chapter  5
8 Pages

Catholic Textbooks and Cultural Legitimacy, 1840–1935


The history of anti-Catholicism in nineteenth-century America1 has been well-documented. More specifically, urban and educational historians have examined in detail the roots of anti-Catholicism and its influence on the development of the Catholic parochial school2 system in the United States. Among the most interesting research conducted on this subject has been that of James W. Sanders. In his work, The Education of an Urban Minority: Catholics in Chicago, 1833-1965, Sanders has argued that the Catholic schools provided an important alternative to the “one best system” of the public schools. According to him, while the public schools in urban areas such as New York, Boston, and Chicago became “Culture Factories” whose purpose was to produce a uniform type of individual, the

Catholic schools, as expressions of the deviant, originated and thrived on rejection of that belief, first in its religious dimension, and then in its broader cultural and socioeconomic ramifications. Thus, as public schools centralized to secure cultural homogeneity, Catholic schools as an early expression of counterculture rights and beliefs, deliberately reveled in hopeless-or glorious-diversity. Further, in catering to the culturally diverse, the parochial school appears to have functioned in sympathetic vibration with the Catholic, immigrant, alien poor, whereas the public school, as the increasingly bureaucratized agent of dominant culture, could not.3