Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks for the White House Conference on Education.

November 28, 1955

[Recorded on film and tape]

IT IS indeed an honor to have this opportunity to address, even by indirect method, you men and women of the White House Conference on Education. You come from every one of our States and our Territories. By being here you are focusing attention on a grave national problem. That problem is the losing race between the number of classrooms and qualified teachers we have on the one hand, and, on the other, the increasing population of school age.

Ten years ago the guns were stilled and the war was ended. Very naturally, our country, like all others, found itself in a state of great confusion. Many problems were lost sight of as we turned our attention to preserving the peace, to establishing international organizations for that purpose. We took care of many other problems that were directly incidental to the war.

Much has happened in those ten years. We have seen the bright hopes for peace not fully fulfilled certainly, but we have seen our Nation grow stronger economically, militarily, stronger intellectually and, we believe, spiritually.

Through this period confusion has gradually been disappearing. We have had a chance to clarify our thinking and to look at most of our national problems with a good hard look.

One of the factors that has come forcibly to our attention is that in the last ten years our population has increased by 26 million souls. During that great increase a similar increase in the number of schoolrooms and qualified teachers available for teaching our young has not come about. So we are faced today with the grave problem of providing a good education for American youth.

In such a problem as this we know, of course, that many facilities are lacking--many things have to be done. There are, likewise, many conflicting opinions as to how to provide these things. This is only natural. In such a problem that is so nationwide in scope, everybody has opinions and is perfectly ready to express them, and not all of these opinions ever agree in a democracy. But there are two points, I think, on which we all agree.

The first thing is that the education of our young should be free. It should be under the control of the family and the locality. It should not be controlled by any central authority. We know that education, centrally controlled, finally would lead to a kind of control in other fields which we don't want and will never have. So we are dedicated to the proposition that the responsibility for educating our young is primarily local.

At the same time we know that everybody must have a good education if they are properly to discharge their functions as citizens of America.

And so we come to the hear of this whole problem. We want good facilities on the one hand, and we know that there are many areas in which people cannot afford to build the schools, to provide the facilities that the populations of that particular area need.

If we depend too much on outside help, too much on the Federal Government, we will lose independence and initiative. But if the Federal Government doesn't step in with leadership and with providing credit and money where necessary, there will be a lack of schools in certain important areas. And this cannot be allowed.

So this is a problem again where the private citizen, the locality, the State and the Federal Government all have a function to perform, all have a responsibility to meet--always in conformity with those two basic truths that education must be free and it must be good.

There are no easy solutions, and I don't expect this Conference to find any easy solutions. But I do know this: when sensible Americans--men and women--sit down together to discuss a problem in the hope of achieving a solution that is good for the whole Nation, something sensible comes out. We don't have crackpot ideas. We don't have doctrinaire opinions or solutions.

So we want a solution that is good for all, and all of us want to help in the proper way.

This Conference of yours, of course, has been preceded by State and community conferences all over the Nation. Some of you participated in them. Much good has come out of it. You, by meeting here, continue the work of those conferences. You begin to crystallize the solutions that they have proposed and suggested and will try to bring them together so that the good of the whole Nation may be met.

You have an arduous schedule ahead of you. But I particularly like the idea I have heard that you are going to break yourselves up into small groups so that every phase and facet of this problem will be thoroughly discussed among you and so that nothing will be glossed over, nothing will be handled in generalities. We will get down to specific things.

So all I can say further is: I am deeply grateful to each of you for participating in this Conference, for helping in the solution of this problem. I am grateful to all of those in the community and State conferences that took place ahead of this one. I am perfectly certain that I speak for every American in expressing their thanks, along with my own, as you take up this task.

Note: On November 23 the President drove from his farm to Gettysburg College where his remarks were recorded for the Conference. The remarks were released at Gettysburg on the 28th.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks for the White House Conference on Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233761

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