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Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s: Lessons from National
Teacher Corps Oral Histories
Bethany L. Rogers
Oral History Review, Volume 35, Number 1, Winter/Spring 2008,
pp. 39-67 (Article)
Published by Oxford University Press
For additional information about this article
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The Oral History Review 2008, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 39–67
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Teaching and Social Reform in the
1960s: Lessons from National
Teacher Corps Oral Histories
Bethany L. Rogers
Abstract: This article draws on oral history narratives to examine the beliefs and
expectations that brought a group of young people to the ﬁ eld of teaching in the
1960s through the National Teacher Corps (NTC). The oral histories address the
identities, politics, aims, and backgrounds of a dozen NTC participants. By situating
the voices of these young people within a larger social and historical context, the
article uses oral history testimony to reconsider existing accounts of social reform
movements and teaching in the 1960s and early 1970s. Speciﬁ cally, the oral
histories allow Teacher Corps participants to emerge as individuals who represent an
important if largely unexplored population that took part in 1960s movements
toward greater equality and social justice and who embraced the unique perspective
that teaching in ordinary schools serving poor and minority students could offer
meaningful opportunities for grassroots, social reform activity.
Keywords: National Teacher Corps , oral history , social reform movements , teaching ,
[T]eaching in the inner city … was my way of being able to react to the
society that was willing to take us and keep us in Vietnam … that was willing
to assassinate leaders who were different, that was willing to accept the
capitalist drive without caring about the consequences.
1 (Ralph Kidder,
1968 NTC Intern)
Bethany L. Rogers is an assistant professor of the history of education at The College of Staten Island and
the City University of New York Graduate Center. This essay derives from a paper originally given at the
American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting in April 2006 and is part of a larger study of
the National Teacher Corps. The author would like to acknowledge the oral history interviewees for their
participation as well as to thank Judith Kafka, Heather Lewis, Emily Straus, and two anonymous reviewers
for their constructive advice and support in the writing of this article.
40 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
The National Teacher Corps … ﬁ t in with all the things I believed in and had
come to believe in, in terms of civil rights issues, and allowed me a place to
remain politically active, or more active, and actually do what I thought
would be something that would be incredibly helpful to society.
Perotti, 1968 NTC Intern)
I wanted to work with people that were more disadvantaged and I thought
probably the most likely kind of skill I had to offer, without any training in
anything, would be in teaching.
3 (Leslie Graitcer, 1966 NTC Intern)
I became very much, as a young adult, an activist and the Teacher Corps was
perfect in that regard, because it was part of the War on Poverty mentality
and it had in it, going into the communities, understanding the culture,
working with communities.
4 (Lilian Roybal Rose, 1968 NTC Intern)
The National Teacher Corps (NTC) was a Great Society program created in 1965 to
recruit bright, liberal arts graduates into teaching. Starting in the fall of 1966, the
program deployed selected candidates for two-year cycles in needy communities
where they apprenticed in public schools serving poor children, took part in
volunteer activities in the community and, through participating local universities,
earned a Masters degree in teaching. Decidedly not the typical entrée into the
profession, the Corps differentiated itself from more conventional routes into
teaching at the time by presenting the work of teaching as social reform. Speciﬁ cally,
the Teacher Corps focused on improving the teaching of “ disadvantaged ” students
by developing teacher training methods that would adequately sensitize and
prepare teachers to educate poor students of color.
This article draws on oral history narratives to examine the beliefs and expectations
that brought a group of young people to the ﬁ eld of teaching in the 1960s through
the Teacher Corps. The oral histories address the identities, politics, aims, and
backgrounds of a dozen NTC participants. By situating the voices of these young
people within a larger social and historical context, the article uses oral history
testimony to reconsider existing accounts of social reform movements and teaching
in the 1960s and early 1970s.
5 Speciﬁ cally, the oral histories allow Teacher Corps
participants to emerge as individuals who did not ﬁ t the archetypes and familiar
narratives associated with 1960s social movements — they were not necessarily
radical, did not lead dramatic protest activities, and attempted to pursue change
from within the system. Nevertheless, these individuals reveal a deep commitment
to changing American society. As such, they represent an important if largely
unexplored population that took part in 1960s movements toward greater equality
and social justice.
6 At the same time, their testimonies speak to a unique perspective
on teaching. In the oral histories, participants articulate their belief that the work
of teaching in ordinary schools serving poor and minority students could offer
meaningful opportunities for grassroots, social reform activity. In these ways, the
oral histories of the NTC participants offer new evidence that alters the established
historical narrative. Not only does this evidence argue for a more capacious view of
young people’s participation in social reform activities in the 1960s but also speaks
to a perception of teaching that both differs from traditionally trained teachers at
the time and connects to a persistent, if limited, tradition in America of teaching to
change society. In this case, the two areas are closely linked, as the NTC interns
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 41
merged the concept of social reform with the work of teaching disenfranchised
students, and believed that such teaching could ultimately change society itself.
Oral history: making new sense of social reform and
education in the 1960s
Since the 1960s and the rise of social history, oral history has served as a critical
tool in historians ’ efforts to gather signiﬁ cant, heretofore excluded perspectives
that enrich, challenge, and complicate what we think we know about the past.
Several subﬁ elds that have beneﬁ ted particularly from this approach include the
history of social movements associated with the 1960s era (especially the civil
rights movement) and American educational history.
7 In both cases, oral history has
provided more than anecdotal embellishment, contributing signiﬁ cant new data to
inquiries within these ﬁ elds. In particular, the novelty of data generated by oral
history lies in the new perspectives it lends and the ways in which these perspectives
can generate fresh insights into traditional interpretations of the past. For example,
the popular vision of the national civil rights movement hinges on leaders, mass
protests, and legislation. Revising that simplistic view — that is, accounting for the
ways that social and political power was wielded through the visions of ordinary
people and illuminating the relationship between larger movements and individuals ’
beliefs and experiences — means that “ oral history must play a key role. ”
In the case of educational history, voices from the classroom would seem to be an
obvious source of information about teaching and the history of schooling. Yet
researchers have been slow to embrace this source, in part because teachers have
left little evidence of their thoughts or experience or the meanings they made of
9 Even as historians have become far more attuned to the teacher (as opposed
to the institutions or systems in which they worked) over the last three decades,
the difﬁ culty of locating source material has made the infusion of teachers ’ voices
into the historical record a challenge.
10 Oral history offers an ideal means for
illuminating not only teachers ’ experiences but also their interests, beliefs, and
understandings related to those experiences. By focusing on individual lives and
perceptions, oral history thus acknowledges the crucial interactive relationship
between teachers ’ lives, their perceptions and experiences, and social contexts and
With the exception of inroads made by scholars such as Michèle Foster, however,
scant documentation of teachers ’ voices in the postwar era exists.
12 One reason for
the dearth of oral history testimony in educational research may well be a tradition
of social science that tends to regard such data with suspicion. Life histories,
dependent on the frailties of memory, seem insufﬁ ciently scientiﬁ c as sources of
13 As teacher educator Miriam Ben-Peretz points out, teacher memories
“ are not so much discrete value-free data as they are elaborate, emotionally laden,
intentional constructions. ” 14 On the other hand, cultural anthropologists — most
famously, Clifford Geertz — have long made the “ symbolic forms … in terms of
which … people actually represented themselves ” central to their studies.
recalled inaccurately, a story can be valuable in highlighting the beliefs and interests
of the narrator, signifying meanings “ through and beyond facts. ”
16 As such, oral
history brings to light less about the way things “ really ” were and more about the
42 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
way teachers perceived them to be. Thus, the methodology is uniquely positioned
to highlight important contradictions between ofﬁ cial, elite versions of “ what
happened ” and the ways that ordinary individuals perceived, responded to, and
understood events of the time.
17 Additionally, oral history is particularly apt in
highlighting the relationship between individuals ’ beliefs and actions, on the one
hand, and broader economic, social, and cultural currents, including class status,
peer inﬂ uence, and cultural norms, on the other. This is especially trenchant in the
history of social movements and of schooling: the sentiments of mass movement
participants have often been shrouded by those of self-appointed leaders — the
protagonists in mainstream historical accounts — or submerged in a larger national
18 As for teachers, they have rarely been accorded much agency between
their characterization as “ unknowing tools of the social elite ” and “ the exploited
minority whose labor is bought cheaply. ”
Pertinent to both the history of 1960s social movements and educational history,
oral histories also tend to reveal a great deal about current issues and mindsets.
As “ life stories, ” oral histories are often constructed by a narrator as a way of making
sense of the past in relation to his or her present. Thus, oral histories about the
social movements of the 1960s can offer clues to the legacy of those movements,
drawing attention to the continuities and fractures between the 1960s and today,
and emphasizing the way that iconic era persists as a cultural reference point in our
attempts to understand contemporary American society.
21 Oral histories from those
who chose to teach during that period likewise offer useful information for
interpreting our educational past, particularly regarding the motivations and beliefs
behind the choice to teach. Such oral histories provoke important questions about
the ways in which the tradition of teaching as social reform persists, in what forms,
and to what degree the beliefs, issues, and challenges of the past are also present
in contemporary debates about teacher recruitment, training, and the education of
Oral histories and the NTC
I conducted oral history interviews with twelve subjects who joined the NTC
between 1966 and 1972. Interviewees were chosen through two methods. First, I
used what oral historian Jack Dougherty has dubbed “ snowball sampling ” — after
making a ﬁ rst interview contact, I asked for additional references, then contacted
and interviewed them, and so on. Second, I conducted an Internet search using the
descriptor, “ National Teacher Corps, ” which allowed me to identify potential
23 The evidence I collected through these oral histories offers promising
new perspectives and data, but suggests cautions as well. In particular, there is a
tension between hearing and appreciating the stories of the participants as their
stories, on the one hand, and subjecting those stories to scholarly interpretation
and analysis, with the intention of drawing general insights to describe a particular
24 I address this potential conﬂ ict in two ways. First, I draw on
primary source materials, including evaluations, studies, newspaper and journal
articles, and reports, as well as secondary literature to establish the historical
context of the 1960s. This not only reveals the ways in which the NTC was a
phenomenon of its time but also helps to situate the interviewees ’ stories. Second,
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 43
I consider signiﬁ cant or common motifs that emerge from the oral histories and I
use them to raise questions about the broader cultural, educational, and political
context of the time. Using this approach, I incorporate the new data and added
perspectives of the oral histories into a more complex accounting of the period, an
account that acknowledges a broader range of participants in social movement
activities as well as the perception of teaching itself as social reform.
Context: education, idealism, and the 1960s
The motivations and personal circumstances that made the NTC attractive to its
young constituency were shaped by larger social and educational ideologies and
trends that characterized America between the late 1960s and early 1970s. Interns
who joined the Corps grew up in a postwar America of tremendous economic
expansion, where racism, poverty, and injustice existed largely (though not entirely)
beneath the surface of public concern.
25 The ﬂ owering in the 1960s of deeply
rooted social movements, including the civil rights movement and the New Left,
and publications such as Michael Harrington’s book, The Other America or Rachel
Carson’s Silent Spring , as well as the growing conﬂ ict in Vietnam helped to wake
mainstream, white America to many forms of injustice. Indeed, the country’s
recognition of and even will to address such injustices was made manifest in the
domestic policy of the Great Society, speciﬁ cally in the passage of the Civil Rights
Act, the Voting Rights Bill, the Economic Opportunity Act, and the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act. The NTC came about as part of this federal effort toward
social change, much of which relied on the power of education.
The idea of education played a driving role in social change efforts of the 1960s,
from government policies to more antiestablishment agendas, albeit with very
different philosophical and political motivations. Education provided the backbone
of War on Poverty strategies: as framed by President Kennedy’s team and pursued
by the Johnson administration, the preferable strategy for attacking poverty called
for a “ hand up ” rather than a “ handout, ” which effectively scotched any reliance on
the transfer of income and emphasized instead the education, training, and
empowerment of the poor.
26 To their credit, some architects of the policy recognized
that successful deployment of education in the War on Poverty, which relied heavily
on schools and existing training services, would require “ a massive reform of
institutional practices in schools, ” as well as social welfare agencies and employment
27 At the same time, many youth activists recognized education — in an
avowedly noninstitutional form — as an approach to social reform that could
transform individuals, one by one. From the teach-ins that mobilized support for the
antiwar movement to community organizing that “ was more about ‘ teaching ’ than
anything else, ” education supported young activists ’ approaches to changing society
in the 1960s just as surely as it underlay the government’s domestic interests.
Yet ironically, at the very moment it was touted as a tool for effecting social change,
education in the form of schooling itself came under ﬁ re, underscoring the need for
“ massive reform ” of schools. In the 1960s, teachers of poor and minority children
in particular attracted sharp public criticism for their role in students ’ educational
29 Educational “ protest literature, ” such as Jonathan Kozol’s Death at an
Early Age , popularized a picture of such teachers as racists who disdained their
44 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
students ’ culture and background as well as their academic capacity.
and philanthropic stakeholders engaged in hand wringing as well: the 1964
President’s Panel on Education Research and Development dismally concluded,
“ the majority of urban and rural slum schools are failures. ”
31 The Dean of Fordham
University’s School of Education in New York City articulated a popular worry when
he opined that the problems in urban education would simply go unsolved “ until
the schools get an adequate supply of skilled and understanding teachers. ”
As widely perceived at the time, existing teachers were not up to the task of successfully
educating “ disadvantaged ” students. The NTC, in contrast, proposed to attract a new
kind of teacher who would be more favorably equipped to address the needs of low-
income and minority students.
33 Indeed, the creators of the NTC aimed for nothing less
than a fundamental recasting of the identities, beliefs, and training of those who
taught such students. In hopes of upgrading the image of teaching as low-wage,
women’s work or work pursued by those who had few other options, the NTC meant
to attract empowered young people who had earned liberal arts degrees from elite
colleges and universities and who could have chosen any number of prestigious careers,
unlike the typical teacher candidate who had graduated from a teachers college or with
an education major.
34 Taking into account the antiprofessional bias that ran through
the Great Society as well as a long-standing disdain for traditional teacher education,
the NTC architects also sought candidates who had no education training or experience
and who — without the NTC opportunity — would not have been likely to go into
teaching at all.
35 In other words, they set out to attract the “ anti-teacher ” teacher.
Perhaps most germane, however, the desired candidate belonged to a broader
generational movement the Corps wished to appropriate. The call for service so
eloquently expressed in Kennedy’s inaugural address not only led to initiatives such
as the Peace Corps and the Great Society but also characterized the 1960s and
inspired the activism of the baby boom generation. The young people who joined
the NTC were part of this generation, deeply affected and informed by its events
and ideologies. Looking to the Peace Corps as a model, the federal staff in charge
of creating the NTC program hoped to infuse teaching with the kind of politically
left-leaning, engaged individuals who might well have joined the Peace Corps or
even participated in the New Left, the antiwar movement, or the civil rights
movement. In aligning the notion of teaching with a social mission, planners meant
for the Corps to harness the idealism and reform energies of young people to the
work of teaching underserved students. And indeed, early cohorts of interns
seemed to bear out this aspect of planners ’ intentions.
Who joined? Characteristics of corps members
In 1966, the Corps selected its ﬁ rst cohort of 1300 young people out of more than
13,000 applications — a stunning number, given the politically pressed, six-week
36 The constitution of the Corps resulted from a careful
recruitment and selection campaign on the part of the federal staff to ﬁ ll the ranks
of the Corps with their desired candidates. According to federal records, this ﬁ rst
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 45
cohort contained roughly equal numbers of women and men; a proportion of ethnic
minorities higher than the national average among teachers (though lower than the
average in urban schools); a large preponderance of liberal arts majors, many from
elite colleges and universities; and a majority of individuals from middle- to upper-
In terms of these aggregate statistics on their education and background, the NTC
interns did differ as a group from those who had pursued traditional paths into
teaching. Among existing teachers, women far outnumbered men, ethnic minorities
accounted for only a tiny percentage of the profession nationwide, and nearly all
had majored in or studied education. These same statistics suggest notable
similarities, particularly in terms of class and educational backgrounds, between
NTC interns and young people involved in social movements of the time. In their
identities, politics, aims, and backgrounds, the young people who participated in
the NTC represent a population whose interests, motivations, and activities (many
participated in a variety of social reform efforts in addition to the Corps) aligned
them with many of the larger social reform movements of the time, even if they
chose teaching as the main forum for their social change activities. As sociologist
Rebecca Klatch has argued, people do not just join social movements out of the
blue — there are social circumstances and inﬂ uences that shape their inclinations
prior to participation. The following section seeks to identify some of the key
factors, including educational background, college activities, family upbringing,
and religion that created the Corps participants ’ dispositions toward social
Among the NTC oral history sample, six of the subjects were women and six were
men. The nine whites in the group included Anne, Bitsy, Carl, Eugene, Frank, Lee,
Leslie, Mike, and Ralph. There were also two Latinos — Danny and Lilian — and one
38 Their college majors ranged from psychology and
sociology to art history and English. One individual brought a science background
with her biology and chemistry major; two others had majored in business or
economics. Only one interviewee graduated with a BS in education. Judging from
the caliber of educational institutions the subjects attended — Lehigh, Villanova,
Cornell, Smith, Loyola — it would be easy to imagine that they hailed from the high
status backgrounds associated with the New Left student population or those who
joined Peace Corps. In fact, some of them did: for instance, Leslie grew up in a fairly
afﬂ uent neighborhood and both of her parents had earned college diplomas — her
father from Yale and her mother from Vassar.
Despite graduating from prestigious institutions, however, most of the interviewees
revealed family backgrounds described as working class or even poor, and many of
them represented the ﬁ rst generation in their families to attend college. For
example, Mike characterized his parents as immigrants from Italy, “ both very poor. ”
Mike’s father had “ maybe a year’s worth of elementary education in Italy ” and his
mother “ had to quit school in the 7th grade to take care of her siblings. ”
the eldest of six children in an African-American family, grew up in the Detroit
projects. Her father, a factory worker at American Brass, had not gone to college,
though Barbara believed that her mother, a domestic worker, had “ maybe a year of
college in the South. ”
40 Frank’s father was a farmer, like his Italian immigrant father
before him; his mother came from a family headed by a tenant farm worker. Neither
46 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
had attended college, though Frank suspected that his mother, a “ very, very smart,
very bright ” young woman who had been the valedictorian of her high school class,
“ would have loved to have gone. ”
41 Ralph came from a family where his father was
a union laborer for 42 years, his mother a secretary, and “ no one in my family tree
on either side as far as you can go back had ever gone to college before me. ”
Danny classiﬁ ed his neighborhood growing up as “ working class, ” with a large
Latino and Italian presence. His father was a baker who later delivered bread for a
living. Though neither of Danny’s parents initially graduated from high school, both
went back later in their lives to earn their diplomas. Finally, Carl recalled a father
who, though smart and college educated, “ never really got to use his college
education because it happened right during the Depression. ” His father became a
retailer and, though the family lived in a “ very well-to-do suburb of Boston, ” Carl
we didn’t really have a lot of money. We were probably the poorer of the
poor in the Jewish community, but we — I mean we were never poor, but my
dad was a merchant … [and] eventually the furniture business went out of
business while I was a kid, and so every year we’d have, you know, less and
less. So we never had new cars and we never had anything that was ﬂ ashy
and we all worked during the summer.
According to the oral histories, though the NTC succeeded in attracting liberal arts
graduates from elite colleges and universities, those institutions did not provide a
proxy for high-status social background. Likewise, while the New Left has often
been portrayed as a movement of students from well-off backgrounds, historians
have begun to document how that was not necessarily the case. Even within the
core of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a central entity in the conventional
narrative about 1960s youth, it turns out that not all participants came from
privileged backgrounds and many were the ﬁ rst generation in their families to go to
A key common factor that did link young people who came from very different class
and race backgrounds, but who nonetheless participated in social reform activities,
was their acquisition of an excellent higher education. As the oral history evidence
shows, the increased availability of higher education in the postwar period
contributed to the social mobility of many individuals whose families, by virtue of
their race or class, might previously have been disenfranchised. This growth in
higher education began after World War II as both federal and state governments
increased their investments in higher education.
45 By the 1950s, “ [e]conomic
prosperity, educational aspiration, and a demographic boom ” had contributed to a
swelling tide of college-going population.
46 Accordingly, between 1960 and 1970,
college enrollment more than doubled, from 3.6 million to 7.9 million.
expansion of higher education plus the greater availability of loans and scholarships
ushered in a revolution in the composition of the student body: more women,
people of color, and working-class individuals than ever before went to college.
Once there, these individuals found themselves occupying a “ strategic ” location as
students in institutions that were themselves “ increasingly important components
in the nation’s political economy. ”
49 Thus, their education afforded these students
opportunities and status that their families may not have possessed. At the same
time, in the extension of higher education to a broader population, colleges and
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 47
universities offered a crucial forum for generating questions about the social
policies of the time and mobilizing students ’ political development.
50 This is but
one example where the oral histories help to broaden the picture of young people
who were involved in social reform movements of the 1960s, particularly in terms
of the backgrounds from which they came.
Attitudes and political orientation
The NTC also succeeded in attracting candidates who were not only activist in
orientation but who were leftist, especially compared with existing teachers.
the Teacher Corps interns ’ political sentiments more closely approximated those of
the young people associated with the Peace Corps or left-leaning social movements
of the time. And the Corps was by no means their ﬁ rst experience with activism —
many interviewees within the oral history sample recalled being involved in movement
organizations or protest activities during their college and postcollege years. Lilian
was one of the ﬁ rst ﬁ ve founding members of the United Mexican American Students
and was active in the Chicano movement. Danny recalled participating in and being
deeply inﬂ uenced by the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the
Chicano movement. Carl noted the impact of the Back to the Earth Movement, which
he characterized as “ a major inﬂ uence on his life. ”
52 Ralph remembered joining the
protests against his university’s plan to expand into a working-class neighborhood.
His description of fellow Corps members further establishes the deep level of
engagement in social protest that seemed common among many participants:
Most of us had just recently graduated from college; most of us had been
activists on our campuses either in the anti-war movement or in some of
them as far back as the early days of the civil rights movement. So this was
a group of very smart, very savvy, politically active students that had come
into this program.
Such evidence from the oral histories is corroborated by additional sources. For
example, researchers found that NTC interns who joined in the second and third
two-year cycles (1967 – 69 and 1968 – 70) “ ranked disproportionately high ” on a
scale designed to measure social and political liberalism when compared to existing
teachers, new teachers, and even other graduate students.
54 Other studies at the
time identiﬁ ed those who studied education as among the least liberal of those
attending universities and colleges; further research comparing teacher trainees
with liberal arts students found the prospective teachers to have “ ‘ -other-directed ’
and conservative attitudes toward politics and civil liberties. ”
Underscoring the importance of higher education as a forum that provided
inﬂ uential people, community, and experiences toward the formation of political
identity, some interns found that the protest and social reform activities they
encountered in their college and postcollege years awakened them to new ways of
imagining their roles and participation in society.
56 The oral histories offer unusual
insight into this development of political consciousness. For example, in his
narrative, Frank acknowledged an initial lack of awareness:
I was really ignorant. I really had no exposure in high school to those issues
… At any rate, once I hit college and was on campus … a girlfriend at the
48 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
time who was very sensitive to the civil rights issues and the war, the Vietnam
War, and those things, had a lot of inﬂ uence on me … And I think that’s
when I became a Democrat, for one thing, and I also got very involved with
the civil rights movement. Involved in that I made it a point to educate
myself. I went to rally and things like that.
He further explained the distance he had traveled in terms of his politics and
When I ﬁ rst started at Cornell, I went with a group of guys with eggs to
throw at the demonstrators, which gives you an idea of where I was … But
by the time I was a junior, I was involved in those things. Not in any kind of
leadership way, but as a participant … I was really learning. Trying to ﬁ gure
Not only does the oral history demonstrate the growth of political consciousness
over time but it also reminds the historian that signiﬁ cant shifts in life perspective
may come about as a result of seemingly ordinary or random inﬂ uences, such as, in
Frank’s case, a girlfriend.
A useful means of tracing the development and exercise of interviewees ’ political
consciousness, the oral histories also elicited signiﬁ cant data about formative values
and experiences that seemed to have inclined these young people toward their
choices. In particular, subjects discussed the inﬂ uences of family upbringing and
religion as meaningful socializing experiences that had predisposed them toward
their politics and the NTC. For instance, many of the interview subjects grew up in
families that displayed strong political and community involvement; much as the
subjects in Rebecca Klatch’s study of the New Left and the New Right in the 1960s,
these young people were raised with a consciousness of the political, social world
and, in many cases, were encouraged to engage.
58 As Lilian recalled:
I grew up in political activism … My whole childhood was standing on
corners, handing out leaﬂ ets, people organizing in our home. My father was
elected to the L.A. City Council, the ﬁ rst Mexican American in 100 years, in
1949 and then elected to Congress in 1962, the ﬁ rst Mexican American to
be elected from the state of California. And so my whole life was political
These political activities, along with her father’s political values, not only shaped her
disposition to contribute but her social justice convictions: “ I grew up, you know,
always thinking about justice and equality and … service. My father instilled in us
that if you’re not giving back to your community you’re not worth much. ”
the example of Leslie’s father and his politics encouraged her own liberal activism. He
ran for City Council in Cincinnati and, though he did not win, raised funds for other
candidates, sat on the Cincinnati Housing Authority Board with the goal of pursuing
fair housing policy, and worked with the Mayor’s Friendly Relations Committee in the
early civil rights movement. Anne’s memory of her parents was as “ active ” community
members — her mother as part of the local Women’s Club and her father as a school
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 49
board member — who conveyed the importance of being involved in the community.
Both Barbara and Ralph described their fathers as participants in their respective
unions, activists in a different forum. While Frank’s father also was involved in local
politics, serving as a Selectman for many years, Frank did not recall activism in his
family on behalf of any particular causes. But he did discuss what he described as a
“ very strong ethic of caring about other people, ” which he related to an old-fashioned
sense of community: “ If someone [in the community] needed help, you helped. If the
neighbor farmer had hay on the ground and it was about to rain, you went down and
you helped them put their hay in the barn. ”
Like Frank and Lilian, Danny also learned about the importance of community at a
young age. He remembered his father’s example as a man who loved and respected
the differences across communities, and he took that example to heart:
I learned so much about L.A. just being the son of a baker who delivered
bread … my dad loved L.A., and my dad would always sort of take us off the
beaten path to different places in L.A. that he thought might be of some
interest to us. And he so loved the city that he would always tell us stories
about the city and so I got to know communities that most people didn’t get
to know. But I got to know it from the person who loved the communities
and just was able to ﬁ nd assets in these places and then share them with his
Another profound early inﬂ uence that emerged strongly across several of the
interviews was religion. This is in accordance with recent work by historians on the
power of religion in social reform movements of the 1960s. For example, historian
Doug Rossinow examined the role of dissident Christian liberals in SDS and the
New Left; historian Sara Evans investigated the role of Christianity during the same
period in the women’s movement and social reform; and sociologist Rebecca Klatch
looked at the difference in religious backgrounds between activists on the right and
on the left.
63 Though some oral history subjects remembered religion as something
reserved for weekly worship services, several had attended parochial school for part
or all of their K-12 education. As Danny, who came from a strong Catholic family
and attended his neighborhood parochial school in East Los Angeles, articulated: “ I
mean, when you’re socialized at a very young age that you — you’re put on this
earth to help others, it’s embedded in you constantly by your nuns, by the priests,
it eventually takes its toll. ”
64 Lilian described “ our Catholicism ” as “ believing in
helping the poor, social justice, and that type of thing, ” while Eugene, coming from
a Polish-Catholic background, recollected the church “ not only as a religious
institution but also an institution [that people] could rely on for whatever help they
may need. ”
65 Their comments evoke the ascendance at the time of social justice
Catholicism and the more liberally grounded pronouncements of Vatican II, as well
as in Danny’s case, through his association with Catolicos por la Raza , activism
toward social justice within the church on the part of Latinos.
Other faiths also shaped subjects ’ social commitment. Bitsy grew up in the
Methodist Church of the Deep South, in a small town “ where you knew everybody. ”
Through the church, she participated not only in “ activities for bible study and
things like that, but [was] very involved in community service … we just grew up
ﬁ nding things in the community that needed to be done and doing them. ”
in a Jewish family, Carl went to temple every weekend, kept kosher, attended
50 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
Hebrew Schools, and was Bar Mitzvah-ed, so that religion was “ part and parcel of
our growing up. ” He remembered his parents ’ political involvement through the
prism of religious identity:
They were politically active in that they … always took the stance of being
advocates for those who had recently arrived in this country. As a Jewish
community they were very active in keeping their identity as a Jewish
community … they weren’t involved in politics, and they weren’t involved in
town meetings, and they weren’t involved in any type of overt resistance or
celebration of governmental affairs. But … growing up, they always took
the side of the underdog.
The values developed in conjunction with their religious upbringing seem to have
prepared these subjects for the calling of a social mission, which was aptly realized
in the grassroots movements and protest activities of the 1960s. Danny voiced the
connection between his early lessons in Catholicism with his activism in later life,
[w]hen, in the 1960s, I got introduced to the civil rights movement and anti-
war movement, it was just a natural extension of … how I had been trained
and socialized as a student in a parochial school … that you’re here to help
others, you’re here to serve others.
Such inﬂ uences helped to shape the appeal of the Teacher Corps in accordance with
the values that many of these young people were raised with and initiated into
through the era’s emphasis on social movements. The oral histories provide entry
into this constellation of backgrounds; indeed, without them, these past experiences,
which participants identiﬁ ed as having shaped their trajectory toward the Corps,
would remain unknown.
Why they came: motivations for joining the corps
As secondary sources suggest, and as the oral histories afﬁ rm, participants chose to
join the NTC as a way of connecting their interests in social reform with teaching.
Yet the oral testimonies allow us to see several additional themes associated with
interns ’ motivations. The following section takes a closer look at these motivations,
which, in addition to participating in social reform, included choosing the Corps as
an alternative to Vietnam, as a way to reform existing educational practice, as a
means of fulﬁ lling a personal quest for meaning and authenticity and, in some
cases, as a solution to very practical needs.
By far, the largest common denominator among NTC participants was their interest
in social reform. Participants ’ histories illustrate how this commitment to social
reform through teaching was shaped by gender, with few men having initially
connected their interests in reform with the work of teaching. None of the six men
interviewed had seriously contemplated teaching as an option before they heard
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 51
about the NTC. Both Ralph and Carl were vehement, Ralph recalling, “ I had no
intentions of being a teacher — it never crossed my mind, ” while Carl claimed that,
“ I never entertained the thought of being a teacher, I never thought about going
into education … I mean I wasn’t against going into teaching … but it had never
dawned on me that that was something I was going to do. ”
69 Unlike the men whose
oral histories I collected, however, all of the women (save one) interviewed actually
had considered teaching as a career. Both conventional wisdom and research point
out that, when these young women graduated from college in the mid-60s,
teaching was the profession of choice for many high-achieving college women. In
1964, over half of working female college graduates were teachers.
70 Men at the
time had other options. But women, because they came of age before new
opportunities had emerged widely for them in the labor market, were still likely to
choose teaching as a career, and teaching — while less than in the early twentieth
century — was still a largely feminized profession.
Unlike more traditional paths to teaching, followed by primarily white, middle-class
women, the Teacher Corps appealed to prospective participants as a social mission.
It promised a unique vantage point — the classrooms and local communities of
underserved, poor and minority students — from which they could address critical
issues of poverty and racism and so begin to change the larger social and political
structure of America.
72 Because the Corps presented the work of teaching as a
means for realizing many young people’s larger objectives of social change, it made
teaching attractive to those who otherwise would not have entered the ﬁ eld.
Indeed, as had the government and other activists before them, many of these
individuals realized how crucial education was to those larger goals. In this regard,
Corps members saw themselves joining a political movement that connected
teaching with social change; their choice to work through the institution of schools,
however, differentiated their commitment from that of other young activists.
The desire to address racial inequality shaped another important social reform
motivation for some interns. At a moment when many middle-class, white teachers ’
failure to teach their poor students of color was linked to their inability to relate to
those students, the NTC promised to introduce respect for different cultures, races,
and communities into the classroom. Carl, a white man who had very little exposure
to people of color, saw the Corps as a way to join in the struggle for desegregation.
As he recalled, “ we were there to be part of the transition to integration, you know,
in communities where there had been Klans and there had been resistance. ”
Though he lacked personal experience with racism, Carl was committed nevertheless
to ﬁ ghting for racial equality. In this regard, Carl represented those interns most like
Peace Corps or New Left participants: white, politically engaged students who,
despite their outsider status in low income communities of color, represented a
heritage of white, antiracist politics in their interests in changing society.
In Lilian’s case, personal encounters with racism helped solidify her commitment to
changing society through teaching:
I was always bilingual … In those days there were no interpreters, there was
no bilingual education. The children had to be the interpreters … The
teachers would use me and people like me to enforce English only on the
playgrounds. And so I had to, I was set up to rat on my fellow students,
which was … tremendously difﬁ cult for a child. And I do remember vividly
52 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
that … we were eating — and we started to speak Spanish, and we were just,
all of us, speaking Spanish when the teacher came down. I was speaking
Spanish with the Spanish speakers, and I got doubly punished because not
only did I not tell on them, I was also speaking Spanish with them and that
was not my role as the monitor. And so I got punished in school for betraying
my role. It was devastating because you had, you felt disloyal to your own
group, but at the same time, you’re a child, I mean I was probably 8 years
old, 7 or 8 years old, and I was also trying to be a good student and wanted
the teacher to love me.
As she started to understand what she called the “ set up ” of racism inherent in
society, Lilian recognized the importance of education and the power she would
have as a teacher to ﬁ ght such prejudice. Lilian’s experience led her to equate
education with awareness, the ﬁ rst step in combating racism, and honor the need
to understand and value cultures that differed from the mainstream.
I became very much, as a young adult, an activist and the Teacher Corps was
perfect in that regard, because it was part of the War on Poverty mentality
and it had in it, going into the communities, understanding the culture,
working with communities.
Lilian’s view of the Teacher Corps and its focus on community as a way to ﬁ ght
racial prejudice and acknowledge the strengths and assets of different cultures was
deeply rooted in her personal experiences. Though Lilian did not grow up in the
community where she did her internship, she was a woman of color who had
experienced racism. Her story suggests a signiﬁ cant departure from the rhetoric of
the Teacher Corps, which invoked the notion of training “ outsiders ” to go in and
work in low-income communities of color. The other respondents of color, Danny
and Barbara, did their Teacher Corps experience in the very communities in which
they had grown up. Their experiences suggest a question and a connection to a
larger pattern with which other historians have wrestled: to what degree did
the NTC — like other War on Poverty programs — provide government-funded
opportunities for community insiders to invest in their communities?
Fighting Vietnam at home
A particularly important motive for many men who joined the Teacher Corps was
79 As Ralph commented, “ draft deferment was always at the top of every
male person that I knew, at the top of their agenda. ”
80 The year 1968 marked the
passing of the Tet Offensive, a “ military victory and a psychological defeat ” for the
81 Though Tet helped to shift public opinion and intensify antiwar
protest, it also resulted in General Westmoreland’s request for an escalation of
American troops. In his excellent study of draft resistance, Michael Foley points out
that the men called to serve in Vietnam were primarily from minority or working-
class homes and often undereducated.
82 Most of the male interviewees came from
such socioeconomic backgrounds, but the fact that they were well educated gave
them other options. Speciﬁ cally, the Selective Service maintained a system of
deferments for vocations that were considered vital to the “ national interest. ” One
such vocation was teaching.
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 53
In Ralph’s case, he intended to go to law school when he graduated from college in
1968, but as he reﬂ ected:
’ 68 was the year of the Tet offensive and about 9,000 other cataclysmic
events, and that was a ticket to Vietnam. So I took a job working for the
federal government, frankly, because it was a draft deferment. In November
of ’ 68, Richard Nixon was elected president; about four seconds after the
election he said he was going to do away with draft deferments, which he
did upon taking ofﬁ ce. So I walked into the public school headquarters in
Baltimore … and said I want to teach and they said that’s really cool because
we have no teachers … with three weeks of preparation, I became a public
school teacher in Baltimore in the fall of ’ 68.
For Ralph, the NTC promised a likely maintenance of his protected status. Facing a
similar dilemma, Frank explained that the NTC was particularly compelling because
it provided an opportunity for “ alternative ” service:
I had looked at alternative service as one of the possible ways to not go to
Vietnam. Peace Corps was what had come to mind initially. In our county, it
was still being honored as a legitimate, alternative service. Then National
Teacher Corps came up on the radar screen in my senior year as I was
graduating … it ﬁ t in with all the things I believed in and had come to
believe in, in terms of civil rights issues, and allowed me a place to remain
politically active, or more active, and actually do what I thought would be
something that would be incredibly helpful to society.
According to their oral history testimonies, these men understood the Teacher
Corps not simply as a way to gain a draft deferment but as an opportunity to
contribute to society in a way that they found morally defensible (unlike service in
Vietnam). Ralph most explicitly connected the act of teaching needy children with
a conscious, political response to Vietnam, saying that it:
… was my way of being able to react to the society that was willing to take
us and keep us in Vietnam and some other things like that; that was willing
to assassinate leaders who were different; that was willing to accept the
capitalist drive without caring about the consequences. So, I mean, I
understood all of that. And I saw the teaching in the inner city as a way to
react to that.
Their choice of teaching is signiﬁ cant: in the case of those interviewed, their
investment in the domestic War on Poverty seemed to offer a palatable response to
the competing foreign war.
As Foley claims, “ the Johnson and Nixon administrations dishonored a generation
of men by making them decide between: (1) ﬁ ghting in a war regarded by many as
immoral and illegal, (2) going to prison, or (3) evading both the war and prison. ”
In the oral histories, male interviewees represented their choice to join the NTC as
a way to serve their country meaningfully, without ﬂ eeing the country or going to
prison, and to resist the draft at the same time. The decision of how to respond to
the draft was a fraught one for many young men. Given the difﬁ cult nature of the
issue, as well as the character of oral history as constructed memory, the interviewees ’
54 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
conﬂ ation of draft resistance with meaningful service (in this case, teaching) may
be a simpliﬁ cation of their motives at the time. Yet it is noteworthy that this is the
way the men interviewed wanted to remember their interests and that, once again,
the notion of teaching as politically motivated service shaped their memories.
Signiﬁ cantly, the oral histories show not only the ways in which the men shaped
their commitment to the NTC in response to the war but also expose an example of
the overlap between participants of different social movements. Many of the men
(and women) who joined the Teacher Corps were also involved in the antiwar
movement: they rallied, signed petitions, and “ sat in. ” Nor was this participation
monolithic. Danny’s memories illustrate the nuances of this involvement for many
poor African-American and Latino individuals. Since many of them had brothers and
cousins in the war, they distinguished themselves from the mainstream movement:
their “ beef ” was never with the soldiers, but with the politicians.
87 Altogether, the
interns ’ participation in broader antiwar activities suggest that the coalitions that
deﬁ ned various movements ’ activities at a mass level were both capacious and ﬂ uid,
creating room for a diversity of political stances and levels of involvement.
In addition to serving these goals of larger social reform and protest, the Teacher
Corps also offered a venue for exploring and gaining skills in the teaching of
disadvantaged children and, ultimately, transforming not only the education of
underserved students but also the education and training of teachers for those
students. The Corps ’ bias against education majors in its selection process took aim
at conventional teacher preparation which, according to many progressive educators
and reformers at the time, lacked relevance for those who wanted to teach in
88 Many of those interested in the Corps for its unique
training opportunity had already taken education courses, taught, or at least toyed
with the idea of teaching; many of these individuals had also experienced frustration
with the traditional approaches to teacher training they encountered and were
eager for an alternative. Indeed, if the NTC selected candidates with a prior interest
in teaching, those interests usually tilted toward the unconventional, the
experimental, and the particulars of teaching in underserved areas.
Among those in the oral history sample who professed their interest in teaching,
only one studied education in college. More typical was Anne’s experience: “ I went
[to college] because I wanted to be a teacher, but then I took a look at what
teaching courses looked like and I was so horriﬁ ed I didn’t take any. ”
89 Instead, she
pursued a liberal arts education, majored in psychology and discovered the NTC, an
alternative to traditional teacher training, after she graduated.
For Lilian, who knew she wanted to become a teacher, something like the NTC
made more sense to her than a conventional program because, as she said:
I really did want to look at education from a very different place of what I saw
teachers doing. And again, the Teacher Corps seemed to talk about going in,
being culturally relevant, working with communities, dealing with parents in a
different way. And that’s what I wanted: I wanted to be trained on how to do
that from an educational point of view. So I think that’s what attracted me.
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 55
Danny also demonstrated an interest in alternative educational approaches:
… we were involved as undergraduates in this Model Cities program back in
our neighborhood … we had written a proposal for Model Cities, actually
establishing or setting up an alternative school … And we initially got funded
for it. So here we were, undergraduates, funding this darn alternative school
and, for a number of different political reasons, the money was taken out of
the Model Cities program in that area. And so the proposal never got funded.
But it’s an example of how … many, myself, my younger brother and some
other friends [were] thinking about … maybe not going into traditional
schools, but setting up our own schools.
By encouraging the notion of teaching as a site for social reform within the context
of traditional schools, the NTC attracted individuals eager to change society by
changing what happened in those schools. But, as the oral histories show, the
Corps also appealed to individuals who sought a different, more relevant,
community-based preparation for that work, which would equip them to interrupt
rather than reafﬁ rm the standard practices of schooling poor children of color.
Quest for meaning
The search for meaning has been identiﬁ ed as a common coming of age occurrence,
but the 1960s (with its baby boom bulge in the youth population) heightened this
rite of passage, such that the experience of alienation and the search for what
historian Douglas Rossinow called “ authenticity ” — or an “ inner wholeness ” — are
hallmarks of the era in America and abroad.
92 As Rossinow observed, when this
quest for authenticity intersected with the politics of the era, the outcome was a set
of left-leaning principles characterized by activism and agitation toward greater
justice and equality in American society. Locating authenticity, then, often meant
individuals “ working toward common purposes and joining in collective action. ”
For many in the late 1960s, the NTC ﬁ t this bill. Mike found himself at “ loose ends ”
and “ lost ” after college, a year of an English fellowship, and a year of academic
psychology. The Teacher Corps — though something he “ stumbled into ” — gave him
purpose and situated him meaningfully within the world. Looking back, he recalled:
… it gives me this community of people, begins to introduce me to questions
of race and class in a way that I probably hadn’t thought of before. It brought
me into something that would become my career … I got to spend time in
another community. I think it was one of those magical moments that,
developmentally, was immensely important. I think I was fairly stunted in
some ways, or maybe that’s too strong a word, but sheltered. And this really
was the beginning of moving me out into the world.
Leslie more consciously linked her search for meaning to her desire to contribute.
As she recounted, though accepted by both the Peace Corps and the Teacher Corps,
she decided on the Teacher Corps because:
I wanted to do some work that I thought would be more meaningful … I was
just looking. I wanted to apply to one of these new Kennedy programs, and
56 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
I wanted to work with people that were more disadvantaged and I thought
probably the most likely kind of skill I had to offer, without any training in
anything, would be in teaching … I guess I just sort of felt more inclined
that way than anything else.
Leslie’s initial assumptions, a classic 1960s sentiment, privileged idealism and good
intentions above the role of professional training. Unlike today, pursuing socially
conscious values and “ meaning ” far outweighed practical considerations of “ jobs ”
or admiration for professional expertise among the 1960s generation. For instance,
Mike clearly distinguished his quest for meaning from career or economic
I was like so many people in the ‘ 60s. I was so clueless about jobs and
economics … I mean, I obviously, I worked all my life, but I would just get
enough job[s] to do, to make a living … I mean, I just, the job market was
not even in my head. It was rather, where do I turn next for something
Nor was he alone. When asked if she had thought about teaching as a career, Leslie
laughed: “ No, I didn’t think about anything as a career option at that point. ”
these young people, their anxiety and aspirations did not center on jobs and
livelihood but instead on a quality and kind of life worth living. As Carl noted:
… it was a time where … many of us didn’t care about making a living …
it just wasn’t a primary concern. You know, a primary concern was — well, the
Vietnam War was a primary concern, and the idea of changing, you know,
the way the government operated and changing the way people lived was
probably our concern. I never thought of that in terms of an occupation or a
profession, but then I had to go get a job.
Arguably a general rite of passage to adulthood, the quest for meaning in the
1960s was prominently linked to an altruistic social mission: the idea that meaning
could be found in doing good for society. Endemic to the “ spirit of the 60s, ” this
ideology ties the NTC and its participants to a particular historical moment. Yet it
also suggests a trajectory over time, which connects these individuals ’ perceptions
to that historical tradition of teaching as social reform mission.
In addition to the motivations provided by social reform, educational reform, and
the quest for meaning, practical considerations also shaped interns ’ interest in
joining the Corps. For instance, the Corps made graduate education and, by
extension, professional employment available to many who might otherwise have
had to forego it. In so doing, the NTC may well have made possible a kind of social
mobility to those who, though perhaps liberal arts graduates of competitive colleges
or universities, came from working class or disenfranchised families that could not
necessarily have supported their aspirations. For some, the Corps was a means to
romance. Anne confessed that, in addition to her interest in testing out teaching
through the NTC, she applied at Temple University because “ there was a guy I liked
and he lived outside of Philadelphia. And so that was that. ”
99 Practical motivations
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 57
have important implications — insofar as they remind historians that individual
choices such as joining the NTC are based on a complex calculus of factors that are
shaped by and embedded in broader economic, social, and cultural currents, such
as class status, cultural norms of romantic partnerships, and peer inﬂ uence. It is this
kind of information that oral histories are particularly suited to supply.
Between traditional teachers and conventional
narratives of youth activism: situating the
Like many youths in the 1960s, NTC participants were eager to ﬁ ght poverty, the
inequalities associated with racism and class, and American involvement in the
Vietnam War. The Teacher Corps offered participants an opportunity to act on this
desire to “ do good ” in society by linking the concept of social reform with the work
of teaching. Connecting social reform with teaching, however, hardly originated
with the NTC. Teaching has long served as a means of protesting, rebelling against,
and changing social conditions. For example, during Reconstruction, African-
American teachers took on the task of uplifting their race through education in the
face of white resistance and even violence.
100 In the same period, northern
missionary societies sent white, female teachers to the south to create schools for
freed people, infusing the social reform notion of teaching with a sense of service
101 It seems likely that the kind of social change envisioned by these two
groups — indigenous African-American teachers and white, northern teachers who
came to those communities as outsiders — differed in important ways. Yet at the
same time, their activities set both groups apart from an oppressive mainstream
that opposed any advancement on the part of blacks. Even further back, in the
mid-nineteenth century, Catharine Beecher sold a generation of women on teaching
and contributed to the overall feminization of the occupation by framing the work
as a special, feminine duty through which the West would be socialized and
102 And nearly a century later, eager for education to provide a means of
realizing more fully the democratic ideal, George Counts would urge teachers to
“ dare ” to build a new social order.
103 Thus, the concept of teaching as an act of
principled service or social reform casts a long shadow within the history of
education. Yet as deeply rooted as it is, this tradition of teaching as social reform is
both limited and suspect. As a mass occupation, teaching has always drawn a wide
variety of participants with a broad spectrum of motivations, many of which do not
concern social reform. And the rhetoric of social reform has lamentably often served
as code for social control, those efforts to ensure that certain segments of the
population conform to the status quo.
The NTC interns ’ conﬂ ation of social reform with teaching suggests their membership
in this historical tradition of teaching. At the same time, I argue, their blending of
social reform with teaching distinguished them signiﬁ cantly from “ regular
teachers ” — those who entered teaching in the 1960s through conventional routes.
In fact, as the oral history subjects were choosing to join the Teacher Corps,
sociologist Dan Lortie was embarked upon what has become a well-known study
with traditionally trained teachers.
104 Through extensive local interviews and
58 | ORAL HISTORY REVIEW
national survey data, Lortie investigated the social constraints and personal
decisions that shaped traditional teachers ’ choice to teach. He found that most
traditional teachers chose to teach because of their desire to work with children and
their belief that teaching is a valuable service of special moral worth — thus invoking
the tradition of teaching as principled service. Traditional teachers also chose their
occupation because they liked schools and wanted to work in that setting and
because of the material beneﬁ ts and “ time compatibility ” of the work. 105 In
analyzing these responses, however, Lortie qualiﬁ ed his ﬁ ndings. He interpreted
traditional teachers ’ desire to work with children as an interest in working with
“ children who are neither ill nor especially disadvantaged . ” 106 And he construed
the service appeal of teaching as quite distinct from the earlier examples. Speciﬁ cally,
Lortie observed that “ teaching as service is more likely to appeal to people who
approve of prevailing practice than to those who are critical of it, ” remarking that
it was difﬁ cult to ﬁ nd individuals who entered teaching in order to change it. Thus,
the factors that attracted traditional teachers, according to Lortie, tended to attract
conservatively inclined individuals — literally, those who wished to conserve the
status quo in schooling and society — rather than individuals interested in changing
The NTC, with its goal of recruiting individuals who would not have become
teachers without the NTC and its emphasis on changing society through improving
the education of so-called disadvantaged students, exercised an arguably distinct
appeal. Framed as an “ outlet for the realistic altruism that many young Americans
feel, ” the Corps attracted individuals whose commitment lay as much in social
reform as in teaching per se .
107 This commitment to social reform on the part of
Corps interns differed from the “ service ” mission articulated by Lortie, which sought
to preserve the existing system, as it involved instead a quest to address larger
issues of poverty, racism, and opportunity in American society by teaching
underserved, poor students of color. Indeed, NTC recruiting brochures promoted
this change agent mission, calling for “ qualiﬁ ed, committed men and women who
want to use education to defeat poverty. ”
The oral histories provide valuable evidence for the distinctive characterization of
teaching embraced by NTC interns: speciﬁ cally, the notion that teaching in public
schools serving poor children of color could itself be an act of larger, social reform.
They further attest to the commitment to and experience of activism on behalf of
social change that many who joined the Corps brought with them. Yet it is not
insigniﬁ cant that these young people chose to bring these commitments and
experiences to bear within the Teacher Corps, a government program meant to
operate within the school system, rather than within the context of more
antiestablishment, grassroots campaigns. Their choice indicates two important
implications. First, the interns anticipated that, even within the system and under
the auspices of a federal program, teaching in ordinary classrooms would offer
meaningful opportunities for making a difference at a grassroots level. Their
assumptions suggest a belief that change from within the system was possible and
that a federal government that supported the Great Society could be trusted — or
at least used — as a serious lever for social change.
In this regard, their approach differed signiﬁ cantly from those of other student- or
community-led movements, many of which by the late 1960s had adopted radical,
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 59
antiestablishment tactics. Thus, the second implication: while the NTC interns
evinced interest in making change, they were not necessarily willing to engage
radical means to do so, unlike those in their age cohort who participated in the SDS
splinter groups, or Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC), or the
Black Panthers. We know a good deal about the actions and efforts of those more
radical social movements. Historians have tended to characterize the student
movement generally as the story of white, often middle-class, university students
who founded SDS, perhaps traveled to Mississippi for Freedom Summer and
participated in a variety of campus organizing and resistance activities that,
ultimately, culminated in a mass movement of “ violent protest. ”
110 Other accounts
of student activism focus on young African-Americans who led the SNCC or, later, on
participants who became radicalized and created the Black Panther Party.
stories share a focus on radical politics, movement leadership, and dramatic, high
proﬁ le, high stakes activities. As scholars have begun to recognize, however, such
emphases fail to capture either the diversity of those who participated in social
change activity or the range of grassroots activities undertaken to that effect.
Thus, the NTC participants introduce an alternative cast and storyline in which
nonradicals engaged in efforts toward social change. Their efforts involved a different
set of activities, namely, teaching in public schools serving poor children of color,
and ultimately, made different contributions than have been documented in the case
of the more radical social movements of the time. This makes the NTC participants
and their experiences a noteworthy addition — and challenge — to the traditional
narrative about the nature of participants and activism in 1960s youth movements.
Understanding more fully what the NTC has to tell us about social reform, teaching,
and the 1960s requires the inclusion of participants ’ voices. Those voices, in the form
of the oral histories of NTC interns, in turn contribute meaningful new information
to existing accounts of the period. Speciﬁ cally, the oral histories document the
beliefs, expectations, and aims of NTC participants in ways that deepen our
understanding of those who participated in social reform in the 1960s; they expand
our consideration of what counted as social reform at the time; and they suggest the
continuity of a tradition that treats teaching as an act of social reform.
The NTC narratives offer a good example of the contributions oral history has yet
to make in our understanding of the 1960s, which, as Bret Eynon has pointed out,
remains ripe for such illumination.
113 I would argue they also reveal important
motivational aspects associated with the choice to teach, a critical element in the
quest to understand more fully the history of teaching and schooling. Perhaps even
more important, the oral histories serve as a potent reminder that history involves
a complex calculus between big ideas, events, and movements, on the one hand,
and the very personal, particular, and unplanned tides of a life on the other. As
these testimonies show, oral history is uniquely positioned to acknowledge the
seemingly pedestrian, serendipitous, or chance inﬂ uences that may shape lives and
history in terribly important ways. And in that regard, oral history offers historians
a signiﬁ cant tool for constructing a more sophisticated conception not only of
teaching and the 1960s but also of history itself.
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1 Ralph Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
2 Frank Perotti, oral history interview by the author, December 6, 2005.
3 Leslie Graitcer, oral history interview by the author, July 1, 2003.
4 Lilian Roybal Rose, oral history interview by the author, November 8, 2005.
5 The actual periodization of the 1960s remains a contested question among historians;
see, for example, Andrew Hunt, “ When Did the Sixties Happen? Searching for New
Directions, ” Book Review Essay, Journal of Social History 33 (1999): 147 – 61. This paper
uses the “ sixties ” to refer to social movement activity and educational history of the late
1960s through the mid-1970s.
6 For assertions of wider public participation beyond radicals and leaders in 1960s
movements, see Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America
from Greensboro to Wounded Knee (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); see also
Robert Cohen, “ This Was Their Fight and They Had to Fight It, ” in The Free Speech
Movement: Reﬂ ections on Berkeley in the 1960s , ed. Robert Cohen and Reginald E.
Zelnik (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), who argues for an expanded
politics of the student movement that includes liberals as well as radicals. Also, Rebecca
E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s (Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press, 1999), reminds historians that activism in the 1960s was
not the sole prerogative of the left but, in fact, that the 1960s represented a time of
ferment for the right as well.
7 The promise of oral history for scholarship about social movements associated with the
1960s is addressed by Bret Eynon, “ Cast upon the Shore: Oral History and New
Scholarship on the Movements of the 1960s, ” Journal of American History 83 (September
1996): 560 – 70. For an excellent examination of the potential and recent contributions
of oral history to educational history, see Jack Dougherty, “ From Anecdote to Analysis:
Oral Interviews and New Scholarship in Educational History, ” Journal of American History
86 (September 1999): 712 – 23; see also Richard Quantz, “ The Complex Visions of Female
Teachers and the Failure of Unionization in the 1930s: An Oral History, ” History of
Education Quarterly 25 (Winter 1985): 439 – 58.
8 Eynon, “ Cast upon the Shore, ” 563; Quantz, “ The Complex Visions, ” 441.
9 Kate Rousmaniere, City Teachers: Teaching and School Reform in Historical Perspective
(New York: Teachers College Press, 1997), 8. While historians have plumbed a limited
understanding of teachers ’ lives through teacher journals and letters, such primary
documents are more the exception than the rule. One collection of such artifacts is
Nancy Hoffman, Woman’s True Profession: Voices from the History of Teaching (New
York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1981).
10 Donald Warren, “ Teachers, Reformers, and Historians, ” in American Teachers: Histories of
a Profession at Work , ed. Donald Warren, 2 – 3 (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,
11 Ivor F. Goodson and Pat Sikes, Life History Research in Educational Settings: Learning
from Lives (Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 2001), 2.
12 Michèle Foster, Black Teachers on Teaching (New York: New Press, 1997) and “ Constancy,
Connectedness, and Constraints in the Lives of African-American Teachers, ” NWSA Journal
3 (Spring 1991): 223 – 61. Oral history has been used to good effect to illuminate the lives
of teachers before 1950; see Rousmaniere, City Teachers ; Ruth Jacknow Markowitz, My
Daughter the Teacher: Jewish Teachers in the New York City Schools (New Brunswick, NJ:
Rutgers University Press, 1993); and Kathleen Weiler, Country Schoolwomen: Teaching in
Rural California, 1850 – 1950 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998).
13 The term “ life histories ” appears in Goodson and Sikes, Life History Research .
14 Miriam Ben-Peretz, Learning from Experience: Memory and the Teacher’s Account of
Teaching (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), xvii.
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 61
15 Clifford Geertz, “ From the Native’s Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological
Understanding, ” in Meaning in Anthropology , ed. Keith H. Basso and Henry A. Selby,
225 (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1976).
16 Alessandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in
Oral History (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991).
17 For example, Dougherty points out the way in which Rousmaniere’s City Teachers uses
oral history evidence to illuminate opposing perceptions of Progressive education
reforms: while reforms were promoted by reformers as efﬁ cient and scientiﬁ c, teachers
experienced them as “ chaotic and disorderly. ” See Dougherty, “ From Anecdote to
Analysis, ” 719. In another instance, Constance Curry, et al., Deep in Our Hearts: Nine
Women in the Freedom Movement (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2000), provides
the perspectives of nine white women participants in the civil rights struggle, which
introduces unique and diverse interpretations of those events as well as questions
historical, cultural meanings of whiteness and gender.
18 Many “ mainstream ” accounts of the 1960s social movements, such as the New Left
student movement or the civil rights movement, featured the ideas, actions, and beliefs
of movement leaders or adopted a national focus at the expense of local activities and
participants. For example, familiar leader-centric narratives of the New Left focus on the
white student group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and can be found in
Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973); Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of
Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam Books, 1987); and James Miller, Democracy is
in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1994). Both Sale and Gitlin write participant accounts, in which they
ﬁ gure prominently. Recent work that serves to enlarge and complicate those earlier
accounts of the movement by including a broader spectrum of participants is found in
Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity and the New Left in
America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); a revised assessment of movement
success is found in Wini Breines, Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962 –
1968: The Great Refusal (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989); and an
expansion of movement activities is addressed by Jennifer Frost, An Interracial Movement
of the Poor: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s (New York: New York
University Press, 2001). In terms of the civil rights movement, early scholarship tended
to be “ top-down, focused on the movement as a national phenomenon that secured
legislative and judicial victories, ” according to Charles Payne. See Payne, I’ve Got the
Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle ,
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995), 413; see also Steven Lawson, “ Freedom
Then, Freedom Now: The Historiography of the Civil Rights Movement, ” American
Historical Review 96 (April 1991): 456 – 71. Only more recently, these historians argue,
has another generation of work emerged that attempts to meaningfully link the local
with the national. One such seminal example is Aldon Morris, Origins of the Civil Rights
Movement (New York: Free Press, 1984).
19 Quantz, “ The Complex Visions, ” 439.
20 Dougherty, “ From Anecdote to Analysis, ” 717; Kim Lacy Rogers, Life and Death in the
Delta (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 10.
21 Eynon, “ Cast upon the Shore, ” 561.
22 Dougherty, “ From Anecdote to Analysis, ” 716 – 17, 722; Jim Leloudis, “ The Post-Brown
South: Communities in Transition, ” Panel Presentation, American Educational Studies
Association Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA, November 2, 2002.
23 Regarding “ snowball sampling, ” see Dougherty, “ From Anecdote to Analysis, ” 719. One
of the problems with this method, as Dougherty points out, is the tendency to collect
“ like-minded ” subjects (who are still linked in a personal or professional network), which
tends to skew or narrow the perspectives gleaned. Thus, it is quite possible that another
sample of participants had different experiences and made different professional choices
and additional testimonies might suggest additional ﬁ ndings. Four of the subjects
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resulted from the Internet search. I sent query letters to seven of the sources I located;
ultimately, four responded and agreed to be interviewed.
24 See Lisa Smulyan, “ Choosing to Teach: Reﬂ ections on Gender and Social Change, ”
Teachers College Record 106 (March 2004): 513 – 43; D. Wolf, “ Situating Feminist
Dilemmas in Fieldwork, ” in Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork , ed. Diane Wolf (Boulder, CO:
Westview Press, 1996).
25 This traditional rendering of the 1950s takes the perspective of a white mainstream
population, as can be found in William Chafe, The Unﬁ nished Journey: America Since
World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) or Richard Pells, The Liberal
Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s (Middletown,
CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985), for example. It is not meant to suggest, however,
that racial and economic injustice were not crucial and contested issues in the decades
preceding the 1950s and 60s. See, for example, Thomas J. Sugrue, Origins of the Urban
Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1996); Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); Michael Katz, ed., The
“ Underclass ” Debate: Views from History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1993); and Douglass S. Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation
and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).
26 See James L. Sundquist, Politics and Policy: The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson
Years (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1968); Carl M. Brauer, “ Kennedy, Johnson,
and the War on Poverty, ” The Journal of American History 69 (June 1982): 98 – 99; and
Thomas F. Jackson, “ The State, the Movement, and the Urban Poor: The War on Poverty
and Political Mobilization in the 1960s, ” in The Underclass Debate: Views from History ,
ed. Michael Katz (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).
27 Sanford Kravitz, “ The Community Action Program, ” in On Fighting Poverty: Perspectives
from Experience , ed. James Sundquist (New York: Basic Books, 1969), 56.
28 On teach-ins as mobilization for the antiwar movement, see Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald
Sullivan, Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963 – 1975
(Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1984). On organizing as “ teaching, ”
see Frost, “ An Interracial Movement of the Poor ” , 72; as well as Klatch, A Generation
Divided , 90.
29 Certainly, within poor and working-class environments, or in communities of immigrants
or African-Americans during the ﬁ rst half of the twentieth century, teaching was duly
accorded respect. See, for example, Stephanie Shaw, What a Woman Ought To Be and To
Do (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Vanessa Siddle Walker, Their Highest
Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (Chapel Hill, NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Hoffman, Woman’s True Profession . At
the same time, both Michael Fultz, “ African American Teachers in the South, 1890 – 1940:
Powerlessness and the Ironies of Expectations and Protest, ” History of Education
Quarterly 35 (Winter 1995): 401 – 22; and Adam Fairclough, “ ‘ Being in the Field of
Education and also Being a Negro … Seems … Tragic: ’ Black Teachers in the Jim Crow
South, ” Journal of American History 87 (June 2000): 65 – 91 point out the status
challenges that dogged African-American teachers who attempted to teach African-
American students in the pre-World War II period. By the 1960s, for middle-class whites,
teaching low-income students of color was often viewed as among the least desirable of
placements; such positions tended to be staffed by those unable to command “ better ”
positions — that is, new teachers, “ bad ” teachers, or teachers of color who would not be
hired to teach in white schools. For example, see Richard Wisniewski, New Teachers in
Urban Schools: An Inside View (New York: Random House, 1968); Vernon F. Haubrich,
“ Teachers for Big City Schools, ” in Education in Depressed Areas , ed. A. Harry Passow
(New York: Teachers College Press, 1963); Alexander Moore, Realities of the
Urban Classroom: Observations in Elementary Schools (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books,
1967); Michele Foster, “ Constancy, Connectedness, and Constraints in the Lives of
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 63
African-American Teachers, ” NWSA Journal 3 (Spring 1991): 233 – 61; and Sidney Simon,
“ Wanted: New Education Professors for the Slums, ” Teachers College Record 67 (January
30 Diane Ravitch, The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945 – 1980 (New York: Basic
Books, 1985), 235, describes educational “ protest literature ” and its effects; Jonathan
Kozol, Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children
in the Boston Public Schools (Boston: Houghton Mifﬂ in, 1967).
31 Panel on Education Research and Development of the President’s Science Advisory
Committee, Innovation and Experiment in Education (Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Ofﬁ ce, 1964), 30.
32 Harry N. Rivlin, “ Teachers for the Schools in Our Big Cities, ” Paper Prepared for the
University of Pennsylvania Schoolmen’s Week Program, October 12, 1962, 5. Quoted in
Education in Depressed Areas , ed. A. Harry Passow (New York: Teachers College Press,
33 The Corps drafted both experienced teachers, who served as “ team leaders, ” and
inexperienced interns, or teachers-in-becoming, but it was the interns who captured the
public imagination and who “ represent[ed] the heart of the NTC program. ” See Bernard
Watson, “ The Taming of a Reform, ” Phi Delta Kappan 50 (October 1968): 102.
34 See Willard Waller, The Sociology of Teaching (New York: Russell and Russell, 1932); and
Dan C. Lortie, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1975). An elegant meditation on this stereotype and its implications can be found in
George Gerbner, “ Teacher Image and the Hidden Curriculum, ” The American Scholar 42
(Winter 1972 – 73): 66 – 92. As indicated earlier, within other communities — particularly
among African-Americans and immigrants — teaching was accorded far greater respect.
The debate between so-called liberal arts or professional coursework (sometimes referred
to as the “ liberal ” and “ technical ” preparation of teachers) is a long-standing one; see
Merle L. Borrowman, “ Liberal Education and the Professional Preparation of Teachers, ”
in Teacher Education in America: A Documentary History , ed. Merle Borrowman, 1 – 53
(New York: Teachers College Press, 1965). The drive to professionalize education
solidiﬁ ed a pecking order within the university that privileged liberal arts scholars over
“ educationists ” and relegated teacher education “ to the least valued assignments in
departments and colleges of education. ” See Jurgen Herbst, And Sadly Teach: Teacher
Education and Professionalization in American Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1989). These critiques were resuscitated with the publication of James Conant
Bryant’s The Education of American Teachers (New York: McGraw Hill, 1963), which
denigrated education coursework as “ Mickey Mouse ” and promoted the ideal of a solid
liberal arts education as the surest base of teacher knowledge.
35 Evidence of the antiprofessional bias of the 1960s is documented in Eliot Friedson, “ Are
Professions Necessary? ” in The Authority of Experts: Studies in History and Theory , ed.
Thomas Haskell (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984); Ronald Corwin, Education
in Crisis: A Sociological Analysis of Schools and Universities in Transition (New York:
Wiley, 1974); Patrick W. Carlton, “ Educator Attitudes and Value Differences in Collective
Negotiations, ” in The Collective Dilemma , ed. Patrick W. Carlton and Harold I. Goodwin
(Worthington, OH: Charles A. Jones Publishing Company, 1969). Popular disdain for
teacher educators reached a high point in the wave of criticism anchored on one end by
Arthur Bestor, Educational Wastelands: The Retreat from Learning in Our Public Schools
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1953); and on the other, by Conant, The Education
of American Teachers and James Koerner, The Miseducation of American Teachers
(Boston: Houghton Mifﬂ in Company, 1963).
36 The NTC, “ Pre-Service Training Project Status Report ” (Washington, DC: U.S. Ofﬁ ce of
Education, 1966), DHEW, Box 131, Records from the Federal Government Agencies,
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.
37 “ Report on the Teacher Corps 1966 to 1967, ” June 30, 1967, DHEW, Box 131, Records
from the Federal Government Agencies, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. See also
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Bethany L. Rogers, “ ‘ Better ’ People, Better Teaching: The Vision of the National Teacher
Corps, 1965 – 68, ” History of Education Quarterly ( forthcoming ).
38 These are subjects ’ real names, not pseudonyms.
39 Mike Rose, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
40 Barbara Ross Lee, oral history interview by the author, October 12, 2005.
41 Perotti, oral history interview by the author, December 6, 2005.
42 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
43 Carl Glickman, oral history interview by the author, September 28, 2005.
44 Frost, “ An Interracial Movement of the Poor , ” 37.
45 John Thelin, A History of American Higher Education (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2004), 269, 285.
46 Ibid., 298.
47 American Council on Education, “ Enrollments by Levels of Study, Selected Years 1899 –
1900 to 1990, ” in 1984 – 85 Fact Book on Higher Education (New York: Macmillan 1984),
48 Bill Williamson, “ Students, Higher Education, and Social Change, ” European Journal of
Education 19 (1984): 253 – 67.
49 Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity , 2.
50 Klatch, A Generation Divided , 4 – 5.
51 Of course, not all interns subscribed to the same liberal politics; in fact, one of the oral
history interview subjects, Eugene, acknowledge himself to be a lifelong “ true
conservative ” who, while uninterested in participating in the kinds of protest activities
that many of his colleagues did, nevertheless joined the Teacher Corps and followed that
experience with community-based work for the federal government.
52 Glickman, oral history interview by the author, September 28, 2005.
53 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
54 Ronald G. Corwin, Reform and Organizational Survival: The Teacher Corps as an
Instrument of Educational Change (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1973), 89. Corwin
points out that in the dispersion of interns across local programs, the proportion of
liberal interns could vary widely, so that two-thirds of the interns in one local program
were classiﬁ ed as highly liberal while in another program as few as 11% might be so
classiﬁ ed. This obviously affected the idiosyncratic character of local programs.
55 See William Crotty, “ Democratic Consensual Norms and the College Student, ” Sociology
of Education 40 (Summer 1967): 200 – 18; and Carl Bereiter and Marvin Freedman,
“ Fields of Study and the People in Them, ” in The American College: A Psychological and
Social Interpretation of the Higher Learning , ed. Nevitt Sanford (New York: Wiley,
56 Klatch, A Generation Divided , 59.
57 Perotti, oral history interview by the author, December 6, 2005.
58 Klatch, A Generation Divided , 40.
59 L. Rose, oral history interview by the author, November 8, 2005.
61 Perotti, oral history interview by the author, December 6, 2005.
62 Danny Solorzano, oral history interview by the author, April 23, 2004.
63 Rossinow, Politics of Authenticity ; Sara Evans, Journeys That Opened Up the World:
Women, Student Christian Movements, and Social Justice, 1955 – 75 (Philadelphia, PA:
Temple University Press, 2003); Klatch, A Generation Divided .
64 Solorzano, oral history interview by the author, April 23, 2004.
65 Eugene Pasymowski, oral history interview by the author, October 15, 2005.
66 Bitsy Miller, oral history interview by the author, October 20, 2005.
67 Glickman, oral history interview by the author, September 28, 2005.
68 Solorzano, oral history interview by the author, April 23, 2004.
69 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003; Perotti, oral history interview
by the author, December 6, 2005.
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 65
70 Sean P. Corcoran, William N. Evans, and Robert S. Schwab, “ Changing Labor Market
Opportunities for Women and the Quality of Teachers, 1957 – 1992, ” American Economic
Review 94 (2004): 230 – 35. Since the 1960s, teaching has diminished signiﬁ cantly as a
career path for female college graduates: by 1996, the percentage of working female
college graduates who were teachers had fallen to less than 15%.
71 My use of “ traditional ” here is meant to distinguish Corps members and their social and
political agenda from the majority of those who became teachers at the time. However,
I also recognize that for many, particularly African-American teachers, for instance,
teaching has long been political in the ways that the NTC framed it.
72 From its inception, the NTC modeled itself on the Peace Corps, seeking to trade on the
earlier program’s success and élan. In testimony introducing the concept of a teachers ’
corps, Senator Nelson had described desirable candidates as “ able idealistic young
Americans like those who have made the Peace Corps such a success. ” See Senate
Subcommittee, Bills to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education , 121. The news
media also noted the likeness, embracing the NTC as a promising new sibling, with
reservations about the difﬁ culties posed by a Peace Corps-like initiative on domestic
shores. See Editorial, New York Times , August 14, 1966.
73 Don Robinson, “ Teacher Corps Attracts Many: Whole Program Keyed to Appropriation
Bill, ” The Washington Post , October 16, 1966.
74 Glickman, oral history interview by the author, September 28, 2005.
75 Curry, et al., Deep in Our Hearts , discuss this tradition of white, antiracist politics during
the Civil Rights era in the South.
76 L. Rose, oral history interview by the author, November 8, 2005.
78 The Community Action Programs represent the fullest attempt to include community
members in decisions about the deployment of federal funds. In Maximum Feasible
Misunderstanding: Community Action in the War on Poverty (New York: Free Press,
1970), Daniel Moynihan exposes the conﬂ icts inherent in attempting to empower the
community (especially the poor) in this way, as does James L. Sundquist, “ Coordinating
the War on Poverty, ” Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science 385
(September 1969): 41 – 49. Another perspective is articulated by scholars who found the
main beneﬁ ciaries of community action (or the efforts to provide community members
with federal funds and decision-making power) to be those who managed to get federally
funded jobs with such federal programs, meaning those who were arguably already
upwardly mobile. See William Rorabaugh, “ The New Left, Black Power, and Feminism, ”
in Integrating the Sixties: The Origins, Structures, and Legitimacy of Public Policy in a
Turbulent Decade , ed. Brian Balogh (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University
Press, 1996), 122; Allen J. Matusow, The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism
in the 1960s (New York: Harper and Row, 1984); and Guida West, The National Welfare
Rights Movement: The Social Protest of Poor Women (New York: Praeger, 1981). More
recently, Piven and Cloward argued that “ when desperately poor people turned to the
new federal projects for help, it was money they needed … Welfare was the place to get
it. ” However, they also noted that the federal effort created tremendous gains in black
(local) political incorporation, resulting in the emergence of a new political leadership.
See Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, “ The Politics of the Great Society, ” in The
Great Society and the High Tide of Liberalism , ed. Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M.
Mileur (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), 253 – 69.
79 Neither Danny nor Eugene mentioned the draft as a motivation for exploring the Teacher
Corps. In Eugene’s case, since his father was deceased and he was an only child, he was
awarded a deferment in 1964 and did not have to worry about the draft. And given that
the draft formally ended in January of 1973, Danny (whose stint in the Corps lasted from
1972 – 74) may have felt less pressure to avoid the draft than men in earlier cohorts.
80 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
81 Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties , 184.
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82 Michael Foley, Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
83 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
84 Perotti, oral history interview by the author, December 6, 2005.
85 Kidder, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
86 Foley, Confronting the War Machine , 13.
87 Solorzano, oral history interview by the author, April 23, 2004.
88 Seymour B. Sarason, Kenneth S. Davidson, and Burton Blatt, The Preparation of Teachers:
An Unstudied Problem in Education , rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books, 1986); see
also Richard Wisniewski, New Teachers in Urban Schools: An Inside View (New York:
Random House, 1968).
89 Anne Doerr, oral history interview by the author, November 30, 2005.
90 L. Rose, oral history interview by the author, November 8, 2005.
91 Solorzano, oral history interview by the author, April 23, 2004.
92 The quest for meaning on the part of students and young people the world over during
the turbulent 1960s is practically a tenet of historical scholarship. See, for example,
Daedalus (Winter 1968), which features a massive survey of student movements
throughout the world, or Ronald Fraser, 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1988). For a more contemporary scholarly consideration of the search
for meaning and its role in the American student movement, see Rossinow, The Politics
of Authenticity .
93 Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity , 7.
94 M. Rose, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
95 Graitcer, oral history interview by the author, July 1, 2003.
96 M. Rose, oral history interview by the author, June 30, 2003.
97 Graitcer, oral history interview by the author, July 1, 2003.
98 Glickman, oral history interview by the author, September 28, 2005.
99 Doerr, oral history interview by the author, November 30, 2005.
100 Several important sources on the role of African-American teachers in black education
during this period include James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South,
1860 – 1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Heather A. Williams,
Self Taught: African-American Education in Slavery and Freedom (Chapel Hill, NC: University
of North Carolina Press, 2005), 96 – 125; and Ronald E. Butchart, Northern Schools,
Southern Blacks, and Reconstruction: Freedmen’s Education, 1862 – 1875 (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1980), 115 – 34.
101 Jacqueline Jones, Soldiers of Light and Love: Northern Teachers and Georgia Blacks,
1865 – 1873 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); Butchart, Northern
102 See, for example, Katherine Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American
Domesticity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973).
103 George Counts, Dare the School Build a New Social Order? (1932; reprinted, Carbondale, IL:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1978).
104 Lortie, Schoolteacher .
105 Ibid., 25 – 31.
106 Ibid., 27. Italics mine.
107 Russell Cort, Jr. and Ruth Ann O’Keefe, “ Teacher Corps: Two Years of Progress and Plans
for the Future ” (Washington, DC: Washington School of Psychiatry, October 15, 1968),
10. ERIC ED 029 854.
108 “ The National Teacher Corps: To Reach and Teach the Children of Poverty, ” (Washington,
DC: Government Printing Ofﬁ ce, 1966).
109 Some schools — the Freedom Schools or schools involved in community control battles,
for instance — aimed at education for liberation for the disenfranchised, but “ ordinary ”
schools historically have earned a reputation for conservative reinforcement of society’s
hierarchical status quo. See, for example, Michael Katz, Class, Bureaucracy and Schools:
Teaching and Social Reform in the 1960s | 67
The Illusion of Educational Change in America , exp. ed. (New York: Praeger, 1975) and
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform
and the Contradictions of Economic Life (New York: Basic Books, 1977).
110 Miller, Democracy is in the Streets , 15. See also Gitlin, The Sixties .
111 Regarding the history of SNCC, see Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom , Chapter 3;
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the Civil Rights
Movement , repr. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). Several recent
scholarly accounts of the history of the Black Panther party include Kathleen Cleaver and
George Katsiaﬁ cas, Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at
the Panthers and Their Legacy (New York: Routledge, 2001); Charles E. Jones, ed., The
Black Panther Party [Reconsidered] (Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press, 1998); and
Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams, ed., In Search of the Black Panther Party: New
Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
112 As discussed earlier, in The Politics of Authenticity , Rossinow offers a welcome
consideration of expanded SDS membership that included the Midwestern and southern
“ Prairie Power ” contingents. See also Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties for
assertions of wider public participation in 1960s movements, as well as Cohen, “ This Was
Their Fight and They Had to Fight It. ”
113 Eynon, “ Cast Upon the Shore, ” 560 – 1.