The Effects of the Spanish Influenza on American Education from 1918-1920


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Every year on Memorial Day students at my high school, Culver Academy, gather in the chapel to commemorate the students who lost their lives in American wars.  The list of names for World War I is always longest.  In 2009, my school was on lockdown because of the H1N1 virus that was apparently sweeping the nation.  Students did not have to go to classes if they did not feel comfortable doing so, and many students stayed shut in their own rooms for two weeks.  The Spanish Flu came up in passing in my biology class at the time, and I decided to do a little more research on the subject.

I found out that more people died of the Spanish Flu than as a result of WWI. This discovery left me with the question, were Culver students affected by the flu as well?  If so, why don’t we commemorate their lives?  What happened to Culver students in the midst of a pandemic?  I would like to know if and how the Spanish Influenza affected students, teachers, and administrators.  Did the flu affect some region more seriously than others?  Did it affect some types of schools more than others?  Did it affect universities more than grade schools?  Did it affect Davidson College?  Did this outbreak lead to any policy changes with regards to health in schools?  I think that journal entries could give me a look into attitudes towards the flu.  Contemporary newspapers could do the same and also provide information about which school records I should look into. Attendance records, payrolls, and school infirmary records would let me know how the influenza spread across campus.  Contemporary legislature could suggest if anyone attempted to make policy changes.  Medical journals, histories of education, books and articles about the Spanish Flu, and personal interviews might help me frame my research.

I have already started looking into some sources, and right now I am worried that I will not be able to find enough scholarly works to support an argument about education and the influenza.  Most sources that I find discuss the age groups and social classes of the people who were infected, but not how the influenza affected school systems, or even more broadly, how it affected any kind of existing government structure.  I wonder if this is a result of preoccupation with the War, or if I am simply looking in all the wrong places.  Before I go any further with this topic, I’d like to make sure I can find enough primary sources to make a claim about how the flu affected schools between 1918-1920.