Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and National Defense Education Act of 1958

Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and National Defense Education Act of 1958

Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and National Defense Education Act of 1958

Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik Crisis and National Defense Education Act of 1958

Synopsis

A detailed history of the passage of the National Defense Education Act of 1958.... The heart of the book traces the debate in Congress and in the White House over the necessity of federal support of higher education, with a reluctant President Eisenhower finally being won over.... With thorough footnotes and bibliography, this is a valuable analysis of a limited topic." - Choice

Excerpt

In the mid-1950s, America believed that its survival was under threat from international Communism led by Soviet party chairman Nikita Khrushchev. Launching of the sputniks-Earth's first artificial satellites—in the fall of 1957 gave that threat shocking tangibility. An atmosphere of crisis arose, generating in Americans a sense that the nation was losing the cold war. A review of that struggle reveals why, by 1957, scientific and technological competition was stressed to a striking degree. Over three and one-half centuries ago, Sir Francis Bacon wrote that “Knowledge is Power.” He could never have foreseen how much of a factor of power knowledge (and its production) would become during the sputnik crisis.

Many Americans doubted their country's ability to triumph over this challenge to its prior dominance in science and technology. It seemed imperative that the national government respond vigorously to the crisis. In the anxious weeks that followed the launchings, Americans tried to determine why they were behind in the new space race. A consensus grew that the nation's educational institutions were largely to blame for this cold war defeat. During the postwar years, various critics and reformers had produced a substantial body of opinion about shortcomings of American education, especially the baneful effects of Progressive Education. When the sputnik crisis erupted, this criticism seemed confirmed. Some of the critics and reformers became quite influential during the national soul-

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