Skip to main content

Children of the Harvest: The Schooling of Dust Bowl and Mexican Migrants during the Depression Era

Publisher: Peabody Journal of Education, 67 (4)
Page Numbers: 29-45

This article is an attempt to recapture a "moment" in American history that has been popularized by the book and Hollywood film, The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck, 1939/1966). The "Okie" (a term which came to refer, generally, to migrating rural residents of the great plains states) migration to the west coast during the 1930s depression illuminates many significant issues and questions related to America's treatment of the countryside. One question involves the extent to which the children of Okies attended "schools" meeting the definition advanced by DeYoung and Howley (also in this issue) as sites designed to work catalytically towards the social production of knowledge, or as sites where Okie children received "schooling" as a part of a process designed to legitimate existing political, economic, and social relations. The story of Okie education on the west coast is made complex by the fact that Okies shared the lowest occupational stratum (agricultural harvest labor) with Mexicans and Mexican Americans. As a result, this article examines how the American educational structure responded to the increasing number of Okie and Mexican school children in public schools on the west coast during the depression era.