Letter from Hyman Herman to President Woodrow Wilson (Document 4)

Title in English
E.C. Warriner

Document 4 Titled 'Letter from Hyman Herman to Woodrow Wilson'. This letter is important because the story behind it demonstrates how free speech, critical thinking and public education can buckle under war. At the time of the writing of this document, Hyman Herman was a 16 year old student at the DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, N.Y. Herman's letter to Wilson was actually completed as a homework assignment given to him by his English teacher, Samuel Schmalhausen, who asked his students to “write a frank letter to Woodrow Wilson commenting on his conduct of the war against the government of Germany.” In 1917, Herman’s homework actually sparked a debate in the U.S. on the meaning of loyalty, patriotism, citizenship and the duty of the public school teacher during wartime. Schmalhausen’s assignments - in which students were required to think critically about the U.S. role in World War 1 - raised the eyebrows of several teachers and administrators at the DeWitt Clinton High School. Regarding Schmalhausen’s teaching as unpatriotic, disloyal and seditious, teachers and administrators agitated. The ultimate result was a trial in which Schmalhausen and two other teachers were accused and found guilty of “holding views subversive of discipline and tending to undermine good citizenship”. Herman’s homework - his letter to President Wilson - was a chief piece of evidence used to prove the case against the teachers. The homework was damning indeed and the three teachers were suspended. Schmalhausen appealed and lost but later became an author of several books including one entitled “Humanizing Education". Young Hyman Herman provided testimony at the trial and publicly recanted the claims and apologized for his assignment in a school wide assembly. The trial occurred in early December 1917. The letter from Associate Superintendent Tildsley which accompanies Herman’s assignment is dated January 7, 1918. Naturally, as manager of several public schools, Warriner was very interested in the controversial homework at the center of the controversy and requested a copy Herman’s infamous assignment from the school administrator overseeing the DeWitt Clinton High School.

Summary description of items
Letter from J. Tildsley to E.C. Warriner with enclosed copy of a letter from Herman Hyman, a high school student, to President Woodrow Wilson

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Number of items
Person 1
Herman Hyman
Person 2
Woodrow Wilson
Born: December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia, USA
Died: February 3, 1924 in Washington DC
Origin date
January 7, 1918
DeWitt Clinton High School, The Bronx, New York, USA
Hope Elizabeth May
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    Letter from Hyman Herman to President Woodrow Wilson (Document 4)

    DeWitt Clinton High School, The Bronx, New York, USA

    Letter from Hyman Herman to President Woodrow Wilson (Document 4)

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