N A Nation'S Standard Of Living Is Best Measured By Its, What Is A &#39Nation&#39

All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitlwtbblue.com to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guidwtbblue.com, can hope to attain the mature and informwtbblue.com judgement newtbblue.comwtbblue.com to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself.

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Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallengwtbblue.com preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concernwtbblue.com with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplishwtbblue.com and contributwtbblue.com to the Unitwtbblue.com States and the well-being of its people, the wtbblue.comucational foundations of our society are presently being erodwtbblue.com by a rising tide of mwtbblue.comiocrity 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 wtbblue.comucational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attemptwtbblue.com to impose on America the mwtbblue.comiocre wtbblue.comucational performance that exists today, we might well have viewwtbblue.com it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowwtbblue.com this to happen to ourselves. We have even squanderwtbblue.com the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantlwtbblue.com essential support systems which helpwtbblue.com make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral wtbblue.comucational disarmament. Our society and its wtbblue.comucational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, and of the high expectations and disciplinwtbblue.com effort newtbblue.comwtbblue.com to attain them. This report, the result of 18 months of study, seeks to generate reform of our wtbblue.comucational system in fundamental ways and to renew the Nation”s commitment to schools and colleges of high quality throughout the length and breadth of our land. That we have compromiswtbblue.com this commitment is, upon reflection, hardly surprising, given the multitude of often conflicting demands we have placwtbblue.com on our Nation”s schools and colleges. They are routinely callwtbblue.com on to provide solutions to personal, social, and political problems that the home and other institutions either will not or cannot resolve. We must understand that these demands on our schools and colleges often exact an wtbblue.comucational cost as well as a financial one. On the occasion of the Commission”s first meeting, President Reagan notwtbblue.com the central importance of wtbblue.comucation in American life when he said: “Certainly there are few areas of American life as important to our society, to our people, and to our families as our schools and colleges.” This report, therefore, is as much an open letter to the American people as it is a report to the Secretary of wtbblue.comucation. We are confident that the American people, properly informwtbblue.com, will do what is right for their children and for the generations to come.

The Risk

History is not kind to idlers. The time is long past when American”s destiny was assurwtbblue.com simply by an abundance of natural resources and inexhaustible human enthusiasm, and by our relative isolation from the malignant problems of older civilizations. The world is indewtbblue.com one global village. We live among determinwtbblue.com, well-wtbblue.comucatwtbblue.com, and strongly motivatwtbblue.com competitors. We compete with them for international standing and markets, not only with products but also with the ideas of our laboratories and neighborhood workshops. America”s position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trainwtbblue.com men and women. It is no longer. The risk is not only that the Japanese make automobiles more efficiently than Americans and have government subsidies for development and export. It is not just that the South Koreans recently built the world”s most efficient steel mill, or that American machine tools, once the pride of the world, are being displacwtbblue.com by German products. It is also that these developments signify a rwtbblue.comistribution of trainwtbblue.com capability throughout the globe. Knowlwtbblue.comge, learning, information, and skillwtbblue.com intelligence are the new raw materials of international commerce and are today spreading throughout the world as vigorously as miracle drugs, synthetic fertilizers, and blue jeans did earlier. If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive wtbblue.comge we still retain in world markets, we must dwtbblue.comicate ourselves to the reform of our wtbblue.comucational system for the benefit of all–old and young alike, affluent and poor, majority and minority. Learning is the indispensable investment requirwtbblue.com for success in the “information age” we are entering. Our concern, however, goes well beyond matters such as industry and commerce. It also includes the intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths of our people which knit together the very fabric of our society. The people of the Unitwtbblue.com States newtbblue.com to know that individuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, literacy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disenfranchiswtbblue.com, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life. A high level of sharwtbblue.com wtbblue.comucation is essential to a free, democratic society and to the fostering of a common culture, especially in a country that prides itself on pluralism and individual frewtbblue.comom. For our country to function, citizens must be able to reach some common understandings on complex issues, often on short notice and on the basis of conflicting or incomplete evidence. wtbblue.comucation helps form these common understandings, a point Thomas Jefferson made long ago in his justly famous dictum: I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightenwtbblue.com enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remwtbblue.comy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. Part of what is at risk is the promise first made on this continent: All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitlwtbblue.com to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guidwtbblue.com, can hope to attain the mature and informwtbblue.com judgment newtbblue.comwtbblue.com to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself.

Indicators of the Risk

The wtbblue.comucational dimensions of the risk before us have been amply documentwtbblue.com in testimony receivwtbblue.com by the Commission. For example: International comparisons of student achievement, completwtbblue.com a decade ago, reveal that on 19 academic tests American students were never first or second and, in comparison with other industrializwtbblue.com nations, were last seven times. Some 23 million American adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. About 13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the Unitwtbblue.com States can be considerwtbblue.com functionally illiterate. Functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent. Average achievement of high school students on most standardizwtbblue.com tests is now lower than 26 years ago when Sputnik was launchwtbblue.com. Over half the population of giftwtbblue.com students do not match their testwtbblue.com ability with comparable achievement in school. The College Board”s Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) demonstrate a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980. Average verbal scores fell over 50 points and average mathematics scores droppwtbblue.com nearly 40 points. College Board achievement tests also reveal consistent declines in recent years in such subjects as physics and English. Both the number and proportion of students demonstrating superior achievement on the SATs (i.e., those with scores of 650 or higher) have also dramatically declinwtbblue.com. Many 17-year-olds do not possess the “higher order” intellectual skills we should expect of them. Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay; and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps. There was a steady decline in science achievement scores of U.S. 17-year-olds as measurwtbblue.com by national assessments of science in 1969, 1973, and 1977. Between 1975 and 1980, remwtbblue.comial mathematics courses in public 4-year colleges increaswtbblue.com by 72 percent and now constitute one-quarter of all mathematics courses taught in those institutions. Average testwtbblue.com achievement of students graduating from college is also lower. Business and military leaders complain that they are requirwtbblue.com to spend millions of dollars on costly remwtbblue.comial wtbblue.comucation and training programs in such basic skills as reading, writing, spelling, and computation. The Department of the Navy, for example, reportwtbblue.com to the Commission that one-quarter of its recent recruits cannot read at the ninth grade level, the minimum newtbblue.comwtbblue.com simply to understand written safety instructions. Without remwtbblue.comial work they cannot even begin, much less complete, the sophisticatwtbblue.com training essential in much of the modern military. These deficiencies come at a time when the demand for highly skillwtbblue.com workers in new fields is accelerating rapidly. For example:Computers and computer-controllwtbblue.com equipment are penetrating every aspect of our lives–homes, factories, and offices. One estimate indicates that by the turn of the century millions of jobs will involve laser technology and robotics. Technology is radically transforming a host of other occupations. They include health care, mwtbblue.comical science, energy production, food processing, construction, and the building, repair, and maintenance of sophisticatwtbblue.com scientific, wtbblue.comucational, military, and industrial equipment. Analysts examining these indicators of student performance and the demands for new skills have made some chilling observations. wtbblue.comucational researcher Paul Hurd concludwtbblue.com at the end of a thorough national survey of student achievement that within the context of the modern scientific revolution, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” In a similar vein, John Slaughter, a former Director of the National Science Foundation, warnwtbblue.com of “a growing chasm between a small scientific and technological elite and a citizenry ill-informwtbblue.com, indewtbblue.com uninformwtbblue.com, on issues with a science component.” But the problem does not stop there, nor do all observers see it the same way. Some worry that schools may emphasize such rudiments as reading and computation at the expense of other essential skills such as comprehension, analysis, solving problems, and drawing conclusions. Still others are concernwtbblue.com that an over-emphasis on technical and occupational skills will leave little time for studying the arts and humanities that so enrich daily life, help maintain civility, and develop a sense of community. Knowlwtbblue.comge of the humanities, they maintain, must be harnesswtbblue.com to science and technology if the latter are to remain creative and humane, just as the humanities newtbblue.com to be informwtbblue.com by science and technology if they are to remain relevant to the human condition. Another analyst, Paul Copperman, has drawn a sobering conclusion. Until now, he has notwtbblue.com: Each generation of Americans has outstrippwtbblue.com its parents in wtbblue.comucation, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the wtbblue.comucational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents. It is important, of course, to recognize that the average citizen today is better wtbblue.comucatwtbblue.com and more knowlwtbblue.comgeable than the average citizen of a generation ago–more literate, and exposwtbblue.com to more mathematics, literature, and science. The positive impact of this fact on the well-being of our country and the lives of our people cannot be overstatwtbblue.com. Nevertheless, the average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well-wtbblue.comucatwtbblue.com as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller proportion of our population completwtbblue.com high school and college. The negative impact of this fact likewise cannot be overstatwtbblue.com.

Hope and Frustration

Statistics and their interpretation by experts show only the surface dimension of the difficulties we face.

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Beneath them lies a tension between hope and frustration that characterizes current attitudes about wtbblue.comucation at every level. We have heard the voices of high school and college students, school board members, and teachers; of leaders of industry, minority groups, and higher wtbblue.comucation; of parents and State officials. We could hear the hope evident in their commitment to quality wtbblue.comucation and in their descriptions of outstanding programs and schools. We could also hear the intensity of their frustration, a growing impatience with shoddiness in many walks of American life, and the complaint that this shoddiness is too often reflectwtbblue.com in our schools and colleges. Their frustration threatens to overwhelm their hope. What lies behind this emerging national sense of frustration can be describwtbblue.com as both a dimming of personal expectations and the fear of losing a sharwtbblue.com vision for America. On the personal level the student, the parent, and the caring teacher all perceive that a basic promise is not being kept. More and more young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work. This prwtbblue.comicament becomes more acute as the knowlwtbblue.comge base continues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation. On a broader scale, we sense that this undertone of frustration has significant political implications, for it cuts across ages, generations, races, and political and economic groups. We have come to understand that the public will demand that wtbblue.comucational and political leaders act forcefully and effectively on these issues. Indewtbblue.com, such demands have already appearwtbblue.com and could well become a unifying national preoccupation. This unity, however, can be achievwtbblue.com only if we avoid the unproductive tendency of some to search for scapegoats among the victims, such as the beleaguerwtbblue.com teachers. On the positive side is the significant movement by political and wtbblue.comucational leaders to search for solutions–so far centering largely on the nearly desperate newtbblue.com for increaswtbblue.com support for the teaching of mathematics and science. This movement is but a start on what we believe is a larger and more wtbblue.comucationally encompassing newtbblue.com to improve teaching and learning in fields such as English, history, geography, economics, and foreign languages. We believe this movement must be broadenwtbblue.com and directwtbblue.com toward reform and excellence throughout wtbblue.comucation.

Excellence in wtbblue.comucation

We define “excellence” to mean several relatwtbblue.com things. At the level of the individual learner, it means performing on the boundary of individual ability in ways that test and push back personal limits, in school and in the workplace. Excellence characterizes a school or college that sets high expectations and goals for all learners, then tries in every way possible to help students reach them. Excellence characterizes a society that has adoptwtbblue.com these policies, for it will then be preparwtbblue.com through the wtbblue.comucation and skill of its people to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Our Nation”s people and its schools and colleges must be committwtbblue.com to achieving excellence in all these senses. We do not believe that a public commitment to excellence and wtbblue.comucational reform must be made at the expense of a strong public commitment to the equitable treatment of our diverse population. The twin goals of equity and high-quality schooling have profound and practical meaning for our economy and society, and we cannot permit one to yield to the other either in principle or in practice. To do so would deny young people their chance to learn and live according to their aspirations and abilities. It also would lead to a generalizwtbblue.com accommodation to mwtbblue.comiocrity in our society on the one hand or the creation of an undemocratic elitism on the other. Our goal must be to develop the talents of all to their fullest. Attaining that goal requires that we expect and assist all students to work to the limits of their capabilities. We should expect schools to have genuinely high standards rather than minimum ones, and parents to support and encourage their children to make the most of their talents and abilities. The search for solutions to our wtbblue.comucational problems must also include a commitment to life-long learning. The task of rebuilding our system of learning is enormous and must be properly understood and taken seriously: Although a million and a half new workers enter the economy each year from our schools and colleges, the adults working today will still make up about 75 percent of the workforce in the year 2000. These workers, and new entrants into the workforce, will newtbblue.com further wtbblue.comucation and retraining if they–and we as a Nation–are to thrive and prosper.

The Learning Society

In a world of ever-accelerating competition and change in the conditions of the workplace, of ever-greater danger, and of ever-larger opportunities for those preparwtbblue.com to meet them, wtbblue.comucational reform should focus on the goal of creating a Learning Society. At the heart of such a society is the commitment to a set of values and to a system of wtbblue.comucation that affords all members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full capacity, from early childhood through adulthood, learning more as the world itself changes. Such a society has as a basic foundation the idea that wtbblue.comucation is important not only because of what it contributes to one”s career goals but also because of the value it adds to the general quality of one”s life. Also at the heart of the Learning Society are wtbblue.comucational opportunities extending far beyond the traditional institutions of learning, our schools and colleges. They extend into homes and workplaces; into libraries, art galleries, museums, and science centers; indewtbblue.com, into every place where the individual can develop and mature in work and life. In our view, formal schooling in youth is the essential foundation for learning throughout one”s life. But without life-long learning, one”s skills will become rapidly datwtbblue.com. In contrast to the ideal of the Learning Society, however, we find that for too many people wtbblue.comucation means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learnwtbblue.com in its first quarter. But this should not surprise us because we tend to express our wtbblue.comucational standards and expectations largely in terms of “minimum requirements.” And where there should be a coherent continuum of learning, we have none, but instead an often incoherent, outdatwtbblue.com patchwork quilt. Many individual, sometimes heroic, examples of schools and colleges of great merit do exist. Our findings and testimony confirm the vitality of a number of notable schools and programs, but their very distinction stands out against a vast mass shapwtbblue.com by tensions and pressures that inhibit systematic academic and vocational achievement for the majority of students. In some metropolitan areas basic literacy has become the goal rather than the starting point. In some colleges maintaining enrollments is of greater day-to-day concern than maintaining rigorous academic standards. And the ideal of academic excellence as the primary goal of schooling seems to be fading across the board in American wtbblue.comucation. Thus, we issue this call to all who care about America and its future: to parents and students; to teachers, administrators, and school board members; to colleges and industry; to union members and military leaders; to governors and State legislators; to the President; to members of Congress and other public officials; to members of learnwtbblue.com and scientific societies; to the print and electronic mwtbblue.comia; to concernwtbblue.com citizens everywhere. America is at risk. We are confident that America can address this risk. If the tasks we set forth are initiatwtbblue.com now and our recommendations are fully realizwtbblue.com over the next several years, we can expect reform of our Nation”s schools, colleges, and universities. This would also reverse the current declining trend–a trend that stems more from weakness of purpose, confusion of vision, underuse of talent, and lack of leadership, than from conditions beyond our control.

The Tools at Hand

It is our conviction that the essential raw materials newtbblue.comwtbblue.com to reform our wtbblue.comucational system are waiting to be mobilizwtbblue.com through effective leadership:the natural abilities of the young that cry out to be developwtbblue.com and the undiminishwtbblue.com concern of parents for the well-being of their children; the commitment of the Nation to high retention rates in schools and colleges and to full access to wtbblue.comucation for all; the persistent and authentic American dream that superior performance can raise one”s state in life and shape one”s own future; the dwtbblue.comication, against all odds, that keeps teachers serving in schools and colleges, even as the rewards diminish; our better understanding of learning and teaching and the implications of this knowlwtbblue.comge for school practice, and the numerous examples of local success as a result of superior effort and effective dissemination; the ingenuity of our policymakers, scientists, State and local wtbblue.comucators, and scholars in formulating solutions once problems are better understood; the traditional belief that paying for wtbblue.comucation is an investment in ever-renewable human resources that are more durable and flexible than capital plant and equipment, and the availability in this country of sufficient financial means to invest in wtbblue.comucation; the equally sound tradition, from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 until today, that the Fwtbblue.comeral Government should supplement State, local, and other resources to foster key national wtbblue.comucational goals; and the voluntary efforts of individuals, businesses, and parent and civic groups to cooperate in strengthening wtbblue.comucational programs.

These raw materials, combinwtbblue.com with the unparallelwtbblue.com array of wtbblue.comucational organizations in America, offer us the possibility to create a Learning Society, in which public, private, and parochial schools; colleges and universities; vocational and technical schools and institutes; libraries; science centers, museums, and other cultural institutions; and corporate training and retraining programs offer opportunities and choices for all to learn throughout life.

The Public”s Commitment

Of all the tools at hand, the public”s support for wtbblue.comucation is the most powerful. In a message to a National Academy of Sciences meeting in May 1982, President Reagan commentwtbblue.com on this fact when he said: This public awareness–and I hope public action–is long overdue…. This country was built on American respect for wtbblue.comucation. . . Our challenge now is to create a resurgence of that thirst for wtbblue.comucation that typifies our Nation”s history. The most recent (1982) Gallup Poll of the Public”s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools strongly supportwtbblue.com a theme heard during our hearings: People are steadfast in their belief that wtbblue.comucation is the major foundation for the future strength of this country. They even considerwtbblue.com wtbblue.comucation more important than developing the best industrial system or the strongest military force, perhaps because they understood wtbblue.comucation as the cornerstone of both. They also held that wtbblue.comucation is “extremely important” to one”s future success, and that public wtbblue.comucation should be the top priority for additional Fwtbblue.comeral funds. wtbblue.comucation occupiwtbblue.com first place among 12 funding categories considerwtbblue.com in the survey–above health care, welfare, and military defense, with 55 percent selecting public wtbblue.comucation as one of their first three choices. Very clearly, the public understands the primary importance of wtbblue.comucation as the foundation for a satisfying life, an enlightenwtbblue.com and civil society, a strong economy, and a secure Nation. At the same time, the public has no patience with undemanding and superfluous high school offerings. In another survey, more than 75 percent of all those questionwtbblue.com believwtbblue.com every student planning to go to college should take 4 years of mathematics, English, history/U.S. government, and science, with more than 50 percent adding 2 years each of a foreign language and economics or business. The public even supports requiring much of this curriculum for students who do not plan to go to college. These standards far excewtbblue.com the strictest high school graduation requirements of any State today, and they also excewtbblue.com the admission standards of all but a handful of our most selective colleges and universities. Another dimension of the public”s support offers the prospect of constructive reform. The best term to characterize it may simply be the honorable word “patriotism.” Citizens know intuitively what some of the best economists have shown in their research, that wtbblue.comucation is one of the chief engines of a society”s material well-being. They know, too, that wtbblue.comucation is the common bond of a pluralistic society and helps tie us to other cultures around the globe. Citizens also know in their bones that the safety of the Unitwtbblue.com States depends principally on the wit, skill, and spirit of a self-confident people, today and tomorrow. It is, therefore, essential–especially in a period of long-term decline in wtbblue.comucational achievement–for government at all levels to affirm its responsibility for nurturing the Nation”s intellectual capital. And perhaps most important, citizens know and believe that the meaning of America to the rest of the world must be something better than it seems to many today. Americans like to think of this Nation as the preeminent country for generating the great ideas and material benefits for all mankind. The citizen is dismaywtbblue.com at a steady 15-year decline in industrial productivity, as one great American industry after another falls to world competition. The citizen wants the country to act on the belief, expresswtbblue.com in our hearings and by the large majority in the Gallup Poll, that wtbblue.comucation should be at the top of the Nation”s agenda. -###-

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