Protecting Public Schools…from the Vatican?

As public education spread in 19th century cities, many feared that private interests were trying to undermine schools’ public purpose.  In particular, the Roman Catholic church was often seen as a private entity (from a monarchical papal state, no less) that wished to divert public funding into its own pockets.  The Church was skewered in the press as empowering corrupt officials like Tammany Hall via the ever-growing Irish immigrant community.

In this cartoon, Thomas Nast “draws” our attention to the issue, with a public school teacher defending students against the oncoming attack of Catholic bishops.  In the background, you can see Boss Tweed leading a second attack with the Vatican flag waving in the distance.

Compare the cartoonish criticism here to the current debate surrounding charter schools and for-profit educational management organizations.  How do such criticisms hold up?


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