Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930

By Richard A. Meckel | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
From Coercion to Clinics
The Contested Quest to Ensure Treatment

Conflict and controversy similar to that surrounding the efforts of school hygienists to combat malnutrition by establishing school feeding programs attended their efforts to facilitate the corrective treatment of those whom medical inspection had identified as having remedial defects. As was true with school lunches, a central and contentious issue was the relative responsibilities of the school and the family in guaranteeing that children received the treatment they needed. Like those opposing subsidized school lunches, opponents of schools’ playing more than a diagnostic and advisory role in securing treatment for children raised concerns about publicly funded education exceeding its mandate and, in so doing, both departing from its traditional educational mission and encouraging family irresponsibility and the proliferation of state socialism. Additionally, the school facilitation of treatment for correctible physical defects raised the question of at what point the pursuit of public health trespassed on the legitimate province of private practice. In the beginning, however, the major issue for those involved in medical inspection and school hygiene was how to convince the parents of students identified as having physical defects to seek treatment for their children.


The Compliance Problem

Implicit in the practice of sending notes home to parents listing a child’s observed defects and suggesting that he or she be taken to a private physician or clinic for further diagnosis and treatment was the assumption that remedial defects were widespread in schoolchildren in large part because parents were often unaware that the defects existed and could be corrected. Hence, it was

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