What exactly is the cultural consequence of constructing an educational system around this goal of college and career readiness as preparation of global economy? The Soviet launch of the first satellite in 1957 provoked a sense that this country was
falling behind in the Cold War scientific contest. The response was The National Defense of Education Act, signed into law in 1958. Then in 1983 with the Reagan Era Report "A Nation At Risk" further spurred the view that the US was falling behind.
Although its data were further debunked, it provided provocative summary sentences including, "If an unfriendly foreign power attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational system that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of
war." This report is generally understood to have kicked off the era of school reform that still shapes our school system today. In 2007, the NAS put out a report called "Rising above the gathering storm," emphasizing science and technology education.
1957: Enforced school desegregation with federal troops
In 1954, the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 that schools should be desegregated. In 1957, Eisenhower had to send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to safeguard black students enrolling for the first time in
a previously all-white school. In 1960, a Civil Rights Act was passed to include sanctions against any local officials who blocked blacks from voting.
African-American children in Topeka, Kansas had been denied access to all-white schools
due to rules allowing for separate but equal facilities. The idea of separate but equal was given legal standing with the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. This doctrine required that any separate facilities had to be of equal quality.
However, the plaintiffs in this case argued that segregation was inherently unequal. The Brown decision overturned the separate but equal doctrine established by the Plessy decision.
The Congress had done nothing about classroom shortages. Early in 1957, therefore, I again sent to Capitol Hill a Special Message on Education, including a request for a 4-year, $1.3 billion total program of federal grants to the
states for school construction. This was to be an "emergency measure," to stimulate greater state and local efforts to meet needs.
At once the bill ran into crossfire. Against federal participation in school construction, in that year of economy, stood the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion. The states, they insisted, could do the job without any help from Washington.
Federal aid, they said, would be the thin end of the wedge for federal domination and a contributor to the unconscionable size of the federal budget and federal taxes.
National Defense Education Bill: focus on science & math
In November of 1957 I had brought into the White House for the first time a Science Advisory Committee and a Special Assistant for Science and Technology. By early 1958 these efforts produced gratifying results:
To strengthen American education, particularly in science, mathematics, and foreign languages, the Congress passed the administration's National Defense Education Bill.
Despite entrenched opposition on Capitol Hill, we recommended and obtained new legislation to reduce interservice rivalries and to strengthen the control of the President and the Secretary of Defense over strategic planning and operations.
Obtaining needed laws for intensifying research and development for both peaceful and military purposes, we established a new space agency under civilian authority, and orbited a succession of satellites.
Ordered troops to enforce integration of Little Rock schools
[After the court ruling to integrate the] Little Rock schools, Gov. Faubus said that he would appeal the court's ruling and that he would ask Negro parents to keep their children away from the high school during a "cooling-off period."
On Sep. 23, from
all over the city, a mob of more than 1,000 angry and determined whites, stirred up by recent events and Gov. Faubus, converged on Central High School, determined to keep out the Negro students who were due to enter. For 3 hours the mob rioted outside,
until the police removed the Negro children from the school.
There was only one justification for the use of troops: to uphold the law. Though Faubus denied it, I, as President, now had that justification and the clear obligation to act. I issued the
required proclamation. "I will use the full power of the US including whatever force may be necessary to prevent any obstruction of the law and to carry out the orders of the Federal Court."
Antarctica Treaty: free and cooperative scientific research
There is one instance where our initiative for peace has recently been successful. A multi-lateral treaty signed last month provides for the exclusively peaceful use of Antarctica, assured by a system of inspection.
It provides for free and cooperative scientific research in that continent, and prohibits nuclear explosions there pending general international agreement on the subject.
The Treaty is a significant contribution toward peace, international cooperation, and the advancement of science. I shall transmit its text to the Senate for consideration and approval in the near future.
The United States is always ready to participate with the Soviet Union in serious discussion of these or any other subjects that may lead to peace with justice.
Establish recognizable standards for teachers and teaching
Consider our schools, operated under the authority of local communities and states. In their capacity and in their quality they conform to no recognizable standards. In some places facilities are ample, in others meager. Pay of teachers ranges between
wide limits, from the adequate to the shameful. As would be expected, quality of teaching varies just as widely. But to our teachers we commit the most valuable possession of the nation and of the family--our children.
We must have teachers of
competence. To obtain and hold them we need standards. We need a National Goal. Once established I am certain that public opinion would compel steady progress toward its accomplishment.
Such studies would be helpful, I believe, to government
at all levels and to all individuals. The goals so established could help us see our current needs in perspective. They will spur progress.