American Presidents and Education

By Maurice R. Berube | Go to book overview

the economic needs of the nation. Roosevelt and Truman were concerned with a work force returning from the war that had to cope with a more sophisticated economy. Kennedy and Johnson sought a more economic well- being of American society by helping the poor educationally. These policies of educating the disadvantaged were continued by Nixon, Ford and Carter. Reagan, followed by Bush, responded to a more acute economic condition-- the deterioration of the American economy from intense foreign competition. Only Eisenhower concentrated on a noneconomic threat--the space race with the Soviet Union and heating up the cold war.

Second, in the past generation there has been a growing awareness by the American public and policy makers of the vital importance of education to economic prosperity. Opinion polls have indicated the public's desire for national leadership in education for America successfully to compete economically.

Third, presidential candidates and cabinet aides have perceived the need for some presidential direction in education, no matter how vague. Secretary of Education Terrel Bell concluded that the nation "should be galvanized into a nationwide program."56 In 1988 George Bush declared himself an education president. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis echoed similar sentiments by declaring that the president of the United States becomes this nation's number one advocate for education. It did not matter that these advocates for presidential leadership had no clear idea of the role of the president in education; they perceived the need to rethink that role.

Fourth, the role of the president still is confined by constitutional constraints. Whether the future reassessment of education and the presidency will result in a constitutional amendment or a continuation of the rhetorical presidency with the president as "teacher and preacher-in-chief" remains to be seen. Surely, the implications of the excellence reform movement suggest a greater role for the president and federal leadership.

Finally, education in the nation responds to socioeconomic and political realities beyond the confines of the schoolhouse door. This fact has meant that government, especially the federal government, will be perceived by the public as the educational leader and will continue to assume that function. The final arbiter of national educational policy may continue to be the president of the United States.


NOTES
1.
Joel Spring, The Sorting Machine Revisited: National Educational Policy Since 1945 ( New York: Longman, 1989), pp. 172-73.
3.
Dwight Allen, Schools for a New Century ( New York: Praeger, 1990), p. 30.
4.
Stanley E. Elam and Alec M. Gallup, "The 21st Annual Gallup Poll of thePublic's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,"

-152-

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American Presidents and Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Education and the Presidency 1
  • Notes 9
  • 2 - Education for Democracy 13
  • Notes 27
  • 3 - Education for the Economy 31
  • Notes 52
  • 4 - Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) and the Equity Reform Movement 59
  • Notes 81
  • 5 - Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and the Excellence Reform Movement 87
  • Notes 115
  • 6 - George Bush (1989- ) and National Standards 121
  • Notes 138
  • 7 - A National Framework 143
  • Notes 152
  • Bibliography 155
  • Index 165
  • About the Author 171
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