By Kathleen Weiler (auth.)
This publication examines the fight over public schooling in mid-twentieth century the United States during the lens of a joint biography of those impressive girls, Heffernan, the California Commissioner of Rural and uncomplicated schooling among 1926 and 1965, and Seeds, the Director of the college undemanding college at UCLA among 1925 and 1957.
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Extra resources for Democracy and Schooling in California: The Legacy of Helen Heffernan and Corinne Seeds
Commissioner of Elementary Education Helen Heffernan was just thirty years old in 1926 when she was appointed commissioner of elementary education for the state of California. Heffernan’s formative years had been spent in small towns and cities in the mining and farming West. Now she was a key official in a complex and rapidly urbanizing state. Heffernan’s activities in her first few years in office showed the energy and initiative that would mark her public career for forty years. A major part of her time was spent visiting schools, speaking at institutes, conferences, and teachers colleges across the state.
Women dominated the Rural School Supervisors Association. At the 1926 annual convention, for example, eleven of the twelve speakers were women, as was the president of the organization, Ethel Ward. 42 In 1926, State commissioner of elementary education Mamie Lang died in an automobile accident. The position of commissioner of elementary education had been held by a woman since it was established in 1914, doubtless reflecting the view that elementary teaching was women’s work. Nonetheless, when Mamie Lang died, a number of men as well as women were invited to apply for the position, including Charles Waddell, head of teacher training at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Roy Cloud, who later became president of the California Teachers Association.
But the faculty was hardly homogeneous in its views. Probably the sharpest and historically the most significant division was between Thorndike and his followers, who emphasized quantification and testing, and Dewey and those influenced by his thinking, who argued for a flexible curriculum that could meet the needs of individual children and emphasized the essential role of schools in a democracy. Although she did not immediately reject the ideas of Thorndike and his followers, it was the child-centered and democratic educators who captured Seeds’s imagination.