Social Promotion in schools

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 4 05:16:37 UTC 2013

Below is a book review published in December 1947 that appears to
contain "social promotion" used with the desired sense. The book under
review was published in 1947 and it also contains the target term.

Date: 1947 December
Journal title: The Clearing House
Volume: 22, Number: 4
Start Page: 249, Quote Page: 249
Book under Review: Handbook for Remedial Reading by William Kottmeyer
Review by: May Lazar
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Database: JSTOR

[Begin excerpt]
The Introduction, which presents important basic premises, is simple
and direct. Dr. Kottmeyer particularly warns of the evil results of
social promotion without adjusted instruction.
[End excerpt]

Only snippets are visible but the following book (the one under review
above) appears to contain "social promotion" used with the desired

Title: Handbook for remedial reading,
Author: William Kottmeyer
Publisher: St. Louis, Webster Pub. Co. [1947]
(Google Books Snippet View)

Here is the first OED citation with the appropriate sense as mentioned by Jesse:

[Begin excerpt]
1948   Washington Post 16 Sept. 10/5   And too many high schools
either cannot or do not teach at the level they should. Due to social
promotion or mass education, the students get no basis.
[End excerpt]

Here is another JSTOR syntactic and semantic match for "social
promotion" in 1949. The match is on the first page of the article.

Journal title: The English Journal
Vol. 38, No. 9 (Nov., 1949), pp. 512-515
Article title: Goodbye, William Shakespeare
Article author: Regina Heavey
Published by: National Council of Teachers of English
Stable URL:

Here is a instance in 1956 in the Unz database:

Date: 1956 September
Periodical: Encounter
Volume 7, Number 3,
Article: About Equality III: Education and the Class System
Author: C. A. R. Crosland
Start Page 27, Quote Page 35, Column 2,
Publisher: Panton House, London.
Database: Unz

[Begin excerpt]
The critics point to the low standards characteristic of many American
high schools. These low standards are not in dispute. But there are
many possible explanations besides the comprehensive character of
these schools: for example, the anti-highbrow and anti-academic
("anti-egghead") tradition of American life, the acute shortage of
teachers (especially male teachers), the low quality of many of the
teachers, the insistence on automatic "social promotion" by age-groups
and the lack of grading by ability, an excessive attachment to
Deweyism and "life-adjustment" education at the expense of more basic
academic disciplines, the overwhelming preference for vocational
courses, and so on.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 11:29 PM, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Social Promotion in schools
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> OED has it from 1840 in the sense 'advancement in social class or
> standing', and from 1948 in the educational sense 'the promotion of a
> pupil to a more advanced class based on his or her age or behaviour,
> despite a lack of appropriate academic achievement'.
> Jesse Sheidlower
> On Wed, Dec 04, 2013 at 04:25:09AM +0000, Baker, John wrote:
>> They were calling it that when I was in grade school, c. 1971.
>> John Baker
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Benjamin Torbert
>> Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2013 7:41 PM
>> Subject: Social Promotion in schools
>> How long has it been called that?  My student is writing a paper and can't find a reference earlier than the late 1980s, even though the practice dates back to the 19thC.
>> BT
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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