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Letter to a College Student Concerning the Administration's Views on Education.

October 29, 1956

[ Released October 29, 1956. Dated October 26, 1956 ]

Dear Miss Cornell:

Thank you so much for your letter in which you ask me about the position of this Administration on the critically important issue of educating our youth. I am happy to give my answer-particularly to you, a college student young enough to be a bridge to America's tomorrow.

During the past few years, this Administration has given unprecedented emphasis and leadership to the cause of education. Our actions have been based on the time-tested principles that, first, there is a national interest in education, and, second, that the role of the Federal Government is to aid, encourage, and facilitate-but never to control--education.

What is the present status of our educational system and program?

Today, more Americans are receiving more and better education, in better schools and colleges, from more and better teachers, than ever before. This simple fact is both a record of accomplishment and a guarantee of our future.

The classroom shortage, which grew steadily worse over a long period, has been improving now for the past two years. Last year about 67,000 classrooms were built, more than in any year in our history. More classrooms were built during the past four years than in all the preceding twelve.

The teacher shortage has reached a turning point. The number of students entering colleges for teacher training increased 24.5 percent from 1953 to 1955. The current shortage of qualified elementary and high school teachers is estimated at 120,000, a reduction of 20,000 compared with the shortage of last Fall.

The position of teachers, the life-blood of good education, is steadily being improved. Teachers salaries have been increased in many communities, a reflection of improved support and esteem for the role of teachers in our community and national life.

There is an increase in the number of students preparing for careers in science and engineering. Private gifts to higher education have reached new heights. Additional nationwide scholarship programs are under way. Education is playing a larger international role in improving world understanding.

Under our system, education is basically a community function. It requires the active support of citizens in their own homes. With this in mind, I initiated the White House Conference on Education. Under this program, half a million citizens met in almost 4,000 communities across the country to study and act on the problems of their schools. I know the labors of all these people have been, and will continue to be, of great benefit to education.

I deplore the cynical political criticism that has been directed at the efforts of these half-million people, who understood and shouldered their responsibility. Citizen interest and responsibility in educational problems was stirred by this Conference. It gave impetus and direction to a long-felt need for action.

In two special messages to Congress I submitted a program of Federal action designed to serve the cause of education.

In the first, I requested an unprecedented increase of nearly 100 percent in funds for the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, from three and one-fourth million dollars to more than six million dollars. Congress approved an increase of about 65 percent. These funds are now at work expanding services in the Office and for the first time establishing, in cooperation with colleges and universities, a program of research on some of the basic problems in education.

In the second message, I requested a five-year program of Federal aid to help needy communities build more schools. There are two simple and indisputable facts about this legislation. First, it was not enacted. Second, the only ones who will suffer because of this failure are those who count most but cannot vote, our children.

At the next session of Congress, I shall ask for similar legislation. But, with one precious year lost, I shall ask that the job be done in four years instead of five. It is my earnest hope that the men and women of the next Congress will unite in good will for our children to enact this legislation.

The larger student enrollments, which helped create today's problems in elementary and secondary education, will be felt increasingly in higher education. To increase our understanding of the problems ahead in this field, and to help lead the American people to effective action to meet them, I have appointed an outstanding group of laymen and educators, the President's Committee on Education Beyond the High School.

In this realm of higher education a special problem results from the increasing impact of scientific development on our lives and the international competition in this development both for peaceful profit and for warlike potential. I have therefore acted to encourage the training of more scientists, engineers and technicians. By my appointment a distinguished committee is now working on an action program in this field.

My associates and I are ever mindful of our educational problems, and we are constantly striving for new ideas and greater achievement. The entire Administration program in this field has one all-embracing purpose, the conservation and cultivation of our most precious resource--our youth.

I am most appreciative of your having taken the time and trouble to write to me, and, as a citizen, I am grateful for your sincere interest in our country's future.



Miss Karen Cornell

Post Office Box 6272


North Carolina

Note: Miss Cornell's letter of October 9 was released with the President's reply.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to a College Student Concerning the Administration's Views on Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233733

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