Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf

Committee Co-Chair

Melissa Binghmann

Committee Member

Ken Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

James Siekmeier

Committee Member

Sam Stack


This dissertation explores how the American public school system has become the primary institution for citizens to project, contest, or affirm their values. Primarily, this revolves around competing ideas of democratic education. After World War II, politicians utilized the schools to propagate American democracy, while citizens viewed education as a means to reconstruct the post-war democratic order. Although most representatives acknowledged the schools needed to guard democracy and stem totalitarian aggression, few agreed on how education should accomplish such a feat. Consequently, "democratic education" deviated from its theoretical moorings and found a newly nationalistic expression in a Cold War era of scrutiny and hyper-politicization This development magnified the societal importance of the American school, as debates no longer hinged around purely education but rather over competing notions of American democracy. As educational policies took on new political dimensions, this simultaneously served to both cloud and enlarge the mission of American schools. Tasked with rehabilitating American democracy at home and fighting totalitarianism abroad, American education became freighted with a host of newfound responsibilities and obligations, often outside the schools' reach. Accordingly these expanded obligations opened education up to newfound educational constituencies rife with critiques, as they evaluated the ability of American schools to live up to their democratic promise.;Indeed, no longer were educational disputes the sole domain of rival educational camps. Rather educational disputes once contained within schoolroom walls increasingly became hashed out in New York's schools, churches, labor unions, civic centers, and neighborhoods. These educational disputes, heightened in fury, and feverish in pitch, ushered in a new era of educational controversy that became part of America's Cold Culture Wars..