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The Uncertain Triumph

The Uncertain Triumph: Federal Education Policy in the Kennedy and Johnson Years

Hugh Davis Graham
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Uncertain Triumph
    Book Description:

    Using the Kennedy and Johnson archives to analyze the evolution of educational policy from the perspective of the executive branch, Graham finds that the central theme was executive planning through presidential task forces. Mission agencies, clientele groups, and congressional committees produced a cascade of education programs in the 1960s as the administration was collapsing under the weight of the Vietnam war, inflation, and collective violence, yet the last two decades have witnessed a decline in test scores and basic literacy.A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0017-8
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    In the spring of 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a devastating thirty-six-page report that indicted the nation for having “squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge.”¹ As indicators of alarming decline, which was eroding the nation’s educational foundations with a “rising tide of mediocrity,” the report found that 23 million American adults were functionally illiterate, as were 13 percent of all seventeen-year-olds and 40 percent of minority youths. Average high school student achievement on most standardized tests was lower than whenSputnikwas launched twenty-six years earlier. Scholastic Aptitude...

  5. 1 JOHN F. KENNEDY AND EDUCATION: From Congress to the White House
    (pp. 3-25)

    In his memoir,Kennedy, Theodore Sorensen claims that “the one domestic subject that mattered most to John Kennedy [was] education. Throughout his campaign and throughout his Presidency, he devoted more time and talks to this single topic than to any other domestic issue.”¹ But Myer [Mike] Feldman, Sorensen’s chief lieutenant, concluded more recently that Kennedy had no deep personal concern for public education—save for the training of the mentally retarded, which was related to the circumstance that had touched his family with tragedy—and that Kennedy’s accelerating commitment to federal aid as a presidential candidate and as president owed...

    (pp. 26-52)

    Because 1962 was an election year, the widespread sentiment in Congress favored avoidance of the controversial issues surrounding the federal aid-to-education question until 1963. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Ribicoff had sent President Kennedy a five-page postmortem memo on 6 October 1961 that analyzed the failure of 1961 and flatly asserted that “a broad program of grants to states for public school construction and teachers’ salaries is virtually impossible to pass.”¹ Ribicoff urged Kennedy to abandon such a state grant program, or at least postpone it until 1963, and press instead in 1962 for the higher education bill and...

    (pp. 53-83)

    On 23 November, at the end of Lyndon Johnson’s first day as president, he gave the Council of Economic Advisors chairman Walter W. Heller his enthusiastic authorization to “move full-speed ahead” with the “attack on Poverty. . . . That’s my kind of program. It will help people.”¹ The antipoverty program that Johnson and R. Sargent Shriver skillfully and quickly drove through Congress in 1964 rejected an income-transfer strategy in favour of a service strategy, which placed a premium on jobtraining and education, a “hand up” rather than a “handout.” This, in turn, invited the keen interest of the departments...

    (pp. 84-109)

    The passage of ESEA was a legitimate triumph, but its implementation was destined to highlight the historic tensions within the executive branch over the relationship between the line agencies and their programs. This was primarily because USOE, which for a decade had been a frail member of a huge department dominated by health and welfare, was now simultaneously authorized to gain massive funds and yet was universally regarded as incapable of administering them unless some drastic transformation occurred. During the mid-1960s, when the Great Society breakthroughs became possible, that historic tension was briefly submerged in the euphoria of victory. But...

  9. 5 EXPANDING THE TASK FORCE DEVICE: From Moyers to Califano
    (pp. 110-131)

    When Goodwin’s suggestion and President Johnson’s enthusiasm led Bill Moyers to mount the impressive task force operation in 1964 that paid off so handsomely in 1965, Moyers had regarded the task force operation as primarily an ad hoc, one-shot planning operation. He hoped it would produce a distinctively Johnsonian legislative program for the Eighty-ninth Congress. The subsequent evolution, primarily under Califano, of a more systematic rhythm, and on a much larger scale, of customarily six-to-eight-month (and often one-year) outside and fourmonth interagency task forces, has obscured Moyers’s distinctively hybrid vision of his original secret task forces. As Moyers explained to...

    (pp. 132-160)

    When Joe Califano joined the White House staff in July of 1965, he was charged by the president not only with the broad duties that attended the replacement of Bill Moyers, but also with the specific tasks of orchestrating the combination of major parts of thirtyfive autonomous or semiautonomous federal agencies into a coherent Department of Transportation, and of putting together the Model Cities program. This appealed to Califano’s preference for a planner’s “total approach” to problem solving, much as did the PPBS system of cost-benefit analysis that he had impoeted from the pentagon. The administration’s legislative success with both...

    (pp. 161-180)

    At the LBJ Ranch in late December 1966, President Johnson had asked Califano, McPherson, and Cater to make more college trips in 1967 in order to keep up the administration’s contacts with the academic community.¹ But early congressional battles (especially those in the House) over such major controversies as the Quie amendment, foreign aid, and the role of the poor in running local community action agencies so consumed White House energies that, beyond occasional individual speech-making forays, the organized campus dinners could not be launched until late spring, which resulted in several unfortunate consequences.

    The agenda for a late spring...

  12. 8 THE PARADOX OF 1968
    (pp. 181-202)

    President Johnson’s firm commitment to construct an extremely tight budget for fiscal year 1969, a decision that foredoomed the major Friday proposals and Califano’s hope for a capstone program of no-strings institutional aid for higher education, was rooted in his Vietnam escalation of 1965. The annual rise of consumer prices, which had averaged only 1.3 percent during the extraordinary expansion of 1961–65, had soared to 4.2 percent by 1967–68. The continued strong growth of the gross national product was sufficient to sustain a Johnsonian policy of “gunsandbutter,” but not without a tax increase. Prior to 1967...

  13. 9 EPILOGUE
    (pp. 203-226)

    In the aftermath of the Great Society, as the unrealistic euphoria that surrounded the antipoverty war led to a rather cynical reaction against it, most of the lightning was attracted to such core antipoverty programs as Model Cities, and especially to the 850 local community-action organizations spawned by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Direct federal aid to a whole new stratum of neighborhood groups, many of them determined to run around or over city hall, had provided a powerful incentive for entrenched Democratic urban organizations to combine with normally hostile suburban Republicans and conservative southerners to bridle the antipoverty...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 227-264)
  15. Method and Sources
    (pp. 265-272)
  16. Index
    (pp. 273-280)