Lyndon Johnson on Education



1965: Established Head Start; plus $200B on schooling

Nowhere has the egalitarian impulse proven more costly or failed more dismally than in the drive to close the racial gap in test scores. And it is not as though we were not warned.

In 1966, a year after LBJ enacted his Elementary and Secondary Education Act, moving the federal government massively into the state and local province of public education.

American plunged forward US & state governments and local school districts began the most massive investment in education in all of history. Expenditures per pupil doubled and tripled. Head Start, a preschool program for low-income children established in 1965, was lavishly funded. Perhaps $200 billion was poured into Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided additional funds to schools based on their population of low-income students.

Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p.213-215 , Oct 18, 2011

Stung by intellectuals, but sincere respect for universities

When he was elected to Congress, LBJ realized that the education he had received at San Marcos College was not on a par with eastern universities, and he came to admire and to enlist within the ranks of those who followed him the finest brains from the finest schools. To have a Phi Beta Kappa key, to be a Rhodes scholar, to have graduated from a university in the higher reaches of your class was to the president an unerasable mark of achievement. It became quite difficult to bring anyone to the White House staff who lacked ingredients of superior scholarship. It is amusing, and a little sad, that the intellectual community which attacked LBJ so stingingly was the very breed of men for whom he had such sincere respect. The president gloried in brains.
Source: A Very Human President, by Jack Valenti, p.155-156 , Dec 1, 1976

Practiced as ecumenist; detached from any dogma

Lyndon Johnson had no irritating ambivalence about Catholics, or any other creed. He was an ecumenist before the word gained credence. He could attend a Catholic church or a synagogue with equal passion and participation. He believed in God, and though brought up in the creed of the Disciples of Christ, tolerantly watched his wife and daughters bind themselves in Episcopal faith. He simply detached himself from any dogma, indeed, found rigidly-fixed doctrine as unappetizing in religion as in politics.
Source: A Very Human President, by Jack Valenti, p. 17-18 , Dec 1, 1976

Elementary & Secondary Education Act: aid to educate masses

For years the Democrats talked about bringing education to the masses, but federal aid never happened. It was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the Johnson administration that burst the opposition and for the first time the poorest child in the bleakest ghetto or on the most remote rural farm has a chance to get an adequate education. That Johnson legislative achievement was the essential beginning, and all that now has taken place owes its life to that source-bed of educational aid.
Source: A Very Human President, by Jack Valenti, p.382-383 , Dec 1, 1976

Ok to fund parochial schools if funds go to children

In 1947, in Everson v. Ewing Township, the US Supreme Court ad declared constitutional a New Jersey law authorizing the use of state funds to provide bus transportation for parochial school children; the benefit, a majority of the Court ruled, was going to the individual child, not to the school. This formula was taken up by a number of Catholic and non-Catholic leaders as a way of justifying a variety of indirect aids to parochial educational institutions.

With anti-poverty in the air, the suggestion was being made that the child-benefit theory should be used to justify indirect aid to parochial schools in the form of federal funds to lift the level of education for poor children, whatever the type of their school.

Pres. Johnson leaped at the formula. It fitted the anti-poverty emphasis of his Administration; an impeccable Protestant, he had far less concern than John Kennedy that he would be accused of favoring Catholics.

Source: Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, by Eric F. Goldman, p.298-299 , Mar 1, 1974

Led fight for aid-to-education legislation in 1958 and 1960

He was exceedingly active in pushing for better educational opportunities for American youth. He saw the classroom, not the battlefront foxhole or trench, as the frontier of freedom. "I know of nothing," he said in a speech in the Senate in 1958, "which has higher priority than the education of our children and their preparation for the needs of the modern world." Feeling that way, it was natural that he should lead the fight for aid-to-education legislation in 1958 and 1960.
Source: The Lyndon Johnson Story, by Booth Mooney, p. 149 , Jun 1, 1964

1920s: Star debater at Texas State Teachers College

Graduation from high school meant to him a happy release from years of drudgery. He had no thought of college. He was finished with books. He wanted to get out into the world.

He landed a job on a road gang near Johnson City. One raw, cold evening, Lyndon came home from an especially hard day on the highway and announced, "I'm sick of working just with my hands, I don't know if I can work with my brain, but I'm ready to try. Mama, if you & Daddy can get me into college, I'll go as soon as I can."

The young man who had scorned higher education now soaked up knowledge furiously. As many youths of his age turn to sports, he turned to debate and campus politics. He became the college's star debater.

Source: The Lyndon Johnson Story, by Booth Mooney, p. 13-15 , Jun 1, 1964

1930: Taught public speaking at Houston high school

Lyndon Johnson received his degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in August 1950, when he was 22 years old.

After his graduation from college, he joined the faculty of a high school in Houston to teach public speaking and debate. The school had many Latin-American students. Conflicts arose at times between them and the Anglo pupils. In ironing out these differences, the young teacher used and developed his talent for influencing people to get along among themselves.

He liked teaching. But the family tradition of politics was much on his mind. When the opportunity came, late in the year 1931, to go to Washington as secretary to a Texas congressman, he jumped at it. 1 way or another, after that, he was always in politics.

Source: The Lyndon Johnson Story, by Booth Mooney, p. 16 , Jun 1, 1964

Raise standards of public education

In this free land, the minds of our young are our most valuable resource. The classroom teacher is always the steward of that resource. For our prosperous Nation and our growing population, no challenge is greater on our horizon than preservi raising higher the standards of public education.

The good, well-trained, dedicated teacher will remain invaluable. But we must reach out to utilize new techniques and new resources to assure universal standards of excellence in every scho in every section, in every region in this land.

I believe that we may see, over the next decade, more advance in the art of teaching than in the last century, or, for that matter, several centuries. Certainly if we can use our technology o electronics to defend freedom and keep peace, as we are doing effectively, we can apply this great technology to open new horizons for young people, to equip them for the opportunities and the responsibilities of their time

Source: Presenting the National Teacher of the Year Award (APP#309) , May 4, 1964

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Other past presidents on Education: Lyndon Johnson on other issues:
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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
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)
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Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022