Dare the School Build a New Social Order?

Part of the Historical Studies in Education book series (HSE)


The Depression of the 1930s led many Americans to reconsider the nature of their political, social, and economic institutions. In California, the social and economic crisis of the Depression raised significant challenges for Corinne Seeds and Helen Heffernan, including financial cutbacks, the beginning of attacks from conservatives, and the need to respond to the entry of increasing numbers of impoverished children into the schools.1 As was true throughout the United States, California was deeply affected by the Depression: local economies suffered, tax revenues shrank, and unemployment reached extraordinary levels. But unlike the Midwest or East, California also experienced an influx of migrants from other states seeking work in its rich agricultural counties, a migration documented by such well-known figures as Dorothea Lange, John Steinbeck, and Carey McWilliams. Through Lange’s photographs and the 1940 film “The Grapes of Wrath,” images of white migrant farmworkers became icons of the Depression. At the same time, under the New Deal, California received substantial federal aid; it was the site of large public works projects such as the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges in San Francisco and was the recipient of federally supported programs for the unemployed, farmworkers, and children. This increased federal aid led to an increased federal presence and influence in the state.


Social Order Teacher College Rural School Progressive Education Seasonal Worker 
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© Kathleen Weiler 2011

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