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ERIC Number: EJ863680
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 18
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 22
ISSN: ISSN-1535-0584
Attacking Communists as Commissioner: The Role of Earl J. McGrath in the Red Scare of the 1950s
Rodgers, James B.; Null, J. Wesley
American Educational History Journal, v36 n1 p53-70 2009
Following World War II, fear rooted in Communist paranoia gripped America. This distress seeped into all aspects of American culture, including education. The American people became increasingly worried that Communist influences would infiltrate the schools and pervert the minds of children. At the forefront of this quagmire was Dr. Earl James McGrath, the U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1949 until 1953. Although McGrath's role in the early 1950s hysteria over Communist influence has been explored in some respects by educational historian Stuart Foster of the University of London, the authors argue in this paper that McGrath played a more significant role than Foster describes in "Red Alert!" (Foster 2000). To argue this point, this study concentrates on McGrath by investigating his role in spreading anti-Communist sentiment through American education. In addition to the question of McGrath's political influence, this paper explores the impact that McGrath had on K-12 schools and hence American culture in general. The paper begins by providing background on McGrath's personal history and his rise to power. The authors highlight important moments in his life that provide insight into his motivations. They then describe how McGrath was relatively passive throughout the beginning of his tenure, even going so far as to criticize the idea of requiring teachers to sign loyalty oaths to prove their allegiance to American democracy (McGrath 1949a). However, as the academic community and other political powers began to question the risk that loyalty oaths posed to freedom of speech, McGrath became increasingly aggressive in his policies against Communism. By using primary source texts including McGrath's speeches and books, the authors reveal how McGrath became reckless in his assault on suspected Communists, to the extent that he severely hindered academic freedom, not only during his time as U.S. Commissioner of Education but for many years to come.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A