Schooling the Poor: A Social Inquiry into the American Educational Experience

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview

3 Schooling the Poor

In its diverse manifestations, immigration to the United States fell into two distinct periods. At first the settlers were English, with the exception of a small Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam and a colony of Swedish Lutherans in the area now known as the state of Delaware. The dominance of pure English names is shown most clearly in the census of 1790, in which 83 percent of the population were so recorded. Only a handful of non-English-speaking colonists were in existence at this time. 1

In fact, immigration before 1820 was insignificant and consisted mostly of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The distinguishing characteristic of the new arrivals before 1840 was most often their indigent condition. In 1842, 100,000 migrants entered the United States. Thereafter, immigration never fell below 100,00 in any one year for the rest of the century. In the decade from 1847 to 1857, the number of newcomers was never less than 200,000, and in 1854, it reached 420,833 persons. From 1820 to 1840, immigration of German and Irish people took place, creating a crisis over Catholic parochial schools in Massachusetts. This was the beginning of the second phase of the immigration story, because the Irish were considered to be of different and inferior racial stock. The Germans, on the other hand, proved to be more acceptable. They were thought to be not much different in origin from the first English colonists themselves: courageous, intelligent, resourceful,

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