the Associated Press flashed her over the United States as disloyal. So the gang came in waving the stars and stripes, and everything is now back where it was. You will find this happening in city after city—America has been made safe for capitalism.

Berkeley now has as superintendent an amiable but feeble lecturer-pedagogue, who told the California Teachers’ Association that “the teachers and the public should get together in prayer-meeting”; he went on to explain what he meant by the public, naming the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotarians, the Kiwanis—and not a single labor body! The overhead expenses of the schools have increased five times—but they have put out all the Montessori work, because they cannot afford it! In charge of the spending of the money is a board made up as follows: a coal and wood dealer; a dry goods merchant of the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce type; the wife of an attorney; a political woman affiliated with the oil interests and the Barrows machine; and a professor of the agricultural department of the university. How aggressively the Black Hand is at work you may judge from the fact that the children of Berkeley were required 125to answer a questionnaire, disguised as a “social survey.” Among fifty questions were such as these: “How does your father spend his spare time? What does he do Sundays? What books does your mother read?” The child was assured that all this would be “confidential”; but he was not permitted to take the questions home to his parents!


The trolley cars take us a few miles south to the city of Oakland, where we find a still larger population of shipyard workers, longshoremen and factory hands, having ideas of their own, and therefore having to be taken in charge by the Black Hand. The situation in Oakland is of especial importance, for the reason that the school superintendent of the Black Hand in this city is one of the big chiefs of the National Education Association. Fred M. Hunter was the 1921 president of the Association, and at the convention where he was chosen the gang put through a “reorganization,” whereby it was made forever certain that the class-room teachers of America shall remain impotent in their own organization, while their opinions are voiced for them and their money is spent for them by the bosses of the educational Tammany Hall.

I wish you to understand that when I speak of the N. E. A. as an educational Tammany Hall, I am not slinging language, but giving a precise description of a sociological phenomenon. The N. E. A. is run by a political gang, and the bosses in it are exactly the same kind of people, functioning in exactly the same way as the ward leaders of Tammany. Fred M. Hunter is one of these ward leaders, and he uses the schools of Oakland, in no sense for the benefit of the city or its people, but solely for the building up of the N. E. A. machine, and of his power in this machine. As you read the story, therefore, bear this wider aspect of the matter in mind. The city of Oakland, with its quarter of a million people, mostly workers, contributes the sum of eighteen thousand dollars a day for the education of its children, and this sum is used by a school politician to reward his friends and punish 126his enemies. Incidentally, of course, this ward leader sees to it that our education, both local and national, remains plutocratic; just as the ward leaders of Tammany see to it that the “traction crowd” and the other big exploiters are protected.

The City of Oakland voted five million dollars for new schools, and Mr. Hunter explained publicly his idea that the proper people to handle these bonds were the business men; therefore he appointed a special committee known as the “Bond Expenditure Committee.” This committee proceeded to appoint a prominent politician as “land agent,” to handle the buying of sites, at a salary of three hundred dollars a month. The opposition members of the school board objected to this program, and forced the resignation of the Bond Expenditure Committee; whereupon, Mr. Hunter caused to be printed in the Oakland “Tribune,” kept newspaper of the gang, an interview proclaiming to the citizens that the school system was about to be disrupted.

You will appreciate the humor of this when you are told that during the previous year the schools had had to be closed for two weeks because of the wasting of school money; but at the same time the board had increased Mr. Hunter’s salary to ten thousand dollars per year! (It has since been raised to eleven, and is about to be raised again.) When the school board, in the effort to keep the schools open, tried to take control of the business department from Mr. Hunter, he caused the big business men of Oakland to come before the board and protest; and one of these men stated that he didn’t think it was so bad for the city to lose two weeks of school—a small matter of a hundred and eighty thousand dollars—as it would be to “injure the prestige of so big a man as Mr. Hunter!”

Not merely must the money put up by the Oakland taxpayers be sacrificed to Mr. Hunter’s “prestige,” but also the teaching in the Oakland schools must be sacrificed to the same end. Mr. Hunter promotes teachers who serve his political ambitions, and this without relation to their ability. The convention at which the National Education Association was “reorganized” was held in Salt Lake City in 1920; and Mr. Hunter’s right-hand man in putting this through was J. Fred Anderson, president of 127the Utah Educational Association. He delivered the votes of the Utah teachers, and immediately was made principal of one of Oakland’s large high schools, with salary and allowances amounting to $4,390 per year.

Also there is Miss Elizabeth Arlett, who, while supposed to be teaching the school children of Oakland, was touring the United States, shortly before the convention, in the interest of Mr. Hunter’s candidacy for the presidency of the N. E. A. Miss Arlett was promoted to be principal of a high school in Oakland, and I am told that many teachers in Oakland have heard her boast that she can have anything she wants in the Oakland school system.

On the other hand, there have been some teachers who have failed to carry out Mr. Hunter’s will—just as there are some labor leaders who will not sell out their union, but persist in representing the workers. Mr. Hunter wished to put his own henchman in the position of president of the Oakland Teachers’ Association. Here, please understand, were the teachers of the city, supposed to be electing the head of their own professional organization; but they were not permitted to cast their ballot secretly, they had to vote in the presence of the principal, and they got their orders for whom to vote. One young woman teacher failed to vote according to orders, and she was so persecuted in her school that she felt compelled to resign.

You might think that would have ended the matter, but if so, you don’t know the methods of the gang. This teacher applied for a position as secretary to a corporation, and was promised the position, but when she went to begin her work she was told by the manager that Mr. Hunter had reported her as having been “disloyal”; consequently this corporation could not employ her. And if you think that an unusual kind of thing, let me mention that only yesterday I was talking with a school teacher in Los Angeles, who told me about a friend of hers who had fought the gang, and then had left Los Angeles to seek a position elsewhere; for years afterwards she lost every position she held, because the gang ferreted her out and wrote letters about her to her new school employers.

There has just been a new school election in Oakland. In preparation for it, Mr. Hunter had got his henchmen in all the Babbitt societies of the city—the Rotarians, the 128Kiwanis, the Lions, the Ad Clubs, the “High Twelve,” the “Knights of the Round Table.” And a few days before the election he took eight boys out of high school, without the permission or knowledge of their parents, and set them to distributing election cards in boats and trains. His ticket won; and so he now has everything his own way.

The old board had persisted in keeping in office a “chief of construction” who was finishing the new school buildings. This man had required the contractors to live up to the specifications, and had thereby incurred the furious enmity of the grafters—and also, of course, of Mr. Hunter. The grafting contractors put up large sums of money to pay for the election of the new board, and the first action of Mr. Hunter when the new board came in was to recommend the discharge and force the resignation of the too honest chief of construction. In resigning, this official filed specific charges of fraud against the contractors, and Mr. Hunter’s school board majority utterly ignored the communication.

It was left to the Civic Club, an independent organization, to force an investigation, which has shown substitution of inferior materials, meaning tens of thousands of dollars stolen from the people of the city. Some new buildings have been condemned as unsafe, and the work ordered done over. And note, please, that Hunter is on the building committee, and had full knowledge of what his gang was doing. The presidents of the various women’s clubs of Oakland unite in a statement: “We are told of fire hazards, faulty roof construction, and other grave dangers menacing the lives of our children. And yet we are told that no crime has been committed!” I entreat you to remember these things when, later on in this book, you are reading about Hunter of Oakland, and his career of glory at the annual conventions of the National Education Association.

You will not need to be told that a Black Hand such as this rules firmly the thinking of the people of Oakland. How they do it was narrated at a meeting of the Better America Federation at the Oakland Hotel, where Mr. Levenson, manager of the biggest department-store, stated that the police under his direction had undertaken to crush street speaking, and had crushed it. Also the school department 129under Fred M. Hunter was put to work, and the Honorable Leslie M. Shaw, author of “Vanishing Landmarks,” was brought to Oakland, and all the teachers in the school system were compelled by official order to listen while he denounced the referendum and woman’s suffrage.

Then came Woodworth Clum, of the Better America Federation, to tell the high school children that a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States is “akin to treason.” The Black Hand shipped up from Los Angeles eleven thousand copies of Clum’s pamphlet, “America Is Calling,” the substance being that America is calling her school children to mob their fellow students with whose opinions they do not agree. The Black Hand gave them a practical demonstration of this program by mobbing the editor of the Oakland “Free Press,” who was too freely exposing graft.

It was proposed to distribute Mr. Clum’s pamphlet to every pupil in the high schools, but the Central Labor Council made a protest to the state board of education, and the state superintendent, acting by vote of the board, forbade the distribution. Here comes an interesting test of the Black Hand. The thing they are in business to protect is “law and order”; their one purpose in getting the school children into their military classes is that the children may learn discipline and subordination to authority. Now the state superintendent of education is the superior of the Oakland superintendent, and under the law it was his right and his duty to forbid the distribution of propaganda in the schools. In issuing his order to Hunter, he was acting by vote of the state board; and what did Hunter do about it? Why, he went ahead and distributed the pamphlets, and the Better America Federation proclaimed him a hero throughout the state!

Every once in a while a hero like this arises: first Ole Hanson of Seattle, then Cal Coolidge of Massachusetts, then President Atwood of Clark University, who leaped into the limelight upon the face of Scott Nearing. I invite you once more not to forget Fred M. Hunter, Oakland superintendent of schools. There is a strong movement under way to establish a new cabinet position, a secretary of education, and Hunter has his eye on this goal, and is bending every effort toward it. How beautifully he would fit in the cabinet of Cal Coolidge, strike-breaking hero of 130Massachusetts! What a demonstration of national unity—from Boston Bay to San Francisco Bay, one country, one flag, and one goose-step! Black Hands across the continent!


We move north to Portland, which is the harbor of the lumber country, a relatively old city with an aristocracy of merchant princes, like Baltimore or Boston. Ten years ago Oregon had a strong progressive movement, it was the pioneer in direct legislation. Today the old guard rules, and Portland is in the grip of a Black Hand which imports its ideas direct from Los Angeles. Curiously enough, they had a strike of the longshoremen and seamen, at the same time as Los Angeles; and here also the I. W. W. attacked the very basis of American civic life by closing up the boot-legging dives and dumping the liquor into the gutters. The insurrection was put down by the same methods as in Los Angeles—the throwing of hundreds of men into jail and holding them incommunicado without warrant or charge.

A number of Portland’s old and ineffably haughty families got their wealth by stealing the school lands which the government had given to the people of the state; now other families are on the way to becoming haughty upon the basis of real estate manipulations of the school board, and the sale of school supplies at double prices. The boss of the Oregon political machine is Mr. A. L. Mills, president of the First National Bank; for the past ten years he has kept a political agent to run the state legislature. The machine sent down to Los Angeles for copies of Woodworth’s Clum’s pamphlet, “America Is Calling,” for distribution in Oregon; and from these dragon’s teeth resulted a whole crop of legislative vermin—a bill requiring every school teacher to take an oath of loyalty, a bill forbidding aliens to teach in the schools; a bill barring any teacher who “either publicly or privately engages in destructive or undermining criticism of our government”; a bill requiring “the teaching of the Constitution in all public and private schools”—meaning, of course, the teaching of the Constitution as a bulwark of special privilege.

131As the directing staff of the public schools of Portland, Mr. Mills has selected a group of educators about whom I have yet to hear anything good. To call them uneducated educators would not tell you much; so come with me and make the acquaintance of Mr. D. A. Grout, superintendent of schools for a quarter of a million people. Mr. Grout is clammy and cold in his personal dealings, but in literary composition and oratory he expands and reveals himself. He takes a parental attitude towards his teachers, gathering them in large assemblies to instruct and inspire them. He composes verses, and has the teachers learn and recite these verses before him. He tells them stories with moral lessons, and then prints the stories in the official “School Bulletin.” One of these stories had to do with the philosophy of an old Negro, who was accustomed to say on all occasions: “Make the most of life today, ’caze you don’t know what may come along tomorrow.” A group of teachers declared to me that in telling the story Mr. Grout repeated this formula eight times; but I suspect these teachers of inaccuracy—because, as Mr. Grout publishes the story in the “School Bulletin,” September 6, 1919, he repeats it only three times, and then varies it for another three times as follows: “Make the most of life today, ’caze we do know what may come along tomorrow.”

Two or three years ago Mr. Grout went East to attend a convention of the National Education Association. His expenses were paid by the city; he has done considerable traveling at the city’s expense—$4,995.08 in the past three years. Superintendents do this traveling upon the theory that they will meet other great educators and bring home new ideas and inspirations. “We do get so tired,” said one of Mr. Grout’s flock, in telling me about it. “We do so crave a little bit of enthusiasm, something to make us think it’s worth while to go on with the old, dead routine!”

Portland’s great educator comes home from his six thousand mile trip, and the twelve hundred teachers of the city are summoned to a general assembly to receive the new ideas and inspiration. The proceedings are opened with music; there is a supervisor of singing, who stands upon the platform, with the bulk of the men teachers on 132the ground floor, and the bulk of the women up in the gallery. The men are directed to sing: “Soft o’er the fountain, ling’ring falls the Southern moon.” They do not sing loud enough, and the music supervisor jumps up and shouts: “Sing until you break the chandeliers.” After which it is the women’s turn; they answer: “Nita! Juanita! Ask thy soul if we should part.” The men sing another verse, and the women answer—the sarcastic young lady teachers who told me about this performance described it as “the Romeo and Juliet stunt.” Next they sing, “In the gloaming, oh, my darling”—in the same “Romeo and Juliet” fashion. I have before me the “School Bulletin” for two successive years, which provides the texts of these chandelier-breaking melodies; also, “Just a song at twilight, When the lights are low,” and “Maxwelton’s braes are bonnie, Where early fa’s the dew.”

Now Mr. Grout rises, and a hushed silence falls upon the twelve hundred men and women teachers. The time for new ideas and inspirations has come. Mr. Grout has brought a really new idea: poetry is to be taught to the children, and he opens a normal school right there and then, to teach the teachers how to teach it. His method is to repeat one line of the poem, and then have the twelve hundred teachers recite this after him; then he repeats another line of the poem, and the teachers recite that; then he repeats the two lines together, and the teachers recite the two; then he goes on to the next two lines, and so on, until all the twelve hundred teachers are able to recite the entire poem correctly. Such is the newest pedagogic discovery, for which the people of Portland were paying a salary of six hundred and twenty-five dollars per month, plus a car allowance of fifty dollars per month, plus a traveling allowance of a hundred and thirty-eight dollars and sixty-one cents per month.

It depends upon the poem, you may say. So I give you the poem which Mr. Grout thus taught to the twelve hundred assembled teachers of Portland. Lest you find it incredible, I specify that when the teachers recited it to me, I also found it incredible; I made two or three of them recite it in turn, so as to make sure they really knew it. Later on, I made them send me a copy of the “School Bulletin,” in which the poem was printed for the benefit 133of any of the twelve hundred who might have forgotten it. Here it is, word for word, and punctuation mark for punctuation mark:

/* “There was a crooked man Who walked a crooked mile; But I, when I go walking, Don’t walk in crooked style. I keep my chin and stomach in And hold my chest up higher, And step along so straight and strong, And never, never tire.” */

You can imagine the silence which prevailed in the auditorium after this course in poetry. Could it be that some faint uneasiness penetrated the mind of the Portland superintendent of schools? Apparently it did, for he now told the assembled twelve hundred teachers that he had a story to teach them. There were some teachers who were dissatisfied with the school system, and were accustomed more or less surreptitiously to criticize it; for the benefit of such teachers Mr. Grout mentioned that once upon a time he had owned a dog, and this dog had acquired the habit of running out on the highway and barking at everybody and everything that went by. Once a big automobile had come along, and the dog had rushed out at that, and afterwards the dog had been buried at the foot of a big tree, and had made excellent fertilizer for the tree. The fate of this dog was one for all teachers to bear in mind and apply the moral in their lives. After which the twelve hundred teachers joined in singing: “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms, Which I gaze on so fondly today”; and the assembly was adjourned.

I was solemnly assured by five teachers at once, that at the assembly of the following year Mr. Grout started out to ascertain if the teachers still remembered the poem which he had taught them; but one of the board members seated on the platform burst out laughing, and brought the poetical proceedings to an end. The board member thought it was funny, and maybe you think it is funny; but I don’t. I think it one more proof of the deliberate conspiracy which the masters of our plutocratic empire have hatched, to keep the American people at the mental age 134of eight. The schools are now conducted upon the basis of keeping the pupils at that age; and of course the safest way to do this is to keep the teachers at the same age, and likewise the principals, and the supervisors—and the superintendents.

But it may be that I do an injustice to the mentality of Portland’s high-priced educators; it may be that they are not so naive as they appear, and really know what they are doing to earn their keep. The teachers have a pension fund, to which all have to belong. The amount of the fund is over three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and some school officials are ex officio members of the board of directors of this fund. The board loaned the sum of sixty-five hundred dollars to a firm of lawyers, and there was a rumor that one school official had got the use of this money. One of the teachers came upon a newspaper clipping, telling how an official in the Philippines had been sent to jail for taking money from a fund of whose board he was a member. This clipping was mailed anonymously to the school official; and immediately afterwards the firm of lawyers began to pay up that sixty-five hundred dollars! At one time it was reported that the fund was on the rocks, and the teachers were going to lose all their money. May be it really was in danger; and again, may be somebody wanted to throw it into the hands of a receiver, so that the politicians could get it. Big Business of course wants the teachers to take out insurance with private companies; to this end the Portland “Oregonian,” organ of the Black Hand, cited seventeen cases of the bankruptcy of teachers’ pension funds!

One incident from the administration of the previous superintendent, just to show you what happens to school teachers in the days of “progressive” politics. The teachers’ organizations worked out plans for certain changes in the school system, which changes were calculated to cause inconvenience to the superintendent. The teachers went out on the streets, they went to the restaurants at night, and to the market places, and got the necessary thirty thousand signatures to petitions. (This is the thing called “direct legislation,” you understand; this is what the Honorable Leslie M. Shaw, and the Dishonorable Harry Atwood and Woodworth Clum describe as “Treason to the Republic.”) The teachers gathered in the superintendent’s 135office with their signatures; they took them to the office of a lawyer who was a friend of the superintendent, and locked them in his safe. After supper they found that the door of the building had been unlocked, the office door had been unlocked, the safe had been unlocked, and the petitions were gone! The politicians had made off with the thirty thousand signatures, and no more was heard of that treasonable referendum!


The school situation in Portland assumes to some extent the aspect of a sex-war; the women teachers do the work and the men bosses get the salaries. After a long campaign the taxpayers voted money to raise the teachers’ salaries, but some of the teachers got no increase, and others got only fifty dollars a year, and others a hundred dollars a year, while the principals got four hundred dollars! Even when the teachers got the “increase,” they didn’t always get the money. Some of them told me their misadventures, trying to get this money; but when I wrote out the stories, they got scared—somebody might recognize them! So you don’t get the stories, any more than the teachers got the salaries!

I am free to mention, however, that teachers’ salaries are delayed for one week, and in the meantime the money lies in somebody’s bank. That may seem a small matter, until you figure that the interest on two million dollars for one week amounts to three thousand dollars a year—a sum worth anybody’s taking!

The women teachers complain also of male parasites, who do little work, but draw high salaries. Many of the supervisors draw an extra salary from the state university, and seldom come to the schools; the teachers until recently had to go to them and pay to be taught. There is a drawing supervisor drawing pay in the state university; there is another supervisor who is paid twenty-nine hundred dollars a year, who also teaches in the state university, and whom you may see smoking every afternoon in a hotel lobby. Teachers assure me that he has not visited some schools in three years.

136There is the usual graft in the purchase of supplies, and the usual inability of the teachers to get supplies. When they make public complaint about this, they read items in the “Oregonian” to the effect that the reason there is no money for school supplies is that it all goes for teachers’ salaries. Hardly ever is the problem of school funds discussed, that this little sneer does not emerge. Some teachers became indignant, and started to investigate the expenditure of school money; the principal of their school became interested, and took the investigation off their hands, and discovered so much that he was made an assistant superintendent to keep him quiet; three other men were promoted to be principals, as a result of this little affair! They have taken out cooking, sewing, and manual training from the sixth grade in the elementary schools; last year they threatened to take out more subjects—because they are so poor. But they are not too poor to pay eight hundred and thirteen dollars and sixty-one cents per month for the teaching of poetry at the assemblies!

They have in Portland a system whereby the teachers are supposed to have something to do with the selecting of text-books. There was a sort of “book-election,” at which the teachers were to indicate their choice. Swarms of book men descended upon the city, and were charming to the teachers; then the ballot boxes were taken secretly to the court house, where they were kept all night—open. Ginn & Company got four of the principal books, and the agent laughed and said he hadn’t had to work very hard.

Having heard about Portland’s banker-boss, Mr. Mills, you will not be surprised to learn that the Portland schools are active in the interest of commercialism. In the last few weeks the bankers have been giving lectures every week; the Navy got its “day,” and then the “Oregonian” with a spelling-bee! As a means of teaching Big Business in the schools, they introduced what they called the “Business Science Normal”; there were two meetings a week for three weeks, and each meeting was repeated twice, so that all the teachers might attend. At the suggestion of the superintendent, invitation cards were sent in bulk to the principals, and by them distributed to the teachers; the schools were closed early, so that every teacher might be on hand. In addition to lectures, there were fifty-two 137printed articles about business, twelve issues of “Business Philosophy,” the official organ of the “Business Science Society,” and “a year’s council privilege with the educational director of this society.” Here was a wizard without peer in all the realms of Mammon—as you learned from a circular got out by the Portland Chamber of Commerce, which described him as “known wherever the English language is spoken as one of the world’s greatest business scientists. He is the author of five sciences dealing with human relationships.” Did you ever hear anything so wonderful? A man who created five new sciences, all out of one head and in one lifetime! I wonder how many Newton created!

While I was in Portland this wide-awake Chamber of Commerce had taken up propaganda for a “world’s fair” to celebrate the discovery of the Northwest. Of course they thought first of the school children: Let the children write compositions upon the desirability of this world’s fair! The Chamber of Commerce would supply the arguments, and the children would copy out maxims, and take them home to their parents, and so the people would be induced to pay the cost of the fair out of public taxes!

Also, the city has a “Rose Festival” every year, the purpose being to exhibit advertising “floats” of the various stores. The children are supposedly not required to appear in this parade, but schools which neglect their duty are considered disloyal. The children spend two or three weeks being drilled, and of course lose that time from study. They have to stand round in the streets all day; there are no toilets available, and some of the children became seriously ill.

I talked with a group of high school teachers. At the Washington High School they have a Junior Chamber of Commerce; one of the teachers asked me to imagine a Junior Central Labor Council, but my imagination was not equal to this flight. Some of the teachers had wanted to discuss a teachers’ union, but the principal of the school forbade it. Finding it impossible to keep the high school students from sometimes hearing of modern ideas, the business men abolished outright the departments of economics and sociology. The students signed a petition for the restoration of these courses; a group of thirty of them 138went to interview Superintendent Grout and take him this petition, and he insulted them, informing them that the Portland schools were not being run on petitions of the pupils. This school was forbidden to debate the Plumb Plan, and also to debate Socialism. The teachers have been forbidden to allow any discussion of the creation, of evolution, of the Hebrews in history, and of the birth of Christ.

The Portland forbidders, resolving to make a clean sweep, also forbade the “New Republic” and the “Survey.”“Survey.” A committee of teachers went to protest in the matter of “The Survey,” and were told that this magazine was “one-sided” in its treatment of capital; they were advised to content themselves with such publications as the “Outlook,” the “Independent,” and the “Literary Digest.” They pointed out that it might be possible to regard these magazines as “one-sided” in their treatment of labor, but no answer to this argument was returned. At the Washington High School the students, with the help of the history department, gave an entertainment for the benefit of the school library. They earned three hundred dollars, but they were not permitted to select their own books—the list had to be passed by the superintendent’s office. Also, the pupils are forbidden to invite outside speakers. I assume that this school is named after George Washington, so I recommend an inscription to be carved across the front of the building—some words taken from the letters of the Father of his Country, as follows:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force! Like fire it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

That government is a fearful master has been thoroughly proven to the teachers of Portland; the White Terror has raged in the schools, and has taken all the ugly forms of spying and treachery and brutality. The first teacher I talked with told me how she had seen a shadow on a window curtain, and had discovered the superintendent listening outside her class-room window. The second teacher I talked with had discovered the second assistant superintendent hiding in a cloak-room watching the teachers. Of course, all the agents of the Black Hand were training their children to bring tales home 139from the school-room. The Portland “Oregonian” exploded in a furious editorial, revealing that a teacher had actually defended the “Survey”; another teacher had maintained that the Socialists who had been elected to the Assembly in New York state had a right to demand their seats. That Charles E. Hughes agreed with this school teacher made no difference to the editor of the “Oregonian.”

During war-time, when everybody was selling Liberty bonds, a rumor spread that the librarian of the public library refused to buy. She was “grilled” by the city commission, and said: “I have been doing my work as librarian and minding my own affairs. But if you question me, and insist upon a reply, why then I inform you that I am a pacifist.” One commissioner’s answer was: “Would you want a German to ravish you?” You remember how they used to settle the anti-slavery question in the old days: “Would you want a Negro to marry your sister?” Of course the librarian went out, and her persecutor was elected to the school board.

This ultra-patriotic official was a wholesale druggist, and I had a friend who, in the early days of the war, was talking with an employe in this establishment, and was told that they had two clerks at work all day marking up prices. The employe said this in all innocence; he was proud of being part of such a busy and thriving institution! The druggist-hero was a Four-Minute Man, whose especial enemy was German literature and history; he did not rest until he had routed Goethe from the Portland schools. This reminds me of our adventure here in Pasadena, where our patriots discovered “The Psychology of the Unconscious,” by Jung; this great authority happens to be a Swiss, but he has a German name, and moreover, he was rumored “obscene,” so out he went from our public library!

There are Catholics in Portland, and they work for their faith; they get on the school board, and then there are anti-Catholic campaigns, and they get off again. But one member, thus put off, laughed to a friend of mine, saying that he didn’t mind, he had accomplished his purpose—he had sold the Archbishop’s property to the city! Now Oregon has passed a bill requiring all children to attend public schools; the Catholics are testing this in the 140courts—and meantime three public school buildings have been mysteriously burned down.

Not long ago there was a Catholic chairman of the school board, a prominent judge and politician. The alarming discovery was made that there was a teacher of manual training in one of the high schools who was a Socialist and believer in evolution; he was brought to trial, and Professor Rebec of the state university took the stand, and testified that it was quite the common custom among scientific men to believe in evolution. The chairman of the school board interrupted in rage! “That’s an exploded standpoint, and we won’t have it here!” The trial lasted for a week, and was a grand farce comedy. But, of course like all these Black Hand trials, its end was predetermined, and the teacher was fired.

I asked a large group of teachers what had become of the youngsters, under this regime of hundred per cent capitalism. Their testimony was unanimous upon the point that the schools are retrograding and that the children are not learning as they should. Home study has become a lost art. In the first place, the children have no room to study at home; in the second place, they go to the movies. Their parents permit them the freedom of the streets at night; and what can a teacher do, when she herself is condemned by official decree to be a mere phonograph? “It wouldn’t be so bad,” said one teacher, “if the phonograph had interesting records. But you can imagine what kind of lessons He picks out!” She had used this word “He” several times in our talk, and finally I asked, “Who is He?” There came a chorus from several at once: “When we say He, we always mean Mr. Grout!” Since this was written, “He” has been re-engaged for a term of three years.


We continue north to Seattle, another metropolis of fir and cedar. Here organized labor has been active; the city came near having a Socialist mayor, and the struggle of Big Business to keep its grip on the schools has been intense. The state university, located in Seattle, is safe 141in the hands of the gang, with a president by the name of Suzzallo, who acquired his finish at Columbia University, and has made himself a little miniature Nicholas Miraculous. Last spring he appeared before the legislature, and explained why he was worth $18,000 a year to the state; he had effected many economies—and when pressed to cite these, he stated that he had kept the professors from getting salary increases, and had reduced the standard salary for incoming instructors! The poor college slaves are strictly forbidden to take part in politics—which means that they dare not resent such incidents.

For twenty-one years the public schools of Seattle have been under the control of a feudal lord of finance, by the melodramatic name of Ebenezer Shorrock. He was born under the flag of Queen Victoria, and acts as if he had been born under George III. A teacher asked for an advance in salary, and gave the excuse that he was paying for a piano. “A piano!” cried Banker Shorrock. “What business has a man in your position buying a piano?” To another teacher he made the statement that “No man who has any self-respect would work for the salary the teachers are paid.” Yet, in all his twenty-one years he has never voted for an increase to the teachers; and in June, 1922, he voted a decrease. In the arguments over this action he used his inside knowledge as head of a bank to attack his teacher slaves; he knew about their accounts, and many of them had “saved money!” We are told that these bankers are the proper persons to guard school finances; so let it be noted that Banker Shorrock has so run the schools into debt to the banks that now they are paying more than half a million dollars every year in interest.

On his board this mighty plutocrat has a surgeon to the rich, who was asked by a labor leader to permit the “Nation,” the “New Republic,” and the “Freeman” to be used in high school civics classes. “Well,” said Dr. Sharples, “I cannot answer this question, as I am unacquainted with the journals you mention.” This from a professional man, presuming to direct education for a third of a million of people.

But even that is not the limit in Seattle; another board member up to 1923 was a Stone and Webster engineer, 142who murdered the English of Banker Shorrock’s queen. Somebody said that a cut in wages would lower the morale of the teaching force. “That moral stuff don’t go with me,” declared Engineer Santmyer. “I know lots of them girls, and there ain’t anything wrong with their morals.” It is interesting to note that this engineer was also connected with the Pacific Coast Coal Company, from which the school board purchased most of its coal.

Another board member who retired along with him was Mr. Taylor, Northwestern representative of a big school-book publishing house. He gave a written pledge that he would oppose any attempt to reduce the teachers’ salaries; he signed this pledge on April 19, 1922, and on June 10, 1923, he seconded Banker Shorrock’s motion to make a heavy cut in the teachers’ salaries. Mr. Santmyer also joined in this vote against the teachers, and when his victims protested, he got cross, and addressing a meeting of the school engineers, declared: “I just want one more crack at them damned teachers.”

The friends of education in the state of Washington brought before the voters in 1922 a “tax equalization” measure, whosewhose purpose was to compel the big corporations, and especially the lumber interests, to pay their proper share of school taxes. Against this measure all the organizations of the Black Hand lined up—the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Central Committee of the Republican Party, the reactionary governor, the Seattle Board of Education, the kept newspapers, the state university, the Weyerhaeuser lumber interests, the president of Whitman College—to which the Weyerhaeusers had just contributed seventy-five thousand dollars—and finally the state superintendent of education, Mrs. Josephine C. Preston. Remember this lady, because when we come to study the National Education Association, we shall find her as its president, occupying the throne of power at the Salt Lake City convention of 1920, where the gang turned out the teachers from control.

I have shown in Los Angeles, and will show in many other cities, how the Black Hand bars “politics” from the schools. Here in Seattle the board of education offered a classic demonstration of what this means. Some of the teachers in the high schools presumed to have class discussions in which both sides of the equalization amendment 143were heard. At five o’clock on the afternoon of Friday, October 27, 1922, the school board of Seattle passed a resolution absolutely forbidding teachers to engage in any kind of political propaganda in the schools, or to post on the bulletin boards any notices except those pertaining strictly to school business. Eighteen hours later, at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, October 28, Dr. Sharples of the board, Mr. Santmyer of the board, and also the secretary of the board, appeared before a meeting of school janitors, engineers and custodians, in a school building, and there spoke in opposition to the equalization amendment. The secretary of the board traveled to other parts of the state to oppose this amendment, and he spoke at meetings during business hours—that is, during the time he was being paid by the people of Seattle to do his work as school board secretary.

Another incident, to give you an idea what it means to be a teacher in Seattle. Early in 1923 eight or ten high school teachers received notice from the superintendent that their names were being withheld for reappointment, until the board could complete an investigation concerning a teachers’ meeting which had been held the previous summer, at which a resolution had been adopted condemning the board for cutting the teachers’ salaries. The teachers who received this written notice tried to find out what it was all about, and they learned that the board of education had in its possession an unsigned typewritten document, purporting to be a resolution adopted by the teachers and transmitted to the Central Labor Council.

But the teachers had held no such meeting and adopted no such resolution; the secretary of the Central Labor Council declared that no such communication had ever been received from the teachers; and when the teachers tried to get a copy of the alleged resolution from the board, they were told that all the copies had been “lost”! Under its own regulations, the board was barred from considering documents with typewritten signatures; nevertheless, they took two weeks to consider this “lost” document, and finally gave the teachers their jobs—but without apology for the false accusation!

We shall find it worthwhile to glance at school conditions throughout this state. The Washington farmers and fruit ranchers, picked to the bone by the railroads and the 144banks, have their Nonpartisan League and their Farmer-Labor party, and are trying to get their schools. Mr. J. T. Sullivan, a teacher at Klaber, with a twelve-year record, ventured to run for county superintendent on the Farmer-Labor ticket. Reports were circulated that the platform of this party consisted of three planks—nationalization of all property, compulsory free love, and the destruction of all churches. The county superintendent—that is, Mr. Sullivan’s political opponent—declared that Mr. Sullivan would either give up his political activities or have his teacher’s license revoked; and Mrs. Josephine C. Preston, the state superintendent, refused him a license to teach in another county, because he could not get the endorsement of this same county superintendent!

Mr. William Bouck, master of the Washington Progressive Grange, a rebel organization, gave me the names of two young women teachers in Lewis County, who were asked if they were members of the Nonpartisan League, and when they answered yes, they were told that they were “fired.” Mr. Bouck’s own daughter applied for a position as teacher, and her credentials were judged satisfactory, but her name was suspicious; she was asked if she was any relative of William Bouck, and when she answered that she was his daughter, the director replied: “Well, you can go to hell!” Mr. Bouck added that there were grave-yards of radical teachers all over his county; and one of the other men in the party spoke up, saying that he had six personal friends who had lost their teaching positions because of their political opinions.

Everywhere throughout the state the book agents are in active control, working hand in glove with the politicians. I was shown one school primer, for which the Washington schools were paying sixty cents, and the same book was sold by the same company in Tennessee for twenty-two cents. Many school districts in the state were close to bankruptcy, because of the theft of their school lands by the big lumber companies; in all these lumber districts the companies put their own men on the school boards and run education. In the town of Centralia the boss of the schools, as well as of the town, is F. B. Hubbard, a mill-man, former president of the Employers’ Association, who incited the Legion men to raid an I. W. W. hall and hang the inmates with ropes. The Legion 145men had the ropes in their hands, and the door half battered down, when the I. W. W.’s opened fire, and Hubbard’s own nephew was one of those killed. The Associated Press sent out a dispatch stating that the I. W. W.’s had opened fire in cold blood on the Armistice day parade of the Legion, and it will take a generation to unteach this monstrous lie to the American people. Thus the Great Madame conducts for her Big Business masters the adult education classes of our schools!

Beginning our journey East, we find ourselves in Spokane, where we shall not mind stopping, because the lumber barons and kings of silver and lead have built themselves a sumptuous hotel; once within its portals, we may think we are among the plutocracy of New York or Paris or London. The first thing we do is to buy a paper from the news-stand, and learn that the lumber barons and kings of silver and lead have been equally lavish to their children, providing them with high-power motor cars, which they are driving recklessly about the city to the great distress of the police—who, of course, could not arrest the sons and daughters of royalty. It appears that these youngsters, instead of studying their high school lessons, have been studying the “movies”; they are going off on joy-rides, spending the night at road-houses, and the judge of the juvenile court has taken the matter up, and charges that school probation officers, seeking information about these youthful escapades, have been unable to get it from high school teachers, because the city superintendent of schools has intimidated the teachers.

So we are not surprised to learn that the invisible government of Spokane is the Employers’ Association, backed by the Washington Water Power Corporation; and that the head of the city school board is a grain speculator, prominent in anti-labor campaigns; also that they have their full quota of text-book scandals, and a campaign to introduce the teaching of the Bible in the schools—purely as literature, of course; also, that they discovered a high school teacher to be a Unitarian and believer in evolution, and he was reported to the superintendent as an atheist; also, that the teachers at the high school do not dare attend a lecture course given by the local Unitarian clergyman.

You might think you were in Portland, hearing a 146teacher remark: “Whenever they want to reduce our salaries, they cast slurs at us in the newspapers for weeks.” You might think you were in Los Angeles, when you hear how the business organizers endeavored to set the school children to writing essays on reactionary themes, and how a little group of “kickers” in the city offered a prize for the best essay on Woodrow Wilson’s “The New Freedom.” At this time Woodrow Wilson was robed in the majesty of office, so the proposition put the school board in something of a quandary. They turned the matter over to a committee, which solemnly resolved: “‘The New Freedom’ is not a book by Woodrow Wilson, but a series of extracts from campaign speeches, highly partisan in character.” So the proposition was turned down!


We continue our journey, and enter the domain of the copper kings. In “The Goose-step” I have portrayed the state of Montana as entirely swallowed by a monstrous reptile known as the Anaconda, and I have shown what this reptile has done to the universities of the state. Let us now have a glimpse of Butte, which is a mountain of copper with office buildings and miners’ shacks on top. We shall find here a situation resembling Berkeley; that is to say, the workers have been making desperate efforts to control the education of their own children, but without success. The copper interests, in their efforts to control Montana, have stopped at no atrocity and no crime. They have broken strikes with the utmost brutality, and when the people of Butte succeeded in electing their own political administration, the Black Hand used its control of the state machine to turn the city administration out. In the same way, they have been willing to wreck the schools by every device of slander and corruption. It is hard indeed to find honest public officials in a community where the rewards of treason are so high, and the penalties of public service so heavy. The result has been that the schools of Butte have served as a football of rowdy gangs.

The early stages of Montana history consisted of civil and political war between the Anaconda and its rival, F. 147Augustus Heinze. In those days public officials and political parties commanded fancy prices; but these good times came to an end in 1906, when the Anaconda bought out its rival, and took control of a state as big as Germany—most of its minerals, ninety per cent of its water power, and a hundred per cent of its politics. Butte at that time had an honest school superintendent by the name of Young; and because the Anaconda crowd could not use him, they began war upon him; three years later they kicked him out, and he died of a broken heart. They put in “the crookedest school man in the Northwest”; a gentleman who had two interests which absorbed his attention—breeding fancy dogs, and training brutal football players. Montana football tactics became a scandal throughout the country; and teaching standards fell so low that other cities refused to accept credits from Butte.

In 1911 came a radical wave, and a Socialist clergyman, Lewis J. Duncan, was swept into office as mayor. The first thing the Socialist administration attempted was to clean up the redlight district, and this brought them into conflict with two of the Anaconda’s political bullies on the city’s detective force. The pair were put on trial, one for blackmailing a prostitute, and the other for soliciting a bribe, and were convicted. They swore vengeance, and immediately afterwards one of the most efficient teachers in the Butte high school, who had been active in war upon the grafters, was summoned before the school superintendent and notified that she would not get her yearly reappointment. (They keep their teachers in Butte upon a string, having no tenure, and never knowing if they are to be re-engaged.)

This lady was told that her work was “not satisfactory,” but the superintendent gave no specifications, and refused to discuss the fact that the principal O.K.’d the teacher’s work. As a result of this development, a teachers’ union was organized in Butte, and immediately the three officers of the union were let out without cause. The fact that the superintendent had given one of these teachers a fulsome recommendation only one month previously did not count at all. The president of this union, a Harvard post-graduate, was blacklisted, and kept from any teaching position in Montana. In the meantime, 148Mayor Duncan, who had been re-elected, was kicked out of office by the Black Hand.

The Socialists had never been able to elect more than three of the seven school board members. In the 1916 campaign the Anaconda crowd made the open boast that they had controlled the schools for twenty-five years, and would continue to control them. They elected their ticket, and proceeded upon a campaign to “clean out the radicals,” dismissing without charges twenty-four of the most efficient and intelligent teachers. There was a roar of protest from the city; a prominent society woman, friendly to the teachers, made the statement at a mass meeting that it was the program to discharge every teacher who had attended the study classes conducted by the Reverend Lewis J. Duncan for nine years prior to his election as mayor. This lady’s husband happened to be cashier of the First National Bank, and at the next meeting of the directors of the bank this cashier lost his position. The school board took to meeting in secret and refusing admission to the angry public. Nevertheless, the people succeeded in having their way, to the extent that the teachers were reinstated and the superintendent retired.

Then came the world war, and that made things easy for the grafters. Since then there has been in Butte the same situation that we found in San Francisco; the Catholic schools are flourishing, while the public schools are deprived both of their money and their brains. A couple of years ago, through misuse of funds, the school treasury was so low that the schools were about to be closed two weeks in advance of the regular time. As a consequence of the Anaconda’s control of the state government, the mining companies pay taxes only on their net profits, and when they close down, as they did for a whole year, there are no net profits and no taxes. At the last moment the banks agreed to lend the money to keep the schools going—Big Business could not quite afford to have the news go out to the world that “the richest hill in the world” was unable to afford schools! In connection with this problem of mining company taxation in Montana, you may read in “The Goose-step” how Professor Louis Levine was kicked out of the state university for writing a treatise on this subject.

The working people of Butte are still struggling to 149have something to say about their schools, but their struggles are now blind and helpless, because the war has put the Socialist movement out of business, and without the idealism and training of the Socialists the labor movement falls prey to bribery and intrigue. There are now several so-called “labor” representatives on the Butte school board; and having read the story of a “labor” administration in San Francisco, you will be prepared for what is happening here. The Anaconda has not the least objection to its henchmen calling themselves “labor” men—provided only they will vote for the Anaconda. Big Business today has its representatives in all labor unions; and the Black Hand sees no harm in petty graft and a flourishing redlight district, provided that taxes are kept down and dividends not interfered with. On this “labor” board in Butte are a couple of loud-mouthed demagogues, whose main concern is to get patronage for relatives and friends. One of them has had his brother made utility man for the board, and his sister a teacher in the high school—somewhat to the concern of the city, because this lady is decidedly unusual in her mind, and two other members of the family are under restraint. Mr. O. G. Wood, until recently clerk of this board, writes me:

Professional etiquette forbids doctors and lawyers from buying space in the newspapers for advertising purposes, but they are not opposed to columns of fake write-up about the sacrifice they are making to serve the public while serving on the school board, in which to my certain knowledge they take no interest whatever except to get some relative elected to the position of janitor or utility man. The school board will wrangle for weeks over some janitor getting a job, and never pay the slightest attention to the great question of educating the child.... The Anaconda Copper Mining Company has been controlling the members of the school board for years, so as to divert the purchasing of supplies into their particular stores. This corporation has bribed members of the school board and has offered money to some of them to get them to resign, in order to have their men appointed by the county superintendent, who has the appointing of members to fill vacancies. My experience as an instructor in the public schools, and my two years in an executive position handling about a million a year, have led me to the conclusion that there is no public institution in the United States run with more waste and with less regard for the TRUTH than the public school system of the United States. The waste of money is appalling.

I close this story with an illustration of where the 150money goes. One of the great mining kings of Montana is W. A. Clark, who bought himself into the United States Senate, and was kicked out again because it was proven that his agents had dropped thousand dollar bills over the transoms of the hotel rooms of state legislators. Senator Clark had to get this money back somehow, so he sold the city of Butte a site for the high school, at a cost of seventy-five thousand dollars. But there is no high school on this site, for the reason that the children would have to go through the redlight district to reach the school, and one mother publicly declared that she would burn this school down rather than have the children attend it. After this you will be prepared to learn that ex-Senator Clark’s newspaper, the Butte “Daily Miner,” forever proclaims the sacredness of the schools.

One more illustration of the intense concern of the copper interests for education. You will suspect me of making up this story, because it sounds like a piece of symbolism—it might come straight from a play by Ibsen or Charles Rann Kennedy. The Anaconda discovered a vein of copper immediately underneath the Jefferson School, and has been occupied for several years in undermining the school. Now the walls of the building have begun to crack; but needless to say, the taxpayers are not getting compensation for the ruin of a school building. Nothing has been done about it, because this is an “East Side” school, where only the children of miners attend. When the building collapses, the Anaconda will head the relief list by a subscription of a hundred dollars.

Butte now has a new superintendent, who comes from Columbia University, and writes me that he was appointed as an educator and not as a politician. He tells me that neither he nor the school board would attempt to control outside activities of teachers, and that they are perfectly free to join a union if they wish. I trust they will not fail to act upon this information; and I wish Superintendent Douglass good luck in keeping out of Butte politics!



While we are in this mountain country, let us see what is going on throughout the state. The financial agents of the Anaconda, known as the Montana Bankers’ Association, passed a resolution to take charge of the schools; and Mr. W. J. Hannah, who lives at Big Timber, and is a member of the county high school board, also for a dozen years chairman of a rural school board, wrote to their educational committee to ask what they meant by this. In reply they informed him that they intended to appoint teachers, select text-books, and deliver lectures, and thereby inculcate respect for the money-changers of Montana.

Within two years after this action three presidents of banks in Mr. Hannah’s county were appointed as members of the high school board. Says Mr. Hannah: “Not a man among the three possesses any education whatever, nor have they ever evinced any interest whatever in the work of the public schools”—except, as he goes on to explain, to carry on propaganda on behalf of bankers. The high school library has been kept without any of the standard works on history, economics, sociology and ethics, which have any tendency toward democracy in industry or even in politics. None of these ignorant banker board members could possibly have found out for themselves what books to exclude from the library; they must have got from some central organization suggestions causing them to keep from the shelves such historical writings as Draper, Lecky, Buckle and White.

They crowd the pupils with manual training, domestic science and commercial courses; and discovering that basket-ball might be used to divert the minds of the whole community from interest in politics and social reform, they become ardent friends of school athletics. The Nonpartisan League was trying to organize the farmers of Montana, and, says Mr. Hannah: “It is only a year since a mob of high school students, with the full knowledge and tacit approval of this board of banker trustees, broke into a peaceful assemblage of farmers which was being held in 152the county court house.” They tried to break up the meeting, but did not succeed, and subsequent efforts to have them disciplined were thwarted by these banker trustees. Mr. Hannah continues:

What the bankers are now doing to our own high school in a limited way, they are also doing throughout the state in a much more general and effective way. Their educational program is in full operation. For two or more years they have demanded and secured prominent speaking places at every meeting of school men that is held in the state. Their voice is now heard wherever the subject of education is publicly discussed. Moreover, I read in the public press almost every day of addresses delivered by bankers to high school assemblies; and it is plain to see that it is merely a campaign of propaganda designed for the one purpose of misleading the children concerning the real nature of our banking system.

I have had occasion to argue with big business men concerning this control of school funds by bankers; they never can see anything wrong with it—who is there that should handle money, if not bankers? But I come upon a little item in the “Inter-Mountain Educator,” official organ of the Montana State Teachers’ Association, March, 1923:

The Hardin State Bank at Hardin, Mont., has closed its doors. Eight school districts in the county have a total of $74,380.85 in the bank. The heaviest loser is Hardin No. 17 H, which has $23,222.63 in the closed bank, and, besides, has been compelled to cut to the quick to operate this year.

There are now hard times in Montana, and in his 1922 report the superintendent of public instruction tells of the retrenchments and sacrifices which have been necessary to keep the schools going. “In hundreds of districts last year all expenses but teachers’ salaries were eliminated, the parents even donating the fuel and hauling. The teachers caught the spirit of sacrifice, and scores of them gave their services from one to several weeks in order that the children would not be deprived of any more school than necessary.” In this report appears a photograph of a mother who drove a team twenty-three miles a day in order to get her three children to school, and brought with her two younger children whom she could not leave at home; she came forty miles to a teachers’ meeting, so that she might get suggestions as to how to help these children at home. The report tells 153also of an eighth grade boy walking sixteen miles, and of five families who dug holes in a hill-side near Broadus, and lived there during the school season in order that their children might get instruction!

I am dealing in this book with Big Business; but you will understand that in this lair of the gigantic Anaconda, there are many little snakes hoping some day to become Anacondas, and diligently swallowing all they can. In the report of this state superintendent I find several pages of details about the plundering of the district schools by local business men: every kind of graft you could imagine—sixty dollars a month for transportation to bring the child of one trustee a mile and a half to school; a thirty-dollar pearl necklace for a teacher; trustees and clerks paying themselves all kinds of money on school contracts in violation of law; another trustee who hired his brother-in-law as principal for two hundred dollars a month, his wife as teacher at a hundred dollars a month, and his daughter at ninety-five—and the following year raised the principal’s salary to three hundred dollars, and the wife to a hundred and fifty!

Under such economic conditions it is inevitable that teachers should be terrorized. Here, as in Washington, there are grave-yards of radical teachers scattered everywhere. Certificates are continually refused to teachers who refuse to “take policy,” and on the other hand the State Normal College is freely distributing credits to teachers who carry on propaganda for the Black Hand. The teachers have been completely deprived of control of their own organization. At the Montana State Teachers’ Association convention of 1922, the gang put through strong resolutions against every kind of political liberalism, and the superintendent of schools of Lewistown, who was chairman of the Resolutions Committee, denounced the suggestion that there should be a referendum to give the rank and file of the teachers the right to vote on any question.

I have a letter from another Montana school official, who tells me of four different cases in which he heard prominent educators and lecturers admit the intolerable nature of present conditions in the state—but always ending with the anxious statement: “Of course, you understand that I am not a radical, and have no sympathy with 154radicalism!” At the summer school of 1921, at Lewistown, Montana, a professor of economics, being asked some questions about “The Brass Check,” took occasion to tell the students of the vast wealth which Upton Sinclair had accumulated out of his credulous followers! Just where this professor got his information I do not know, but any time he wishes he can have the fifteen thousand dollars’ worth of debts which I still have left from selling “The Brass Check” below cost. This same professor discussed a student at the Fergus County High School at Lewistown, who had come with the financial help of the school, but had proved himself unworthy and ungrateful—he had not changed any of the radical ideas which he had brought from his Nonpartisan League home! I cite these anecdotes just to show you the atmosphere which prevails in the class-rooms of the kept educators of the Anaconda.


We move on to Colorado, where we have not only copper kings, but coal and iron and oil and gold and silver kings—half a dozen dynasties dividing an empire. It would take a large volume to tell the corruption of government in the state of Colorado and the city of Denver; I have given a sketch of it in “The Goose-step.” Suffice it here to say, there is no “invisible government” in this community, the offices and privileges are sold on a curb market. As for education, only taxpayers have a right to vote for school bonds, the banks control the handling of the money, and their politicians spend it.

For a generation the active institution in control was the First National Bank, whose educational agent began his career in Denver as “Fudge” Sommers, clerk of the police department. He specialized in the stealing of school elections; he would have a “bunch of money” at each election, and workers awaiting him with their hands out. As “de gang” would say, “dere ain’t no easier money”; the school elections were entirely unguarded—there was no registration, and the ballot-boxes would be carried to the East Denver High School, and there fixed 155according to orders. “Fudge” was a Democrat, but at times when his party became progressive, he took his influence and his talents to the Republicans. He grew respectable, and is now the Honorable Elmer S. Sommers, oil magnate, good roads promoter, prominent in the Rotary Club, a society man rich enough to have his own “hooch” parties.

Under such conditions the citizens are helpless. For the most part they do not trouble to vote; now and then they protest, and are taught their place. I talked with a member of a committee which entered objection to the waste of school funds, and threatened to nominate a citizens’ ticket. The answer of the boss was: “You put up your board, and I’ll take my bag of money, and we’ll see how far you get!”

Next to Mr. First National Bank Keeley, the most active agent of the plutocracy in controlling the Denver schools was Mr. Great Western Sugar Company Morey. Mr. Morey was the “Sugar Trust” in our national capital, one of the most notorious of the war profiteers. He built himself a magnificent palace in Denver, facing the lofty Mt. Evans, and with the whole of Cheesman Park for a back-yard; then he died, and Denver has the Morey Junior High School, just as other cities have Washington Schools and Lincoln Schools and Jefferson Schools. We may assume that Mr. Morey dwells happily in a celestial palace, because as a far-seeing business man he provided for his spiritual welfare, being a pillar of the exclusive St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.

Once more the firm of God, Mammon and Company; and note how the schools are taken in as junior partners. For twenty years Denver had a most efficient school superintendent, a former president of the National Education Association by the name of Gove. I call him efficient, meaning that he served his masters, by keeping out of the system all revolutionary and dangerous new ideas, such as kindergartens, manual training and directed play. The progressive women’s clubs waged war upon him, and at the end of the twenty years succeeded in getting rid of him. And where do you think he went? Why, he became confidential lobbyist for the Great Western Sugar Company in our national capital! A congressional investigating committee raided some offices and 156got hold of the letters of his employers, and it was disclosed that Gove had been “interviewing” congressmen in their home districts; he had been instructed not to name his employers, and not to itemize his expense accounts!

The president of the Denver school board is a young aristocrat by the name of Hallett, whose qualification for spending the money of the schools was described to me by one of his friends: “He never earned a dollar in his life.” His father was a millionaire federal judge, whose tyrannies and fearful temper made his name one of terror to labor unions and would-be reformers in Colorado. Young Mr. Hallett also is a socially prominent vestryman of the exclusive St. John’s Cathedral, and he helped to import the very expensive Dean Brown from the effete East. Mr. Hallett was in a delicate position—he was both vestryman of the cathedral and president of the school board, and the cathedral owned twenty-six lots which it wanted to sell to the city as a school site. It must have been hard for Mr. Hallett to make up his mind where his duty lay, but apparently he decided that all eternity meant more to him than his term as president of the school board; his vestry sold the lots to his school board for a hundred thousand dollars, which was two or three times what they were worth.

In May, 1923, Mr. Hallett came up for re-election, together with Mr. Taylor, seventy-four-year-old vestryman of the cathedral, who serves the mining kings as an engineer; and Mr. Schenck, seventy-three years old, a former store-keeper at coal-mines for Mr. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. (The other board members are a lumber dealer, sixty-seven years old, a nice old lady of seventy, and an able-bodied contractor, active in politics.)

There was an opposition ticket put up by the liberals, and a second put up by labor, and a third put up by the Denver “Post.” In order that you may appreciate this story, I explain that the “Post” is a wealthy and powerful newspaper, which began in the old “shirt-sleeve” days, when newspapers in mining camps lived by blackmail. The “Post” has seen no reason for mending either its morals or its manners; its two proprietors, Tammen and Bonfils, are former gamblers and saloon keepers, whom 157I have told about in “The Brass Check.” Tammen, a frank and delightful personality, tells at Chamber of Commerce meetings how he would toss a dollar in the air, and if it stuck to the ceiling it belonged to the boss, and if it came down again it belonged to him. The Chamber of Commerce whoops with delight at this anecdote.

The “Post” now broke loose against President Lucius Hallett and his board. For a month or two the murders, highway robberies and sexual scandals of Colorado were shoved off the front page, and the red head-lines of the paper were given up to the crimes of the school board. The “Post” charged that the board members had permitted corrupt deals with members of the Real Estate Exchange and the Chamber of Commerce, and that the taxpayers had been robbed of great sums through shady land purchases. It went into details concerning the “favoritism” of the school authorities for the American Book Company. It showed also how the school board was favoring the children of the rich, and published pictures of the luxurious high schools in the rich neighborhoods and the overcrowded old fire-traps in the slum districts. It charged that the school board was maintaining the worst political machine in Denver’s history; the teachers were in fear for their jobs, the principals were political henchmen, and propaganda literature for the school board was distributed among the children to be taken to their homes. A Denver edition of “The Goslings” in serial form!

Why this sudden concern of the “Post” for the welfare of the schools? I do not know that. But I know that President Hallett published the statement that the cause of the attack was the school board’s refusal to make a contract with a coal company owned by the “Post.” I know also that the “Post” did not deny this charge of Mr. Hallett’s, or refer to it. An intimate friend of Mr. Tammen’s has asked me to meet him when next I am in Denver; then I shall ask him about it, and I have no doubt he will live up to his reputation as a “good sport.” Every now and then the “Post” has entered into campaigns against the stealing of city franchises, and when Tammen’s friends have asked him why so much fuss, he has answered with his cheerful laugh, “Because we didn’t get in on the graft.”

158Election day came and passed, and Mr. Hallett and his friends were declared re-elected. The grand jury took up the charges of the “Post” concerning real estate graft, and it was shown that one prominent “realtor,” or a dummy of his firm, had bought a parcel of land for several thousand dollars, and a few days later sold it to the school board for so many more thousands that it was considered dishonest even in Denver. Another “realtor,” recently a member of the city council, had bought land and sold it to the board for twice the price—and had charged a commission at both ends besides. He had used dummies—an office-boy, also his own son—and on this technicality the courts let him off. You will form an idea of the state of Colorado culture when I tell you that I consulted the Denver telephone directory, and found listed therein approximately 450 of these “realtors”—and to balance this, book-stores to the number of sixteen!

In the face of such obstacles, a few devoted souls labor to save the children of the city. The schools have been shockingly overcrowded—with classes in cook-rooms, in hallways, in basements, in rooms without light or air. And, of course, the school board has made to the teachers the usual explanations why the city could not pay them a living wage. The high school teachers called a mass meeting, intending to affiliate with labor; whereupon the school authorities rushed to head them off—by bringing in a famous orator of the National Education Association, and then by granting the raise in wages! When the president of the Denver Labor College asked for the right to use school rooms for classes, the board with seven representatives of business and not one of labor turned him down in horror; if they allowed a working-class school, they would have to allow a capitalist school! Let the labor college allow the board to appoint the instructors, and then they might consider the matter. “Won’t you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly!

For ten years the progressives have pleaded with the school board to permit school buildings to be used by the citizens for public meetings—but in vain. As I write, they are winning a long struggle to have some attention paid to the health of the school children; the “interests” denounce this as Bolshevism—though just why it is Bolshevism to take care of the children’s bodies, when it is 159not Bolshevism to take care of their minds, is not explained. There is one devoted friend of the children in Denver, Judge Lindsey of the Juvenile Court; all over the United States he has spoken to great gatherings in the schools—but not in Denver! He tells me that he hopes to get back this fall; if so, it will be the first time in ten years that he has spoken in a Denver school! The officials have told him quite frankly that “business” would not permit it.[F]

F. In December, as I am reading the proofs of this book, Mrs. Lindsey writes me that he has not yet spoken, and she knows of no prospect.

So we see the same thing that we saw in Los Angeles and Spokane—the children, being deprived of the joys and excitements of the intellectual life, follow the example of their elders and go “wild.” If I had the power to gather all the parents of America for one hour, and make them listen to whatever I chose, I think I should put them in the private chambers of Judge Lindsey. I had the pleasure of spending several days with him. I thought I knew something about what is going on among the school children, but I was staggered when I heard Lindsey’s story. I am going to tell it, but later on—for the reason that these conditions are not peculiar to Denver, they are a problem of the entire country. After we have satisfied ourselves what plutocratic education is, we shall want to know what it has done to our children, and how our grand-children are to be saved.


Back in the days of President Buchanan the American Congress set aside large tracts of federal land, to be devoted forever after to the support of schools; and these lands have ever since been the favorite pasturage of Big Business. In state after state I found highly cultured members of old ruling families interested in education—and living upon fortunes made by the theft of school lands! In Maine and Wisconsin and Oregon these lands were stolen for the timber; in Minnesota for the iron ore; in Michigan for the copper; in Oklahoma and Texas for 160the oil; in Indiana and Illinois and Colorado for the coal.

The story of the Colorado school lands is told in a little pamphlet, “The Looters,” by George A. Connell, Cedaredge, Colorado. The sections set aside were Numbers Sixteen and Thirty-six of all government townships; and according to data available, the schools of Colorado own about six billion tons of coal. Instead of working these mines for the benefit of the schools, the state of Colorado turns the land over to the coal companies for a royalty of ten cents per ton of coal mined! The schools have to have coal themselves, and they purchase it from these same coal companies. It costs the companies, to mine this coal and deliver it to the schools, $5.80 per ton, while the price which the schools pay for it is $10.50 per ton; the coal companies therefore make $4.70 per ton, and this after paying the ten cents royalty to the schools! In the year 1920 there were mined almost a million tons of coal from the state school lands; the schools got for this a net profit of a little over eighty-five thousand dollars, while the coal gang made a net profit of nearly four and a half million dollars. In other words, the coal companies made in one year from the coal more than the schools will make in fifty years. Under the present method of doing business, the schools and the people of Colorado will surrender to the coal corporations for the coal taken from the school lands a total net profit of twenty-seven billion dollars.

Let us follow this coal money. Under the law a part of it has been turned into a “permanent school fund,” which now totals ten million dollars. And where does this money go? Why, to the banks, of course; and what do the banks pay for it? They pay three per cent interest; and at the same time the various school districts are borrowing money, and have to pay five and a half per cent on their bonds! The difference between these two items means a quarter of a million dollars, which the schools of Colorado are donating to the bankers every year! That pleases the bankers, and they use their control over the educators of Colorado to keep the people from knowing about the graft.

In September, 1920, there was a contest arranged between two district schools, and an eighteen-dollar basketball 161was put up as a prize for the school which could give the best answers to twenty-four questions. The principals of both schools accepted the terms of the contest, and the county superintendent agreed to assist. The questions were to be published in the local newspaper, the Surface Creek “Champion”; the editor said he would take them under advisement, but he never published them. The Republican county committeeman was called in to the “advisement”; the county superintendent, who was up for re-election, was also called in, and this lady made a hurried trip to the two towns and called off the contest. And would you like to know why? Well, one of the twenty-four questions read this way: “How much of the permanent school fund is loaned to the banks, and how much is on deposit?”

The county superintendent had sent this question to the state superintendent, and a letter came back, signed by both the state superintendent and the deputy: “I cannot answer this question. I could not get any information along this line.” The question was presented to various educators throughout the state, and they admitted that they did not dare to touch it. The question was presented to the editor of the “Rocky Mountain News,” the great organ of the plutocracy of Denver, and the editor not only refused to print anything about it, but stated that “any man that stirred up such things is a Bolsheviki and an undesirable citizen.”

In 1914 there was a great strike of the Colorado coal miners, which led to a civil war, not merely at the mines, but also in front of 26 Broadway, New York, the offices of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and also at Tarrytown, where the Rockefellers, father and son, have their palatial estates. This civil war was of concern to the Colorado schools, because they paid all the cost of it; the coal company gang in the state legislature put through a bill, taking five hundred thousand dollars from the school funds of the state, to pay the cost of breaking a strike for Mr. Rockefeller. The radicals carried on a campaign for a year or two over this issue, and as a result of the publicity one-fifth of the amount was paid back to the schools.

In the East Side High School of Denver there were two teachers who made so bold as to talk about these matters, and also to concern themselves with the civil rights 162of miners. Of the six demands of the strikers, five were for the enforcement of the laws of the state; and a pupil in one of the high school classes asked Miss Ellen A. Kennan whether this was true. An embarrassing moment for a teacher—with sons and daughters of coal operators in the class! Miss Kennan answered the question truthfully, and forthwith the president of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, Mr. Rockefeller’s concern which was breaking the strike, came to the school to demand an explanation!

Miss Kennan was one of the prize teachers of the Denver school system, a Greek and Latin scholar and a prominent lecturer at women’s clubs; she had been in the system for seventeen years. Her friend, Gertrude Nafe, had been in for seven years, and during the strike had the difficult experience of teaching the son of General Chase, the combination dentist and militia officer who was setting aside the Constitution in the coal country and supervising the Ludlow massacre. Miss Nafe also answered her pupils’ questions truthfully, and so the general and his employers made up their minds to get these two ladies out of the schools.

It took them four years to do it, and they had to increase the number of school board members, packing it with their henchmen. Even so, it was only the war that gave them their chance. They drew up an oath for the teachers to take, pledging loyalty to the Constitution and the government, and “to promote by precept and example obedience to laws and constituted authorities.” Miss Kennan and Miss Nafe cheerfully signed the first part of this pledge, but they found themselves in difficulties when it came to the second part. How can one pledge obedience to laws and constituted authorities, when constituted authorities are defying the laws? Consider the 1914 strike, in which the miners had tried to compel the constituted authorities to enforce the laws—and had failed! The teachers had explained this to their pupils, and now could not stultify themselves. Their friends begged them to sign, the pledge being ”nothing but a joke”—the teachers all so regarded it; but these two ladies took the matter seriously, and struck out the word “obedience.”

So they were slated to be driven from the system. They demanded a hearing before the board, and were 163permitted to make a brief statement explaining their reverence for their revolutionary ancestors, who had defied the constituted authorities when these authorities defied human rights. The principal of the school asked to be heard, and said: “I have never wavered in my faith in their value to the schools, in my faith in their services to the coming citizens of this republic.” But the board turned them out, and for the past five years the children of Denver have been taught by some teachers who take their oath to be a joke.

Time passed, and there came another strike of the Colorado mine-slaves, and another curious test of Colorado education. I have before me an issue of a weekly paper published by the striking miners, the Walsenburg “Independent,” January 3, 1922. It bears across the top in large letters the caption, “This paper was censored by the Colorado Rangers.” Then follows a news item to the effect that Professor S. M. Andrews, school superintendent of Walsenburg, and also of Huerfano County, had addressed a teachers’ meeting in Denver, and praised the rangers and their martial law. That much I learn from the paper; then comes the statement: “Censor cut out report of his speech as printed in the ‘Rocky Mountain News,’ December 30th.” Of course I might hunt up this issue of the “Rocky Mountain News” and tell you what Professor Andrews said, but I don’t think it worth the bother. The point is clear: a superintendent of schools, supposedly a public official, drawing two salaries from a coal mining community, goes up to the state capital, and before a convention of teachers defends the state police in their abrogation of state and federal constitutions during a strike; and the commanding officer of these gunmen in uniform forbids the miners’ newspaper to communicate to the miners what their own superintendent of schools has said about them in their own state capital!



We continue East and cross “bleeding Kansas,” where John Brown fought, and the old settlers came in their covered wagons, singing:

/* We cross the prairie as of old The Pilgrims crossed the sea, To make the West, as they the East, The homestead of the free. */

Now in this homestead of the free the organizers of the Nonpartisan League are beaten, tarred and feathered, jailed or deported, for trying to address the farmers. Alexander Howat is thrown into jail for six months for advising coal miners to strike, and William Allen White, editor of the Emporia “Gazette,” is arrested for putting in his window a card stating that he sympathizes with the strikers. The principal organ of culture in the state is the Kansas City “Star,” founded by a brave and sincere liberal, and now turned into an organ of screaming bigotry and hate. Two years ago this paper flung wide the gates off the city to its darlings, the American Legion, and the boys gathered by the tens of thousands, and repaid their hosts by conducting a three days’ drunken orgy, in the course of which they wrecked the lobby of the city’s palatial hotel.

Kansas City is a packing-house and railroad center, and the head of its Black Hand is W. T. Kemper, hard-fisted “open-shop” exponent and manipulator of high finance. To run the board of education he has a prominent real estate operator, Nichols, with four children, none in the public schools; a lawyer, Nugent, a little brother to the rich; and Pinkerton, president of the Gate City Bank. All these gentlemen call themselves Democrats, I believe; but this makes no difference, because Kansas City has what they call a bi-partisan school board—one-half its members to the Democratic party, one-half to the Republicans, and none to the people. This school board is absolutely autocratic, makes no reports to anyone, and does not even have an auditor. Its function was described by one of the teachers—“to buy all the holes 165in the ground belonging to the bankers and put schools on them.” I regret that I cannot give the figures as to what the bankers got, because the lady who knows, and made the statement, is not willing to take the risk of publicity.

As manager of their “open-shop” schools this board has engaged a superintendent by the name of Cammack, at a salary of eight thousand a year; an aged despot with a second-grade teacher’s certificate and a very bad temper. When you hear the story of his handling of the teachers you find it so familiar, that you wonder if you have not already read this part of the book. I had the same sensation all the time I was traveling over America; it was like those dreams you have, in which you know you’ve dreamed all that before!

In Kansas City, as everywhere else, the teachers were unable to live upon their wages; and here, as everywhere else, the business men had to “jolly them along,” and persuade them that a great rich city could not possibly afford to pay a living wage to the teachers of its children. The women’s clubs took up the problem, and appointed a committee, which voted that the question was “an intricate, vexatious and dangerous one”—but it would never do to raise the tax assessment! Fifty-two teachers had to go to work as telephone girls and in department stores during the summer, to make up the deficit in their salaries; others were working as waitresses in the railway hotels. They had borrowed money to go to summer school, hoping thus to get promotion; now they were in debt and could not make it up.

So the teachers took up the idea of affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers; there was a mass meeting, and the president of a “co-operative” organization of the teachers, supposed to be representing their interests, got them started at singing, and after they had sung for a while he let them hear some “hand-picked” speakers; then, just when everybody was expecting to hear a speech on the subject they were all interested in, an increase in wages, he had them sing one more song—and then declared the meeting adjourned! For this service he was awarded with a five thousand dollar position in the school system of another city.

Kansas City has a kind of Margaret Haley of its own; 166she is Mrs. Sarah Green, president of the Woman’s Trade Union League, and her organization took up the fight for the teachers’ salaries. A mass-meeting was called, and Mrs. Green called up the president of the board of education, and asked permission to distribute announcements of the meeting to the teachers in the schools; this permission was refused. Then Mrs. Green asked the superintendent of schools for permission to hold the meeting in a high school building; this permission also was refused. The meeting was held outside, and a great many teachers got up the courage to attend, and in the end they got about half the salary increase they should have had. The cultured lady-teachers were shocked at the idea of joining a trade union and identifying themselves with common working girls. “But,” said Mrs. Green to me, “I know of girls who work in factories in this city, and don’t even know how to read, who have more courage than our teachers, and would not submit to the humiliations which the teachers have to endure.” That is something for school-teachers, and all other white-collared wage-slaves, to think seriously about!

Mrs. Green has also made herself a great nuisance to the school authorities by butting in on debates in the public schools. You see, they cannot keep the students from wanting to discuss that livest of all live issues in Kansas City, the open shop. Mr. Cammack and his supervisors and principals naturally plan to have the opponents of union labor win these debates; but the students persist in coming to Mrs. Green, who takes them in off hours and provides them with the facts—with the result that out of ninety-seven she had trained, only seven have lost the debates! You can imagine what a terrible thing that is for the morale of an open-shop city!

In the summer of 1922 there was an epidemic of trachoma in the Kansas City schools. This is a dreadful eye-disease, which in its later stages eats out the eye-balls. It is one of the most contagious of known diseases, and so is a serious matter in schools. In one Kansas City school a majority of the children were afflicted, but the board didn’t want anything done about it, because it would interfere with the real estate business; they would not let the doctors and nurses make the facts known, so the parents had to take up the agitation. They went before 167the school board and protested again and again, but could get nothing done; the board sent nurses—to forbid the parents of infected children to discuss the matter! One courageous teacher, Miss Letitia Cotter, took up the agitation, at peril of her position, and carried it to the labor unions and the parent-teacher associations. The superintendent went off on his vacation, and left the assistant superintendent, who told Miss Cotter that no more public money would be spent on this matter—“the Red Cross already has spent six hundred dollars on those dirty rats and wops!” So you see how they love the people in these open-shop schools!


We continue East to St. Louis, another city where God and Mammon have combined for the exploitation of the children. There is no city in which the Catholics are stronger, nor any in which the two political parties are more completely in the hands of the open-shoppers and labor exploiters. Up to last year the two parties had a gentleman’s agreement by which each party nominated for the school board only half as many candidates as there were places to be filled. The result was no competition for school board memberships on election day. The Democrats inevitably elected their candidates and the Republicans theirs; and since the nominating conventions were under the complete domination of political bosses, these bosses in effect named the school board members.

Recently the people made an especial effort to eliminate one gang member, by the name of Murphy. They kept him off the Democratic ticket, whereupon the Republicans nominated him, both the gangs voted for him, and he went in for another six years. These school board members are uneducated men of the ward-leader, campaign-manager type; at least three of them, I am assured, have never been through the grade schools. A prominent citizen of St. Louis wrote me in 1922: “We have men on our board of education who are ignorant and vicious and without character whatsoever.” Another citizen of St. Louis writes in 1923:


There is no such thing as an honest election in St. Louis. The ballots are changed by the political gangsters, who are the election officials at all the polls. I visited a large number of the polls at the last school election, and in some found only one individual sober; some were lying with head on the table, dead to the world, others maudlin. The large mass of the people are criminally negligent toward their civic duties—they do not vote, and this makes it all the easier for the ward-heelers. This is for your private information, for it would work me much harm here in my position if anything of this appeared over my signature.

The Catholics of St. Louis have a complete educational system of their own, replacing the public school system. The German Catholics used to send their children to the public schools, but now the archbishop says, “You will be damned if your children attend the godless schools”; and the Irish and Italians and Poles, who compose the new Catholic population, bow to this threat. You might think the Catholics would at least be willing to let the “godless schools” alone, but they are not; on the contrary, seventy per cent of the teachers in the public school system are Catholics, and a good part of the board has been for a long time made up of Catholics. The purpose of this is the same as we have seen in New York and San Francisco, and shall see in Boston and Baltimore—to starve the public schools.

The extent to which this is done in St. Louis you will find difficult to believe. The people want to have good schools, and go to the polls and vote the money—and then the board of education refuses to spend the money! Recently the people passed a bond issue of three million dollars for new buildings; while I was in the city the board decided to spend only one million and a half. The people have voted an education tax of eight and one-half mills on the dollar, but the board again and again has voted to spare the poor taxpayer and save his money. There were six millions available for buildings, and no move had been made to spend them. Ten grade schools and two senior high schools had been authorized by the board the previous year, but they were not yet off the drawing-boards; and meantime all the residence districts of St. Louis are dotted with Catholic schools and high schools, and a new half million dollar Catholic high school is near completion.

169I talked with Dr. Henry L. Wolfner, who is one of the best known oculists in the United States, and was until recently a member of the school board. Dr. Wolfner told me that he did not know why the board was unwilling to spend this money; he had tried his best to get it spent, he said, and the result was a long intrigue to force him off the board. When finally he resigned, the “Globe-Democrat,” organ of the gang, declared that in a letter to the board he had given ill health as his reason for resignation. This, Dr. Wolfner assured me, was an out and out lie. He summed up the situation in the St. Louis schools in two contrasting incidents: first, the courts had removed a board member because it had been discovered that the board had purchased a building site through his real estate firm; and second, the Catholic president of the school board had withdrawn from the college library a set of Havelock Ellis’ great work, “The Psychology of Sex.” These books had been in the library for many years, and were made use of by juvenile court workers, and teachers of incorrigible boys and defectives.

Dr. Wolfner told me of the efforts of the gang to get rid of one competent educator after another. They had just forced out Dr. John W. Withers, and also Dr. E. George Payne, director of the Teachers’ College. Dr. Withers wrote a letter to the papers three or four years ago, in which he showed how political graft and favoritism made impossible an honest administration of the schools. The superintendent was continually besieged by demands from the gang for favors, the appointment or promotion of this or that political favorite. The Catholics, of course, are tirelessly working for promotions for their crowd. “I wish I could bring myself to become a Catholic,” said a teacher to a friend of mine; “I would get on three times as fast.”

Also, there has been a long struggle over the question of whether graduates of the Catholic high schools should have the right to enter Teachers’ College without passing an entrance examination. Since the Catholic schools have very low standards, the educators of St. Louis have fought this, and it was on this issue that Superintendent Withers and Principal Payne of Teachers’ College were driven from St. Louis. The Catholics brought suit in the courts, and won their case in St. Louis, but lost it 170before the supreme court of the state. Now everybody in St. Louis rests easy, in the assurance that standards are being maintained for the teachers. But just recently the school board has thrown down the bars, and parochial school graduates are accepted wholesale. This news has been entirely suppressed by the St. Louis newspapers, so the public of that city will get from this book their first information that their school board has set aside the decision of their supreme court!

Also, of course, the book companies are on the job. Up to the year 1921 a member of the committee for the adoption of text-books was receiving a salary from the American Book Company, for spending summers in California and doing some nominal editorial work. Naturally this board was friendly to American Book Company publications. The board meets in secret, what it calls “executive meetings”; the members of the gang hold a caucus in advance, and decide what they are going to do, and make everything unanimous; so the public never finds out what is going on. This regime of graft and favoritism extends all the way down; the principals are petty tyrants, flattered and fawned upon; those teachers who are weak and subservient, and do clerical work for their principals, are the ones who get the marks. The St. Louis school system was worked out by a real Prussian some thirty years ago; it is a military affair, routine and red tape and formulas. Every year the teachers are automatically dismissed, and must be reappointed—the ideal of the “open shop” system.

Here, as usual, the teachers had to take up the fight for a living wage. No attention was paid to them, so they proceeded to organize. Miss Rosa Hesse was elected president of the teachers’ organization, and the superintendent sent for her and demanded to know if they were going to join the American Federation of Teachers; if so, every one of them would be discharged. The organizer of the teachers’ federation was barred from speaking to them. At the same time, the official representative of the Chamber of Commerce was coming and soliciting them to join his organization. It would be “advantageous,” he assured the teachers significantly. This Chamber of Commerce was deeply interested in the schools—it had been taking action to prevent the professors 171at the Teachers’ College using a series of text-books, “Community and National Life,” prepared by Professor Charles H. Judd, and published by the United States government; the ground of the objection being that these books intimated very mildly that labor unions had some advantage, in that they developed a sense of self-respect among laborers!

If you have read “The Goose-step” you will recollect the question raised by Professor H. L. Bolley of North Dakota: “Is a college professor a citizen?” You will remember that we cited a number of cases proving that he is not a citizen. We shall in this book consider the question: “Is a school teacher a citizen?” In St. Louis she very certainly is not, as the case of Miss Rosa Hesse proves. I had the pleasure of talking with this lady, and if it would do her any good I would cheerfully bear testimony that she is an American gentlewoman of the old school, absolutely uncontaminated by any touch of “Red”—that is, unless perchance the reading of “The Goose-step” has since affected her! At the time I talked with her, she had no idea whatever of the social significance of what had happened to her; she was simply bewildered by her discovery that a school teacher is not permitted to demand a living wage and to exercise her rights as a voter.

To begin with, Miss Hesse discovered that the meetings of the school board were supposed to be public; so she got a group of teachers to agree to attend them and see what was going on. But when it came to a showdown not one of the teachers dared; Miss Hesse went in all by herself, and gave me a comical account of the expression on the superintendent’s face when he saw her in that holy of holies. As a result of this presumption, her name was left off the list for reappointment in the year 1921. The superintendent lied to her outright about it, but one of the board members gave him away, and the protests of the teachers forced a reconsideration at this time.

But shortly afterwards an election for the school board came up, and Miss Hesse’s organization, the Grade Teachers’ Association, ventured to approve certain candidates. I am told by a gentleman of St. Louis who knows the situation intimately that in this political struggle 172the teachers’ organization was being misled by the “gang”; and this, alas, may be—I have seen labor unions thus used on many occasions. Anyhow, a lady by the name of Mrs. Gellhorn, president of the Missouri League of Women Voters, issued a call for a meeting of women. At this meeting the choice of the Grade Teachers’ Association was condemned; and among those endorsed was Mr. Christopher W. Johnson, millionaire basket manufacturer, and a member of the board for twenty-four years.

Mr. Johnson was running for re-election to a public office, and Miss Hesse, a citizen of St. Louis, was being asked for her vote; she thought she had a right to be informed about the matter, and she said to Mrs. Gellhorn, privately and politely: “Is it true, as has just been stated at an open men’s meeting, that Mr. Johnson is the head of a sweat-shop, and is connected with a real estate company doing business with the board?” That was all of the conversation; and for it Miss Hesse, who was head assistant of the Franz Sigel School, and had been a teacher in St. Louis for thirty-one years, was driven from her position and from the school system.

Mr. Johnson himself got hold of the story, and the matter was brought up before the board. A motion was made for the expulsion of Miss Hesse, and when the motion was about to die, Mr. Johnson himself seconded it. Miss Hesse managed to get a public trial, and at this trial Mr. Johnson served in the triple capacity of complainant, prosecutor and judge. Three other members of the board gave testimony against the teacher, and then voted as judges against her.

I am told by one who has investigated the matter that the charge concerning Mr. Johnson’s connection with a real estate company was false; but the charge had been made in a public meeting, and so Miss Hesse thought she had a right to inquire about it. Whether Mr. Johnson’s large box and basket factory is properly described as “a sweat-shop” I can not say; if I should call it that, Mr. Johnson, who is a contentious person, might put me on trial also. But I presume I may quote a physician in St. Louis, Dr. H. W. Faber, who writes me that he had to attend girls who worked in this basket factory, and had worn down the skin of their fingers until the blood oozed out on the baskets. I presume also it is permissible to say that one of the 173ladies who testified to having heard Miss Hesse’s question about a “sweat-shop,” belongs to a family which ran a sweat-shop in the Missouri penitentiary!

Miss Hesse’s expulsion made a great stir in the city; a petition was circulated for her restoration, and twenty-five thousand people signed it. The Central Trades and Labor Union appointed a committee to take up the matter; but the board declared that it had no power to advise the superintendent to reappoint a teacher. We may venture to guess that if the board had made a polite recommendation, the superintendent would not have ignored it. But they preferred to leave matters as they stood; and the rule for teachers in St. Louis was stated to the newspapers by a Jewish rabbi: “Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing!”


We move north to Minneapolis, headquarters of the milling industry, and financial center of a rich iron and lumber territory. Here we find the beginnings of hope for America; organized labor has broken away from its old leadership and gone vigorously into politics, while the farmers, rejecting the propaganda of their exploiters, have struck hands with the labor unions. The result has been the Farmer-Labor party, which has elected both United States senators from Minnesota, and will probably take over the state administration at the next election. It controls the city council of Minneapolis, and is fighting to get the schools away from the Black Hand.

The labor-smashing society of Minneapolis for twenty years has been the Citizens’ Alliance, with a secret service department and a program of terror. They have gone after the schools, as everything else; they have had their friends on the board—contractors’ friends and real estate friends, and open-shop friends. During the war the contractors put forward their lawyer, the product of a military school, and the secretary of the Citizens’ Alliance announced that this Mr. Purdy was to run the school board. They borrowed the automobiles of the rich, and elected him by the votes of the cooks and chambermaids 174and chauffeurs of Minneapolis. As colleague on the board they gave him a Mr. Jepson, president of an artificial limb company, who, needless to say, was getting rich out of the war. While he was a member of the state senate, he had written letters to his agents, ordering that all packages should be shipped to him personally, because the express companies were so kind as to handle his personal packages free. I had an amusing experience in connection with this artificial limb gentleman. I sent the manuscript to a certain high-up Minneapolis educator, who thinks I am too extreme in my distrust of the plutocracy. He promised to correct my errors; and concerning this Jepson story he wrote:

This is a dim and mysterious tale. What frank does a state legislator have? A postage allowance perhaps, that all the boys use up in some way, whether for stamps or cigars. Or do you mean that the American Express Company carried his packages free because he was a legislator? I have never before heard this story, and I am not enough interested to look it up. But you had better get a more accurate version before you publish it. I know Jepson, and he does not strike me as just that kind of a scoundrel.

Well, I was more interested than my correspondent, and I looked it up. I have before me a poster, measuring 25 inches by 39, with letters at the top 1-5/8 inches in height:


The rest of the poster is occupied by six facsimile letters, bearing the signature of Lowell E. Jepson, president of the Winkley Artificial Limb Company, Jepson Bros., Sole Owners. One letter reads as follows:

Now until you receive full instructions, send everything by U. S. express to Hon. L. E. Jepson, 106 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., but always in a box so that contents may not easily be seen, but never use a leg box in so doing. If you should have to send us a leg for changes you had better get a small soap or cracker box and bend it up and put it in that way.

Another letter explains that inasmuch as Mr. Jepson represents the city of Minneapolis in the state senate, the railways give him free transportation, and he will be very glad to visit his correspondent to fit him with two artificial legs. Another letter laments the fact that “The U. S. 175express has gone back on me, so I had to pay the 30 cents; after this send by Gt. Northern and it will come all right to me all right.” And still another letter is addressed to an agent who is trying to sell an artificial leg to an old soldier. In order to get a cash payment at once, the agent is instructed to make the old soldier think that if he does not pay cash there will be a long delay. “Make them think that if something is not paid, dozens will get ahead of them.”

This poster was used by Mr. Jepson’s political opponents in the effort to keep him from being re-elected to the state senate. It is interesting to hear that Mr. Jepson applied for an injunction, and the courts suppressed the whole edition of these posters. Such a comfortable thing it is to have your own courts!

Against conditions such as this the Socialists and labor men of Minneapolis are carrying on a fight for the schools. Big Business owns not merely the courts and the government, it owns the university, and almost all the churches and newspapers. The labor people started a newspaper of their own, but it seems to have gotten away from them, and they have to go to the public with their bare voices. A Socialist school board member told me that in the campaign of 1921, he spoke at a noon meeting in front of some factory every day for two months, then at a meeting in the afternoon, and six times every evening. He was a member of the board while I was in Minneapolis, and took me into office and showed me the insides.

Permit me to introduce you to Lynn Thompson, plain American carpenter, organizer for the Trades and Labor Assembly of Minneapolis, and for thirteen years an active Socialist soap-boxer. Recently it became his duty to call a strike against the Wonderland Theatre; some judge issued an injunction against the strike, and Comrade Thompson gave me the text thereof, containing many paragraphs, and covering everything a human being could do in connection with a theater and its proprietor. Said Comrade Thompson: “I would violate that injunction if I were to wake up in the middle of the night and dislike him.” Nevertheless, he posted the theatre as unfair, and he and four other men were sentenced to pay two hundred and fifty dollars each. Refusing to pay, they were sent to jail on a six months’ sentence, and actually served sixtyfive 176days of it—a period of great relief for the representatives of Big Business on the school board!

We are told that we must elect business men to office, because they alone know about business. Here in Minneapolis was a school board composed of business men exclusively, and the schools were reported to be three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt, and there was no money for current expenses. The newly elected carpenter asked these business men, and they didn’t know how matters stood; neither did the board’s employes know. For years the board had been spending the money of the schools on guess-work. They got their appropriations at one time of the year, and figured their expenses at another time, and never could tell how much they needed or how much they had. Professor Swenson, of the state university, who happened to be on the school board, had to go before the legislature and make a guess as to what amount of bond issue was necessary to cover the deficit; he guessed half a million, and came out pretty near right. To make perfect the humor of this situation, an association of business men had got the legislature to pass a strenuous law, providing jail sentences for public officials who allowed overdrafts of public funds. They knew at the time that the board of education was “in the hole,” as were several other departments; and they made no provision to cover the deficits. They went ahead and passed a law, which they knew must be broken every day, if the government were to go on!

A carpenter is not supposed to know much about school-books, but Comrade Thompson, with his colleague Mrs. Kinney, wife of a railroad conductor, did what he could to find out. There had been no system in the book-rooms, and it was often not possible for the principals to know what books were stored in the schools; some of them followed the plan of ordering new books every term, and burning the surplus stock of old books. That was fine for the book companies, which naturally resented Comrade Thompson’s “butting in.”

The American Book Company had been represented for a couple of decades by a famous book man, an old soldier by the name of Major Clancy. I ask you to make particular note of this old gentleman; we shall meet him in several places, and in the end find him high up in the 177councils of the National Education Association. Major Clancy has only one arm, and this is a picturesque appurtenance of a military title—until you learn that the other arm was lost in a threshing machine! Citizens who were investigating school book graft in Minneapolis noticed that when they brought an indictment against one of the board members, the first thing he did was to make a beeline for Major Clancy, who got him a lawyer and saw to the putting up of his bail bonds. It was discovered that another member of the board, also a member of the normal school board, was attorney for the American Book Company. Text-books had been published in huge quantities, and had stayed on the shelves untouched, until the board had resolved that they were out of date, whereupon the companies had taken them back for a few cents a copy.

Naturally, Lynn Thompson was interested in building. The average cost of school buildings in the United States is 37 cents a cubic foot. This labor agitator and walking delegate, under bonds for violating a court injunction, insisted upon the standardizing of all specifications, and contracts were let in Minneapolis at a cost of 21.7 cents. Nor were these cheap buildings—on the contrary, they were using brick that had been adjudged too high in price for the schools in Des Moines. On that same day the school board of Boston let a contract for a big building at 48.9 cents. It is worth noting that every step in this economy campaign was fought by a big contractor who was on the school board.

There was a question of building three high schools, and three brick concerns bid $33 per thousand; it was manifest that they were in collusion. The price was eight dollars too high, and Thompson moved that they should buy in the open market for $24.10 per thousand. Two weeks later they got an offer at this price from one of the concerns which had bid $33—the same concern and the same bricks! And then came the question of sites. One man having a pull with the board asked $60,000 for a site; Thompson decided that it was worth $28,000 and the board offered him $40,000. He went to the courts, and the jury said $28,000, and the Supreme Court sustained that valuation. “For these efforts,” said Comrade Thompson, “I got some abuse—and sixty-five days in 178jail.” It is interesting to note that this $28,000 site was a trackage site, and the purchase was made necessary because a previous board had given away trackage to an automobile company.

As a Socialist, of course, Comrade Thompson’s hobby is to have the people do their own work, omitting the grafters. He would make a motion that school buildings should be put up by the city; and he would get one vote beside his own—that of the railroad conductor’s wife. The school board had an electric repair shop, and this persisted in making bids on repair jobs which beat all the contractors—to the contractors’ great annoyance. There was one job on which the city’s men saved the city three thousand dollars, or thirty-five per cent of the total cost. The school board admitted that these workers were responsible and did first-class work; nevertheless, the board passed a motion that the repair shop should make no more bids.

On December 20, 1921, bids were opened for a large job, and it was found that the Sterling Electrical Company had bid $22,688, while the school shop bid $4,300 less. The board awarded the contract to the Sterlings, by a vote of five to two—the two, needless to say, being Thompson and Kinney. Thompson got a taxpayer to go before a court and ask an injunction, and Mr. Purdy, representative of the Black Hand on the school board, appeared for his colleagues, and admitted that the shop had proved to be reliable and efficient, but argued that the interest of the private contractors must be conserved! The court sustained the majority of the board, and the city of Minneapolis lost $4,300 to the grafters.[G] It is interesting to note that the judge who rendered the decision is that same Judge Bardwell who kept Comrade Thompson and four other labor men in jail for sixty-five days for violating one of his injunctions!

G. Guy Alexander vs. A. P. Ortquest, Nels Juel, Lowell Jepson, et al.; injunction denied Jan. 25, 1923.



In order to make a consecutive story, I have shown what Big Business has done in the way of Graft in Minneapolis. Let us now complete our view by taking up Propaganda and Repression. During the war there was formed a “Public Safety Committee,” a lynching society of the Black Hand. One of the first objects of their attention was the school board—with Lynn Thompson daring to defend a teacher who belonged to the I. W. W.! He was a fine teacher, and there was no other charge against him—but he had to go.

There was the usual fight over salary increase, and the teachers were forming a union. The president of the Citizens’ Alliance, a former head of a strike-breaking agency named Briggs, set out to “smooth them down,” and gave a dinner to the teachers’ officers and leaders, about sixty of them, at a “swell” club. There was an association of the teachers, controlling their pension fund, and Mr. Briggs attended a meeting of this, and pleaded with them “like a Methodist revivalist, with tears in his eyes,” not to be so wicked as to join a union. He had several teacher-lobbyists to help him in this campaign—and one of them got a fine job in the state university as his reward. Another got up a “Teachers’ League,” one of those “yellow” unions which the gang controls. The teachers were asking five hundred dollars raise, and this representative went before the board and said they would take three hundred; after which he was made, an assistant principal, with a three thousand dollar salary! It is interesting to note that when the Black Hand was raising campaign funds to drive Comrade Thompson from the school board, one of the charges named in their secret circulars was that he had opposed promotion for this man!

The militarists are making a desperate struggle to keep their hold on the schools in this city of the millers. I thought I was back home in Los Angeles when I learned how at one of the general meetings of the Parent-Teachers’ Association they sprang a proposition to endorse military training for the children. There was no time for consideration 180or debate; they shoved it through without most of the people realizing what was happening; and next morning the kept newspapers triumphantly announced this result as representing some tens of thousands of parents and teachers!

Next came a proposition before the board to cut out night schools and the Americanization program, on the ground that these cost too much money. The Socialist carpenter moved that instead they should cut out the military training; and he demanded a public hearing on the proposition. The board set a time for the hearing, and then began it earlier, hoping to rush it through before the opponents of militarism got in. But that was easy for a soap-boxer who has learned to speak at eight meetings in one day; he held all eight meetings right there before the board, and kept things going until the regular time which had been set for the discussion!

It proved to be a lively session. The Reverend Shutter, pastor of the Church of the Redeemer—oh, magnificent irony!—wrote a letter in defense of militarism, and pointed out how the army was needed for the putting down of strikes. The congressman for the Black Hand liked this so well that he put it into the Congressional Record, and it was sent out under the frank of the government. The editor of the Minneapolis “Labor Review” stated that he had heard the wife of a school board member, taking part in a debate at a women’s club, state that “we need soldiers to put the Socialists down.” This was practically the same thing as the clergyman had said, but for some reason the militarists took offense, and the editor was challenged to name the woman—which he did.

The climax came when a Congregational clergyman by the name of Stafford spoke in opposition to military training. He was lieutenant and chaplain in a medical regiment of the Officers’ Reserve Corps; so here was a first-class scandal. The members of this corps held a meeting and expelled him from their mess, and demanded that he surrender his commission. The commanding officer of his regiment demanded that he apologize and recant, and when he refused, preferred formal charges against him for “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The army martinets set up the contention that members of the Officers’ Reserve Corps and of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps are 181part of the army, and are under military discipline at all times, and it is a breach of discipline for any member of any unit to oppose military training. It is pleasant to be able to record that the War Department refused to sustain this extreme doctrine.

I have told in “The Goose-step” of the elaborate system of spying which the Black Hand maintained at the University of Minnesota, located in Minneapolis. They did the very same in the schools; they got out a questionnaire on militarism, and when one teacher omitted to answer about Socialism and labor unions, the fact was broadcasted in the kept newspapers. They sent a spy to inspect the text-books—including annotations written in the teachers’ own copies. One teacher told me of this, and how her principal had refused explanation of the incident. They tested students on Socialism, the I. W. W., etc., for the purpose of spying on the parents of these children. One high school teacher thought it proper that her pupils should know the meaning of such words before they answered questions; she advised them to go to a Socialist meeting and hear the Socialist arguments, and she was summoned by the principal and told that she would be discharged if she repeated this offense. Another teacher was censured for advising a student to read “The Jungle.”

The spies were especially successful in the case of W. R. Ball, “director of citizenship” in the Minneapolis schools. Mr. Ball had the idea that democracy really means something, and should be applied in every-day life; still worse, he belonged to the American Federation of Teachers. The Citizens’ Alliance had a so-called “American Committee,” and this committee employed two spies, bearing the hundred per cent names of Olsen and Kunze, who collected a mass of gossip concerning Mr. Ball’s utterances to his pupils. For example, he had referred his advanced students to John Fiske’s “Critical Period of American History”; in this work a chapter dealing with the period prior to the adoption of the Constitution is entitled “Drifting Toward Anarchy.” So the spies reported that Mr. Ball had advised his students to read a Socialist book entitled “On the Road to Anarchy.” They also introduced a statement charging disloyal teaching, signed by a well-known saloon keeper; and on the witness 182stand before the board of education, this gentleman was unable to remember anything in the statement, and finally admitted that the paper had been handed to him to sign by Spy Olsen.

Twenty-four principals and teachers, co-workers with Mr. Ball, appeared to testify to the value of his work, and a committee of professors of the state university, including a dean of the Graduate School and head of the history department, certified to the value of the pamphlets Mr. Ball had got out for his students. But Mr. Ball, in his statement to the board of education, confessed to holding such ideas as “that a large number of workers under the present capitalistic system, were getting wages too low to support their families with the necessities of life.” Also: “We defined a radical as a man who went to the roots of things and traced cause to effect, and was necessarily a deep thinker, and a friend to justice and righteousness.” The Minneapolis board of education considered that this was equivalent to a plea of guilty, and so they drove Mr. Ball from the Minneapolis schools.

You will be amused also to hear the story of how the Black Hand of this city put a detective agency upon the trail of Comrade Thompson, and what they found. The report came in that he was a plumber, French descent, member Holy Rosary Catholic Church, short, thick-set, dark complexion, could neither read nor write the English language, and expressed himself with great difficulty on the platform. Members of the Citizens’ Alliance who had heard Lynn Thompson speaking at eight meetings per day, told the detective agency that the details didn’t fit; they had been shadowing the wrong Thompson!

It is sad to have to report that after six years of devoted service to the city, Lynn Thompson and Mrs. T. F. Kinney were defeated for re-election to the Minneapolis school board in 1923. The teachers supported them solidly, and they were able to show the voters how they had saved the city more than a million dollars. But the Black Hand was out to put down Socialism, and they did it in the usual way—with their money. The contractors raised a campaign fund; Mr. Purdy wrote to the vice-president of the First National Bank, pointing out the perils of radicalism and appealing for support. The club women turned out 183with their automobiles—and the wives of workingmen did not turn out, and that tells the story.

Out of ninety thousand votes the Big Business ticket won by four thousand majority—and at the head of the board was the Citizens’ Alliance candidate, a man by the name of Gould. It has since been revealed by a senatorial investigation that this man was holding a clerical position in one of the departments at the state capital, drawing a salary of four hundred dollars a month from the state, while doing the work of the so-called “Sound Government League,” an organization of the Black Hand formed for the purpose of evading the corrupt practices law of the state. This league had spent half a million dollars in order to re-elect the candidate of the Black Hand as governor of Minnesota; and now its secret agent, Gould, is on the school board of the city, doing everything in his power to overcome the accomplishments of Lynn Thompson and Mrs. Kinney.

What does this mean for the teachers? I have before me a letter from a Minneapolis teacher, who has ventured to speak out against school autocracy. He explains that he has not been able to send me data, because he has been loaded with a double amount of work, as punishment for his opinions. I dare not tell you what this work is, because that might lead to the teacher’s being recognized. He tells me of the struggle of the teachers’ organizations, and the plan which they are now agitating—to be permitted to experiment with a school without a principal. He tells me also how the high schools are on a “six-hour day” plan, against which the teachers are in opposition. Says my friend:

One man, an athlete and debater at college said to me: “I think the plan is a failure.” “Will you say so when you are asked?” I inquired. “I think the administration will not look kindly on anyone who does,” he replied. “But do you, a man, mean to tell me that you will not say what you think?” His rejoinder was that he did not want to be thought a “knocker.” What can be expected when such things prevail? Before the war it was considered uneducation to make large classes: the big men now demand “economy,” and force election of administrators pledged to guarantee it. These administrators, instead of saying to the people: “We are doing a reactionary thing,” declare: “We are now, by new schemes of efficiency, getting one teacher to do the work of two; and the teachers like it—as witness So-and-so!”



Next we visit Detroit, headquarters of our automobile industry, where we find the usual struggle to hold down union labor, and the usual school board of business men and politicians, engaged in protecting the interests of their crowd. I sat chatting with a group of newspaper reporters, one of whom has been specializing in school affairs for many years. “I suppose you have the regular school board graft,” I remarked; and he hesitated: “No, I wouldn’t say there was much graft.” “Well,” said I, “you have a committee which selects sites for the schools; do you mean to say the members of this committee haven’t relatives and friends among the big real estate speculators, who want the schools in the neighborhood of their subdivisions?” The reporter looked at the rest of the company and grinned. “Oh, the dirty son-of-a-gun, he’s right on to the whole thing!”

He went on to explain—of course they had that, but nobody would call that graft in Detroit. It was in the power of the school board to make the city grow any way it desired; there were thousands of people forced to live in the suburbs, because rents everywhere else were too high, and in making up their minds which district to go to, the first thing they thought of was the nearness of a school. Then I went on to ask about text-books, and the first detail to come out was that the principal of the Northern High School of Detroit had written a text-book on English literature, and the superintendent had been unable to refuse it, because the principal was so “well connected.” “Is it a good book?” I asked, and an educator replied: “It is one of the rottenest in the world!”

Another friend tells me about some school board meetings which he attended. There was a long and intricate discussion of the kind of pipe which should be used for school buildings. One board member was keen for iron pipe, another board member was keen for steel pipe. That bankers and lawyers and dentists and club ladies should know so much about the technicalities of building materials was puzzling to my friend. Some kind of conclusion 185was arrived at, and then two weeks later he went back, and attended another board meeting, and lo and behold, they were threshing out the question all over again! Said my friend to a reporter: “Aren’t there any other questions connected with Detroit education but what kind of pipe they have in their buildings?” The answer was: “Simpleton! One of these board members has a friend who would like to sell iron pipe, and another of the members has a friend who would like to sell steel pipe.”

The connections of Big Business with the schools are so intimate in Detroit that they are almost humorous. We have seen the American Book Company operating in Minneapolis, and we now find that in Detroit its president, A. V. Barnes, is the brother-in-law of Truman H. Newberry, ex-secretary of the navy and ex-senator from Michigan.[H] We shall, before we finish, see the American Book Company engaged in corrupting school officials and making away with school money in every section of the United States. Now we discover that several hundred thousand dollars of the money thus made away with was used by Newberry and his gang to buy a seat in the United State Senate.

H. In “The Goose-step” Mr. A. V. Barnes was erroneously stated to be the father-in-law of Truman H. Newberry; and thereby hangs an amusing anecdote. The Detroit “Times” wished to reprint the chapter dealing with the University of Michigan, and in order to make sure of the facts they sent the book to Judge Murfin, regent of the university, and friend and attorney for the Barnes-Newberry family. Judge Murfin sent back his comments with the statement that “Mr. Barnes is not the father-in-law of Mr. Newberry.” Just that and nothing more; you see what a clever family lawyer the judge is! But someone on the “Times” was suspicious, and wrote again, saying that in order to be perfectly fair it would be necessary for Judge Murfin to state if there was any relationship at all between Barnes and Newberry, and if so, what the relationship was. By this means Judge Murfin was persuaded to admit that Barnes is Newberry’s brother-in-law!

As a rule, when these high-up grafters purchase a political title they wear it with honor and glory the rest of their days; but it happened in this case that Newberry’s opponent was Henry Ford, who has money enough to have some rights, even in America. When Mr. Ford visited my home two or three years ago, he told me that he had some two hundred men at work investigating these election 186frauds, and he did not mean to quit until he had got Newberry out of the Senate. He kept his word; but all through the struggle the defense of Newberry was the first task of the gang in Michigan—and this including the school machine. Mrs. Otto Marckwardt, an instructor of swimming in the Detroit schools, and wife of a professor at the University of Michigan, was so indiscreet as to answer the questions of a pupil about the Newberry affair, and for this she was turned out of her position. How this could happen you will understand when I explain that Mr. Frank Cody, superintendent of schools in Detroit, has a brother, Fred Cody, who was Newberry’s most active henchman, and was convicted of election frauds along with Newberry. The cycle becomes comically complete when we learn that Fred Cody is agent for the American Book Company, whose president is Newberry’s brother-in-law!

So here is the perfection of plutocratic education. You may learn from it what Big Business is going to do to all our children; in fact, you have already learned it—turn back to Chapter XXI, and read about Margaret Haley’s deputation of nine school teachers who came to Detroit to study the “platoon system” as there applied. I am told by an educator whom I trust that this system is fundamentally good; I am here discussing only what is found in the great metropolis of automobiles, the headquarters of all standardization. I remind you of its deputy superintendent, in charge of this Fordization of infancy, who tells us how “society” is certain to require more and more propaganda from the schools, and this is the system which makes it possible. Ask yourself, before it is too late, whether you are satisfied with your destiny, to breed human units to be turned into factory operatives and cannon fodder for the masters of the new American Empire.


We go from city to city, and I wonder, will you grow tired of reading the same things over and over? Perhaps we shall be wise to agree on a few formulas, so that you may get a situation in a phrase. Let us agree upon 187“salary campaign,” to mean that the teachers took up the fight to get an increase in wages—and didn’t get very much. Also the phrase “union smashing,” to mean that the teachers formed an organization, and were forced to quit it or to quit the schools. Also the phrase “schools overcrowded”—meaning that the children of the poor are jammed into old, unsanitary buildings, while the city is erecting palatial high schools, with all the luxuries for the children of the rich. Also let us recall the familiar “Propaganda” and “Repression,” which tell us that business men come to the schools to sing the praises of business, while teachers are reprimanded for the slightest hint of a liberal idea. All these things are a part of the school system in the metropolis of automobiles. As one teacher phrased it to me: “We know that the old watchful eye is on us!”

I have before me a copy of a publication called the “Industrial Barometer,” Detroit, Michigan, September, 1923. It is the organ of the Employers’ Association, and is full of bitter, sneering arguments against labor unions and public ownership—proving that public ownership of railroads leads inevitably and “by easy steps” to public ownership of babies! A copy of this publication is sent free of charge to every school teacher in Detroit, and when the teachers read it through they find the menace which is meant for them: “The spread of radical and iconoclastic theories in colleges calls for a closer inspection of persons and things herein than heretofore.” (This of course is intended as a lesson in economics, not in English!)

I got an interesting light on Detroit education from a group of Socialist children. Needless to say, these children were not having a happy time in the schools; they were forced to listen all day long to attacks upon their faith—and this regardless of what might be the supposed subject of instruction. One teacher discussed the wickedness of teachers forming unions, and pictured their plight when ordered on strike: “And we’d be clubbed over the head if we refused!” A teacher of economics explained all poverty as due to the extravagance of the poor; she talked for half an hour about a case she had known, a poor woman who bought a mahogany furniture set costing six hundred dollars, and including three plate glass 188mirrors! You understand, it is not permitted the children of Detroit to argue with their educators; as one child said to me: “We almost die with rage!”

Sometimes these children would be pained to note that teachers of a liberal bent of mind would make some statement, and then be seized with fear, and apologize and explain that they didn’t really mean it. One teacher explained that she was using a very reactionary text-book, because she had to. “And,” added the child, “that teacher is not teaching any more.” The child understood exactly why, having often observed the principal standing behind a half-opened door, listening to what was going on in the class!

The Socialist children brought me their text-books, to show what they had to endure. For example, that work on English literature written by the principal of the Northern High School of Detroit, Edwin L. Miller. This local celebrity tells the children of his city that George Bernard Shaw “persistently obtrudes upon the public the absurd proposition that all property should be held in common.” I hereby publicly offer to Mr. Miller or his publishers, the Lippincotts, the entire income which I may derive from this book if they will point out to me a single passage from the writings of George Bernard Shaw in which this proposition is advanced. Will Mr. Miller or his publishers let me hear from them? They will not!

Also “The Elements of Political Economy,” by Professor J. Laurence Laughlin, prize reactionary of the University of Standard Oil. This eminent economist tells the school children of Detroit that “Socialistic teaching strikes at the root of individuality and independent character.” I have known some thousands of Socialists in my lifetime, and I venture the estimate that nine out of ten of them possess more individuality and independent character than a kept college professor of the Rockefellers. This professor is so rabid in defense of his masters that he even finds it necessary to underscore the phrases in his text-books: “The great difficulty with these schemes,” etc. He reveals himself so ignorant of Socialism that he cannot even spell correctly the names of its leaders; he gives three names, Proudhon, Karl Marx, and Lassalle, and misspells two of them!

189Or consider this sentence: “If men constantly hear it said that they are oppressed and down-trodden, deprived of their own, ground down by the rich, and that the State will set all things right for them in due time, what other effect can that teaching have on the character and energy of the ignorant than the complete destruction of all self-help?” I take the liberty of answering this rhetorical question: such teaching can have the effect of making the ignorant realize that for the mass of the proletariat under the capitalist system individual effort is a pitiful delusion and snare, and that the one hope for the workers lies in class-conscious collective action. And when the ignorant have learned that lesson, they will be wiser than a professor who teaches economics under a Rockefeller subsidy, and produces poison text-books to be published by Mr. Barnes of the American Book Company, and sold to the schools of Detroit by the convicted henchman of Mr. Barnes’ brother-in-law, and purchased for the city of Detroit by the brother of this convicted henchman!

I got another interesting sidelight on the schools of this metropolis of automobiles by talking with a group of citizens interested in the prevention of child labor. Because the workers of Detroit are taught by poison text-books to rely upon self-help instead of solidarity, they are so poor that they are unable to keep their children in school. The big business men of Detroit are charmed with this condition, not merely because it enables them to avoid paying taxes to build new schools in the slums, but also because it provides them with an abundant supply of child labor for their industries. In the effort to abolish such labor, the reformers of Michigan obtained passage of a law allowing poverty-stricken parents a sum equal to what the children might earn if they worked; also, they obtained a mother’s pension law, for the support of those children whose fathers are killed in the automobile factories. But what is the use of such excellent laws when there is no budget provided to pay the money? In the county in which the state capital is located some mothers are getting as little as fifty cents a week for the support of their children!

A group of church workers, seeking to raise a fund to agitate against these conditions, had the bright idea of getting “society ladies” to assist them. The “society 190ladies” were to go about and collect subscriptions from the manufacturers; but for the first time the ladies found their charms entirely futile—they could not raise a penny! To enforce these child labor laws would destroy the prosperity of Detroit, said the great captains of industry. So every week the truant officers and child labor officers bring children into the Recorder’s Court, and the recorder investigates and learns that the reason the children are out of school is because in school they would starve. The recorder has to admit he does not know what to do with cases of this sort.

We shall in due course examine the enormous organization, including all the big manufacturers of the country, which for thirty years has carried on a nation-wide campaign to paralyze the schools in the interest of child labor. While we are in Michigan, let us see what they have been doing here. All over the state are vast fields of beets and celery, and for the cultivation of these cheap labor is a necessity. A man applies for a job, and only one question is asked him: “What is your gang?”—the meaning of the question being: “How many child slaves have you got?” Children as young as five years of age stagger about the fields, carrying in each hand a beet which weighs as much as six pounds, and with the clay on it as much as ten pounds. The National Child Labor Committee, covering one-seventh of the beet-territory, counted sixty-nine children under six years of age, working as high as fifteen hours a day!

Of course, such babies, working such hours become ill, and are malformed for life; yet before committees of the legislatures of forty-eight states you will hear suave manufacturers explaining that child labor is good for children—all the great presidents of America were raised on farms! These suave gentlemen got through a law exempting the canning industry from the child labor laws during the canning season; and then the suave gentlemen devised a method, by the use of vats, to make the canning season last the year round! This being a depressing subject, you will be glad to end with a laugh; so I mention that one of these big business gentlemen, a bitter and persistent enemy of the child labor laws, is an active officer in the national organization of the Animal Welfare League!



Let us now move to the Atlantic seaboard, beginning with Boston, hub of the universe and fountain-head of our culture. Boston once prided itself upon the civic virtues and stern New England moralities; today it is a graft-ridden city of slums, the cultured population having withdrawn to the suburban towns, and the plutocracy to haughty isolation in the Back Bay District, where “the Lowells speak only to Cabots and the Cabots speak only to God.” The great bankers and corporation magnates employ the corrupt city government in their factional fights—Lee, Higginson & Company against Kidder, Peabody & Company; it is reported by those on the inside that one mayor of the city made more than a million dollars out of the “tips” he got from the latter firm. For a decade or two the great part of Boston’s government has been for sale; the district attorney was selling justice, or injustice, wholesale, and recently an effort was made to convict him, but the gang proved too strong.

All that these haughty magnates, the Lee-Higginsons and Kidder-Peabodys and Lowell-Cabot-Lodges ask of the schools is that taxes be kept down. To this end they have entered into alliance with the Catholic hierarchy—the old firm of God, Mammon & Company operating on the shores of Boston Bay, as we have seen it on the shores of San Francisco Bay and the Mississippi River. For some time the arrangement was that the school board consisted of two Catholics, two Protestants, and a Jew; but when I was in Boston last year the line-up was four Catholics out of five members. As usual, the entire program of the Catholic element can be summed up in one sentence, to starve the public schools so that the parochial schools may thrive. The hierarchy never ceases to denounce from its pulpits those Catholics who fail to send their children to the church schools. They have advised Catholic women not to join the National Education Association, because this organization has endorsed the Shepard-Towner Bill, providing national subsidies for education. It was offered to exclude the Catholic schools 192from federal inspection, but that made no difference—the Catholic authorities do not want the public schools improved, they do not want the competition of good schools.

They are tireless in their efforts to keep control. They have blocked the movement for a “Greater Boston,” because this would bring in the suburbs, which are Protestant. At a meeting at the Notre Dame Cathedral one speaker after another stressed the importance of getting Catholic teachers into the schools. “The Irish are always for the Irish,” testifies ex-President Eliot of Harvard; and there have been some funny illustrations in Boston education. Two or three years ago there was an uproar in the city, it having been discovered that the schools were using a work of anti-Irish propaganda, the Century Dictionary! Someone had looked up the word “brutal,” and discovered that in illustrating its use the dictionary employed a sentence from Emerson’s “English Traits,” dealing with the great famine: “In Irish districts, men deteriorated in size and shape, the nose sunk, the gums were exposed, with diminished brain and brutal form.” So the school board solemnly resolved as follows: “Ordered: That the use of the Century Dictionary in the Boston Public Schools is hereby discontinued until such time as a discriminating, unfair, and untrue reference to the Irish race is eliminated.” And the Board of Superintendents ordered the passage blacked out from all copies in the school libraries! I suggest to the publishers of the Century Dictionary that when they are getting ready their next edition for Boston, St. Louis, San Francisco, and other Catholic cities, they look a little farther in Emerson’s “English Traits,” and quote the following: “The English uncultured are a brutal nation.... The brutality of the manners in the lower class appears in the boxing, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, love of executions, and in the readiness for a set-to in the streets, delightful to the English of all classes.”

The Catholic censorship of Boston’s intellectual life extends even to the public library, which was at one time a famous institution, but is now useless to students, because it excludes whole groups of modern books. There is a reading-room for children, and on the prominent shelves of this room you find church propaganda for the young, thrilling stories about popular and beautiful 193lady Catholic wives, and wicked Protestant “vamps” who break up homes. The Italians cannot get the Bible, but have to write down their names and stand in line and wait—and even then they don’t get it. I was told by a teacher in the Brookline schools that the public library there had refused to order Chafee’s “Freedom of Speech,” the standard work on the subject, written by a professor of the Harvard Law School. I was told by a teacher in a Boston high school that she had been rebuked by her principal for using a text-book in which it was stated, casually and without comment, that the Irish immigrants had come to America on account of the potato famine.

I was told also of a high school department head who was called up on the telephone by a Jesuit priest of Boston College, and ordered to promote a certain Catholic to a higher grade. Considering this Catholic incompetent, the department head declined, and was given two hours in which to make her decision; when she still refused, scandals were spread concerning her and she was summoned before the board. I cannot give the details of this case, for the reason that the teacher who told me the story was afraid to put it into writing, or even to revise my manuscript. It is interesting to note that this priest is the person who has been selected by the Catholic hierarchy to give the “improvement lectures” for the teachers of the Boston schools; these lectures being public school affairs, originally given by professors of Harvard. One high school teacher told me that her pupils had been forbidden by the priest to read Dumas!

Boston is one city in which they have teachers’ councils. “What freedom we have is due to these councils,” said a group of teachers to me; and I asked just what kind of freedom that meant. They might take up the question, at what hour should the janitor clean a certain room. They might take up the question, what credits should be allowed for certain courses. “But you have nothing to do with hiring and firing?” I asked, and there came a chorus: “Oh, no, no, no!” And, of course, they have nothing to do with salaries; their salaries have been held down, and when the women teachers agitated for increased pay, they were “put off.” They called a meeting in Faneuil Hall, “the cradle of liberty,” to discuss their problem; they invited the board members to attend, but 194not a single one was interested enough to come. Some teachers belong to a union, but they keep very quiet; they saw what happened to the policemen’s union in Boston. It is interesting to note that at the time of the Boston police strike the teachers of English and history received instructions from the school board not to permit any mention of it in classes.[I]

I. My account of the Boston police strike in “The Goose-step” was ridiculed by the Boston newspapers, and a Cambridge professor wrote me that he knew it was not true, because he had been on the ground—meaning that he had read what the Boston newspapers published concerning it, and had talked with other people who had read the same. I take this occasion to state that my account of what went on during this strike in the private offices of the Black Hand of Boston was furnished by one of Boston’s leading bankers. This old gentleman wrote it out for me with his own hand, and sent it to me—under the pledge that when I had read it and made notes concerning it, I would send it back. I am not sure that I would have had the nerve to publish what I did about Cal Coolidge and his black eye, if I had known that this strike-breaking hero was to become the next President of the United States. But I have published it now, and can’t unpublish it!

There was a Boston tea-party once upon a time, and the history books are proud of it; but those old days are past, and the White Terror holds sway in Boston and its suburbs. A teacher in the Cambridge public schools was driven from the system for telling her pupils that the Soviets had a right to determine their own way. At one of the Boston high schools a child was writing on Bolshevism, and asked the teacher about it, and the teacher gave her an article from the “Review of Reviews,” which presented some facts favorable to the Russian government. This teacher was called before the board and suspended, with two weeks’ loss of pay, and was told never again “to teach anything with two sides.” In Boston they passed an ordinance forbidding the displaying of the red flag; and only after they had passed it did somebody recollect that the red flag is the emblem of Harvard. I should like to tell you of a number of other funny things which have happened in the shadow of our “cradle of liberty”; I spent several hours listening to stories of teachers—and after I got back home, most of these teachers wrote, forbidding me to repeat what they had told me!



While we are in Massachusetts, let us have a look at its second city, Worcester, the manufacturing center of the metal trades, and “open shop” headquarters of New England. We have studied this “open shop” system in Southern California, and it will be interesting to note some further evidence of the unity of the United States.

What does the term “open shop” mean? It means that a place is “open” to unorganized wage-slaves, and closed to union men; as corollary to this, it means a universal spy system, with the beating, jailing and deporting of union organizers. That there are factories in which the employers maintain such conditions is bad enough; but when you have, as in Worcester, an open shop city, the case is infinitely more serious. An “open shop city” is a place where the organized employers apply to a whole community those tactics of terrorism which they have learned inside their factory gates; so that the “open shop” becomes not merely the industrial policy, but the philosophy and religion and morality of two hundred thousand human beings.

The Black Hand of Worcester is known as the Metal Trades Association. It has a whole group of subsidiary propaganda organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Economic Club. It has two kept newspapers, the “Telegram” and the “Gazette,” also a smaller paper, the “Post,” controlled by the Catholics. There is a large Irish population, also a French-Canadian population, to which the open shop is handed down as the will of the Pope. The Protestant God thunders actively through the mouths of fashionable clergymen, who denounce labor unionism and Socialism, not merely in sermons, but in illustrated lectures in colleges and schools, their denunciations being reprinted in the next day’s newspapers.

At the top of the educational system of this Black Hand is Clark University, once a center of America’s feeble intellectual life. I have told in two chapters of “The Goose-step” the story of this university’s collapse. I will restate briefly: one of the trustees, Mr. Thurber, 196general manager of Ginn & Company, school-book publishers, discovered an opportunity to boost the sales of the Frye-Atwood Elementary Geographies, and selected as the new president of Clark University and Clark College the author of these masterpieces, who proceeded to open in the institutions enormous geographical and geological and physiographical and anthropographical and anthropogeological and physicoanthropological and geophysicogeographical and anthropophysicogeological departments, institutes, summer schools, chautauquas, and correspondence schools, at which teachers and superintendents of the United States are assembled, winter and summer, to meet the book writers and book agents of Ginn & Company, with Mrs. Helen Goss Thomas, head of the geographical division of Ginn & Company, graciously pouring the tea.

It happened that Scott Nearing was lecturing at Clark University on the control of American colleges by the plutocracy, and President Atwood came in to hear him, and being dissatisfied with the proofs he quoted, and wishing to furnish more conclusive proofs, got up in the middle of the lecture and ordered Scott Nearing off the platform and out of the hall. This was the greatest triumph of plutocracy in American educational history, and all Worcester rose with a yell and hailed President Atwood as the saviour of the learned world. The Rotary Club gave him a banquet, welcoming him with such uproar that the newspaper reporters had to admit their best eloquence inadequate. The Economic Club elected him president for the new year, the superintendent of schools sang his praises, and the clergy ordered special anthems.

Nor were more substantial rewards forgotten; I inspect a list of the text-books used in the public schools of Worcester for the year after the Nearing incident, and I discover that in the high schools there are forty-two text-books of Ginn & Company, in the elementary schools twenty, in the supplementary reading list thirty-five, a total of ninety-seven books—and, needless to say, under the heading of “Geography” we find “Frye’s New Geography, Book I, (Frye-Atwood Series),” and also “New Geography, Book II, Atwood, (Frye-Atwood Series).”

197While we are on the subject, you will be interested to know of recent developments at Clark University. The chapters in “The Goose-step” evidently got under the skin of the alumni, for they appointed a committee of three to investigate President Atwood’s administration. The chairman of this committee was a young Catholic physician of Worcester, having political ambitions. He looked into the matter, and assured a number of the faculty members that he was going to make a report condemning Atwood’s administration. But then he was summoned before the Clark trustees, who are the big chiefs of Worcester’s Black Hand; and his committee rendered a report which said that everything was just as it should be. Mr. Thurber came out with a statement that “everything is lovely at Clark”; and this at a time when the freshman class had been reduced one-half, the graduate school had been reduced nearly two-thirds, and the trustees were obliged to raise the tuition fifty per cent in order to offset the decrease in income! They have now made plans to drum up students for the next year, and have engaged one of the foremost chautauqua artists, ventriloquists, magicians, and vocal acrobats in New England, to lead the force of salesmen.

Also you will be amused to know that at the close of the last academic year President Atwood summoned all those members of the faculty who were his supporters, and asked them if they could suggest anything wrong about his administration. One of the academic rabbits summoned courage to make a squeak; he said the exclusion of the “Nation” and the “New Republic” from the university library had done more than anything else to injure the reputation of Clark. Whereupon the librarian flared up, and declared that if either of these magazines were restored to the library, he would resign. They have not been restored.

Instead of that, Clark University is sending out bulletins offering “home study courses” to people who want to learn to talk about the weather! You may think that just one of my hideous jokes, but here is the “Supplement” for April, 1923, listing “Courses Now Ready,” and the first course is entitled: “The Passing Weather.” Says the description: “This course will prove of interest and value to all who wish to know the simple, scientific 198facts which underlie that ever-present widely discussed subject, the weather.” The advertisement goes on to explain that “the person who finds pleasure in observing and anticipating the ever-changing face of the sky will find this study interesting and profitable.”

There remains to be mentioned a tragic incident. Among the faculty of Clark who were in rebellion against the Atwood regime was Arthur Gordon Webster, an internationally known scientist and physicist. Professor Webster had been on the faculty for thirty years. I was advised to write and ask him, in confidence, his ideas and conclusions. He wrote briefly, but did not give me what I wanted, and I was told afterwards by some of his colleagues that he was afraid to do so, and that the shame of his position preyed upon his mind. Two months after “The Goose-step” appeared, and while the faculty and student-body at Clark were discussing the book, Professor Webster said to his students: “This is the last time I shall address you from this platform—that is, for a long time.” He wrote a note to his son, saying that his life had been a failure; then he retired to his laboratory and put two bullets into his head.

Let us now take up the training of the goslings of this open shop city. There is the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with President Hollis, a former naval officer and martial soul, who boasts that he is ready at any time to place the entire student body of the Institute at the disposal of the police to break strikes. (Last summer he loaned his own daughters to break the strike of the underpaid telephone operators!) A list of the trustees of this concern is a list of the Black Hand of Massachusetts. At the head stands George I. Alden, president of the state board of education, also president of the Norton Grinding Company, a thoroughly feudal concern, which owns its workers’ homes, and ruthlessly ferrets out every independent thought in their heads. Just for fun, I will list the rest of these trustees by occupation, so that you may see what a really plutocratic board can be when it tries.

The manager of the American Steel & Wire Company, another feudal concern, whose special device is to avoid paying pensions by discharging its old employes a year or two before they become eligible; a prominent 199banker and member of this same concern; a prominent lumber dealer and manufacturer; the head of the largest loom manufactory in the United States, heavily interested in banks and in the two Worcester newspapers; the head of the United States Envelope Company; a leading banker; the president of a sprinkler company, a notorious reactionary; the treasurer of the Norton Company; the vice-president and sales manager of a forge company; the president of the White Motor Company; the president and general manger of a pump machinery company; the vice-president and superintendent of the shoe machinery trust; the vice-president of the Westinghouse Electric Company; the manager of a tool manufacturing concern; the vice-president of a scales company, president of two other scales companies, chairman of a typewriter company, director of an asbestos corporation, a cement company, two banks, a safety razor company, an arms company, a finance and trading corporation, a guarantee company, and a water power company; the treasurer of a construction company; another magnate of the Norton Company; the vice-president of a national bank; the president of a lumber company; another manufacturer; the treasurer of another manufacturing company; and three representatives of the open shop of Jesus Christ.

Let me give you also an illustration of what it means to run education for such a board of magnificoes. The brother-in-law of one, an interlocking director of manufacturing, banking, journalism and hospitals, found himself with a son on his hands; and in the effort to get this son through this institution he employed one of the institution’s young instructors as a tutor. The son being unwilling to take the trouble to visit the tutor, it was arranged that an automobile should come each day to bring the tutor to the son. On one occasion there turned up at the tutor’s door a large industrial truck of unprepossessing appearance. As the tutor knew the garage of the great magnate was stocked with motor cars of all kinds and sizes, he felt himself injured in his dignity, and declined to climb aboard the industrial truck. When the magnate learned of this, he was enraged, and threatened the tutor—not merely with loss of the opportunity 200to tute, but also with the loss of his position in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The tutor still remaining obstinate, the issue was carried to President Hollis, who took the side of his instructor: how could a retired naval officer preserve the proper strike-breaking spirit in his faculty, if members of the faculty were required to ride alongside common workingmen in industrial trucks? He refused to discharge the instructor—and this in spite of the fact that the magnate threatened the institution with loss of a big donation. The tutor stopped tuting, but went on instructing at Worcester Polytechnic; and I take pleasure in recording this first feeble sprout of academic dignity in the Open Shop for Culture.

Next in turn comes Worcester Academy, a preparatory school for young plutocrats, correct, spiritual, and athletic; the principal a Rotary Club educator, an ardent open shopper, who bars all liberal periodicals, and rushed forward to denounce as “dissolute” those members of the Clark faculty who opposed President Atwood. The grand duke of the board of trustees is the president of a great construction company, and a leading member of Worcester’s Black Hand. I might give you the complete list of these plutocrats, but it would bore you, because it is the same kind of thing as you have just read a minute ago.

Next, the Worcester State Normal School, an entirely innocuous and thought-excluding institution, in which the Black Hand trains its teachers. One of the students reports everyone ardent in support of Atwood, everything correct and cautious—because the funds depend upon the open shop magnates.

Next, Holy Cross College, a Jesuit school, where theology is queen of the sciences and logic her chief handmaiden. The leading trustees are prosperous Irish business men, lawyers and politicians. The institution is prosperous, crowded with students, and has famous athletic teams, noted for their bruising tendencies. Holy Cross graduates used to come to Clark for graduate work, and express astonishment upon discovering the existence of the sciences of economics and sociology. Whole new vistas of mental activity would be opened up to them—which vistas have now been closed by President Atwood.

201Next, Assumption College, founded by the monks of the Augustinian order, who were driven out of France some twenty years ago. Its trustees are the leading business men and lawyers among the French-Canadian population, and the ideas taught are those which were considered a menace to the existence of the republic in France a generation ago, but which are exactly appropriate to the medievalism of plutocratic New England.

Finally the public schools. These are conducted by a “school committee,” made up of leading representatives of the firm of God, Mammon & Company. There used to be one professor of Clark University on this board, Frank H. Hankins, an eminent sociologist, and it was his liberal ideas which had a great deal to do with the decision of the Worcester plutocracy to smash Clark. Now Professor Hankins and a dozen of his liberal colleagues are gone, and the “school committee” is filled with semi-illiterates, most of whom could not qualify to teach an elementary class in the schools they control.

The Metal Trades Association, with the consent of this “school committee,” sends circulars to the teachers, warning them of the dangers of the closed shop, and of all modern ideas in history, civics and economics. Two or three years ago they encouraged a series of inter-high school debates on the open shop, taking it for granted that their side would win. Of course it didn’t win—it never can where both sides are heard. The secretary of the Black Hand was infuriated, and declared this one more evidence of the prevalence of Bolshevism in the educational world. Nearing and Watson’s “Economics” was first mutilated, and then ousted altogether; the same fate befell the entirely conventional text-book of Professor Thomson, because he stated that immigrants were frequently brought in to get cheaper labor, and were frequently not well treated.

The superintendent of schools in Worcester was, until recently, a gentleman by the name of Gruver. He was a good-natured person, who tried to keep friends with everybody; he made the mistake of recommending in a newspaper interview the reading of Wells’ “Outline of History,” and from that time he was doomed. He moved on, and his assistant took his place, a gentleman by the name of Young, a special darling of the Worcester 202plutocracy, and a special bete noire of the Worcester teachers; a meddlesome, domineering pedagogue, who delights in the exercise of authority, and is never so happy as when he can order some passage blacked out of a text-book, or can storm at some teacher for an unplutocratic utterance.

Under the former superintendent a number of teachers studied diligently in summer schools, acquiring special credits; they were promised a hundred dollars increase in salary, as reward for ten years of such labor. Superintendent Young has abolished this reward—and so the teachers are “out of luck.” He has substituted an arrangement whereby high school students are enabled to earn money, to the vast satisfaction of the Worcester plutocracy. The boys and girls lose two weeks of their school work, and in return have the educational experience of acting as clerks in the Worcester department-stores during the holiday rush!

The Catholics are so strong that the “school committee” has had a difficult time adjusting promotions to suit all parties. It used to be arranged that executive positions were given alternately to the Knights of Columbus and the Masons; but there developed a deadlock at the secret sessions of the school committee—known to the populace as the “gum-shoe meetings.” The Knights of Columbus were demanding a position out of turn, and the Masons wouldn’t stand for it—so finally they compromised by giving the position to a Jew! The Catholics had to be satisfied with getting an uneducated blacksmith made assistant principal of a high school; first he had been taken on to teach forge work in the manual training department, and then, through his political pull, he became a regular member of the faculty, and now assistant principal, on the way to the top!

Equally powerful in Worcester education are the Rotarians and the Kiwanis. Superintendent Young was chosen by the Rotarians to travel all the way to California as their representative in a national convention; his predecessor, Gruver, was president of the Kiwanis. This book will be translated into a number of European languages, and my translators will write to ask me about these strange words, which are not in any dictionary. So pardon me while I explain that Rotarians and Kiwanis 203are business men who have made money rapidly, and who meet together to express their satisfaction with the city and the civilization which have made possible their success. Being human, these men would like to make the world better, if it could be done without interfering with business; since it cannot be done, they proceed to make the world bigger, and more like what it is.

How completely these men are divorced from the intellectual life, it will be difficult for a European to imagine. They are bursting with energy; but lacking contact with ideas, they are like engines whirling in a vacuum, unconnected with driving shaft or gears. They assemble and partake of luncheons and dinners in sumptuous hotels, and summon to them preachers and teachers of all degrees, to tell them that they are the ultimate product of evolution. Left to himself, a Rotarian or Kiwani might now and then experience a gleam of humility; but intellectual men accept their hospitality, and for the sake of promotion and pelf flatter their mass-vanities and whip up their herd-emotions—and this surely is what is meant by the sin against the Holy Ghost.


We move south to Philadelphia, the third largest city of the country, controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad and its allied banks, through an old-established and smoothly running political machine. Nearly twenty years ago Lincoln Steffens described it as “Philadelphia corrupt and contented.” For a while after that it ceased to be contented; there was a general strike, which was smashed by the mounted police. But then came the war, and Philadelphia is again at the apex of contented corruption and corrupt contentment.

So far as concerns the schools, there has always been the usual hundred per cent plutocratic board, distributing patronage and financial and real estate favors. When I visited the city in 1922 the schools were under the care of what was called “the octogenarian board”; at its head Judge Beeber, president of the Commonwealth Title and Trust Company, who sees that a good part of the school 204funds are deposited in his bank. Next to him was Mr. Burt of the American Bank, and financial intimate of the Vare brothers, contractors and political bosses who had run the city for a generation. Next, Mr. Simon Gratz, the czar of the schools for a generation, and president of a real estate organization—you remember in “The Goose-step” what I called the “interlocking directorate”; next, an aged war-horse of the Republican machine, who was open in saying that he represented the Vare brothers on the board, and whose name was frequently mentioned in connection with female teachers and pupils, to whom he had displayed undue ardor in his private office.

Several of these aged plutocrats have just been forced out by a popular upheaval, and the board is now run by Mr. William Rowan, who has a bank in Kensington, and whose other qualification for the office of school board president of a great city is that he is an undertaker. He presided at a banquet in honor of some distinguished Frenchmen, and one of these Frenchmen, a member of the Academy, made a speech in perfect English; Mr. Rowan in reply proposed that the assemblage should unite in singing the French national anthem, the “Marr-sales.” Also there is Mr. Boyle, replacing Mr. Burt as representative of the American Bank. Also Mr. Shallcross, a suburban political boss, whose son was recently president of the real estaters. Also Mr. Mitten, president of the Rapid Transit Company, and a nationally known union-smasher. Mr. Mitten has deluged the schools with his propaganda in favor of company unions; he sent so much that one high school returned it, marked “Send no more.” This traction company has been so plundered by the financiers that seventy per cent of its gross revenue goes to the bond-holders of underlying companies, which own no property and do no work. In the girls’ high schools some of the teachers of civics ventured to point out the significance of this, and so Mr. Mitten transferred this subject of civics to the grade schools, where the children are too young to understand high finance.

Philadelphia is an old and slow-moving city, in which everything follows precedent, and outward respectability is the whole of life. It resembles London, in that its leisure-class gentlemen have cricket-clubs; also in that old families have vast holdings of real estate throughout 205the city, which they hand down from generation to generation. The rich as a matter of course send their children to private schools, where they do not have to associate with the vulgar unwashed; so the big business men do not care what becomes of the public schools, and only want their tax assessments held down.

For many years the social service organizations agitated for a school survey by the city, and finally matters got so bad that the survey was made by the state. The four volumes of the report, dated 1921, lie before me. If you are suspicious of my opinions about schools, you may prefer to hear from the state superintendent of public instruction. Dr. Thomas E. Finegan is not a muck-raker, but a high-up educational politician, with more letters after his name than he has in it—A.M., Pd.D., Litt.D., L.H.D., LL.D.; and he says:

It cannot be too emphatically stated that the general condition of Philadelphia’s school plant is deplorable.

Nearly forty thousand elementary pupils are on part-time attendance because of lack of sufficient classrooms, and the high school pupils are handicapped by the heavy overcrowding of their classes.

There is a real hazard to the children of Philadelphia in the fact that seventy-four per cent of the school buildings are not fireproof, and are not equipped with modern fire protection apparatus. The system of fire drills and the devotion and competence of the teaching force afford the chief protection to most of the children in times of danger from fire.

The citizens of Philadelphia would be shocked to learn of the unsanitary and unwholesome toilet facilities that are provided for the children in a majority of the public schoolhouses. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the conditions not only threaten the health of the children, but are a menace to their morals as well.

Over eighty per cent of these buildings provide less than the standard play area now recognized as necessary to the healthy and happy school life of children.

Moreover, Superintendent Finegan goes on to say:

As matters now stand, however, there is no way in which the people of Philadelphia can register their will concerning the work of the public schools. This condition results from the fact that the members of the Board of Public Education are appointed by the judiciary rather than elected by the people. There is no escaping either the logic or the wisdom of maintaining that, where the members of a board of education have the direct power to levy and collect taxes for the support of the public schools, it follows as a necessary corollary that the members 206of such a board should be elected directly by the people taxed and so become directly responsible to them.

Of course, one can make out a case from any report by taking the worst items and quoting these alone. So I hasten to state that the makers of the survey found some things in the Philadelphia schools of which they could approve, and they were profuse in pious hopes that other things would be made better. But nothing can alter the significance of a statement such as the following:

Sixty-four per cent of the children examined were found physically defective.

Or of a statement such as this:

The most depressing condition observed was the indifference or passivity of a large proportion of the classes visited. Pupils asked very few questions, and it is most exceptional to find a recitation in which thoughtful inquiry is usual and frequent. Real discussion is as rare as signs of eager interest.

And again:

There is no organized attempt at any high school in Philadelphia, as far as the administration is concerned, to teach the pupils how to study.

Philadelphia has a new superintendent, by the name of Broome, and he was hailed as “the Broome that sweeps clean.” He had one new idea when he took charge of the schools; he wanted a teachers’ council, and that sounded like a revolutionary idea, and the teachers were interested. This council was to deal with all matters connected with the interests of teachers, and it would save the board of education the need of being troubled with teachers’ complaints. Presently it developed that out of the thirty-one members, considerably more than the majority were to be elected by small groups from the supervising force. After much political manipulation the superintendent succeeded in putting this plan over on the teachers; the council has now been in operation for a year, and all teachers realize its purpose. It has done nothing for teacher welfare—but it stands in the way, so that no teacher can any longer get access to the board of education!

We shall see when we come to study our education from the national viewpoint, that these superintendents meet together in county and state and national conferences, 207to work out plans for the holding down of the teachers and the regimenting of the school system. This clean-sweeping Broome of Philadelphia put into effect an ingenious method of enforcing conformity; he has a group of what he calls “superior teachers,” who are given extra pay and promises of advancement for exceptional scholarship, writing of theses, and other outside activity. The result has been gross favoritism, and the wrecking of the morale of many schools by the forming of cliques and political gangs.

Teachers who fall out of favor are treated like the policemen in New York; they are given jobs at the other end of the city from their homes—and Philadelphia is geographically the largest city in the United States. Three teachers were driven to suicide by such methods, and great numbers have left the service. In certain schools the system has now reached the stage of development with which we are familiar in the moving picture world, where promotion for women employes depends upon sexual favors extended to the men in power. Such is the reason which Philadelphia teachers assign for the sudden rise of certain ladies in the teaching force; and this condition is so common throughout the rural schools that the city teachers assign it as their main purpose in demanding tenure for all the teachers of the state.

A great many of the schools, and especially the high schools, are organized politically; the alumni associations and parent-teachers’ associations are used, not merely to get favors for their schools, but to serve the political bosses and their interests. The principal of a South Philadelphia school not long ago circulated among his staff a “request” that no teacher should “flunk” a certain notoriously poor scholar, the reason being given that “his father is the police lieutenant of our district, and we cannot afford to antagonize him.” This boy passed triumphantly; and of course the same favors are extended to prominent athletes, who would otherwise bebe barred from the school contests.

You will be prepared to learn that in such a city the feeble effort of the teachers to start a union was crushed by the discharging of some and the intimidating of the rest. (There were about a hundred members, and a prominent leader sold them out for a promotion.) You 208will be prepared to learn that the teachers get low salaries, and work all their lives without promotion, unless they belong to the “gang.” You will be prepared to hear that the Chamber of Commerce is strong, and has an “educational bureau,” which formulates the policy for the schools, especially as regards the training of Chamber of Commerce clerks and mechanics. You will also be prepared to hear that civil rights are things forgotten in this corrupt and contented city.

There used to be a certain old-fashioned type of gentleman who had read the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, and believed in civil liberty as a thing to be trusted and fought for; but that type is now out of date, and the hustling young business man, with his “under cover” agent and his “strong arm” detective, runs both the city and the schools. The spirit was shown by Superintendent Broome, when he heard a rumor from the Daughters of the American Revolution (delicious irony of that name!) that there were supposed to be some revolutionists among school teachers. The clean-sweeping Broome set to work at once to sweep out “un-Americanism.” “There are too many insidious influences at work today,” he declared. “If there are any persons with such ideas in our schools here, I wish they would resign before I am put to the embarrassing position of asking them to resign.” The same newspaper quoted “other school officials” as declaring that “if any teacher was suspected to be a radical, it was the duty of a citizen to inform the school authorities.”

Needless to say, education in Philadelphia is not inspiring to children; and, as we have seen in other cities, under such conditions the children get drunk. Early in 1923 Director Davis of the Prohibition Enforcement Bureau ordered his investigators to look into reports of drunkenness on the part of children in three public schools, who were said to be coming to school in a half stupefied condition. I asked a friend about this, and he wrote me that they were the children of Italian parents, who make wine. But then I inquired further, and I learned that among the English speaking mill-workers in the Kensington district the pastors of the churches found it necessary to band together to protect the children from the activities of boot-leggers. The brother of one of the 209highest teachers in the city was arrested on this charge, and there have frequently been charges of teachers imbibing during class sessions. Also, the use of drugs by school children is prevalent, as in our other great cities. How can you expect either the children or the boot-leggers to obey the law, when the public reads in its morning papers that, nearly five years after the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, the police of Philadelphia Corrupt and Contented are solemnly informing the keepers of thirteen hundred saloons that they must positively close next month! And they don’t!


Let us move farther south to Baltimore, another old and slow-moving city, with a dynasty of long-established merchant princes. For forty years, to my knowledge, their political gang has run the city and pocketed the proceeds. It is a community in which you can lose yourself in miles of brick houses, all exactly alike—little two-story brick houses for the working class and larger three and four-story brick houses for their “betters.” I was born in one of these larger brick houses, and spent my childhood playing on the cobble-stoned streets of “Ballamaw”—as we called it. I never went to school there, because in my childhood the family doctor thought I was learning too fast, and did not realize that to send me to school might be the quickest way to stop me. In Baltimore, as in Philadelphia, the children of the rich have beautiful private schools, and leave the children of the poor to the politicians. As one teacher said to me: “The people take it for granted that the school system is working, like the water system under the pavement.” After I had looked a little farther into school matters, I wanted to substitute for the “water system” the “sewers.”

It is the old story of the business partnership between God and Mammon. The Catholics are strong in Baltimore, and are doing everything in their power to choke the public schools; at the same time the merchant princes are holding down taxes, and their politicians are leaving the old buildings out of repair, without fire escapes, without 210proper heat—in some cases even without books. The salaries of the teachers are inadequate; but if ever there were two of them who had the courage to start a union, they kept it so quiet that I was unable to find them.

Baltimore is an old-fashioned city, and the middle-class respectabilities hold it immovable. I was invited to the home of a lady and gentleman who were interested in education, and there I found a large company assembled. I asked them what was the economic control of their schools, and found that in an audience of twenty-seven educators there was apparently only one who knew what I meant by the phrase. They were not conscious of any such thing, they said. I wanted to point out to them that a horse never feels the rein until he starts to travel in an undesired direction; but having been brought up in Baltimore, I knew what politeness required.

Another of the unwritten laws of Baltimore decrees that woman’s place is the home. Woman is now permitted to leave the home to teach the children in classrooms, but she is not permitted to come out of the classrooms to discuss the conduct of the schools. In this company, with which I spent a couple of hours, I counted ten men and seventeen women, and all of the men said their say about the Baltimore schools and about education in general. But only three out of the seventeen women had anything to say at all; and one of these was the hostess, while the other two were directly called upon by the hostess to answer a question. Such is the state of the feminist movement in Baltimore!

I found upon inquiry that the same condition prevailed in the schools. Although the women teachers in the schools outnumbered the men seven to one, they were practically unrepresented on the teachers’ councils. Among nineteen representatives of the white teachers’ training schools there was only one woman representative; from the girls’ high schools there was only one woman representative out of thirty. From the colored schools there was no woman representative, and many groups of the white teachers had no woman representative. It was interesting to note that the twenty-one hundred elementary teachers were represented as follows: four principals, one kindergartner, one teacher in a secondary high school, 211and three members of the Schoolmasters’ Club. You can imagine how easy it is to handle the teachers in Baltimore!

One of the things they need is a Henrietta Rodman in their city; for they have the old Tammany system of “mother-baiting.” When the women teachers marry they automatically resign; if they have a “pull” they may get themselves re-employed as substitutes, at a lower salary—the advantage in handling substitutes being that they may be immediately dismissed without excuse. The women teachers in Baltimore have never dared to have anything to do with the move for equal pay; this fight has been carried on by the woman’s clubs. The city council was induced to appropriate money to abolish discriminations between men and women teachers; but the school board refused to spend the money, and the issue has now been carried to the court of appeals.

When I asked my impolite question about “economic control,” a former school board member who was in the company told me how he had taken up the fight for an increased tax to make possible better schools; he had found one rich man to whom this increase would mean ten thousand dollars per year, yet this man was willing to support the program. Surely that disproved my idea of economic control! I answered patiently that I knew there were individual rich people capable of generosity; but it was different with classes, and especially when it came to anything which threatened class control. Would this rich man have been willing for the teachers of Baltimore to form a union?

You may recollect that in Los Angeles I criticized the bankers for their “thrift campaign” in the schools; and perhaps you wondered: did I object to thrift in the schools? And why could I not believe that the bankers might have a genuine interest in teaching thrift to the school children? Well, you may learn about this from what happened in Baltimore. At the Francis Scott Key School a beginning was made at a school bank, and the bankers objected. Here, as in Los Angeles, the children were learning thrift; but in Los Angeles the money was turned over to the bankers, while in Baltimore the money was kept for the school! So here is a laboratory test, proving that what the bankers want is not to teach the children thrift, but to get the children’s money.

212The biggest banker in Baltimore is Mr. Robert Garrett, whose palace on what we used to call “Charles Street Avenue” was one of the scenes of my childhood. Mr. Garrett is director in half a dozen great financial institutions, also of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; he is a graduate of Princeton and of Johns Hopkins, and was selected as the city’s most eminent financier to act as chairman of the Public Improvement Commission, and spend twenty-two million dollars of the people’s money for new school buildings. The work goes forward, under the very highest capitalistic auspices; and one of the great new high schools is nearly completed, when a group of independent citizens makes an investigation, and discovers and proves that all through this building the contractors have been substituting inferior materials—terra cotta pipe instead of cast-iron pipe, cement bricks instead of clay bricks, inferior floor materials, an inferior motor, etc. To cap the climax, the “panic bolts” on the doors, which were to have brass rods, have steel rods substituted; steel rusts, you understand, so when there is a fire, and the children try to fling the doors open in a hurry, they will find the bolts rusted fast, and the doors immovable. Does that dispose you to trust your schools to the tender care of your bankers?


I have referred to the Francis Scott Key School in Baltimore, and you will be interested to hear more about this rare phenomenon—a beautiful building, animated by a beautiful spirit, and located in a city slum. “Locust Point” is out in the shipping district, and the school overlooks the harbor and the old Fort McHenry; it is named after the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” who composed the song close to this spot. A few years ago the people of Locust Point had the usual old wooden fire-trap for their children; it burned down, and then came a struggle with the politicians for a better school. The neighborhood is a Catholic stronghold, and the priests wanted the building in an inaccessible place; it had a library, and the priests do not wish Catholic children 213to have too easy access to modern books. They would have had their way, if it had not been for one rich woman of Baltimore, who has made herself a kind of godmother to the schools.

Meet Mrs. William Bauernschmidt, daughter-in-law of a well-known Baltimore brewer lately deceased. This lady got her education in Baltimore politics in a somewhat amusing way. A quiet, mild-mannered young daughter-in-law, she used to sit in a corner of the library of the old brewer’s home and do her knitting, while the men of the family talked business. As the brewery business was all mixed up with politics, the daughter-in-law came to know a great many secrets. She explained: “The men paid no more attention to me than if I were a dormouse; so now, when I come to deal with Baltimore politicians, I tell them, ‘I know every filling you’ve got in your teeth!’”

This, you perceive, is not refined language; not the sort that was used by ladies during my boyhood in Baltimore! “But,” said Mrs. Bauernschmidt, “there’s no use talking ‘up-town talk’ to them. I use their own language.” She told me about one of these potentates—I forget his name, but his nickname is “Sunny”—and said Mrs. Bauernschmidt: “I know whose man you are every day; you belong on Monday to the gas company, and Tuesday to the street railways, and on Wednesday you belong to the breweries. I want you to know that I always know when our day comes round!”

But also she cajoles these fellows, and touches their hearts. Once upon a time they were children, and some of them went to school; now they have children of their own, and these are going to school; do they want to steal the children’s money? And then she goes after the big fellows, and sometimes she finds that even they have hearts! When she was fighting for this new school on Locust Point, she tackled not merely the mayor and the school board and the Catholic hierarchy, she tackled the president of the Baltimore Dry Dock and Ship Building Company. She wanted a park around the school, so that it would have room to grow, and she got this mighty magnate to the point of declaring that if the politicians wouldn’t vote the forty-five thousand dollars, he would put it up himself and he would spend another forty-five 214thousand to find out why he had had to do it! So, of course, the politicians fell all over themselves, and the school has its park.

Here was a second case of plutocratic generosity in Baltimore, and I began to fear for the thesis of “The Goslings”! I asked Mrs. Bauernschmidt about it, and she made a face. They will never be able to fool her again, said she. Four years ago the schools wanted six million dollars, and all the civic agencies of Baltimore were fighting for a bond issue; they went to the business organizations, which endorsed their program cordially, and there was thanksgiving among the educators. But then it was discovered that a group of politicians and land-speculators intended to tack on another bond issue of forty-two million dollars for a “port loan”! The people of Baltimore were invited to put up this enormous sum to provide harbor facilities for Big Business, and the six million dollars for the schools was to provide the “human appeal.” The combined propositions were carried in a whirlwind campaign, and a “Port Commission” was appointed, which has been drawing fat salaries for four years—but not a single dock has been built to date!

No, I do not expect to get very much for the people’s schools from the plutocracy; but you note that I am perfectly willing to take what I can get. For example, I take Mrs. Bauernschmidt! I don’t think she knows much economics, and I am sure she never met a Socialist before; but she has a robust mind, and she faces facts, whatever they may be. When there was a strike of the ship-workers on Locust Point, she faced the fact that the children were starving, and she helped raise money to feed them. That, of course, was a terrible thing; everywhere throughout the United States it is one of the worst offenses you can commit against the plutocracy, because they rely upon the cries of the starving children to break down the morale of strikers.

Years passed, and Mrs. Bauernschmidt continued her wayward course. She took up the fight for the new school at Locust Point, and did not stop for the Catholic priest, nor yet for the political machine and its political superintendent of schools. She went to speak before a Parent-Teachers’ Association; a teacher asked her, and the superintendent rebuked this teacher, saying that 215she had made a grievous mistake, that Mrs. Bauernschmidt must not speak in the schools of Baltimore, and a teacher ought not even be seen on the street with her. He added words to this effect: “I know my business so well that I never give promotion to a teacher who doesn’t stand in with the powers that be.”

So Mrs. Bauernschmidt went to war with this superintendent. She put him on trial before the school board—when you have money you can do that kind of thing. The gang was greatly exercised, because a teacher and a principal who had been witnesses to the superintendent’s statement, told the truth before the board; and that was a violation of the first principle of gang ethics, it meant the end of discipline in the school machine. The upshot of the controversy was that my native city got one or two new board members, and the old superintendent was dismissed. You see how it pays to keep track of the fillings in the teeth of your politicians!

There is the same story in Baltimore that we saw in San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston; the people appropriate money for their schools, and the representatives of God, Mammon and Company refuse to spend it. They even get the courts to forbid them to spend it! The schools were discovered to be fire-traps—and what better way to make Catholic parents send their children to the parochial schools, than to have it generally rumored that there is danger of fire in the public schools? So the money for fire-escapes was not spent; and a delegation waited on the mayor, one from each of the twenty-five schools which lacked fire-escapes. Mrs. Bauernschmidt went along, and the Baltimore newspapers reported the “wallop” which she delivered to the mayor: “History tells us about a ruler who fiddled while the town burned, but I don’t remember reading of his re-election, and I’ll bet you he couldn’t be re-elected mayor of this city!”

So the schools got some fire-escapes—but not all. Last year the politicians returned an “unexpended balance” of $104,000 out of $600,000 appropriated for school repairs; and so Mrs. Bauernschmidt’s organization, the Public School Association, went after them once more. Now it is promised that all the schools will be safe; and the Catholic priests, realizing that they have to come up to the new standards, pay visits to the Francis 216Scott Key school—a dozen of them in the course of a couple of months—to find out about modern education!

I make this Baltimore chapter the basis of a special word to those people who read my books and write me that I am too bitter, that I refuse to believe anything good about the rich. The story of Mrs. Bauernschmidt gives me the chance to show that I like rich people exactly as well as poor. All I ask of the rich is that they turn traitor to their class and serve the general welfare. Not one in a hundred can conceive of doing this, and not one in a thousand has the courage to act on the idea; but at least I give them the chance. In every city, town and village of the United States there is room for a woman of wealth who will turn out and fight for the schools—not merely to get more money from the tax-payers, and to keep the grafters from stealing it, but to make the schools places of freedom, with windows open to the new doctrines which are blowing over the world. In free inquiry and free discussion lies the salvation of America; and it may be my misfortune, but nevertheless it is a fact, that after having spent a year and a half making inquiries, I am unable to name a single public school in the United States in which the policy of free inquiry and free discussion is consistently and boldly followed.


Next comes our national capital; and here we have a unique situation, owing to the fact that the people of the District of Columbia have no votes, but are governed by an autocracy of politicians. The school board was formerly appointed by the District Commission; now it is appointed by the District Supreme Court. The invisible government of the city is made up of the traction interests and the real estate speculators, who work hand in glove with the political machine, quite regardless of whether this machine happens to be Democratic or Republican. There are innumerable ways in which the public may be plundered, and innumerable forms of “honest graft,” whereby it may be made worth while to congressmen and senators to stand in with the plunderers. During 217the war the population of Washington jumped from 300,000 to 450,000 in three months; real estate values leaped to the skies, and rents beyond them, so there was a harvest for every kind of speculator.

The business gang had run our national capital for so long that they had forgotten the possibility of anything else. But President Wilson appointed two or three men of liberal sympathies to the District Commission, and also to the District Supreme Court; so for the first time some attention was paid to the public clamor concerning the run-down state of the schools. Probably seventy-five per cent of the buildings were old and unsanitary, and the overcrowding was unendurable, especially in the high schools and the schools for Negroes; many of the pupils had to do their work by artificial light. The way toward school progress was blocked by entanglements of “red tape”; there was, and still is, a triple control of school construction—recommendations for new building sites are made by the board of education to the District Commission, and from there go to the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives.

The movement for a new deal in school affairs came to a head in 1916. A Universalist clergyman, Dr. John Van Schaick, Jr., was appointed to the school board, and shortly afterwards became its president. He secured an assistant for his church, paying this assistant out of his church salary, while Dr. Van Schaick gave most of his time, without salary, to the service of the Washington schools. He was a man of culture and broad vision, a liberal of the finest type; and what the gang thought of him was revealed three years later, when he was nominated for the District Commission, and a congressional hearing was held. The first witness to take the stand was a Washington business man, who set forth that Dr. Van Schaick was neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but “a man who has been handling a few dollars in a church,” whereas “we want a man who has been in our city here, who has made a success of life.” Reading this, I could not help thinking of a story I was told, about a former president of this board of education who had made such a success. He remarked to a friend that he had sold for a school site a lot so steep that it had to be measured perpendicularly!

218The war came, and Dr. Van Schaick obtained leave of absence from the school board and served as Commissioner for Belgium of the American Red Cross. He has written a book about this, “The Little Corner Never Conquered.” Returning, he again became president of the school board, and took up the fight for the public. The district commissioners were fixing the value of the traction lines, squeezing out a little of the “water,” and Dr. Van Schaick supported them. He opposed one of the traction mergers, which would give value to millions of dollars worth of this “water.” Also, there was a commission to reduce rents, and Dr. Van Schaick committed the crime of supporting one of its members who was trying to expose the high rate of interest charged by the banks on second mortgages. He had tried to get the new tuberculosis hospital located in a decent site, whereas the real estate interests wanted it in a swamp. As if that were not enough, this clergyman-educator advocated prohibition enforcement—and anybody who knows Washington life will understand how intolerable this would be to senators and congressmen. Also, he supported the commissioner of police, who was trying to clean up the “red-light” district; and this also would cause much inconvenience to our leading statesmen.

There was a superintendent of schools who was incompetent, but who stood in with the gang. He had made political appointments, he had fought the unions of the teachers and held down the teachers’ salaries; also, he was a local favorite, raised in our own schools, and supported by the Washington “Star.” Now Dr. Van Schaick and his board of education had the temerity to get rid of this superintendent by a vote of eight to one. The gang took up the challenge, and “Pat” Harrison of Mississippi introduced into the Senate a resolution for an investigation of school affairs. This investigation occupied a period of six weeks, during which time the work of the schools came pretty much to a stand-still.

Senator Harrison was not the chairman of the committee, but he took upon himself the rôle of prosecutor, and did ninety-five per cent of the questioning. He is the fighting type of statesman, who specializes in not very courteous wit. I don’t suppose that many of my readers will care to peruse the 1349 closely printed pages of this 219government document, but my sense of duty has carried me through it, and I report briefly thereon. It was a trial of four or five leading citizens for the crime of being public-spirited. Dr. Van Schaick was on the stand for two or three days, and showed himself a man of social vision and of the finest courtesy. The spirit in which he was questioned may be judged from one sentence of Senator Harrison’s: “And you have a very great admiration for your ability in answering the questions that have been propounded to you, have you not?” This caused the other members of the school board to submit a written request that they might be represented by counsel at the hearing; but the request was denied.

The next victim was Mrs. Margarita Spalding Gerry, novelist, widow of a former teacher in the Washington schools. Mrs. Gerry, a self-supporting woman, had given herself without salary. She was accused of the crime of owing Dr. Van Schaick a thousand dollar mortgage on her home, which compelled her to vote as he directed. She was able to prove, first, that Dr. Van Schaick did not own, and never had owned, any mortgage on her home; and, second, that her vote had frequently been opposed to his. There was a school teacher, Miss Alice Wood, who was accused of having answered some questions of her pupils on the subject of Bolshevism. Later on we shall hear her story; suffice it for the moment to say that the school board had punished her, but that Mrs. Gerry, coming to know her, had realized that injustice had been done. That constituted Mrs. Gerry a Bolshevik, and made it necessary that both she and Miss Wood be questioned minutely as to their political views. Dr. Van Schaick, on returning from Belgium, had persuaded the board to reverse its action in Miss Wood’s case; and that constituted Dr. Van Schaick a Bolshevik.

Then came the turn of Mrs. Coralie Cook, a colored citizen, representing the large Negro population of the city on the board of education. In Mississippi the Negroes do not get much education, and Senator Harrison felt it his duty to put this wife of a professor at Howard University in her place. He referred to her niece, a teacher, as “this Clifford woman,” and to a Negro teacher in the Washington schools as “a fellow by the name of.” At the same time the Senator was cordially cooperating 220with a Negro board member who had turned traitor to the liberal board.

It had chanced that prior to the war the Dutch consul had sent to Dr. Van Schaick a scientist from his country with a letter of introduction, and Dr. Van Schaick, as a matter of routine, and in the midst of many pressing duties, gave this gentleman a letter authorizing him to inspect the schools. Subsequently this man was accused of being a German spy, and it was proved that, as an anthropologist, and being interested in racial types, he had taken nude photographs of women. Whether these photographs were really obscene, I cannot say; but in any case, Dr. Van Schaick had known nothing about the matter. But there was that letter of introduction; and you can imagine what use the kept press made of such a chance! Professor H. B. Learned of Yale University and Stanford, having been so unwise as to serve on this school board, had to travel all the way from California to explain that the Dutch anthropologist had visited his home one evening and played on the piano and sung!

The city of Washington can claim the prize over all the capitals of the world for the degradation of its press. The leader of this man-hunt was Theodore Noyes of the “Star,” who has always run the school board; he is the brother of Frank Noyes, director of the Associated Press. Also Edward B. McLean, owner of the Washington “Post,” heir of one vast fortune and husband of another; Mr. McLean is notorious among Washington newspaper men for his defiance of the prohibition laws, and it takes some real defiance to achieve such prominence in Washington.

These two newspapers made the claim that Dr. Van Schaick was not eligible for the office of district commissioner, because he had not been a resident of Washington for three years. They published a photographic facsimile of a ballot alleged to have been cast by Dr. Van Schaick at his summer home in Cobleskill, New York. It was subsequently proved that this ballot had been cast by Dr. Van Schaick’s father, at the time when Dr. Van Schaick was busy with Red Cross work in Belgium. You will not need to be told that the newspapers did not feature this correction!

At the close of the investigation Senator Harrison delivered three or four hours of eloquent denunciation in 221the Senate. But the school board persisted in asserting its right to appoint a competent man as superintendent. Then, having made sure of this appointment, Dr. Van Schaick resigned, so that the new superintendent might not inherit all his enemies. Also, Mrs. Gerry resigned—saying to a friend of mine: “After all, my life is worth something to myself, and apparently it is worth nothing to the city.” You can understand that the effect of this uproar has been to make self-respecting citizens very reluctant to assume the unpaid and thankless task of being responsible for the Washington schools.


Dr. Van Schaick’s successor as president of the board of education was a Catholic gentleman by the name of Edwards, prominent in the Chamber of Commerce, and therefore an undoubted “success.” His intellectual qualifications you may judge when I tell you that he was president of the Columbia Correspondence School, and when I explain to you this amusing product of American public life. Great numbers of newly fledged statesmen come to Washington, where they have to compose political speeches and felicitous after-dinner addresses, letters to the newspapers and to their constituents—all kinds of literary efforts for which they lack the necessary knowledge of grammar. They cannot all have private secretaries to write their speeches for them, as did the late President Harding; so comes the Columbia Correspondence School, filling a long-felt want.

President Edwards would write you an essay or a speech on any subject, at prices ranging from fifty cents up. If you used it only once, he would charge you two dollars. It was all strictly confidential—that is, until President Edwards was put upon the witness-stand at a congressional hearing. Then he was asked: Did they sell essays to school children? He answered, Yes, they would sell essays to people in any part of the country, asking no questions. He was asked: “What would you do if a teacher reprimanded a pupil for passing in one of your essays as his own?” He answered that he was not sure 222what he would do, but he could see nothing wrong with that. This disclosure raised such a row that the new president of the school board was forced to resign; no one could ever find out which one of the judges of the District Supreme Court had recommended him, but they all united in getting rid of him!

Under this autocracy of politicians the fate of the Washington school teachers has been the same as we have seen in other cities. Their wages in 1917 were on a starvation basis; the minimum was five hundred dollars for assistant kindergartners, and the next was six hundred. Both the high school teachers and the grade teachers formed unions, and the politicians did not dare to stop them. The unions carried the agitation to Congress, and got an increase of salary during the war. The gang tried to corral them into the National Education Association. They have a local “institute” and of course the teachers have little to do with selecting the speakers.

I have referred to the experience of Miss Alice Wood, and promised to tell her story, which shows clearly what happens to teachers under an autocracy of politicians. Miss Wood was a teacher of English at the Western High School, and in the course of study furnished to her by her superiors appeared such items as “Current Events,” “War News,” “Study of Democracy Today,” and “Spontaneous Discussions and Criticisms.” In the year 1919 it was naturally impossible for a teacher to conduct a class along the above lines without being asked something about “Bolshevism.” Miss Wood was asked, and she stated in reply that she had attended a meeting at Poli’s Theater, where several travelers from Russia had spoken, and their accounts of conditions were different from the published stories in the daily press. (Never forget, this was the year of the nationalization of women!) In answer to a direct question, Miss Wood stated that she considered the Soviet government “an improvement over the former government of Russia and a good government for Russia.” She explained the word “Bolshevik” as meaning majority; and finally, she advised pupils who wanted to know more about the subject to read articles from the “Dial,” the “New Republic” and “Current Opinion.”

A few days later Miss Wood received a letter from 223her principal, questioning her about these matters. She answered, stating the facts as above; furthermore explaining that she was extremely patriotic, that her forefathers had served in the American Revolution, and that she regarded Woodrow Wilson “as the greatest statesman of all times.” The reactionary superintendent of schools then took up the matter with the board of education. Under the law, Miss Wood had the right to a public trial, and to be represented by counsel; the board set this rule quietly to one side, and invited Miss Wood to appear informally before a committee, which questioned her, but without giving her any idea that she was on trial. She stated that she had received no instructions as to what kind of answers she was to return on the subject of Bolshevism, and that she was perfectly willing to follow the directions of her principal, of the superintendent, or of the board, on this and on all other matters. Whereupon the board suspended her, without pay, for a period of one week!

This of course was small punishment in itself—we have seen what is the pay of a Washington teacher for one week. But what the board really sentenced her to was disgrace and outrageous publicity in the carrion-eating press. Therefore the teachers’ union took up the matter, and engaged an attorney, and a long correspondence with the school authorities followed, leading to no result. The matter was carried to the District Supreme Court, and it is pleasant to be able to state that this body reversed the action of the board, and Miss Wood got her week’s salary. But in the meantime the Black Hand of our national capital had accomplished its principal purpose—all the other teachers of the city learned their lesson, and the pupils in the schools continued to believe that all women in Russia were “nationalized”!

Also they continued to believe that Washington is governed by great and patriotic statesmen. Some time previously, a teacher had stated to her pupils that “the calibre of congressmen of the present day is not as good it was in the time of Clay and Webster”; and this teacher was made the object of furious attack upon the floor of Congress! The congressional committee took it up, and summoned the principal of the school before them, and read the riot act to him; and so all the teachers of Washington 224learned that they are not citizens of a democracy, but serfs of a plutocratic empire.

I am told now by a group of teachers that the new superintendent is doing well, and that there is hope for a better deal in the schools; new buildings are going up, and everyone wants to forget the old unhappy past. The teachers ask me to plead for the cause which lies nearest to their hearts, that of teacher participation in school control; and I answer that this is the thing for which my book is written—to urge that those who do the work of teaching, and really know about teaching, shall take the place of traction magnates and real estate speculators in charge of our children. It is not only in Washington that this is needed, but everywhere, as you have already had opportunity to see.


We have now examined school conditions in nineteen of the largest American cities; the total population of these cities amounts to eighteen million, which means four million children subject to the education here portrayed. You have noticed how much alike these school machines are; it has no doubt occurred to you that such resemblance cannot be a matter of accident, there must be some centralized control, some bureau of standardization in charge of school systems in the United States. And this is true; the local school machines, in cities, towns and villages, are part of county machines, and these county machines are part of state machines, and these state machines are united and co-ordinated and standardized by the National Education Association, with the help of the United States Bureau of Education, and the Rockefeller General Education Board, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Let us begin with the counties. Under the American system a county superintendent of schools invariably has to be a school politician, and almost invariably has to be a political politician as well. His school gang is made up of his assistants and clerks and principals and other numerous appointees, all of whom depend upon his favor 225and are looking for promotion; also those teachers who serve him as bell-wethers, leading the flocks of teacher sheep. In order to preserve the self-respect of teachers, and make them think they have something to do with education, they are organized into associations or clubs, all of which are affiliated with the National Education Association, and practically all of which are run by the local school machine. These teachers’ associations thus occupy in the school world the same position as the company or “yellow” unions, in the labor world. In the great percentage of cases the officers in these teachers’ associations are the superintendents and principals and other members of the supervising force; in the remaining cases they are teachers who take their orders from this force. In the few cases where the teachers have dared to rebel and control their own organizations, their leaders have been browbeaten and persecuted, slandered and denied promotion.

The county superintendent works hand in glove with the local politicians and their local financial masters. Whether he is appointed, or whether he is elected, makes little difference, because the election must be preceded by a nomination, which depends upon the local political machine. Back of this nomination and the ensuing election are all the sinister forces of graft which expect to profit from the schools. There are the land speculators, who either have land to sell, or want to buy school lands upon which wealth of some sort has been discovered. There are contractors who want to put up school buildings for profit; there are school book agents, who are bosom friends of all superintendents, and put up money to elect them, and get it back ten-fold. I shall show you in due course how these book agents serve also as teachers’ agents, controlling the appointment of teachers and handing out favors and promotions to those who support their “line.”

And of course there are the bankers, who want the handling of school funds, and also of the teachers’ funds; you shall see how the teachers put up money for their own pensions, and the gang takes charge of it, and turns it over to the bankers, either for cash or for political support, which comes to the same thing. Also there are business interests which want child labor, and want the compulsory school attendance laws repealed or ignored. There are the various organizations of Big Business propaganda—the 226National Association of Manufacturers, which wants the children trained for servitude in mills and stores; the American Legion and the militarists, who want them taught war and the patriotism of greed; the newspapers, which support all forms of reaction, and hold over the head of every official the imminent threat of ruin as the penalty for insubordination. Such is the position of county superintendents of schools, and of county boards of education everywhere throughout the United States—except in those few counties where the people, through the Farmer-Labor movement or something of the sort, have been able to take over control of their own affairs.

Next, the state superintendents and the state boards, which are the same thing upon a bigger scale. The state machine has more money, the state superintendent gets a higher salary, and so he is a politician of more skill and subtlety. He stands in with the state gang, and his office is a “hang-out” for idle functionaries smoking numerous big cigars. He works with the land grafters and the book companies, the bankers and merchants and manufacturers; he is their man, and gives the people their kind of education. As a rule, the people are satisfied with that—there being no other kind of education in sight, and no other kind conceivable. The devout peasants of America have been taught to sing a hymn about “the old-time religion,” which was good for their fathers and is good enough for them; in exactly the same way their children get the old-time education from the old-time gang. The average American has been taught to believe in the public schools as next to the church in sacredness, and he takes it for granted that public educators must be noble-minded and disinterested men.

There are frequently disputes between the educational politicians and the political politicians; but if you examine these, you will generally find that they are disputes over the division of the public funds. The educational politicians are naturally fighting for the educational machine; they want it to grow big, they want to be able to promote their subordinates, and to carry on their propaganda, and to build up their prestige. Here in my state of California, as I write, the state superintendent is in the midst of a dispute with the newly elected governor of the Black Hand. The governor cut down appropriations for the 227state school machine to almost nothing—it was part of his program of “economy,” and the state simply must have a new penitentiary if the “criminal syndicalism” law is to be saved. The state superintendent of schools carried the issue to the legislature, and the legislature voted him the money, and the governor vetoed the bill.

So now in the Los Angeles “Times” you learn that the state superintendent is guilty of “political activities”; he is using the power of his office to appeal to the people against the governor. In such a dispute the sympathies of the local educational machines throughout the state will be with the superintendent; they too want funds, and they have to fight the forces which cut off their funds. But they will all be careful not to overstep a certain limit in their activities; the ultimate arbiter is Big Business, and both parties appeal thereto.

I have emphasized the uniformity of school systems and of their political control. This uniformity is attained by constant communication among the superintendents and the supervising force. In California they make the state pay the expenses of this inter-communication; twice every year there are conventions attended by all county and city superintendents; once a year there is a convention for all principals of high schools; and the traveling expenses of these functionaries are paid out of the school funds. We shall find when we come to study the national body that it has a “Department of Superintendence,” and holds a convention in the course of each winter, at which all the superintendents gather, expenses paid. Here is the great clearing-house, where the bosses exchange experiences and perfect the technique of holding down the salaries of the teachers, breaking up their organizations, eliminating the rebels from the system, and making fast the hold of the gang.

We are going to attend several of these conventions of the National Education Association, and meet some thirty thousand educators, assembled from every corner of the country. But first it is desirable that we should know more about the county and state organizations, all of which send delegates to the national conventions. Let us take up the state machines—bearing in mind that they are all alike, and that when you know one you know forty-eight.



I again select California, because it is the nearest, and the easiest for me to study. We can best know the California machine by following the adventures of a rebel teacher; so permit me to introduce Mr. Ray E. Chase, until recently head of a department at the Manual Arts High School of Los Angeles. Mr. Chase was a man of brains, who refused to take the orders of the gang; and we shall see what the gang did to him.

In the year 1917 Mr. Chase was chosen by the Los Angeles High School Teachers’ Association as their legislative representative, to proceed to the state capital and watch out for the interests of teachers. He applied to the school board of Los Angeles for leave of absence without pay, whereupon the board members called him before them, and required him to submit a complete list of the measures proposed or endorsed by the Teachers’ Association. Said Mrs. Waters, widow of a bank president and member of the board: “How could we know but that you meant to advocate something of which the board would not approve?” But having heard an outline of the projects, she declared: “I think those are all harmless.” So they “allowed” Mr. Chase to go—and incidentally invited him to work for some measures of theirs!

Turn back to our Los Angeles story, and refresh your mind concerning “Bill 1013” whereby the Better America Federation and its political crooks tried to cripple the schools of the state. When this bill came up before the legislature, the teachers’ agents were assured that it would not affect the schools, so they let it go by; afterwards, the teachers had to initiate and put through a referendum to repeal this bill, so as to keep the schools functioning. Mr. Chase was a leader in this procedure, and earned thereby the deadly enmity of the Black Hand. They did all they could to drive him out of the school; his principal was offered promotion by Judge Bordwell, president of the school board, on condition that he would get rid of Chase and two other “radicals.” It was during this intrigue that Bordwell asked the question: “Can’t you get something on their morals?”

229Mr. Chase came back to Los Angeles and set to work on a plan to enable the teachers of the city to exercise control of their Association. At risk of repetition, let me make it clear that these teachers’ associations are purely voluntary affairs—the teachers’ clubs, or professional societies, which they try to run in their own interest and according to their own ideas. Not merely does the gang take this control away from them; the gang has made it a matter of professional life and death for a teacher to stand out for the independence of the federation. When elections are held, principals and superintendents are nominated, and teachers who oppose their superior’s ambitions are denied promotion, and sometimes dismissed. Let me remind you of the teacher in Oakland who refused to vote for Superintendent Hunter’s candidate, and was hounded, not merely in the schools, but in the business world outside.

It is no easy matter for a common teacher to travel to a convention; only the high-salaried ones can afford such a luxury. The rules of the teachers’ associations permit members of one group to send members of another group as delegates; so when the teachers cannot go, it is tactfully suggested that a superintendent or a principal would like to go; and how should a teacher be rude enough to deny credentials to such a personage? So these personages go; they go fully versed in the technique of controlling conventions, and the first thing they do is to enter a caucus, and come out of it with a program of proceedings and a “slate,” all ready to be “jammed through.”

For three years the independent teachers of Los Angeles worked over a plan to reorganize the Southern section of the association, taking it out of the hands of the superintendents and putting it under the control of the class-room teachers. The project came up in December, 1920, at a convention whose chairman was Dr. E. C. Moore, director of the Southern branch of the University of California. We met this gentleman as superintendent of schools in Los Angeles seventeen years ago, getting himself into trouble by cutting out General Otis’s “open shop” propaganda from the program of the National Education Association. Since then Dr. Moore has learned discretion, and become a thoroughly tame servant of the Black Hand. At this convention he ruled out the report 230of the reorganization committee, on the technical ground that he had not had thirty days’ notice of the matter. Mind you, this committee was reporting according to orders given at the last year’s convention, where it had made a tentative report; Dr. Moore had known all about it at that time, but he now shut the committee off, and appointed a new committee to “work over” the constitution. This took another year, and resulted in a document under which the association is a closed corporation, entirely controlled by the supervising element in the schools.

Simultaneously with all this, and practically duplicating it, was Mr. Chase’s experience with the State Council of Education, the executive body of all these California teachers’ associations. At its meeting in Oakland, April, 1918, Mr. Chase brought up a project to bring these associations under control of the classroom teachers. He had a detailed and carefully worked out program to reorganize the associations, and provide for their democratic control from the floor of the conventions. Mr. Chase swept the assemblage with this project, and was made chairman of a committee to perfect it. His ill health prevented his activity for two years; but finally the project was got into shape, and was brought before local bodies, and approved by every one that voted on it. In December, 1920, Mr. Chase took it to the state council; but the gang leaders, knowing what was coming, deliberately kept the convention busy all day, and called for “new business” late at night, when everybody had gone home except the administrative crowd. Out of thirty present, there was only one class-room teacher! They meant of course, to vote down the project, and then have the kept press flash the news over the state. So Mr. Chase forbore to introduce it; he never will introduce it now, because his story came to a sudden end. The Black Hand in Los Angeles succeeded in “getting” him, according to the formula suggested by Judge Bordwell some years earlier. The story is a complicated and rather ghastly one; suffice it to say that they put him in a position where he could not defend himself without dragging in some other people. As he was unwilling to do that, he is out of the schools, and the gang leaders are secure in their grip upon the teachers’ associations of Southern California.

But California is our most reactionary state, you 231will say. Very well: then let us skip to Wisconsin, which is our most progressive state. Let us see what has happened to the Wisconsin Teachers’ Association.

There is one significant detail for you to get clear at the outset: In state after state we find the people taking over their political government, but they cannot get hold of their schools. The school machine is intrenched behind entanglements of “red tape”; the supervising force has “pull,” sometimes it is protected by civil service—anyhow, the machine is tough, and hangs on until the reactionaries come back. We shall see that happening in North Dakota, in Minnesota, in Wisconsin. Senator LaFollette carried his state last time by the biggest plurality ever known in America; but Mrs. LaFollette was barred from speaking in country school-houses! The state educational machine, the county machines, and most of the city machines in Wisconsin are still in the hands of the gang.

The situation in Milwaukee is especially interesting. Before the war Milwaukee was under the eye of Victor Berger, while the schools were under the eye of Victor Berger’s wife; so there was one American city with no graft in its school affairs. But during the war the gang came back, and they still have the schools—Mrs. Berger was for years the lone Socialist member, and the board is run by the so-called “Voters’ League,” which consists of exactly seven men, the chiefs of the Black Hand of Wisconsin. These seven picked the candidates for the school board at every election, and the newspapers printed the list conspicuously, and told the people to “cut this out and take it to the polls”; and, like good, patriotic Americans, they did so.

In the effort to bludgeon the Teachers’ Federation, this Voters’ League proposed a bill making it unlawful for public employes to organize. But this bill failed, and the teachers of Milwaukee have stayed organized, and what is more, they have kept the control of their own organization. They went over the heads of their reactionary school board, and appealed to a progressive state legislature, and got the school taxes in Milwaukee conditioned upon the payment of a minimum salary of $1,500 to grade teachers, running up to $2,400. Imagine a school board unable to terrify its teachers by threats of salary 232reduction, and you will understand the fury with which the educational gang regards the Milwaukee Teachers’ Federation!

Not content with getting their own salaries increased, these Milwaukee teachers contributed $2,400 to the publicity campaign of the state association, to get salary increases for the other teachers. They lobbied through the state legislature the best kindergarten law in the United States. They proposed legislation for tenure, and drafted the best law on this subject. In short, the Milwaukee Local of the Wisconsin Teachers’ Association is Bolshevism, raw, red and bloody, trampling the holy ground of American education.[J]

J. From the “Clarion,” Milwaukee, November 18, 1922:


“Milwaukee last week entertained the literati of Wisconsin’s leading educationalists. The convention, designed to be creative in works of harmony, good will and a spirit of constructive development, resulted in a wild and riotous effort to determine the status of the caste system with regard to our state educators. Topping it all, the head of the Milwaukee’s Teachers Association emits a theory so rank in its bolshevistic nature as to rock the very foundation of learning and to place in extreme jeopardy the principles and ideals of our system of state education.” (Note: This “theory” was that teachers are the equals of superintendents.)

In order to get clear what follows, you must understand that outside Milwaukee, the gang still controls the teachers’ organizations, as it does in California and all the other states. We are now going to watch the gang leaders of Wisconsin at their job of holding down the Milwaukee local.

The constitution of the Wisconsin Teachers’ Association provided that representation at conventions should be on the basis of one delegate for every fifty members or major fraction of fifty. This provision was as explicit as the English language could make it, and it had been thoroughly threshed out, and understood by everyone. The Milwaukee local had 1,347 paid members, and on that basis their representation had been fixed at twenty-seven. But now the gang set up the claim that small communities should have a chance to send representatives to the convention; let it be provided that communities having less than fifty teachers might have one delegate for every 233twenty-six members. To this the Milwaukee teachers answered: Very well: but if the basis of representation is to be one delegate for every twenty-six members, then let the large cities also have one representative for every twenty-six members, instead of one for every fifty. But you see, that did not fit the purpose of the gang, which wanted to hold the Milwaukee teachers down to one in fifty, while giving double representation to the country districts, which the gang had under its thumb.

In February of 1922 a meeting of the executive committee of the state association was held, and it was resolved to permit the forming of locals of the association in small communities, these locals to consist of twenty-six members or more, the understanding being that the convention, to be held in November, would determine whether or not it approved this procedure. All over the state delegates were chosen under this arrangement, and forty-six of them came to the convention. The scheme of the gang was to get these country delegates seated, overwhelm the twenty-seven delegates from Milwaukee, and put through an arrangement to perpetuate that semi-disfranchisement of the “Bolsheviks.”

The “floor leader” who put through the job for the gang was Mr. Carroll G. Pearse, then president of the Milwaukee State Normal School, and now a book agent. I point out to you in passing that he is one of the big chiefs of the national school machine. You remember, I have referred to this as our educational Tammany Hall; and if you thought I was just calling bad names, read this account of the “steam-roller” at the 1922 convention of the Wisconsin Teachers’ Association, and see if Tammany could teach anything to the school-masters!

On the evening before the convention there was a meeting of the credentials committee, which voted that the forty-six delegates, representing locals having less than fifty members, were to be admitted in violation of the constitution. And next day the president of the convention placed his chair in such a way that he could not see the Milwaukee representatives when they rose to demand recognition; he called for a viva voce vote on the report of the credentials committee, and declared that this report had carried. The Milwaukee teachers, of course, demanded a roll-call; but the president refused to order 234it. One after another he recognized the representatives of the supervising force, who orated to the convention amid storms of protest.

Here was a large gathering of people, and no one had any means of knowing which were delegates and which were not; yet the president refused to determine who was voting on this motion or on that. He refused even to rule on the point of order, that he should determine who had votes! He drove his “steam-roller” ahead, rushing through one motion after another. The assembly adopted an amendment to the constitution, admitting delegates from locals with twenty-six members or more. The assembly elected a normal school president as president of the state association for the next year. The assembly passed a resolution, offered by Mr. Pearse, validating and legalizing all proceedings up to that time—and all this without a single roll-call, without any record whatsoever as to what persons had voted for these various resolutions, what mob had altered the state constitution and disfranchised the Milwaukee teachers!

Having a night to think it over, the gang must have realized that this story would look just a little “raw” when told in “The Goslings.” So Floor-leader Pearse appeared next morning with a resolution excluding those representatives whose rights to seats had been questioned on the day before. But all the motions which had been passed by the shouts of these representatives were permitted to stand! The disfranchised delegates were directed to leave the hall; then they were reseated—the whole transaction occupying five minutes! Finally a superintendent of schools was elected secretary of the association, at a salary of fifty-five hundred dollars, and the public school system of the state of Wisconsin was safe for another year! Take this to any ward-healer or henchman of your local political machine, and see if he can “beat it!”


We now ascend to the top of our great school pyramid, the National Education Association. This is the professional organization of the educators of the United States, and as such it possesses tremendous prestige and power 235in the educational world. You probably know very little about it, and may think that it has nothing to do with your local schools; but in this you will be deceiving yourself, for its influence is none the less strong because indirect. What the N. E. A. does is to set the standards of the school world; in its councils, open or secret, the thing called educational greatness is determined.

Who are the “great” educators of America? Who are the ones that really know how children should be taught, and what they should be taught? Do you know who they are? Manifestly you do not; you have to be told who they are, and the function of the N. E. A. is to tell you. It is the dispenser of educational prominence and applause. The final test of greatness in the school world is to be invited to deliver one of the addresses before its annual convention; while to have your name added to the list of presidents of the organization is in the school world the same thing as it is in public life to have your name added to the list of presidents of the United States, which every school child has to learn by heart. You step out before this vast assemblage, amid a flutter of applause, and tens of thousands of teachers and sympathizers absorb your utterances, and carry them away to the farthest hamlets—this is what is known in America as “inspiration.” The local newspapers print your address in full, and the Associated Press sends a summary of it to its thirteen hundred leading newspapers. Thus, if you are a reactionary, you help to set backward the clock of American history, and to render the position of your capitalist employers secure. If you are not a reactionary, then you do not get within many feet of the platform at the N. E. A. convention.

There are at the present time a hundred and twenty-five thousand members of the N. E. A., and they pay dues at the rate of two dollars per member. More than eighty per cent of them are the plain, ordinary, humble, rank and file classroom teachers, whose function is that of the day laborer in the great corporation—to produce the wealth, while their superiors spend it. You will be told that the N. E. A. is a “democratic” organization, and you will understand what this means when I tell you that Tammany Hall also is a “democratic” organization. New members are welcome, in fact, they are eagerly sought-“drives” 236are carried on, and the prestige of schools is established by the fact that they have one hundred per cent membership in the N. E. A. Some school systems are even going so far as to make membership in the N. E. A. compulsory to all applicants for teachers’ positions. The Journal of the National Education Association for September, 1922, triumphantly quotes the superintendent of schools at Onaway, Michigan, as stating that “teachers’ contracts in Onaway, Michigan, will in future require teachers to become members of state and national educational associations.” And in the case of St. Joseph, Missouri, the blanks to be filled out by applicants for teaching positions contain the following two questions: “Are you a member of the N. E. A.? If not, will you be a member this year?”

Now the classroom teachers are the real educators in America. They do the actual work of teaching your children; they are the ones who know your children, they spend some twenty-five hours with them every week, and they are not seduced from the job of understanding children by prominence and applause, nor by high salaries, nor by any other lure. The classroom teachers are the ones we must depend upon if education is to be improved. The classroom teachers represent democracy in the school world, and the test of democracy in the N. E. A. is what happens to this rank and file. So I begin my study of this great organization with its Department of Classroom Teachers.

Until a year or two ago the Department of Classroom Teachers of the N. E. A. was nothing but a name. The way it leaped into sudden life is an amusing story. The school superintendents of the N. E. A. decided that they would have an exclusive organization, and hold meetings uncontaminated by the presence of the school proletariat. At their mid-winter convention of 1920 they reorganized themselves into an autonomous body, called the Department of Superintendence. After they had done this, the embarrassing discovery was made that they had violated the by-laws of the N. E. A.; but, of course, at the next convention of the N. E. A. special amendments were passed, so as to legalize what the superintendents had done. Being a superintendent in the N. E. A. is like being a millionaire in a police-court.

237Now to each of the N. E. A. conventions come the “Bolsheviks” of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Association, headed by their president, Ethel Gardner; also the “Bolsheviks” of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation, headed by Margaret Haley. These groups are fighting for the school proletariat, and they watch with practiced eyes the tricks and contrivances of their superiors. They pounced upon this brilliant scheme of the Department of Superintendence; why not reorganize the Classroom Teachers’ Department of the N. E. A., and have it autonomous, like the Department of Superintendence? A beautiful scheme, you see! The Department of Superintendence had excluded from its membership everyone who was not a superintendent; now let the Department of Classroom Teachers exclude everyone who was not a classroom teacher!

Here was treason and rank rebellion; and actually, these teachers had the insolence to call a convention in Chicago, in February, 1922, at the same time as the midwinter meeting of the Department of Superintendence. The gang was so indignant that in Milwaukee the board of education refused leave of absence to Miss Ethel Gardner, who was president of the Department of Classroom Teachers, so that she might attend the convention she had called. The gang moved heaven and earth to oust her from her job as a teacher; but it so happened that she had an honest principal, and when they asked him to report her as incompetent he replied: “I will not tell a damned lie.”

The convention was held without Miss Gardner, and the teachers appointed a committee of Milwaukee and Chicago “Bolsheviks,” which spent all the spring drawing up a constitution and having it made air-tight by a competent attorney. At the 1922 convention of the N. E. A., held in Boston, they appeared with a printed draft of their scheme. They were going to re-elect Miss Ethel Gardner, the Milwaukee “Bolshevik,” as their president; and it goes without saying that the gang did not intend to let that happen. The gang picked out a “tame” teacher, Miss Effie MacGregor of Minneapolis, and decreed that she was to become president of the Department of Classroom Teachers—in spite of the classroom teachers!

This chapter is called “Dispensers of Prominence,” and here you see what I mean. The classroom teachers 238had never heard of Miss Effie MacGregor; she had never attended a meeting of the Department of Classroom Teachers, nor was she a member of a classroom teachers’ association. She had fought hard against the increase of their salaries; but now she was to be their president, and have the spending of their ten thousand dollars for a year! President Charl O. Williams of the N. E. A. proceeded to place the lady on the main program of the N. E. A., introducing her as “the foremost classroom teacher in the United States.” President Williams went on to explain the lady’s credentials to that title—she had arranged a movie benefit at a theatre, and raised funds to send eight delegates to the convention! Please understand, that is not a joke; that is the N. E. A. idea of “greatness.”

Come back with me to Oakland, California, and recall the picture of Fred M. Hunter, superintendent and educational ward leader, with his school henchmen and his grafting contractors. Recall Miss Elizabeth Arlett, “who, while supposed to be teaching the school children of Oakland, was touring the United States, shortly before the 1920 convention, in the interest of Mr. Hunter’s candidacy for president of the N. E. A. For that service and her subsequent activities, Miss Arlett was promoted to be principal of a high school in Oakland,” etc. You will expect to find Miss Arlett at this 1922 convention, ready to carry out Mr. Hunter’s orders for the smashing of the classroom teachers. You will be prepared to hear that the gang went into caucus in Miss Effie MacGregor’s room, and that Miss Arlett took the initiative and made the principal speech, endorsing her and outlining the program.

The gang had engaged Symphony Hall for the business meeting of the Department of Classroom Teachers—an afternoon meeting, and there was to be a concert in the hall in the evening. The promise had been made that the hall would be vacated at five o’clock; but not a word was said to the teachers about this, and the gang proceeded to drag the meeting out with technical discussions over the details of the constitution. At six o’clock a slip of paper was sent up to the presiding officer, stating that the meeting had already kept the hall for an hour beyond the time agreed upon, and must vacate immediately!

The teachers had just got down to the work of electing 239officers; they wanted to finish this work in a hurry, for they knew exactly whom they wanted, and it wouldn’t have taken five minutes. But the gang would not let that happen; a member of the board of trustees of the N. E. A. began a violent and noisy filibuster, and so prevented the election. The assembly twice rejected a motion to hold an adjourned meeting; they wanted to do their electing right there, but the gang held on and delayed matters, until finally the janitor threatened to turn out the lights, and thus forced the teachers from the hall.

So here was the Department of Classroom Teachers left without officers for a year! They did not know what to do; but the gang knew, you may be sure. They sprung the proposition at an assembly of the N. E. A. convention, at which very few of the classroom teachers were present, but at which four out of five of those present were superintendents or members of the supervising force. To this gathering the president of the N. E. A. announced that she “ordered” a meeting of the Classroom Teachers’ Department, to be held as soon as this N. E. A. assembly had adjourned. Under the by-laws, the president of the N. E. A. was absolutely without authority to order any such meeting; but she ordered it, and the incoming president of the N. E. A. took charge—Mr. William B. Owen, president of the Chicago Normal School, “ward leader” of the gang in that city.

The meeting was held; that is to say, a number of spectators stayed over, and Mr. Owen called them to order as classroom teachers, but without making any effort to find out whether they really were classroom teachers or not. The climax of absurdity was reached when this meeting—it was held in a theatre—was forced to vacate, and adjourned to the Boys’ Trade School. Fewer than two hundred people came to this place, and no effort was made to ascertain who they were, or what right they had to vote in the affairs of the classroom teachers. By means of this assemblage, the gang proceeded to elect Miss Effie MacGregor to run the Department of Classroom Teachers for a year! And you may be sure that in the course of that year the gang got busy, and pulled its wires, and saw to it that at the next convention there was a good majority against Miss Ethel Gardner, the Milwaukee “Bolshevik!” The job was an easy one, because the convention was in 240Oakland, and we have been there and seen how Superintendent Hunter keeps his teachers under his thumb.

I think that to make the above story complete and perfect you will need to know something about the lady-president of the N. E. A. who put this job through for the gang. You already have her name—Charl O. Williams; she was school superintendent of Shelby County, Tennessee, and immediately after this convention she got her reward—a permanent N. E. A. job, carrying not merely a salary of $7,500 a year, but the privilege of uplifting the teachers with Southern eloquence at one hundred dollars per lift. This lady ex-superintendent ex-president field secretary also represents her State of Tennessee on the national committee of the Democratic party, where she sits in conference with the chiefs of Tammany Hall; so you see exactly where this rascality comes from. Keep the lady in mind, because a year later we shall find her selected by the N. E. A. to uplift the world conference of educators—and to soothe their cravings for peace with weazel words of war.


The National Education Association is a very old institution, predating the Civil War. It has always been controlled entirely by the supervising force; in other words, it has been an employers’ organization. During several decades of its history no classroom teacher was ever elected to any office. At the present time some well trained teacher is occasionally admitted to office for the sake of appearances. It required many years of struggle to get the National Education Association to give any consideration whatever to the living and working conditions of the classroom teacher, or to recognize salaries, pensions and tenure as legitimate subjects for discussion. It required a revolution in the organization to secure in the year 1903 the appointment of a committee on salaries, tenure and pensions; and this committee made a report which was full of misrepresentations. Not until 1911 was action taken even to gather the real figures on these questions.

241I will give you a glimpse of the organization in those early days, just to let you see how these things remain the same. At the 1901 convention in Detroit, the United States Commissioner of Education gave a paper outlining the progress of the schools. He was an aged dotard; as an eye-witness said to me, “In the educational system we don’t bury the dead. We let them walk around to save funeral expenses.” This speaker congratulated the country upon the growing number of school pupils, but said not a word about the need of more school money. An orator who rose to applaud him declared that the educational sky was without a cloud, and his only regret was that the American public schools had not been able to get a donation from Rockefeller.

But suddenly a cloud rose upon the educational sky. A thing happened which had never before happened in the history of the N. E. A.—a classroom teacher rose up from the floor of the convention and asked to speak! To make matters worse, it was a woman teacher. This female rebel declared that she for one was glad that the American public schools had not got any money from Rockefeller, and she hoped they would keep clear of all corporation influence. If the rich wanted to help the schools, let them pay their taxes; let the railroads, for example, pay taxes on their franchise valuations, which they were everywhere evading.

You may not need to be told that this was Margaret Haley, making her debut to the N. E. A. twenty-three years ago. The great assemblage was stunned; to attack the railroads, the N. E. A.’s main source of revenue! At that time, you see, when you bought your ticket to the convention, the ticket included your dues, and the N. E. A. got the rake-off!

The aged commissioner felt called upon to put down this insurrection. He got up again and stated that all the wealth of the railroads had come from economy in administration—he knew, because he was a personal friend of Commodore Vanderbilt. As for the attitude of the lady teacher, these meetings were held at the end of the school year, when all the teachers were tired; if there were any more such hysterical outbursts, he would insist upon having the time of the convention changed. He urged the delegates to pay no attention to this; the teachers 242were worn out from the school routine, and were not in condition to think soberly. Moreover, the delegates must bear in mind that Chicago was no criterion of the rest of the country; Chicago was “morbid and cyclonic.” You can imagine how the Chicago newspapers appreciated this compliment from Detroit!

Sixteen years passed, and revolution came in Russia, and our school superintendents realized the danger of permitting the lower classes to get out of hand. They resolved to put down the classroom teachers in the N. E. A., and to keep them down. The procedure by which they did it constitutes one of the most amazing public crimes in the history of the United States. Bear in mind: this National Education Association was a public institution, with a charter from Congress, according to which it was controlled by its members. Any educator—including teachers—might pay four dollars and become an active member, and these active members met in convention once a year, and there voted and elected officers. This was democracy, as our ancestors understood it; and this was the thing which was suddenly discovered by school superintendents and their capitalist masters to be a menace to the American schools.

At N. E. A. conventions there would appear two kinds of active members. There would be those who had come from all parts of the country, and ninety per cent of these were from the employing class of the schools. These had the money to come, and made it their business to come; most of them had their expenses paid, either by the public, or by the organization to which they belonged. The other group was made up of members who lived in or near the city where the convention was held, and these would be ninety per cent classroom teachers. They were the only classroom teachers who could attend the convention without great expense, and they represented, and properly felt that they represented, the great mass of the teachers who could not attend, but who had a vital stake in education, and had needs to be voiced.

So at N. E. A. conventions there was beginning to be noticed that major phenomenon of our time—the class struggle. Here were the high-up and prosperous and powerful superintendents and “great educators”; and here were the common riff-raff of the school proletariat. In 243any big city it would happen, inevitably, that the proletariat would be in the majority. They would have little idea what was going on, or how they should vote; but here would come a dozen or two of the New York and Chicago and Milwaukee “Bolsheviks,” who would get up in meeting and ask questions and explain matters to the classroom teachers, and induce them to vote for their own class—or shall we say for their own classes?

This was the thing which the educational employers decided to change. They worked out the scheme at their midwinter convention of 1918—the Atlantic City meeting of the Department of Superintendence. Instead of the N. E. A. being governed by the democratic vote of its active members at the annual convention, the N. E. A. was to become a representative body, like the United States of America; the members in the various cities and towns and counties would elect delegates to the state bodies, and both local and the state bodies would elect delegates to the national convention. The gang, of course, would be on hand at every stage of these elections to pull wires and get its own politicians chosen. So, when the convention assembled in some big city, the classroom teachers of that city would no longer have votes as active members of the N. E. A.; instead of that, they would be represented by delegates on the floor, one delegate for every hundred teachers, and, in case they had more than five hundred members, one delegate for each five hundred members thereafter. So the classroom teachers of the convention, instead of having one vote per teacher, would have one-hundredth of one vote per teacher, or maybe one five-hundredths of one vote per teacher! And so the N. E. A. would be made safe for the superintendents!

There was only one difficulty with that scheme, and that was explained to you when you were a child and read Aesop’s “Fables.” The mice wanted a bell put around the neck of the cat, but how was it to be done? At some one convention of the N. E. A., the classroom teachers of an American city must be induced, not merely to disfranchise themselves, but to disfranchise the classroom teachers of the entire country forever and ever after! Such was the job; and I repeat that the doing of it was one of the most amazing public crimes in the history of the 244United States. We are now going to hear the story of it in detail.


First you will ask to know the people who did the job; which means that you will be introduced to the bosses of our educational Tammany Hall. Some of them you know already; but for convenience I will re-introduce them.

Superintendent Fred M. Hunter, ward leader of Oakland, 1921 president of the N. E. A., and life director of the N. E. A. During his presidency, Mr. Hunter had a liberal teacher, whom he recommended for discharge to his board of education. The board thought the teacher ought to have a hearing, to which he was legally entitled; but Hunter’s proposition was that he would give the teacher a hearing if the teacher would first resign. “In other words,” said a board member, “you want to hang him first and try him afterward.” With these words ringing in his ears, Hunter went to the convention of the N. E. A., and presided over meetings at which eloquent orators set forth in glowing terms the rights of teachers under our great American democracy!

Carroll G. Pearse, formerly president of the Milwaukee State Normal School, and now a book agent; also a trustee and life director of the N. E. A. We have seen Mr. Pearse smashing the classroom teachers of his own city. If we had time for a detailed study, we should discover him running the N. E. A. machine for a decade, from the time he was president in 1912.

Next, President William B. Owen, of the Chicago Normal School, 1923 president of the N. E. A. Mr. Owen is the ward leader of Chicago, and we have just seen him in Boston, stealing from the classroom teachers their own national organization. Mr. Owen is vice-president and life director of the N. E. A.

Next, Professor Howard Driggs, of the English department of the University of Utah, author of “Live Language Lessons,” president of the Utah Educational 245Association, a power in the Mormon church, and vice-president of the N. E. A.

Next, Superintendent Charl O. Williams, of Shelby County, Tennessee, a lady of fine presence, an “inspirational” orator of the old Southern style, an aggressive Democratic politician, 1922 president, and now life director and field secretary of the N. E. A.

Next, Mrs. Josephine C. Preston, state superintendent of public instruction of Washington, 1920 president and life director of the N. E. A. We have seen Mrs. Preston browbeating the teachers and defending the incorporate tax-dodging creatures of the lumber country.

Next, Principal Olive Jones of New York, 1924 president of the N. E. A., also trustee and director. I asked two New York teachers to tell me about her, and the answer came: “She is small-minded, vindictive, not over-scrupulous, a self-advertiser and office seeker, a good, clever politician.”

Last but not least, the representative of Columbia University in our educational Tammany Hall. Before introducing him it is necessary to explain that for the first decade of this century our national school machine was run by Nicholas Murray Butler, who was president of the N. E. A. in 1895, and then head of the Department of Education at Columbia University. Becoming president of Columbia, Butler dispensed the educational patronage of Teachers’ College for his gang. How great this patronage is, you will understand when I tell you that Teachers’ College has officially announced that it furnishes more teachers than all the other universities and colleges of the United States and Canada combined. You will find half a dozen chapters about the dispenser of this patronage in “The Goose-step,” and I point out to you that the most bitter critics of the book did not find a single error in my statements concerning him; nor did one educator in the United States come to his defense.

“Nicholas Miraculous” was preparing himself to take charge of the American government, so he no longer had time to bother with the school world. He turned this detail over to one of his subordinates, George D. Strayer, professor of educational administration in Columbia University, and 1919 president of the N. E. A. It was during Strayer’s presidency that the great plot was hatched, and 246he received a year’s leave of absence from his university, so that he might devote his entire time to putting it through. He presided at the Milwaukee convention of 1919, where he failed. Then he was elected first vice-president, and sat at the right hand of the president at the Salt Lake City convention of 1920, and supervised her every move. Both Strayer and Butler are life directors of the N. E. A.; and so, as you read this story, you must understand it as one more of the Nicholas Murray Butler chapters of “The Goose-step”—it is the spectral hand of old J. P. Morgan, the elder, reaching out and seizing the minds of your children, and twisting them out of shape, so that Morgan’s heirs shall be able to pick their pockets without inconvenience.

Our story begins with the midwinter convention of the N. E. A. in 1918. Miss Frances Harden of Chicago was the first classroom teacher who ever attended a midwinter convention—and she had to pay her own substitute in order to do it! She saw the plot being hatched by the Department of Superintendence, and brought back word to the Chicago teachers, who got out a circular describing it, and pointing out what had happened in their own state of Illinois, which had just been “reorganized” and made a delegate body according to the new scheme. The first Illinois convention under this plan had been held in December, 1917; 1,360 teachers had attended, and the effect of the scheme had been that 1,193 of these teachers were disfranchised! There were only 167 delegates entitled to vote, and the occupations of these delegates were listed as follows: county superintendents, 42; city superintendents, 53; presidents of colleges, 4; principals of high schools, 12; principals of elementary schools, 24; teachers in colleges, 5; teachers in high schools, 13; teachers in elementary schools, 14. In other words, out of 167 delegates, 135 represented the supervising departments, and only 32 were teachers—only 14 of these being elementary classroom teachers!

This Illinois reorganization was the work of Owen of Chicago; it was his pet scheme. At the Pittsburgh convention notice was given of intention to apply it to the N. E. A., and the gang set to work to line up the school bosses.

Then came the Milwaukee convention of 1919; here Strayer presided, and the gang had a charming device to 247get rid of the teachers. The by-laws provided for the business meeting at 11 a. m. of the 4th of July. Milwaukee had a “sane Fourth” program for that day, and the teachers were supposed to be occupied in the parks; the gang, thinking to catch them off guard, called a “snap” meeting at nine in the morning. But the Milwaukee teachers have been trained in politics, and know its devices. They had arranged to have the “sane Fourth” program taken care of by those teachers who were “associate” members of the N. E. A., while the “active” members, who had votes, were to attend the business meeting. Some of them got wind of the 9 a. m. trick, and these went in and started singing “America.” They went right on singing “America” until 11 a. m.—they are so patriotic in Milwaukee, and that was their idea of a “sane Fourth!” To make sure of keeping it sane, these Milwaukee teachers omitted to eat any lunch, and stayed by the convention until it came to an end at 5 p. m.

The gang brought up their reorganization scheme, and Margaret Haley arose on the floor of the convention, and told them that they were violating their federal charter. The reply was that they would put the scheme through and get the charter changed afterwards. But Margaret Haley, who has a way of consulting lawyers, pointed out to them that any teacher could get a court injunction, and forbid them spending a penny of the association’s money for a year. So they dropped the proposal; Owen resigned from the committee and moved to discharge it; the slate was wiped clean, and the teachers thought the scheme was dead—except for a few who made note of a motion to appoint a committee to take up the question of amending the charter of the N. E. A!

The place selected for the next national convention was Salt Lake City. The classroom teachers made no protest—how were they to know that the gang had been conducting an “educational survey,” combing the United States with a fine comb, to find one place where they might be sure of getting their way? Said one teacher, when she got to Salt Lake and saw the frame-up: “We should have had notice of this.” Said H. S. Magill, field secretary of the N. E. A.: “You blocked us twice; this year we’ve come where your cohorts couldn’t follow us!” Said Strayer, strutting like a little bantam: “We 248took it where we could put it over.” And if that is not enough for you, a prominent official of the Milwaukee convention told Miss Ethel Gardner, quite naively, that Professor Strayer had a most wonderful plan, by which he was going to get all the big business men of the United States back of the N. E. A! (He did.)

When the minutes of the Milwaukee business meeting were produced, they included a notice of intention to amend the by-laws at the next convention, by repealing the provision which requires a year’s notice before a constitutional amendment can be adopted. No one could recollect having heard such notice given, but the minutes showed that it had been given by Professor Howard Driggs, the great Mormon educator. It was a peculiar kind of proposition for a great educator to make; whenever you mention the subject of constitutions and by-laws to such an educator, the first thing he praises is that system of “checks and balances” prevailing in the Constitution of the United States, which imposes restrictions upon the hasty passions of the masses and compels us all to stop and think before we act. Such a provision had been put into the by-laws of the N. E. A.; and now it was proposed to abolish it, and permit the hasty passions of the masses to prevail!

Professor Driggs apparently realized the strangeness of such a proposition, coming from a great educator; discussing the matter on the floor of the Salt Lake convention, he said he had not known the contents of the notice when he gave it. Somebody had handed it to him—he thought perhaps it was Mr. Magill, the field secretary—and asked him to give the notice, and he did so. Dear, innocent, trusting Mormon educator—you could hardly believe that he was forty-seven years of age! Before you decide what to believe about him, wait and see what use the gang made of that alleged notice.

They had a whole year to work in, and they went at it systematically. They drafted an amendment to the charter of the N. E. A., known as Section 12, providing that it might be organized as a delegate body and governed by a representative assembly. The gang leaders spent much time in our national capital, getting this charter amendment passed by Congress and signed by the President. When our leading plutocratic educators appear in 249Washington, asking to be permitted to govern their school proletariat in their own way, how should a plutocratic Congress refuse? The amendment was being trumpeted over the country as a plan to make the N. E. A. “democratic.” The President of the United States had just made the whole world “democratic,” so it was to be expected that he would approve the plan and sign the bill.


Come now to Salt Lake City, and see why the N. E. A. machine selected it for their next convention. Externally there are reasons, in the form of beautiful temples and educational institutions, erected by the devotees of a weird religious cult. This cult is based upon “certain tablets having the appearance of gold,” which were dug out of the ground by an ignorant New York farmer-youth named Joseph Smith, and were found to be miraculously inscribed with fantastic chronicles in biblical language; Smith was able to interpret them by the aid of two magic stones, and they are now the inspired word of God to half a million people. One of the customs recommended in this “word” is the patriarchal Old Testament virtue of polygamy, and the United States government fought a little war with the Mormons over this issue, and Utah was not admitted as a state until the chiefs had agreed to follow the example of the rest of our plutocracy, and keep their polygamy under cover.

This is not a work on religion, but on economics, and what here concerns us are the two great Mormon virtues of industry and submissiveness. Seldom has a priestly caste evolved a more perfect system for separating its devotees from their cash. The Mormon hierarchy is a Big Business institution, which works hand in glove with the great corporations of Utah, and their political representative, the Grand Old Party. The Mormon church is practically the same thing as the Sugar Trust in the state, and also the Smelter Trust and the railroads; their two representatives in the United States Senate are equally active in the affairs of God and Mammon. The church machine has its own educational institutions, and at the 250same time, like the Catholic church in other parts of the United States, it controls the public schools. I have portrayed in “The Goose-step” its domination of the University of Utah, and how sixteen professors resigned at once in protest against its policy.

So you begin to see why the N. E. A. machine picked out Salt Lake City. Utah is a long way off, and few classroom teachers could afford the journey. As for the teachers of Utah, the majority of them are Mormons, and the rest either take the orders of the church or move out. It takes no stretch of the imagination to picture Professor Driggs, the great Mormon educator, telling Owen and Strayer and Hunter and Pearse and the other great educators how we manage things in Utah—so much better than in Milwaukee! And how beautifully the great Mormon “tabernacle” would serve as a setting for this “reorganization” drama! I remember in my childhood reading a fearsome story about an innocent American virgin lured into the clutches of a diabolical Mormon patriarch; and here is the story made real—the victim being the associated school-marms of America.

The delegates arrived, and were welcomed by the entire hierarchy—the Mormon governor, the Mormon mayor, the Mormon bishops, the presidents and professors of the Mormon colleges and universities, and the two United States senators from the Sugar Trust. You may imagine the effect upon the Salt Lake City school teachers of this array of religious and financial power; but even so, it was not enough! Church and State and Big Business combined could not prevail against a few simple facts put before the teachers of the city! At the very outset of the convention there was a meeting of classroom teachers, with Margaret Haley and Ethel Gardner and the rest on hand, and Mr. Magill, field secretary of the N. E. A., was so indiscreet as to come upon the platform and face the questions of these teachers. At the end of the session the gang could not muster three votes among those present; rebellion was spreading, and the great educators were frantic.

That night hundreds of telegrams were sent out all over the state of Utah. Superintendents and principals of schools summoned their teachers to Salt Lake City. It was J. Fred Anderson, president of the Utah Educational 251Association, who knew these teachers; and we have seen in our story of Oakland how Superintendent Hunter presented to him a high salaried position in the Oakland schools. Hunter was here, hard at work, and received his reward by being elected president at this convention.

The master of ceremonies of course was Howard Driggs, who was on his home ground, and had guaranteed to put the job through. With the help of the Mormon hierarchy, both religious and educational, he got the teachers of Utah into a caucus on the night preceding the business meeting of the convention. These teachers were told nothing whatever about the significance of the issue; they were merely told how to vote. The radicals, of course, got wind of this meeting, and came to it, but some of them were excluded, and the stenographer they had brought was ordered to leave. A motion was made that none should be granted the floor except Utah state teachers, or those who might be invited by them. Once during the proceedings a man ventured to ask if they might not hear the other side and know what were the objections to this plan. Chairman J. Fred Anderson glowered at the assembly, and roared: “If there is anyone from the state of Utah who objects to this plan, we’ll listen to him!”

An important part of the plot was a series of amendments to the by-laws, providing for great numbers of “ex officio delegates” to N. E. A. conventions. All the officers and all past presidents were to be such delegates, likewise all state superintendents, and all N. E. A. directors in each state—every such personage was to have a vote, and every such vote was to be equivalent to the vote of from one hundred to five hundred classroom teachers! Naturally, some one asked for an explanation, and so was born the classic jest of the American school world. You might be puzzled to understand why a superintendent of schools should be referred to as an “oil-dome”; but Professor Howard Driggs explained the symbolism to the Utah teachers. When you saw a train of oil-cars on the railroad track, you noted that these cars had little domes on top. The reason was that on curves the oil would acquire momentum which would throw the cars off the track, but these domes served to change the direction of the momentum and so prevented an accident. And the 252“oil-domes” of the N. E. A. machine were the superintendents!

If I thought you could possibly do it, I would ask you to imagine the mentality of a country school-marm from the far-off mountains and deserts of Utah, brought up to a devout belief in the golden tablets of Joseph Smith. Suffice it to say, that at this group meeting the Mormon ladies listened patiently, and not a single classroom teacher opened her mouth. Mr. Magill gave them printed statements containing the arguments of the gang, adding that of course they would vote as they saw fit. But the Mormon managers were not satisfied with such a careless formula, and one of them got up and pointed out that it was sometimes a difficult matter to follow the technicalities of business meetings, and the Utah teachers ought to take precautions to keep from getting lost in the parliamentary labyrinths. These managers knew they had to come out on the floor of the convention next day, and face Margaret Haley and Ethel Gardner and the rest of the “Bolsheviks”; so they had reason to be nervous!

It was arranged that the Utah teachers should sit together in a group, and in their voting they should follow the example of a leader, saying “aye” when he said “aye,” and “nay” when he said “nay.” And who was that leader to be? Whom would you guess but Howard Driggs, professor of English at the University of Utah, author of “Live Language Lessons,” vice-president of the N. E. A., and president of the Utah Educational Association? And lest perchance these teachers from the mountains and deserts of Utah might never have seen the great Mormon professor, the professor was invited to stand up and display his impressive presence to the assemblage. It was furthermore ordered that the Utah teachers were to be on hand in their Mormon Tabernacle half an hour in advance of the opening of the business session.

Immediately after this meeting there was a secret session in the room of President Pearse of Milwaukee, at the Utah Hotel. At this meeting the gang leaders staged a full-dress rehearsal of the proceedings. They had someone to play the part of Margaret Haley, and to make all the motions and objections which they expected her to make; they worked out the method of foiling her, with each one’s duty assigned, each part learned and recited. 253This secret meeting lasted until one o’clock in the morningmorning, and goes down into educational history as “the midnight rehearsal.”


The business meeting of the National Education Association was called for 8:30 on Friday morning, and the program stated that there would be a paper read and singing before the transaction of business; but the moment the meeting opened, they made a motion to dispense with the paper and the singing. Thus they rushed through a good part of their program with very little opposition. When Margaret Haley and Ethel Gardner entered the hall the assemblage was voting on the by-laws, article by article, and adopting them with vigorous roars from the rehearsed Utah teachers. In the uproar it was impossible to tell just what was being voted on.

The presiding officer at this convention was Superintendent Josephine C. Preston, whom we saw working hard for the Black Hand in Seattle, and whom we were asked particularly to remember. The report of the Executive Committee was presented by Professor Strayer of Columbia, first vice-president, who explained the act of Congress permitting the reorganization. This report having been adopted by a thunderous “aye” from the rehearsed Utah teachers, Professor Vice-president Strayer seated himself at the right hand of Superintendent President Preston, and was seen to whisper into her ear at every stage of the future proceedings. No one can say what he whispered, but there were some who suspected that he was telling her what to do next.

Professor Vice-president Driggs now arose, and had the good fortune to catch the eye of Superintendent President Preston—or possibly the eye of Professor Vice-president Strayer. He was recognized, and proceeded to bring up the resolution of which he had so innocently given notice at Milwaukee, providing that it should not be necessary to give a year’s consideration to a by-law amendment.

Now the classroom teachers’ delegates were certain that no notice had been given, the assembly had had no warning 254of this revolutionary proposition. They sought to explain matters, but for some strange reason Chairman Preston, or possibly Professor Strayer, was unable to see any of them, and they could not get the floor. Professor Driggs insisted that the notice appeared in due form in the minutes of the Milwaukee meeting, therefore his motion was in order. The motion was put, and was carried by a thunderous “aye” from Professor Driggs and his rehearsed Utah teachers.

Then at once it appeared what was the purpose for which the innocent Mormon professor had introduced this resolution without knowing what was in it. The purpose was that the Salt Lake convention might adopt the new “Section 12” of the charter, without waiting a year to give the membership a chance to find out what it was all about! Immediately the motion to adopt this section was made by Superintendent Life-director Hunter of Oakland—I hope I don’t bore you with these “titles,” for you ought to see just who these gang-leaders are, and just how they put the job over. Ex-Superintendent Field Secretary Magill explained the proposition to fill the representative assembly with supervising delegates—life directors, state superintendents, state directors, and officers. Superintendent Newton of Denver strongly supported the proposition, and a New York teacher opposed it. A rehearsed Utah teacher took the side of the gang, as did also the president of a state normal school in Michigan, Superintendent Dorsey of Los Angeles, and Superintendent Gwinn of San Francisco. The chairman ruled Margaret Haley out of order; the chairman instantly ruled out of order everyone who tried to refer to the rehearsing of the Utah teachers, or to the packing of the convention. There were shouts of “Question! Question!”—and the amendment was adopted by a thunderous “aye” from the rehearsed Utah teachers. The vote was declared unanimous—for the reason that the steam-roller was rolling so furiously that the opposition teachers could not find out what was being voted on!

An unforeseen emergency now arose—the tactics of the gang were so crude that an ex-superintendent of schools of Salt Lake City became troubled in his conscience, and actually had the temerity to propose that this coup d’etat should be submitted to a referendum vote of the membership 255of the N. E. A.! Ex-Superintendent Field Secretary Magill hastened to explain that under the resolution just adopted this procedure would be utterly illegal. In other words, the charter obtained from Congress had been “loaded” so as to make this very thing impossible; and the gang was “loaded” with legal opinions to prove that it had so arranged matters! Mr. Magill’s argument was supported by Principal Trustee President-to-be Olive Jones of New York, State Superintendent Wood of California, Superintendent Hunter’s Principal J. Fred Anderson of Utah, and Professor Vice-president Driggs of Utah. The published minutes of this business meeting condescend to tell us that Margaret Haley of Illinois spoke—but they don’t tell us on which side she spoke, nor do they tell us how the chairman shut her off! They merely record that “the proposed amendment was laid on the table”—of course by the vote of the rehearsed Utah teachers.

And note this curious detail: among the new by-laws rolled through by this steam-roller was one providing for amendments to the by-laws by a two-thirds vote after a year’s notice given in writing; in other words, the very same provision which had been done away with, less than an hour ago, by the motion of Professor Vice-president Driggs! The system of checks and balances, which had just been destroyed, was magically restored! Humpty-dumpty, having been knocked off the wall, was put together again! To choose a more accurate simile—the farmer, having let down the bars while he got his pig into the pen, now put the bars up again, to keep the pig inside forever after!

Piled on top of that came an even wilder flight of humor! Margaret Haley moved that Congress be asked to amend the charter and abolish the life-directors; whereupon ex-Superintendent Field Secretary Magill explained that Congress would never again pass another special charter—this trick was positively the last that could ever be played in America! Miss Haley’s motion was tabled by a shout of the rehearsed Utah teachers; and the convention proceeded to elect Superintendent Life-director Hunter of Oakland its new president, and to hear his fervid speech in celebration of “democracy”!

It is interesting to note that the minutes of this meeting 256were withheld from the membership of the N. E. A. for eleven months, and were finally published in very inadequate and doctored form. Margaret Haley had arranged with a stenographic agency to obtain a transcript of the proceedings, but after the show was over she discovered that she had been cheated out of this transcript. The agency would not be permitted to furnish a transcript until it had been “edited.” You see, the gang had also ordered a transcript from this same concern!

I obtained a copy of this “edited” transcript, and have checked every statement in this chapter. In case you find my account incredible, I suggest that you consult in your public library the “Journal of Education,” Boston, August 19, 1920, in which an eye-witness tells the story with amiable mockery. That American school teachers should have had their own organization stolen away from them seems to Editor Winship just the most delightful joke in the world. Such a comical spectacle—a great convention, lasting for six days, with several thousand people devoting all their labors to keeping one little woman from getting the floor![K]

K. Just to make the thing real to you, I give you one glimpse of the steam-roller, taken from the transcript as furnished by the N. E. A. secretary. The assembly is here voting on Section 9, which provides for the packing of the N. E. A. with a hundred and fifty-one ex-officio delegates, state superintendents, state directors, life directors, and miscellaneous officers. It has been moved to amend this section by striking out the ex-officio members; but in the uproar it is impossible for the opposition to know what is being voted on. The amendment is voted down, Section 9 is jammed through, and Margaret Haley is refused the right to ask a question. Field secretary Magill starts to go on to Section 10; but the protest against this becomes so vehement that the gang sees it has to give way, and Professor Driggs blandly rises and pleads for fair play—delicious irony! So Margaret Haley receives an opportunity to be informed by the chairman that the measure she has been trying to oppose has already been carried! The text follows:

The Chairman: Are you ready for the question? (Cries of question, question.)

A Delegate: I rise to a question of personal privilege.

The Chairman: What is your question of personal privilege?

A Delegate: There has been some imputation cast upon the teachers of Salt Lake and Utah as to the packing of this convention. (Cries of out of order, out of order.)

The Chairman: You are out of order. (Cries of question, question.)

The Chairman: We will now vote on the amendment. All of those in favor of the amendment say aye. All those opposed say no. The amendment is lost.

A Delegate: Question on the original motion.

The Chairman: The question is now on the original motion. Are you ready? (Cries of question, question.)

The Chairman: All those in favor signify by saying aye. Those opposed. Unanimously carried.

A Lady Delegate: A question of information——

The Chairman: The motion is unanimously carried.

Miss Margaret Haley (Chicago): We couldn’t hear what you were voting on.

A Delegate: Madam Chairman, I think at this point it would be well to listen to the lady’s question. She rose and asked for information before that vote was put. Because of the inability of the chairman to hear her it was passed.

The Chairman: Out of order.

A Delegate: She just asked a question, that is all.

A Delegate: Is it possible we cannot present a question in this assembly?

Mr. Magill: Section 10——

A Delegate: Madam Chairman, Madam Chairman, I rise to a point of order. Is it possible we cannot hear a question in this assembly?

A Delegate: No, it is not possible.

A Delegate: That lady wants to hear a question. I would like to know what it is. (Applause.)

Mr. Driggs (Utah): I appeal from the decision of the chair on a point of order. Salt Lake is going to stand for a square deal. We want the lady’s question. (Applause.)

A Delegate: Come to the platform.

Miss Margaret Haley (Chicago): It is not necessary for me to go to the platform. I wished to ask the question before the vote is taken. It was impossible for us to hear what was being done and I didn’t know the question that was being voted on. I ask for information as to what the motion was.

The Chairman: The amendment was voted down and the motion was carried, Miss Haley. We presented to everyone that came, when the business opened, a copy; we want it in the hands of every active member and I so announced exactly what we were doing.

Miss Haley (Chicago): That is not the question I asked. I asked what was the motion that we were voting on. We didn’t hear it when it was stated.

The Chairman: We were voting on section 9 then: we were voting on the amendment to section 9.



So now our National Education Association is what the gang wants it to be. Let us see exactly what that is.

The next convention was held at Des Moines in 1921, and here were the first fruits of the sowing. I have before me a tabulation of the delegates to the Des Moines convention, classified according to their occupations. Statistics make tiresome reading, but in this case the statistics are the heart of the argument, so I beg you to consider these figures carefully. There were present at this convention a total of 553 delegates having votes; among them were: state superintendents, 33; county superintendents, 21; city superintendents, 104; presidents of colleges and normal schools, 28; principals of high schools, 34; principals of elementary schools, 54; supervisors, 23. That makes a total of 297 delegates belonging to the employing class—297 out of 553, a comfortable majority. But note further: the tabulation includes 14 miscellaneous, 46 not classified, 6 editors of educational journals, and 2 agents of book companies; if we set these to one side, we find that the 297 members of the supervising force were figured upon a total of 485 delegates.

And now, to balance this, consider the representation of the teachers: special teachers, 8; teachers in colleges and normal schools, 34; teachers in high schools, 65; and teachers in elementary schools, 81. That makes a total of 188 teachers, including college professors; and this to be balanced against 297 members of the supervising force! In our schools the teachers outnumber the supervising force by ten or fifteen to one; but in this national body, as between the two groups, they have thirty-nine per cent, while the supervising force has sixty-one. Such is “democracy” in the great educational organization of the school world!

At the close of the 1923 convention, held in Oakland, it happened that I was in the locality, and said something to a newspaper reporter about our school Tammany Hall. Some of the gang leaders made indignant reply; and I received a letter from Mr. Joy E. Morgan, editor of the official “Journal of the National Education Association,” 259who said that I was misinformed concerning the organization, and asked me to have lunch with him. I am shy about breaking bread with the enemy, but I am always glad to talk with him, because he never fails to give me better ammunition than I could otherwise get. So I went to call on Mr. Morgan after lunch, and we had a pleasant chat of an hour or so. He is a young man, and friends assure me that he is well meaning but uninformed. I will pass no judgment, but my story will make clear his amazing ignorance, not merely concerning his own organization, but even concerning his own paper.

Mr. Morgan started off with the ancient formula that the N. E. A. is “democratic”; all the teachers of the United States were welcome—in fact, they were implored to join their professional organization. I asked Mr. Morgan about this matter of having honorary members who were ex-officio delegates and endowed with votes. Here was a representative body, purporting to be democratic, but which started out with 23 life directors and a long list of ex-officio delegates, the president, the treasurer, the 12 vice-presidents, the 5 members of the executive committee, 52 state directors, 52 state superintendents of public instruction—and, to cap the climax, all the past presidents, a new one added every year! The total of these ex-officio delegates was 151, and out of this total just three were classroom teachers! That constituted a handicap against the teachers of 145 votes; and since it took 100 classroom teachers to elect one delegate, and in big cities five hundred teachers, it took somewhere between 14,500 and 72,500 teachers to overcome the handicap against them in every N. E. A. convention! Was that what Mr. Morgan understood by “democracy”?

The young editor did not use the phrase, “oil-domes,” but he did assure me that the interests of superintendents and teachers were not opposed, and that the teachers of the country, many of them, elected their superintendents to represent them; moreover, there were great numbers of teachers who were delegates—probably a majority ofof the convention, Mr. Morgan actually said that; and then I handed him the tabulation of the Des Moines convention, which showed 188 teachers, as against 297 members of the supervising force. He studied it, and was obviously embarrassed. “I don’t know just what to say,” 260he replied. “I hardly think it can be accurate. The tabulation must have been made by some interested party.”

Now the tabulation had been given to me by Frances Harden, who is in Margaret Haley’s office, and I could not deny that Miss Harden was “interested” in the problems of N. E. A. representation. I said to Mr. Morgan: “I will investigate and find out just how that tabulation was prepared.”

“It looks to me absurd on the face of it,” continued the young editor, “because you see it gives two ‘agents of book companies,’ and that is preposterous. No agent of a book company could be a delegate to the N. E. A.”

“I will look into that,” I promised; and we chatted for a while about other aspects of the class struggle in education. Mr. Morgan gave me a file of his publication for the past year, in order that I might see what excellent material they were using; then I took my departure, and sought out Miss Harden and her bunch of “Bolsheviks,” who had come on to attend this Oakland convention. We had dinner in a little “dago” restaurant, and I told them of Mr. Morgan’s objection, and it would have done you good to hear Miss Harden laugh. “Why,” she said, “that tabulation was made from the official list in his own paper, the Journal of the N. E. A.; and Mr. Morgan was managing editor at the time the list was published! When I get back to Chicago I’ll send you a copy of that issue; they listed all the delegates at the Des Moines convention, giving the occupation of each, and all I had to do was to go through the list and check the number of superintendents, the number of principals, and so on. We made the tabulation and published it, and it’s interesting to notice that next year the list of delegates as published in the Journal no longer states the occupations of the delegates, but merely the organizations they represent. You may take it from me, it will be many a long year before the Journal again makes the blunder of revealing the make-up of one of its annual conventions!”

“What about the matter of the book company agent?” I asked; and Miss Harden and her “Bolshevik” friends laughed more merrily than ever.

“Why, one of those two agents is Major Clancy, and Mr. Morgan knows him as well as he knows anybody at the convention. He’s here at Oakland—one of the first 261sights that is pointed out to a new delegate. He’s a kind of unofficial host to all of us.”

“But is he here as a book company agent?” I asked, in bewilderment.

“Why, of course,” said the teachers; and Miss Ethel Gardner explained that he had got up some kind of club or association of the agents in his locality, and got himself named as their representative.

In case you should find all this as incredible as I found it, let me add that Miss Harden faithfully carried out her promise; when she got back to Chicago she sent me two issues of the “Journal of the National Education Association.” The first is the issue for December, 1921, and I note the name of Joy Elmer Morgan, managing editor. Beginning at page 199, and continuing to page 205, I find a list headed, “The First Representative Assembly; delegates who attended the 59th annual meeting of the National Educational Association in Des Moines, July 5-8, 1921.” There I find the delegates by state, with the occupation of each one given; on page 203 I find “Robertson, W. W., agent for Charles E. Merrill Co., 19 West Main St., Oklahoma City.” And on page 202 the name “Clancy, Major A. W., 502 Globe Building, Minneapolis.”

The second issue of the Journal is that for September, 1922, and again I find Joy Elmer Morgan, managing editor. From pages 291 to 298 I find the list of the second representative assembly, with the occupations of the delegates not given. On page 295 I find as follows: “Clancy, A. W., Bookmen’s Department of Minnesota, 2516 Humboldt Avenue, South, Minneapolis.” And then, as I complete this manuscript, the Journal of October, 1923, appears, and gives the list for the third representative assembly, at Oakland, California—and again the occupations are not given, and again Major Clancy is given!

Yes, you may count upon Major Clancy to attend all N. E. A. conventions! Turn back to our Minneapolis chapters, and read about this one-armed old veteran of the threshing machine. And come to Oakland, and see him in the luxurious parlors of the Oakland Hotel; come to San Francisco and see him in the parlors of the Fairmont. He is the lord of motor cars and of boat-rides; never does he sit down at table except it is crowded with guests. The editor of the “Journal of Education”—not 262the official N. E. A. Journal, but an independent weekly, published in Boston—portrays this aspect of the Salt Lake convention of 1920 in a playful paragraph. Says the witty editor Winship: “No one in the association at summer and winter meetings, has in fifty years had as many men and women to as many feasts as has Major Clancy.”

Perhaps all this hospitality is poured out from the Major’s own generous heart; perhaps again, it is his employers, the book companies, who fill the cornucopia. However it may be, the major is the idol of the schoolmarms; he chats with them jovially in the lobbies, and now and then you see him jump up and run across the floor—some superintendent has entered, and he must shake the hand of all superintendents. Presently you see him button-holing one of the great leaders of the gang, and there is a whispered conversation; it is by these little chats in lobbies that we get our business done—the gentlemen’sgentlemen’s agreements whereby votes and influence are traded for contracts involving your money and mine.

A teacher friend of mine traveled all the way from the East to attend the N. E. A. convention of 1923 at Oakland; on the day before the opening of the convention she visited the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where in the lobby she observed Major Clancy in conversation with Principal Olive Jones of New York. This conference lasted for a couple of hours, and other members of the gang took part in it from time to time. My friend wondered what it was about; she never found out, but she noted that before the convention came to a close, Principal Olive Jones of New York was chosen as the new president of the N. E. A. The Major had had advance information, you may be sure; and likewise the rest of the gang had had it. In fact, this 1923 convention had been held in Oakland, because it was the bailiwick of Hunter, and he and Strayer had promised the honor to Miss Jones when they asked her influence at Salt Lake City. This promise had been for 1921, but the gang had fallen to quarreling among themselves—Owen of Chicago had broken with Strayer, and Miss Williams had got the prize in 1921, and Owen had grabbed it for himself at Boston in 1922. You see what the inside ring is giving its time to, and why the great national organization 263of the school world is an object of contempt to every educator who has a truly professional ideal.


The National Education Association now stands complete, according to the design of its architects. It is a political machine, maintained by Big Business to do a certain job in the interest of Big Business. And just as in any other great factory, the workers are deprived of all power, but are cajoled into thinking themselves free citizens. At the annual conventions you will hear floods of oratory in praise of democracy, while every precaution is taken to keep the rank and file from having any say whatever about their own affairs. All the power is in the hands of one little group; they put themselves in the key positions—each one on six or eight committees. They make the plans, and when the time comes they jam them through.

The classroom teachers form a large group at each convention, but they are helpless. They are outside the circle, a floating group, untaught, untrained, without a background or policy. At Salt Lake City Miss Harden attended a meeting of seventy-five of them, and she asked how many of them had ever come to a previous N. E. A. convention, and found that only eight or ten had had this experience. What do such delegates know about the machine and its tricks? What chance do they stand against the gang?

Miss Flora Menzel of Milwaukee came in 1923, with instructions to recommend certain policies on behalf of her group. She was put on the “credentials committee,” and wandered about the corridors of the Oakland Hotel trying to find out where this committee met. The meeting was set for a certain hour; she succeeded in finding the place, fifteen minutes late, and there was no one in the room. Subsequently she ascertained that the “credentials committee” had already met, named a sub-committee of the gang, and adjourned in fifteen minutes! And that is only one of many devices whereby classroom teachers known to be loyal to their own groups are 264shunted to one side. In 1921, at Des Moines, they appointed a committee on the revision of elementary education, and they made it up of college presidents and professors, state superintendents, the United States Commissioner of Education—and one elementary teacher. They were going to determine the policy of the N. E. A. toward the most important of all subjects connected with the schools, and they put on this committee just one person who was having actual experience with children!

For more than twenty years Margaret Haley has been fighting in the interest of the teachers for action on salaries, tenure and pensions. It took ten years to get them to adopt resolutions on the question, and ten years more to get them to do anything. I have told about the Atlantic City mid-winter convention of 1918, at which the Department of Superintendence planned the Salt Lake City swindle, and how Miss Frances Harden was there, having paid her own substitute. She was representing Margaret Haley, who had been put on the committee for salaries, tenure and pensions. The chairman of the committee was President Joseph Swain of Swarthmore College, past president of the N. E. A. President Swain got up and made a momentous announcement: two young men from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching had been giving him invaluable assistance on this pension question. The two young men were present, and thus introduced they practically ran the committee throughout the sessions. They had a “model teachers’ pension bill,” and they asked the endorsement of the Department of Superintendence, after which they proposed to take the bill to each of the states, and get the endorsement of the state educational machines, and then force it through the legislature.

Perhaps you may wonder why the Carnegie Foundation should be proposing to take charge of teachers’ pension money. Well, if you will turn to “The Goose-step,” pages 408-9, you will find how this institution, with an endowment of some seventeen million dollars, has taken the pension money of the college professors of the United States and made it into a club to be held over the heads of professors, compelling them to obey the orders of presidents and trustees. If you will read Professor Cattell’s book, “Carnegie Pensions,” published in 1919, you will 265be informed about the wonderful insurance corporation, devised by this Carnegie crowd, and run by Elihu Root and Nicholas Murray Butler; the scheme was submitted by “School and Society” for the consideration of a great number of college professors, and was voted down by 636 to 13.

And now here are these Carnegie specialists in autocracy, setting the very same trap for the seven hundred thousand school teachers of the United States! Their device is known as the “standard pension plan”; it provides a graded pension, and needless to say the sums are very low, while the age limit is very high, from sixty to sixty-five years, and the term of service required is long, from thirty to forty years. Needless to say, also, the women are treated as inferior animals; their heirs have no pensions, while the heirs of men teachers do have pensions; moreover, the women contribute at a higher rate than the men.

Get clear this essential point, that all this pension money is teachers’ money; a certain amount is deducted each month from the salaries of every teacher, and it is of this money that the pension is composed. And, of course, the feature that really counts is the control of the money; you may be sure that under the capitalist system no plan of any sort would be “standard,” that did not provide for the control of the money by those whom God has created for the purpose of controlling money. The essence of this “standard pension plan” is that the teachers have no control over their own pension funds; in all cases this control is in the hands of politicians who serve on the pension board ex officio—the state superintendent, the comptroller, the attorney general, and other leaders of the gang.

It was decided that this Carnegie pension plan should be taken to the state of Vermont and there tried out; and at the summer convention at Pittsburgh the new Carnegie experts appeared again, and their proposition was jammed through, in spite of the protests of Margaret Haley. You see, Margaret Haley wanted the teachers to have the control of their own money, so the gang evolved one of their clever schemes—they divided the “committee on salaries, tenure and pensions” into three separate committees, and they put Margaret Haley on the salary committee, which 266had already acted! Also, they put in a by-law, providing that these three committees should serve for one year only, and should then be reappointed. This would give them the chance to drop any “kickers”; and sure enough, the next year they dropped Margaret Haley!

But they couldn’t drop her from Chicago. The teachers there have power of their own, and they have just got the legislature to adopt the “Chicago teachers’ pension plan.” Under this plan the teacher gets a pension after having taught for twenty-five years in the United States, fifteen years of which must be in Chicago. Women are recognized as human beings, getting equal treatment with men. But the all-important point is this: the pension funds are under the control of a committee of nine, three of them being members of the board of education, and the other six being teachers elected by teachers. This is the only pension fund in the United States which is under the democratic control of those who put up the money; and it is hereby suggested that every teacher in the United States should set to work to make that Chicago law the “standard” pension law of the United States.

Next, let us consider the attitude of the N. E. A. on the equally important question of teachers’ tenure. Is a teacher a civil servant, with some permanence and security; or is a teacher a wage-slave, who may be “fired” without notice and without excuse? At Salt Lake City the committee on tenure handed in a report and a resolution. All the resolutions appeared in printed form—but that on tenure was left out. Margaret Haley fought for a whole day to get the floor, and finally one superintendent who had a sense of decency insisted that she should be heard, and she asked about this resolution. The chairman asked the secretary what had become of it, the secretary asked somebody else, and so they “passed the buck.” The resolution had been mysteriously “lost,” and nobody knew what had become of it. At Boston, in 1922, they passed a resolution to work for tenure in every state, but they have not done it in a single state.

They don’t want to be bothered with the teachers, they want the teachers to obey orders and teach. Miss Ethel Gardner told me of her experience at Salt Lake City, where she happened to be the only classroom 267teacher present at a conference of administrators. They told how they had been trying to improve their teachers by holding meetings every Saturday morning and talking to these teachers. But the stubborn teachers persisted in not improving, and even showed resentment at having their Saturday mornings taken in that way. The superintendents discussed the question whether the teachers might not become more docile if the school board would pay them for attending these Saturday morning improvement meetings. Finally some one asked Miss Gardner what she thought about it, and she asked if it had ever occurred to them to let the teachers talk at these teachers’ meetings. It was as if Miss Gardner had thrown a bomb into their midst. Not one of them had ever thought of such an idea! She went on to tell what the Milwaukee Teachers’ Association was doing for the improvement of teaching, and when she got through they thanked her quite earnestly for having made an entirely original contribution to their conference:

These were unusually polite superintendents. As a rule, they resent such interference, and take any suggestion from a teacher as an affront to their dignity. Margaret Haley is one of the most charming of women, a delightful companion, and on the floor of a convention the very soul of wit and good fellowship; but to the N. E. A. bosses she is a fiend in petticoats. They regularly ignore all her resolutions; and when she gets the teachers stirred up, and some action becomes necessary, they take her resolutions and write them over and present them as a contribution of their own. At the same time they diligently circulate slanders about her; she has been paid ten thousand dollars to deliver the Department of Classroom Teachers over to the American Federation of Labor; she received a salary of ten thousand dollars a year from the Chicago Teachers’ Federation. Such falsehoods as this are circulated and believed by most of the delegates at the convention—the facts being that Miss Haley gets the salary of a teacher from her own organization, and her organization is not affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.

At the same time the gang, like all other political gangs, is not too scrupulous about its own personnel. It carried for years one life director while he was in Joliet 268prison for appropriating public funds. It did not hesitate to make use of a man who, while secretary of a state teachers’ association, charged the association for plumbing work done on his home, and then it was found that the plumber hadn’t got the money—the secretary had kept it for himself! And of course the gang leaders are all tied up with the book graft and with other Big Business in their own localities. The book agents swarm to the conventions, and they have their candidates, and if these candidates do not win, it is because some other book agent has been more active. At the last mid-winter convention of the Department of Superintendence, a prominent candidate for president was the school superintendent of Milwaukee, and Major Clancy boasted to a friend of mine that this great educator would surely win. He was favored by the American Book Company. Major Clancy is getting old, and somebody fooled him; the successful candidate came from the city where Ginn & Company has its headquarters!

The first aim of the prudent school superintendent is to stand in with the “bookmen,” as they call themselves. For, whenever there is a vacancy in a desirable place, the book companies are the first to learn of it, and they know their own. So the N. E. A. is honeycombed with book intrigue and graft—especially the Department of Superintendence, the part which really counts. I shall tell you bye and bye of an especially crooked five year book “adoption” in the state of Indiana. Immediately after that event, it was noticed that a practically unknown superintendent from Indianapolis became president of the Department of Superintendence.

That caused a scandal, and efforts were made to break the book companies’ hold; it is like the efforts to drive the railroads out of state politics. At the last meeting of the Department of Superintendence it was announced that no “bookmen” were to have rooms in the Cleveland Hotel, where the N. E. A. had its headquarters; but I am told by a gentleman who was present that the American Book Company had all the rooms it wanted. This same gentleman tells me that he was present at a convention in Milwaukee, some years ago, when it was discovered that the American Book Company had taken the entire second floor of the hotel in which the N. E. A. had settled; 269Cooley of Chicago, who happened to be president that year, moved his headquarters to another hotel.

Many of the big chiefs of the N. E. A. draw royalties from text-books. Strayer of Columbia edits a whole series of “teachers’ professional books” for the American Book Company; also, it features one of his educational books. Then there are the elaborate systems of record cards which he edits; these are advertised and exhibited at every meeting of the Department of Superintendence. Also there are fees for surveying city school systems, and recommending buildings. I am told by one who knows Strayer that he is eager for money; and this is a part of his Columbia heritage—you may recall the three hundred thousand dollar residence, built out of trust funds for “Nicholas Miraculous.” Sometimes a great expert is summoned to survey a school system, and he tells the city that it needs many new buildings. Also he names the architects who know how to put up just the sort of buildings which he recommends. The architects get six per cent for their work, and pay the expert one-twelfth of that. A modern city thinks nothing of spending a million dollars for a new high school, so the expert’s rake-off will be five thousand dollars.


We have followed closely the business and politics of the N. E. A. conventions; let us now consider them in their educational and social aspects. They are imposing assemblages, and of course loom colossal to the cities in which they occur. To have thirty or forty thousand visitors spend a week in the city inspires the local merchants with a deep respect for culture, and the local boosters get busy to show the school-marms a good time. The N. E. A. politicians naturally make this a condition in the placing of the convention; they want to have the delegates occupied with scenery and entertainments, so as to distract their minds from political controversies. This wisdom has come down to us from the Roman Empire; then it was bread and circuses, now it is boat-rides, auto-rides, luncheons, and telephone calls.

270I have before me a page from the “Chicago Schools Journal” for June, 1922, giving the official announcement of the Boston Chamber of Commerce regarding the convention of that year. There are thirty-five affiliated societies to hold meetings, and halls have been engaged for all. The leading business men have organized a committee to prepare receptions, the head of it being a former secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. Excursions have been planned upon a vast scale; the railroads are co-operating, likewise the hotels and tourist bureaus; we note the interesting detail that “One of the book companies has compiled an exhaustive literary history of Greater Boston and will publish it in compliment to the convention. A copy of this history will be given to every teacher who registers.”

Also we note that two hundred guests are coming from Memphis, Tennessee, in honor of President Charl O. Williams, who is on a year’s leave of absence to enable her to uplift the educational associations of each of the states, as well as sectional meetings—price one hundred dollars per lift. Other notables are coming, General Pershing, Vice-president Coolidge, Secretary of State Hughes; President Harding has promised to attend if possible. Most significant of all, there will be “a patriotic demonstration of mammoth proportions, managed by the commander-in-chief of the American Legion.”

It was at the 1921 convention at Des Moines that our N. E. A. turned its political conscience over to the keeping of our Fascisti. In the official “Journal” for November of that year I find a report of the special committee on this subject. The chairman of it is Superintendent Gwinn—the gentleman we saw moving from New Orleans to San Francisco to take the place of the Superintendent of Trombones. This program provides that all teachers must be American citizens; it provides for flag worship, and for the American Legion to furnish speakers for patriotic exercises in the schools. At the very time that this resolution was published in the official “Journal,” the American Legion was displaying its fitness to educate our children by conducting a three-days’ drunken orgy in Kansas City, in the course of which they stripped young girls naked on the street and wrecked the lobby of the Baltimore Hotel. As I write, they are further 271displaying their passionate affection for democracy by inviting Mussolini to come and address their San Francisco convention!

Such is the educational department of capitalist imperialism; there is nothing too murderous and blood-thirsty for them, and no degree of reaction from which they will shrink. If Premier Mussolini should bring his castor-oil squad to the next N. E. A. convention, there would be only the change of language and the absence of black shirts to let him know that he had crossed the ocean. Our leading reactionaries would be there to greet him, headed by United States Commissioner of Education John J. Tigert, who before the Des Moines convention discussed the subject of Socialism, and pointed out the vote for Debs as proving that 900,000 Americans were advocating the abolition of all law, all constitutions, and all forms of government! Addressing the school teachers of San Diego, he sounded a warning against the increasing tendency of the public schools to delve into sociology and economics, which subjects were perilously close to “radicalism.” Said Commissioner Tigert:

There is altogether too much preaching of these damnable doctrines of Bolshevism, Anarchy, Communism and Socialism, in this country today. If I had it in my power I would not only imprison, but would expatriate all advocates of these dangerous, un-American doctrines. I would even execute every one of them—and do it joyfully.

Mr. Tigert is a great favorite at conventions of all sorts; he got his appointment at the hands of President Harding because of his charm as a teller of humorous anecdotes. He is able to keep sober enough to tell them—something which his predecessor in office was unable to do. At the 1919 convention of the N. E. A., held in Milwaukee, this gentleman was apparently lured into celebrating the last “wet” night in the history of the United States. An eye-witness writes me:

He clung desperately to the desk in front of him, and babbled incoherently for two hours and a half. People clapped and clapped in the monotonous fashion they have when they want a speaker to quit, but he still went on. I don’t know where the efficient President Strayer was, but nobody stopped him. You ask if it is true that he was carried off the stage; he may have been for I got tired and left.

272I shall be called a vile gossip for publishing things like this. All I can answer is that I think it is of the utmost importance for the American people to know what kind of men the Black Hand puts in charge of the vast and increasing educational work of our government. At the present time the chiefs of the N. E. A. are concentrating all their energies upon the so-called Shepard-Towner bill, providing for a Federal department of education, with a cabinet member at its head, and an appropriation of a hundred million dollars. When they get it, there will be one more boot-legging politician in Washington, and one more source of reactionary propaganda for the kept press to broadcast.

At the same Des Moines convention at which Commissioner Tigert spread himself, the chiefs of the N. E. A. showed their intellectual caliber by putting through two resolutions, the first urging disarmament, and the second urging military training in the schools! The business men got up a luncheon for the teachers and themselves, and invited Governor Allen of Kansas, who at that time saw a glorious vision of himself becoming president of the United States on the platform of putting all strikers into jail. Under his supervision the big business vigilantes had been mobbing and tarring and feathering the organizers of the Nonpartisan League throughout Kansas. Governor Allen delighted the lunchers by his wit, of which I give a sample: “The I. W. W.—I beg pardon, the Nonpartisan League—come in, and we deal with them.” The lunchers laughed so merrily that the Governor repeated this wit several times: “The I. W. W.—I beg pardon, the Nonpartisan League!” At an evening meeting John Gay, representative of the miners, showed again and again how Governor Allen had lied in his statements concerning the Kansas miners’ strike. He was booed by the audience, under the supervision of the chairman, Fred M. Hunter, superintendent of schools of Oakland and president of the N. E. A.

More recently someone had the bright idea of gathering educators from all over the world and forming a world federation of educators, to be run by the N. E. A. gang. The call went out to all nations to send their school representatives to San Francisco, at the same time as the Oakland convention of 1923. The delegates came* 273*—nine-tenths of them “Bolsheviks,” in the N. E. A. sense of that dreadful word; that is, people dissatisfied with narrow and futile nationalism, and groping towards international solidarity. They found themselves assembled in a hall decorated with enormous American flags, and little dinky flags of all the other nations; also they found themselves being ushered about by lads in uniform—members of our high school and college military organizations! The address of welcome was delivered by our gracious lady-superintendent from Shelby County, Tennessee, field-secretary and past President Charl O. Williams; and these world-wise and war-weary educators, who had traveled all the way from China and Czecho-Slovakia to hear her golden words, were told that we have wonderful scenery in the Grand Canyon and the Yosemite; also that:

Whenever in the name of democracy the serpent of Communism or Bolshevism or Anarchy, feared alike in the countries from which you come, shall rear its head to strike its poisoned fangs into the charter of our liberties, it will be crushed under the heel of a true democracy, just as we kill without fear or hesitation, the common, ordinary garden variety which plays at our feet and then go on about our business.

Of course no public address is delivered nowadays without pious statements that we dearly love peace; you remember how dearly the Kaiser loved peace—but let his foes beware! Said past-President Charl O. Williams: “It has been thought by some that this meeting is wholly in the interest of peace. It is not so.” And the eloquent lady from Tennessee explained the other purpose—if another war for liberty should be called, “please God, we shall not send a soldier who cannot write his name!” As a piece of pacifist fervor, that almost equals the utterance of Cal Coolidge, as quoted on the front page of the Los Angeles “Times” feature section, October 7, 1923: “The only hope for peace lies in the perfection of the arts of war!”

At this same San Francisco convention, a young high school teacher from Santa Barbara brought in a proposition for the establishment of an international university, to teach world problems from the international point of view. They put a committee in charge of this fine project, and I predict that when the university appears 274before the next convention, it will be a university to teach capitalist nationalism. At the N. E. A. gathering, which was going on across the bay, Mrs. Fannie Fern Andrews of Boston, a social worker and tireless advocate of international understanding, was chairman of a committee which brought in an excellent report, recommending the teaching of history and civics from the international point of view. The American Legion agents were on hand to see that this report was postponed; also the National Security League, whose representative was orating against “Bolshevism.” The gang-leader selected to postpone Mrs. Andrews was the president of the Department of Superintendence, Commissioner Payson Smith of Massachusetts. His motion was carried with a roar, and a crowd of superintendents in the rear of the room yelled out: “Hurrah for Payson Smith!”

A study of this convention oratory reveals two prominent features: first, the fulsome flattery which these great educators pour out upon one another in public; the devout school-marms and enthralled visitors are told that they are listening to the eloquence of the gods. Second, the prominence given in all the discussions to the material side of education, to administrative routine and “red tape.” This, of course, comes from Columbia University, whose standard-bearers occupy the prominent places on the program, put there by George D. Strayer, professor of Educational Administration at Columbia University. Get this title clear; it means that he teaches, not education, but the business of conducting education factories. In other words, education has become a Big Business in itself—a chain system of mills for the grinding out of standardized minds. That is the thing they deal with at these N. E. A. conventions; and if you could imagine the soul of a child being present, you would picture it as a midge rolled over by a ten-ton truck.

The central bureau of the Department of Superintendence is trying out many great schemes. For example, no longer are janitors for schools to be employed individually, there is now to be a contract janitor system, and one great capitalist firm is to take care of all the schools in a city. Before long we shall find the N. E. A. recognizing a new section, and its annual conventions 275will be listening to the specialists of the “Department of Janitorial Contracting.”

In other parts of the country the “four-term year” is being tried out; the children of the poor are to be rushed through, and delivered to their Big Business masters in six years instead of eight. Also, an enterprising superintendent from Oklahoma has taken up the problem of what to do with the teacher during the period that used to be the teacher’s vacation—a dangerous interlude, when she might read unauthorized books, such as “The Goslings.” The teacher is now to spend one summer term attending a university under proper supervision; the next summer she is to be sent to acquire culture by travel under supervision; the third summer she is to teach in the summer schools of the city; and during the fourth she is to be permitted to have recreation—if she has succeeded in passing the requirements of the previous three summers.


We have seen the National Education Association assembling in Boston, and welcomed by the Chamber of Commerce. We have seen them assembling in Oakland, and welcomed by the same organization. Wherever they go, they are welcomed with open arms by Big Business, and the school-marms hasten to this bear’s embrace. It is no exaggeration to say that from the earliest days of the public school system its worst enemy has been organized commercialism. I understand that there are individual business men of vision, who believe in and work for the schools; but the organizations, the class groups of the exploiters did all they could to block the establishment of public schools, realizing that to educate the lower classes was to prepare the overthrow of wage-slavery.

What Big Business wants of children is their labor. Twenty years ago Margaret Haley was lobbying at the state capital of Illinois for a bill to abolish child labor, and she talked with the head of the Levis family, which owns enormous glass works at Alton. It was provided in the bill that children shouldn’t work in these factories 276earlier than fourteen. Said Mr. Levis: “If you keep the children in school till then, they aren’t of any use to us when they come.” This he said before the legislature; and afterwards Miss Haley went up to him asking: “Just what is it in the public schools which hurts the children?” The answer was: “All this literature stuff, and history and music. In the schools where they don’t have such things the children are willing to go to work.” Before the legislature Mr. Levis threatened that if this bill were passed the glass works in Alton would move to some other state. The work of the children was carrying bottles a short distance, and they couldn’t get men to do it—not at their price. The bill was passed—and immediately the manufacturers decided that the work could be done by machines.

Having realized that the schools are here to stay, Big Business now seeks to turn them to its own ends. Modern educators, with their manual training want to use handwork to develop the brains of the child, while the manufacturers want to develop the hands only. The educators want to keep the unity of the system, understanding that where hand and brain are separated both degenerate. The business interests want schools in which their workers may be trained; they are willing to pay generously, in order to get cheap skilled labor which they may use in strike-breaking. They want two separate school systems, with separate boards, buildings, funds and corps of teachers. They want no co-ordination between the two systems—the plan being that when they have got them separate, they can feed the vocational schools and starve the cultural schools. The organized teachers of Chicago have understood this plan from the beginning, and they have explained it to the organized workers, who have beaten it.

Move up to Minnesota, and you find the same fight, financed by the same people. The National Association of Manufacturers has had this definite policy for the schools for a generation, and they have had highly paid lobbyists and organizers at work all over the country. In Minnesota these lobbyists came to the legislature with their bill for industrial training under the direction of employers. The money was to be put up by the public, 277but the school authorities were to have nothing to do with the spending. There was to be a second school system, run by the manufacturers, and they were to have power to transfer students without the consent of their parents! Also, the local school boards were to be permitted to accept petitions to provide industrial education in the public schools.

Mr. H. E. Miles, agent of the National Association of Manufacturers, came to Wisconsin and denounced the schools there, declaring that the vocational schools would never amount to anything until they were run by the manufacturers themselves. Once more, Big Business was to train its wage-slaves, and the state was to pay the bill. Mr. Miles made the beginning of what he wanted, starting a trade school in a tannery in Sheboygan. Mr. Schultz, a member of the state board, wanted one in his chair factory; he objected to all scholastic subjects, especially civics—he wanted only the trade taught. Many of these pupils were foreigners, many were feeble-minded and could not get beyond the third grade.

Mr. Charles P. Cary, state superintendent of education, insisted that these children should spend half their time in self-improvement; but Mr. Miles would take nothing less than their whole time. He wanted them to learn but one thing—the exact thing they were going to do the rest of their lives; anything else was “overeducating” them. Talking with Mr. Cary in April, 1921, Mr. Miles admitted that what he wanted of the part-time schools was to train strike-breakers. “I was talking with one of our great manufacturers,” he said, “and he told me that by putting in the plant system of training he had made twenty thousand dollars in one year. Now if that were paid for by the city and state”—and then suddenly Mr. Miles realized that Mr. Cary was not a man to appreciate this line of argument; he said abruptly: “It’s a remarkably fine day, is it not?”

We went to war with Germany, thinking to abolish the German system of autocracy. But here was a high-salaried agent of our biggest business organization, representing many billions of dollars of invested capital, devoting his energies to establishing the complete Prussian system in the American schools! In Germany of the old regime, this system comprised two distinct types 278of schools; first, the people’s schools, and secondly, the gymnasia for the privileged classes. The children of the poor dropped out at the age of fourteen years; ninety per cent of them took to part time study and part work, fitting themselves to do what their fathers were doing. Those who were destined for the gymnasia pulled out at the third year, and began on foreign languages. A boy who finished the people’s school had to go back and take up foreign languages in order to get into the gymnasia, and very few ever achieved the feat.

This is class education, and it is what the National Association of Manufacturers has been working for all over the United States. Margaret Haley told me of a legislative hearing at Springfield, Illinois, at which they produced Superintendent Cooley of Chicago, who gave an elaborate lecture on the European system of vocational training, which he pretended to know. Mr. Frederick Roman had gone to Germany, with credentials from the governor of North Carolina, and had spent two years making an independent study. Superintendent Cooley didn’t know about this, and was taken by surprise when Mr. Roman walked in upon this legislative hearing, and showed that Cooley had misrepresented both the law and the facts of the European system. The vocational training which the Chicago superintendent of schools was recommending for the state of Illinois was worse than anything in Prussia!

Superintendent Cary of Wisconsin told me the details of his long struggle with the manufacturers. They informed him that if he did not obey orders, they would put him out; he must play the political game, and name the county superintendents selected by them. When he refused, they put up a candidate against him—whose son was an agent for Ginn & Company, book publishers. A little later on we shall deal with these book companies in detail; suffice it here to say that one book agent offered to put up fifteen thousand dollars for Mr. Cary’s campaign fund, and the offer was refused. The manufacturers, being unable to get the trade schools they wanted from Mr. Cary, went to the legislature and got provision for separate vocational schools, and put their man in charge of these. When the next election came round, they put up a man for Mr. Cary’s place, and set out to 279raise a campaign fund; one contractor sent out a letter to the others, the book companies rallied—and so Mr. Cary no longer has anything to say about public education in Wisconsin.

The National Association of Manufacturers, together with the National Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers’ Association and the rest of them, now have a comfortable working majority in the Supreme Court, and they got a decision granting them the right to work our babies in their factories. They have several million now at work; and you recollect how in California the Better America Federation tried to force through the state legislature a bill providing for the dismissal of any teacher who should discuss with any pupil the desirability of any amendment to the Constitution. As an illustration of the conditions they want, take the state of Delaware, which has no compulsory school attendance law, and where children are bound out to employers on the old English apprentice system, which is practically the same thing as selling them into slavery. In Delaware the powder interests, owned by the Dupont family, have very kindly taken over the educational system of the state; they have established a School Association, which under the law does all the buying of supplies and the putting up of school buildings.


Next comes the question of the open shop, the most important in the world to our National Manufacturers, who have been active in putting anti-union propaganda into the schools, and in spying on those who deal with unions. We have seen this going on in city after city—Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Detroit; and now we discover the central source from which these impulses come. The National Association of Manufacturers maintains an “Open Shop Department,” with a huge campaign fund, and Mr. Noel Sargent as manager. Mr. Sargent obtained the distribution of his anti-union literature to every school child of New York, and when he was challenged about this he 280explained quite innocently that “the association wished merely to see that students and teachers understood its view-point.” The American Federation of Labor made protest to the school authorities; but it happened, amusingly enough, that at this very time the big labor chiefs of New York City were doing their best to elect the Tammany ticket—the very gang under whose direction the distributing had been done!

Cross the continent to Stockton, California, and observe the local branch of the Black Hand, known as the M. M. & E. (Merchants, Manufacturers and Employers), engaged in strangling the high school paper, the “Guard and Tackle,” because the student publishers committed the crime of accepting the lowest bid for printing the paper—which bid happened to be made by a concern employing union printers! The editor of the “Forum,” an independent newspaper of Stockton, is greatly distressed by this action; he thinks the M. M. & E. is drawing the class lines in an artificial and fantastic way. Secretary Baker of the M. M. & E. admits that he has caused advertising to be withdrawn from the school paper, and admits the reason, but declines to put the statement into writing, so that his organization would be legally responsible. It appears that Professor Reed, financial adviser of the school boys, is a canny gentleman, who advised the boys, at the time they made their contract with the union concern, to reserve the right to cancel the contract in case of interference by the business masters of Stockton. So the work was taken from the union printers; but six months have passed, and the school paper has not yet got back its lost advertising!

As a rule, we put through these little jobs without disagreeable publicity; but once in a while accidents happen. We may take the best of care in selecting our educators, but now and then a Bolshevik will creep in. Take, for example, the United States Bureau of Education; we have had some most eminent Bolshevik-hunters in charge of that organization, and had every right to feel safe about it. Who could have foreseen that when the United States Commissioner of Education selected a young lady by the name of Alice Barrows, whose ancestors went back two hundred and eighty years in our history—a niece of Thomas Brackett Reed, Republican party 281boss of the House of Representatives for a generation—who could possibly have foreseen that this hundred per cent respectable young lady would turn out to have sympathy for a labor union? Thereby hangs a story, full of tragedy for our merchants and manufacturers of woolen materials.

In the course of the war we discovered a great many foreigners who didn’t speak English and didn’t know how to read and write. That seemed dangerous in war-time, so we started campaigns of “Americanization.” So after the war the Bureau of Education sent Miss Alice Barrows to Passaic, New Jersey, to make a study of the problem of adult education among the foreigners who work in the woolen mills. It so happened that only a few months ago there had been a big mass strike among these workers, and they had formed a union. We were quietly engaged in strangling this union, when Miss Barrows, entirely neglectful of her dignity as a government investigator, had the bad taste to go and consult with the president of the union about teaching the union workers to speak and read and write English.

Of course, we merchants and manufacturers can’t hold down this foreign riff-raff without a great many spies to keep track of them. We have had to develop a whole industry of espionage, almost as elaborate as our school machine. We have scores of secret service agencies, some of which spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and have complete private armies of their own, cavalry, infantry and artillery. Naturally, we had spies in the office of the Amalgamated Textile Workers of Passaic, and one of these spies sent in a report concerning a “Mrs. Alice Borrows of the Educational Division of the United States Department of Labor.” There were a number of slips in that description, but we haven’t as yet been able to introduce courses on espionage in our schools, so our spies are not as highly cultured as we should like.

The report referred to “Mrs. Borrows” as “a misguided zealot,” and pictured her engaged in “a long and earnest conversation with Mathew Pluhar, the head of this so-called union.” The two of them were concocting a vile plot; there were to be night schools for the workers, and the workers were actually to be permitted to select 282their own teachers—who would, of course, teach them Bolshevik doctrines disguised as English lessons! “This appears to be a very subtle scheme,” said our spy, and he brought his report in haste to Mr. J. Frank Andres, secretary of the Passaic Council of the Woolen Manufacturers’ Association. Mr. Andres naturally hastened with it to the superintendent of schools, so as to warn him against this subtle scheme and keep these night schools from getting started. But here again an unforeseeable accident happened. The superintendent of schools, instead of regarding Miss Barrows as “a misguided zealot,” regarded her as a fellow educator, and sent for her and put the report into her hands!

Miss Barrows went to interview Mr. Andres, who consented not to punish her for what she had done, but put it up to her fairly: “Don’t you think that a corporation worth twenty million dollars ought to have some control over the policy of the public schools?” There is a cheap newspaper in Passaic, catering to the lower classes, and this published the story; the yellow newspapers of New York took it up—they set out to find out about our spy system, pretending never to have heard of such a thing! Our Mr. Andres took a high moral position, explaining that “It is of the highest importance for manufacturers to use agents among their workers for the dissemination of truth against the doctrines of hatred and antagonism which are being preached by such men as the leaders of the Amalgamated.”

But not all our members were as courageous as this. Miss Barrows began calling upon the presidents of our great woolen corporations, and one of them, Mr. Forstmann, denied that he had ever heard of such a thing as industrial espionage, and promised to have it abolished except inside the mills. Of course, that made us laugh; but it didn’t help to stop the publicity. In order to hold down the Bolshevik agitators during the late strike, our city authorities had required all speakers to get a permit; and we didn’t give permits to unionists. But now came another kind of union, a parlor Bolshevik affair called the American Civil Liberties Union, demanding to hold meetings without permits.

They have a clever trick—they hire a hall, and get up and start to read the Constitution of the United States; 283they don’t really care anything about the Constitution, of course, they just want to put us in a hole. In this case they put up the Polish president of the Amalgamated, to translate the Constitution into Polish, something which ought to be a crime in itself. They wanted to make us arrest him, but we were too clever for that; our chief of police just turned out the lights in the hall, and then shoved all the foreigners and workingmen outside, and left the newspaper reporters and parlor Bolsheviks inside to listen to the Constitution in Polish! Of course, the Bolshevik newspapers made a great fuss over that; there was a fellow by the name of William Hard, who made it into a farce comedy in four issues of the “New Republic,” April 7 to April 28, 1920.

But, as the saying is, we showed them where to get off. To make everything legal, our city council passed an ordinance, requiring that everyone who speaks at a public meeting in Passaic shall first get a permit from the police; and then, to complete the matter, our mayor put Mr. J. Frank Andres on the school board. Now he is right there to see that foreigners who belong to labor unions don’t get into the night schools to learn English or anything else! Also we sent a couple of our manufacturers down to Washington to try to have that Barrows woman turned out of her job; but we couldn’t manage that—the politicians were too much afraid of the publicity. We tried to keep them from printing her report, but they wouldn’t even do that. It was published as the Bureau of Education Bulletin, 1920, No. 4, and we hope you won’t send for it. It is unfit for any decent person to read, as you can tell from one sentence on page 23:

It should, however, be clearly understood by the people of Passaic that, so long as an espionage system so subversive of mutual trust and social confidence among the adult population of Passaic continues, the educational process is impossible.



Space is limited, so let us drop the merchants and manufacturers, and consider another great power, the American Bankers’ Association, which has gone aggressively into education. This power has formally declared its disapproval of the popular custom of using such words as “Wall Street” and “capitalistic” in a disrespectful manner; so, in combination with the American Institute of Banking, it takes steps to make the new generation more polite. It has prepared a program of lectures, beginning with the seventh grammar grade and continuing through the four years of high school. Its “Committee on Public Education” has prepared a series of ten lectures, and arranged to distribute them in the schools through the eighty-three city chapters of the American Institute of Banking. Bankers from each chapter will give lectures in the public schools at the rate of one a month during the school year, teaching the economic system upon which our banks are founded.

What this economic system is can be stated in one sentence: our government has turned over the most important function of modern life, the creation of credit, to a group of selfish interests, which are thereby enabled to confiscate the greater part of the product of the modern industrial machine. Naturally, the bankers want the schools to teach that this is a divinely inspired arrangement. We have seen their educators at work in city after city, with lectures and “thrift campaigns.” We have seen them in Montana, taking over the whole school curriculum, and in Colorado taking a good part of the school funds as well.

Also the lawyers come forward to do their part. At the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, in Minneapolis, 1923, a “Committee on American Citizenship” brought in an elaborate report, full of words of terror: “inroads,” “threatened changes,” “insidiousness,” “dangerous tendencies,” “dangerous elements,” “long established institutions,” etc., etc. There are four hundred “Red” newspapers, with five million readers, say the 285lawyers of the United States; and these lawyers propose to protect the people by taking charge of the schools. All local bar associations are to organize committees, and there is to be “unity of policy and action” all over the country; “direct contact will be made with all our schools and colleges.”

And already, it appears, some of the local lawyers have got to work. In the September, 1923, issue of “School Life,” published by the Bureau of Education, I learn that the Indiana State Bar Association is co-operating with the schools, sending speakers on the Constitution; and of course this will be the same thing, the lecturers will say nothing about the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, they will interpret it solely as an instrument for the perpetuation of privilege.

Next, the National Chamber of Commerce, under the guidance of Professor Strayer of Columbia University, Educator-in-Chief of J. P. Morgan & Company. This mighty school magnate has organized a committee for co-operation between chambers of commerce and city school departments. We have seen this “co-operation” working in many cities, resembling the alliance between the lady and tiger—“they came back from the ride with the lady inside!” The co-operating organization is known by the imposing title of “The American City Bureau of the National Committee for Chambers of Commerce Co-operation with Public Schools”; think what a delicious mouthful for a functionary—executive secretary of the A. C. B. N. C. C. C. C. P. S.!

This mammoth institution issued a report based upon a survey of schools in nine hundred cities, from which most optimistic conclusions were drawn by the “Outlook,” house organ of the firm of God, Mammon and Company. Miss Josephine Colby, a “kicked-out” union teacher, wrote to the “Outlook,” pointing out how misleading this editorial was, because it gave the impression that the Chamber of Commerce report represented the entire country, whereas it covered the large city schools, which are the best, and left out the rural schools, which are the worst. Needless to say, the “Outlook” had no space for this letter; and that is why boards of education all over the United States recommend the “Outlook” as proper reading for goose-herds and goslings.

286Next, the National Industrial Conference Board, which is the research and propaganda bureau of a long list of Big Business associations—cotton manufacturers, hardware, paper and pulp, electrical, chemical, wool, automobiles, boot and shoe, metal trades, erectors, founders, rubber, silk, railway cars, etc. Here is one of the most powerful “educational” organizations of the country; its active manager is a consulting engineer of the General Electric Company, who got his education in Austria and Germany, and is working to introduce the German system of slave training. This great organization has been active all over the country in censoring text-books and supervising the contents of our children’s minds. At its instance the Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis caused Washington University to cease using the book entitled “Community and National Life,” by Professor Charles H. Judd, head of the department of education of the University of Chicago.

Also, this National Industrial Conference Board discovered that the Bureau of Education of the United States government was circulating a series of pamphlets by Professor Judd, entitled “Lessons in Community and National Life”; which pamphlets were discovered to be full of most terrible Bolshevik material. They quite definitely labored to prejudice the minds of little children against the leading doctrines of our organized American manufacturers. Consider, for example, a sentence such as the following:

Those in favor of the minimum wage for men say that men should receive a wage sufficient to marry and rear a family without the dangers that come from insufficient employment and wages.

Or consider a criminal Bolshevik utterance like the following:

The prohibition of night work, the eight-hour day, and the minimum wage for women are necessary to protect the health of the mothers of the next generation.

Or an incendiary statement such as this:

Social insurance helps to maintain normal family standards.

Again, think of telling a tender young child about a workingman who contracted tuberculosis, so that his 287oldest boy had to leave school, and the mother had to go out to day sewing, with the result that “the young children ran wild.” Then follows the subtle propaganda:

The misfortune of this family could have been prevented if a law providing for social insurance against sickness, or health insurance, had been in effect.

There was a whole list of Bolshevik utterances such as this, which you may find quoted and discussed in a pamphlet published by the National Industrial Conference at Boston. The title of the pamphlet is: “A Case of Federal Propaganda in our Public Schools.” The pamphlet doesn’t state what was done about this matter, so I mention that the circulation of the wicked propaganda by the United States government was immediately stopped.

Next, the National Association for Constitutional Government, which is sending out lecturers to talk to school children on the Constitution. A teacher in St. Paul tells me about a woman from this organization, who was allowed half an hour in a high school of St. Paul, and devoted two minutes to the Constitution, and twenty-eight minutes to the Bolsheviks—meaning, of course, everybody who believes in municipal milk inspection and government control of railroads. This lady has just turned up in Southern California, having got herself transferred to the Better America Federation. She lectures in the drawing-rooms of our rich ladies, and feeds them all the old garbage—free love, nationalization of women, the communization of children, the tearing down of churches. She lends spice to her discourse by telling how she herself in her youth was seduced by these cults of Satan. It is noted that no one is ever given an opportunity to question her, and she never appears before those organizations whose rules provide that both sides of every question shall be heard. She has a new and curious formula for getting at the truth: “If you want to know about Socialism, don’t go to the Socialists!” To a friend of mine she said, with lifted eyebrows: “Do you really think Upton Sinclair is sincere?”

Next, the National Security League. From a syndicated newspaper article, occupying two columns, I cut the following head-lines:


Revision in Study of Civics All Over Country Helped by Noble Work of League Secretary */

In the text which follows I learn about this wonderful secretary, the daughter of a “patriotic instructor” of the G. A. R., who now maintains an office in New York, and is the “personal friend” of the seven hundred thousand school teachers of the United States. Many of these teachers do not know much about the Constitution; being afraid to reveal the fact to their supervisor, they are glad to write for advice to a specialist in patriotism. In the past five years a quarter of a million teachers have had either direct or indirect relationship with this system. Twenty-six states have passed laws requiring the teaching of the Constitution in the schools, and this secretary is right there with the dope, especially prepared for children of every age. For example: “The Supreme Court is the greatest contribution to free government ever made, in that it exists to protect the people from the tyranny of the government they themselves set up.” In other words, nine venerable gentlemen, seven of them the lifelong hired men of great corporations, have usurped to themselves the power of annuling laws of Congress—including a law intended to save several million children from slavery in glass factories and cotton mills and enable them to go to school.

There are numerous other great organizations of Bolshevik hunters supervising our schools—the American Civic Association, the “America First” Publicity Association, the International Association of Rotary Clubs, the Inter-Racial Council, the National American Council, the Sentinels of the Republic—a whole universe of Babbitts! The New York “Commercial,” a daily newspaper of Wall Street, makes a regular feature of Bolshevik hunting. It has an “expert” who publishes a daily department, “The Searchlight,” all got up in official fashion, with index numbers ready for filing in your spy cabinet: “File No. 21, Report No. 7, November 21, 1923, Schools and Colleges, Radicalism In”—this kind of thing gives delight to the Babbitt soul, like a stuffed cat to a baby. This particular report deals with the National Student Forum and its branches in the colleges, particularly the Harvard Liberal Club. It quotes me as 289approving these organizations. The passage is taken from “The Goose-step,” page 466, and appears in the New York “Commercial” as follows:

As an illustration of the activities of this group I mention that the Harvard Liberal Club, during the year 1922, had sixty luncheon speakers in five months, including such radicals as Clark Getts, Lincoln Steffens, Florence Kelley, Raymond Robins, Frank Tannenbaum, Roger Baldwin, Percy Mackaye, Clare Sheridan, Norman Angell, and W. E. B. Dubois.

The New York “Commercial” stopped there, and stopped, according to the rules of punctuation, with a period. But, as it happens, that period constitutes a lie; for in “The Goose-step” the punctuation mark is not a period, but a semi-colon, followed by the words:

Properly balanced by a group of respectable people, including Admiral Sims, Hamilton Holt, President Eliot, and a nephew of Lord Bryce.

You see what a dirty piece of work! The Harvard Liberal Club is what its name implies, an organization believing in free discussion and a hearing for both sides. I gave an account of its activities which proved it to be that. The New York “Commercial,” desiring to prove the Harvard Liberal Club a “radical” organization, deliberately mutilates my sentence, and represents the Harvard Liberal Club as inviting only radicals, and myself as endorsing such a procedure in colleges!

Now skip one or two thousand miles, to where the Sioux Indians once chased the buffalo, and the capitalist Indians now chase professors through college halls. The legislature of Iowa passed a law providing for a course in “citizenship,” and the state superintendent appointed a committee to prepare a course, the chairman being Harry G. Plum, professor of European History at the state university; a Columbia Ph.D., author of several historical works, and an entirely respectable person. Professor Plum, with the help of his graduate students, prepared a syllabus, in which he made so bold as to discuss American problems on the basis of facts. So Professor Plum became a target for the arrows of the Ottumwa “Courier,” which insisted that high school students ought not hear about such a topic as “the English Industrial Revolution.” Said the editor of the “Courier”: “To 290the teacher of history industrial revolution may mean a change in mechanical methods, but to the radical it means overthrow of government.”

Furthermore, Editor Powell objected to the use of such words as “problem” and “difficulty” in connection with our civilization. High school students ought not to know that there are any problems or difficulties—unless possibly it be the problem or difficulty of compelling college professors to obey their masters! Also Editor Powell would not permit Professor Plum to list the I. W. W. among labor organizations; he would not let the professor make frequent references to “the capitalist group” and to “capital and labor”; he would not let the professor state that the farmers were responsible for the Populist movement and the Nonpartisan League; nor would he permit the suggestion to be made that high school pupils should “participate in the working out of problems.” Editor Powell was so determined about all this that he carried the matter to the state legislature and forced an investigation, at which Professor Plum was grilled, and the university faculty was made unhappy. As Editor Powell put it in his paper: “Iowa City does not want any question to arise as to the brand of teaching at the university, while the big appropriations for the institution are pending before the legislature.” Needless to say, the wicked syllabus was thrown out of the schools of the state.


Among the great capitalists who have been making over our schools, the most active has been Mr. John D. Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller established the General Education Board, an institution with an endowment of a hundred and twenty-five million dollars, for the purpose of exercising supervision over American education. Of course this is all supposed to be entirely altruistic; its purpose is to improve our standards of education, and has no relationship whatever to the fact that Mr. Rockefeller is engaged in collecting tens of millions of dollars every year from a long list of our biggest industries. 291I have discussed this matter in detail in “The Goose-step”; but it is of such overwhelming importance to the schools, that I must repeat the facts here. The Rockefeller General Education Board is without doubt the most powerful single agency now engaged in keeping our schools subservient to special privilege. Dr. W. J. Spillman, of the United States Bureau of Agricultural Economics, tells of the efforts of the Rockefeller board to control the agricultural colleges in the different states, and of the activities of their agent, David F. Houston, ex-president of the University of Texas, and Secretary of Agriculture under Woodrow Wilson, to keep the farmers of the United States from learning anything about how they were “deflated” by the Federal Reserve banks.

Dr. Houston is a member of the Southern Education Board, one of the Rockefeller organizations, and later became chairman of the Federal Reserve and Farm Loan Board. Dr. Spillman was on the inside all through the Houston administration of the Department of Agriculture, and portrays his chief as “lying, cheating and intriguing, resorting to every device in order to keep the facts about farming costs from being collected.” You see, the farmers were expected to raise food and sell it below the cost of production; they are still being expected to do this, and are doing it. There was circulated through Dr. Houston’s department a typewritten sheet, said to have come from Mr. Rockefeller’s General Education Board, and concurred in by Secretary Houston, forbidding the department to make any investigation which would determine the cost of producing farm products; no one should ever hint at over-production in farm products, and the sole business of the department was to persuade the farmers to produce more.

This General Education Board possesses unlimited funds, pays no taxes, and renders no accounting to anyone. It employs a huge staff of experts in lobbying and wire-pulling. These experts got control of the farm demonstration work in the South, and because Dr. Spillman fought them in the North and West, they did everything in their power to handicap his work. I refer you to “The Goose-step” for the story of Professor T. N. Carver of Harvard University, who became head of a 292government department for which the Rockefeller board put up the funds. Professor Carver was an honest man, who really wanted to help the farmers, and worked out an elaborate program. It was turned down flat by the Rockefeller board, and Professor Carver told them in plain language what he thought of them, and then quit. In consequence of such intrigues on the part of the Rockefeller experts, the farmers of the Northwest are now flat on their backs, and ignorant of how it happened, or what to do about it.

Hundreds of expert super-educators, with strings of college degrees, are put upon the payrolls of the General Education Board, and sent to every portion of the United States to run our schools free of charge; and if you were to ask the General Education Board, or the capitalist press of the United States, you would be assured that never, never could it happen that anyone of these educators would cease for one moment from his altruistic labors, or think about anything so base as the interests of the Rockefeller corporations. But I invite you now to give attention to the story of Mr. Granville Cubage, who in 1922, announced himself as candidate for superintendent of public instruction in Union County, Arkansas. Mr. Cubage got out a pamphlet entitled “How Arkansas Schools Lost a Million Dollars,” and here is the strange story he tells. Mr. Cubage’s opponent in the race for state superintendent was Mr. A. B. Hill, state high school inspector at a salary of thirty-five hundred dollars a year paid by the Rockefeller General Education Board, together with an expense allowance of twelve hundred dollars. Mr. Hill’s second in rank got the same salary and allowance of Rockefeller money, his third in rank got the same, and his fourth in rank, the supervisor of Negro schools, got a little more—presumably to salve his feelings and preserve his prestige among the people of Arkansas, who do not like Negro schools.

Mr. Cubage, who has been for the past fourteen years a teacher at the State Normal School, goes on to explain how these four great educators have spent most of their time playing politics, and have secured one act after another from the state legislature, building up the power of their machine. Mr. Hill obtained the power 293to grade the schools, and to hire and fire teachers, and to give orders to the county superintendents—so on through a long list of powers. That may be all right, of course—if the educators are really educators, trying to serve the people. Also it may be proper that the state board of education should be filled up with Rockefeller agents, drawing Rockefeller salaries; but are they really serving the people?

Read on a little further, and you discover that Mr. Cubage is advocating that the great oil and pipe line companies, principally Standard Oil-Rockefeller concerns, should pay a “severance tax” upon the natural wealth which they draw from the state of Arkansas. And what have the great Rockefeller educators to say about that?

Mr. Cubage, in his campaign circular, tells us about an amendment to the state constitution, providing that the people shall pay more taxes to provide more money for the schools. At the meeting of the State Teachers’ Association, November 11, 1920, such an amendment was approved—but also containing a provision for the severance tax. Immediately Mr. Hill rose in the convention, and proposed that a “Committee on Phraseology” be appointed, to put the finishing touches to this resolution. Mr. Hill himself was not named on this committee, but his influence counted—for when the bill came out from the committee, with the “finishing touches” complete, it was discovered that the principal “finishing touch” had finished the severance tax provision! This provision had entirely disappeared, and Amendment 14, as approved by the teachers of the state, said nothing about such a tax. In order to beat Mr. Cubage, who favored the tax, and elect Mr. Hill, who opposed it, the gang assessed all the Arkansas school teachers three times, and made all county and city superintendents contribute one hundred dollars each to the campaign fund!

Later on, when the legislature came to consider bills providing for a severance tax, the great Rockefeller educators were at the state capital, advising the legislators that these bills were objectionable. And so, the next time you read about the abundant generosity of Mr. Rockefeller, the greatest educational philanthropist of all time, don’t forget this little story from Union County, Arkansas. By paying out a few thousand dollars for 294the improvement of Arkansas education, Mr. Rockefeller’s industries expected to save a million dollars a year in one single bill! I am sorry I have not access to the complete files of the General Education Board and of the Standard Oil Company, so that I can tell you how many tens of millions a year have been added to Mr. Rockefeller’s income by this simple little scheme of paying the salaries of educational politicians!

When you question our great captains of industry about proceedings such as this, they make one defense—they have to do it, because the other fellow is doing it. We must give Mr. Rockefeller the benefit of this plea; the rivals of the Standard Oil Company have also been buying up educators and state governments. Especially they have done this in order to get school lands which have been discovered to contain oil.

I have before me a copy of the Oklahoma “Leader” for July 1, 1922, telling the story of Robert H. Wilson, then candidate of the Black Hand for governor of Oklahoma. It appears that Wilson had been a member of the School Land Commission, and he had awarded a lease for a hundred and eighteen thousand acres of school land to an oil operator by the name of Marland, who made sixty-seven million dollars out of this lease and others. The scandal became so great that the legislature took up the matter and prescribed terms for releasing; but the School Land Commission met and solemnly took the stand that the act of the legislature was unconstitutional, and proceeded to continue Marland’s holdings on the old terms. In the court battle which ensued, the state of Oklahoma obtained $1,400,000 from the Marland interests—a sum which the School Land Commission had endeavored to throw away. If the school commission had held on to the lands and leased them upon proper terms, the schools of Oklahoma would have had not less than thirty million dollars.

It is interesting to note the outcome of the gubernatorial election. Mr. Wilson, the candidate of the Black Hand, was beaten by “Jack” Walton, hero of the Farmer-Labor party. Immediately afterwards it was discovered that all Walton’s campaign expenses had been met by the oil interests, and he proceeded to kick over his party and run the state of Oklahoma for these oil interests—among 295other things, turning out of office a radical educator, president of the Agricultural College. Governor Walton would still, no doubt, have been running the state for the oil men, if he had not made the mistake of attacking the Ku Klux Klan.

While we are in this Southwestern country, with its new rich and its new poor, let us take time to consider the great Invisible Empire, which is so rapidly taking over the control of our political life. Wherever you travel in the West nowadays, people consider it necessary to ask whether you belong; so I answer that I have been invited to join, but have not availed myself of the opportunity. Many klansmen will read this book, and discover that some of the things they want are the things I want; but I venture to tell them that they will not get these things through the Klan, whose leaders got rich in a hurry, and are now hand in glove with Wall Street. A great many Klan members are former Socialists, who have got tired of waiting for something to happen; they will wait a while longer, and then the class struggle will begin inside the Klan, and its membership will decide whether Americanism means wage slavery and no more.

For the present I record that Socialist school teachers are being hounded by the Klan, in places as far apart as Oklahoma and Indiana. How intelligent the conduct of the organization is, you may judge from the fact that the school board of the large city of Dallas, Texas, has been formally condemned by the Klan, and sentenced to extinction at the next election. The local Klan potentate wrote officially to the school board in substance as follows: “We have been informed that the wife of the manager of the lunch room at the Forest Avenue High School has told her husband that if he joins the Ku Klux Klan, she will leave him. Now we beg to inform you that the Ku Klux Klan is a one hundred per cent Christian and American organization, and it resents such statements; and we expect the school board to see that they are not repeated and that proper punishment is meted out to persons in the school that make such remarks.” The Dallas school board committed the offense of filing this letter without action, and so it is slated to go.



Next, our military men present themselves as educators; nothing would please them more than to take over our schools entirely, and make a hundred thousand little West Points. They have made much progress, and Big Business cheers them on, and puts up the money for their propaganda. We have seen the N. E. A. turning over its conscience to the American Legion, which may be described as the Riot Department of the plutocracy. In city after city the chambers of commerce and merchants and manufacturers have built palatial club-houses for the Legion; they are subsidizing its worst activities, and keeping its inciters of violence upon their secret payrolls. They are working out a program to have a representative of the Legion as one of the orators at every school commencement. All reactionaries understand that to get the school children into uniform and drill them is the one sure way to save us from modern thought. Hear, for example, General Pershing, orating at a banquet tendered to him by the Chamber of Commerce and its Riot Department in San Diego. According to the Los Angeles “Times”:

More than 500 persons whistled, applauded and pounded the tables when the commander of the United States Army in war and in peace paid his compliments to the Reds. “Military training with its teaching of submission to the will of authority is one of the best methods of teaching young and old the sacredness and the power of the Constitution of the United States,” said Gen. Pershing. “I firmly believe that a sane program of military training for every young man is a great immunity against the idle, insidious and foolish propaganda of the I. W. W., the parlor Bolsheviks and all other shades of Reds of which there are too many right now.”

Thus the “Times”; and if you think the schools are not drinking in this poison, I refer you to “School Life,” the official publication of the United States Bureau of Education, December, 1921. The front page of this magazine opens with an article by Commissioner Tigert, self-appointed slaughterer of Socialists. The title is “Educational Aspects of the American Legion’s Convention.” Let me make clear to you before you go on that this is 297that same hideous orgy in Kansas City, to which I have previously referred. You may find a sketch of it at the end of my novel, “They Call Me Carpenter,” and a detailed account published in the “Nation” for November 23, 1921. After you have read these, read how the convention is made to appear to the school children. The headlines continue:

Presence of International Figures Made Occasion a Memorable Event. School Children Impress General Diaz. Program of Americanization Enthusiastically Indorsed. Policies and Principles of Legion. Program for American Education Week.

Then follows a list of the “international figures” who were present—Marshal Foch, Admiral Beatty, General Diaz, General Jacques, General Pershing, Vice-president Coolidge,Coolidge, etc. “Gigantic parade of 40,000 heroes of the Great War, the banquet given in honor of the distinguished gentlemen,” etc. “Thousands of school children lined along the boulevards to see Foch.” And here is the message of the pious Catholic general to America: “You boys, when you grow up, must work. You little girls, when you grow up, must remember to pray.”

They are getting the little children into the Boy Scout movement, which is the first step. They get them into uniforms and march them, and teach them the military ideal of obedience. The Boy Scouts become more and more warlike every hour; and the men who run the movement become more warlike in their attitude toward the school authorities. Says Mr. O. G. Wood, quoted in our Butte story:

One Scout Master in Butte by the name of Owen used to come before the school board and tell them what to do in regard to allowing the public schools for Scout meetings. He fixed the dates and no change was made. He threatened to have any member of the board beaten at the next election if an objection was hinted at.

For the high school and college boys they have what they call the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps; wherever possible, they compel them to serve and where the people have prevented this, they lure the boys by uniforms and music and badges and banners and holidays in camp. They teach them to plunge bayonets into human bodies, and to snarl and howl like wild beasts while doing it. Says Mr. Ray McKaig, of Boise, Idaho:


In 1922 one very prominent club woman came home to find a group of children watching her fourteen-year-old boy bayoneting a dummy and screaming while so doing. To her horror she found that he was learning this at high school. She learned that the commandant, a West Point officer, was deliberately instilling arrogance into the boys. Oftentimes the boys, in squads led by a corporal and fully armed, would walk down the sidewalk brushing others in the gutter. A large public funeral was held of one of the leading Boise citizens, and the high school boys were having a military drill. With insolence characteristic of militarism “made in Germany” these young future soldiers were ordered to break through the funeral procession, instead of waiting quietly until it had passed by.

One of the lads who was being taught militarism in Camp Kearney, California, turned traitor and delivered to me the typewritten memorandum of a lecture on “Military Psychology,” delivered July 26, 1920, by Robert J. Halpin, Lt. Colonel of Infantry. It consists of approximately fifteen hundred words of blood-thirsty raving; I cannot spare space for it all, but I quote one paragraph from the beginning and one from the end, and assure you that the rest is all the same:

This is a period of a truce. The Great Wars of the world have not been fought. . . .

Gentlemen: There will be wars until the end of time. Everlasting peace is for the grave—not for life. The wish for everlasting peace is born of fear and ignorance. It is a sure sign of weakness and a declining civilization.

This is an old, old story—the training of little children to the murdering of their fellowmen and calling it glory. In the old days this was Kultur, and we went to war to put a stop to it, but apparently have not done so. The capitalists who now rule Germany are being robbed by the capitalists of France; and they are preparing the school children of Germany for the next war, in which they will gain a chance to rob the capitalists of France. In a “German History for Schools,” which is used in all the schools of present-day Germany, it is stated that French airplanes bombarded German railways before the declaration of war; this in spite of the fact that the German ambassador at Paris asserted the falsity of the charge.

This is wicked of the Germans, and ought to be stopped at once. The French are getting ready to stop it; the capitalists of France, who are robbing the capitalists 299of Germany, are training the children of France for the next war, by teaching them from text-books equally full of lies. There is a history of the great war, in use throughout the schools and written by a school director; “For Our France” is the title, and in it the Germans are described as “a host of savages, whose profession is war, and who go about to despoil, to devastate, and to terrorize.” Under the heading of “Entertainment” there is a series of questions adapted to children, dealing with the savageness of the Teutons. There is also a reader for primary and secondary schools, full of terrible stories of murder and rape; also a volume entitled “Les Lectures des Petits,” that is, readings for young children, full of such stories. In Belgium there is an “Atlas Manual of Geography,” intended for use in high schools, published four years after the end of the war, describing the Germans as “brigands, thieves and assassins”; they are not to be received into the League of Nations, but must be kept under surveillance, like the Negroes and the Malay races—even these have hearts but the Germans have none.

Strange as it may seem to you, they are teaching such stuff, not merely to the children of Belgium and France, but to the children of America who study French! For example, a standard text-book, Chardenal’s “Complete French Course,” New and Revised Edition, 1920, is full of the basest French chauvinism: Germany was the sole author of the war; the real hero of the world, and of France, is always the warrior; the sacred places of France are the victorious battle-fields, and the scenes of peace conferences such as Versailles. The date of the signing of this most infamous of all the world’s peace treaties has a mystic significance, because it was four hundred years previously, on that same day, June 28, 1519, that Charles V was elected Emperor!

There are some really sane men writing on the subject of war and peace in France at the present time; but never would it do for American school children to read anything by Anatole France or Romain Rolland! Any more than it would do for them to read the writings of American humanitarians, such as Jane Addams or David Starr Jordan. Says Dr. Jordan, concerning our school text-books:


They have glorified deeds of blood and celebrated most persistently the heroes of the battle-field. The heroes of peace barely appear on their pages, and they fail to recognize that the actual heroisms which have brightened the records of war like flashes of lightning in a thunderstorm are not products of war. They represent the divine in man revealed in desperate conditions, in wallowing in physical and moral mud, midst the barbaric loneliness of war.

And, needless to say, our chambers of commerce with their Riot Department are going to see that we continue to get text-books of this sort. Says Colonel Galbraith of this Riot Department, at a May Day meeting, 1921:

We will see what kind of courses these teachers are giving and what text-books they use. If we find that they are disloyal we’ll tell you, and you can kick them out. We don’t care what you do with them.

And in another newspaper item I read:

Captain Walter I. Joyce, chairman of a sub-committee of the Americanization Committee of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is appointed to meet with the representatives of the American Book Company to scrutinize history text-books gotten out by that company in order to prevent the creeping in of un-American propaganda. The investigation of American histories has been going on for the past two years, and as a result thereof, two histories have been discarded by the Board of Education of New York and several are under consideration at the present time in Boston.

This kind of thing has been the rule all over the country, and the National Council for the Prevention of War has been making a study of standard text-books of history to determine the result. Here they are, briefly stated:

Fully 25% of the space in each approved text-book on history is devoted to war. “The test of a state is its ability to wage war,” is a statement frequently found in text-books. “Americans demonstrated their instinctive military talent.” “Fair field of battle,” “valor,” “bravery,” “audacious courage,” “brilliant,” “magnificent drive,” “our great adventure,” are terms frequently used to glorify war.

Underlying conditions predisposing to international friction, such as commercial rivalry, territorial ambitions, centralized autocratic government control and the maintenance of gigantic military and naval establishments, are rarely, and usually very inadequately, analyzed.

In analyzing the results of war, emphasis is always laid on the territorial gains acknowledged in the treaty of peace. If 301reference is made at all to tremendous destruction and cost of war, it is to point out that it was worth while.

No attempt is made in the text-books to understand developments in Russia. Sweeping terms are used in characterizing the present regime there; such phrases as “two sinister figures, Lenin and Trotzky,” “brazenly serving Germany’s ends,” “the anarchy known as Bolshevism,” are frequent.

In treating of the world war, all recent text-books perpetuate the hate and rancor engendered by the war. The guiltlessness of the allies is always proclaimed.


Needless to say, it is not only the military men who are revising our school text-books; all the business interests are wielding their blue pencils, and likewise the religious groups, and the racial and national groups. In New York City, Commissioner of Accounts David Hirshfield is leading a crusade against those who want to bring up our school children without hatred for England. The commissioner held a series of hearings, and gave an opportunity for all patriots to vent their dissatisfaction with school text-books which failed to make proper capital out of Betsy Ross and John Paul Jones, and which committed such offenses as mentioning that Sam Adams was a smuggler, or that Alexander Hamilton had said: “Your people, Sir, is a great beast.” Commissioner Hirshfield published at the expense of the city of New York an elaborate pamphlet, listing the offenses of such “un-American” text-books—David S. Muzzey’s “American History,” Willis M. West’s “History of the American People,” Albert B. Hart’s “School History,” and so on.

This crusade has spread widely, directed by what might be called the blindfold school of patriotism. According to this school, all our ancestors are equally to be revered, regardless of the fact that they called one another all the vile names in the dictionary; they are equally to be followed, although they lead in opposite directions. The bewildered historian must manage to agree with both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, with Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln; a generation from now he will learn to agree with Calvin Coolidge and Eugene V. Debs!

302It is easy to poke fun at Chinese ancestor-worship transplanted to America; but, on the other hand, one does not like to be in the same boat with those Anglo-maniacs whose purpose in writing text-books is to line us up with the British ruling-classes in their future wars. It is hard to take one’s choice between Commissioner Hirshfield, and, for example, Professor Greenlaw of the University of North Carolina, whose “Builders of Democracy” is one of the most popular text-books in our schools. Here is a book of more than three hundred and fifty closely printed pages, full of Anglo-American military glory. The first part is “The Call to the Colors,” and that is all American flags and battles. The second part is “The Builders and Their Work,” and that is Tennyson and Elizabethan seamen and the mariners of England, and “Burke, the Friend of America.” Part Three, “Soldiers of Freedom,” is “The Soul of Jeanne d’Arc,” and “Vive la France!” and “A Chant of Love for England,” and all the battles and glories of the late war. I search this book from cover to cover without finding one line about the builders of industrial democracy. There is a short section entitled “The Growth of Sympathy for the Poor Man,” which gives us “A Cotter’s Saturday Night,” and oddly enough, “To a Mouse”! But there isn’t one word about labor, there isn’t one word about Socialism, there isn’t one hint to any school child of the colossal struggle for economic self-government now going on all over the world, with its roll of heroes and martyrs as magnificent as any ever sung in the days of political revolutions.

All over this country the hunt for the unorthodox text-book is going on, and the principle upon which the revisers are working is set forth by Edward Mandel, district superintendent of schools in New York, who ordered every school principal in the city to direct his teachers of history to examine the history books and transmit reports. Said Mr. Mandel: “The question to be considered is not one of whether statements made in the text-books are truthful and based on fact, but whether propriety would be observed if they were included in them.” You will not be surprised to hear that this educational gang-leader went up to Albany, and was active in pushing through a series of bills known to the teachers as the “spoils bills,” their purpose being to undermine the merit system and give 303the gang entire control over promotions; and when he got through with this job, he was promoted to be associate superintendent at a considerably higher salary.

The final goal of these patriots has been reached in Arkansas, where the state legislature has just passed a bill providing exactly how American history shall be taught; the teachers are to avoid “a mere recital of names and events,” and devote themselves to “instilling an understanding and a love of country,” etc. In other words, there is to be no more history, only propaganda; and any teacher who slips up on it is to be fined from one hundred to five hundred dollars, or to serve in jail from thirty days to six months, or both. As we used to say when we were youngsters, and had got somebody down with our thumb in his eye: “Now will you be good?”

The leader in the crusade against what he calls “treason texts” is Mr. Charles Grant Miller, organizing director of the “Patriot League.” Mr. Miller tells me how “for years in my newspaper work I have encountered evils arising from the rivalries of text-book publishers and their unscrupulous methods of manipulating school officials and intimidating teachers.” He then goes on to tell how the Patriot League has set to work to give the text-book companies a dose of their own medicine. The haughty American Book Company has been brought to its knees; they submitted to Mr. Miller the proofs of a new school history, which had won the endorsement of the Sons of the American Revolution. But it didn’t suit Mr. Miller; he specified over three hundred unsatisfactory passages, and the American Book Company agreed to accept ninety-five per cent of these corrections. It has just sent Mr. Miller proofs of another school history, which he finds to be ninety-nine per cent all right from his viewpoint. Then they asked him to read in manuscript a new high school history; says Mr. Miller:

I have had a conference with the full editorial and business staffs of the American Book Company, within the last few days, and am satisfied that, whether for business reasons or because of real conversion to our cause, they will, for the present at least, issue no more texts that are not patriotic.

I have not undertaken a thorough study of school text-books; most of my readers have them in their own homes, and can investigate for themselves. However, I 304have on my desk a few samples, which were thrown at my head by indignant teachers and pupils in the course of my travels. For example, here is “Economics and the Community,” published by the Century Company, and written by Professor J. A. Lapp, a prominent Catholic propagandist. I consult the index for the most important aspect of “economics and the community”—that is, Socialism—and I find it is not mentioned! And then I take up a book prepared for the education of immigrants, Howard and Brown’s “United States,” published by Appleton. I glance over it, and in six different places I find enthusiastic praise of our great American newspapers. Also, the unsuspecting immigrants are told that “in our great country there is almost always work for everybody.” At the time this book was handed to me there were nearly five million unemployed in the United States! Later on the immigrants are told that “in the South Central and Southern states there are millions and millions of acres of good land which cannot now be cultivated because there are not laborers enough.” Nothing is said, of course, about the rents the poor immigrants will have to pay for this land, or what the bankers will charge them for crop and chattel loans—see “The Book of Life,” a quotation from a report of the United States comptroller of the currency.

And while we are dealing with country problems, let me quote from the letter of Mr. W. J. Hannah, of Big Timber, Montana, chairman of a rural school board:

As you know, even the grade schools are now teaching “scientific agriculture.” My boy of twelve has just placed in my hand Stone-Mills “Intermediate Arithmetic.” It contains page after page of so-called “Problems of the Farm.” I cite you a composite of half a dozen—by actual count there are twenty-four like this in one small text:

“Farmer Jones raised ten acres of wheat, which yielded 100 bushels and sold at $1 per bushel. What did he receive for his crop? How much more would he have received if, by better cultivation, better seeding, better seed and more careful harvesting, he had raised 200 bushels on the same field?”

Now, the fact is that in this problem there has been inserted the most deliberate falsehood that was ever spoken in the name of economic science. The implication is that in order to double his income all the farmer has to do is to double his output. And that implication is a lie. It is a known fact that with our present marketing system the farmers of the country receive even less for their bumper crops than they receive for their lean crops of the same products. And why not? If there is 305an iota of truth in the so-called law of demand and supply, it follows that just as the farmer increases his output of crops, there must follow a corresponding decrease in price or purchasing power. Hence an increased output cannot possibly benefit the farmer.

In the chapters dealing with Detroit we made the acquaintance of Professor Edwin L. Miller, principal of the Northern High School. An agonized pupil mails me another book by this professor, entitled “Practical English Composition, Part II.” It deals with the subject of journalism, and I find the margin dug into by an indignant pencil, where Professor Miller tells his students what public-spirited and well-meaning men are the editorial writers of the American press. The professor gives examples of editorials, one of them an exposition of the follies of Socialism, taken from the Philadelphia “Record.” I quote one paragraph:

There is a common impression among Socialistic workmen, encouraged by some of the new-fangled college professors, that the weaver produces all the cloth that comes off the loom he tends, and he is robbed if his wages are only a part of the value of the cloth. But he is only one of a long line of producers, each of whom has to get some of the money for which that cloth is sold.

There follows a detailed argument to the effect that the farmers who raised the raw fibre and the railway men who transported it are entitled to their share of the product. And after the pupils have read and assimilated this marvelous discovery, they are asked the question: “What is proved by this editorial?” Let me tell Mr. Miller’s future pupils what is proved—that the editorial-writer of the Philadelphia “Record” is an ignoramus. I challenge Professor Miller and the “Record” both, to find anywhere in the world a Socialist authority who does not plainly state that the Socialist demand is for the collective workers to receive the full value of their collective product. Under Socialism, as a matter of course, all workers of whatever sort, whether of hand or brain, who contribute to the making of finished products, will receive their proportionate share of the value they have created. The only people who will be left out are the owners of stocks and bonds and other pieces of paper, who under the present system of wage-slavery draw off the surplus product of the collective labor, and use this unearned 306wealth to hire educational experts to misrepresent the cause of social justice.

Or take the volume entitled “Representative Modern Constitutions,” extensively used in the colleges and high schools in Southern California. It is edited by two instructors at the Southern Branch of the University of California, and published, of course, by the Los Angeles “Times.” Among the constitutions of a dozen different European countries is included that of Russia; but our “Times” is not content to print the constitution of Russia and let it speak for itself, it is necessary to provide an antidote in the form of a preface by W. J. Ghent, retired Socialist who is introduced as “a distinguished authority on Russian affairs.” Ex-Comrade Ghent’s preface elaborately explains to the student that the Russian constitution doesn’t really mean anything. He talks about its “safeguards against democracy,” as if such safeguards were obviously wicked; overlooking that other text-book published by the “Times,” “Back to the Republic,” by Harry Atwood—which compares democracy with promiscuity, free love, gluttony, drunkenness, discord and insanity!

Says ex-Comrade Ghent: “Never before has anything professing to be a constitution set up such elaborate safeguards against democracy.” The students will swallow that, without bothering to look into the constitution and see; but I did bother, and I quote you a few of the things expressly provided for: “The land to those who work it ... a general democratic peace ... the free determination of the peoples ... real freedom of conscience ... freedom of expression of the toiling masses ... free meetings ... full and free education ... equal rights to all citizens ... recall of deputies.” Do you think I would be exaggerating if I were to reverse Ghent’s statement and make it read: “Never before has anything professing to be a constitution set up such elaborate protection of democracy?”



The situation confronting a would-be writer of school text-books in the United States is as follows: If he writes on astronomy, engineering, or Spanish grammar, he may write the truth; but if he writes on history, economics, or literature, he either writes dishonest books, or he writes no books.

Says Professor James Harvey Robinson, author of “The Mind in the Making”: “No publisher of text-books for the schools would venture to permit a writer to give children the best and most authoritative knowledge that we have today.” Says Mr. Aaron Sapiro, attorney for the Farmers’ Co-operative Societies: “The text-books we now use are censored by political and social factions.” Says Mr. William McAndrew, member of the board of education in New York: “The text-books which are supposed to discuss our civic problems do not know enough to keep a women’s whist club from financial and moral bankruptcy.”

I have a letter from Mr. S. M. Dinkins, principal of a private school at Selma, Alabama, who tells me about his experience with a text-book, “Problems of American Democracy,” by Professor R. O. Hughes. Mr. Dinkins found this book so unsatisfactory in its attitude toward modern questions that he wrote to the professor, and received in reply the statement: “I know my publishers would be pleased to learn that my readers cannot tell from my book what my own opinions about many questions really are.” Mr. Dinkins was so much troubled by this that he wrote to the publishers, Allyn and Bacon of Boston, to ask them if that could possibly be true; it took Mr. Dinkins two months of continuous letter-writing before he finally got from the publishers a reply to the effect that school authorities would not adopt any other kind of book, and publishers had to meet the demand; they did not care to publish a book that would not sell.

That many college professors have taken up the role of “Mr. Facing Both-Ways,” adjusting their opinions to the demands of the school bosses and school-book publishers, is amusingly shown in the pamphlet published by Commissioner 308Hirshfield. He takes some American history text-books and gives us in parallel columns the statements which were made before and after the patriots got to work. For example, here is Dr. W. B. Guitteau, director of schools of Toledo, Ohio, who published a text-book in 1919, with a preface urging the international point of view:

Throughout this book, therefore, special emphasis has been placed upon the relations of the United States to other countries, in order that the young citizens who study it may realize more fully the importance of our world relations and our world responsibilities.

But then the hundred percenters got after Dr. Guitteau, and he brought out a new edition of his book in 1923, and started his preface with this statement:

Recent events have demonstrated that our teaching of history should emphasize more than ever before the peculiar and characteristic genius of American institutions, and the permanent and outstanding assets of American democracy.

Or take Professor Everett Barnes, who published an American history book in 1920, in which he described the battle of Bunker Hill as follows:

The courage shown on both sides was wonderful. To march, as those British soldiers did up to the works, so near that each one felt that the man who was aiming at him could not miss, required a nerve as steady as was ever shown on battlefield since men began to kill each other.

But then the super-patriots landed on Professor Barnes, and there was a new edition of his book in 1922, in which the incident is told as follows:

The courage shown on both sides was wonderful. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” said the American commander, who knew that their supply of ammunition was small, and that his men did not have enough bayonets to be used successfully in meeting the charge of the British.

I could take up a great deal more space with this kind of fun; but instead I will go on to mention that there are in America a few educators who have not been willing to play the part of Professor Facing Both-Ways. One of these men is Scott Nearing. He had three text-books on economics, all written in collaboration with some other person. These text-books enjoyed the greatest popularity; for example, the “Elements of Economics” had seventy-five 309per cent of the field; also “Community Civics” had a big sale. But after Nearing was kicked out of the University of Pennsylvania for his loyalty to the truth, the sale on these text-books stopped. When I talked with him in 1922 he told me that his publishers had not made a contract on them in two years, and they were about to bring out new editions without Scott Nearing’s name!

As it happens, I am able to tell Nearing exactly how he lost some of this business. I have mentioned Mr. W. H. Powell, editor of the “Courier” of Ottumwa, Iowa, who haled a college professor before the state legislature for the crime of referring to the “English Industrial Revolution,” and for listing the I. W. W. as a labor organization. Mr. Powell is naively proud of his achievements, and has written to a friend of mine, telling about them. So let us hear one of these Bolshevik hunters speaking for himself:

I discovered, along in 1918—late in the year—that our high school was using and had been using for about eight years, Burch and Nearing’s “Principles of Economics.” Nearing had made himself notorious during the war and I thought a book by him, on whatever subject, would not be a good thing to have in our schools. I suggested that much through a reporter, to the superintendent of schools, but he replied that the board was under contract to use the book, or had bought a certain number on a contract, and it could not be eliminated. I may say that we supply text-books here at public expense.

Inquiry developed that there were only perhaps a hundred of these books in use and as each was worth less than one dollar, the expense didn’t seem to me to be prohibitive. I got a copy of the book and found in it some matter decidedly socialistic and radical. Then I canvassed the school board members and found none of them had ever read the book. The superintendent admitted he never had read it and the teacher who had charge of the class in which it was being studied told me he hadn’t read the text ahead of the day to day lessons. The principal of the high school hadn’t read it, either. In fact, I seemed to be about the only one in town who knew what was in the book.

But the members of the board backed the superintendent, who didn’t want to stir up a quarrel with book publishers. Finally, however, he changed front and our first mention of the affair, publicly, was an announcement in the news columns that he had ordered the book out of the course of study. Thus we gave him credit for the move.

In the meantime, however, I had discovered that two other objectionable texts were being used at the high school—David Saville Muzzey’s American History, and “Outlines of European History—Part II,” by Robinson and Beard. Muzzey’s book is 310socialistic, or pro-socialistic, and it is rankly unfair in its treatment of several subjects, in my opinion. The Robinson and Beard book had been thrown out of the Seattle schools in the summer of 1918 because of its pro-German taint. It was re-written twice during that summer by Professor James Harvey Robinson, according to the information given me by a representative of the publishers—Ginn and Company. Robinson is a more or less radical professor and Beard had been the subject of considerable adverse comment during the war.

We took the position that regardless of its text, a book by those men was not a fit volume to have in the hands of boys and girls. We held that Muzzey’s book condemned itself, as did Nearing’s.

And then Mr. Powell goes on to tell how the superintendent of schools sold these Nearing books second-hand, for use in schools in Indiana, price ten cents per copy. Mr. Powell was not complaining about this sacrifice price—quite the contrary, he thought the books should have been burned, and he says that “this sale turned public sentiment against the superintendent.” He does not tell us, but we are permitted to guess, that the Ottumwa “Courier” may have had something to do with the turning of public sentiment in the matter!

Another educator who is entitled to honorable mention is Professor Willis N. West, historian. I have told in “The Goose-step” how Professor West was kicked out by the Black Hand of the University of Minnesota. His admirable text-book on American history has been kicked out of schools in various parts of the country, because it tells the truth about the buying of state and national governments by the corporations. Mr. Ray McKaig tells me how the gang went after this history in Boise, Idaho. The Nonpartisan League being so strong, they did not dare attack the book on political grounds; but they discovered that Professor West described General Grant as a simple-minded soldier, and General Lee as a noble figure. They brought this to the attention of the G. A. R., and the old veterans attended to the matter!

I have before me a letter from Gilson Gardner, Washington correspondent of the Scripps newspapers, and a well-known liberal. Mr. Gardner tells his own experience as a writer of text-books:

Largely for my own amusement, but with a view to making a little more pleasant the task of high school students in approaching political economy, I wrote a little book called “The 311New Robinson Crusoe.” It was put out by that thoroughly staid and respectable firm, Harcourt & Brace. The book did nothing but illustrate in a microcosm the commercial and economic system of our world as it is. There was no attempt at suggesting a remedy such as Socialism or Communism, nor any effort at propaganda. So at least it seemed to my mind in writing it, and so it seemed to the mind of Mr. Harcourt. He thought it would be an excellent book for side reading in high school economics courses, and took it as a commercial prospect. In addition to the regular edition, he printed 250 copies in pamphlet form, which were sent to high school teachers with letters asking them to look it over and give their opinion. Harcourt showed me letters received from teachers, which run about as follows:

“I am a teacher in such and such a high school and teach political economy. I have read ‘The New Robinson Crusoe,’ and find it very interesting. I should like to recommend it to my pupils, but you know as well as I do that the day I make such a recommendation I would lose my job. Our supervisors will not stand for that amount of truth in regard to our political and economic system. How did you come to print the book?”

I was told of many cases of text-book publishers who are literally facing both ways—running two editions of books, adjusted to the prejudices of their customers. The American Book Company has one version of Civil War history for the North, and another for the South. In text-books on biology, you may believe in evolution in your editions for New England; but if you want to sell to the far South, you must have an edition in which “Darwinism” is repudiated. I have before me an editorial from the Newton, Mississippi, “Record,” a daily newspaper whose pious editor is not much shocked to learn that the book companies have been “robbing the state and the poor students,” but is horrified by the news that they have been furnishing books “contrary to the teaching of the Bible.” We may assure this pious editor that the book companies will accept a compromise with him, whereby they may continue to “rob the state and the poor students,” in consideration of their leaving out the achievements of modern science!



There are other forms of propaganda now being turned out wholesale for our children. There are various papers and magazines, to which in many cases the pupils are required to subscribe. For example, a four-page weekly newspaper called “Current Events”; during the time of the White Terror in this country this paper was full of the most atrocious slanders concerning the radicals. As I am working on this book someone sends me a sample copy; a new president of Armour & Company has been appointed, and the event is recorded to the school children under a headline, “Reward for Hard Work.” Such little touches, you see! Nothing is said about “The Jungle”; indeed, I could tell you of teachers who have lost their jobs for advising their pupils to read “The Jungle.” At the high school of Claremont, California, some thirty miles from where I live, the Better America Federation dragged a teacher into the newspapers because he ordered from the county library “The Jungle Book,” by Rudyard Kipling, and the librarian sent him “The Jungle” by mistake!

Also there are moving pictures. Quite recently one of the great statesmen of our plutocracy was appointed director of moving picture propaganda, at a salary of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year; our kept press celebrated this as one of the great events of our history. Speaking before the Bond Club in New York City, Mr. Will H. Hays unbosomed himself to his masters: “Unless people are properly entertained, this country may go Red; but shake a rattle at the baby and it calms down.” The rattle is now being diligently shaken from eleven o’clock in the morning until eleven o’clock at night, in some twenty thousand moving picture houses throughout the United States; and the censors keep careful watch over the infant’s mental states. Some of the organized workers made an effort to start a moving picture business of their own, the Labor Film Service; and among the films they tried to show was “The Jungle.” They submitted it in due course to the National Board of Review, and were ordered to remove a caption describing the 313United States of America as “Not just the sweet land of liberty.” Also they were ordered to remove a caption in a court house scene, “Pleading for Justice.” This seemed to convey the idea that workingmen sometimes did not get justice in the United States without pleading for it!

Take the experience of D. W. Griffith, who produced a film called “The Whistle,” dealing with the life of a factory worker. The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce took offense at this picture, and issued a bulletin warning the masters of industry throughout the United States of the perils contained in such films. One caption ran: “Since the days of Plato and Socrates there have been many men of wisdom, but none sage enough to solve the eternal struggle between capital and labor.” Mr. Griffith was forbidden to mention the struggle between capital and labor in Pennsylvania, and the caption had to read: “One of the eternal struggles of life.” Another line read: “Connors’ widow came to you and you sent her away with a few filthy dollars when you killed her husband.” This had to be modified to read: “When Connors’ widow came to you, why didn’t you act like the decent bosses of today?” And again the lines: “You’ve had six years to make this place safe. You’ve been thinking of dollars. You haven’t had time to think of lives.” The censor changed this to read: “You had no right to put off making this place safe.”

Also there are films prepared especially for schools; “educational films,” they are called. This industry is the growth of the past four years, and already there are a hundred firms offering films, and some thirty thousand schools using them. Will Hays went before the N. E. A. convention of 1922 in Boston, and shook his rattle; the moving picture manufacturers of the country yearned to co-operate with the educators, to produce great pictures for the schools. Then he went back to his masters, who turned him over their knee and spanked him; the manufacturers had no remotest desire to co-operate with anyone—the movie houses would stand no competition from the schools, and the schools could not have pictures except second hand. So the poor educators have to make out with scenery pictures boosting the railroads, and so-called “industrial films,” boosting various makes of auto tires and shoes.

314If you get tired of these, there are propaganda pictures, in support of every base prejudice. Needless to say, the product is full of the trickery of Big Business. A state inspector of “visual instruction” sends me some samples. Here is the National Film Company, with its newest release, “Wolves of the Street, an absorbing story showing machinations of the Bolsheviki.” And here is the Victor Animatograph Company, with Mr. Bryan’s “wonderful illustrated address. Back to the Ape, or Back to God?” And here are the “Better America Lectures,” prepared by Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis, chaplain to the military department of God, Mammon and Company. For only $425 you may purchase these ten complete “lectures,” which have been supplied to the United States Army and Navy to the amount of $55,000, and which are full of every mental poison you can imagine.

This chaplain, it appears, is making up for the money he lost a few years ago, when he got caught in some stock-gambling business, and had to confess in tears before his congregation. If you will consult “The Brass Check,” pages 186-7, you will find him lying about the Colorado miners, and having his lies circulated in expensive form by parties whom he dares not name; also you will find him, pages 389-90, hiring himself out to the anti-Bolshevik liars, and perpetrating this culmination of all human infamy: “It is now conceded that the interior towns and cities of Russia have gone over to this nationalization of women.” From the flamboyant circular of his lectures, I learn that he has spoken before 2,600 audiences, and in every state of the union, and that the subjects he offers to colleges and schools include: “How Bolshevism Ruined Russia, and how it works Ruin where Tried; Is Socialism the Perpetual Motion Machine Delusion converted into Economics; False Views of Equality as Incitements to Social Revolution”—etc., etc. And such a list of sponsors—the whole Interlocking Directorate, and the Chiefs of its Riot Department, and of its Grand Old Party, and of its Goose-herds and Goose-step Drill-masters.

There is a preface, written by James Roscoe Day, ex-Chancellor of the University of Heaven, and now Chancellor of Heaven. Being right up there, and in position to know, the chancellor tells us that these lectures are “a 315providential instrument.” If you should be curious to know what Providence wishes the soldiers and sailors of the United States to believe, I mention, for example, that John Ruskin and Henry C. Frick and John D. Rockefeller are benefactors of equal rank and significance; that human equality is disproven by the fact that the ostrich is a bigger bird than the lark; that there is a radical agitator by the name of “Hayward”; that the title “Lazy Socialists and their Loot” represents thinking on social problems; and that New York city, “The Flower of Individual Ownership,” has magnificent libraries and museums, and no slums worth referring to!


In addition to the patriots, who are interested in the contents of our school books, there are large groups of business gentlemen interested in these books as merchandise. Every year our twenty-three million school children and seven hundred thousand college students require and consume millions of new books; so here is a great industry, like every other in America, a battle-ground of graft and favoritism. It is a main support of the political machine in our schools, a reason why we cannot get honest and competent educators for our children.

For a long period the school-book industry was practically a monopoly. The American Book Company controlled ninety per cent of the business, and everywhere its name was synonymous with corruption. Now there are many competitors in the field, and the business of the American Book Company represents only sixty or seventy per cent of the total. But it remains an enormous corporation, and its methods are the same as ever. According to the law of business competition, which is praised in all school and college text-books, the competitors of the American Book Company are forced to meet its methods and to buy their share of success.

There are something like a hundred and fifty “independent” firms manufacturing and selling school-books; some of them are very large firms. I had the pleasure of talking with a number of these book gentlemen, and I 316found them willing to go into detail about the doings of their rivals. As to their own doings, nothing is said; but you can inquire next door. Two of these gentlemen assured me that direct corruption has gone out of fashion in the book game; no longer do the agents pay spot cash to superintendents and state commissions for “adoptions.” I asked one at what date this happy change had taken place, and made note that the date was prior to some cases of cash payment of which I had positive information.

However, I report the statements of these book gentlemen. The graft is now of the “honest” variety; there has been the same evolution that we have seen in the Tammany machine, from the days of Tweed, when the property of the city was stolen outright, to the present time, when the Traction Trust pays the campaign expenses of politicians, and gives them legal retainers, and contracts, and other “tips” of a legitimate business nature. What the agent of a book company now does is to contribute generously to the campaign funds of superintendents and school board members. Thus the various book companies have their “own” superintendents and their “own” school machines. The superintendents not only select the books of these companies, but they accept friendly recommendations as to teachers and promotions; so book company agents also conduct informal teachers’ agencies, and have long lists of their “own” teachers.

And when promotions and favors in the system are desired, the big, powerful, and always genial book company agent is a good man to see. He is always present at conventions, pulling wires for his crowd. If legislation is wanted, he knows the legislators, and if investigation is threatened he knows the press correspondents and managing editors. All these things will be told to you by any book man who is willing to talk. Their excuse is that they have to do it, because the other fellow does it, and there is no other way to get business. They are in the same position as the railroads, which have to control the political machines in order to keep the machines from “holding them up.”

In one of our Eastern cities I had an amusing experience. I happened to meet socially a certain large capitalist, high up in the councils of the employers’ association of 317his city. He was a merry old gentleman, and meeting a muckraker appealed to his humor; he “blew” me to a fine lunch at what I guess is the most costly athletic club in the world. He asked me what I was writing; and when I told him, he mentioned a friend of his, a high-up official in a big text-book company, who had told him a number of amusing anecdotes of the buying of state legislatures and city school boards and superintendents. Naturally, I said I would like to meet that school book official; so the old gentleman put me in his limousine and took me to his friend’s office, where I spent an hour or so, listening to an inside account of conditions in many states.

The substance of what the man said was that it was impossible for book companies not to pay commissions; the politicians would demand anywhere from a thousand to five thousand dollars for a state contract. He described in detail the state of Indiana, where the text-books are adopted for periods of five-years, and there is a political board of utterly incompetent men, with no qualifications for judging text-books. On the date of adoption there will be perhaps fifty agents swarming to the state capital; you will find out what the price is, and you either pay it, or you go out of business so far as concerns the state of Indiana.

I went off and made some notes of what this gentleman had told me; but I wasn’t sure of some details, so I wrote him a seductive letter—all in the strictest confidence, of course—asking him to verify certain statements. In reply came a no less polite letter, assuring me of his pleasure in the recollection of my visit, but saying that my capitalist friend and myself had misunderstood the purport of his conversation. He had entertained us “with some of the legends of the business, which had been handed down from one generation to another.” But these things weren’t done any more, and selling text-books is now “an honorable business.”

It happened through a coincidence that I had on my desk a letter from Professor Charles H. Judd of the University of Chicago, whose adventures with the National Industrial Conference Board were told a few chapters back. Professor Judd, as head of a great department of education, has had opportunity to watch the 318book company business from the inside. He says, among other things:

The situation in the state of Indiana, where there is a book adoption by the state board of education every five years, is certainly worth your investigation. The state board of Indiana, which is made up of a number of ex-officio members, is asked every time there is a book adoption to canvass an impossible number of school books. It would be worth while to find out exactly how many are submitted for judgment by the board. None of these busy professional men can make the analysis of a book necessary to an intelligent choice, and yet they have to make the choice. I was told by one of the members of that board that at the time of the recent adoption an attorney, living in the city of Richmond, Indiana, where one of the members of the state board lives, was paid a fee of $10,000 for a month’s work, the character of which was not otherwise known.

Let us consider the American Book Company, because it is the biggest, and has set the pace for the rest. Thirty years ago my friend George D. Herron, then a Congregational clergyman and college professor, came upon the wholesale knaveries of this concern. Henry D. Lloyd and President Gates of Grinnell College took up the facts, and published them in a little Christian Socialist paper in Minneapolis, the “Kingdom.” The answer of the American Book Company was to file suit for a hundred thousand dollars damages. Dr. Herron writes me:

The suit has never been brought to trial to this day. The Book Trust never had any intention of facing the trial or facing the facts in our possession at that time. They merely meant to announce, as they did through the Associated Press and with great acclaim, that they had brought immediate suit for damages because of these infamous and false charges; and that was all that was necessary. They knew perfectly well what a short memory the public has, and that they would gain all the benefits of a victory in the public mind without ever bringing the matter to trial.

And now, a generation later, we find the Commissioner of Accounts in New York City carrying on his investigation into text-books, and there appears before him Mr. George E. Morrison, editor of “The Historic Hudson,” and recently a reporter for the Detroit “Journal.” You will recall Detroit as the home of Mr. A. V. Barnes, president of the American Book Company; also of ex-Senator Newberry, his brother-in-law; also of Mr. Fred Cody, agent of the American Book Company, convicted with Newberry of election frauds; also of Mr. Frank Cody, 319brother of Mr. Fred, and superintendent of schools in Detroit. Under these circumstances you will not be surprised to learn that Michigan is a center of American Book Company activity. Mr. Morrison in his testimony stated that he had been given several weeks’ leave of absence by the Detroit “Journal,” to collect evidence concerning this matter. Mr. Morrison interviewed a hundred and twenty-seven witnesses, and turned over their evidence, with the affidavits of eighteen out-of-town people, to the prosecuting authorities. The matter was presented to the grand jury, which took minutes and returned a report in which Mr. Morrison was abused by numerous public officials, who stood in with the Newberry-Cody gang. The influence of this gang, said Mr. Morrison, was sufficient to paralyze the arm of the public prosecutor, and to cause a police justice to get busy and prevent indictments.

Mr. Morrison went on to explain the methods of the American Book Company, and just how the money of the school children of the United States was used to buy a seat in the Senate for Truman H. Newberry. I quote from the stenographic record:

All his money practically has come from the American Book Company. His brother-in-law, Mr. Barnes, is head of the American Book Co., and both he and his brother John have more money than they know what to do with. In his campaigns Mr. Truman H. Newberry transferred his funds from John’s bank account to Truman’s, and no question was ever asked. The private agent of Mr. Truman H. Newberry was Mr. Frank Cody, who was by the way indicted with Newberry and the others in the United States Court at Grand Rapids. He was involved in the scandal of the American Book Company in Oklahoma at the time Haskell was governor, and has been a legislative representative of the American Book Company and a salesman on special occasions when special force was needed to put over contracts. He always had declined to admit that he was a representative of the American Book Company. During the time that I was more or less closely identified with trying to find out about the American Book Co., I was never able to learn absolutely the identity of anyone that ever represented the American Book Co. There was one man that came into the open when I worked at Grand Rapids, Michigan, who supplied the members of the Board of Education with money. The members said that the money represented campaign contributions. The agent and the two members of the Board of Education were indicted, and it seemed to be difficult to prove that the money was given to them as members, and as I recall the case never came to trial. This man named 320White, as I recall, subsequently declined to see me, and as I say, I have never known any representative of the American Book Company.

Also I quote from another portion of this interesting testimony:

The Commissioner: Do you think the American Book Company would be inclined to pay large premiums, call it that way, to anyone who has the power to introduce any set of books?

Mr. Morrison: I think there is no question about that at all.

The Commissioner: Of course, I have no reference to our schools. I am talking about these schools in Michigan.

Mr. Morrison: The American Book Company is always willing to give. It is the financial angel of the candidates that would do its bidding.

The Commissioner: Let me ask you, are the members of the Board of Education in Detroit elected?

Mr. Morrison: Yes, they are.

The Commissioner: And you say that the American Book Company is looked upon as the angel of these candidates for the position of members of the Board of Education?

Mr. Morrison: Yes.

The Commissioner: And supplies every one of them?

Mr. Morrison: Yes.


The solution of the problem of our school-book supply waits upon our training a generation of social servants who believe in public welfare and in knowledge, as our forefathers believed in their religions. I should say that the first step toward this goal is to fill our hearts with disgust for the present situation, in which private greed and self-seeking are provided with unlimited sums of money and turned loose to corrupt our schools, making efficient and even honest education unattainable. Such is the situation, alike in the crowded cities of the East and in the farming and ranching country of the far West and the South. Here and there you will find educators fighting loyally for the schools; and at the head of the intrigue against them you will find the representatives of book and supply companies. Wherever you hear of a superintendent or board member who has gone down fighting in the people’s cause, you will find it was book and supply companies which beat him.

I have told the story of Mr. Charles P. Cary, state 321superintendent of education in Wisconsin. Early in his teaching career, Mr. Cary tells me, an agent for the American Book Company asked certain favors of him, and offered in return to make him superintendent of schools in a big city; the place depended entirely on this book agent. All through Mr. Cary’s work as superintendent in Wisconsin, the book-agents would come to him, demanding this and that. When the question of his re-election came up, one of the most prominent lawyers in Milwaukee told him that he could get thirty-five hundred dollars toward his campaign fund by calling on a certain state official and agreeing to certain terms laid down. Mr. Cary was told that this was the money of a leading firm of book publishers. When Mr. Cary did not accept this proposition, an agent of Ginn and Company put up his father to beat Mr. Cary—and somebody put up the money to elect this father!

Ginn and Company has been for more than a generation the most active competitor of the American Book Company, and it would not be surprising if they had learned something about its methods. We have come upon the activities of Ginn and Company agents in the school politics of many cities; as I revise this chapter, there comes a letter from Philadelphia, telling me how its salesman there became principal of the girls’ high school. I remind you of the situation in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Mr. C. H. Thurber, manager of Ginn and Company, and trustee of Clark College and Clark University, put into the presidency the author of the Frye-Atwood geographies, and started a whole series of new sciences, with departments and summer schools and chautauquas based upon these popular school geographies. The head-lady of Ginn and Company’s geography department pours tea with the best social charm, and there are ninety-seven Ginn and Company text-books used in the public schools of Worcester. Also I should note that the senior partner of this firm, Mr. George A. Plimpton, is a trustee of Amherst College, which has just kicked out a liberal president; and also a trustee of Barnard College, thus interlocking with Nicholas Miraculous, and with Professor George E. Strayer, who runs the National Education Association.

Let us move to North Dakota, where I listened to the 322story of a county superintendent of schools, elected by the Nonpartisan League. The gang is on top once more in North Dakota, so this man is no longer an educator, but is earning a living in the real estate business; nevertheless, he asks me to call him Mr. Smith! Among the forces which were active in defeating the people in North Dakota while they tried to control their own schools was a certain Mr. Gleason, agent of the American Book Company, “whose boast it was that he had placed more school superintendents than any other man in the United States.” When a new superintendent was appointed, Mr. Gleason always called, and the superintendent was always glad to see him—the reason being that it was the custom of the American Book Company to pay superintendents ten per cent commission on all books sold in the county. They paid this quarterly, as a matter of regular routine. They kept track of the situation in every school district, and if any book was not reordered, they sent an agent to find out about it.

Mr. Gleason’s subordinate, Mr. Thorson, came to see Mr. Smith, and was very genial. He wanted him to sign up a new list of books for the county. But Mr. Smith explained that the request was a little premature, as he had not yet taken the oath of office. As soon as Mr. Smith had assumed his duties, Mr. Thorson came again, but Mr. Smith wanted a little time to get acquainted with the situation. Then came Mr. Gleason himself; but Mr. Smith insisted upon having his own ideas about text-books. He made out a list, which gave the American Book Company sixty per cent of the books, forty per cent being divided among other companies. Mr. Gleason was dissatisfied with this, because he had been getting ninety-seven per cent of the business. When these agents could not persuade Mr. Smith, they tried to threaten him, but this also did not avail.

In the following year Mr. Thorson came again. He wanted to see Mr. Smith in private, and asked Mr. Smith to dismiss his stenographer, which Mr. Smith refused to do. He then asked to see him after office hours, and Mr. Smith absented himself from the office so as to make this impossible. The agent telephoned on Sunday evening, and came to Mr. Smith’s home for an interview; but Mr. Smith’s wife was present, and that also was not 323satisfactory. He asked Mr. Smith to come to meet him in his room in the hotel; Mr. Smith refused this. He begged for an interview on Monday morning, and Mr. Smith said that he would come to the hotel at six o’clock in the morning. He went, and took with him his “Uncle Charley,” who followed Mr. Smith up to Mr. Thorson’s room. When Mr. Thorson saw this, he asked that “Uncle Charley” should wait in the lobby; so “Uncle Charley,” by prearrangement with Mr. Smith, pretended to go down to the lobby, but came back to the door of the room and listened through the open transom to what was going on. Mr. Thorson offered Mr. Smith ten per cent commission on all books sold within the county, and he had the cash with him. Mr. Smith threw the money on the floor, and walked out of the room.

And so began a long campaign against him. Mr. Gleason, Mr. Thorson, Mr. James, and several other agents put in nine weeks in the county, trying to get the school machine lined up against Mr. Smith. They approached a number of the teachers, as well as school directors; they gave Mr. Smith “a dirty fight.” But he won with a good majority, and threw out all the American Book Company’s books. He ordered some of Ginn and Company’s books for the consolidated school of one township, and Mr. Thorson and Mr. James went to this school with a supply of American Book Company books, and traded book for book, taking out the Ginn and Company books, and putting in their own. But Mr. Smith took the trouble to interview school boards, and in every case he succeeded in persuading them that the other books were better; he completely drove the American Book Company out of the county—that is, until they drove him out of the schools!

They have one system throughout all North Dakota; they get the superintendents to an “educational meeting,” which is really a banquet paid for by book company agents. When they are properly fed, the list of books is flashed upon them, all carefully prepared for the various grades of their schools. Many superintendents don’t know anything about books, and don’t want to bother with them; they know the subject is a dangerous one, and the easiest way is to sign the list. The book company then prints this list at its own expense, and sends the copies to the 324superintendent for distribution to the school boards. The boards, receiving this list, assume that it represents the superintendent’s selection, and they put the list through.

And apparently it is the same way in South Dakota. Miss Alice Daly resigned in 1921 from the Madison State Normal School, and in a public statement declared as follows:

The book trust operates in South Dakota exactly the way that it has operated in other states, against the interests of the great mass of working people, against the freedom of the teacher, against any efficient organization of teachers, against the frank and honest discussion of vital questions of the day, against labor; in short, against democracy. The book trust operates for its own selfish interests, for capitalism and for autocracy within and without the school. The book trust whenever it has enjoyed control, operates against education in any genuine sense of the word.

The manager of one concern which sells books all over the country, and concerning which I have not learned of any graft, assures me that throughout the middle West, especially the states of Missouri and Iowa, the county “adoptions” are almost uniformly a matter of purchase. The petty politicians on the school committees see a chance to make a little money, and they make it—that seems obvious enough. The price is five or six hundred dollars; and this manager found it so hopeless to try to do business without paying that he told his agents to quit the county field. I have not heard of any American counties being without text-books, so presumably there are other companies not so fastidious.


Wherever you travel in the school world of the United States, you find these same activities. You recall the almost universal graft in the school affairs of Chicago; it should hardly need saying that the book trust was “up to the eyes” in this graft. You never know where you meet them; they operate under the names of various companies. A member of the school board made the statement that one of the book companies had “a whole 325trainload of books on a siding,” which they were trying to unload in Chicago; all the newspapers knew about it, but they would not publish the facts. The beginning of the graft exposure was the determination of the agents to dump this supply of books onto the Chicago board.

The same thing extends over the state of Illinois. An agent of one book company was chairman of the state committee of the Republican party, and a superintendent of Peoria, Illinois, was discovered to have grafted to the extent of more than a million dollars, and was sent to jail for it. They had the governor of the state, and had got a five-year “adoption.” They did the same thing in Cincinnati, where they ran the superintendent and school board for a decade. Again, it was a leading book company agent who was mixed up in a scandal with the governor of Oklahoma. There was another exposure in Kentucky—and I was told of other states where there might be an exposure, if I would go there and make inquiries!

In Texas also there was a scandal and a political upheaval. The American Book Company was prosecuted as a trust, and fined fifteen thousand dollars and ousted from the state. It was at that time a New Jersey corporation, and the Texas authorities allowed it to plead guilty, whereupon it was reorganized as a New York corporation and readmitted to do business in the state. Such little jokes as this the big corporations and their attorneys take great pleasure in playing upon state prosecuting authorities and legislatures! An attorney in Dallas writes me:

The American Book Company got an outrageous contract from the state text-book board, headed by the sanctimonious Governor Neff, making a number of needless changes, that would cost the public school fund many hundreds of thousands of dollars; but this contract has been, temporarily at least, defeated. It must be said, however, that the chief reason it has been defeated is not the action of public-spirited Texas citizens, but the activity of other publishers, particularly Ginn and Company, for whom I have the same sort of respect that I have for the American Book Company.

As it happens, I learned of another case, in which the American Book Company was pulling off some dirty work in Michigan, and in that case they were stopped by Heath 326and Company. So let us be thankful that the school book business is still in the competitive stage!

Kansas was one state in which the farmers went to war against the book trust. You will be interested in the adventures of Mrs. Ella S. Burton, who took up the issue as lecturer for the State Grange. These granges are farmers’ societies; and like the teachers’ associations, theythey have been taken over by the gang. Mrs. Burton found herself fighting the school-book machine inside of her own organization. The book trust controlled not merely the state school book commission; it had its high-priced educators and corporation lawyers and politicians inside the grange. Charges were brought against Mrs. Burton, and a committee appointed to investigate these charges unanimously vindicated her; but the master of the State Grange would not give her the floor, nor hear the committee report, and adjourned the meeting in order to suppress her. It was promised that the findings of the committee would be published in the annual report, but not a word of it was published, and Mrs. Burton was finally expelled from the grange. The right-hand man of the grange master throughout the proceedings was, of course, an American Book Company agent.

Nevertheless, the Kansas legislature passed a bill providing for state manufacture of text-books; and so Kansas shares with California the distinction of being the object of many pamphlets published by school-book company representatives, proving the evils of its school-book habits! I am not going into the cost of text-book publication, but I think it may be worth mentioning that while I was in the state of Washington I found that the schools there were using in many cases the same text-books as in California, and were paying for them from a hundred to a hundred and fifty per cent more than it was costing the people of California to manufacture them.

Sometimes the law permits school teachers to have something to say about the adoption of text-books, and then you have book company agents playing the generous host to teachers. We have seen Major Clancy at Oakland and Boston and Des Moines. In California, I am told by a prominent educator that many teachers get their summer vacations at the expense of the book companies. It is a favorite device to offer them a trip to the East to 327see where the school books are made; that is not graft, but education! Teachers learn to look to book company agents for promotion; and almost invariably you notice that when any superintendent or board member is turned out of his job, the book companies take care of him. We saw a school superintendent of Chicago becoming president of Heath & Company; we saw President Pearse of the Milwaukee State Normal School becoming an agent for Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia. I am told by Mr. William Bouck, head of the Washington Progressive Grange, that the American Book Company has named more superintendents in the state of Washington than all the big agencies put together; also that the agents of this concern were put on the program of every school institute on the west coast of Washington. This point is also touched upon by Professor Charles H. Judd, of the University of Chicago. He writes:

It is a matter of constant rumor that the selection of the superintendent in various cities is altogether in the hands of book companies. The most impressive and detailed story of this sort that I ever heard relates to the superintendency of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The man who told me the story is still in the educational profession and would hardly want to be implicated, but he said that he was met at the station, when he went to see the board of education at Fort Wayne, not by any member of the board of education, but by the local representative of one of the book companies. His conversation about the position was altogether with this representative of the book company, and he left town telling him that he did not want the place. The representative of the book company told him that he was not going to ask him to keep the conference confidential, because he knew that it was all the superintendent’s professional career was worth to have a controversy with him, and that if the superintendent ever reported any part of this discussion, the representative of the book company would deny the whole affair. This story was told to me by a man who is absolutely reliable and he would not, I am sure, in any wise distort the facts.

Professor Judd goes on to explain his belief that in many cases these things are done by book agents without the knowledge of the company, and that the company would be “greatly distressed to know that these things happen.” I have a great respect for Professor Judd, one of the most liberal and courageous educators in this country; also I have great respect for a college professor, a very distinguished author of school text-books, who writes me that the trouble is due to “the less scrupulous 328agents in the heat of a campaign.” This gentleman’s own publishers “deprecate these methods, but perhaps the heat of a campaign will now and then lead local agents astray. I have plenty of reason to suspect that other publishers make it impossible to play the game very fairly.”

In answer to this, I can only state my own point of view—that I cannot take much stock in the idea that heads of large-scale modern industries do not know what their employes and agents are doing. They make it their business to know, and any lack of knowledge which they have is formal; that is, a business man smiles and says: “Don’t let me know about it!” But in reality he knows; and the school officials who get the “rake off” also know. Says Professor Robert Morse Lovett, also of the University of Chicago: “There is scarcely a large city in the country in which the pupils and teachers alike are not shamefully and scandalously defrauded by action of school trustees, which would be characterized in the mildest terms as wilful mismanagement conducing to private profit.” And Professor Guido Marx of Stanford University tells me how he referred to school book graft before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, and a representative of a book company said to him: “What’s the matter? Have you got a book you can’t get published?”

It appears that ethical codes on book matters are in a somewhat unsettled state—out here in California at any rate. I have on my desk a series of letters from a California school-book publisher, personally a very likeable and genial fellow, who assures me that he doesn’t think there is any harm in the fact that a lady editor of his magazine, formerly a stockholder in his business, and still having a desk in his office, is also a member of the local school board, and in this capacity signed orders for the purchase of something less than a thousand dollars worth of books from this publisher. I suppose that if I were to meet David P. Barrows, Dean of Imperialism at our state university, he would assure me there was nothing wrong in the fact that he, while head of the department of political science at the university, was invited by the Mexican government to come down there and advise them on the subject of education; and that he went, and became vice-president of the Vera Cruz Land & Cattle Company, and came back to recommend war on 329Mexico, so as to give value to his holdings in that concern!

All this time we have been thinking of text-books as a source of dividends. It is necessary to remind ourselves that these sources of dividends are also sources of ideas to our children. How do the ideas count, in comparison with the dividends? Let me quote Professor Judd once more:

There is a more fundamental matter which is not scandalous but which is important. Book companies influence the schools to an enormous degree by furnishing the materials of instruction. The ordinary teacher in the American school is so little prepared for his or her work that the material supplied in text-books is absolutely indispensable to the conduct of classes. When a book company gets a successful text-book, it is very loath to make any changes in the book for obvious reasons: the cost of making new plates and the danger of losing the market prevent revision of text-books. The result is that there are sets of text-books which exercise a thoroughly unwholesome influence on school practices, just because the book companies are unwilling to make expensive revisions and are interested primarily in selling the books that they now have in stock. When a good report is prepared by one of the technical societies, and book companies are asked to conform to the progressive ideas which are expressed in such a report, one finds these companies very reluctant to try any experiments.

When I was a lad, I learned geometry and algebra as two entirely separate subjects, and until today it never occurred to me that they were in any way related, and might be taught as parts of one subject. But now I learn from an educator that this is the case. And why are they taught separately in all high schools of the United States? Well, because geometry and algebra are the private preserves of Ginn and Company, owners of the Wentworth text-books, which lead in this field. Any teacher or superintendent who should suggest that these profitable works be scrapped would not be regarded with favor by the hundred and twenty-five agents of this great book concern, who have so much to say about high salaried school positions.



We have seen the activities of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in many American cities; but because this is a national system, competing with the public schools in every part of the country, it is necessary to consider the general aspects of the parochial school problem. Many Catholics will read this book and write me letters; therefore I will save both my time and their feelings if I explain at the outset that I know there are a great many decent, hard-working Catholics in the United States, and also many earnest and devoted Catholic teachers in the American public schools. My quarrel here is with the Roman hierarchy, which holds the faith of millions of sincere people, and sells it out to the exploiters of the world. This is a book on economics, and its plea is to Catholic working people, to open their eyes to the class struggle, and see how they are being betrayed and plundered in modern capitalist society.

This class struggle is in the Catholic Church, precisely as in other organizations. There are Catholic trust magnates and exploiters of labor, and they give their money to Catholic educational institutions, and then control these institutions in the interest of the open shop and general reaction. I was not well informed about the insides of Catholic affairs, and when I came to investigate I could not keep from laughing, to discover how completely Catholic education reproduces all the features of Protestant education. Here, for example, is James A. Farrell, president of the Steel Trust; he got part of a common school education, and then went to work in a steel mill; in 1922 we find him getting an honorary degree from the Catholic Georgetown University!

Here is Francis P. Garvan, wealthy corporation lawyer, Attorney-General Palmer’s assistant in robbing helpless Germans during the war. He gives generously to Catholic schools and colleges, and gets an honorary degree from Fordham University, and is a trustee in the Catholic University of America. He vigorously carries on the open-shop propaganda in the Catholic world, and bitterly fights the influence of Father Ryan, who sympathizes 331with labor. Here is Condé B. Pallen, graduate of Georgetown University, a wealthy Catholic propagandist, editor of the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” and head of the “Committee for the Study of Revolutionary Movements of the National Civic Federation.” Mr. Pallen is one of the “Helen Ghouls”; and thereby we discover that in the world of Big Business the gulf between Catholics and Protestants has been bridged. It is my hope that this gulf may be bridged in the world of labor, and that Protestant and Catholic wage-slaves will no longer permit themselves to be divided and conquered by their masters.

Six or seven hundred years ago the Catholic Church had its Golden Age, and at that time it was to some extent a proletarian movement. There are Catholics today who dream of a return of that Golden Age, and see in the modern labor unions something resembling the medieval guilds. These men are fighting vigorously inside the church; they got a group of bishops to support the National Catholic Welfare Council, and the Catholic Church issued an extremely progressive manifesto on social problems. You remember during the war we had quite a wave of enthusiasm for the making over of the world; and there were Catholic idealists, sharing that bright dream.

But now the war is over, and we no longer need to make promises to labor, and the “hard guys” are in the saddle. The open-shop gang goes after the Catholic radicals, and you hear less about the reconstruction program. John D. Ryan, chairman of the Anaconda Copper Company and leading Catholic capitalist, resigns from the board of the Catholic University of America, and Nicholas F. Brady, Catholic traction magnate, declares that this university will get no more funds while Father John A. Ryan, the radical, is on its teaching staff. Father Ryan’s teachings are denounced by the Lusk Committee as “subversive,” and the open-shop intriguers protest to the Apostolic delegate in America. The Catholic bishops turn lukewarm to social reconstruction, and the funds to be devoted to this work are suddenly discovered to be missing. Mr. Condé B. Pallen travels to Rome, and the next thing we hear is that the Papal See has ordered the dissolution of the National Catholic Welfare Council.

The Catholic liberals, of course, do not give up without 332a struggle, and they have powerful arguments on their side. For a generation the Church has seen with dismay the organized workers drifting away from its authority and taking up with Socialism. And what chance has the Catholic machine to win unless it professes some interest in the cause of social justice? What chance will the Church have with the American Federation of Labor if it sells itself body and soul to the open shop? In Cincinnati a Catholic priest, Father Peter Dietz, started a liberal organization, the American Academy of Christian Democracy; he opened the convention of the American Federation of Labor with a prayer, and was then suspended by the archbishop of the diocese. Thereupon high officials of the Federation addressed a protest to the archbishop; if such protests are not heeded, how can the Church hope to hold the rank and file of organized labor?

The National Catholic Welfare Council appealed to the Pope to reconsider the order for its suspension. It ought to be interesting to American Catholics to know the names of the judges who heard and decided this grave question of American policy; they were Gasparri, Merry del Val, Bisleti, Sbaretti, Van Rossum, and Pompili: four of them Italians, one a Spaniard, and one a Hollander! There are no Americans in the Roman Curia, and American Catholics are excluded from any share in the control of their church. This seems to me something which every American has a right to make note of, and which American Catholics must find embarrassing.

The most active of Catholic propaganda agencies in this country is the Knights of Columbus, and this order has recently resolved to assume its share of the labors of revising our schools and school text-books. “Knight” McSweeney has declared that “half the history text-books should be destroyed.” It is interesting to note that the class struggle is going on inside this organization, precisely as in the National Education Association. There are some Catholics who object to seeing their church used by the political henchmen of Big Business. When District Attorney Pelletier of Boston, a high-up official of the Knights, was prosecuted for selling justice to rich criminals, there were resolutions passed by several state branches to demand his resignation. Pelletier of course raised the cry that he was being persecuted because he 333was a Catholic; such is the device by which the grafters try to hold on. But Pelletier had to quit.

When I was a boy of sixteen, earning my way through college by writing jokes and sketches, I went to call upon Street and Smith, publishers of the “half-dime novels” of my boyhood; detective and Wild West tales, full of thrilling adventures, and having illustrated covers in brilliant red and green and blue and yellow. The editor in charge of these publications was a gentleman who called himself Enrique H. Lewis; he had lived in South America, and enlisted in the navy. I took him the manuscript of a long novel, and presently began to write for him a series of stories about West Point life. Someone asked him if I had been through West Point, and he answered that I had been through it in three days! The Spanish War came on, and I took to slaughtering the enemy by land and sea—on the land I was Lieutenant Frederick Garrison, and on sea I was Ensign Clark Fitch. My editorial chief used to marvel at the speed with which these manuscripts appeared; there was a year when I was turning out a total of fifty-six thousand words a week. We used to have office consultations, and he was worried about the state of my soul; it didn’t seem natural that a boy of my age should be holding such serious views about human problems. His forebodings proved to be justified—I spoiled myself as a writer of dime novels, and lost my job with Street and Smith!

My former chief took better care of his career, and is now Henry Harrison Lewis, editor of “Industrial Progress,” organ of the “open shop.” I have before me one of his articles, entitled: “The Great Open-Shop Conspiracy.” You might guess this conspiracy to be the effort of the Black Hand to make the American people believe that “open shop” means freedom for labor; but no—this conspiracy is the action of the National Catholic Welfare Council, together with the Protestant churches, in defending the right of workers to form unions if they want to. This article is reprinted in pamphlet form, and copies of it are sent to every Catholic priest and every Protestant clergyman in the United States. Mr. Lewis admits that the cost of this is defrayed “by other persons and organizations”; but he refuses to tell us who these persons and organizations are!



Just what is the attitude of the Catholic Church to the American public schools? This is an important question, because there are fourteen million Catholics in our country, and they control the education, not merely of two million children in their own schools, but of other millions in public schools where the Catholic vote has elected Catholic officials and school board members, and obtained the appointment of Catholic superintendents and teachers. There has been so much controversy over this question, so much has been affirmed by one side and denied by the other, that I decided I would go into it thoroughly and settle it once for all. I may as well state at the outset that I found I had been overambitious. The question cannot be settled once for all; for the reason that no two Catholic authorities agree with each other, and in controversy with Catholic theologians the most explicit Latin and English words are discovered to be capable of so many interpretations that all meaning goes out of them.

The most detailed statement of the official Catholic attitude towards Church and State, and State activities such as public schools, is found in the “Syllabus of Errors” of Pope Pius IX. This is a list of eighty propositions of liberalism and democracy, which are lumped together and condemned as “the principal errors of our time.” I had often seen this Syllabus summarized and discussed, but I had never seen the complete text. I consulted the public libraries in Pasadena and Los Angeles, but in vain. I applied to Catholic bookstores, but likewise in vain. I applied to Loyola College and to the Catholic bishop in Los Angeles, but these had it only in Latin. I telegraphed to the largest wholesale book-seller in New York, but was informed that an English text was not obtainable. By that time I began to suspect that the church authorities were not anxious to have the American public read their fundamental law on the subjects of liberalism and democracy; when I finally obtained the text, I discovered why.

It was left to an enemy of the Church to supply me with this most vital church document. William Ewart Gladstone attacked the Syllabus with righteous wrath, 335and I found the text in his volume “Rome and the Newest Fashions in Religion.” This Syllabus is extremely awkward to quote, for the reason that the propositions are all negative—a list of statements which are condemned; and some of the statements themselves are negative, so that you find yourself with double negatives to disentangle. A few of the most important of the propositions will have to suffice; and let me say that I have brushed up my rusty Latin for the occasion, and made certain that the translations are literal and precise. Bear in mind that this is the Supreme Pontiff speaking ex cathedra, which is the same as the voice of God; so the following statements are not subject to question or revision, so long as the Holy Catholic Church endures. Thus, formally and finally, we are told that it is an error to teach that:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess the religion he shall believe true, guided by the light of reason.

This of course means that every man is not free to embrace and profess his own religion; and carries the obvious corollary that every man must let the Catholic Church tell him what religion to embrace.

17. We may entertain at least a well-founded hope for the eternal salvation of all those who are in no manner in the true Church of Christ.

This means, in brief, that all non-Catholics are damned eternally, and it is false doctrine to teach otherwise.

20. The ecclesiastical power must not exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government.

This means that the Church may exercise its authority without the consent of the State; that, for example, the Church may marry and annul marriage, in defiance of the civil laws. This must be taken in connection with

30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derives its origin from civil law.

This means that the Church and its priests are immune to civil law, and this immunity comes from God, and cannot be taken away by the State. If the Church could maintain this proposition in America, neither the Church nor any ecclesiastic could be sued or tried by the regular courts, but only by courts of their own.


42. In the case of conflicting laws between the two powers, the civil law ought to prevail.

This means that civil law ought not to prevail over Church law; and since it is manifest that two laws cannot both prevail, it follows that Church law is proclaimed superior to civil law.

Such is the Church’s own version of her attitude to the State; and now, let us see what is her attitude to the schools of the State? The propositions dealing with this matter are longer, and more involved with double negatives; but we will take the time to disentangle them, and the reader who is not interested in the problem may skip.

45. The entire direction of public schools, in which the youth of Christian states are educated, except (to a certain extent) in the case of episcopal seminaries, may and must appertain to the civil power, and belong to it so far that no other authority whatsoever shall be recognized as having any right to interfere in the discipline of the schools, the arrangement of the studies, the taking of degrees, or the choice and approval of the teachers.

The phrase “episcopal seminaries” means what we should call “Catholic schools” or “parochial schools”; and this proposition states that the Church is not satisfied with being permitted to teach what it pleases in these schools, but denounces the claim of the State to exclusive control of teaching in the State schools.

The next proposition, 46, defends the right of the Church to teach as it pleases in its own schools. Since that is not commonly disputed in America, we pass on.

47. The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to the children of all classes, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophy, and for conducting the education of the young, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, government, and interference, and should be fully subject to the civil and political power, in conformity with the will of rulers and the prevalent opinions of the age.

This is an exact statement of the theory upon which the American public school system is founded, and this theory is declared to be an error.

48. This system of instructing youth, which consists in separating it from the Catholic faith and from the power of the Church, and in teaching exclusively, or at least primarily, the knowledge of natural things and the earthly ends of social life alone, may be approved by Catholics.

337This is practically a definition of what we call “secular education”; it is what we give in our public schools, and we are declared to be in error when we do so.

There are many other statements in this Syllabus which are of importance. Thus in 77 we learn that the Church refuses to give up its demand that the State shall maintain it as the only religion. In 78 we are told that the State should not permit non-Catholics to worship publicly in Catholic countries. In 79 we are told that freedom of worship, and freedom of manifesting opinions and ideas, conduce to corrupt the minds of the people. In 80 we are told that the Roman Pontiff cannot and ought not “reconcile himself to, and agree with, progress, liberalism, and civilization as lately introduced.” I think that will suffice to make plain to the average American why the “Syllabus of Errors” cannot be found in English translation in Catholic volumes obtainable in libraries or book-stores!

While in the midst of these researches I came upon a little pamphlet entitled: “The Catholic Answer. An Honest, Dignified Statement of Facts for Fair-Minded People,” published by “Our Sunday Visitor,” of Huntington, Indiana. This pamphlet has the American flag on the cover, and contains an entirely different statement of the Catholic attitude; also an offer of a thousand dollars to anyone who can disprove anything in the pamphlet. So I wrote to the editor of this publication, asking him for help in my researches. At the time of writing I did not have the full text of the Syllabus; I had merely a summary of some of its propositions, and I sent these to the editor, asking him to explain the matter. From the letter-head of his reply I gain the information that “Our Sunday Visitor” is “the popular National Catholic weekly with 2,000,000 readers scattered over every country in the world. Thousands of priests order it for all of their people.” The editor is the Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. F. Noll, and he tells me:

We do not have the Syllabus of Pius IX at hand, and therefore are not able to determine the accuracy of the quotations which you submit for verification. The last two quotations seem so utterly abhorrent even to the Catholic, that I am quite certain that they are not genuine. You understand that this is the day of bogus documents, concocted and circulated by enemies of the Catholic Church.

338After that, of course, I was more than ever determined to get the full text of the Syllabus. When I got it, I found that the passages to which Monsignor Noll takes exception are merely a brief practical summary of a few propositions, turning their negatives into positive affirmations. Thus, one of the passages which I sent to the Monsignor and which he finds “utterly abhorrent even to the Catholic” reads as follows:

The Church has the right to avail itself of force, and to use the temporal power for that purpose. The Church has the right to exercise her power without the permission or consent of the State.

And that is covered by Proposition 24 of the Syllabus, which states that it is an error to teach that

The Church has not the power of availing herself of force, or any direct or indirect temporal power.

and also Proposition 20, which denounces the error that

The ecclesiastical power must not exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government.

You will note variations in the translation; no two people, rendering the same Latin into English, would use the same English words. The Latin “potestas” is called “right” in one version, and “power” in the other; but the meaning is the same, for the power claimed by the Church is moral power, the power given by God, which is what we call “right.” So far as I can see, the statement which Monsignor Noll finds “utterly abhorrent even to the Catholic” is a perfectly fair summary of the practical effect of the Syllabus. And the same applies to the other quotation, which, as submitted to Monsignor Noll, read:

The Church and her priests have the right to immunity from all civil laws.

That is Proposition 30 of the Syllabus, which denounces as an error the doctrine that

The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derives its origin from civil law.

Now there can be no dispute that this proposition asserts “immunity” for the Church and for ecclesiastical persons; and the word “immunity” is a technical church 339word, meaning immunity from civil law—a prerogative which was maintained by the Church until recent times. The question considered in the Syllabus is whether this “immunity” is derived from the State or from God. If it is derived from the State, it can be abolished by the State, and this is the “error” which the Pope is denouncing. He affirms the contrary, that the immunity is from God, and therefore can never be taken away. Is not this the very proposition which Monsignor Noll finds “utterly abhorrent even to the Catholic”?

The Monsignor goes on to discuss the propositions referring to the schools, and to say that they are applicable only where there is union of Church and State, and have nothing to do with the Catholic Church in its relation to our own public schools. “Outside of countries where there is union of Church and State, the Catholic Church does not pretend to have any jurisdiction, nor would she ever dream of interfering with the public schools. The teaching of the Church is that both the State and Church are supreme, each in its own domain.” And then, after reading that, I get the text of the Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, which are part of the supreme law of the Church, and I read:

The Church of Rome is one monarchy over all the kingdoms of the earth, and is, among temporal kingdoms, as the mind or soul to the body of a man, or as God in the world. Therefore the Church of Rome must not only have the spiritual power, but also the supreme temporal power.

And once more:

It is an impious deed to break the laws of Jesus Christ for the purpose of obeying the magistrates, or to transgress the laws of the Church under the pretext of obeying the civil law.

In the effort to clear up these mysteries, I wrote to the fourteen catholic archbishops of the United States, also to the papal delegate in Washington, and to the Paulist Fathers in New York. The first reply came by telegraph from the archbishop of New Orleans, referring me to the Catholic Encyclopedia. I consulted in that work the topics “Pius IX,” and the “Syllabus of Errors,” and the first thing I read was that the Encyclical containing this “Syllabus of Errors” “was solemnly received in national and provincial councils by the episcopate of the whole world.” I also learned that “the ‘Syllabus’ is 340not only the defense of the inalienable rights of God, of the Church, and of truth against the abuse of the words freedom and culture on the part of unbridled Liberalism, but it is also a protest, earnest and energetic, against the attempt to eliminate the influence of the Catholic Church on the life of nations and of individuals, on the family and the school.” And again: “It has done an inestimable service to the Church and to society at large by unmasking the false liberalism which had begun to insinuate its subtle poison into the very marrow of Catholicism.”

But I do not find one word in either of these articles to indicate that the propositions of the Syllabus do not apply to America, but only to countries which have separation of Church and State. I find sweeping endorsements of sweeping propositions; and how can I bring myself to believe that ecclesiastical authorities, solemnly laying down the law for all time, would omit to state such vital qualifications, if they wished such qualifications to be understood?

I have before me a stack of letters from Catholic authorities, also a stack of Catholic pamphlets, and references to a great number of books; I realize now that if I were to make an authoritative pronouncement on the attitude of the Catholic Church toward the American public schools, I should have to write a volume instead of a chapter. How complicated the subject is you may judge from one sentence, quoted to me by Archbishop Keane of Dubuque. This is a statement made by Cardinal Newman, in the course of his controversy with Gladstone over the meaning of the “Syllabus of Errors.” Says the great master of Catholic apologetics: “The ‘Syllabus,’ viewed in itself, is nothing more than a digest of certain errors made by an anonymous writer.” I can only give my reaction to this sentence—it shows me that I should be wasting my time if I tried to understand Catholic controversy. The “Syllabus” is an explicit statement by the highest Catholic authority, that the propositions of the “anonymous writer” are errors; from which it follows that the contrary of these propositions is upon the highest Catholic authority affirmed. If someone tells me that I am reported to have burglarized a bank, that is an anonymous statement; but if I answer, “that is a 341lie,” then I am making the flat assertion that I did not burglarize a bank. And if anyone denies that, I say that he is not seeking truth, but merely juggling words, and I have no more time to waste on Cardinal Newman.


Let us now break through the tangle of ecclesiastical sophistry, and try to get in a few paragraphs the common sense of the situation. Why are Catholic authorities reduced to quibbling and evading, and hiding their real dogmas from the world? The answer is that Catholic students throughout the world are inevitably influenced by their environment; those who live in liberal countries take on a tinge of liberalism. But meantime the dogmas of the church are laid down by a group of medieval-minded bigots in Rome, who set their faces against the whole of modern life, and prescribe formulas which are excruciatingly embarrassing to American Catholics with political and social ambitions. Hence it comes about that the “Syllabus of Errors” of Pius IX is not obtainable in official Catholic translations in American public libraries; hence also it comes about that one Catholic archbishop after another writes to assure me that the propositions of the “Syllabus” do not apply to public schools in America.

The frankest letter is from Archbishop Dowling of St. Paul, who practically admits that I am right in my suspicion that American Catholics are going as far as they dare to put the dogmas of the Papal reactionaries upon the shelf. He says:

The theologian still holds that in itself that State is most perfect where the rights of God are recognized as well as the rights of man. He assumes all the implications of that position. But his thesis receives the attention and the respect that are usually given to Utopias. The practical church administrator loyally accepts the fait accompli. He adjusts his policies and his plans to things as he finds them.

And again:

So far as I know nobody with any influence in the Catholic body of this country opposes the public school system. I doubt if Catholics ever give the subject of such a fatuous movement a single thought. In fact, Catholics are not effectively organized 342in any but parish groups. They have not an influential press. There is not a Catholic paper of any kind that circulates largely throughout the whole country. They are divided into many racial groups with no point of contact save a common creed.

I should like to accept this very courteous statement; but when I am dealing with men who admit that they are “practical,” meaning that they profess creeds which they do not try to apply, I am necessarily led to wonder whether such an attitude might not lead a man to feel justified in “shading” his views while writing to a non-Catholic correspondent. Also, I am obliged to contrast the archbishop’s statement with that on the letter-head of Msgr. Noll: “‘Our Sunday Visitor,’ the popular National Catholic weekly with 2,000,000 readers scattered over every country in the world. Thousands of priests order it for all of their people.” How can this be fitted to the statement that “there is not a Catholic paper of any kind that circulates largely throughout the whole country?”

For the rest of this chapter let us follow the program of the “practical church administrator,” and adjust ourselves to things as we find them. What one finds everywhere throughout America is as follows: The Catholics are maintaining a rival system to the public schools; they are running an enormous business, spending tens of millions of dollars, and they take toward the public schools precisely the attitude which business rivalry engenders in every human group. They say in their propaganda literature that they wish to be “fair” to the public schools. But just what can be the meaning of this word, to men who regard secular education as destructive to the souls of the children who receive it? Inevitably, they wish to save as many souls as possible; and the fact that they do it from the best of motives makes no difference to us. The attitude of the Catholic church is to get as much for the church schools as possible, and to hold down the public schools as much as possible; that is the fact, and any denial of that fact is propaganda, and a part of the game.

So when you travel from city to city, and from state to state, as I have done, you find that the Catholics are everywhere claiming what is “right”; but that “right” is never the same in two places. It varies according to one simple formula—it is always a little bit more than the Catholics are getting in that place. In Italy, Catholic 343“right” demands that the Pope shall be the civil ruler of the papal state, including the city of Rome, and that there shall be no schools except church schools. Catholic “right” requires this latter in South American countries also. In cities of the United States where the Catholic vote is large, Catholic “right” demands that church schools be supported out of public taxes. In California, which is not Catholic, “right” is somewhat less than this—merely that the state should furnish free text books for the Catholic schools. In order to get this concession, the Catholic lobbyists made a deal with the Y. M. C. A., agreeing to help the “Y,” which thought it had a “right” to be released from having to pay taxes on its property![L]

L. Franklin Hichborn: “Legislative Bulletin,” April 21, 1917.

Archbishop Dowling tells me that the Catholic “finds that the secular State which is founded on liberty is, after all, not such a bad sort.” But then I go to my Catholic documents once more, and I note that only a few years ago the most beloved of modern Catholic popes, Leo XIII, sent an Encyclical to the most beloved of American Catholic prelates, Cardinal Gibbons, dealing with that dangerous and wicked thing known as “Americanism,” and insisting that the growth of the church in America must not be attributed to the excellence of America and American institutions, but solely to the peculiar divine excellence of the church. What the beloved Leo thought of our American scheme of separation of Church and State, with a fair field and no favor for all religions, he set forth in his Encyclical “Immortale Dei,” dated 1885; denouncing as one of the products of “unbridled license” the theory that the State is “not obliged to make public profession of any one religion, but on the contrary is bound to grant equal rights to every creed.” And lest any “practical” American archbishop should try to do funny work with that sentence, he went on to nail the doctrine down; declaring “that it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties, or to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion; that the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one’s thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favor and support.”

344I could go on for chapters, exposing such inconsistencies between the divinely revealed papal doctrines, and the propaganda of the “practical church administrator.” But the thing you are really interested in is what I have shown you in Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco—the Catholic hierarchy building a whole school system to replace the public schools; and at the same time electing to the public school boards of these cities Catholic ladies and gentlemen who omit to develop the building programs of the public schools, and when the people persist in voting the money, refuse to spend the money and have the buildings constructed.


One more important question we have to consider: What is Catholic education? Here again we find two aspects of the problem—first, the doctrines of the church, and second, their “practical” application to American life.

When Catholic priests and Catholic sisters teach the multiplication-table, they teach the same multiplication-table as the public schools. When they teach chemistry, they teach the same formulas as the public schools. When they teach astronomy, they teach that the earth is positively known to move round the sun. But when they teach the history of astronomy, they have to call upon their subtle casuists, and get round the fact that their infallible popes infallibly decreed that the sun moves round the earth, and caused the imprisonment of Galileo in a dungeon for having taught the devilish Copernican heresy.

During my last year in the New York public schools I had an Irish Catholic gentleman for my teacher. I never had a better teacher, and wouldn’t want one; he was efficient, and at the same time human and jolly. He discovered that it was possible to let us talk to him and ask him questions without the formality of raising our hands. He would let us argue and “scrap” with him, and he evolved a most delightful method of discipline for boys who did not pay attention—he would let fly a piece of chalk at their heads. I learned more from him in one 345year than I learned from some other teachers in two; so I have a kindly spot in my heart for Irish Catholic teachers.

But then I went on to college, and here it was quite different; for I was not studying spelling and geography and arithmetic, about which all the world agrees; I was studying history and philosophy and literature, about which Catholics differ from everybody else. I was studying at a public college, run by Tammany Hall, and many of the professors were Catholics; later on, when the college moved up to its new buildings, they took most of its staff from Fordham College, a Catholic institution, and without any examinations or preliminaries.

I had as my Latin teacher Professor Charles G. Herberman, editor of the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” and a captain of the Society of Jesus. He was a great Latin scholar, but a despot as well as a bigot; and when he wandered from the subject, which he did frequently, he supported every obscurantist idea in the world. My philosophy teacher, John J. McNulty, taught me the intellectual cob-web spinning of all the ages. Naturally, he could not have taught me a philosophy of evolution, or a philosophy of common-sense, such as pragmatism. I spent my entire time in his classes marveling that no one of the world’s great philosophers had ever thought of relating metaphysical theories to the plain facts of life which everybody knows and lives by; I would try to pin Professor McNulty down on this point, only to find that he couldn’t understand what I meant.

And then Professor George E. Hardy, who taught us English, according to the New York “Sun” and Tammany Hall. I have told about him in “The Goose-step”—how he made us learn and recite Catholic poetry, and taught us that Milton was a narrow bigot and Chaucer not a Wyckliffite. I didn’t know what a Wyckliffite was, but I understand now that he was the Bolshevik of the fourteenth century—a creature so wicked that it wasn’t safe for you to know about him, for fear you might come to agree with him!

Now, manifestly the education which these Catholic gentlemen tried to give me was absurd; and if they had tried to give me education in biology, or in sociology, or in history, it would have been equally absurd. To the 346Catholic Church the entire development of modern thought is a kind of malignant tumor upon the human race. This again is something about which there can be no argument—there simply is not in the Catholic system any place for the secular state, or for rationalism, or for evolution, or for democracy; I could give a long list of other impossibilities—but instead I invite you to study a book by the leading literary Catholic of England, Hilaire Belloc. I don’t think I exaggerate in saying that Belloc is the one living Catholic man of letters who has managed to achieve a first-rate position in English letters. And here he writes a big book, “Europe and the Faith,” working out in detail the exact point of view which I have just set forth.

He begins by telling us that he is the only real historian, he is the only one who can in the deep and mystic sense know his subject, because he has the Faith; all those who have not the Faith are outsiders and predestined to error. According to this Faith, Mr. Belloc knows that Rome is the source of European civilization, Rome created the Eternal Empire—from Scotland to the Sahara, and from Syria to Spain. All was going well with this Eternal Empire until the lust and greed of King Henry VIII of England led him upon a path of crime; England turned traitor to the great European Empire—and as a result of that came all the monstrosities and abnormalities of the last four hundred years, Protestantism, Capitalism, Industrialism, Atheism, Pessimism, Imperialism, and the World War.

Such is Catholic history; and Catholic biology and Catholic sociology and Catholic philosophy and Catholic literature will be things equally and inevitably as remote from reality. When you go into Catholic colleges you will find such fantasticalities being taught, you will find all knowledge being distorted to fit the Catholic theories and sustain the Catholic Faith. One illustration—in Milwaukee the Catholic archbishop objected to a pageant of the Pilgrims being given by the Milwaukee school children, because it was said that the Pilgrim Fathers came to this country in search of religious liberty; the archbishop forced the change of the word “religious” to “political”! You will find everything thus taught from the point of view of the Faith—or else not taught at all. For what 347does it really matter? Our stay on this earth is brief, and so long as our souls are saved, why care what becomes of our minds? Says the Milwaukee “Catholic Citizen” of July 15, 1922: “One would imagine that devotional books are the chief output of our Catholic publishing houses—ten new books of devotion to one of history or biography.”

What are the standards of the Catholic parochial schools? This again is something which follows from the premises already stated. Mr. Franklin Hichborn, one of the most careful of social investigators, tells me that he has been collecting data on the effect of the parochial schools upon the public school system, in a town of six thousand inhabitants. This material has not yet been published, but Mr. Hichborn gives me a summary:

I found that the dual school system is most demoralizing. It increases the difficulties of the truant officer, and is a drag upon progressive school policies. Furthermore, I found that children who started in the parochial school were from two to five years behind when they entered the public schools. Or, to put it another way, children from the parochial school, who left such school at the age of ten, for example, were qualified for public school grades where the ages of the children were eight or even seven years. Children leaving the parochial school at the age of sixteen entered public school grades where the age of the students was nine or ten. I have this information with the names, dates and grades, and covering a number of years.

In America the Catholic Church has to build and run schools, because they have the competition of the public schools to meet; but there are other countries in which they do not have this competition, and there we may see what the Church would do with education if it had its own way. I will give you a few of the statistics of illiteracy throughout the world, and to make the contrast vivid I will give first a Protestant country, and then a Catholic country—and see if you can tell which is which! The percentages, taken from the U. S. Census of 1920, are as follows: U. S. A., 6; Argentina, 54; Canada, 11; Brazil, 85; Australia, 1.8; Bolivia, 82; Holland, .08; Chili, 49; England, 1.8; Colombia, 73; Denmark, .2; Hungary, 33; Scotland, 1.6; Mexico, 70; Sweden, .2; Portugal, 68; Germany, .05; Spain, 58; Switzerland, .3; Italy, 37. It seems to me these figures cover the case.

The main basis of the Catholic attack upon the American 348public schools is that they are “godless”; the children come out without religion and without morality. But then you go to the juvenile courts, and what do you find? Judge Collins of the Juvenile Court in New York City, addressing a meeting of Catholics at St. Charles Borromeo Church, reports 145,000 cases brought up each year in the children’s court, 60% of them Catholic, 30% Jewish, and the remaining 10% of other faiths; 65% of the boys in the reformatories are Catholic—and this in a city whose population is 25% Catholic. According to the Department of Correction of New York, there were 23,539 Catholics in New York jails, as against 9,278 non-Catholics. On the other side of the continent, in San Francisco, I find a tabulation of the inmates of the state prison; 76% of these are from Catholic schools, brought up in the Catholic faith, yet the Catholics have less than 20% of the population of California.

I close this subject with one glimpse of what might be called Catholic adult education. In some parts of our country the church has become so powerful that the capitalist press has taken to publishing Catholic propaganda; I have before me a specimen of such propaganda, cut from the Boston “Post” of July 25, 1921:

Special Blessing from Patron Saint of Motorists

Some 2000 autoists—chaffeurs and car owners—thronged St. Leonard of Port Maurice Church, Prince Street, North End, yesterday to receive special blessing and obtain a St. Christopher medal, bearing the picture of the patron saint of automobilists—the charm against motor accidents and death.

The story spread over two columns, describes the “solemn high mass and adoration of the St. Christopher relic,” and the “eloquent sermon” preached by the Reverend Christopher Burzi, who told all the legends concerning the saint, and how this particular feast had been ordered by Pope Pius X. “At the conclusion of the mass the relic of the saint encased in glass was brought to the altar rail, where the congregation gathered to kiss the sacred relic.”

Here we have what we may describe as an adult vocational course of the parochial schools. In the “godless” public schools, you must realize, there are night classes 349where men painfully acquire knowledge of the proper handling of automobiles; but under this Catholic system all these tiresome details become superfluous, and men avoid automobile accidents by kissing the bones of a saint and purchasing magic medallions—“one a pocket charm, and the other a sterling silver plate that can be attached to the car itself.”


We are now familiar with the principal agencies which have taken over our education upon a national scale. In addition to these, each community has its local interests, which may be small from a national standpoint, but are big enough to block the vision of a school board. Wherever capitalist industry exists in America, in towns or villages or country districts, that industry dominates the schools. There are whole counties, hundreds of them scattered over the United States, which are feudal domains of great corporations. In cases where these corporations own the land and the homes of the workers, as in the coal towns of West Virginia and Colorado, the corporations support the schools, and the teachers are the least competent and poorest paid of their clerks. In cases where other landlords have a chance to exploit the workers, the burden of the schools falls upon the tax-payers—with the great corporations dodging their taxes.

I talked the other day with a teacher from Benicia, California, a “tannery town.” A school board member, elected to serve the people, got the idea that the tannery was not paying its proper share of taxes, and he brought an expert from the city to get the facts. The firm was assessed on a quarter of a million dollars, and should have been assessed on two millions. This same school board member belonged to the city council, and brought the matter up before that body, which decided to do nothing. Of course the schools were starved, and sometimes the teachers did not get their salaries at all. Again, I talked with a gentleman from Wisconsin, whose father was an engineer. A lumber company wanted his services, but could not afford to pay what he was worth, so they 350decided to give him an extra salary, and ordered the secretary of the school board to resign!

I talked with a teacher who had taught in several of the coal towns of Southern Illinois; the invariable condition is wretched schools, with the vast wealth of the corporations untaxed. The miners who attempt to control their own schools are browbeaten or tricked. The mines invariably work on school election days; the club women turn out with their automobiles, and bring the voters to the polls—those who will vote the business men’s ticket. By the time the miners get out of the pits the polls are closed, so the miners’ candidates are not elected. At Eldorado, Illinois, the organized miners endeavored to put up a ticket, and the clerk of the school board lied to them as to the date for the filing of petitions.

For a detailed study of what industrial feudalism does to education, I propose that we investigate Judge Gary and his Steel Trust. In Pittsburgh, I talked with a reporter on one of the newspapers, who had been watching school conditions for twenty years. Here is a whole county entirely dominated by steel; you cannot hold meetings without permission of the police, which means that if you are a labor organizer you do not hold them at all. The valley is a solid line of “steel-towns,” and in one of them, McKeesport, representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union duplicated my experience at San Pedro—they were arrested for reading the Constitution of the United States on private property.

The Pittsburgh schools of course are run by the steel interests; the president of the board is David B. Oliver, eighty-five year old steel magnate. The people have nothing to do with the matter, because the school board is named by the judges of the county, and this board levies taxes as it sees fit, and spends the money on its friends. A Pittsburgh physician writes me: “The offices of the board are palatial, the staff of clerks legion, the extra teachers unnumbered, and the equipment of paper and materials would keep any supply-house wreathed in smiles.” He goes on to add that the present superintendent draws a salary of $12,000 a year, with automobile, chauffeur, and upkeep of car; “he is rumored to be on speaking terms, at least, with a book-publishing house.”

But that is a lot better than what Pittsburgh had ten 351years ago—a superintendent who represented a school-book house in St. Paul, and spent the rest of his time seducing his girl pupils; it was proved in court that he had had a criminal operation performed on one of them. My reporter friend had dug up four cases of rape by this superintendent in his own office, and the affidavits were presented to the grand jury. The school children went on strike against their superintendent, and finally he was tried, and the jury disagreed. Juries in Allegheny County agree only with steel officials.

In the slum neighborhoods of Pittsburgh you find atrociously crowded schools, in wretched buildings, some of them made of corrugated iron; in the rich districts you find palatial high schools. The system is run on a basis of political pull; good teachers are shifted, so that the sisters of ward-heelers may get promotion. When parents venture to complain they are insulted—especially if they are poor. There is a political machine even of the doctors; the favorites of the board of health get the jobs of vaccinating in the schools.

Further down the valley is Homestead, from which the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching derives its millions. You will appreciate the gay humor of this situation—in the schools of Homestead the steel-slaves are drinking water from the Monongahela River, into which various industrial plants discharge their acids. When complaint was made about this water in Homestead, the newspapers saw an opportunity to be witty, and assured the public that the water needed no filtering—the acids would kill the bacteria! I am assured that, owing to the effect of these acids, the plumbing in the homesteads of Homestead wears out in one-third the normal time; and this suggests the subject for an important scientific monograph—I see it in my mind’s eye, catalogued in Carnegie libraries throughout the United States and Great Britain: “The Internal Plumbing of Pupils; a Study of the Stimulation Effects of Sulphuric and Nitric Acids on the Renal Canals of One Thousand School Children at Homestead, Pennsylvania. By A. Learned Phaque, A.M., Ph.D., T.O.A.D.Y.; Bulletin of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, No. 4-11-44.”

Come to Northern Minnesota, and see what the Steel 352Trust does to the shipping port of its vast ore fields. I have before me a copy of the Duluth “Rip-Saw,” containing a detailed account of the activities of school board members who have had charge of teachers’ pension money, and have been lending it out for their private graft. One board member was an insurance agent, and if he loaned you the teachers’ money, you had to place your insurance with him. Needless to say, along with this go accounts of the humiliating of teachers, the beating down of wages, and the driving out of those with liberal sympathies. Judge Gary, of course, would say that he has nothing to do with all this; all that he does is to put up the campaign funds to keep such gangs in office.

Again, Lorain, Ohio, a port on Lake Erie, headquarters of one of the Steel Trust subsidiaries, the National Tube Company. Here are forty thousand people, most of them wage-slaves, and recently they elected a mayor who made an effort to serve them, and was smashed by the Black Hand. On the school system of Lorain the people have been unable to make any impression whatever. The house agent of the National Tube Company, a sort of watch-dog against the radical element in the mills, occupies the same post on the school board. The president of the board is a dentist and bank director, a high-up Mason and pillar of the Lutheran church; he rolls down-town in his big limousine, and lives “on the Avenue” in a large residence, which is taxed less than the small cottage of a machinist. Another member is a jeweler and bank director, a pillar of the Congregational church, who sees to it that the works of Scott Nearing, Jack London, Bernard Shaw and Upton Sinclair are kept out of the Carnegie library. The other members are a bank teller and a very intolerant ex-teacher, both devout Methodists.

As superintendent this board has had for ten years a perfect autocrat, who finds opportunity for many financial activities on the side. He is a typical small-town mind, and excludes from the system all teachers whose minds are bigger. The two most popular teachers in the system were driven out because their parents happened to be Socialists. A high school teacher, who had been on the faculty for twelve years, was charged with “refusing to do team work”—the real reason being that he attended 353labor meetings and tried to help the workers. When he was fired, a petition was presented, signed by every student in his class—except one, whose father was manager of the Chamber of Commerce. The fight was carried to the school board elections, but to no purpose, and this teacher left town.

There must be “no politics” in Lorain school affairs, the board solemnly ordains; but four years ago, when the ring was kicked out of the city hall, the school board hastened to make a job for one ring member. A working-boy was a minute or two late because a draw-bridge which he had to cross was swung open; he was punished for this, and on the second offense was threatened with loss of his grades. The son of a big bank director and promoter was found smoking cigarettes in the high school building, the punishment for which is expulsion, but the young man graduated three months later. These are petty details, and I only cite them because they are typical of a thousand school systems in small towns. Lorain would tell you that its schools are “progressive,” and would mention the beveled glass mirrors in the new high school, costing ninety-five dollars a piece. Its educators stand high—the superintendent got his enamel finish under Nicholas Miraculous last summer, and the high school principal did the same thing the year before, and other members of the faculty have done it or intend to. Superintendent Boone is a director of the Chamber of Commerce and of the Y. M. C. A., a Mason and a Kiwani, and when he came back from his course in “school management” at Columbia, he showed what he had learned by joining the Elks!


So much for what steel does to schools; let us now see what oil does. Our journey of inspection will be under the escort of a rare high school teacher—one who is willing to tell his experiences over his own signature. Mr. David H. Pierce specializes in sociology, and at present is teaching hygiene and Spanish at a high school in Ohio. Two or three years ago he accepted a position as principal 354of a high school in the oil country of West Virginia. The town of Littleton, containing about seven hundred inhabitants, is spread along a valley, sharing it with a creek, a mud road, and a railroad; as far as the eye can see in every direction the hillsides have sprouted oil derricks. Mr. Pierce went there because he was tired of the “rigid” school system of New York state, and was told that in West Virginia things were more free. He found a commodious brick high school, and felt much encouraged—until the first faculty meeting, when the district superintendent stated: “There are two boys in your senior class who must pass regardless of their work. They have never been known to work in school and never will, but they come from a good family and must graduate.”

Mr. Pierce was supposed to be the principal of the school, but the superintendent hadn’t much else to do, and made his headquarters in the building. Mr. Pierce describes him as “a kindly gentleman, a good husband and father”; he let his teachers alone, except when it became necessary to protect his own position, by pleasing the aristocracy of Littleton. He would say to a student who was deficient in half a year of algebra: “Work six cases of factoring, and it will be satisfactory.” To a girl who had failed to take a year of high school mathematics he would suggest: “Go down and observe the class in eighth grade arithmetic a few times.”

The faculty spent several hours working out a schedule of classes, and the school ran for three weeks, when news came that a prominent athlete, desired for the basket-ball team, was to be admitted to school. He was employed in the mornings at outside work, so it was necessary to arrange three afternoon classes for this young athlete. As this conflicted with the schedule of the school, Mr. Pierce suggested that the boy should spend his entire day in school, in order to secure the fifteen hours per week of class work. The superintendent’s reply was that this could not be required, because the lad’s father was president of the school board; the old schedule must be destroyed and a new one arranged. Immediately after this had been done, the boy changed his mind and decided he would not come to school. The athletic coach spent a month persuading him, then he concluded to come to school for the entire day. When Mr. Pierce had occasion 355to admonish this young man for truancy, he retorted: “Ah, what the hell difference does it make? I’ve been guaranteed graduation a year from June.” Says Mr. Pierce:

In many cases the athlete runs the school. I heard of one who told a school superintendent to “go to hell” and was given one day’s suspension. I have known of others to engage in physical combat with instructors, with no ill results to their scholastic position. They are privileged characters. They obey only those rules which they desire. Being assured of a coterie of hero-worshipers in the community, they live in no terror of penalties or punishments. It would be as much as a principal’s or teacher’s place is worth if he or she dared to prevent a boy from taking part in an important game. This is no exaggeration. It is a fact. To put it mildly, a teacher in many a small West Virginia high school who attempted honestly to enforce the rules laid down by the State High School Athletic Association would be blacklisted. He would suffer indignities. Littleton High School was of this sort, and the villagers of Littleton wanted teams that could win.

I have shown in “The Goose-step” how the coaches and the athletic alumni run the colleges, and here in this high school of the oil country we find the same phenomenon. Mr. Pierce’s year in Littleton was one long struggle, because he would not permit mid-week basket-ball games, which drew a large part of the students from their work. The coach of the basket-ball team was a junior high school teacher, and he advised Mr. Pierce that “It ain’t the way we do them things in this section.” He proceeded to give instructions to the girls’ basket-ball team:

Girls, you’ll be up against a stiff team tonight. Go in and foul for all you’re worth. Remember if you are fouled by the referee, and the opponents make a goal it counts one point. If the opposing team is given room to shoot from the open floor, every basket they make counts two.

The team proceeded to follow this advice. The referee was one of their own students, and because of foul play Mr. Pierce went down on the floor and stopped the game and ordered the referee from the floor. The crowd was raving, and for several days the town debated whether or not the principal should be dismissed from the high school. There was a meeting in honor of the coach, and his admirers presented him with a fountain pen, and he made them a speech:


Fellows, maybe it ain’t right, but I’ve got to tell you what was told me by a man that saw you play. He said “Christ, but you’ve a hell of a good team,” and I agree with him. You fellows have been there with the goods.

This oil town was extremely religious. Mr. Pierce provided some of his students with copies of the “Survey,” but the paper was thrown out of the homes by two parents, who were afraid it would interfere with the children’s religion. Mr. Pierce taught at the Methodist Sunday school, but at his boarding house he ventured to question the existence of a future life, and so the word spread that he was an “atheist,” and he found on his school blackboard the announcement: “Reverend Pierce will lecture on ‘No Heaven, No Hell.’” A gentleman was appointed to spy upon his Sunday school class, to discover what he was teaching. A preacher devoted two-thirds of his sermon to the glories of basket-ball, and closed with an earnest prayer for victory in the approaching game. Dancing and card playing were barred. The town’s idea of diversion was to tie one end of a rope to a switch engine and the other end to somebody’s front porch.

A part of Mr. Pierce’s story was published in an article in the “Survey,” entitled “A Village School,” April 23, 1921. Mr. Pierce was then teaching in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and the superintendent of Littleton wrote to him, threatening to “beat him up.” The superintendent sent this threat through the mail, and thereby laid himself liable to several years’ imprisonment; but Mr. Pierce, being, like myself, an amiable muckraker, forebore to press the point. Besides, he had new troubles in Clarksburg; the high school team won a debate favoring government control of railroads, and this so frightened the principal that “he spent ten minutes notifying the entire assembly that debates do not mean anything, and the decision was not to be taken seriously.” Mr. Pierce continues:

Upon another occasion, he advised me not to discuss the coal strike in my class, or at least to show no sympathy for organized labor, because he asserted that ninety per cent of my students were children of coal miners who belonged to unions, and they would be inclined to be aroused too much. Upon another occasion, he entered my class casually, when I was discussing some of the advantages of government control of railroads, and he told the class that the movement for government control was Bolshevistic. I was using, at that time, New York 357state as an example, in trying to show what saving could be made, if, for example, the Erie Railroad was used for passenger service and the Lackawanna for freight. Of course, I had to defend myself from the accusation of Bolshevism, but as we were personally friendly (in fact, I was a roomer at his house), he did not carry the case up at all.

That indicates at least one way for a liberal to keep his job in a high school!


We have had glimpses of rural school conditions in the far West. Let us glance at the wheat country. From the point of view of politics and education the Dakotas are a back-yard of Minneapolis and St. Paul, being governed by the railroads and banks and chambers of commerce of these cities. The farmers made a desperate effort to free themselves by their Nonpartisan League, and the story of their ten years’ struggle to control their schools is most illuminating.

The Nonpartisan League was strong in the country districts, while the gang still held the towns; so their legislature put through a measure taking control of city schools away from the state; after which the gang proceeded to dump overboard all city teachers who belonged to the League, or who ventured to speak in its support. “The Reds have taken the schools,” was the cry; and in cases where the Nonpartisan League appointed principals or heads of state institutions, the students were incited to strike against these officers. The Teachers’ Union was forced to disband in Fargo, and in the State Agricultural College a teacher who became secretary of the Teachers’ Union was refused the increase of salary to which she was legally entitled.

By methods such as these the gang managed to hold on in North Dakota; they were sure the political tide would turn, and it did. The Federal Reserve Board “deflated” the farmers, and the price of wheat dropped to less than half the cost of producing it; when I was in North Dakota, in 1922, there were counties of the state in which every farm was being sold for taxes. In four months during 1923 over seventy small banks went to the wall, 358and two hundred others were in trouble. The Nonpartisan League program included state-owned mills and elevators, and these half-completed enterprises of course were useless. The League was without funds—the bankers saw to that, by calling the loans of farmers who paid their dues. So the gang came back, and they put out MacDonald, the League superintendent of schools—not content with that, they hounded him literally to his death. A friend of his writes me:

Wherever he secured a position, he was followed by his North Dakota enemies. The new superintendent and the new director of vocational training prepared letters and bulletins denouncing him; they sent these to his students and the officers under whom he worked, and this would be continued until he was dismissed. As soon as he would get a new job and they would get him located, they would repeat.

The gang put in as its new superintendent a political woman, Miss Neilson, president of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, an organization controlled by the Black Hand, in North Dakota as in Los Angeles. Miss Neilson is not a graduate of any college, normal school or high school; under the law she was ineligible to the position, but the courts very kindly held this law unconstitutional. The uneducated lady now has absolute control of the teachers of North Dakota, and can and does withhold certificates from her political opponents. They have set up a system of “grading” schools, a purely political scheme to strengthen the control of the gang; they have four politicians as “school inspectors,” and the standards on which the grading is done are wholly artificial, having no relationship to merit. If the schools stand in with the gang, the pupils from those schools do not have to pass examinations to enter the higher state institutions, or to secure positions from the gang.

The text-book graft is back again; and also the banker-graft. There are quarter sections of land belonging to the bankers, and these have been left out of the school districts, so that they do not have to pay school taxes. The law requires the banks to pay interest on school money, but the bankers handle that matter by the simple device of naming the school treasurer and keeping the books for him—and incidentally keeping the interest! In the county where my friend Smith was superintendent, the school 359treasurer was threatened that if he made trouble he would have to pay up his own note at the bank; and when Mr. Smith persisted in making trouble, the banker came in a fury, demanding: “What’s this?”

Mr. Smith told me also about the graft in building jobs—the biggest of all. Mr. Smith had to see to putting up school buildings, and was told to charge as much as the other counties were paying, otherwise the money would not be allowed him. When he refused to do this, they passed a law compelling him to do it! He put up a building 42 by 54, with a full basement, for $3,700; while for the same building other counties were paying from nine to ten thousand dollars. But in spite of such public services, Mr. Smith never had a safe majority in the county—he had against him the bankers’ machine and the bankers’ newspapers, and the vote of the towns, whose people depended for their jobs upon the bankers, and for their ideas upon the bankers’ newspapers. Imagine the political conditions in a community where a man, hoping to get back into the educational field, dares not permit me to relate these incidents in connection with his real name!

These conditions prevail wherever the farmer movement has been active. In South Dakota the Nonpartisan League was never able to carry the state; but it is growing, and the gang has been frantic to stamp it out of the schools. At the Madison State Normal School there were several teachers who made so bold as to declare their sympathy with the League. In 1920 one of these teachers, Mrs. Anna Mae Brady, was unceremoniously kicked out by the president, and a prominent Republican politician stated as the reason her sympathy with the League. But realizing that this wouldn’t look well as a campaign issue, President Higbie discovered that Mrs. Brady had been giving lectures at teachers’ institutes in other counties. Mrs. Brady had been doing this for eight years, and it was a custom of teachers throughout the state. But the president had nothing more to say, and when Mrs. Brady demanded a hearing before the board of regents, they graciously permitted her to come and speak, but professed to know nothing about the matter, and refused to summon President Higbie and permit Mrs. Brady to question him. Another teacher, Miss Alice L. Daly, handed in her resignation in protest, and stated that the political machine of 360the state, and powerful financial interests outside the state, were running South Dakota education. The answer of President Higbie to this protest was to drop three more teachers who were sympathetic to the League.

Also in Idaho the farmer movement is becoming powerful, and the interests have been hard put to it. In Boise they have a beautiful new high school, with a big auditorium, and the school board had made the rule that under no circumstances was it to be open for political gatherings. But it happened that at the close of the 1922 campaign, the radical candidate for governor secured the big opera house; the gang wished to offer a counter attraction, and there was no hall big enough for their purposes. So the school board met and rescinded their resolution, and the Republican party held a meeting in the high school auditorium, addressed by the Republican governor. Next day the school board met again, and restored the rule forbidding political gatherings in the public schools of Boise! Laws made to order, so to speak!

Let us take the country districts of California, from which you get most of your fruits, canned and dried. I have notes of the misadventures of many California teachers; apparently the habit of breaking the law is universal among school boards and superintendents of this state. In Bishop the principal of the high school drops teachers contrary to law, and when they resort to the courts he solves the problem by eliminating the courses of study taught by these teachers. In Calexico the courts refused to enforce the law regarding teachers’ tenure. In Santa Cruz the board of education has set aside the state law providing equal pay for equal work as between men and women. They have a school principal who for a trivial offense whipped two little boys so severely that they had to have medical attention. This also was against the law, but the board paid no heed to the petitions of the parents. Mrs. Josephine Tyler, who writes about this matter, states:

I secured one letter from a former resident of Santa Cruz, who had taken her adopted daughter out of school because of insulting treatment from Forsyth. I gave this letter to the president of the board to read, and, after reading it, he remarked, “I believe the man is crazy.” But he didn’t advocate his removal. He asked permission to show the letter to other members of the board, and I granted his request, after securing his promise to return the letter to me. I afterwards learned that some members 361of the board were very loath to return the letter to me, and I heard only recently that there is still some apprehension concerning that letter.... Forsyth holds his job because he stands in with and is a good propagandist tool of the lodges and the banking and business interests.

Or take the strange experience of the teachers at Fresno, the place from which you get your raisins. Up to recently the schools in Fresno had a superintendent by the name of Cross; he used to run the high school in Pasadena, and we played tennis together, and took pleasure in licking the school champions. I never observed in Mr. Cross any failure of manners on the tennis court, so I long for the day when we apply inside our schools the same standards as on the play-grounds outside. When Mr. Cross came to Fresno the sanitary conditions in the schools were “shocking,” and he so reported them; but next year one of the teachers ventured to make a report, showing that conditions in her school were still more “shocking,” and Mr. Cross resented the meddling of teachers in such affairs. This teacher was persecuted until she resigned, and the result was the forming of a teachers’ union in Fresno. Miss Verna Carson became the president of this union, and one of the board members told her that “the business men of this town are getting tired of having you going around through the state and organizing other locals.” In June of that year Superintendent Cross dropped Miss Carson, and when the teachers made protest, he declared his attitude to organized teachers: there was no use trying to deal with them by conference—“a base-ball bat or a gatling-gun is needed.” That was the kind of talk the Chamber of Commerce wanted, and they rallied to their superintendent’s support, and gave him a raise of a thousand dollars. When pushed by friends of Miss Carson, Mr. Cross finally gave a reason for her dismissal, “professional incapacity.” Miss Carson, being unable to get a hearing, proceeded to bring a libel suit, and Mr. Cross on the witness stand was invited to state what acts of “professional incapacity” she had committed. He could not give any, so he was adjudged guilty of libel, and obliged to pay the costs of the suit, and at the end of the year to resign from his position. This is one of the pleasantest school stories I have to tell, and I wish that teachers would make note of it and do likewise.



So far our attention has been given to the public schools. There is another large field of education, at which we can only stop for a glance—the private schools. There are over two thousand private high schools and academies in the United States, with two or three hundred thousand students; and apart from parochial and a few experimental schools, these institutions are maintained by the rich for the purpose of giving their children a class education. Some of them are large and wealthy, with endowments running into the millions; when we glance at their boards of control we are reminded of the interlocking directorates of “The Goose-step.”

For example, here is Phillips Exeter, a hundred and forty-two years old; in control we find Mr. Thomas W. Lamont, partner in the firm of J. P. Morgan and Company, director of the Guaranty Trust Company, overseer of Harvard University, trustee of Smith College, and director of the Crowell Publishing Company, which gives us that lovely “American Magazine” about which you may read in “The Brass Check.” Also Colonel William Boyce Thompson, mining magnate and Republican party chief; also Mr. George A. Plimpton, trustee of Amherst College, who has just helped to kick out its liberal president, and senior partner of Ginn and Company, who run Clark University and Clark College for the benefit of the Frye-Atwood geographies.

Also there is Phillips Andover, a hundred and forty-five years old, having at the head of its board a Boston bank president, interlocked with Yale University; as board members a clergyman, interlocked by marriage with the Boston Lowells, who are even more exclusive than the Boston banks; also a New York corporation lawyer, who ran our war department under Taft. At Hotchkiss we find the president of a trust company and a dean of Yale; a partner in a stock exchange firm, who is also treasurer of Yale; and a president of a bank, vice-president of a trust company and of the American Brass Company, director of a life insurance company and a trustee of Trinity College. At Groton we find as secretary the chairman 363of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, interlocked with Barnard College and Nicholas Miraculous; also a member of the firm of Lee, Higginson & Company, the Boston bankers, interlocked with the University of Lee-Higginson, popularly known as Harvard; also two representatives of the Episcopal department of God, Mammon & Company.

At St. Paul’s we find the New Hampshire bishop and two other members of this same aristocratic firm, one of them interlocked with Yale; also a Baltimore copper magnate, interlocked with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Johns Hopkins University; also a carpet manufacturer; a Republican politician of Boston; a Philadelphia lawyer, who is president of a bank and two railroads, director in four railroads, a trust company, an electrical company and an asphalt company; and finally, a real sure-enough, honest-to-goodness, cross-my-heart-and-swear-it English lord! At St. Marks we have the same bishop as at Groton, and two other representatives of the firm; also a cotton goods merchant interlocked with Boston Edison and Massachusetts Gas, the invisible government of Harvard; also a president of several manufacturing companies, who is vice-president of a railroad; one of the Choates, who directs railroads, banks and life insurance in New York; and finally “Jim” Wadsworth, senator and Republican boss of New York state, whose father I had the pleasure of putting out of politics some eighteen years ago. (See “The Brass Check,” page 45.)

The Lawrenceville School, a magnificent institution located five miles from Princeton, has on its board of trustees President John Grier Hibben of Princeton, one of our leading clerical militarists; also a New York banker who directs much foreign exploitation; also a bank president who directs insurance. At Lawrenceville they had a head master who was liberal, or at least human; he died recently, and the plutocratic alumni came, offering to raise a few millions, on condition that they should name the head master. They brought in the very successful coach of the Yale rowing crew; incidentally he was professor of Latin, but that is hardly worth mentioning in comparison. Because of his services in beating the Harvard crew, Yale gave him the degree of M.A., honoris causa—the same as they had extended to Jane Addams! This 364rowing gentleman proceeded to coach Lawrenceville under the new Prussian spy system, with the result of a faculty explosion too unsavory to be detailed in this book.

These schools of snobbery are scattered all over New England and the eastern states. They are training grounds for the athletic teams of the big universities, also for the university fraternities, so that social strivings and jealousies make up a good part of their student life. Admission to the more exclusive of them is an hereditary privilege; if you belong to the right families, your children and grandchildren are booked when they are born. Needless to say, the plutocratic psychology of these schools is never offended by the least breath of liberalism. In place of ideas, the boys are furnished with golf courses, motor cars, saddle-horses, boot-leggers, and all other comforts of home.

You have heard of Roger W. Babson, who sends out bulletins to keep the rich informed as to the progress of social revolution. Mr. Babson deals also in plutocratic education; conducting at Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, the Babson Institute, where thirty sons of the plutocracy are trained to be magnates, at two thousand dollars per magnate per year—room and meals not included! The Babson Institute also undertakes to educate your employes, furnishing you with magic circulars to be put in their pay envelopes. I have seen some of this magic; Mr. Babson asks the wage-slaves: “What is the law of capitalism?” and answers, in capital letters: “The law of capitalism is that wealth saved in production should be honored and respected.” I wonder what Mr. Babson tells his thirty budding magnates to answer when their wage-slaves ask concerning wealth which has been stolen in corruption.

Of course there are private schools which are less expensive, and less plutocratically correct. They descend in a sliding scale, until you come to places which only a Dickens could describe. Society ladies enjoying life in Reno or Paris, captains of industry who are sent to Congress or to jail, want some place where they can stow their children out of the way. Professor William Ellery Leonard was once a master in one of these places, up in New York state, and told me vivid tales about the hordes of young savages, and how, for trying to enforce 365a little discipline, he incurred such furious enmity that on his last night in the school he had to barricade himself in his room and defend his life with a baseball bat!

I know a lady who, in order to get an education for her only son, accepted a position as “house-mother” in another of these private hells, and found herself housed in a room with fungus on the walls and on the floor the overflow from an adjoining urinal. Everywhere the toilets were overflowing and the floors covered with filth, the cooking atrocious, the boys ill with indigestion, colds and sore throats, no infirmary or provision for the sick, and among the hundred and fifteen boys a general prevalence of smoking and wine-drinking, and practice of self-abuse so general that many of the boys were mentally helpless—a lad would sit in class “with dropped jaw and staring eyes, or with nervous spasms which furnished entertainment for the other boys.”

I talked with a group of young masters at one of the older and more reputable of these “schools of snobbery.” To show how closely the boys were guarded from modern thought, one of these masters said that he had passed through the school as a pupil, and then gone out into the world and become a bit of a liberal; returning to the school as a master, he had met his former masters, and discovered that they too were liberals. But never a whisper of their ideas had got to him as a pupil, nor are they getting to the pupils now. All the boys’ attention is on wealth, all their standards are those of worldly possessions, and this is what their parents desire and ordain.

I have referred to Phillips Andover; this school is located five miles from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the headquarters of the Woolen Trust, run by William M. Wood, one of our most ruthless labor smashers, who ten years ago was prosecuted for a dynamite frame-up against the strikers in his mills. A group of conspirators, headed by a prominent contractor, placed dynamite in the home of a non-union worker, the intention being that the explosion should be blamed upon the strikers. The contractor who placed the dynamite blew out his brains rather than face an inquiry.

Such is the atmosphere of Lawrence. In 1919 came another great strike, and a group of young Quaker clergymen took the part of the workers. I have told about one 366of these, A. J. Muste, in “The Goose-step.” Among others whose consciences were stirred was Bernard M. Allen, a teacher of Latin in Phillips Andover; he went with a party of twenty-five ladies and gentlemen to attend a meeting of the strikers in Lawrence. The police commissioner had announced that no more “agitators” would be allowed to enter the city, and when these ladies and gentlemen left the railroad station and started to walk across the open square, they were charged by mounted police, and Mr. Allen was severely clubbed over the head. This was the first of a series of unprovoked assaults by the police, in one of which young Muste and another clergyman were driven into a side street and nearly clubbed to death.

As for Mr. Allen, it happened unfortunately that Phillips Andover was beginning a campaign for two million dollars’ endowment. (It had just received half a million dollars from the late Oliver Payne, who had purchased a United States senatorship for his father.) Mr. Allen’s resignation from Phillips Andover was requested and promptly accepted. If I do not tell you many such incidents concerning our schools of snobbery, you may believe that it is because young masters in these schools do not often get themselves clubbed over the head in sympathy for “dagoes” and “wops” on strike.

What these schools are really for was very interestingly shown by a study of class standing in Harvard University, published in the Harvard “Advocate” at the end of the year 1923. Here was a graduating class consisting of 379 men from private schools and 858 from public schools. The study showed that in the eight major athletic teams there were 40 men from these private schools, and only 22 from public schools. All the managers were private school men. As regards class officers, musical and glee clubs, debating teams, dramatic clubs, class day officers, etc., there were 183 private school men, as against 29 from the public schools. But after that came the record on scholarship, and the contrast was amusing: the scholarship honors had been won by 41 from private schools, and 82 from public schools! It is interesting to note that this study was made by a son of Thomas W. Lamont, and I welcome him to the ranks of the “Bolsheviks.”

In New York City I met a well-known writer, who had taught in a private school on Staten Island, and had 367been summoned before the principal for the crime of putting on the blackboard a stanza by Don Marquis, setting forth the idea that discontent is a good thing! I met also a woman teacher from a private school in Brooklyn; this school is located in a Y. M. C. A. building and the Y. Secretary used to come and pray with the students—he prayed that God might give them power to smash the Huns, and power to smash the Bolsheviks, and power to smash many other enemies. These expensive young gentlemen drove to the school in costly motor cars, to which God had given power to smash everything in their way.

In Boston I talked with a teacher in one of the private schools for young ladies, and she described to me the atmosphere in this place. She had got into trouble, by stating that the happiest people are those who earn their own way in life; also for stating that labor should be respected because of its importance. By remarks such as this the teacher occasioned so much resentment that she was never asked to lead in chapel. These girls would not stand the simplest kind remark about working people—not even common humanitarianism.

I talked with another who taught in a girls’ school, where the pupils were advised to avoid hard thinking, because it would spoil their complexions and bring wrinkles and other signs of care. I could make a novel out of the story which this teacher told me about the treatment of a girl whose father had failed in business, and who was trying to pay her way through the school by selling an encyclopedia. The teachers at this place were underpaid and pitiful decayed gentlewomen, who lived starved lives and read sentimental romances; but they did not feel sentimental about a girl who was trying to redeem her family fortunes.

Concerning a school of “secretarial science” in Boston I was told a story which at least has the grace of being funny. Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., a Boston banker, was invited to address the young ladies of this school, and the principal’s speech of introduction ran as follows: “The gentleman whom we have the privilege of hearing is the grandson of William Lloyd Garrison” (dead silence); “he is the nephew of Lucretia Mott” (dead silence); “he is the lightest quarter-back that ever played on the Harvard eleven” (tumultuous applause).

368I am especially informed concerning young ladies’ finishing schools, because of the fact that my wife was sent up from Mississippi to attend one. This school stood on the fashionable part of Fifth Avenue, and in the catalogue you were informed that it adjoined the homes of the Goulds and Vanderbilts, and the pupils had opportunities to meet the multi-millionaires of New York. The pupils used to watch these multi-millionaires and their multi-wives from the windows—hiding behind the curtains, of course, so that they might not be seen. One of these fortunate wives came frequently to call upon the young ladies, bringing her multi-dogs. Helen Gould came once, and it was the same as a court ceremony, the thrills of it lasted for weeks.

The husband of this establishment was an old gentleman with humiliating plebeian tastes; he used to go out every afternoon and disappear around the corner, and come back with a small paper bag, which was a source of fascinated speculation to the young ladies—until finally one of them succeeded in brushing it out of his hand as she passed him on the stairs, and it was discovered to contain a ten-cent apple pie purchased on Third Avenue! My wife thinks I ought not to tell this story, because it is unkind to the old gentleman, who has since died. I hasten to explain that I myself now and then bring home an apple-pie in a paper bag; the point of the story is not that the old gentleman liked pie, but that the young ladies considered his liking it a scandal of first-class proportions. It was only permitted to like expensive things!

My wife came from the far South, and had the prestige which attaches to that region in the world of elegance. It has been written up in romances, you understand; so the mining princesses from Idaho and the cattle kings’ daughters from Wyoming were eager to model themselves upon the gestures and mannerisms of a real daughter of the Confederacy. The teachers at this school were forbidden to correct her Southern dialect; therefore the standard of good English for the “Four Hundred” was set by a Negro field-hand, black as a scuttle of coal, who had been picked out as a house servant before the war, and had become “mammy” to a dozen white babies. When this aged negress was cross she would say: “I never said any such of a thing”; and when she was pleased she would say: 369“The prettiest thing I nearly ever saw.” When the Goulds and Vanderbilts heard that, they called it “charm”!

What these young ladies were taught in their “finishing school” is “accomplishments”; everything from the standpoint of the drawing-room, and just enough to get by on. When my wife was completely “finished,” she could play three pieces on the piano, and three on the violin; she could sing three songs, and recite three poems, and dance three dances; she had painted three pictures, and modeled three busts, and heard three operas, and read three books. What was more important, she had had tea in all the luxurious palm-rooms and Louis Quinze rooms of the great New York hotels; she had acquired connections with the most expensive fashion shops, and had had obsequious foreign gentlemen study her colors, and tell her what was her proper style; she had seen the inside of a number of Fifth Avenue homes, and learned the names of “period” furniture; she had been to West Point to attend the annual football match with Annapolis, and to New Haven to attend the annual rowing match with Harvard. Now she lets me poke fun at such culture, but she still has affection for her old teachers, and insists that I specify—they were giving the young ladies exactly what the parents of these young ladies demanded, and the only thing they were willing to pay for.


To just what extent does the plutocracy control our schools? In “The Goose-step,” pages 28-29, I quoted from a study by Scott Nearing, reported in “School and Society” for September 8, 1917, showing that in 143 of the leading colleges and universities of the United States there were a total of 2,470 trustees, of whom 1,444 were of the commercial and financial class—that is, a percentage of 58. In “School and Society” for January 20, 1917, Scott Nearing gave the results of a similar investigation with regard to school boards. He wrote to the superintendents of schools in all American cities having a population of over forty thousand; there were a total of 131 such cities, and 104 replies were received.

370The total population of the cities was twenty-four million, or one-fourth of the American people at that time. The number of board members was 967. The business class, including merchants and manufacturers, capitalists, contractors, real estate and insurance men, and officials in railroads, banks and corporations, numbered 433, the professional class 333, and miscellaneous 201—this last including 18 teachers, mostly college professors, 48 clerks and salesmen, 39 mechanics and wage-earners, and 25 foremen. Nearing points out that in these cities the wage earners and clerks included five-sixths of the employed population, but that they had only one-tenth of the school board representation; nine-tenths of the members had been chosen from one-sixth of the population. It is interesting to note that women compose 48% of the population, but only 7% on the boards of education in large cities, and only 3% on the boards of trustees of colleges and universities. The commercial class, with their lawyers, compose 58% of college boards, and 59% of city school boards.

So we see that the plutocracy really does hold the whip hand; whatever this class has wanted to do with the schools, it has done. Let us now see, in the form of statistics, just what it has wanted to do.

First: It has been far more interested in killing the young than in educating them. We are able to put this preference into figures—which is how the plutocracy likes a thing put. Its interest in war has been ninety-three times as great as its interest in education and science put together. According to an analysis of federal appropriations by the chief of the United States Bureau of Standards, the appropriation of the government for the year 1920, which was a year of peace, was as follows: Past wars, 68%; future wars, 25%; civil departments, 3%; public works, 3%; education and science, 1%. Disregarding small fractions, out of a total of $5,685,000,000 appropriation, the share of wars, past or future, was $5,279,000,000, and education and science combined got only $57,000,000.

That represents federal appropriations. Still more illuminating is a study of the total expenditure of the American people for education, as contrasted with expenditure for other purposes. The “Survey” for July 37116, 1921, presents a table: “The Schools’ Share in the Nation’s Wealth.” According to this, it appears that the American people spent in 1920, upon joy-rides, races and pleasure resorts, $3,000,000,000 and upon all departments of education in the entire country $1,000,000,000. The American people spent upon sundaes, sodas and drinking fountain delights, including ice cream, a total of $600,000,000, and upon higher education $137,000,000. The American people spent upon face lotions and cosmetics $750,000,000, and upon the public elementary schools $762,000,000. They spent upon chewing gum $50,000,000, and upon schools to train their teachers $20,000,000. They spent upon candy alone as much as they spent upon all departments of education, and upon cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco more than twice the amount.

We are a self-satisfied people, and we propose to make our foreign population like ourselves; but we really ought to hesitate, because the 1920 census shows that in illiteracy we are behind nearly all the civilized nations—Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany. We boast of six per cent illiteracy, while Denmark has only two-tenths of one per cent, Switzerland and New Zealand three-tenths of one per cent, England and Wales one and eight-tenths per cent; the German Empire, which we went to war to destroy, had only three-hundredths of one per cent, which is two hundred times better than the United States!

The war brought us some definite information about our education. The Army test of illiteracy was based on the ability to read as well as children in the second grade, and 25% of our would-be soldiers “flunked” this test. We cannot get away by attributing our illiteracy to the Negroes, because Camp Devens in Massachusetts showed 22%; nor can we attribute it to the foreigners, because there were seven hundred thousand native-born illiterates in the first draft. The chief of the Americanization Bureau estimates that there are three and a half million native-born adults who cannot read any language.

Also it is worth while to glance at the physical condition of our people. More than one-third of the country’s best manhood between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one was disqualified because of physical defects; and 372another large percentage was later rejected for the same reason. One-fourth of all college boys were rejected—it would appear that shouting at football games does not constitute the whole of physical training. A report of the committee on health problems of the National Council of Education estimates that three-fourths of our twenty-five million school children are suffering from physical defects; the professor of physical education at Columbia University tells us that 25% of our school children are underfed, while from 50 to 75% have defective teeth. You would think that our plutocracy would be concerned about these matters, even on purely business grounds. Taking the state of Massachusetts, one million workers lose an average of nine days a year from sickness, which means in wage losses and medical bills $40,000,000, and $35,000,000 a year additional expenses to the state.

We spend on our school children less than fifty dollars per child per year, which does not seem a munificent sum. Let us see what we spend per teacher. The United States Bureau of Education has provided up-to-date figures, in a study of rural school salaries for the year 1923, covering one-half the counties in the United States. The number of “one-teacher schools” reported was 97,758, and the average salary was $729. Sixty dollars and seventy-five cents per month will keep a teacher alive, but it won’t keep her a teacher. According to a bulletin of the National Education Association, there are approximately 600,000 public school teachers, and one-fourth of them serve in the schools two years or less, and half of them serve less than five years; in other words, teaching is a temporary job, by which the teacher earns pin money until she can get a husband or something better. Naturally these teachers do not trouble to acquire fitness for their work; one-sixth of them are under twenty years of age, and half of them have no professional preparation whatever. Ten per cent have no education beyond the eighth grade, while half have no more than four years beyond the eighth grade; in other words, the teachers know as much as the pupils will know at the end of the school work—and no more!

These figures include the city schools, whose teachers have considerably more training. Let us see what reward 373they get for this extra training. The National Chamber of Commerce, in its survey of school salaries covering 359 cities, shows that in 1919-’20 more than half the male elementary teachers were receiving less than $1262 a year; their salaries had increased 33% in six years, while the cost of living increased 104%. So naturally the men teachers are leaving the public schools; from 1880 to 1915 the percentage of men teachers fell from 42.8% to 9.6%; and this was before the increase in the cost of living! Said the “Bankers’ Magazine,” discussing this question (January, 1919; the Bankers’ Publishing Co., New York): “We pay the day laborer more than the teacher because he is worth more—because he produces a service of greater value to society—just as the corporation manager is paid more than the preacher.”

Who is to blame for illiteracy in America? Is it the fault of the children and of the parents, or is it the fault of the propertied classes, who will not furnish schools for the poor? Upon the opening of the public schools, September, 1923, it appears that in New York, the richest city in the world, 150,000 children can receive only part time instruction, while 200,000 will be taught in double sessions; of the high school pupils more than two-thirds will have to be content with less than normal instruction. Los Angeles is even worse, with 16% of its pupils unseated; Chicago follows with 12%. In the year 1921, with one-sixth of its population in the public schools, the propertied classes of the country saw fit to tax but one cent and a half in every hundred dollars of their income, to provide housing for the school children.children. The National Chamber of Commerce reports that 37% of city school buildings are fire-traps, and only 5% are considered fire-proof.

There is a strong movement under way for federal expenditures upon education. Educators recite that our government spent $600,000 for a book about horses; we spend $30,000,000 annually on the prevention of diseases in hogs and cattle, and the destroying of insects which injure crops; so surely we ought to spend something on the child! But this money will have to be spent through our present political machines; and consider the figures of ex-Congressman John Baer, who made a study of federal educational expenditures, and showed that out of 374more than thirty million dollars appropriated for educational purposes, our chief educational agency, the Bureau of Education, expended less than one per cent in actual administration of education. “Federal educational activities are now directed through more than eighty different offices, divisions, bureaus, commissions, and other agencies of the government.”

Such is “red tape” in Washington; and if you follow the strands of this tape, you find it extending to all the seven hundred thousand school rooms of the country. We have seen our “great educators” keeping the teachers in submission by loading them with routine work, reports, questionnaires, examinations and re-examinations. The most universal complaint of the school teachers, from Los Angeles to Boston, and from Minnesota to Mississippi, has to do with this administrative and routine labor, taking up their time and destroying their eyesight and their nerves. This of course is the very essence of machine education, the running of schools by business men on the quantity production basis. It occurred to the National Council of Teachers of English to make a survey of conditions in their profession, and they found that the average teacher had four hours of “theme” reading to do every day, while the average high school teacher had five hours. Many reported that they skipped and skimmed through every paper, others destroyed the great bulk of them unread and gave credit without reading. In high schools the teachers of English were required to take care of 125 pupils per teacher! Needless to say, the survey reports that teachers of English are overworkedoverworked, underpaid, underequipped and underestimated.

A detailed picture of this routine in one school is given in a paper, “Should English Teachers Teach?” by Edwin M. Hopkins, professor of English at the University of Kansas, and editor of the “English Journal.” Professor Hopkins complains that English teachers do not have time to teach English, because of the other kinds of work piled upon them by those who run the great educational factories. Many teachers, it appears, have to do janitor work, because the schools have no janitor and divide such work among the teachers. Practically all teachers have to do “school bookkeeping.” In one school the supervisor has provided printed forms with finely 375divided blanks, in which the teachers have to fill in information concerning no fewer than sixty items. These printed forms vary in size, from ordinary cards to sheets fifteen by twenty inches; there are “quarantine cards, record cards for office and superintendent, record of transfer to other schools, registration cards, three forms of attendance reports, inventories, seating charts, duplicate schedules”; records must be kept of “absence excuses, term record sheets, duplicate attendance slips, library cards and library service, correspondence duty, telephone duty, patrol duty, meeting parents, care of lockers and keys, returning lost books to pupils.”

A single item, the filling out of a library or text-book card for each pupil, occupies seven full hours of the teacher’s time for the pupils of a single section; and this principal makes six sections, of from fifty to sixty-five pupils each, the regular assignment of his English teachers. Other details include the filling in of from forty to a hundred separate items on each of the room cards; also the making of more than seventy entries of each pupil’s full name and room number, on the seat-charts of every recitation-room, for each recitation-hour and subject—there being fifteen or twenty of these for each teacher. Then there are “schedule cards,” handled by a special committee of three members assisted by ten or twelve volunteers. This takes two or three weeks of each semester, and the classes have to wait, doing no work while this is going on. Then there is the “checking of assembly-room slips,” an average of eight slips per pupil in a section of forty pupils. Each of these three hundred and twenty must be checked in its proper compartment on the individual pupil’s room card, which is ruled for fifty compartments. “For this item of duty no time allowance whatever is made.”

And if you trace all this back to its source, you will find it runs in a straight line, through Professor George D. Strayer and President Nicholas Murray Butler, to J. P. Morgan, the elder. I have mentioned that Strayer himself is the author of an elaborate series of card-systems, which are sold in quantities to teachers; and you will find that the young men and women who come out from Strayer’s mill are never happy till they get settled at some job of “scoring.” Thus one Columbia man is 376marking a city map with a red dot for every high school student in each city block. Another writes to a book publisher, asking for one hundred free copies of six different text-books—he is testing out text-books, a thousand different volumes, using one hundred copies of each. Two other Columbia men, with the highest degrees, have been “scoring” history topics; they have marked subjects mentioned in seventeen leading magazines for five years, a total of 92,000 references, showing how many times Columbus is named, and Magellan, and Theodore Roosevelt! They publish this in the “Journal of Educational Research,” of which Strayer is co-editor.

And every teacher’s college throughout the United States becomes a little Columbia, with some little “Nicholas Miraculous” at its head. I have a friend who was brought up within the shadow of such a place, and writes me what is going on. Listen:

The education of the future high school teachers in Nebraska is largely in control of the teachers’ college of the state university. And the teachers’ college has a compact, steam-roller organization run by a group from Columbia University, who are known to the irate professors in the other colleges of the university as “the Columbia ring.” They direct very nearly the whole course of the candidates for the teachers’ certificates, and you who know Columbia can easily imagine how they direct it. There is wild war between the “Columbia ring” and the more liberal professors in the arts and science college, but the dear little teachers-to-be never hear anything about it. They go out to their various schools with their life’s ideas supplied to them ready made, and with the fine “morale”—in the building of which the teachers’ college prides itself—to safeguard them against getting any new ideas.

This young lady goes on to explain that so far as she knows, the Columbia ring are “perfectly sincere and earnest gentlemen,” and no one has ever heard of the financial powers taking a hand in the matter. I am advising this correspondent to consult “The Goose-step,” and see who it was that paid for the costly education of these Nebraska educators. All the contributors are Wall Street gentlemen who never contributed a dollar in their lives without being certain that they got two dollars’ worth; and if they can train great educators to serve their interests sincerely and earnestly—and without knowing it—is not that exactly the way the driver of a dray-horse likes the horse to be?



The “little red school-house” may of course be anything, depending on the individual teacher. In our two hundred thousand “one-teacher” schools, there are many which are jolly and human, and many which are efficient, and many which are places of irritability and oppression. But the characteristic product of our modern system is the big school, the great educational mill, run by efficiency experts on a quantity production basis. These huge machines are but little influenced by individual personalities; they acquire momentum of their own, and grind up everything which gets in their way. These are the institutions in which our modern “great educators” specialize; the science of running them is what you get from experts such as Professor Strayer, head of the Department of Educational Administration of Columbia University.

From the state of Pennsylvania survey of the schools of Philadelphia, I take this picture of a well disciplined school:

The teachers in charge watched very carefully and jotted down notes of the slightest transgressions. All pupils raising their eyes from their books were liable to punishment. The principal believed that the amount of study done by pupils in the study hall depended upon the man in charge. The strictest policing would produce the best results. The practice was clearly one of coercion and pressure.

And now let us skip one-half the continent and visit the high school at Superior, Nebraska, where a young lady of my acquaintance was a teacher three or four years ago; she writes:

The much-vaunted “discipline” of this school included an iron-clad military regime which forbade pupils ever to run up or down stairs or to cut corners in passing between classes. When classes were dismissed, two teachers were required to stand in the hall to see that nobody cut a corner or took two steps at a time. During general assembly, when the whole school was gathered together, all the teachers were required to be in the auditorium and each was assigned two rows of students to watch during the program. No teacher was allowed to sit down during assembly, as she was expected to be watching her rows and seeing that no students exchanged a remark. The students not unnaturally referred to the school as “the penitentiary,” and 378while they were still as mice when the superintendent was looking, the place seethed with suppressed revolt. Any sort of meanness that could be done on the sly was a short cut to glory, and teachers were fair game for anybody who could torment them and get away with it.

And now skip the other half of the continent, and read part of a letter from Mrs. Edith Summers Kelley, author of a splendid novel, “Weeds.” Mrs. Kelley describes what is happening to her two children in the schools of San Diego, California:

At the “Junior High” which my little girl, aged eleven, attends, they are given no time to play at all. The children race directly from one classroom to another and have only half an hour for lunch. There is no chance whatever to form individual friendships, for as the twelve hundred race from classroom to classroom they are continually changing roommates and instead of school friendships there is simply a confusion of half familiar faces soon forgotten. My little girl still exchanges letters with the friends she made in school in Imperial Valley. But since she came here she has not made one friend. She could leave the school tomorrow without the slightest regret for it or any person, teacher or pupils in it. This seems to me a most damaging thing to say about a school.

At the “Junior High” they keep strict account of time. If a child has to go to the toilet during a class he or she is given a “detention slip” and has to stay after school the length of time that he was out of the classroom. This sounds like burlesque; but the child tells me that it is the sober truth. Of course they stuff them at both schools with flag saluting and patriotic songs, etc. Among other things they have taken the “Anvil Chorus” from “Il Trovatore” and set to it some didactic-patriotic words. “With peace and union throughout our happy land,” is all that the children remember; but you will agree with me that it is enough.

There is a very strong tendency in both schools to subordinate individual consciousness to group consciousness. Both of my children are strongly individualistic, though differently so, and they resent this. The children are taught they should be “loyal” to their country, still more so to their state and city, and quite belligerently so to their school. They have cheer leaders, school yells and songs, and they hire men to coach the boys in their games so that they can beat the teams of other schools. The aim seems to be not to encourage the individual characteristics of a child but to make them all as nearly as possible alike. My little girl is possessed of insatiable mental curiosity, and yet she hates the school. This being the case, it seems to me the fault must be with the school.

The point for you to get is that all this is training for “democracy.” The teacher in Nebraska just quoted confesses that she was a “misfit,” and explains the reason:


It seemed so perfectly inane to me to try to bring up citizens for a democracy under a system which is an old-style bureaucracy. The school board vents its lust for authority on the superintendent, the superintendent takes it out on the principal, the principal takes it out on the teachers, and the teachers take it out on the classes. The one unforgivable crime seems to be for student, teacher, principal or superintendent to be “disloyal” or “insubordinate” to the upper layers of the hierarchy.

With all the discipline and regimentation, just how much do the pupils succeed in learning? Dean Marshall of the University of Chicago was chairman of the Committee on Correlation of Secondary and Collegiate Education, and he examined the first hundred and fifty freshmen who registered for the School of Commerce and Administration at his university. He found that of these students, 59% had had no modern history, 24% no United States history, 86% no English history, 92% no industrial history, 39% no civics, 72% no economics, 98% no sociology.

And in the courses which they do take, how much do they learn? I think I do not exaggerate in saying that there is general complaint throughout the country that they learn far less than they should. Two illustrations come to me while I am writing. The first is from the San Francisco “Examiner,” November 10, 1923, and I quote it without change:

Failure of students in the sophomore year at the Sacramento high school to solve problems involving the subtraction of 2 from 3 was announced today in connection with arithmetic examinations recently given to 500 pupils at the institution. In multiplying 3 by 2 eleven students failed, the test papers show, while fifteen gave incorrect answers when asked to divide 6 by 3. Though a check of the examination papers has not yet been completed, early returns establish that 416 boys and girls could not multiply a mixed decimal by a plain decimal.

The second is from the New York “Times,” July 22, 1923, and presents a column of data collected from examination papers on “current events” in the high schools of a Tennessee city. The “Times” mercifully withholds the name of this city—no doubt figuring that all are alike. Prizes were offered, and 1,160 high school students entered a competition, to answer a list of sixty questions; the first discovery was that less than 28% knew the name of the governor of their own state! Michael Collins, Irish Free State leader, was described as “ex-President 380of England,” “a noted boot-legger,” “real estate agent,” “head of labor union,” “manager Boston Red Sox,” “Chicago ball player,” “manager of Piggly-Wiggly store.” Clara Barton was classified as a “movie actress,” “nurse whom the Germans murdered,” “race horse,” “noted writer,” “woman who is to sing for Kosmos Club,” “candidate for Mayor of a city,” “an unmarried woman who lives in exile.” It would appear that not many students in these Tennessee high schools have read “The Goose-step”; for when they were asked to identify Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, they guessed: “President Harding’s private physician,” “a well-known Bible teacher,” “newspaper editor,” “a leader in the medical convention,” “minister,” “writer and essayist.” Needless to say, they scored a hundred per cent of correctness on the identity of “Babe” Ruth; and they doubtless would have done the same for “Fatty” Arbuckle; and who won the last prizefight or the last world’s baseball series, and who are Mutt and Jeff, and have we any bananas today. On the other hand, it would have been easy to frame questions dealing with the higher culture, on which the high school students would have scored one hundred per cent of failure. Mr. O. G. Wood, for four years a teacher and for two years clerk of the school board of Butte, Montana, writes:

The average American boy of today does not care a fig about the beautiful and art side of life. He wants to see the wheels go round and run an automobile and fix a spark plug. He is not studious. The foreign-born boy or the boy born of foreign parentage is far more studious than the American boy, and I have made an especial study of this subject right in the class room. The American boy wants to “get by.” He will shuffle in and out of every class he can. He “fakes” from morning to night with all kinds of lies and excuses on his mind. It is doubtful if a single parent will think their boy does this, yet there are millions of them in the country.

In the course of our travels from city to city we have seen our miseducated school children indulging in rowdyism, patronizing boot-leggers, racing in high-powered automobiles, and spending the night at road-houses. Someone with a sense of humor sends me a copy of a Texas newspaper, the Dallas “Morning News,” October 4, 1923, in which there are three items on one page, which seem to have been especially placed to vindicate my thesis concerning American education. The first item tells that 381a committee of preachers are investigating the Southern Methodist University, to make sure that no one is teaching modern science. The second reports the director of physical training at this university, speaking at a luncheon of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, telling the youngsters that “foot-ball is character building and training for life.” The third item tells how nine boys and five girls have been arrested and thrashed, either by their parents or their principals, for raiding a Jewish synagogue and doing more than a thousand dollars worth of damage. The Junior Ku Klux Klan!


The person who can tell us about the morals of our school children is Ben B. Lindsey, judge of the Juvenile Court of Denver. Lindsey knows, not merely because he has been on the job for twenty-five years, but because he has evolved a technique for getting this particular information. The children come to him literally by thousands—not merely to tell him their troubles, but to ask his advice on every sort of question. Instead of sending delinquent children to jail, Lindsey has fought and exposed the gang politicians, the saloon-keepers, the proprietors of wine-rooms and dives who were preying on the young. At every election he has been fought by these powers, backed by the money of Big Business; he has been supported and elected by the children and their friends. “Our little Ben,” they call him; and “court” is more like a home—or like what a school ought to be.

The first principle upon which Lindsey proceeds is that he never “snitches.” Several times the powers that rule Denver have threatened to send him to jail, and on one occasion they fined him five hundred dollars for contempt of court, because he refused to betray a child’s confidence. As I write, the grand jury is threatening him with imprisonment, because he has made the statement that the abortion rate of Denver is one thousand per year, and he will not tell who the abortionists are, because he has learned their names from women and school girls “in trouble.”

382The Denver board of education has adopted a righteous attitude upon this question; any teacher or principal who learns of immorality on the part of any Denver student is required to expel the student and notify the parents; which is an excellent way for the school authorities to keep from knowing uncomfortable facts! Lindsey tells me of a school superintendent who made a statement to reassure the parents: “In more than twenty years’ experience in the Denver schools I have known of but three of our high school girls who were guilty of immorality.” It happened that on that very day four such girls had come to Lindsey’s court to seek his advice! He tells me that he knew of more than three hundred sexual cases involving high school girls in a two-year period of investigation; and two-thirds of these girls came to him of their own free will. More than a thousand of high school age have confessed to him.

And, mind you, these are not servant girls and shop girls and waitresses, the victims of poverty, but the daughters of Denver’s leading families, copper kings and coal kings and iron kings and gold kings and silver kings, together with the lawyers who protect their property, and the doctors who look after their bodies, and the clergymen who save their souls. A prominent Denver churchman dramatically denounced Lindsey before a public body because of his attitude on the question of censorship; and this churchman’s beloved daughter, a high school student, had confided her troubles to Lindsey, who helped her to be secretly treated for venereal infection! Another minister’s daughter became involved with the son of a high-up school official; both of them were recent high school students, and the affair developed under the steps of a school building while the young couple were on their way from church!

You might hunt the moving pictures through and find no stranger incidents. Here comes a father, one of the great public utility men, who has been fighting Lindsey tooth and nail in politics. Now the man is broken; he has discovered that his beloved daughter is in trouble, and he is going to shoot the youth who seduced her. But Lindsey persuades him to wait, and the man promises to come back next day; he comes, and in Lindsey’s chambers, by a coincidence not of Lindsey’s planning, he meets 383his own son. The son, thinking the father has been brought there to confront him, breaks down and tells how he, the son, is responsible for the pregnancy of a young girl!

At the railroad station, as Lindsey and I were parting, a costly limousine came rolling up, and three fashionable society beauties alighted, together with an elderly gentleman. They were the sort of people you see pictured in the fashion plates and advertisements of motor cars; Lindsey remarked to me: “One of those three girls came to my court. She was too rich to attend high school, she went to our fanciest and most expensive finishing school for young ladies; and she got into trouble, one night on the way home from the country club. She went away for two months and had her baby, and I saw to its adoption. I wanted the mother to “adopt” it herself, some day after marriage; but her nerve failed her. There are just five people who know—the girl and myself, a doctor and a nurse, and a prominent young business man, who happened to have a wife already. I suppose that if the girl’s father knew, he’d drop dead on the spot.”

Lindsey insists that these conditions are not peculiar to Denver; on the contrary, matters are worse in other big cities. He attributes the evil in part to the prudery of parents; more girls are “ruined” by the attitude of their parents and teachers than by the girls’ own acts. The parents keep the girls ignorant, and drive them to rebellion by their unwillingness to face the facts of life. Lindsey himself tries to tell the parents, but they will not listen; they prefer to “spit on Lindsey’s shoes”—such was a resolution before the Real Estate Exchange in 1914, when the miners’ wives whose children had been burned in the Ludlow massacre were taken by Lindsey to interview President Wilson in Washington. It happens many times that Lindsey gets permission from some girl to tell the girl’s parents; he sends for the parents, and starts to tell them, and there come looks of incredulity and even of rage—he is accusing their precious children, and the parents are up in arms to deny the charge and defend their offspring.

I told you how Lindsey has been barred from speaking in the Denver high schools. All over the country he is invited to speak in other schools—on his last lecture 384trip he spoke to thirty-five thousand adolescent boys and girls. He talked to them “straight”; but now and then a principal would timidly ask him to avoid “improper” subjects. In one city he was informed that it would be “distasteful to the school board,” who expected to be present, if he were to discuss “love, marriage, or divorce.” He omitted these delicate matters; but after the lecture fifty children, mostly girls, crowded about him, begging him to answer questions. And what were the questions? What did he think about marriage, divorce, love and beauty! Here were these starved little souls pining for real knowledge about the vital things of their lives; and it was “distasteful to the school board” to permit them to learn!

A still more powerful cause is the example which the parents of these children are setting. Many are brought up in luxurious homes, with a multitude of servants; they are used to every gratification, automobiles and chauffeurs and extravagant clothes. They hear the smart talk of the young matrons, they read the literature of the new license, they go to the movies and drink the poisons of Hollywood. Recently Lindsey visited one of the fashionable hotels at Colorado Springs, and there he met a lovely girl from a Denver high school. She made no concealment of the fact that she was enjoying the gaieties of the season with a lover; and when the judge remonstrated, she laughed and pointed out “Mrs. So-and-So,” one of Denver’s leading society matrons, who was there with a prominent business man not her husband. “Their rooms are on the same floor as ours,” said the girl.

“Society” girls, now-a-days, know that their parents are breaking the laws, not merely in business, but in their private lives; they take it for granted that there is wine on every table, and booze in every hip-pocket and vanity bag. Their religion is a fairy tale, and they have nothing with which to replace it. They have learned about birth-control—but not quite thoroughly, it would appear from Lindsey’s experiences! So they have to ascertain the names and addresses of the fashionable abortionists. The leading doctors possess the knowledge, and will give you the “tip”; the only people who do not know are the prosecuting authorities!

385In the course of my trip I visited a certain wealthy relative. According to the fashion of the time, this old gentleman chatted about his bootleggers, and told how the cellar of his country home had been broken into, and some tens of thousands of dollars worth of precious old liquors had been stolen. But there was more to replace it—my relative was making mint juleps for the rest of the company while he denounced the Eighteenth Amendment. After he had said his say, and his son had done likewise, and H. L. Mencken had agreed with them, the old gentleman asked me: “Upton, what do you think about it?” My answer was: “I don’t think it’s a Bolshevik plot, but if it were, it wouldn’t be different!” The old gentleman sat up, for he was keen on Bolshevik plots. I explained: “The poor cannot afford much liquor, so they stay sober; the rich can afford all they want, and they get it. If this continues for another ten years, the rich will have got to a condition where they can no longer pull the trigger of a machine gun. So the Bolsheviks will have their way.”


We have seen what becomes of the child in the great educational mill. Let us now see what becomes of the teacher. Let us inquire, to begin with, how the teacher gets in; put yourself in the position of the graduate of a high school or normal school who wishes to enter the cheap and easy profession. I consult a book called “Out of Work,” by Frances A. Kellor, a detailed study of the problems of unemployment in America. Turning its pages, I realize what a vast trap for the poor our country is—and how little the teachers count in the mass of misery! The problem of jobs for teachers gets only eight or ten out of the five hundred and forty-nine pages of this book.

The placement of educators has fallen into the hands of great private agencies. These “teachers’ bureaus” have set up the claim that they are not common employment agencies, and on this basis have generally escaped license fees and regulations. They collect from the 386teachers a fee, somewhere from two to five dollars, usually called a “consultation fee”; it gives you the high privilege of having your name enrolled for one year, and of visiting the office and asking questions of a clerk. A great many agencies live entirely upon such fees; that is to say, they list the teachers’ names and do nothing else. One agency charges three dollars in its main office, and then advises you to register in ten branch offices at one dollar each. One agency charged two dollars “for advice only,” and when a teacher paid the money, the advice she got was: “Try some other line, as the demand for women teachers is very small this year.”

When you get a position, the agency claims five per cent of your first year’s salary, and in some cases ten per cent. You have to pay the entire sum within one or two months, and even though you lose the position immediately afterwards, you don’t get the fee back. If you get an increase of salary, you pay a percentage on that. If you get board as part of your salary, you pay a percentage on that. Says Miss Kellor: “A contract seems to give an agency a lien on a teacher for at least one year, and sometimes for longer. It requires considerable skill to find any rights or protection for the teachers in these contracts.” Many of the agencies require the teachers to give them information about vacancies, thus turning the teachers into unpaid canvassers for them. They freely use threats of removal to compel teachers to fulfil their unfair contracts. “A hint of ‘later information’ to a school board can cause all kinds of trouble.”

Some of the states now have bureaus for placing teachers; some of the universities do it, and at the big plutocratic institutions this placing bureau becomes a cog in the machine, and is used for the browbeating of teachers. Several have told me of this kind of thing; I am permitted to recite the peculiar experience of Mr. Otto Koeb at Stanford. Inasmuch as Mr. Koeb’s name has a German sound, I mention that he is the son of a Swiss diplomat, and the incident happened in 1912, when German names were entirely respectable. Mr. Koeb had been graduated from the Colorado State Teachers’ College, and then from the University of California, and went to take a master’s degree at Stanford. As a result of his declaring himself a Socialist, he was secretly blacklisted 387by the “appointment office” of the university. For nine years he struggled to get a good teacher’s position, and his applications were always turned down—until finally a friend betrayed to him the reason; in the “recommendations” which Stanford was sending out concerning him there were statements about his political views, deliberately designed to keep him from getting employment!

The agencies, both private and public, of course give close attention to the character of teachers and to their opinions. I have referred to the fact that some city school superintendents require teachers to join the N. E. A. A high school instructor, whose name I am not permitted to quote, says: “I have known of many fellows who have been refused positions as teachers of printing in manual training shops because they were known to belong to labor unions. I myself carry a card, but I never tell my superiors about it.” At Wheeling, West Virginia, the official application blank asks you for “references, including your pastor.” When you furnish this information, a blank is sent to each of the references, asking among other things: “Has applicant ever shown a tendency towards extreme radicalism?” and “Does applicant take any part in church work?” Hundreds of superintendents follow this practice of asking about the church affiliations of teachers; in spite of the fact that to ask such a question of an applicant for a public position is to violate the constitutional rights of a citizen. Mr. David H. Pierce declares:

For the sake of a job, many Catholics become Episcopalians, and Jews turn into Unitarians for the time being. I know of one teacher in a small college, a Congregationalist, who has successively been Baptist and Methodist, and who has informed me confidentially that he is willing to become a member of any church under the sun, just as long as he can keep on teaching music. One of my personal friends, in seeking a college position, invariably discovers what denomination the school is, then furnishes credentials to show that he is a devout member of that particular church.

I have a letter from a teacher in California, who discusses the taming of her profession. I know of no teacher who has put up a harder fight against the gang, and it is significant that even this hard fighter asks me not to use her name; she writes:


The average teacher is a cringing coward, and boards of education play this as their trump card. The only recommendation the teacher has is a clean bill from her last berth. She is given no chance to make good in a new position. “Where did you teach last year?” is the first question she is asked. “Why did you leave?” the second one. Unless a teacher has “pull” and friends it is practically impossible for her to get a position, if she has lost her previous one by the will of the board of trustees. By this you can see it is the same with her as for a doctor to lose his certificate. Teachers know and fear this, boards know it and work it to control teachers. Boards control their teachers usually through their major domo, the city superintendent. If he is fair, and a man of convictions, the board cannot do much; but he is dependent upon the board for his position, and unless he pleases them he may go the way of the teacher who dares think for herself.

Mr. David H. Pierce has been a high school teacher for five years, and does not expect to remain one. He explained the reason in a very illuminating article published in the “Survey,” May 15, 1923. He says:

We graduated from college, having specialized, let us say, in mathematics. In the course of two years we have presided over classes in elocution, biology, economics, vocational guidance, sociology, German and chemistry. We get no intellectual stimulation from our neighbors in the school. Outside the school we are addressed as “professor,” by elderly people who do not know us. We become experts in sitting through lengthy prayer meetings and meaningless sermons. We develop remarkable skill in dodging revivals. Our names are coupled, in turn, with every eligible girl between fourteen and forty in the community. About once a month a preacher “cheers” us by saying: “Next to the ministry, brothers and sisters, there is no greater calling than that of the teacher. The opportunity to mold our youth into citizens is unlimited. I sometimes believe that they are even on a level with those who follow in God’s footsteps.”

Mr. Pierce pictures himself becoming dissatisfied with his position, and applying to an agency, and filling out a blank:

We underscore three times those subjects we prefer to teach, draw two lines under those we have taught, and add a single line for those branches we can teach. Having covered possibly twenty subjects, we are ready to prove to any school board within five hundred miles that we are the most educated, experienced and docile individual our alma mater has produced in a decade. We prepare a barrage of testimonials from board members who never entered our classroom, preachers with whom we have never had a frank discussion, and college instructors who must rack their memories to recall us.

The fact that we may be specialists in one or two branches is immaterial. The agency wants its five per cent and we want 389a job. We never allow ourselves to be discountenanced by strange requests. A colleague tells me that in applying for his first position he received a telegram from an agency, asking “Can you teach sociology?” He replied at once in the affirmative, secured the position and was reasonably successful. After he had assumed his duties he frankly said: “Sociology was new to me. I had to look in the dictionary to find what the word meant.”

A teacher who had specialized in Latin, taught, within a few years, algebra, English, civics, German and Spanish as well as his preferred subject. One woman, trained as an instructor in the domestic arts, was assigned a hash of household arithmetic, calisthenics, music and story telling. This is the lot of the great majority of high school teachers. We are doomed to be intellectually unskilled laborers, masters of nothing.


I have given in “The Goose-step” a list of some of the offenses for which college professors have lost their jobs. I might do the same thing for school teachers, and include everything, from refusing to “pass” the son of a school board member to refusing to become the mistress of a superintendent. The main trouble is that you would not believe the stories without the teachers’ names, and these can so seldom be given. Even when the teacher has quit the profession, her terror still hangs on; one writes me that her husband will not let her talk, and others must protect their relatives who are teachers. I have a letter from one young lady, who tells me that she has quit teaching and is earning a good living as a newspaper writer; but she adds: “On second thought, I am afraid after all I shall have to ask you not to use my name. I despise being a ‘rabbit,’ but my father is a professor in the state university. It would be too bad if he should have to suffer for my opinions.”

This young lady goes on to express her conclusion as to the teaching profession. I quote one paragraph:

What drives the teachers in this state to marriage, suicide, or stenography is not the tyranny of wealth—of which they are so unconscious that even I am not sure whether it exists—but the petty tyranny of public opinion and of tin-horn superintendents who rejoice in showing off their power. Where a teacher knows that she cannot dance or bob her hair or walk about the town alone at night without getting a severe reprimand, and 390where she knows that it is as much as her job is worth to receive a call from one of her boy students, even although it be to hear him confess his personal problems, she is not going to be much tempted to any wild flights of intellectual speculation. Being spied on by the thousand eyes of a village soon dries up the springs of adventure before they reach the surface.

Mr. David H. Pierce also has something to say on this subject. He points out that in this respect teaching differs from all other professions; neither lawyers nor doctors nor engineers permit their superiors to exercise control over their social life, and forbid them to dance or play an occasional game of bridge; neither are they kept in such subservience that they regard themselves as bold progressivesprogressives when they utter harmless platitudes. Says Mr. Pierce:

I have known teachers to be dismissed for combating shady athletics. Others have been forced out because they expected children of influential parents to do a little work for their credits. In the course of five years, I have been warned, officially or otherwise, to refrain from discussing organized labor, the Negro problem, evolution, the miners’ strike, dancing, card-playing, the controversy between the chiropractors and the allopaths, and government control of railroads.

And Mr. Burt Adams Tower, who fled all the way to Hawaii to escape from the school gang, adds a new and unique one to this list: “A few months before leaving Butte I was called on the carpet for receiving a letter on your stationery!” Said a teacher at the 1923 convention of the Northeastern Ohio Teachers’ Association: “The situation today is that if you don’t accept and apologize for every institution, good, bad and indifferent, you immediately become suspect.”

There are two very funny stories which I got from friends of the teachers, and which I am permitted to tell—provided I suppress, not merely the names of the teachers and the school, but of the city in which the incident took place! These stories have to do with Bolshevik hunts, and the hero of the first is a high school boy. He is the son of intellectual parents, but is a mediocre pupil, being obviously bored by school work. He is required to write a theme, and comes to his teacher and tells her that he cannot get warmed up to such subjects as “Beowulf” and “The Rape of the Lock,” and wonders if she won’t let him write on something real. She asks what he would choose; 391and imagine her bewilderment—he would like to write on Bolshevism!

The teacher probes the boy’s mind, and finds that he knows of Bolshevism as something wicked; he would like to expose those who are trying to spread such wickedness in America. The teacher refuses consent, but the boy comes back and begs again. The teacher points out to him the seriousness of such a subject, and the dangers of it; he promises to be very serious and very careful, and gets the consent of his parents; so finally the teacher relents, and the boy falls to work. He is interested for the first time, and brings in a theme which shows real study; the teacher demands more, so the boy scours the city for original data. In the end, he presents an excellent paper attacking Bolshevism; from a pupil with a low record on “Beowulf” and “The Rape of the Lock,” he suddenly shines as the “A” pupil of his class.

But now comes a terrible rumor, spreading like wildfire through the “silk stocking” district of this city. Some one in the high school has been teaching Bolshevism! A pupil who wrote against Bolshevism had been “failed” because he differed with his teacher! The local Babbitts rise up and roar, and the principal of the school comes to the teacher in terrible distress, and scolds her severely. The teacher demands the name of her accusers, and finally is told that the complaint has come from the chief of police! She threatens to go to the chief, whereupon the principal writes a long letter of introduction, explaining to the chief that the teacher has already been “severely reprimanded.” The teacher protests against this letter, and finally the principal consents to run his pencil through the word “severely”; otherwise he is obdurate, and at the next meeting of the faculty he issues the order that in future no reference to Socialism or Bolshevism is to be allowed in any classroom of this high school!

The teacher refuses to take the incriminating letter, and seeks out the assistant superintendent, who happens to know the boy personally, and takes the teacher to the chief of police. The chief explains that the boy came to him, asking for data, and received some pamphlets which had been taken in a “Red” raid. Soon afterwards the chief was talking before a Sunday School class of parents on the subject: “What are your boys and girls doing?” 392He mentioned, as an instance of creditable activity, the fact that a boy in the high school was looking up Bolshevism, getting first-hand information so that he could refute the Bolsheviks. So the spectre was laid; the teacher has gone back to “Beowulf” and “The Rape of the Lock,” and the high school principal has been promoted to be assistant superintendent!

The other incident happened in a city fifteen hundred miles away; but the Babbitts cover a continent—just like the Bolsheviks! We come to an old and cultured city, with a high school of which the city is proud. In this school a teacher of English suddenly decided that it was her duty to find out what her pupils thought about Bolshevism; she had them write a theme, and discovered to her dismay that a number of them did not think altogether ill of the subject. She hastened to her principal, who was equally shocked; he called a meeting of the teachers, and instructed them that the two thousand pupils of this school were to be immediately educated as to the wickedness of Bolshevism. School assemblies would be held, and the teachers would talk to the pupils about the aforesaid wickedness; also they might get someone from the outside who knew more about this wickedness.

The young man who told me this story is a friend of the principal, and saw the whole adventure from the inside. One teacher, when his turn came, told the pupils that he thought we had plenty of things to concern ourselves about at home, and that it was our duty to clean our own house; the principal rebuked this teacher, saying that his talk had been “too tame.” “You didn’t say a word about the nationalization of women!” So the principal himself talked about the nationalization of women; and in the fall, when the campaign was taken up again, a zealous teacher, whom I will call Mr. Jones, went out and inquired at a church forum for the name of a competent speaker against Bolshevism. Somebody with a sense of humor gave the name of Moissaye J. Olgin, well known as a supporter of the Soviet government! Poor Mr. Jones, too trustful of his fellowmen, invited Comrade Olgin, who came and lectured. I asked Olgin about the incident, and quote from his letter, so that you may see for yourself. He writes:


I explained in a more or less scientific way how it came that the Bolsheviki obtained the upper hand. I drew a picture of the forces that made for Bolshevism, among them the craving of the masses for peace, the craving of the peasants for land, and the explicit desire on the part of the workingmen to assume control over the factories. I was simply a man who thinks he knows something about Russia and explains the working of social forces. The lecture created great consternation among the teaching staff, but the pupils were most enthusiastic.

After the lecture was over, the speaker was asked by Mr. Jones what he thought of a man by the name of Lee-Nyne; to which he answered mildly that this was “something for history to decide.” But, as you know, the Babbitts are not willing to await the verdict of history; a child took home this story to her parents, and the local Babbitts flew to arms. A newspaper exploded with a scare story, all the way across the front page:


It happened to be just at the time that a high public official was about to be tried for malfeasance in office, and he was glad of a “Red” herring to draw across the trail; his office summoned poor Mr. Jones and proceeded to put him through the third degree. One of the inquisitors grabbed Mr. Jones’ fraternity pin: “What’s that?” “And what do you know about the American Revolution?” For two days the grilling went on, and each day the newspapers had more frightful stories. Mr. Jones came out mopping his brow, and vowing: “Well, if anything could make me a Bolshevik, it would be such public officials!”

You know how it is—these Soviet propagandists are cunning rascals, and hide under many disguises. The local Babbitts were sure they had an agent of Lee-Nyne in this high school teacher, so they called in the United States secret service, which took the trail, and followed Mr. Jones day and night for two weeks—and reported that he did not go anywhere except to a Methodist prayer meeting! So finally the Babbitts were convinced that their teacher might be given another chance; but the principal received special orders—he was never to invite another speaker without first submitting the name to the superintendent!

394Another incident, to show you what it means for teachers who deal with the finer things of life to work under the shadow of this Black Hand. I happen to know a lady who is head of the department of English in a high school of a great city. This lady is a lover of literature, and a teacher of the highest gifts; she knows how to inspire the young, not merely to read and think about books, but in all their school activities, their magazines and debates and dramatic performances. It happens that she is a Socialist, and makes no bones about teaching the children to think for themselves about our social system. Also it happens that she is a “lady,” in the technical sense of that word; she is good to look at, she was brought up in the Episcopal church, she is received in the best society—and so it has been impossible for half a dozen successive school boards to get rid of her. Incessant intrigue has gone on against her, but she has quietly ignored it, and done her work.

This lady was invited to dine at the home of the school board president; a prominent judge, a wealthy Republican politician—and incidentally a gross bar-room animal. The primary purpose of the judge was to get the lady to appoint his daughter as a teacher in her department; but before bringing up that subject, he brought up another one. “I want you to know,” he said, “that I realize you are a Socialist, and that you teach the girls free love.” The lady rose up, and said: “I will not discuss that question with you, Judge Smith.” “All right,” said Judge Smith; “you don’t need to, but I’ve got the goods on you just the same.” The lady’s reply was: “I don’t know what you’ve got, and I decline to permit you to tell me.” But Judge Smith laughed, and went on to tell. “You’ve given the girls a poem by Walt Whitman called ‘The Mystic Trumpeter,’ and I took the trouble to read it, and I know what’s in it.”

Now, I will not complete the story. If I should quote you the lines to which the bar-room judge objected, apart from their context, you also might misunderstand. Get the poem, which you will find in “Leaves of Grass,” the section called “From Noon to Starry Night,” and read a piece of real eloquence. Meantime, I conclude this chapter with letters from two teachers. I have many to 395the same purport, but the book is long, and two will serve as types of all. A man teacher in California writes:

I have a humiliating request to make of you, Mr. Sinclair. Not having made provision for going out of the teaching business, I am afraid to have you mention the —— matter. The story will be unfailingly traced to me in what will probably be a brief time, considering the interest commanded by your “Goose-step,” and retribution will be sure to follow. I have so many sins to answer for before such unpromising judges within the next year that I have not the courage to add this delightful one to the rest just now. Will you sacrifice those two paragraphs?

The other letter is from a man teacher in the far Northwest:

You may think it strange that I am writing to you to repeat my request that you in no way use my name in connection with the data that I sent to you for “The Goslings,” nor word any passage in such a way that my name could be associated with any of the facts that it contains. I believe that I have sent newspaper clippings confirmatory of the various statements of fact; in any case, omit any seemingly significant item rather than connect my name with it. As you well know, if any person here should suspect me of having so much as passed on to you information of common knowledge which is contained in newspaper clippings, in a very short time it will reach the ears of those who would unhesitatingly put an end to my professional career. At my time of life, with a family, and a very meagre portion of this world’s goods, I cannot afford to allow my name to be associated with an enterprise of this kind, however much I may be in sympathy with it. With physical condition not at all vigorous and no trade or business experience, you can readily understand what publication of my name, or the faintest suspicion of me, would lead to. Although my wife is the only person here whom I have told of my action, she has become very apprehensive of late, lest something creep into your book which would fasten suspicion upon me; in fact, she is verging into a highly nervous state, unable to drive the thought out of her mind. May I ask, in order that her anxiety may be relieved, that you send me a letter assuring me that my name, or any words that may indicate me as a contributor of data, be kept from the pages of “The Goslings.”


We have asked the question: is a teacher a citizen? I can name a few places in the United States in which a teacher may be a citizen, provided he or she is willing to give up promotion and honors. Under those conditions 396a teacher may be a citizen in Chicago, Milwaukee,[M] and New York, and I might think of a few other places if I searched my memory. On the other hand, if I wished to name places where a teacher is not a citizen, I could cover every state in the Union, and districts large enough to include several states.

M. It is amusing to note that after writing this sentence I learned from a Milwaukee teacher that the Teachers’ Association was at first denied admission to the “Recreational Council,” a league of civic organizations for school improvement, upon the explicitly stated ground that teachers are not citizens!

You have seen that a teacher is not a citizen in North Dakota or in South Dakota. A teacher is not a citizen in Pennsylvania, where teachers’ unions have been outlawed by decree of the state superintendent. A teacher is not a citizen in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the superintendent has declared that no one may teach history who believes in the recall. A teacher is not a citizen in the state of Washington, where Miss Alfa Ventzke was turned out for protesting against the mobbing of NonpartisanNonpartisan League members; nor in Texas, where a gentleman whose name I withhold out of kindness to him, writes me how he has wandered from place to place seeking a school where a teacher may be a Socialist outside of school hours. He started out over thirty years ago, and in those days a teacher could be a Populist; but nowadays he has to hide—and even then they find him!

A teacher is not a citizen in Oklahoma, where Mr. A. A. Bagwell, who began life as a Methodist minister, and is now a Christian Socialist, has been hounded from public school to public school all over the state for fifteen years. Mr. Bagwell’s story is told in a series of nine two-column articles in the Oklahoma “Leader,” and it would take several pages even to sketch his adventures. I glance over the articles and note the names of town and county schools where he got into trouble—never for any reason but his Socialist opinions: Gotebo, Greer, Blue Jacket, Weatherford, Ardmore, Springer. The last place is Gotebo, where Mr. Bagwell was county superintendent, and the American Legion held its state convention and complained that the “firing squad” was not being sufficiently used on teachers. So this Christian Socialist was kicked out, and although he presents affidavits from literally hundreds of people 397where he has taught—including the school boards—he travels from one to another of his superiors demanding a hearing on the charges against him, and can get no hearing.

A teacher is not a citizen in Leesville, Louisiana, where Mr. Otto Koeb went to teach history in the high school. A mile from this town lies the Llano Colony, at which three or four hundred hard-working earnest men and women are making an effort to prove that human beings can labor from other motives than individual greed. Mr. Koeb thought this an interesting experiment, and wanted to write about it; he went to study it—and was informed by the superintendent that if he continued such visits he could not remain a teacher in the high school. So he gave up his position, and now has none.

Nor is a teacher a citizen in Dallas, Texas, where many years ago Mr. George Clifton Edwards, a teacher of Latin and mathematics, committed the crime of being a Socialist. The school board was “a quiet, vestry-like body,” and let him alone; but a certain rich lumberman, a combination of note-shaver and psalm-singer named Owens, served notice on them that if they did not fire the Socialist, he would elect a board that would. They did not, and so he did. From that time on, Big Business has run the schools, and has fired three other teachers, the best qualified in the city. They have closed all the night schools save one, which is practically an adjunct of the big department stores. As Dallas is a city of great distances, this means that evening instruction is denied to the working class.

Nor is a teacher a citizen in Austin, Texas, where sixty-three of them joined a union, and all the officers were dismissed. The president of the union, Mr. E. S. Blackburn, appeared before the superintendent and demanded the reasons in his own case. Mr. Blackburn was director of manual training, and the superintendent told him he didn’t administer his department well. As the teacher had given the sixteen best years of his life to the work, and loved it passionately, this hurt his feelings, and he asked for specifications. The superintendent, after some pondering, cited the fact that Mr. Blackburn hadn’t a wood-block floor in his manual training shop. The next question was, what school did have such a floor; and that was rather 398a poser, but finally the answer was forthcoming—the Manual Training High School of Chicago. Mr. Blackburn at once telegraphed to Chicago, and three hours later was informed by Western Union that there was no Manual Training High School in Chicago! Continuing his researches by telegraph, he learned that no manual training shop in Chicago had a wood-block floor; he laid these messages before the board—which was “speechless,” but nevertheless voted to sustain the superintendent.

Take Elgin, Illinois, a manufacturing city run by the open shoppers, with the usual board of business men and retainers. The condition of the schools was so bad that the teachers formed an organization—not a union, as they explicitly repudiated union tactics; they wanted merely a respectable teachers’ association, affiliated with the National Education Association. But the Black Hand wouldn’t stand even that, and persecuted the teachers to such an extent that they went into politics and tried to educate the public, and failed. The Black Hand, having been victorious at the polls, reappointed its superintendent, and he proceeded to get rid of six teachers and eight principals who had supported the teachers’ ticket, and to put seventeen other teachers on monthly contracts, so that they would have to be good. One of the principals who lost her place had been in the Elgin school system for twenty-six years, and expressed her feelings about the matter by taking poison and dying. You have heard of the Chinese custom of committing suicide upon the door-step of some tyrannical mandarin; it would appear that this is the one form of protest left to American school teachers in open-shop cities. In this case it was successful, because public clamor, accompanied by threats of lynching, caused the open-shop superintendent to quit.

A teacher is not a citizen in Atlanta, Georgia, where the teachers organized to work for salary increases and for larger school appropriations, and Miss Julia Riordan, a principal with a twenty years’ record, was so courageous as to help them. Three prominent business men called upon members of the board, and instructed them to “slap the teachers’ association” by discharging Miss Riordan. They did so—in secret session, and without giving their victim a chance to defend herself. Then they proceeded to fill the newspapers with mysterious hints as to this 399teacher’s offenses; one of the board members, Mr. McCalley, a gay humorist who represented a New York bond house, explained that he voted against granting Miss Riordan a hearing because of affidavits which he had received “under seal” concerning this teacher. “If those affidavits are true, I cannot vote to give Miss Riordan a hearing; if they are not true, somebody could be prosecuted.” The humorous Mr. McCalley failed to explain how anyone could know whether the affidavits were true, unless the principal were given a chance to refute them. He failed to explain how “somebody could be prosecuted,” so long as nobody knew who “somebody” was, or what “somebody” had charged!

A teacher may be a citizen in Buffalo, New York—provided that he or she is a very courageous and determined citizen! There was formed in Buffalo the “Teachers’ Educational League,” to deal with the wretched condition of the schools. In 1920 they published a pamphlet, in which they discussed the school situation; I quote four of the paragraphs to which the school board made objection:

We cherish the pious hope that in some not too distant day there may arrive in the positions of administration of the schools men and women of sufficient vision to realize the importance to education of the intelligent and free-minded co-operation of the teachers.

Since 1910 every increase in salary for the grade teachers has been secured by the sole efforts of the Teachers’ Educational League, and with the active opposition of the heads of the school department.

We advocate a sane and sound training for children and cannot fail to deplore the current makeshift in the form of drives and campaigns and petty pedagogical pastimes.

The schools are overrun with charlatanism and quackery of the very cheapest form.

The school board of Buffalo had as its president the local head of the Standard Oil Company, and as its other members a lawyer to the rich, a son of a banker, a son of a great lumber merchant, and a wife of a rich man. The action of these five was to summon the teachers and question them as to their responsibility for the pamphlet—but refusing to let them produce any evidence of the truth of their statements. After which the board met in secret session, and dismissed the president and the recording secretary of the Teachers’ Educational League. Also they 400found four other officers of the League guilty of “disrespect, defiance and insubordination,” and sentenced them to be removed, but with the privilege of being restored to their positions if they would sign an apology and promise to be good in future. Three accepted these terms; the other, together with the two who were unconditionally dismissed, appealed to the state commissioner of education, and it is pleasant to be able to record that this official reversed the action of the school board. So it appears that a teacher can be a citizen in Buffalo—provided she is willing to face a scandal and an expensive law-suit.

All this is a part of the “open-shop” movement, whose purpose is to keep the wage-slaves from organizing and acquiring power. From coast to coast both school boards and superintendents are solid on this question. In my home city of Pasadena the board of education unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the affiliation of teachers with the American Federation of Labor. At a convention of superintendents in Riverside, California, Superintendent Wilson of Berkeley declared that “the ends for which teachers’ unions strive are unsound.” In New York the state commissioner of education, John H. Finley, made the same statement, his ground being that a teacher is in the same category as a soldier, “an officer in the army of future defense.” Commissioners and superintendents who want to know how to enforce military discipline among teachers may receive instruction from Mr. J. W. Crabtree, secretary of the National Education Association, and formerly president of a state normal school in Wisconsin; at an N. E. A. convention he said to a friend of mine: “My teachers will never form a union—I keep their noses to the grindstone!”

Consider the experience of Miss Leida H. Mills, for twenty-nine years a teacher in the schools of Wichita, Kansas. The teachers there had no tenure, and were getting the munificent salary of forty dollars per month; they proceeded to organize, and Miss Mills, who was head of the Latin department in a high school, committed the crime of becoming president of their organization. The president of the board of education was a bank cashier, and he first fought her, and then fired her. She addressed a protest to the board, which the board ignored. 401She found a job on the Pacific Coast, leaving her mother and father back in Kansas; she has returned twenty times to see them—quite an inconvenience for a poor teacher! The Wichita board had to invite eight other teachers before they found someone to take Miss Mills’ place; but of course they always find someone in the end.

In San Antonio, Texas, there were no funds to increase the teachers’ salaries, and it was proposed to raise the money by private subscription—a method of putting the teachers under bonds to the bankers. That this was the plan became evident when the teachers began to form a union, and one banker withdrew a contribution of fifty thousands dollars which he had promised! The teachers went on with their union, however, and got some three hundred and fifty members; also a separate union of colored teachers with a hundred members. In the following spring the two active organizers of the union were “let out”—one of them a school principal who had been teaching the Mexicans for twelve years, and had spent a good part of his own salary in providing equipment for them; the other a high school teacher, a university graduate with four years’ excellent record. Both were well recommended by the superintendent, but the board fired them, and twelve more teachers resigned—with the result that both the white and colored teachers’ unions have disappeared from San Antonio.

In Houston, Texas, the teachers joined the American Federation of Labor, and the unions threatened the mayor with a recall, and the school board almost doubled the minimum teachers’ salaries. But then came Mrs. Josephine C. Preston, past president of the National Education Association—you remember the lady who presided at the Salt Lake convention, with Professor Strayer of Columbia seated at her right hand. Now we discover what the makers of educational “greatness” are up to; the “great” Superintendent Preston told the teachers of Houston that it would be far better for them to belong to her organization—it didn’t cost so much, and it was so much more genteel! So the teachers deserted the labor unions en masse. The president of the American Federation of Teachers remarked to me sorrowfully: “The price of a teacher in the United States is fifty dollars”—meaning that a teachers’ union would agree to disband if the board of 402education would give them fifty dollars a year increase of wages as the price of their civil rights.


The effect of official tyranny such as we have been observing is to reinforce and intensify the occupational diseases of the teaching profession, which are timidity and aloofness from real life. The teacher lives in a little world of her own; she spends many hours every day with her children, and other hours in reading their themes, and marking their examination papers, and making out complicated reports. For the rest, she knows only her colleagues, whose life is as narrow as her own. And this is the way her superiors want it. Said the superintendent in Agra, Kansas, to a young lady graduate of Wellesley College: “You ought to have gone to a normal school instead of to college. There they teach the teachers just what they ought to know, and not anything else.”

It hardly needs saying that a world which is five per cent male and ninety-five per cent female is an abnormal world, with many jealousies and suppressions. The teacher is, as a rule, either a very young woman, looking forward to escape through matrimony, or else a woman grown prematurely old, and watching with suspicious eye the curvettings of youth. The tendency of women thus placed to curry favor with their superiors, and to be spiteful toward their rivals, is very strong; and the only way to keep the school-room from becoming a place of fussing and fretfulness is to open the windows to the airs which blow in the outside world. The teacher must have a vital interest in the great causes which are stirring the minds of men; she must have some hope outside her own very slender chances of personal success. The teacher, in other words, must cease to be an individual, she must become part of a group; she must share the consciousness of an organized and disciplined body of workers, with a duty towards the future, and a means of carrying it out.

In their efforts to keep the teacher an individual, the employing class has not relied upon terrorism alone; they use all their propaganda resources to take possession of 403the teacher’s psychology, to shut up her mind in class greed and snobbery. The teacher is a “lady” in ninety-five per cent of cases—and in the other five per cent the teacher is a “gentleman.” The teacher belongs to the white-collared class, and receives a monthly salary—never the degrading weekly stipend known as “wages.” Once or twice in a life-time, the teacher is invited to a banquet, and given an opportunity to listen to bankers and merchants and manufacturers grow eloquent upon the dignity and nobility of the pedagogical profession. These same compliments the teacher finds in her capitalist newspaper, and her capitalist “Saturday Evening Post,” and “Outlook,” and “Independent,” and “Literary Digest”; the compliments cost less than nothing, because the advertisements more than pay for the paper and printing.

Having spent my childhood in one of the larger-sized brick houses in Baltimore, I understand thoroughly the psychology of “ladies and gentlemen,” and the horror with which they contemplate common workingmen, with grimy hands, and overalls, and no collars—or worse yet, collars made of celluloid. Having left Baltimore thirty-five years ago, and spent the rest of my life studying modern economics, I write this book to tell the seven hundred thousand school teachers of the United States that the path to independence and self-respect for them is the path of organization, and of full and whole-hearted cooperation with organized labor.

We have heard from the hired educators of Big Business a chorus of denunciation of teachers’ unions; and their point of view is easy to understand. What I find hard to understand is their serene confidence in the inability of their wage-slaves to put two and two together. In the very same breath in which these Big Business educators denounce teachers’ unions, they praise the unions of bankers and merchants and manufacturers and lawyers, and urge the teachers to intimacy with these. Says J. W. Studebaker, superintendent of schools of Des Moines, in a circular for the National Education Association: “The schools are linked up with the business interests of the city.” Says C. L. Carlsen, director of part-time education in the San Francisco public schools: “The convenience of the employer must be the first consideration.” Says Dr. Frank M. Leavitt, assistant superintendent 404of schools in Pittsburgh: “Of very great importance is the matter of establishing friendly and intelligent relations with the employers of the juvenile workers.” Quotations such as this are scattered all through “The Goslings,” and I could collect another chapter full if it would help.

Why may teachers belong to employers’ unions and not to unions of their own? There are a few educators who have had the courage to put this question—one of them Professor John M. Brewer, of the Graduate School of Education of Harvard University. I owe an apology both to Professor Brewer and to Harvard, because in “The Goose-step” I forgot to mention him as one of our liberal educators. He discussed the question of teachers’ unions in an excellent article in “School and Society,” January 14, 1922, and no doubt he will send you the leaflet if you ask for it. He points out that the utmost the teachers have so far dared to ask in the way of tenure is the right to a hearing before their superiors. But in Filene’s department store in Boston, no worker can be discharged without a hearing before his fellow workers. When will the teachers of America have the courage to ask as much?

What could be more sensible, what could be more essential, if a teacher is really to be a free man or a free woman? Who is it that knows whether a teacher is competent and faithful, if not her fellow teachers? Who can really judge and protect the needs of the child, if not those persons whose business it is to be in daily and hourly contact with the child? I have on my desk a letter from a lady who was formerly a teacher in Terre Haute, Indiana, and who presumed to take an interest in an organization of the teachers, and was threatened with loss of her position. The superintendent told her it was because she was “incompetent”; she took up the fight on this issue, and wrote to the parents of every one of her children, and an actual majority of these parents appeared before the school board to defend this teacher, and not a single parent could be found to say that her work was not satisfactory, or that she was not beloved by her pupils. Yet this teacher was forced to move on to another city.

That is just one more illustration; I have given you 405a bookful of such stories, and I could compile an encyclopedia on the subject if I had nothing else to do. The point is clear: The present status of the American school teacher is that of a wage-slave, an employe of the school board and the superintendent; it is not the status of a free citizen, nor of a professional expert. It can only be made that, first, by the education of the teachers themselves—a process of organization and self-discipline, guided by the more active and intelligent and courageous of the profession. In this process there will be many martyrs, and each can take to himself such comfort as martyrs through all the ages have had—the knowledge that each one is adding to the sum total of human progress, and that without this heroism and unselfish idealism, there would have been no progress in the past, and will be none in the future.

One of America’s really great educators, who supports the unionizing of teachers and has had the courage to join a teachers’ union himself, is John Dewey. Just so that you may not think of the teachers’ union as the notion of cracked-brained radicals like myself, I quote three paragraphs from an address delivered by Professor Dewey at a mass meeting of teachers in New York, and published as a leaflet by the American Federation of Teachers, located in Chicago:

We have not had sufficient intelligence to be courageous. We have lacked a sense of loyalty to our calling and to one another, and on that account have not accepted to the full our responsibility as citizens of the community.

To my mind, that is the great reason for forming organizations which are affiliated with other working organizations that have power and that attempt to exercise the power like the Federation of Labor; namely, the reflex effect upon the body of the teachers themselves in strengthening their courage, their faith in their calling, their faith in one another, and the recognition that they are servants of the community, and not people hired by a certain transitory set of people to do a certain job at their beck and call....

We should have an organization which shall not on the one hand merely discuss somewhat minute and remote subjects of pedagogy with no certainty as to how their conclusions are going to take effect in practice, nor simply look after the personal and more or less selfish interests of teachers on the other hand. But we should have a body of self-respecting teachers and educators who will see to it that their ideas and their experience in educational matters shall really count in the community; and who, in order that these may count, will identify themselves with the 406interests of the community; who will conceive of themselves as citizens and as servants of the public, and not merely as hired employees of a certain body of men. It is because I hope to see the teaching body occupy that position of social leadership which it ought to occupy, and which to our shame it must be said we have not occupied in the past, that I welcome every movement of this sort.


The first objection always brought against teachers’ unions is that they might lead to strikes. The American Federation of Teachers has met this proposition by expressly repudiating the policy of teacher strikes, and the American Federation of Labor has endorsed this attitude. Well, somebody has to make a start, and if the labor movement will not, I will. I say squarely, and without compromise or evasion, that I know no reason in the world why teachers should not strike, and I know hundreds of reasons why they should. If you want to find these reasons, all you have to do is to turn back and read this book once more. I say that the teachers of St. Louis should have struck when Miss Rosa Hesse was kicked out of the school board for opposing the candidacy of a school board member for re-election. I say that the teachers of Buffalo should have struck when five teachers were kicked out by the school board for publishing a pamphlet criticizing the schools of their city. I say that the teachers of Chicago should have struck when large numbers of their colleagues were kicked out of their positions for the crime of belonging to a union; so should the teachers of Butte, Montana, and of St. Louis, Missouri, of Fresno, California, of Austin and San Antonio, Texas, of Wichita, Kansas, of Olean, New York, of Lorain, Ohio, of Atlanta, Georgia, of Peoria, Marion, and Elgin, Illinois, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, of Terre Haute, Indiana.

These are only a few cases, and I might cite many more. In general, what I say is that school teachers of the United States should have their professional organizations, and should run these organizations; they should establish professional standards, setting down not merely their rights, but also their duties; they should hold their 407members to these duties, and should maintain these rights against all comers, including superintendents and school boards. I say that teachers should do this, not merely for their own welfare, but for the welfare of the schools; I say that it is necessary both for the schools and for the children, that teachers should cease to be rabbits, and should become self-respecting and alert citizens.

There has been a kind of strike going on in the American public schools for the past six or eight years; it might be described as an “individual strike.” It is made by teachers who find their positions intolerable, and who simply go into some other occupation. Professor John M. Brewer estimates that there were forty thousand such “individual strikes” during the labor shortage just after the war. These represent, of course, the cream of the profession—the people who were sure they could take care of themselves in the outside world, and who went and did it. And all these people have been lost to the schools and to the children, while the feeble-minded and feeble-souled have remained. So the profession of teacher sinks lower and lower, until now it is agreed by educators that students at normal schools—that is, those preparing to become teachers—represent the lowest grade of any to be found in training schools of the professions. It seems to me that in the light of this fact, anyone who really cares about t