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Jan 23, 2023
The KKK's Push for Compulsory Schooling and a Federal Education Department
The KKK's Push for Compulsory Schooling and a Federal Education Department
"The greatest duty of America today is to build up our educational system." That sentiment probably seems anodyne, like something you might have heard on the campaign trail in the recently concluded midterms. A century ago, it represented the top priority of the Ku Klux Klan. "Throughout the boom years of the early 1920s," the historian Adam Laats notes in a 2012 History of Education Quarterly article, "every local Klan group made education reform a leading goal of its public activism." Eventually, Laats writes, a push for compulsory public schooling overseen by a federal cabinet agency became the "linchpin" of the organization's agenda. Why the Klan's sudden interest in education policy? First and foremost, because of the KKK's virulent nativism and anti-Catholicism. Most private schools at the time were associated with the Catholic Church, while most public schools were openly, if unofficially, Protestant. By requiring all child
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