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Presidential Policy Paper No. 1: Education.

November 01, 1964

I BELIEVE that every child has the right to as much education as he has the ability to receive. I believe that this right does not end in the lower schools, but goes on through technical and higher education--if the child wants it and can use it.

I want this not only for his sake, but also for our Nation's sake. America badly needs educated men and women. And America needs not just more education, but better education.

Nothing matters more to the future of our country. Not our military preparedness-for armed power is worthless if we lack the brainpower to build a world of peace. Not our productive economy--for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower. Not our democratic system of government-for freedom is fragile if citizens are ignorant.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "If we expect a nation to be ignorant and free, we expect what never was and never will be." Our Nation's school systems were founded on that proposition.

Today, 41 million students are enrolled in our public schools. Four million more will enter by the end of this decade. But that is not enough. One student out of every three now in the fifth grade will drop out before finishing high school--if we let him. Almost a million young people will quit school each year if we let them. And over 100,000 of our smartest high school graduates each year will not go to college-if we do nothing.

This cannot continue. It costs too much: we cannot afford it. The whole Nation suffers when our youth is neglected.

Twenty percent of our 18- to 24-year-olds with an eighth-grade education are unemployed--four times the national average-while jobs in America are hunting for trained men and women. Jobs filled by high school graduates rose by 40 percent in the last 10 years. lobs for those with less schooling decreased by nearly 10 percent.

In the next 10 years, 30 million boys and girls are going to enter our job force. Unless we act now, 2 1/2 million of them will not see the inside of a high school; 8 million will not finish high school; and too many of our schools and colleges will be jammed like city buses at rush hour. Our youth will suffer a handicap that no amount of time--no amount of money--can remove.

We must act. I pledge now to put education at the head of our work agenda. First, we must broaden and improve the quality of our school base. We will need a minimum of nearly 400,000 new classrooms in our public schools during the next 5 years to eliminate overcrowding and replace unsatisfactory facilities. We will need over 800,000 new public school teachers in the next 5 years to keep up with expanding enrollments and to replace those teachers who retire or resign--and we need to increase incentives so that our best people will be attracted to the teaching profession. But most of all we must provide a good education for every boy and girl--no matter where he lives.

Second, we must concentrate our teaching resources in the urban slums and the poor rural areas. Our war on poverty can be won only if those who are poverty's prisoners can break the chains of ignorance. This means that we must give our best a chance to do their best.

Third, we must expand and enrich our colleges. Our college enrollment is due to double within this decade. It will reach almost 9 million by 1975, and will probably expand to four or six times its present size before this century ends.

Fourth, we must recognize that education is a lifelong process. In today's world, we cannot neglect the adult's need for schooling to keep up with technology.

Fifth, we must strengthen our State and community education systems. We do not intend to forsake our tradition that schools and colleges should be controlled at the local level.

This is neither new nor radical. The late Senator Taft declared, "Education is primarily a State function--but in the field of education, as in the fields of health, relief, and medical care, the Federal Government has a secondary obligation to see that there is a basic floor under those essential services for all adults and children in the United States."

Every President from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to John Fitzgerald Kennedy worked to build that floor. I plan to get on with the task.

Note: The White House release of which the policy paper on education was a part also included policy statements on health, conservation of natural resources, and farm policy (see Items 755-757). The release stated that other policy papers would be issued from time to time.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Presidential Policy Paper No. 1: Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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