“Our nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. . . .”
So began the 1983 report to the American people commissioned by Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell. In 1981, Secretary Bell had appointed The National Commission on Excellence in Education to study the quality of education in America. The commission conducted many interviews with a cross section of the American public and compared courses high school students took from 1964
to 1969 with the courses they took from 1976 to 1981. Thefindings were dire:
The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.
Highlights of the Report:
Fundamental failures in the education system
Reasons For the Decline In Standards
Behavioral Trends That Led to Academic Decline
The commission concluded that declining achievement could be reversed by broadening the vision of American education. The scope of changes were evident in the commission’s recommendations to
The commission made very specific recommendations for initiating reform through the development of a solid core curriculum. What no one realized, perhaps not even the commission itself, was that nearly a decade and a half of declining achievement levels had compromised the ability of students and teachers to meet the challenge. Instead of confronting these problems, school officials sidestepped the issues by creating committees to study the situation. And what good is any study without data? The data came in the form of standardized test scores.
“Like gag me with a spoon,” —Valley Girls