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Richard Nixon on Education

President of the U.S., 1968-1974


Break the monopoly of the education establishment

We must break the monopoly of the education establishment over public schools and introduce competitive market forces into the system to improve its performance. I support public schools. But today the difference between the performance of public and private schools in America is shocking. Public high school seniors who took the Scholastic Aptitude Test scored significantly lower than the private school seniors who did so. Many public schools are top-heavy, spending excessively on bloated administrative bureaucracies concerned more about maintaining their monopoly on public funds than about improving their performance. As The Economist reported, "New York's public-sector schools employ 10 times as many administrators per pupil as private schools do." Private schools ultimately must satisfy their customers--parents & students--by providing effective educational services. In this competitive environment, they must continuously strive to upgrade their programs or risk going out of business.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.283 , Jan 15, 1992

Before the 60s, schools helped students become productive

In the 60s, schools became a social and cultural wasteland. Before the 60s, the job of education was to help students become productive members of society. But during the 60s, the very idea of "having jobs and families" was judged to be hopelessly banal, even corrupt. It became the job of education to mold students into culturally and politically correct citizens of some ideal world that existed only in the brain of the ideologue or theoretician.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.108-109 , Jul 2, 1990

School prayer is ok, but not as an Amendment

I believe children should be allowed to have a moment of silence in schools. But I do not believe an amendment allowing school prayer belongs in the Constitution. America has become a great nation in large part because we are conceived and nurtured in strong religious faith. But the real test of faith is whether it is strong enough to tolerate other faiths.

While the majority should not impose its religious views on the minority, the minority should respect the views of the majority. Reverse bigotry by the minority is just as reprehensible as bigotry by the majority. For instance, to oppose the display of Christian religious symbols in public places at Christmas time in the name of separation of church and state is both petty and silly. Christmas is not just another excuse for retailers to rake in profits. It is the celebration of Christ's birthday. Public displays commemorating the birth of Jesus are appropriate.

Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 99-100 , Jul 2, 1990

Religious instruction in schools ok, like Marxism

Another equally acrimonious debate has raged from time to time over whether religious training belongs in public schools. My view is that it does--especially since our schools already teach students about the pseudo-religion of Marxism-Leninism. I do not share the views of some well-intentioned anti-Communists that students should not be exposed to courses on Marxism. While Marxists are atheists, Marxism is a religion. Students in a free society should be encouraged to learn about their own religious heritage without being prohibited from doing so because of the doctrine of separation of church and state. It is ludicrous to teach young people about the atheistic philosophy adhered to by our major adversaries in the world and yet be denied the opportunity to learn more about the spiritual precepts on which our own nation was founded.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.100 , Jul 2, 1990

Educational standards over political correctness

What should students learn instead of the politically correct education of the 60s? My views may not be the conventional wisdom, but because I feel so fortunate to have had a good education, I want to share them with others. Each student should leave 12th grade reading English at a 12th grade level or better. He should know algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus and the fundamentals of biology, chemistry, and physics. Our students' persistent weakness in these subjects is our educational system's greatest failure. A student should know the rudiments of a foreign language, be able to recognize at least a few of the great works of Western music, and understand the tenets of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and the world's other great religion, Marxism-Leninism. He should have spent some time playing a competitive sport. He should know the history of his country, and something about the history of the world.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.110-111 , Jul 2, 1990

Replace union politics with parental choice

Teachers will earn more respect if they begin to focus more on teaching and less on theory and politics. Teacher unions pass resolutions against funding for the contras, investigate the political and cultural content of books & TV programming, and lobby tirelessly for higher salaries & benefits. As was the case even back when I attended Whittier College 55 years ago, the excruciatingly boring courses offered to education majors still emphasize HOW to teach rather than WHAT to teach. Many teachers still worry more about their students' feelings and cultural awareness than whether they can read, write, add, or think.

Teachers have to get back to the basics--a tougher curriculum, more time in the classroom for each student, and raises for teachers based on performance as well as seniority. Without these and other measures, such as parental choice, our young people will fall so far behind that we will run the risk of entering the next century as a nation of semi-literates in a world of PhDs.

Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.112-113 , Jul 2, 1990

Non-public schools save taxpayers $3B per year

Public funding for public education has never been higher in America. But inner city schools seem less and less capable of providing education for the poor and for the racial minorities who more and more make up their enrollment.

The Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1972 will redirect billions of dollars in effective aid into the inferior schools of this Nation, many in our central cities where such aid is so urgently needed. I would not contend is the final answer to quality education for all Americans, but we believe it points in the right direction.

The nonpublic schools in this country [save] the American taxpayer $3 billion annually in school operating costs, plus as much as $10 billion in new school construction. And the impact would fall most heavily upon our central cities, where in some cases as many as 1/3 of all children attend nonpublic schools.

I come here today to reaffirm my commitment in your fight to save your schools, "You can count on my support."

Source: Remarks at the National Catholic Education Assoc. (APP #113) , Apr 6, 1972

Cast deciding vote against increasing teachers' salaries

NIXON: In this whole area of civil rights, the equality of opportunity for employment and education is not just for the benefit of the minority groups, it's for the benefit of the nation so that we can get the scientists and the engineers and all the rest that we need. And in addition to that, we need programs, particularly in higher education, which will stimulate scientific breakthroughs which will bring more growth. Now what all this, of course, adds up to is this: America has not been standing still. But we can and must move faster.

KENNEDY: The Vice President suggested we pass an aid-to-education bill. But the Administration and the Republican majority in the Congress has opposed any realistic aid to education. And the Vice President cast the deciding vote against federal aid for teachers' salaries in the Senate, which prevented that being added.

Source: The Third Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Oct 13, 1960

Federal assistance to integrate schools

Q [to Nixon]: You have accused Senator Kennedy of avoiding the civil rights issue when he has been in the South and he has accused you of the same thing. Would you sum up your own intentions?

NIXON: My intentions in the field of civil rights have been spelled out in the Republican platform. When anybody has a government contract, money that is spent under that contract ought to be disbursed equally without regard to the race or creed or color. Second, in the field of schools, we believe that there should be provisions whereby the federal government would give assistance to those districts who do want to integrate their schools. That was rejected by the special session of the Congress in which Mr. Kennedy was quite active.

KENNEDY: Giving aid to schools technically that are trying to carry out the decision is not the great question. About 2% of our population of white people is illiterate, 10% of our colored population; 60% of our colored children do not finish high school.

Source: The Second Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Oct 7, 1960

Building more schools moves America ahead

We have built more schools in these last seven and a half years than we built in the previous seven and a half, for that matter in the previous twenty years. I think we find that America has been moving ahead. Let's take schools.
Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Sep 26, 1960

Aid for school construction, not teacher salaries

I favor that because I believe that's the best way to aid our schools without running any risk whatever of the federal government telling our teachers what to teach. As far as aid for school construction is concerned, I favor that, as Senator Kennedy did, in January of this year, when he said he favored that rather than aid to teacher salaries.
Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Sep 26, 1960

Local control more critical than increased teacher salaries

to set standards and to tell the teachers what to teach. I think this would be bad for the country; I think it would be bad for the teaching profession. My objection is not the cost in dollars. Q: You refused to vote in the Senate to break a tie when that single vote, if it had been yes, would have granted salary increases to teachers. Please explain?

NIXON: When the federal government gets the power to pay teachers, it will acquire the power money would be spent for construction or teacher salaries. I voted in favor because it provided assistance to teachers for their salaries without federal control. I don't want the federal government paying teachers' salaries directly. My objection is the potential cost in controls and eventual freedom for the American people by giving the federal government power over education.

KENNEDY: The issue was that money would be given to the state. The state then could determine whether the

Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Sep 26, 1960

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Other past presidents on Education: Richard Nixon on other issues:
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014