Educational historians have increasingly turned their attention to the origins of compulsory schooling. In this essay, Professor Charles Burgess places the development of compulsory-school-attendance laws in a broad social context. Noting the social disorder brought about by the Civil War and by rapid technological growth,Burgess maintains that compulsion was used in many aspects of American life to secure stability and to forge a new sense of nationhood. Anxious to standardize American behavior, some citizens pressed for, among other things, compulsory voting, national rules on divorce and obscenity, and compulsory teetotaling. Compulsory schooling, while crucial to this search for national unity, was thus only part of the quest to redirect American citizens' loyalties from their local communities to state or nation.

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