Look no further than Founding Fathers for supporting education

tags: Education Founding Fathers

Paul Wheeler, a former member of The Write Team, resides in Ottawa. "A Pause in the War," Wheeler's most recent book of poetry, is available at Prairie Fox Books in Ottawa. He can be reached via mikem@mywebtimes.com

To quote Thomas Jefferson: ”If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The Founding Fathers were unanimous on the subject of education and its vital role in assuring a truly democratic form of government. George Washington declared: ”The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail.”

Our country long has relied on and been devoted to its educational system as a source of public renewal. The first taxpayer-supported schools opened in Dorchester, Mass., in 1639. Over time, public schools replaced traditional family and church-schooled student bodies. By the mid-19th Century, elementary education had become compulsory and both private and public schools expanded. The first universities were set up as duplicates of Oxford and Cambridge in England, offering a limited liberal arts curriculum of Latin, mathematics, and philosophy.

From 1870 to 1930, college graduation rates grew from under 10,000 to over 120,000. Following World War II, the G.I. Bill helped to quadruple graduation rates from four-year colleges and propelled the U.S. into the post-atomic age. The Cold War, the growing civil rights movement, and the intensifying race to the moon continued to push educational needs to the forefront, and mentored an entire generation on the importance of knowledge.

I entered the first grade in 1965, the same year President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The law guaranteed federal funding to schools serving low-income populations measuring at least 40 percent of the student body. Initially targeted to improve resources and training to low-income schools, additional testing was also mandated in subsequent years as well as helping low-income school districts to invest in computer technology and operative curriculums. ...

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