American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling: A Comparative Study

By Michael C. Coleman | Go to book overview

2 The School as Weapon of State

Until the nineteenth century, writes Colin Heywood, “the idea that the state should intervene between parents and their children was almost unthinkable.”1 Earlier British and American colonial governments had sporadically supported education to pacify and control subject peoples. Yet it was only in the early 1800s that schooling became a systematically wielded weapon of the state throughout the Western world. And it was only then that Britain and the new United States acknowledged national responsibility for the education of “difficult” subgroups and actually began to establish, support, and physically build national and later compulsory elementary educational systems to Anglicize and Americanize these subgroups.

The United States became a nation in 1787 and built on British Imperial and colonial policies toward Indians, including cooperation with missionaries. For decades more the BIA performed this duty in a less-than-systematic way; at one point the government attempted to slough off its responsibility, parceling out the tribes to various Catholic and Protestant missionary organizations. Yet by the later part of the nineteenth century, with the establishment of government day schools and boarding schools (on and off the reservations), the BIA had pushed the missionary societies to the margin. Indeed, from the beginning of its existence the United States had staked out its responsibility for “civilizing” and Americanizing Indian peoples, whose “savagery” and “heathenism” were affronts to the new Republic.

Responding to Roman Catholic complaints and to the critical findings of a number of educational commissions, and realizing the inadvisability of continuing to subsidize Protestant missionary ventures in a predominantly Catholic country, in 1831 the British Parliament agreed to establish and finance the new elementary school system for all Irish children. The British state, like the American, thus embarked on an ambitious program of mass education for a supposedly problem people, but from the beginning the British did so more systematically. The Irish national school authorities no longer worked with mission societies, for example.

At that time neither the U.S. government nor its British counterpart felt the need to provide national, state-supported elementary school systems for

-38-

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American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling: A Comparative Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations - Following Page 176 ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Education in Native America and Ireland to the 1820s 11
  • 2: The School as Weapon of State 38
  • 3: The Local Community and the School 66
  • 4: Regimentation 89
  • 5: Curriculum 118
  • 6: School Staff 156
  • 7: Peers and Mediation 188
  • 8: Resistance and Rejection 216
  • 9: Results 240
  • Conclusions 263
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliographical Note 343
  • Index 353
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