IN THE YEARS following the war, the only thing of which Americans could be certain was change. How could life go back to "normal," when for the previous sixteen years the country had known only crisis? In the field of education, national leaders sensed that the fluidity of the postwar situation provided the right atmosphere in which to press for egalitarian advancements in race relations, higher education, and the financing of public education. To men and women who wanted to improve the status quo, the aura of change seemed a welcome opportunity in which to advocate new solutions.
But while the climate of flux inspired some with reformist zeal, it filled others with a sense of insecurity and fear. At the same time that leading citizens on national commissions were calling for new initiatives at the federal level, a querulous mood was emerging at the state and local level. The new mood was one of hostility toward change and suspicion of those who advocated change. In one state legislature after another, concern was expressed about threats to domestic security and about the danger of subversive persons in important places. During the decade after the war, as Soviet-American relations soured, the issue of loyalty and internal security became a major preoccupation of American politics. Both state and federal legislators conducted investigations, wrote new laws, and used the harsh glare of publicity to expose persons believed to be subversive. These years came to be known by such epithets as "the nightmare decade,"