In this series of articles, we look at an important consequence of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision - the total school. For background, see my series of articles, "The Reign of Subjectivity".
By making the emotional health of previously segregated, minority children the test of equal education, the Supreme Court provided legal impetus for the total school program. In addition to providing academic education, schools were required to heal injured minority children and remedy the pathologies created by segregation in the minds of majority status children. This new mission required a vast expansion of school functions.
The new mission was foreseen by the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth,* which provided social science support for the Brown decision. The Midcentury Conference report called for the extension of the child-centered pedagogy of the progressive education beyond traditional cognitive subjects to develop the pupil's whole personality.
"It came about that, through inquiry into the social nature of the individual and the meaning of this for education, the forefront of education moved away from traditional preconceptions about the nature of the child and the mode of his learning in the direction of a concern for the healthy development of the whole personality."(P. 237.)
School curriculum and the educational environment had to be changed to "put greater emphasis on those facets of the personality called 'feeling' than on those called 'thinking.'"(P.239.)
Schooling had to be concerned, not only with learning, but also with the child's "readiness for any kind of learning."(P. 244.) The "whole child" was the subject of schooling.(P. 248.)
Teachers had to be more than a knowledgeable teacher to their pupils; they had to be "sensitive" to what their pupils were feeling.(P. 252.) The teacher, "with other adults in a position of guidance and authority, ... is likely to be aggregated to the parental prototype."(P. 253.)
Schools would become the most important institution for the raising of children, usurping the role of the family and religious institutions.
Such an ambitious educational mission needed a grander label than "public school education." The Midcentury Conference report consequently referred to enlarged vision of school function as "the total school program." It was this vision of the "total school", to which the Brown decision locked America. The political implications of the vision should have been ominous. The total school was not far from the totalitarian school.
* Helen L. Witmer and Ruth Kotinksy, editors, Personality in the Making: The Fact-Finding Report of the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, reprint edition ([1952, Harper & Brothers] Science and Behavior Books, Inc, Palo Alto, California, n.d.). The report is hereafter cited only by page number.