Seniors in physiological chemistry lab under Miss Sweeney’s Direction. The Kentucky High School Quarterly, April, 1917. Louis E. Nollau Print File. University Archives. University of Kentucky Libraries. Special Collections.


The Kentucky High School Quarterly in 1917 was as steady and undistracted in its sense of the world and its place in it as these lab students appear to be. Background conditions were undoubtedly a factor. When State College became the state’s University in 1908, the responsibility for training teachers for the elementary grades was reassigned to the “new” normal schools at Bowling Green and Richmond. The Quarterly reflected this new institutional division of labor. It was a token of the pride with which the university’s Department of Education shouldered its new and exclusive mission to prepare high school teachers and superintendents. Just as significantly, however, the Quarterly was supremely confident on the issues in the spring of 1917, secure in its enthusiams, and in what it regarded as levelheaded good sense. In the lead article, for instance, Mary Sweeny characterized the recent promotion of UK’s Home Economics department to a separate college as “the largest and most progressive step that has been taken in the interests of Kentucky women.” Writing as the new Dean, Sweeny felt sure that homemaking had now become “the equal to other professions” — that a women with a degree in Home Economics would now “rank with the man who takes his degree in law or medicine.” Or consider the editorializing of J. T. Cotton Noe in the same issue. Head of the University’s Department of Education from 1912 until it became a college in 1923, Noe was a poet, someone as famililar to the audiences on the Redpath Chautaugua circuit as he was to teacher institutes around the state. He thought of education as an art, not a science, endorsed testing as long as it furthered the interests of individual teachers and their pupils, and greeted the school survey — the premier instrument of a growing centralized authority — with a skeptical chuckle. The aftermath of a school survey, he quipped, was like the aftermath of a street carnival: “confetti… confusion… consciousness of a depleted treasury and a few sour stomachs.”

On the enormous prestige testing came to enjoy after World War I, see Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, revised and expanded edition (Norton, 1991). On developments after World War II see Nicholas Lemann, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2000).

On the tensions, confusions, and compromises which helped to shape home economics as a field, see Sarah Stage and Virginia B. Vincenti, eds., Rethinking Home Economics: Women and History of a Profession (Cornell, 1997) andd Mareal Nerad, The Academic Kitchen: A Social History of Gender Stratification at the University of California, Berkeley (SUNY Press, 1999).

On the political dynamics which transformed normal schools into state universities, see Jurgen Herbert, And Sadly Teach: Teacher Education and Professionalization in American Culture (University of Wisconsin, 1989), David Larbaree, The Trouble with Ed Schools (Yale, 2004) and Christine A. Ogren, The American State Normal School: “An Instrument of Great Good” (Palgrave, 2005).



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