Educating for Capitalism: Business and the Schools

In its quest to win public support, the business community reached into virtually every facet of American society. Education was a con­stant target. Employers had long recognized schools as important institutions for imparting skills and values, and business contribut­ed heavily to the education system. In return, the schools in many communities loyally served the interests of local companies. During the Depression, however, business's close relationship with the schools fractured over budgets and ideological struggles. Employers feared that their influence had drastically diminished.

Beginning in the early forties, but with increasing fervor and so­phistication after World War II, corporate leaders attempted to restore their influence over education as part of their broader campaign to create an economic and political climate favorable to business. First, business needed to reestablish trust. Then, building upon that trust, employers could promote among teachers and students a particular understanding of the economic system. Standard Oil executive Frank Abrams observed in a CED meeting in 1950 that "without trust, our economics will not be believed, no matter how right it may be. With trust our economics may be believed even by people who do not fully understand it."1 In seeking trust, the business community became solicitous of the needs of educators, offering increased financial sup­port while courting administrators and teachers whom they perceived to be instrumental in shaping young minds. Not surprisingly, orga­nized labor, particularly unionized teachers, objected to the height­ened business presence within the schools.

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The business community's interest in education can be traced back to the origins of the public school system in the early nineteenth century. Faced with the tensions resulting from industrialization, ur­banization, and immigration, business and professional classes sup­ported the common school movement as a means of socializing work­ers for the factory, and as a way of promoting social and political stability. But, by the turn of the century, inculcating the general busi­ness values of hard work, industriousness, and punctuality was not enough. Progressive-era reforms, such as at-large school elections, shifted control over education from local politicians with allegianc­es to their working-class constituencies to elites, almost guarantee­ing "that school boards would represent the views and values of the financial, business, and professional communities." Business leaders encouraged schools to adopt a corporate model of organization and called for the education system to more explicitly prepare workers for the labor market through testing, vocational guidance, and vo­cational education. To achieve these goals, employers formed alliances with a new professionally trained corps of school administrators who shared in the business community's vision of scientifically managed, efficient and cost effective schools.2

Business dominance of the education system met many challeng­es, however. Unionized teachers in a few localities joined with orga­nized labor to contest corporate control of the schools, specifically targeting administrative and curricular reforms. Unions called for a broad liberal education as opposed to vocationalism, which they charged reflected employers' desires to produce docile workers. Nev­ertheless, until the 1930s, business proved to have the strongest in­fluence over education, and business values permeated the school system.3

The relationship between the business community and educators changed dramatically with the onset of the Depression. Throughout the thirties, conflict over funding and ideology created suspicion on both sides. The economic crisis precipitated a struggle over resourc­es that weakened the traditional alliance between business leaders and school administrators. Tied to the local economy, school income fell as factories and businesses shut their doors. The business communi­ty met the school's economic needs with indifference if not hostili­ty. Hardpressed employers and business organizations like the Cham­ber of Commerce, which had previously supported education generously, led a campaign to reduce school taxes and slash school budgets. The Chamber's demands for reduced teacher salaries and the elimination of "fads and frills" alienated administrators and teach­ers alike.4

Many leading educators adopted a radical critique of the Ameri­can economy, which contributed to the deteriorating relationship between schools and the business community. As the Depression deepened and conditions for teachers worsened, educators openly criticized business and began questioning the dominant values of society, particularly those associated with the free enterprise system. Progressive educator George Counts, for instance, argued that the economic collapse proved that the age of rugged individualism and competition was over and called for schools to assume leadership in building a new social order based upon collectivism. Many social studies textbooks of the 1930s, especially those developed by Harold Rugg, incorporated this critique of American society, and thousands of schools adopted them.5

This new educational philosophy helped create the image "that radicals were taking over the schools." In the late thirties, this im­pression touched off a series of attacks on schools by such ultrapa-triotic organizations as the American Legion. Ever since the red scare following World War I, conservative Americans feared communist infiltration of the schools; in the twenties some states had enacted loyalty oaths. The new social studies textbooks confirmed these fears and provided a ready target. Leaders of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce joined the Legion in charging that coilectivists were indoctrinating students through the textbooks and reducing the younger generation's trust in the free enterprise system. NAM President H. W. Prentis warned that "our free institutions and the heroes of the American republic have been de­rided and debunked by a host of puny iconoclasts, who destroy since they cannot build."6

The NAM encouraged employers to investigate their local schools. In late 1940, the NAM commissioned a review of social studies text­books to evaluate their attitudes toward America's political and eco­nomic institutions. The study unleashed a storm of controversy as educators condemned the NAM's study as an exercise in censorship and redbaiting. Alexander J. Stoddard, superintendent of the Phila­delphia school system, asserted that "by innuendo and endless repe­tition, which cover up the lack of real evidence, the American peo­ple are being asked to suspect that their schools, their teachers, their youth, and their textbooks are disloyal and subversive." Aghast at this response, the newly elected NAM president, Walter D. Fuller, protect­ed in a letter to almost fifty thousand educators that the textbook review was intended as an "inherently constructive undertaking." Nevertheless, the textbook controversy epitomized the chasm that existed between the business community and educators on the eve of World War II.7

During the forties and fifties, many business leaders were unhappy with the state of American education, but were divided over how best to change the system. A small but vocal segment of the busi­ness community, representing the most conservative employers, con­tinued to attack the schools, arguing that socialists and communists had taken over education.8 At the national level, this wing of the business community supported such organizations as America's Fu­ture, the Committee for Constitutional Government, the Constitu­tional Educational League, the National Council for Education, and a host of others that attacked schools, teachers, and textbooks. The National Economic Council, for instance, distributed a million pam­phlets titled 'Treason in the Textbooks." One of its cartoons depict­ed a teacher putting black glasses over two children reading a book­let called "The American Way of Life." The cover of the Employers' Association of Chicago's nationally distributed pamphlet "How Red Is the Little Red Schoolhouse?" showed a "brutish soldier, bayonet over one shoulder, cartridge belt over the other, sickle and hammer on helmet, sinister expression on face" injecting a hypodermic of bright red fluid into a red schoolhouse as children, oblivious to the danger, were happily at play. During the late forties and fifties, as the cold war intensified at home and abroad, these organizations' charges of subversion found a more receptive audience. At the local level, where many of the struggles to fire teachers or ban textbooks were played out, the ideological attacks against the schools meshed with business-backed 'citizens' councils' demands for economy in educa­tion and a return to fundamentals.9

A much larger segment of the business community viewed the majority of educators as misguided rather than subversive. Less con­cerned about overt communist infiltration, these business leaders worried that a lack of understanding of the American economic sys­tem and a Depression-fostered distrust of business led teachers, like many factory workers, to lean toward the liberal ideas associated with the New Deal. They believed students absorbed their teachers' skep­ticism of business and its goals. Opinion polls provided evidence for their fears. In October 1947, Ford executive William T. Gossett point­ed to surveys that showed that educators supported government con­trol of prices more emphatically than any other group. Additionally, teachers favored government ownership of utilities, the railroads, and the oil companies more strongly than the public at large. When asked to rate who had done more to improve living standards in the Unit­ed States, high school social science teachers favored organized la­bor over business two to one. Similarly, a 1951 Opinion Research Corporation study of high school seniors found that only 39 percent believed that keeping the profit incentive alive was essential to the survival of the American business system, while 66 percent believed that stiff progressive taxation, although hard on the individual, was good for the country as a whole.10

To change these attitudes, the mainstream of the business com­munity concluded that employers needed to create an educational climate more favorable to business and the capitalist system. Practi­cal conservatives of the NAM, as well the more moderate business leaders associated with the CED, agreed that support rather than crit­icism was the best way to achieve this goal. From the early forties on, the business community utilized a wide array of strategies to bring business and education closer together, ranging from providing di­rect financial support to building personal ties to educators.

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The business community's campaign to promote private higher education exemplifies its attempt to shape political attitudes within education. After World War II, higher education underwent a dramat­ic change as many of America's colleges and universities became transformed from elite to mass institutions. Touching off this expan­sion was the GI Bill of Rights, which offered millions of service men and women a subsidy to continue their education. In 1946, over a million veterans flooded college campuses, nearly doubling the stu­dent population. Classes became overcrowded, teachers were in short supply, and college officials projected ever higher enrollments as the baby boom moved through the education system. Public higher ed­ucation institutions grew disproportionately, especially to meet American society's growing demands for teachers and other profes­sionals. In the fifties, students in state colleges and universities be­gan to outnumber those in private schools.11

Private higher education institutions felt beleaguered. Educators at private colleges and universities complained that higher costs due to inflation and dwindling incomes from investments were making their schools less competitive. Indeed, by 1951 half of the country's nine-hundred privately endowed schools were in the red. In the late forties, private colleges and universities began soliciting corporate America to bail them out of their chronic financial predicament.12

A powerful segment of the business community proposed a "mar­riage of business and education" based on the financial rescue of in­dependent education. In 1952, a group of leading industrialists that included Alfred P. Sloan of General Motors, Frank W. Abrams of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Henry Ford II of Ford Motor Com­pany, John L. McCaffrey of International Harvester Company, Irving S. Olds of United States Steel Corporation, Henning W. Prentis of Armstrong Cork Company, and Laird Bell of Weyerhauser Timber formed the Council for Financial Aid to Education. With the assis­tance of the Council, corporate contributions grew dramatically in the fifties, especially after a 1953 New Jersey court decision sanctioned the right of corporations to contribute funds to educational institu­tions within reasonable limits. That court ruling spurred the growth of a number of company-sponsored foundations to facilitate compa­ny giving. Business gifts, independent of grants for industrial research, rose from $24 million in 1948 to $136 million in 1958. By 1965 cor­porate donations had reached $280 million a year.13

The nature of corporate contributions changed as well. Formerly, companies like General Motors, Du Pont, and General Electric had provided scholarships for employees and their families or supported technical or science programs. While business expanded these efforts, corporations also began to provide greater support for the liberal arts and social sciences, often in unrestricted grants that allowed the col­lege or university to decide how to allocate funds. Gilbert F. White, president of Haverford College, observed that "for the first time in their history, American liberal arts colleges are systematically seek­ing financial support from industrial corporations; for the first time they are receiving such support."H

General Foods' giving to higher education was typical. In the for­ties, it had provided only small and irregular grants to Harvard and Princeton for their business and industrial relations programs despite growing requests for corporate aid to education. Following the New Jersey Court decision, General Foods set up a charitable foundation called General Foods Funds, Incorporated. In its first year of operation, General Foods directed $85,000 or 19 percent of its charitable contri­butions into the educational aid program. By 1958, the company gave $380,000 to education, 54 percent of its total contributions. The prin­cipal feature of the program was the annual gift of $25,000 made to independent, privately supported, liberal arts colleges.15

Business had concrete purposes for its rescue of private higher ed­ucation. Beginning with World War II, companies became increas­ingly dependent on higher education for scientific and engineering research and development as well as for the training of future man­agers. Business leaders wanted to ensure the growth and vitality of this relationship. Moreover, corporations wanted to ensure that a core of America's colleges and universities involved in this activity re­mained independent of the state.16

Business leaders saw the dramatic growth of public higher educa­tion as another example of the growing influence of the government in society. They argued that tax-supported public institutions an­swered to government, while the private schools maintained the tra­dition of independent scholarship. Academic independence was the "counterpart of economic freedom." By supporting private higher education, the business community saw itself defending individual freedom. Indeed, Irving Olds suggested that capitalism and free en­terprise "owed their survival to no small degree to the existence of our private, independent universities." Likewise, Factory warned that without greater support America's private system of higher education, "a potentially crucial bulwark for freedom of enterprise" would be undermined.17

Advocates of business aid to education contended that companies gave without strings but suggested that government funding implied outside control. In 1953, the Nation, a voice of liberalism, contend­ed that "to make such a distinction was unrealistic." Candid employ­ers admitted as much. At a 1958 National Industrial Conference Board meeting, John A. Pollard, vice president of the Council for Financial Aid to Education confessed that there was a "certain quid pro quo" in corporate giving. Companies wanted research and training, but many also hoped to shape the political climate on campus. William J. Grede, a Wisconsin industrialist, for instance, directed aid at small liberal arts colleges where the Board of Trustees and administration were "completely in the free enterprise camp." Irving Olds advised educators "to preserve those fundamental principles of freedom upon which American Freedom itself depends." Employers hoped that their gifts to higher education would help create among educators feelings of obligation and indebtedness to business, or at the very least it would heighten their sense of trust in the business system. Accord­ing to General Electric, the ultimate payoff for this educational in­vestment was improving the "economic, social, and political climate necessary for the continued existence and progress of competitive free enterprise."18

Corporate leaders used more than dollars to shape the economic and political climate on campuses. Increasingly alarmed about the "widespread misunderstanding" of the economic system among ed­ucators and students, the Foundation for Economic Education and a host of leading firms established exchange programs, summer con­ferences, and seminars that brought faculty from public and private higher education institutions into personal contact with the business community. The political intent of these programs was evident in the choice of educators in the humanities and the social sciences, particularly economics and political science.19 Between 1947 and 1950, Goodyear, Du Pont, International Harvester, Chrysler, Standard Oil, and Swift, began educators' conferences. Small groups of senior fac­ulty from across the country spent from ten days to three weeks at corporate headquarters. They participated in a series of seminars, plant tours, and discussion groups, during which top executives ex­plained the operations and philosophy of the firm.20

At the 1955 Du Pont Educators Conference, participants learned about the firm's products, manufacturing process, industrial relations program, and pension and welfare benefits. Participants then debat­ed the issue of corporate bigness and monopoly. Highly placed exec­utives argued vigorously against government intervention in business and complained that government welfare programs destroyed indi­vidual "initiative and responsibility." Gatherings at meals, cocktail parties, and "golfing foursomes" allowed for informal social contact between faculty and corporate officials. The involvement of top ex­ecutives, such as Chairman of the Board Walter Carpenter and Presi­dent Crawford Greenewalt, showed the company's commitment to this effort, and participant Howard Horsford admitted that he felt flattered. He observed that "when a $3,800-a-year instructor has the chance over the dinner table for an hour and a half sociably to dis­pute the views of a $600,000 executive, on everything from the tar­iff to financing education, the gain in understanding—if not agree­ment—is for the instructor at least commensurate."21

The Foundation for Economic Education's College-Business Ex­change Fellowship program, which began in 1948, targeted young faculty members, hoping to catch them "when they are open mind­ed." By 1954, 112 major firms, including Allis-Chalmers, Alcoa, Bris­tol-Myers, Caterpillar, Du Pont, Firestone Tire and Rubber, Ford, Gulf Oil, Nabisco, Sears, United States Steel, and Westinghouse sponsored one or more fellows, providing transportation and stipends. The publicly stated objective was to give the faculty member a compre­hensive picture of the operations of a business firm. Privately, some executives admitted that their underlying goal was to inculcate "the professors" in the "philosophical basis of free enterprise." For a pe­riod of six weeks, faculty members worked in close proximity with supervisors and top executives, where they learned about pricing, production, incentive systems, finance, and industrial and public relations.22

What impact did these programs have on faculty? Sponsors found immediate evidence of their effectiveness. Foundation official W. M. Curtiss reported that one of Du Pont's first Fellows in the College-

Business Exchange program came "there frankly skeptical of big busi­ness . . . but after his six-weeks, he was certain that du Pont was O.K." Curtiss concluded that "such an experience cannot help but have a profound influence on his future academic work."23 A 1953 survey of participants conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation as well as letters of thanks to participating firms from faculty members suggested that many did absorb the corporate message, coming away with a favorable impression of business. One participant remarked that the "program removed some false conceptions I had about big business." Another observed that the experience "altered and broad­ened my viewpoints regarding the solutions, particularly, of complex economic problems, and made me rather proud of the U.S. free en­terprise system." Following the 1954 Du Pont Conference, Grover A.J. Noetzel, dean of Business Administration at the University of Miami, wrote that informal "bull sessions" were of "extraordinary value" in increasing "the realistic appraisal of the American business scene on the part of the academic people who are going to teach your chil­dren and grandchildren and also mine."24

Business-sponsored college speakers bureaus complemented pro­grams focusing on specially targeted faculty. The New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce established a bureau in 1949 that enlisted colleges to host monthly meetings. In a typical program, a business leader spoke to the entire faculty and student body about "his own and his company's struggles and successes." During the 1950-51, school year nineteen Chamber representatives spoke to forty-eight thousand New Jersey students.25 The NAM's College Program began in 1948 with similar goals. It sought to place the "economic facts of life" before students, whom the NAM claimed were "too often ex­posed to leftist philosophies." In a typical speech during his 1948 tour of thirty-five college campuses, Earl Bunting, NAM managing director, attacked the "collectivist" proponents of planning and ar­gued that the only way to bring about improvements in workers' stan­dard of living was increased productivity. By the mid-fifties, NAM speakers were making over seventeen hundred similar talks each year to almost two hundred thousand students and faculty.26

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Business viewed higher education as just one part of its educational strategy to shape the political climate of the country. The business community's principal effort, however, involved primary and second­ary education, another area where corporate leaders feared their influence had declined greatly in the thirties. As in higher education, the public schools' continuing fiscal problems provided business lead­ers an opportunity to restore friendly relations and create feelings of trust in the business community.

In the forties and fifties, acute shortages of teachers and classrooms at all levels of education contributed to a sense of crisis. Underfund­ed during the Depression, World War II had placed new pressures on public school systems. Wartime priorities meant that school repair and building programs, on hold through the thirties, continued to be postponed. Moreover, poorly paid teachers fled the classroom for more lucrative wartime positions. Few returned after the war and low salaries failed to attract enough replacements. Skyrocketing enroll­ments, as the children of the baby boom reached school age in the late forties and fifties, exacerbated these problems.27

As class sizes rose and teacher morale sank, educators sought more financial support. Believing that the local and state funds that tradi­tionally supported education had been exhausted, educators focused primarily on the federal government to help pay teacher salaries, build schools, and to address the inequities between the richest and poorest classrooms. Both the AFL and the CIO provided staunch sup­port for federal aid. Until the late fifties, however, federal aid to public schools foundered on religious and racial disputes as well as conser­vative opposition to federal involvement in education.28

Key organizations in the business community, meanwhile, began mobilizing on behalf of the public schools. Beginning in the early forties, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce, both of which had been unsympathetic to schools during the Depression, began urging their members to promote ade­quate support for the schools, particularly to raise teacher salaries.29 To enlist employer support for higher state and local taxes, the NAM and Chamber warned of the potential appeal of unionism to under­paid teachers. Moreover, they asserted the economic value of educa­tion, contending that money invested in education was akin to cap­ital invested in a business enterprise. Education, they argued, repaid higher taxes with a high standard of living, economic growth, and prosperity. In 1948, Frank W. Abrams of Standard Oil and the Com­mittee for Economic Development added the special postwar empha­sis on the links between education and greater productivity and in­creased consumption. If, he charged, "our hope of an advancing American economy involves reducing costs, increasing individual productivity, and devising better ways of doing things, we must con­sider that we have a major interest in helping American education/'30

For business, however, aid needed to come from private or local resources. Although they risked alienating educators, much of the business community opposed federal aid to the public schools, ar­guing that it would lead to federal control of education and destroy local initiative. Conservative business groups like the NAM and the Chamber of Commerce even predicted that federal aid would open the door to the socialization of the American economy. By taking the initiative in the campaign for better schools, the business communi­ty hoped to undercut the drive for federal aid. According to NAM executive Earl Bunting, "the ever present pressure for federal aid to education, which could only mean federal control of education, can be successfully counteracted only by the determination of business­men to provide adequate funds for educational purposes." Business support for education, then, always emphasized community initia­tive and local or state level funding.31

Confident in the power of advertising, business leaders suggested selling the notion of a crisis in education to arouse public interest. In the fall of 1947, the Advertising Council convinced 250 corpo­rate leaders to launch a campaign to awaken the American public to the "urgency in the crisis in education." U.S. businesses gave millions of dollars of advertising to support the campaign. Newspaper and radio advertisements; thousands of outdoor posters; cards in buses, trolleys, and subways described the plight of public schools and urged citizen action. In 1949, the Advertising Council joined forces with the newly formed National Citizens Commission for the Public Schools, headed by former Du Pont executive Henry Toy, and fund­ed by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Posters bearing the words, "Our Schools Are What We Make Them—Good Citizens Ev­erywhere Are Helping," directed the public to write to the commis­sion, which encouraged the establishment of independent commu­nity groups to work toward improving local public schools.32

Addressing the schools' fiscal plight was but one way for business to increase its influence over education. Coiporations also stepped up their direct contact with teachers and students, emphasizing two overlapping goals. First, business involvement in career and guidance activities and its support for improving science and math instruction was designed primarily to enhance industry's recruitment of work­ers and to assure the availability of enough technically trained per­sonnel. Equally important to industrialists was inculcating teachers and students in the values of business. This message was implicit even in the supposedly nonideologically driven activities supporting vo­cational and technical education. United States Steel's widely distributed teaching aid, Science in Steelmaking, for example, emphasized new developments in steel research and technology without overt politi­cal or economic messages. But U.S. Steel candidly admitted that by showing that technological strides "made for human betterment by American industry/' it hoped that students would learn "for them­selves the social values of the free enterprise system." In 1943, Hen-ning W. Prentis ominously warned of the 30 million public school children who would be voting by 1955: "Unless they are thoroughly grounded in knowledge of, faith in, and practice of the principles on which the American republic rests, they will be easy prey for the demagogue."33

To sell these principles, business relied on a variety of mechanisms, some of which replicated and overlapped with their opinion-mold­ing programs in the community. Initially this involved the NAM's effort to bring school administrators together with business leaders. The NAM had earlier promoted free enterprise in the schools, most­ly by disseminating literature, but it had no formal relationship with education. In late 1941, worried about the hostility created by the Robey Report, the NAM proposed to the National Education Associ­ation a series of joint conferences to increase cooperation between business and education. Through personal contact, the NAM hoped to convince educators of "the sincerity of the American business­man." The National Education Association, primarily an organization of school administrators, responded readily in the hope that closer ties to business would pay off in greater business financial support for the public schools. Between 1942 and 1945, 45 regional meet­ings and over 250 community discussion groups involved thousands of business leaders and educators throughout the country.34

The NAM used its contact with school administrators to its ad­vantage. Aware of the NEA's support of federal aid, the NAM worked to keep that subject off conference agendas. Instead, employers ex­plained to educators what business wanted from the public schools. They asked that students be well-prepared to enter the job market, but they also wanted schools to instill students with the correct at­titudes. In March 1945, at a Portland, Oregon, conference, business­man J. C. Yeomans urged that schools "indoctrinate students with the American way of life" and teach that "the American system of free enterprise has done more for human comforts than any other system." In the postwar years, the NAM expanded efforts to estab­lish a more cooperative relationship with school administrators at the national level by setting up an Educational Advisory Commit­tee. Although, the committee had no formal relationship with the NEA, it recruited many NEA members, including a past president of the organization.35

While business leaders recognized prominent administrators as an important audience, they believed that building relationships with educators at the local level was equally important. This was part of the broader corporate community relations campaign to integrate business and industry into community life. To accomplish this, Chamber of Commerce affiliates began establishing committees on education. Their number grew from two hundred in 1944 to thirteen hundred in 1949. Similarly, between 1948 and 1953, local employer groups and even individual companies developed close working re­lationships with their respective school systems. These organizations sponsored vocational guidance programs and provided teaching ma­terials exploring local industry's "contribution to the nation" and "to better living," as well as introducing some of the "basic facts" about the economic system.36

The classroom teacher was the principal target of much of the busi­ness community's attention. Employers worried about teachers' al­leged economic illiteracy and their suspicion of business, fearing that they might consciously or unconsciously transmit their prejudices to schoolchildren. Some also worried that hostility toward business com­bined with low salaries were driving teachers into organized labor's camp. The NAM advised that "union membership naturally breeds sympathy which goes beyond immediate interest." Unionized teach­ers, it contended, promoted labor's agenda in the classroom, adding force to organized labor's drive for power.37

Beginning in the late forties, employer organizations across the country began sponsoring Business-Industry-Education days to cor­rect "misconceptions" about business. Employers persuaded local school officials to close schools for a day to enable teachers to tour local firms where they learned "the story of the enterprise system first hand." The NAM and the Chamber of Commerce provided detailed instructions to local affiliates on staging the event. Divided into small groups, teachers went down into coal mines at Taylorviile, Illinois, inspected Birmingham, Alabama, steel mills from chairs on moving railroad flat cars, studied the operations of breweries in St. Louis or watched amateur actors from a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, firm put on a dramatic presentation of "The Role of Profits." On a typical BIE day, lunch with company officials followed the tour. As the Lansing, Mich­igan, Chamber of Commerce observed, lunch afforded an opportu­nity "for the host firm representatives and the teaching staff to real­ly get acquainted and somewhat chummy in a social way." Company officials then usually spent the balance of the afternoon discussing with teachers the firm's history, policies, and employment practices, emphasizing industry's benefits to the community and "basic eco­nomics of the American system." In some communities, educators reciprocated by inviting employers to visit the schools and learn of their problems and contributions to the community.38

Closer contact with employers gave some teachers a new enthusi­asm for business and the free enterprise system. 'The hospitality of everyone was overwhelming" remarked one of the teachers after the 1950 Hartford BIE day. "Never in my life did I ever see any group made to feel so welcome as we were." A Chicopee teacher, Sophie Chumura, left the Spaulding Company tour with "further insight into how important it was to teach the interdependence and dependence of man and our local industry." Carrie L. Clements, an East Point, Georgia, high school teacher, concluded that the tours helped teach­ers "understand how the free enterprise system has given America the highest standard of living in the world." Similarly, Floyd A. Deni-cola, a Hillside, New Jersey, high school teacher reported that he had a "better understanding of capitalism at work."39

Chamber of Commerce records demonstrate the extent of the movement. By early 1955, 693 chambers had sponsored 1,489 BIE Days involving over thirty-six thousand businesses and three hun­dred thousand teachers. NAM affiliates picked up the tactic, spon­soring a host of others. By the end of the fifties, teachers in seven hundred localities, ranging in size from small towns to cities as large as Hartford, Connecticut, and St. Paul, Minnesota, annually partici­pated in factory tours. In 1952, Public Relations Journal observed that for many years employers labored to "find new and effective ways to explain and defend American business enterprise." BIE day, it con­cluded, "does that for the choicest kind of an audience."40

Not content to rely solely on teachers to shape young minds, the business community reached out directly to students. In 1953, over 2 million school children read B. F. Goodrich Company's cartoon-type booklet "Johnson Makes the Team," in which Tommy Johnson, a son of a Goodrich tire dealer, learns about the American free en­terprise system through teamwork in football. Hundreds of thousands of others watched the NAM'S film, "The Price of Freedom," which explored the hidden danger of security achieved through the growth of the government. It told the story of Fred Vollmer, a young news­paper man who joins the staff of his father's paper. He visits Germa­ny and learns that public complacency to the expanding powers of the state fostered Nazism. Returning home, he sees the same threats to America's democratic institutions and resolves to expose them in a series of "stirring editorials." Initially, for some unexplained rea­son, his father refuses to print his son's editorials. But later, influ­enced by Fred's arguments, he finally runs the series and thereby joins in the fight for freedom.41

Corporations brought students, like their teachers, to their plants to learn the business story. The children's experience was shorter and less intensive but nonetheless visually powerful. In 1947, for instance, Detroit students read a series of Ford Motor company booklets and then eighty thousand of them saw steel poured and cars assembled at the River Rouge Plant. That same year, St. Louis employers, rocked by the postwar strike wave, contributed $40,000 for an essay contest that impressed upon students the need for labor harmony. The es­say topics were "Worker and Employer, Partners in Business," "What Do Strikes Cost the Worker?" and "What Free Enterprise Means to My Future." Three years later some two thousand Worcester, Massa­chusetts, children wrote about "More Taxes or Less Government" and "Freedom Is Everybody's Job." In Junior Achievement, students re­cruited through the high schools and advised by local business firms, formed minicorporations that over the course of the school year pro­duced and sold products. Junior Achievement Incorporated, found­ed in 1919, promised that the program taught youngsters to "appre­ciate the profit system," thereby helping to "strengthen our American way of life."42

Pamphlets, tours, and Junior Achievement were not new to the postwar years. Business had used some of these mechanisms in ear­lier efforts to shape public opinion through the schools. The National Electric Light Association, for instance, distributed millions of pam­phlets during the twenties to block regulation of electric companies and the NAM sent a steady stream of literature into the schools in the thirties. Teachers welcomed some of these aids, like General Elec-tric's traveling science exhibit, "House of Magic," but many educa­tors were antagonized by propaganda-ridden material.43

But after World War II, business brought a new intensity and so­phistication to the task of influencing children. It was in the late for­ties, for instance, that Junior Achievement began to expand nation­ally to help combat "the shift towards collectivist thinking" among students. Participation in Junior Achievement grew steadily from under five hundred companies in 1946 to three thousand a decade later. Business-sponsored teaching aids—booklets, filmstrips, teach­ing kits, and movies—also came of age in the years after the Second World War. Business associations and individual firms, such as General Mills, U.S. Steel, General Electric, American Cyanamid, Standard Oil, General Motors, and many others, sent more of this material than ever before into the schools. In 1950, the NAM alone distributed al­most four and a half million pamphlets to students, representing a 600 percent increase over 1947. It also doubled school usage of its films between 1947 and 1949; by 1954 over 3.5 million students watched about sixty thousand showings of NAM films. That year, school superintendents estimated that the investment in free mate­rial at $50 million, about half the amount public schools spent an­nually on regular textbooks. At the end of the decade, one in five corporations reported supplying teaching aids.44

Some corporations established education departments or hired consultants to help allay teacher suspicion of sponsored materials. One effective technique was enlisting teachers in their production. In 1951, the NAM set up an advisory council of educators to review its publications. Similarly, General Mills turned to University of Min­nesota faculty and school administrators or teachers in Austin and Duluth, Minnesota, to help prepare lessons in economics. In Janu­ary 1951, executives from thirty of America's leading companies met in Des Moines to hear the story of how General Mills and educators cooperated to produce the teaching unit "Freedom of Choice" that explored what happened "when we fail to keep and exercise individ­ual freedom of choice." Other firms ran summer workshops for teach­ers on the use of industry resource materials in the classroom. By the late fifties, the National Science Teachers Association conceded that "teachers and administrators have greater confidence in industry and in the motives behind industry's offerings to schools."45

* * *

The most systematic effort to shape ideology in the realm of edu­cation was the campaign to promote the teaching of economics. Busi­ness leaders were united about the importance of addressing "eco­nomic illiteracy" but divided over the content and control of economic education. In the schools, the strident free enterprise ideology that characterized the NAM competed with the more corporatist-orient-ed philosophy of the Committee for Economic Development. Both confronted the hostility of organized labor. Charting these conflicts highlights the difficulties business leaders faced in their efforts to se­lectively address the economic illiteracy of American students.

In the early fifties, the American Economic Foundation and the NAM began offering systematic instruction in economics to public schools. They utilized economic education programs originally cre­ated for factory workers. The AEF's "How We Live in America" was an offshoot of its factory program, "In These Hands," while the NAM adapted "How Our Business System Operates" for use in high schools.46 The message changed little from the factory to the class­room. Both programs presented an explanation of the workings of the American economy, stressing praise for the accomplishments of the "American Business System." HOBSO, for instance, emphasized the centrality of competition and individual freedom to business suc­cess and warned of the dangers inherent in an economy controlled by the government. It advised that "freedoms are indivisible." Eco­nomic freedom was inseparable from political freedom and "when we interfere arbitrarily with one, we endanger the other." HOBSO instructed teachers and students that the safest path to personal se­curity was through individual achievement rather than collective dependence on the government.47

To promote their programs, business leaders drew upon newly de­veloped ties with the education community. NAM and AEF represen­tatives attended education conferences and staged demonstrations for individual principals and superintendents. Manufacturers' associa­tions also invited educators to special education-industry meetings that featured HOBSO. In late 1953, NAM staffers reported that at one such conference in Trenton, New Jersey, their revelations about the degree to which students supported government ownership of bank­ing, the railroads, and the steel industry made Trenton Central High School authorities immediately "anxious" to implement HOBSO. Companies further encouraged adoption of the programs by buying the HOBSO kits and audio visual materials associated with "How We Live in America" for local schools.48

Although neither the NAM nor the AEF included educators in de­veloping their economic curriculum, both required schools to adopt their program without modification. To maintain control over the content and method of instruction the NAM and the AEF required that teachers attend week-long workshops to develop familiarity with the material and an "understanding of basic economic principles." By 1956, NAM reported having trained two thousand teachers to present HOBSO in their classes. The following year, the AEF boasted that "How We Live in America" had been adopted in high school systems embracing more than twelve percent of all secondary schools.49

One of the primary impediments preventing the NAM and the AEF from dominating economic education was a competing framework backed by the more moderate wing of the business community. In 1949, the Committee for Economic Development helped form the Joint Council on Economic Education. Through the Joint Council, the CED hoped to bring about greater public understanding of the importance of increasing employment, productivity, and living stan­dards, while maintaining economic stability. Although the CED shared with the NAM the belief that individual freedom was "the cornerstone of our economic system," it also asserted that economic stability depended upon an expanded role for the government in the economy. It viewed the Joint Council as a key institution for gener­ating public support for its program.50

The Joint Council's official mission was to assist school systems in improving the quality of economic education through curriculum re­search, workshops and the publication of materials for teachers and students. The CED provided seed money and helped the Council ob­tain support from the Ford Foundation. Through the fifties, CED trust­ees remained prominent in the Joint Council's inner circles and played a major role in shaping the organization's policies. Not surprisingly, the Joint Council's policies reflected CED ideology. The Joint Council, for instance, refused to promote the special interest of any group and stressed objectivity, expertise, and nonpartisanship. This closely resem­bled the CED's philosophy that there existed a "general interest" in­dependent of class interests that "could be ascertained through the ap­plication of expert knowledge to the problems of modern life."51

Arguing that management-run programs were "too rabid, too ex­treme, and aroused too much suspicion," the Joint Council sought to be objective in the treatment of competing economic ideology. The emphasis on balance and expertise was reflected in the Joint Coun­cil's organization and program. Professional educators led the Coun­cil and were advised by a board of trustees including representatives of business, labor, and agriculture. Regional and state councils, affil­iated with the national organization, were also governed by boards representing the major interest groups.52

Organized labor's involvement gave the Joint Council an aura of legitimacy designed to undercut opposition. Impressed with the Joint Council's commitment to labor representation and its professed ob­jectivity, trade unionists participated in its activities and prominent union leaders served as officers in the national and regional coun­cils. Solomon Barkin of the Textile Workers Union, who served as an officer of the Council, recalled that although his participation gave a "stamp of legitimacy" to the Joint Council, he stayed in the belief that he could help "ensure the balance."53

Educating for Capitalism: Business and the Schools -

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