* United States compulsory school attendance immigrant children

United States Compulsory School Attendance: Immigrant Children

Figure 1.--This photograph was captioned, "Instructing foreign children found on the street to attend school." It was dated Janusry 16, 1911. That may be when it was srchived, because the man and children do not look like winter. Click on the image for a similar scene with the girls. This caption read, "Getting reasons for absence from children found on streets during school hours."

American immigrants have varied greatly over time. An imprtant part of the American story is immigration. For the first decades of the Ametican Republic, immigrants were largely similar to the existing population, mostly Protestant and from Britain and Germany, with similar values. Many immigrants actually were better educated than the existing population. And as is often the case with immigrants, many were even more ambitious than the native-born popultaion. This began to change before the Civil War with the arrival of large numbers of Irish Catholics fleeing the Potato Famine. Not only were they Catholic, but they were largely uneducated and distrustful of authority after their experience with the English imposed Protestant establishment in Ireland. And many Irish were distrustful of American authorities, including the public schools. This would be the genesis of the Catholic parochial school system. It also was the genesis of anti-immigrant politics--like the Know Nothing Party. After the Civil War immigration, immigration expanded not only in number, but in geogrsphic snd religiousv/cultural diversity. And it was no longer confined to northern Europe. Immigrants began coming from Eastern Europe (Russia which included Poland and the Baltics at the time) and Southern Europe (especially Italy). This fueled anti-immogrant feeling. For the children, the immigrant experience began in the schools. America unlike Eastern and Souther Europe had a strong public education system. Immigrant parents varied in their attitude toward education. Some saw it as the avenue for the future for their children. This was especially the case for Jewish parents. No immigrant group prised education more than the Jews who after the Civil War mostly came from Eastern Europe. These were an oppressed minority that had little educational opportunity or access to professional careers. This changed dramatically when they reached America. Other immigrant groups varied. Many other immigrant parents also saw the imprtance of education. Others were less sold on education and saw more value in jobs and hard work and wanted theiur children to get jobs to support the family. Many fathers who worked in factories and mines saw book learming as a daliance. The same was often the case in the countryside. My German grandfather, for example, after my dad finished primary school (8th grade), wanted him to work on the farm. Dad moved in with relatives in a nearny city to attend high school. Their relationship was never the same. Compulsory school srendance laws were not in place when when the wave of immigrantion began after the Civil War, but this had changed wiyh the turn-of-the 20th century.


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Created: 2:28 AM 2/4/2020
Last updated: 2:28 AM 2/4/2020