Topics in the News
Academic and Athletic Reform
"No Pass, No Play" Initiative.
Prominent Texas business executive H. Ross Perot led a 1984-1985 campaign in his admittedly football-obsessed state to enact strictures barring failing high-school students from participating in sports. Perot's reform efforts were successful, and in 1985 a Texas law, which was emulated around the country, officially made achievement of a 70 average in every course for six weeks a prerequisite for playing a sport. A research study conducted three years later concluded that the Texas law was succeeding even beyond Perot's expectations. The percentage of students failing dropped from 15.5 in 1984-1985 to 12.8 in 1987-1988. Although opponents had predicted that students would opt for the easiest courses in the curriculum to assure sports eligibility, the number of athletes enrolled in honors courses remained constant. Also, most students inter-viewed for the study said the rule encouraged them to achieve.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted on 13 and 14 January 1986 to instigate minimum eligibility requirements for college athletes based on standardized test scores and to implement drug testing at championship events. By fall 1988 athletes at Division I schools had to score 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 on the American College Test and maintain a 2.0 (a "C"...
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Aids: Catalyst for Change in the Schools
A Glass Booth.
By the late 1980s the AIDS epidemic was significantly affecting school policy. When a Florida school district mandated that a seven-year-old girl infected with HIV be educated in a glass booth, the case made it to the federal courts. In Martinez v. School Board of Hillsbrough County a federal judge reversed this decision in 1989, arguing that the child's presence in class posed "no significant risk" to the school. A 1987 survey on laws affecting students with AIDS concluded that the courts were using the antidiscrimination provisions of the Rehabilitation Act to protect infected students' rights.
Education Secretary William Bennett, bowing to intense pressures from the scientific community, published three hundred thousand copies (one for every parent group and school board in the nation) of AIDS and the Education of Our Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers on 26 October 1987. Another two hundred thousand copies of the twenty-eight-page document were made available, free of charge, to anyone requesting it. The tone of the booklet was highly moralistic, emphasizing the value of deferring sexual activity until adulthood and then choosing between abstinence or monogamy. One carefully written page mentioned condoms, but emphasized that their use was no guarantee of safety. Defending the...
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Apartheid Spurs Campus Protests
In 1985 the Reagan administration defended its refusal to apply economic sanctions to South Africa as a means of ending that country's official policy of apartheid. Demonstrations on campuses all across the United States on 4 April 1985 marked the seventeenth anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with protests against racism in general and South Africa's apartheid system in particular. Amy Carter, daughter of former president Jimmy Carter and a Brown University student, was one of the more-prominent personalities arrested in a four-thousand-person demonstration led by Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry at that city's South African embassy.
Also coinciding with the 4 April King anniversary, several hundred students at Columbia University in New York City began a blockade of a campus building to demand that the university divest itself of $32.5 million in stock of companies doing business in South Africa. Although the demonstrators padlocked the front door and camped out around it, another entrance to the building remained open and classes continued without interruption. On 25 April, when Columbia had given no concessions on the divestment issue, the students called off the protest, claiming it was time to "move on to new tactics." Simultaneously, another sit-in...
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Native Culture or Larger Culture?
The Supreme Court case of Lau v. Nichols in 1974 affirmed the concept of language rights when a group of Chinese students in San Francisco demanded, and won, instruction in their native language. This case marked an official recognition of multilingualism in the United States. Schools were required to offer the curriculum in a manner understandable to the non-English-speaking child. The federal BiLingual Education Act, which had been in effect since 1967, had as its primary goals "cultivating ancestral pride, reinforcing native languages, and cultivating inherent strengths of students." However, during the decades following the Lau decision, two competing philosophies of bilingual instruction emerged. In the early days, the goal was successful integration of the students into the culture
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Black Educational Progress Slows
Black Enrollment Declines.
Although black Americans made major economic and social gains in the mid twentieth century, that progress stagnated by the 1980s. "Many blacks remain separated from the mainstream of national life under conditions of great inequality in education, housing and health care," concluded the National Research Council in A Common Destiny; Blacks and American Society in 1989. Certainly progress in higher education had slowed. Blacks remained underrepresented in graduate and professional degree attainment and were actually losing ground in undergraduate education compared to the momentum of the 1970s. By 1989 the number of black men enrolled in universities and colleges in the United States had declined to 436,000 from the high point in 1976 of 470,000, according to an American Council on Higher Education study. Although the number of black women rose from 563,000 in 1976 to 645,000 in 1989, the overall percentage of black students in higher education fell during the decade from 9.4 to 8.6. Some black leaders attributed this drop to federal educational policies that had shifted financial aid away from college grants. Other explanations include a tightening of the open admissions policies of the 1970s. Even though the scores of blacks on the SAT continued to improve into the 1980s, on the average the scores lagged behind those of whites. At some schools this...
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Federal Education Intervention: Harmful or Helpful?
The Federal Role.
Both before and after his election, Ronald Reagan never made a secret of his desire to reduce or even eliminate the role of the federal government in education. He consistently asserted that "the greatest public school system the world has ever seen" began to deteriorate when federal intervention started, primarily in the 1960s. His oft-stated agenda on education included the following: 1) Do away with the Department of Education; 2) Encourage prayer in the schools; 3) Enact tuition tax credits and family educational allowances or vouchers to help parents finance private-school education or choice of public schools; 4) Weaken federal regulations, including those aimed at civil rights for disadvantaged and handicapped children; and 5) Enact massive cuts in the education budget.
Rhetoric versus Reality.Reagan argued that the federal influence had grown so massive that it had usurped the role of state and local governments. However, in 1983, of the $230 billion expended on all education from all sources, the federal share was only 9 percent. The rest of the funding came from state sources (39 percent), local sources (24 percent), and tuition, fees, endowments, and gifts. A second argument was that federal assistance was simply not needed. Evidence from the reports of all the task forces and commissions, including President Reagan's...
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Guns, Drugs, and Suicide
Escalation of Troubles.
Newspaper headlines from a single week in April 1987 demonstrate an alarming escalation of violence, drug use, and abuse in the nation's schools: "Tennessee Teacher Shot By Special Ed Student in Class," "Reported Abuse Deaths up 29%," "Boy Shot Outside Detroit High School," "NYC Board Sued in Rape Incident at Local School," "Tighter Security Urged after Attack on NYC Principal," "LA Student Shoots Self in Principal's Office," "Cal Student's Parents Sued After Attack on Teacher," "Kentucky Boy Shot at Football Game," "GA Student Fatally Stabs Elementary Principal," "Three Alabama Students Charged With Rape of Classmate," "Boy Kills Classmate, Self in Missouri," "Four NJ Teens Die in Apparent 'Suicide Pact,' "and " 'Copy Cat' Suicide Pacts and Attempts in Three States."
Drug Use and the Schools.
Many of the problems with violence, abuse, and suicidal impulses were associated with illegal drugs. In 1979 surveys of student drug use indicated that 54 percent had tried drugs at least once, so it is not surprising that parents consistently listed drug use as their greatest worry about their children's schools in annual surveys from 1980 to 1987. First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign in the early 1980s targeted youngsters in elementary schools with the hope of making abstaining the popular choice. The "Just Say...
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1983: "The Hinge of History" for Reform
The First Call: A Nation at Risk.
The catalyst for the serious reform movements during the 1980s was the Reagan administration's National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE), a bipartisan group of business, political, and education leaders who addressed what they referred to as a "rising tide of mediocrity." Their report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, published in May 1983, called for reform which would address the twin goals of equity and high-quality schooling. Commission members insisted that both goals have profound and practical meaning for society and the economy; that the United States could not permit one to yield to the other in principle or in practice. It was imperative, they said, that our educational system develop the talents of all students to the fullest extent. This commission was particularly distressed that the number of
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Rise in Censorship
Reagan and the First Amendment.
Ronald Reagan spoke to a religious group in Dallas on 22 August 1980 during the presidential campaign: "When I hear the First Amendment used as a reason to keep traditional moral values away from policy-making, I am shocked. The First Amendment was written not to protect the people and their laws from religious values, but to protect those values from government tyranny." Before this group candidate Reagan also claimed there were "great flaws" in the theory of evolution, and he suggested that along with the scientific version of creation, public schools should teach the biblical story of creation. Not surprisingly, after the election a significant rise in the number of objections to textbooks and curriculum occurred nationwide, evenly distributed across both city and rural areas. By the year 1985-1986 the organization People for the American Way recorded 130 attempts to censor classes, texts, and library books—a 33 percent increase from the previous year. Literature classes were the most frequent targets, then science, health, sex education, and drug education classes. These censorship attempts were primarily from the religious Right, but there were also significant censorship efforts from the Left, primarily in California.
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Teachers Under Fire
Assessing Teacher Training.
By 1984 four studies of the teaching profession all concurred that the profession was troubled. "It's a mess," said Emily Feistritzer, author of "The Condition of Teaching," produced in 1983 for the National Center for Educational Information and the most far-reaching study to that point. Feistritzer, whose research delved into conditions in every state, blamed a significant part of the problem on the chaotic certification procedures at state departments of education. A drastically reduced pool of students going into the field exacerbated the situation; in 1973, 200,000 graduates planned to go into teaching, but by 1981, only 108,000 students studied to become teachers. Of those students, 35 percent were in elementary education; 17 percent were in physical education; 13 percent in special education. Although less than 3 percent planned to go into secondary teaching, this abnormally low figure could reflect the fact that some secondary teachers majored in their subject-area field and planned to go to graduate school to become credentialed. The salary advantages teachers had enjoyed in the 1970s disappeared: in 1983 starting teachers could expect only $13,000 annually while starting accountants made $17,000. Students in colleges of education consistently had lower SAT scores (SAT verbal of 394, compared to the group's average of 426 in 1982) than their counterparts...
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Women's Issues in Education
Qualified Women Shun Teaching Profession.
During the 1980s the teaching profession suffered as many qualified women entered other fields formerly closed to them. Women who in prior decades might have become teachers deserted the field for business, medicine, and law. The other professions' gain was education's loss, said Carol Gilligan, a prominent feminist researcher in women's development at Harvard University. According to Gilligan's research, women respond more readily to people than to principle; they are guided not so much by broad perceptions of right and wrong as by the moral logic of care. It is impossible, she said, for most women to consider an action or moral dilemma without considering its effects on the people involved. Therefore, women have special gifts for teaching, and she and others expressed concern that teaching may become a "nesting ground for those who can't do anything else."
Women in Administration.
By middecade 70 percent of elementary and secondary teachers were women whose median age was thirty-six. When the education journal Phi Delta Kappan commissioned a survey of the attitudes of these teachers toward their careers, two-thirds of the women reported a career crisis of sorts, defined by fatigue, anger, anxiety, and depression. Most cited frustration about the fact that a teaching career reaches a...
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Bennett, William J. 1943-
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, 1985-1989, CHAIRMAN
OF THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANI-TIES,
No Stranger to Controversy.
William J. Bennett began his public education career at the University of Texas and Boston University; later he became president of the National Humanities Center near Raleigh, North Carolina. From 1981 to 1984 he was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. His outspoken attacks on spending for cultural events that were "damaging to America's well-being" earned him recognition by conservatives. In 1985 Secretary of Education Terrei Bell re-signed because of frustrations in trying to implement President Reagan's plans to shut down the Department of Education, and Bennett was tapped to take his place. Whereas Bell's demeanor was conciliatory, Bennett's was combative. He sought opportunities to debate issues rather than merely conduct department business, and soon Bennett became a familiar figure on the nightly news, arguing for his version of educational reforms.
Bennett's 3 C's.
Although the 3 R's were important, Bennett argued, the 3 C's—content, character, and choice—were in desperate need of attention in the 1980s. In explaining the need for more content in curriculum, Education Secretary Bennett issued this often-quoted directive:...
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Boyer, Ernest L. 1928-
CHANCELLOR OF STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW
YORK; US. COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION;
PRESIDENT OF CARNEGIE FOUNDATION FOR
THE ADVANCEMENT OF
From Teacher to Administrator.
Ernest L. Boyer was one of the most influential voices in the calls for educational reform in the 1980s. As the head of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, beginning in 1980, the issues he addressed received national attention. Born in Dayton, Ohio, Boyer moved west to receive his doctoral degree in audiology at the University of Southern California in 1957. He became a professor of speech pathology and audiology and academic dean at Upland College, but in 1960 he reached what he called a "crucial crossroad" in his life when he switched from teaching to administration. When he accepted a position with the Western College Association, the California Board of Education had ordered all public schoolteachers to obtain a degree in an academic discipline, and Boyer was appointed director of the commission charged with carrying out the directive. In 1962 he assumed the director-ship of The University of California's Center for Coordinated Education, where he administered projects to improve the quality of education from kindergarten through college. At this early point in his career he began to develop an understanding of the needs of the entire...
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Clark, Joe Louis 1939-
National Folk Hero.
Joe Louis Clark, principal of inner-city Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, gained a wide reputation as a folk hero when national news reports showed him patrolling his halls with a bullhorn and baseball bat in hand. After six years of Clark's leadership at a school where 90 percent of the students were black or Hispanic and most came from poor families, Eastside boasted order and some improvement in test scores. Parents and students praised him for restoring order and instruction to a school once called a "caldron of terror and violence," and Education Secretary William Bennett held him up as an example of what strong leadership can accomplish in the nation's most troubled urban schools. Clark exhibited that leadership by working the halls and corridors like a consummate politician, shouting through his bullhorn at students, but usually addressing them by name and inquiring about their progress. "A lot of students here have it bad at home," said a junior who supported Clark's approach. "But they can come in here and say: 'This man wants something for me. I can do better'"...
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Collins, Marva 1936-
Marva Collins, an inner-city elementary-school teacher from Chicago, be-came a national celebrity in the late 1970s and early 1980s when she founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago. Under Collins's guidance, supposedly "un-teachable" ghetto children turned into avid readers quoting Shakespeare and Socrates to media visitors, who quickly deemed her a "miracle worker" and "a national treasure."
Collins's own education began in rural Alabama, in all-black schools where "teachers were strict and strong; there was no foolishness." When she was denied access to her local library because of her race, she read the Farmer's Almanac, Bible stories, and any books her father could buy in Mobile. She graduated from the all-black Escambia County Training School and obtained her B.A. degree in secretarial sciences in 1957 from Clark College in Atlanta.
From Secretary to Teacher to Critic.
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Escalante, Jaeme 1930-
From Trade School to Academics.
Jaime Escalante, a native of La Paz, Bolivia, and the son of two elementary-school teachers, inspired a movie in the 1980s by raising the aspirations of Hispanic students in one of Los Angeles's most decaying urban high schools. Shortly after Escalante came to Garfield High, its reputation had sunk so low that its accreditation was threatened. Instead of gearing classes to poorly performing students, Escalante offered AP (advanced placement) calculus. He had al-ready earned the criticism of an administrator who disapproved of his requiring students to answer a homework question before being allowed into the classroom. "He told me to just get them inside," Escalante reported, "but I said, there is no teaching, no learning going on." Deter-mined to change the status quo, Escalante had to persuade the first few students who would listen to him that they could control their futures with the right education. He promised them that the jobs would be in engineering, electronics, and computers, but they would have to learn math to succeed. He told his first five calculus students in 1978 that "I'll teach you math and that's your language. With that you're going to make it. You're going to college and sit in the first row, not the back, because you're going to know more than anybody." The student body at Gar-field High, more than...
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Goodlad, John I. 1920-
DEAN, GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
A Teacher's Teacher.
John Goodlad, author of a landmark 1980s study of American education titled A Place Called School, began his teaching career in a rural one-room school. Since that time he has taught at every grade level from first grade through advanced graduate work. During the quarter-century preceding the 1980s, he inquired into the nature of schooling at all levels in more than ten countries. As dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, he read the numerous reports published in the late 1970s that contended that American education had gone seriously wrong. Dissatisfied with their alarmist tone and simplistic suggestions, Goodlad set out to write a study of schooling that identified what was actually going on in American schools. Because he believed that most school improvement efforts "founder on reefs of ignorance" and therefore inspire reforms that are merely cosmetic, he insisted on gathering "thick descriptions" of schools—composites of observations by students, teachers, parents, principals, and trained observers.
Scope of the Study.
Goodlad directed more than twenty trained investigators who went to communities all over the country to collect information on every...
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Research into Practice.
In 1985 Ron Brandt, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, said that Madeline Hunter "has had more influence on U.S. teachers in the last ten years than any other person." Hunter's popularity was based on her instructional-theory-into-practice (ITIP) model for effective teaching, which was designed to "teach more faster" in all disciplines and to all grade levels. Her training first as a practicing psychologist and later as a school psychologist served as the foundation for her ITIP model. This model translated her research in behavioral and social psychology into eight sequential steps for every teacher to follow in any given lesson.
To follow the Hunter ITIP model, the teacher initiates an anticipatory set, determines objectives, gives input, models the task, checks for understanding, guides practice, assigns independent practice, then offers closure. According to Hunter, the ITIP model enables teachers to make appropriate decisions in three major aspects of teaching: content, learner style and behavior, and teacher behavior. Key learning principles on which Hunter based her model are motivation, retention, reinforcement, and transfer. Hunter published several programmed books, most notably Teach More—Faster...
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Mcauliffe, Christa 1950-1986
A Representative Teacher: A Woman, A Mother.
Christa McAuliffe, a thirty-seven-year-old social-studies teacher at Con-cord (New Hampshire) High School was chosen from eleven thousand candidates to be a pioneer: the nation's first ordinary citizen in space. Her life ended when the space shuttle Challenger exploded ninety seconds after liftoff in February 1986. McAuliffe left her mark on the decade and on the nation as a model teacher, a woman who combined the idealism of the 1960s and the feminist ideas of the 1970s and 1980s.
All of the important decisions of her life, her friends said, were as a result of her essentially solid values. She attended a Roman Catholic college-preparatory school in Framingham, Massachusetts, her hometown, with a solid academic reputation and a strict code of behavior. She decided before graduation that her life's work would be teaching, to her mind a noble profession because, as a high'-school classmate remembered, "You could be a wife and mother as well." At Framingham State College where she studied to be a teacher, she was particularly interested in the diaries of pioneer women, recalled Carolia Haglund, a former professor and dean of women. Years later she would stress to her students the importance of ordinary people in history. Her project...
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Shanker, Albert 1928-
Militancy Gone Straight.
Albert Shanker was president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from 1974 through the 1980s. During the 1980s the dues-paying membership of the AFT hovered at slightly more than six hundred thousand, only one-third that of the National Education Association (NEA). However, the organization represented a powerful force of mostly urban, mostly northeastern teachers. Shanker earned a reputation in the late 1960s and 1970s as something of a loose cannon, a radical whose involvement in a dramatic black-white confrontation in the Brownsville-Ocean Hill section of New York City helped to stamp him as a major force for militant teacher unionism. By 1987, though, he decided not to run for reelection to the presidency of the AFT's pugnacious New York affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers. In the late 1980s Shanker, his rhetoric toned down, became much more statesmanlike.
Education is Politics.
Although Shanker was actively anticommunist and prodefense, he was staunchly committed to federal intervention in matters of social and economic justice. Although he was a lifelong Democrat, he enjoyed cordial relations with the Reagan administration. One of his AFT aides, Linda Chavez, became a senior White House staffer, and he warmly supported the choice of William Bennett as...
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People in the News
Mortimer Adler, educational philosopher, announced in 1986 that the American educational system was "absolutely inadequate for purposes of democracy."
In 1986 Lamar Alexander, Republican governor of Tennessee, said that "What has finally riveted our attention on our education system is that our standard of living is threatened. We're not going to have the jobs and good incomes in America if we don't have the good skills."
Bruce Babbitt, Democratic governor of Arizona, said in 1982 on Meet the Press that "Federal involvement in education has been counterproductive. I believe it's responsible for some of the decline in quality."
Reagan administration Secretary of Education Terrei H. Bell said in 1981 that the nation's schools had been too preoccupied with the laudable aim of "bringing up the bottom"—concentrating on raising the performance of the less talented and the handicapped. The time had come, he said, to focus more on "challenging those on the outer limits of talent and ability."
Camilla Benbow of Johns Hopkins University studied ten thousand gifted and talented seventh and eighth graders and concluded in Science magazine in 1981 that "boys outscore girls on math tests because they have more aptitude for math, not just because they take more advanced courses."...
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Ernest Arbuckle, 73, dean of Stanford's business school from 1958 to 1968 when it became known as one of the best U.S. institutions of its kind, 17 January 1986.
Frederik Barry Bang, 78, biologist and teacher since 1948 at Johns Hopkins University who developed a test to detect potentially lethal infections caused by toxic bacteria, 3 October 1981.
Edward Barrett, 79, dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism from 1956 to 1968 and founder of the Columbia Journalism Review in 1962, 23 October 1989.
Sarah Gibson Blanding, 86, sixth president and first female president of Vassar College from 1946 to 1964, 6 March 1985.
Kingman Brewster, 69, former president of Yale from 1963 to 1977 during a turbulent time of student pro-tests over minority enrollment, student rights, and ad-mission of women, 8 November 1988.
Fawn McKay Brodie, 65, history teacher best known for her controversial biography of Thomas Jefferson, which focused on the alleged thirty-four-year affair Jefferson conducted with mulatto slave Sally Hennings, 10 January 1981.
Sterling Allen Brown, 69, poet and former teacher of black American literature and the creator of the first black American literature course at Howard University and credited with laying...
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Mortimer Adler, The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto (New York: Macmillan, 1982);
Bruno Bettelheim and Karen Zelan, On Learning to Read; The Child's Fascination With Meaning (New York: Knopf, 1982);
Ruth Bleier, Science and Gender (London & New York: Pergamon Press, 1984);
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987);
Godfrey Brandt, The Realization of Anti-Racist Teaching (Philadelphia: Falmer Press, 1986);
Philip Cusick, The Egalitarian Ideal and the American High School (New York: Longman, 1983);
Thersa Escobedo, ed., Early Childhood Bilingual Education: A Hispanic Perspective (New York: Teachers College Press, 1982);
Rudolf Flesch, Why Johnny Still Cant Read (New York: Harper & Row, 1981);
Douglas Franzosa and Karen Mazza, compilers, Integrating Women's Studies into the Curriculum: An Annotated Bibliography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984);
Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1983);
Carol Gilligan, In...
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Important Events in Education, 1980–1989
- A Gallup poll shows that parents believe the top four problems in schools are discipline, drug use, poor curriculum, and low standards.
- Poll results show that African Americans from the Northeast gave public schools a "D."
- Seventy-nine percent of respondents favor instruction in morals.
- Dade County Florida School District decides not to provide special programs for twenty thousand refugees inundating south Florida.
- A court orders Rand-McNally Corporation, a publisher of junior-high chemistry textbooks, to pay $155,000 to two eighth graders injured while conducting an experiment outlined in their text.
- In July, a federal judge strikes down a Texas law excluding most illegal alien children from public schools, saying "the rights of man are not a function of immigration status."
- On July 4, the National Education Association (NEA) endorses Democrat Jimmy Carter for a second term as president. The NEA and other teacher unions have traditionally endorsed Democratic candidates because the party spends more than Republicans on education.
- On July 17, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a decision ordering New York school districts to provide signing interpreters for deaf children.
- In August, the Republican...
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