It is important to look at the attitude towards mass education in the US and contrast it with other examples to understand the education reforms of the Progressive Era and the role of immigrants. Mass education has been a highly controversial topic in both England and the US since the beginning of the 19th century. While in some cases, similar arguments were used across the Atlantic Ocean, the situation in the two countries was quite different, and therefore the dynamics of the processes varied. In the US, the idea of mass education spread smoother and faster due to the lack of a harsh rebuff from the conservative elites. In England, the fear of changing the traditional social order was more pronounced even for ordinary people. Moreover, there were other prominent differences between the two societies (Kaestle 187). Firstly, the US enjoyed a higher average literacy rate. Secondly, the attitude towards revolutions was less critical in American society as the country itself gained its independence due to the rebellion. And finally, and most importantly for this paper, mass education in the US was seen as an instrument to facilitate the ethnic conversion of immigrants.
England was able to rely on its native laboring class and alternative social institutions to transmit the traditional values within this class; however, later, this strategy proved to be futile and ineffective. At the same time, there was no such option in the US, and mass education was seen as the tool to bring more social control and spread American values, traditions, and rules in migrant communities. It is essential to note that during the 19th century, such advantages of education as increased social mobility and better individual opportunities were not as crucial for decision-making regarding the introduction of mass education. Even the proponents of mass education held a more conservative position appealing to the social stability and discipline that education can create. Therefore, it can be said that Progressive Era education reformers used the factor of migration to support their arguments from the social point of view.
Kaestle, Carl. “Between the Scylla of Brutal Ignorance and the Charybdis of a Literary Education: Elite Attitudes Toward Mass Schooling in Early Industrial England and America.” Schooling and Society: Studies in the History of Education, edited by Lawrence Stone, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, pp. 177-191.