Copyright © 2012 Lisa Harbatkin
Teacher loyalty and patriotism remained fascinating subjects for the Board of Education well after the 1917 dismissals and transfers, going into the 1920s and the post WWI Lusk Laws time frame.
In 1919, the board dismissed history teacher Benjamin Glassberg, charging he had told students that Bolshevism wasn’t so bad and that school teachers were not permitted to tell the truth about the situation in Russia. (Glassberg taught at Brooklyn’s Commercial High School, although it appears that many, if not most, of the teachers caught in this early phase of the 20th century Red Scare were at DeWitt Clinton.)
The New York Times reported Glassberg’s dismissal on May 29, 1919. On June 20, the paper carried an article on a test given to students – but in this case to evaluate their knowledge of WWI and Bolshevism: and where and from whom they learned what they knew. Not much changes, does it – except the tests here examined patriotism rather than reading and arithmetic. The board was after anyone and anyplace, teachers included, who might be responsible for failing to instill the proper patriotism and loyalty in impressionable minds.
“We are desirous of finding out to what extent Bolshevist ideas have been impressed on the students of our high schools,” a letter to high school principals, sent out by William L. Ettinger, the city superintendent of schools, said. No pupils would be penalized, assistant superintendent John L. Tildsley wrote in a letter to the principals. Rather than being punished, they would get “such instruction as may be necessary.” As for the teachers, Tildsley said, “the data will be used only to indicate the measure of the teachers’ opportunity and obligation to assist pupils with reference to facts and problems of vital importance.” (As noted in the previous post, Tildsley later changed his views and came to support the Teachers Union.)
The extent of the board’s concern is also reflected in the tests given in the elementary schools. They were keyed to the board’s assessments of how radical or Bolshevik-y different districts were. “It was believed that the answers to the queries in some of these alleged radical districts would prove interesting,” the Times article reported.
The TU passed resolutions and held protest meetings against the examinations.