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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: School board bans German language amidst cries to wipe out ‘kultur’

The Spokane School Board voted unanimously to abolish German in city high schools, as audience members vowed to wage war on all aspects of ‘kultur’ in the community. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The Spokane School Board voted unanimously to abolish German in city high schools, as audience members vowed to wage war on all aspects of ‘kultur’ in the community. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The Spokane School Board voted unanimously to abolish German language classes in all Spokane schools.

After a lively debate with arguments from both sides, a board member said, “We are at war with Germany. I am against anything made in Germany, anything that is German, and decidedly against the German language.”

Another said that the “present conflict is a fight between the Anglo-Saxon and the German civilizations, and it must be a fight to the finish, and until that finish the less we had to do with the German language, the better.”

An audience member went even further, saying that it was necessary to stamp out German propaganda and “the inculcation of the unspeakable German ‘kultur.’”

Mrs. B.C. Ingalls spoke for a deputation of people opposed to the ban.

“I have two boys in the army and I am glad to say that they learned German in high school. If he picks up a document from a prisoner or anywhere, it may be of great importance and it will be a good thing if he is able to read it … It is taught at Camp Lewis and should be taught in our schools.”

From the city beat: City departments were losing employees at a rapid rate due to the call to war.

The police and fire departments were short of recruits. Every section – from the public works department to the water department to the auditor’s department – were losing men to military service. The city had no solution to the problem beyond offering higher wages if possible.

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