Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Under the WCCA assembly and reception/relocation centers had no budget provisions for buildings, trained personnel, or supplies for establishment of schools. Educational efforts, which could be developed by the evacuee population, however, were encouraged. Thus, the only formal educational activities that were commenced at Manzanar under the WCCA were the preschool and adult English class programs.

During the spring of 1942 parents with children at Manzanar began to explore ways to continue the education of their children while in the center. The older parents began "by calling in the college Nisei to work out some type of school program to occupy and settle the children who were 'running wild' in their new surroundings." Many children had brought their school books with them. Plans for studying by mail were encouraged among the college group, and several evacuees began correspondence courses.

Thirteen seniors from Bainbridge Island completed the correspondence work outlined for them by their former high school. On May 25 they received their diplomas in a small graduation ceremony presided over by the Project Director.

Approximately 200 high school seniors had reached the closing weeks of their senior year at the time of evacuation. Most of them had been given their diplomas before they left for Manzanar, while others received theirs by mail when their classmates graduated in June.

On June 1, 1942, the date on which the WRA assumed administrative control of Manzanar, officials from the WRA Regional Office in San Francisco, accompanied by two consultants from the State Department of Public Instruction, arrived at the camp to select a site for school buildings. Conferences were held with the Superintendent of Schools of Inyo County, who was "politely cooperative but not at all in sympathy with the problems involved in educating Japanese-American children."

Summer Program of 1942. Because of continued pressure from parents for a summer school program, the WRA's Social Welfare Section soon began a block census to determine the number of school-aged children in the center. Since most of the children had missed the last two months of the school term, parents were worried about loss of academic credit resulting from evacuation. Willing evacuees offered to serve as teachers and to provide an academic program to children who wanted to attend classes during the summer months.

Genevieve W. Carter, who would become Superintendent of Schools at Manzanar, visited the camp on May 19 when she was sent as a staff member from the University of California to document the progress and impact of evacuation for its department of sociology. As Manzanar's superintendent of education, she reported to the project for work on June 15.

Before a survey could be made in preparation for the fall school term, a summer program, already developed, was thrust on Carter. Nearly 1,000 pupils were enrolled, and 50 evacuee tutors had volunteered to teach and were ready to meet their classes. An opening date had been announced for the following week, and the evacuees were prepared to enter immediately upon a summer school program which would cover 12 grades. Plans for the summer program had been developed without the guidance of an experienced school administrator.

Carter immediately began working "on the problem of setting up a program without supplies, buildings, or experienced teachers," while at the same time recruiting teachers for the fall term. As a result of Carter's efforts, three credentialed teachers were brought to the center within two weeks.

A form was prepared for children to use to send to the schools from which they had come, requesting that textbooks and assignments required to complete their semester's work be sent to them at Manzanar. At the beginning of the summer tutoring classes, nearly 800 high school students were enrolled, but of these only 484 had completed their courses and received credit from their "home" schools. Volunteer tutors were grouped into departments, and these were headed by subject supervisors. Final grades and evaluations were prepared during joint conferences involving tutors, subject supervisors, and the credentialed teachers.

The former schools from which the evacuee children had come cooperated "whole-heartedly" in lending books and furnishing study outlines, and in many cases prepared final examinations. Of the 65 high schools represented at Manzanar, all except one gave full high school credit to the students who satisfactorily completed their courses.

The summer high school classes were held in empty mess halls, day and evening, in temperatures ranging from 100 to 120 degrees. No partitions separated the classes from one another. Instead, students grouped around mess hall tables and "competed with one another in noisy recitations."

The elementary summer program or 1942 accommodated about 300 children who were grouped by grades and given instruction in the skill subjects, art, and group singing. On August 20, the elementary summer school held an "open house" for parents, and exhibited the work completed by the children.

Orientation for WRA Schools. On July 13 the WRA Regional Director of Education and Recreation called an Education Planning Conference in San Francisco. The purpose of the conference was to establish a "community school philosophy" to guide all relocation center education programs.

The education department at Stanford University offered its services in establishing proposed curriculum procedures for the relocation center education programs. Superintendents and principals who were not familiar, or in sympathy with, the "community school concept," were briefed with lectures, discussions, and reading materials. All WRA Education Sections were directed to gear their schools to this curriculum pattern.

School Organization for the Fall Term. The problems associated with organizing the embryonic school system at Manzanar during the hectic summer months of 1942 were described by Carter in the Final Report, Manzanar. The report stated:

Along with the problems of running a summer school for which no one was prepared, continuous adjustments had necessarily to be made within the Center between the Administration and evacuees, on the one hand and among incoming WRA personnel on the other. Sectional lines were not well denned at this time. Project personnel were limited in number to 105, and of these a large part were engaged in construction work. It was necessary at one and the same tune to expand in my directions to cover many needs of which buildings, personnel, supplies, and equipment were the most urgent. Requisitions for supplies were prepared, only to find that no established procedures existed for bringing the supplies into camp.

Frequently, too, questions were raised as to who had authority to recruit personnel. Since schools had not been planned for at the time the incoming evacuees had been assigned to their housing, it became a necessary step to move people into barracks already crowded, in other blocks, in order to make room for schools. These problems were desperate ones with no one apparently armed with the authority to open up avenues along which the school plans could proceed.

During the summer of 1942 a memorandum of understanding was drawn up between the WRA Regional Office and the California State Department of Education to govern the educational programs at the Manzanar and Tule Lake relocation centers. The memorandum anticipated legislation which would bring the Manzanar school area under state control by establishing a special school district for it. Only California-credentialed teachers would be employed, and all records were to conform to California standards.

Because of rising resentment of the WRA program by late summer of 1942, however, the legislation was never introduced, making teacher recruitment "doubly difficult."

Carter established a teacher ratio that allowed one teacher for each 35 high school students and one teacher for each 40 elementary school students. The teaching load was to be reduced by use of evacuee teachers who had already completed their training in education and who had partially completed practice teaching.

By mid-September 1942, 22 secondary school and 13 elementary school teachers had been hired and were housed at Manzanar. At the elementary level, the problem of recruitment was more serious because the $1,620 salary offered by the WRA could not meet the competition of public schools which were paying better salaries for a teaching year that ran only 9-10 months.

In addition, recruitment of teachers at Manzanar was hindered by the "mechanics of Civil Service employee" practices. Two or three weeks passed before an applicant could receive official notice of his teaching appointment. Frequently, the prospective teacher had accepted another offer by that time. As a result of the lengthy bureaucratic process of recruitment, it was found that for every 50 letters or notices that were sent out from Manzanar, "perhaps two [teachers] would actually arrive on the Project and be assigned a teaching load."

After it was determined that Manzanar schools would not come under the state program, it was possible to recruit teachers who held credentials from states other than California. Problems still existed with recruitment, however, as the Final Report, Manzanar noted:

Yet the manner of recruiting had to be continued after the list of the available applicants in California had become exhausted. Most the of the applicants came from states that paid lower salaries than California did. During the early months the procedure for recruiting personnel changed a number of times. Administrators of education could never be sure as to how much liberty they were allowed in recruiting teachers.

One of the principal handicaps to teacher recruitment during the summer of 1942 was the lack of housing. Throughout 1942 teachers were forced to live "four to a room, in the same type of barracks as those assigned to evacuees." The teachers' quarters were located in Block 7, which had been vacated for high school classes. This meant that the teachers had to use two latrines in common with 1,300 high school students. Furniture for the teachers' quarters was also lacking. When a portion of the Empire State Hotel furniture was sent from San Francisco to Manzanar, teachers unloaded the furniture from boxcars in Lone Pine and hauled it to Manzanar in Army trucks. There was not enough furniture to go around. At one time it was found that four teachers were sharing one dresser and one chair. If one teacher received a mattress, another would be assigned the matching box springs. Since there were no bedsteads, the box springs were placed on the floor. As a result, many resignations were submitted, because "no teacher had to endure such hardships, with so much wartime employment available from which he could choose a job."

One of the first problems in making space for schools at Manzanar was to win the cooperation of the evacuees living in Block 7 so that the block could be converted for school use. Negotiations with evacuee leaders, however, led to the move from Block 7 "without serious difficulties." The partitions which had divided each barrack into four family apartments were retained, and the apartments were converted into classrooms. These rooms, each only 25 x 20 feet, however, proved to be too small to accommodate high school classes that generally ranged from 25 to 45 students.

Securing classrooms for the elementary schools was less difficult, because the grades could be scattered throughout the camp. Twelve recreational halls were assigned to the Education Section for elementary school classroom use. These buildings housed nursery schools, kindergartens, and six elementary grades. The recreational barracks were "100 feet long, with bare rafters, floors, and walls, and no equipment." Three to four classes were grouped in each building. With each group having to compete with the next group to make itself heard, "concentrated study or quiet work, was almost impossible."

The Final Report, Manzanar described the feverish efforts undertaken to improve the designated buildings for school use. The report stated:

Requisitions, conferences, memorandums, telephone calls, threats of resignation — everything was used in an effort to secure physical improvements for the school buildings. The authority for direct purchase of essential school needs was so bogged own and buried in red tape that attempt after attempt ended only in a blind alley. Sufficient plasterboard was available to line and partition residential barracks but there were no materials for the number 15 barracks which made up the classrooms. Requisitions were prepared for textbooks commonly used in high schools and elementary schools in California. Delays, changes in procurement procedures, Regional Office approval, and other handicaps held up these orders.

Although the WRA had established the "community school curriculum" as the basis on which WRA schools should be operated, the Manzanar educators thought it "advisable for the education administration in the camp to follow a curriculum similar to that from which the school children had recently transferred." Since about 85 percent of Manzanar's students came from the Los Angeles area, the Manzanar educational program was based on that of the Los Angeles schools, thus simplifying "program-making in the high school" and making it easier "to evaluate credits for seniors about to graduate."

Sample textbooks, state bulletins, curriculum outlines, and units of work secured from several typical California schools in the Los Angeles area provided the basis for Manzanar's first school program. Committees, made up of teachers who arrived early, worked under the school principals and the superintendent, developing the camp's "first course of study."

A primary, as well as difficult, task was to obtain an accurate school census. The project records were "in a state of flux," and the formal records and statistics section had yet to be established. Family visitors from the Social Welfare Section made a block-to-block canvas of the camp, but with "so much shining and moving around" the school census did not "get accurately established until some time after school opened."

During August and early September 1942, letters were sent for "about 2,300 boys and girls to their former schools, asking for verification of grade placement and high-school transcripts." Most schools responded promptly, but others waited until the fall before sending the information. It was necessary, therefore, in the case of many students to arrange programs "on their own accounting of grade placement and credits earned." As a consequence, many children enrolled in the first grade were later found by verified birth dates to belong in kindergarten.

Teacher Training Program — The memorandum of understanding between the State of California and the WRA permitted teachers who did not meet state requirements but who possessed preliminary certificates to serve as practice or cadet teachers at the camp under supervision. The WRA guaranteed that it would request universities approved by the State Board of Education to institute an accredited teacher training program at Manzanar and Tule Lake. Under the agreement, it was contemplated that approximately 80 percent of the teachers employed would be Caucasians and 20 percent would be of Japanese descent.

A supervisor of teacher-training was selected at the recommendation of the University of California, Berkeley. Plans were immediately set to conduct a teacher-training program and to recruit possible teaching candidates from among the Manzanar evacuees. About 60 college-trained evacuees responded to the recruiting call. During the last two weeks of August, a demonstration school, using three levels of classes, was conducted to allow evacuee teachers observation and practice.

The Chief of the Elementary Division, State Department of Education and the Supervisor of Teacher Training at UCLA were invited to conduct a short institute for appointed and evacuee teachers at Manzanar. Several sessions were held in various mess halls, and the visiting educators "made a fine contribution in initiating a progressive philosophy and in opening the way for a teacher-training program for the evacuee teachers."

After the teacher training program was laid out, the number of evacuees interested in continuing the training declined to 23. The program, which was offered through the extension division of the University of California, Berkeley, included the following courses to be offered during the 1942-43 school year: history of education, psychology 1A, educational psychology, American institutions, industrial arts, tests and measurements, music methods, zoology, and secondary education. The courses were taught by qualified appointed personnel, most of whom had previous experience teaching at the college or university level. In each case, the University of California approved the instructor and course outline so that it would match a corresponding class offered at the campus. The evacuee students were registered in these courses at reduced rates since the University of California did not have to carry the cost of instruction.

Evacuee Teachers — In order to start school in the fall of 1942, it was necessary to assign full responsibility for a classroom to some of the evacuee teachers. The original plan had been for the evacuee teacher to be in the same room with, and under the direct supervision of, a state-credentialed teacher. When school opened, however, only one-half of the required number of appointed teachers had arrived. Thus, it became necessary to use evacuee student teachers as regular classroom teachers. This practice would continue until the evacuees were relieved or assisted by credentialed teachers who continued to be recruited. A policy was established whereby one credentialed teacher was placed in each school barrack, where he/she could supervise two to three evacuee teachers. The elementary school principal and the student-teachers' supervisor cooperated in outlining all student-teaching work and in guiding and supervising instruction within the parameters of the general elementary program.

At the high school level, the evacuee teachers entered specialized fields, such as physics, chemistry, art, woodshop, agriculture, physical education, and farm mechanics. Such specialized evacuee teachers came under the supervision of the student teacher-training program, but, because of the nature of their specialized subjects, they did not required less counseling and oversight than did the elementary teachers.

According to the Final Report, Manzanar, the evacuee teachers "seemed to fit rather easily into the secondary school program where skill in presenting subject matter is so highly important." The evacuee high school teachers were "well qualified young people who quickly won the respect of their students." Although needing some "assistance in methods, their accomplishments with the students reached a fairly high level."

During the early months of the school year, the Final Report, Manzanar noted that Manzanar school officials found it "necessary to educate the parents and the community to accept and cooperate with the evacuee teachers." In some instances, the evacuee teachers had a better educational background and were "stronger" teachers than the appointed teachers who worked in the same building. In spite of this, however, cases "frequently occurred in which parents requested that their children be transferred from an evacuee to a Caucasian teacher." Such requests grew so numerous that it became necessary "to freeze all transfers and to begin a program of interpreting the evacuee teacher to the parent." An excerpt from the Manzanar Free Press on October 10, 1942, printed less than one month after the elementary school opened and five days before the high school program would begin, noted:

Many heated words have been bandied back and forth about the inferiority and superiority complexes of the Japanese race. Psychologists have long contended that a Napoleonic ego and Casper Milquetoast manner are one and the same thing; that they are only different expressions of a basic lack of confidence.

This lack of confidence in their own leaders and people is again demonstrated in the discrimination of parents and students against teachers of their own race. Students unanimously prefer Caucasian teachers and show great reluctance in signing up for classes conducted by Japanese teachers; this, despite the fact that many of these Japanese teachers are admittedly superior to some in the Caucasian teaching personnel. Dr. Genevieve Carter, Superintendent of Education, expresses the full confidence in these trained Japanese pedagogues, even to the extent of entrusting her own youngster to a Japanese teacher. She points out that many of these Japanese teachers are highly qualified and some have had more actual teaching experience than the younger Caucasian teachers. Many Issei repeat that time-worn race superiority theory. Yet when the education and welfare of their children are involved they seem to prefer Caucasian teachers. This presents a strange conflict in practice and theory, which obviously refutes their contention of racial superiority.

Nevertheless, this works an unnecessary hardship on the Japanese teachers who are willing to face the petty criticisms that accompany the job, to do their share. [92]

School Opens — The elementary schools opened on September 14, 1942, with 1,001 registered students, and the high school began classes in Block 7 on October 15 with 1,376 registered students. Although teachers (36 appointed and 4 evacuee compared with 19 appointed and 12 evacuee for the elementary school) had been successfully recruited for the high school, nevertheless the process of scheduling classes and arranging programs on "a half-year promotional basis for pupils, who had come from 206 different high schools," presented an overwhelming problem to Leon C. High, principal of the Manzanar high school.

Elementary schoolrooms were scattered throughout the camp with classrooms in 12 different blocks. Manzanar's first elementary school principal met an untimely death in an airplane accident on October 9, and was quickly succeeded by Clyde L. Simpson. There were no playgrounds, no playground equipment, and no chairs, tables, books or supplies. Many of the children brought little benches which their parents had made from scrap lumber picked up while the Army was building the barracks. Children carried these stools back and forth to school, because at seats were needed in their quarters in the evenings. A few school buildings had mess hall tables, but since they were required for mess hall operations, it was not possible to obtain many of them for school purposes.

High school rooms were in much the same condition as the elementary schools except that classrooms were partitioned, thus making it possible to shut off most of the noise from adjoining classes. In regard to textbooks and supplies, the high school fared no better than did the elementary school. There were no stoves in the rooms and no linoleum to cover up holes and cracks in the warped floors. After school started, the windstorms, sandstorms, and cold spells sometimes made it impossible to conduct school. Stoves were not installed in schoolrooms until some time after the cold weather began.

In October the school libraries were organized. The high school library was established first. Books from the camp library were transferred to the mess hall in the high school block being used as a study hall, thus setting up the study hall library. The supervisor of student teaching organized a small professional library consisting of more than 200 books in her office. These volumes were classified and loaned to student teachers and to regular teaching staff in the elementary and secondary schools. In November, children's books were ordered for the elementary school library. When these books arrived, they were placed on shelves in the elementary teachers' study room, and teachers borrowed them for use in their classes.

In October two meetings were held to organize parents into a group to work closely with the school staff. Prior to evacuation few parents at Manzanar had experience with Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) groups. Thus, they were unprepared, under their own leadership, to carry on the responsibility of a PTA. The first PTA president elected at Manzanar was the wife of a WRA appointed personnel staff member.

At the two relocation centers in California — Manzanar and Tule Lake — plans made to obtain free textbooks by having the schools incorporated as special districts in the regular public school system of the state were frustrated through an adverse ruling by the state's Attorney General. Thousands of used textbooks, however, were obtained from schools in California, such as those in Los Angeles which formerly had heavy enrollments of Japanese American children. The first allotment of textbooks, supplies, and school equipment began to trickle into Manzanar around November 1. By that time, a central warehousing system had been established in the camp, but it was not operating efficiently. Thus, much needed school materials often arrived at the camp, only to be buried in central warehouses, resulting in delivery delays until later discovery. [93]

According to the Final Report, Manzanar, the disorganization in the schools during their early weeks of operation in the fall of 1942 paralleled the "the general progressive disorganization within the [Manzanar] community." The chaos in the schools was avidly described in the report:

Teachers having been frustrated, were exhausted and irritable. An endless amount of time and energy had been required to get even the smallest things done. For example, families had moved from barrack to barrack, with children being correlatively reclassified as to grade and ability. School lists had continually to be revised as students changed their locations. Classrooms were cold, the only blackboards were home-made, and chairs were available for only two-thirds of the pupils. With only half the number of textbooks needed, instruction had been left largely to the ingenuity or the teachers who were already exhausted from their work load and the almost intolerable conditions of living in camp.

Neither had the attitude and conduct of pupils recompensed them for their teaching efforts. . . . Children had walked out of study hall without permission, with their supervisor unable to find out who they were or where they had gone. Hysterical outbursts of pupils had occurred at every grade level. A child in the fourth grade had burst into tears, screaming "I hate you. I hate all Caucasians." High-school students had kicked in doors and torn tar paper from off of buildings. To all reprimands for such conduct, the answers had been: "I hate this kind of school." " This isn't a real school." "I had a good school in Los Angeles, and now they put me in a place like this." [94]

College Education — Because the WRA provided educational programs only through the high school level at relocation centers, special arrangements were necessary to provide for continuance or commencement of college and university studies for interested persons. Since the early days of evacuation, non-governmental organizations, most notably the American Friends Service Committee, began working on the issue. With the formation of the National Student Relocation Council in late May 1942, the efforts of these groups were coordinated.

The National Student Relocation Council, established with the approval of the WRA and the WCCA, was composed of a number of college presidents and other prominent educators who rounded out a formal organizational framework during meetings held in Chicago on May 29. John W. Nason, president of Swarthmore College, was elected chairman, and the council's national headquarters were established in Philadelphia. During June, the activities of the council were carried forward by two cooperating groups. The West Coast Subcommittee, operating under the leadership of Joseph Conard, concentrated its efforts on registration of students wishing transfer out of relocation centers and examination of their academic fitness and financial status. An eastern group, headed by President Robbins W. Barstow of Hartford (Connecticut) Theological Seminary as executive secretary, directed its efforts toward determining which colleges or universities outside the evacuated area would accept evacuee students and how many evacuees might thus be transferred. Clearance of colleges with the War and Navy Departments was handled by the WRA.

While the council was pursuing its goals, the WRA explored the possibility of establishing extension or correspondence courses in the relocation centers with various state college and university officials. Such a program would provide for the needs of students unwilling or unable, principally because of inadequate funds, to transfer to outside institutions. Although such talks continued, these programs were developed in 1942. [95]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002