George Estes, "The Old Cedar School," 1922


This tract was written by George Estes and published immediately after the passage of the Compulsory Education Bill. The pamphlet reflected and reinforced Ku Klux Klan members' beliefs throughout the period. In the story, the "Old Cedar School," a one room public school dating from territorial times, became a symbol of Klan Americanism. "Farmer Jim," who had attended the school when it was first built, defended it as his children one by one decided to send their children to private schools. The cartoon on the final page, drawn from a Klansman's perspective, dramatized how lead character Farmer Jim believed the private school system had destroyed the public "Old Cedar School." The smiling man who had just set his torch to the school is, as you can see, a representative of the Catholic church.



  • What does Luther I. Powell claim are the true purposes of the Oregon School Initiative? Who does he depict as opposing the Initiative?
  • Why did Powell stress the ease with which one can understand the bill? In his opinion, what role did the public schools play in preserving the liberties of the United States?
  • What does the author of The Old Cedar School claim is the only solution to the threat posed by the Turks and "Mohemmedans?"
  • What argument does the narrator's daughter make for allowing children to attend denominational schools? In the opinion of the narrator, how relevant is the education students receive in a Catholic school?
  • According to the narrator, what would happen if private schools were allowed to continue to exist in the United States?
  • What images accompany the story? What messages do they convey? Why do you think they were included?