First Advisor

Burton W. Onstine

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Education and state -- United States, Education -- Political aspects, Education and state



Physical Description

1 online resource (165 pages)


This study compiles a series of cases and controversies in American education, from the popularization of public education in the mid-1800's to the present, and then reviews them to determine scholarly political aspects, common themes, and trends. It then applies the identified themes to a model of “the school as a responsive political system” fashioned after David Easton's "Dynamic Response Model of a Political System” to demonstrate the operative nature of the themes.

The paper reviews the plight of Negro education in Alabama after the Civil War until 1901. It discusses accommodation in the realm of education as the United States began its massive move toward industrialization and the corresponding move toward child-centered education. It discusses controversies in the reform era of the 1920's and the turmoil to the educational system in the cold war period after World War II. It looks at cases involving sectarian to non-sectarian education of the 1800's and the anguish of disappointed educators with the trends of public education and the Progressive Education Association in the Great Depression period. Finally, the paper reviews cases involving charges of indoctrination against public schools, recent controversies (since 1954) in integration and segregation, and cases involving modern educational alternatives.

The paper identifies three themes consistently present in educational controversy: 1) the desire of the people to have all children successfully master the basic fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, 2) the desire of the people to have the schools emphasize moral and spiritual values which are similar to their own, and 3) the opposition of the people to what was believed by them to be an attempt by the school to foster some dimly defined kind of socialistic theory which would replace individualism with group goals and competition with cooperation. The paper then analyzes the cases and situations with respect to the identified themes.

The paper uses the framework developed by David Easton to construct a simple framework from which to view the three identified themes. It shows the three themes to be the true demands behind a variety of issues which create controversy in education. Briefly, the paper then reviews the adapt ion of the educational system to the demands. Finally, the paper concludes that lithe school" will persist as a viable political system if it can accurately analyze the basic nature of the issues confronting it, in terms of the three identified themes.


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