A new book from the University of Wisconsin Press recalls the nation's repressive political climate during World War I.
Unsafe for Democracy, by William H. Thomas Jr., touches on the career of Willard Nathan Parker, a UW-Madison grad who served as assistant state superintendent of schools and president of the Wisconsin State Teachers Association. A true red-white-and-blue kind of guy, Parker urged that every school day open with a flag salute and "oath of allegiance" and that unpatriotic educators be fired.
"Proof of disloyalty," he wrote, "ought to be sufficient grounds for the dismissal of any teacher. All for America!"
Parker was hired by the U.S. Justice Department, where he quizzed one person suspected of disloyalty as follows: "Have you anywhere, at any time, criticized the Wilson Administration, Mr. Crowe?" He also recommended the firing of a postal worker who admitted voting for socialist Victor Berger, warning the worker "that his conduct in the future would be watched with care by the United States government."
The more things change....