American Progressive Education, Texas Schools, and Home Economics, 1910-1957



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This thesis explores the Americanization efforts of educational leaders in Texas during the Progressive Era to demonstrate that reformers did not use vocational education, and specifically home economics, primarily to Americanize immigrant and ethnic minority students to become good, working-poor citizens. Through Americanization efforts in vocational curricula, reformers hoped to provide economically disadvantaged students with a practical body of knowledge and democratic values that would create healthy, economically viable communities occupied by loyal, educated American citizens. Federal legislation that promoted the development of vocational education in the first half of the twentieth century demonstrates that this way of thinking reflected national rather than regional trends. In Texas, vocational education was largely directed at a population that was predominately white and rural for the first several decades of the twentieth century. That decision by educators casts considerable doubt on assertions that they were primarily motivated by racialized thinking. Notably, home economics curricula was constructed over the framework of Americanization, and children who took such courses in rural schools received training that advocated respect for others, cooperation, an appreciation of Western culture and the value of aesthetics, efficiency and thriftiness, and good hygiene practices. The homemaking program at the South San Antonio high school in the 1944-1945 school year provides an example. Homemaking teacher Nell Kruger's curriculum reached far beyond training future housewives, waitresses and maids. She sought, in accordance with the state-mandated home economics curriculum, to provide a practical body of knowledge and to inculcate democratic values in her students. Using Texas' State Department of Education and State Board of Vocational Education bulletins, Texas Education Agency literature, federal and state laws, conference reports, and curriculum guidelines, this thesis seeks to further nuance the understanding of Americanization efforts through vocational education, specifically homemaking, during the Progressive Era in Texas by arguing that Americanization reflected an urban, middle-class perspective directed toward economically disadvantaged white students as well as immigrant and ethnic minority students.