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NEA Project News

The Research Division of the National Education Association was born in 1922. It's purpose was to develop and use objective information about education that could be used by administrators to help "professionalize" teaching and to serve as as a means of responding to criticisms about how public schools spent taxpayer money. Over time, it would grow to provide raw data and analysis for a variety of programs and projects NEA and its affiliates were involved in. When NEA's records were transferred to George Washington University, the work of the Research Division provided one of the most useful sources of information for researchers.

Most of the material came to the archives with very little context. Often, groups of papers with no relationship come packed together in one box. One group of records to arrive in this manner were a few boxes of papers from the Research Division, unrelated by topic or even by format. Covering a time period from the late 1940s through the 1950s, they include tables, questionnaires, abstracts, hand-written notes, press releases, surveys, reports, legal analyses, newsletters, and even hotel registration forms. Most of the topics involve finances, both of school systems and individual teachers. Other topics include surveys of school legislation, religious education, and guides for foreign visitors to American schools. They vary in length from a single printed page to lengthy, well-cited reports.

With records as diverse in form and function as these, it can be difficult to classify them as a group. Together, the documents require 21 boxes for storage so it would not have been easy to group them. The documents needed to be described somehow. The decision was made to put the documents in folders titled "Essays on Research Division Topics" to represent the variety in style and matter. They can be found in the Research Division series of the NEA Collection. Despite the generic folder title, they can be a valuable resource researchers willing to dig through them.

Gelman Library's Special Collections is always happy to see its material being put to use. It's especially nice when it's used by the original donor returning to see how we've cared for their material over the years. Recently, National School Boards Association (NSBA) celebrated its 75th Anniversary. For a significant period of that time, they were affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA), whose records are in the library. The NSBA asked Gelman Special Collections to help them celebrate their history with photos, documents, artifacts, and old films from the Collection. From those materials, a short film was produced and put up on Youtube. The video references the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the space age, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Common Core and more significant moments in the history of American education policy. Click on the link and watch the video for yourself. If you want to see some of the original films or pictures used in the video, contact Special Collections staff by phone at 202-994-7549 or by email at speccoll@gwu.edu.

Gelman Library Special Collections recently acquired a rare item as a gift from Alicia Nick of the American Federation of Teachers. The item is the 1847 edition of the Teachers’ Advocate and Journal of Education. This journal was published by the New York State Teachers’ Association, one of ten state teachers’ associations that came together in 1857 to form what would become the National Education Association. The journal itself is a product of its time and contains both language and content that modern readers will find offensive. Nevertheless, it includes articles of interest to parents, teachers and the general public, covering topics such as teaching methods, personal anecdotes, advocacy, and mathematics and science topics.

Of note is an article about how to project an eclipse. At right is one mathematician's illustration providing directions to calculate the time and place of an eclipse given certain criteria. The detailed instructions that follow the image take up a page and a half of text.

The journal is available for researchers to read in the Special Collections Reading Room. It is located on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. It can be found in the catalog here

Letter from Chong-kook Kim to Dr. William Carr Thumbnail

War leaves many victims beyond the battlefield. In 1951, the first year of the Korean War destroyed homes, farms and schools, leaving behind deprivation and want in much of the country. Schoolteachers bravely tried to continue classes amidst the chaos, often just setting up a tent in a field. In an effort to assist their professional colleagues abroad, the National Education Association activated the Overseas Teacher Fund. Warm clothing was identified as the greatest single need and, in an entirely voluntary effort, teachers across the United States pitched in to help.

Thankful Koreans teachers and students wrote letters back to express their gratitude. These letters hint at the troubles they face and provide a rare personal glimpse into the lives of civilians suffering through a brutal war. The N.E.A. gathered these letters together and bound them in a unique set of scrapbooks. Nine volumes in all, these books have hand-written letters in English and Korean explaining how they used the gift, translations of select letters and photographs of the writer wearing the new clothes, providing a rare glimpse into the lives of average people during one of the 20th centuries bloodiest wars.

All nine volumes are available to view in the Special Collections Research Center on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. The catalog link can be found here.

In 1947, the National Education Association created the Overseas Teacher Fund to help "wage the peace." Intended to help ease the financial burden of teachers in countries whose economies had been ravaged by war. Donations were given by individual teachers rather the organization itself, and encouraged by a speech given by soon-to-be NEA Executive Secretary William G. Carr, they donated $272,865.78 in the first year of its existence. In response, those teachers who were recipients of the money wrote thank you letters back. Those letters were collected together by the NEA and have now come to Gelman Library as part of their collection. If you are interested in viewing the books, they can be found in our catalog here and here. Please be aware that these books are stored in an offsite storage facility. If you are interested in looking at them, please contact Special Collections beforehand and let us know that you would like to see the volumes.

Letter from Mina Becker to Willard Givens in thank you

Department of Education LetterIn today's hyper-partisan political environment, it can be difficult to remember a time when Democrats and Republicans worked together to solve the nation's problems.  Every parent wants a good education for their child, and providing a decent education should be one of the first concerns of our political leaders.  It was not always so, however, and for many years the National Education Association had to fight for representation for education at the federal level.  The advocacy culminated in an effort to create a cabinet level department devoted solely to education.  Success finally came in 1979 when President Carter signed into law a new Department of Education; and it was done with bi-partisan support, including from young Congressman and 2012 presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.  Attached below is a letter of support to "fellow Republicans" signed by nine GOP congressmen, including Mr. Gingrich, and a list of Senate co-sponsors of the bill from both parties.

The NEA collection here at Gelman Library includes many records documenting the decade of advocacy that preceded the creation of the Department of Education.  Researchers interested in this topic or anything concerning the NEA collection should contact Vakil Smallen at smallen@email.gwu.edu or 202-994-1371.

[Attachment: Dept of Education.pdf]



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