U.S. Education

As an educational publisher, we at LPG follow teaching trends and challenges. These days, the challenges involve time, money, quality of teaching, and testing cycles. Except for the last, these challenges are old news. Another radio program from BackStory talks extensively about public education. You can access the podcast here: BackStory with the American History Guys.

Our People’s History title, Don’t Whistle in School, 515HE60ARSL._SL160_AA160_ gives an overview of this topic too—from colonial “dame schools” to the advent of computers as part of the educational environment.

I was interested to note that the Cold War had a galvanizing effect on U.S. public education. When the first Sputnik beeps hit the air waves in the late 1950s, Americans grew concerned about what the Soviets could do that we couldn’t. President Dwight Eisenhower told the nation we were badly falling behind. While Soviet kids were acing science and math, U.S. students were gyrating to rock and roll. Something must be done!

This fear translated partly into a great educational jump forward. The National Defense and Education Act (NDEA) under Eisenhower loaned money to improve schools. This resulted in many more high school graduates going to college. The NDEA fed into President Lyndon Johnson’s view of the Great Society in the mid-1960s. Among its mandates was legislation to give federal aid to public schools and to universities and colleges so they could expand scholarships. (I personally benefited from this initiative.)

Luckily, some of this money filtered down to fund libraries in public schools. Without that jump start, LPG would’ve had a much harder time getting traction and lasting into the twenty-first century.