Niemi, John A.
M.S. Ed. (Master of Education)
Department of Leadership and Educational Policy Studies
The Americanization movement began as an attempt to provide educational services to adult immigrants at the time of World War I. Since adult education did not yet exist as a profession, leadership was provided by settlement workers who combined liberal education and practical knowledge of immigrant living conditions. The settlement hoped to supplement the inadequate programs and resources of the public schools. This tendency was reinforced by support from the Progressive movement which saw the unassimilated mass of immigrants as a barrier to the more efficient operation of society. Peter Roberts, the originator of a languageacquisition curriculum, and Frances Kellor, organizer, administrator, and publicist, were two of the main figure of the Americanization movement. They called for a government-business partnership that would increase the rate of assimilation according to the principles of scientific management, making use of new techniques of publicity and social control, stopping just short of calling for legal compulsion. However, another aspect of Progressivism was also of importance to the Americanization movement. Settlement workers observed the effects of corruption and mistreatment on the immigrant community and the need for organized political action. Jane Addams and Grace Abbott developed a concept of Americanization based on meeting the most pressing needs of adult immigrants in order to help them cope with strains in family ties brought on by uneven rates of assimilation. Based on the information they gathered, they advocated a broad-based curriculum with activities appropriate for different age levels, including traditional cultural pursuits. Despite these differences, an open break was avoided until the Red Scare of 1919-1920. Then the identification of Americanization with conformity to a narrow set of values brought forth a strong opposition. This mirrored the division of the Progressive movement into the advocates of political reform and of social control. The legacy of the Americanization movement is two-sided: it contributed to the techniques of adult education, but it also provided an example of the danger of excessive zeal.
Krischer, Michael, "Progressivism and Americanization the education of adult immigrants, 1911-1920" (1987). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 4554.
Northern Illinois University
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