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The Emergence of Bureaucracy in Urban Education: The Boston Case, 1850–1884

  • Michael B. Katz (a1)

Extract

“It is said,” reported a very knowledgeable observer, that in 1880 when Francis Parker left Quincy after working a minor revolution in its schools, “he received this advice from Charles Francis Adams: get a new suit of clothes, a tall hat, and keep your mouth shut, if you wish to succeed.” The advice was excellent, for Parker was walking with his customary nonchalance into the hottest and most confused educational hassle that Boston had known since Horace Mann and the grammar school masters had engaged in a vitriolic clash in the 1840's. At first glance the sides looked similar; lay reformers were openly attacking grammar school masters and striving to reorganize the school system. However, unlike the situation in the forties there was now a superintendent, or rather three superintendents before the fight was over, and the roles of these varied successively from champion of the masters to ally of the reformers to seeker of compromise and truce. But this was not the only difference. In the earlier struggle it was the lay reformers who were championing a highly centralized, super-efficient model of educational administration while the beleaguered masters struggled to retain their traditional autonomy and freedom from supervision. By the 1870's, however, reformers had become disenchanted with the effects of a centralized educational system and championed an ideal that confusedly tried to combine bureaucracy and charisma. By this time, on the other hand, the schoolmen, more than they themselves knew, had accepted bureaucratic structure to which they now looked, ironically, for autonomy and protection; thus the grammar school masters and their supporters vigorously defended the concept of rational, professionally directed, hierarchical organization.

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Notes

1. The research for this essay was partially supported by a contract with the United States Office of Education under the Cooperative Research Program. A number of individuals have offered me very helpful comments and suggestions. I should like to thank, in particular, Dr. Robert Dreeben for his help in the earlier stages of this work; Tyack, David Dr., for his insightful comments on drafts and the heuristic example of his own work on bureaucracy in Portland, Oregon; Miss Susan Houston for her careful and critical readings of all my drafts of this essay.

2. Exeter (pseud.), “Boston Gossip,” New England Journal of Education, XIV (November 1881), 311. On Parker, and Quincy, , see Katz, M. B., “The ‘New Departure’ in Quincy, 1873–1881: The Nature of Nineteenth Century Educational Reform,” The New England Quarterly (March 1967), pp. 3–30.

3. I have analyzed the Mann-Masters episode in The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, in press).

4. In no sense should this essay be considered an attempt at a complete history of education in Boston in these years. Equally long analyses of events and trends not treated here, or touched on only peripherally, could be written. For instance, I touch but marginally on the problems of Catholics, a major source of conflict during these years; I hardly mention either technical education or drawing and music, subjects that aroused much heat and spurred auricular and institutional innovations. Likewise, the whole issue of the defensibility and role of public high schools not discussed here, was critical in these years, though more problematic in places other than Massachusetts.

5. Friedrich, Carl J., Constitutional Government and Democracy (rev. ed.; Boston: Ginn and Company, 1950), pp. 4457.

6. For a chronological account of the history of education in Boston, see “A Chronology of the Boston Public Schools,” Annual Report of the Superintendent (Documents of the School Committee of the City of Boston for the year 1929, No. 7 [Boston, 1930]), pp. 91126. This is the most convenient source for locating the factual matters reported in this part of the essay. The account, moreover, contains the appropriate reference in the school documents for each item in the chronology.

7. Hinsdale, B. A., Our Common-School Education; with a Digression on the College Course (Cleveland 1877), p. 9. Lane, Roger, Policing the City: Boston 1822–1855 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), passim.

8. For an example of the argument that the old arrangements were grossly inefficient see Philbrick, John Dudley, “The New Departure,” New England Journal of Education, V (January 1877), 9. The growing complexity of administering the city is well-described throughout Lane, Policing the City…. Lane attributes the development of the police force largely to this source.

9. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1865 (Boston, 1865), pp. 4449; Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1866 (Boston, 1867), pp. 42–43; “Report of Special Committee,” “Superintendent's Reports,” Annual Report, 1866, pp. 45–59, 150–55.

10. Payne, William H., Chapters on School Supervision (Cincinnati and New York: Wilson, Hinckle, 1875), pp. 1517. See also Gove, Aaron in The Journals and Proceedings and Addresses of the National Education Association of the United States, Session of the Year 1884 (Boston, 1884), p. 27, hereafter cited as NEA, 1884, and “City Superintendents,” New England Journal of Education, VII (April 1878), 264.

11. Payne, , op cit., pp. 15–17; also Philbrick, John Dudley, “The New Departure,” New England Journal of Education, XI (February 1880), 116.

12. See for example, “City Superintendents” NEA 1884.

13. Payne, , op. cit. , pp. 6, 13, 17, 30, 53.

14. Philbrick, John Dudley, “How Shall We Get Good Teachers?” Journal of Education, XIII (June 1881), 367–68; Pickard, J. L., “City Management of Public School Systems,” Education (September 1883), p. 98. New England Journal of Education, XII (November 1880), 344.

15. For an interesting insight into the relation of superintendents to politics, see the discussion reported in “New England Association of School Superintendents,” Journal of Education, XIII (June 1881), 377.

16. Philbrick, John Dudley, “Remarks to Principals,” Thirty-Second Semi-Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools of the City of Boston, September, 1877 (School Document No. 22 [Boston, 1877]), pp. 6474.

17. Bicknell, Thomas, “The National Council of Education,” NEA 1882, pp. 8687. The problem of individualism in relation to the growth of the professions was brought to my attention by Calhoun, Daniel H., Professional Lives in America: Structure and Aspiration 1750–1850 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), especially pp. 178–97.

18. For an account of one such episode see Katz, , op. cit.

19. Expenditures for the Public Schools: Report of the Committee on Accounts (School Document No. 7 [Boston, 1885]), p. 33; Boston Evening Transcript, January 22, 1875; Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1875 (Boston, 1876), pp. 9–11.

20. Hinsdale, , op. cit., p. 18.

21. White, Richard Grant, “The Public-School Failure,” North American Review, 131 (1880), 538.

22. Hamilton, Gail, Our Common-School System (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880), pp. 204–5.

23. Boston Evening Transcript, January 22, 1875.

24. Boston Pilot, May 22, 1875; June 5, 1875; December 11, 1875.

25. Boston Evening Transcript, May 27, 1875.

26. Katz, , op. cit.

27. Boston Evening Transcript, January 31, 1876.

28. “Report of the Superintendent of the Public Schools for the Year Ending July 31, 1876,” Annual Report of the School Committee (Boston, 1876), p. 153; New England Journal of Education, III (January 1876), 30; Boston Evening Transcript, February 9, 1876; February 16, 1876; Boston Daily Globe, March 1, 1876.

29. “Report of the Committee Appointed to Represent the School Committee Before the Legislature,” Annual Report of the School Committee, 1875 (Boston, 1876), p. 176; Report of the Special Committee on Changes of Regulations of Superintendent and Supervisors (School Document No. 1 [Boston, 1877]).

30. Boston Daily Globe, March 1, 1876.

31. Boston Evening Transcript, March 2, 1876.

32. Boston Daily Globe, March 1, 1876; March 15, 1876; Boston Evening Transcript, March 22, 1876.

33. Tetlow, John, “Lecture Eulogizing Ellis Peterson,” (Tetlow papers, 1904 [?] in the Houghton Library, Cambridge, Mass.); Boston Evening Transcript, February 23, 1876.

34. Thirtieth Semi-annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools, Boston, September 1876, published separately; “Report of the Superintendent of the Public Schools for the Year Ending July 31, 1876,” Annual Report of the School Committee, 1876; Philbrick, , “The New Departure.”

35. Ibid.

36. Report of the Superintendent … 1876, pp. 81, 147. Philbrick's description of western school systems is one of the most useful sources for describing urban educational administration at this time.

37. “The Case from the Supervisors' Point of View,” New England Journal of Education, I (January 1877), 9.

38. Report of the Special Committee on Changes of Regulations of Superintendent and Supervisors (School Document No. 1 [Boston, 1877]); Report of the Special Committee on the Plan of Work of the Superintendent, Supervisors and Board of Supervisors (School Document No. 7 [Boston, 1877]); Philbrick, , “Remarks to Principals,” p. 73.

39. Boston Evening Transcript, January 23, 1878; Boston Daily Globe, January 23, 1878; New England Journal of Education, II (January 1878), 73.

40. New England Journal of Education, II (January 1878), 56; VII (January 1878), 73.

41. Boston Evening Transcript, January 21, 1878.

42. New England Journal of Education, VII (March 1878), 168.

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