McGrath, Earl J. Papers

Dates: 1949-1953

U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1949-1953

The papers of Earl J. McGrath consist of microfilmed copies of his speeches, articles, and other public statements and published writings as U.S. Commissioner of Education. The collection documents McGrath's involvement in education policy during the Truman administration; his views on issues affecting elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities during this period; and his support for a program of federal aid to education.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: Three reels of microfilm.
Access: Open.
Copyright: Documents created by U.S. government officials in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in other writings in this collection is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs
Processed by: Randy Sowell (1999); Kevin Ploth and David Clark (2016).


[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1902 (November 16)

 

Born, Buffalo, New York

1928

 

B.A., University of Buffalo

1928-1942

 

Member of faculty and administrator, University of Buffalo; fellow at University of Chicago; educational consultant

1930

 

M.A., University of Buffalo

1936

 

Ph.D., University of Chicago

1942-1944

 

Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy, in charge of educational services, Bureau of Naval Personnel

1944 (May 12)

 

Married Dorothy Ann Leemon

1945-1948

 

Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Iowa

1946-1947

 

Served on the President's Commission on Higher Education

1948-1949

 

Professor, University of Chicago

1949-1953

 

U.S. Commissioner of Education

1953-1993

 

1953-93 Administrator and professor at University of Kansas City, Columbia University, Temple University, University of Arizona, and elsewhere

1993 (January 14)

 

Died, Tucson, Arizona

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The papers of Earl J. McGrath were copied on microfilm in 1958 from original documents in the possession of the McGrath family. They consist of McGrath's speeches, articles, and other public statements and published writings during his tenure as U.S. Commissioner of Education, from 1949 to 1953.

A professor and college administrator, McGrath served on the President's Commission on Higher Education in 1946-1947. In 1949, while a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago, he was selected to head the Office of Education, with the title of U.S. Commissioner of Education. Administratively, the Office of Education was part of the Federal Security Agency during this period. It was responsible for collecting statistics and other information pertaining to education in the United States; conducting research and reporting on educational problems; administering grants-in-aid and special programs; and advising state and local school officials, university administrators, and other members of the profession.

McGrath's years as Commissioner coincided with an "educational crisis" in the United States, as public schools struggled to accommodate increased enrollments-a result of the higher birth rates that began in the 1940s-with resources that were widely regarded as inadequate. Many of McGrath's public statements had to do with the urgent need for new schools, more teachers at higher salaries, and a greater commitment of national resources to education. As part of this agenda, he repeatedly advocated a program of federal aid to education, but legislation to this effect was stymied in Congress along with most of President Truman's other "Fair Deal" proposals.

McGrath's public statements and writings also dealt with such topics as the need for foreign language and science instruction in the schools; the future of higher education as many World War II veterans completed their studies under the GI Bill; improvements in elementary, secondary, and vocational education; efforts to combat the spread of polio among schoolchildren; the establishment of junior colleges; developments in teacher-training; and the role of American education in the Cold War struggle against communism. McGrath avoided taking controversial positions on several of the most contentious educational issues of his time. He sidestepped the thorny question of federal aid to parochial schools. He criticized the requirement of anti-communist loyalty oaths for teachers, but added that teachers should sign such oaths in obedience to public opinion. And he carefully refrained from involving himself in the furor over racial segregation in the public schools, pointing out that the Office of Education had no authority to interfere with state or local policies.

The papers of Earl J. McGrath are organized in a single series, the Speeches, Articles, and Public Statements File, and are arranged in chronological order. This entire collection is digitized and available online. More information about Earl J. McGrath and education policy during the Truman administration can be found at the Truman Library in the following collections, among others: Official File, President's Secretary's Files, Harry S. Truman Post-Presidential Papers, Oscar R. Ewing Papers, Ralph C. M. Flynt Papers, and John D. Russell Papers.

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

Series Descriptions

Container Nos. Series Description
1 SPEECHES, ARTICLES, AND PUBLIC STATEMENTS FILE, 1949-1953

Speeches, articles, and other public statements and published writings of Earl J. McGrath during his tenure as U.S. Commissioner of Education. Arranged chronologically. This entire series is digitized and available online.

Folder Title List

Box 1

SPEECHES, ARTICLES, AND PUBLIC STATEMENTS FILE, 1949-1953