Copyright (c) 2003 Constitutional Commentary
ARTICLE: THE LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE: PIERCE, STATE MONOPOLY OF EDUCATION AND THE POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE
20 Const. Commentary 61
In the aftermath of World War I, the specter of communism cast shadows deep into the American psyche. Nativist sentiments, spiked during World War I, combined with fears of leftist revolution to create a culture hostile both to immigrants and to ideas perceived as anti-American. 3 From 1919 to1929, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and his young assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, led a campaign to deport immigrant members of the Communist Party. 4 The drive to assimilate immigrants became a patriotic mission to protect national security. 5 Public education presented a powerful mechanism of assimilation, training impressionable children to become good American citizens. 6 By 1919, thirty-seven states enacted laws restricting the teaching of foreign languages. 7 Questions of patriotism, loyalty, and the meaning of American citizenship dominated public discourse. 8
Threats to national security also preoccupied the Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction of immigrants, antiwar activists, and socialists for subversive speech under the Espionage and Sedition Acts. 9 The speech cases were representative of the Court's larger concern with articulating the appropriate relationship between individual and state in a world of vast and rapid technological and social change. These changes, coupled with the massive political, economic, and social upheavals rendered by World War I, pressed the Court continually to address the proper balance between state control and individuality in a constitutional democracy. The Court's persistent protection of economic liberties during the 1920s reflected its assessment of the limits of governmental regulation in a democratic society. ...
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