Education in Crisis

The Feinberg Law

As a follow-up of Truman's Federal Employee Loyalty Program, in thirty states, loyalty oaths for teachers became compulsory.

The New York Feinberg Law was contested all the way to the Supreme Court in 1953. The court ruled that "[a] teacher works in a sensitive area in a schoolroom. There he shapes the attitudes of young minds towards the society in which they live. In this, the state has a vital concern" and ruled that the Feinberg Law, and other laws which mandated loyalty oaths from teachers, were constitutional.

The dissenting opinion foreshadowed a major criticism of the Red Scare's influence in schools that would eventually gain traction in the mid-fifties: The law "make[s] it dangerous -- this time for school teachers -- to think or say anything except what a transient majority happen to approve at the moment."
Hugo Black

Associate Justice Hugo Black wrote one of three dissenting opinions for Adler v. Board of Education of City of New York, warning that the Feinberg Law and laws like it were dangerous.