Alcohol Education in America's Public Schools, 1880-1925
Winner: AERA Division F "New Scholar's Award"
Drug and alcohol education in public schools may be important, but its authoritarian stance often invites skepticism among teachers and students alike. Yet this program has its roots not in modern bureaucracy or even Prohibition but in a social movement that flourished over a century ago.
“A well-written and timely study of one of the WCTU’s most important endeavors.”
—Journal of American History
“Zimmerman’s thorough research, clear conceptualization, fluent style, and attention to—and respect for—public debate should win his book a wide readership both within and beyond the academic world.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“Well written, well researched, and provocative.”
“This is a carefully researched and closely argued book which presents a specific US history. Its perspective on the science/policy relationship adds a new perspective from educational theory.”
“Will be of interest to those fascinated by the concept of a grassroots movement influencing public education.”
—Journal of Studies on Alcohol
“A century before the Afrocentrism debates and a generation before the Scopes trial, there was Scientific Temperance Instruction (STI), probably the most successful lay effort to influence school curricula in the history of American education. By taking the STI campaigns seriously, this book raises a host of provocative questions about the complex interaction among experts, professionals, and the public at the end of the nineteenth century; about the democratic character of the Progressive period in general; and above all else, about the contested place of majoritarianism in American public education.”
—James C. Mohr, author of Doctors and the Law and Abortion in America
“Should public school pupils be indoctrinated against alcohol and drugs? Or should they be taught to think? As Zimmerman shows, these important questions are not new. By focusing on tensions between science and morality and between democracy and experts, his insightful book makes valuable contributions to the histories of education, science, public policy, and the Progressive Era.”
—W. J. Rorabaugh, author of The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition
“Provides an illuminating historical context for understanding the conflicts among extramural lobbies, the public, and public school educators that now swirl around the schools.”
—Joseph Kett, author of The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties: From Self-Improvement to Adult Education in America
“A brave and interesting book that illuminates bitter battles within the most significant Gilded Age women’s organization, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.”
—Robyn Muncy, author of Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890–1935
“Reveals the intemperate politics of alcohol education and gives new insight into the conflicts between expertise, passion for reform, and representative democracy.”
—David Tyack, author of Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School ReformSee fewer reviews...
Scientific Temperance Instruction was the most successful grassroots education program in American history, championed by an army of housewives in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union under the leadership of Mary Hanchett Hunt. As Hunt and her forces took their message across the country, they were opposed by many educators and other professionals who believed that ordinary citizens had no business interfering with educational matters. STI sparked heated conflict between expert and popular authority in the debate over alcohol education, but it was eventually mandated as part of public school curricula in all states.
The real issue surrounding STI, argues Jonathan Zimmerman, was not alcohol but the struggle to reconcile democracy and expertise. In this first book-length study of the crusade for STI, he shows Mary Hunt to be a wily and manipulative politician as he examines how citizens and experts used knowledge selectively to advance their own agendas. His work offers a microcosm for observing Progressive Era tensions between democracy and professionalism, localism and centralization, and social conservatism and liberalism.
Distilling Democracy points up a crucial and ongoing dilemma in our education system: educational directives handed down by experts deny citizens the right to transmit their values to their children, while populist educational values sometimes stifle classroom debate. By using history to demonstrate the public's participation in shaping public education, Zimmerman suggests that however unappealing the program, society needs to embrace such popular movements in order to uphold true democracy. His book offers fresh insight into an overlooked chapter in our history and will spark debate by raising fresh questions about lay influence on school curricula in modern America.