Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress on Education.

January 27, 1958

To the Congress of the United States:

Education best fulfills its high purpose when responsibility for education is kept close to the people it serves--when it is rooted in the home, nurtured in the community, and sustained by a rich variety of public, private, and individual resources. The bond linking home and school and community--the responsiveness of each to the needs of the others-is a precious asset of American education.

This bond must be strengthened, not weakened, as American education faces new responsibilities in the cause of freedom. For the increased support our educational system now requires, we must look primarily to citizens and parents acting in their own communities, school boards and city councils, teachers, principals, school superintendents, State boards of education and State legislatures, trustees and faculties of private institutions.

Because of the national security interest in the quality and scope of our educational system in the years immediately ahead, however, the Federal government must also undertake to play an emergency role. The Administration is therefore recommending certain emergency Federal actions to encourage and assist greater effort in specific areas of national concern. These recommendations place principal emphasis on our national security requirements.

Our immediate national security aims--to continue to strengthen our armed forces and improve the weapons at their command--can be furthered only by the efforts of individuals whose training is already far advanced. But if we are to maintain our position of leadership, we must see to it that today's young people are prepared to contribute the maximum to our future progress. Because of the growing importance of science and technology, we must necessarily give special--but by no means exclusive--attention to education in science and engineering.

The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Director of the National Science Foundation have recommended to me a comprehensive and interrelated program to deal with this problem. Such program contemplates a major expansion of the education activities now carried on by the National Science Foundation, and the establishment of new programs in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. I have approved their recommendations, and commend them to the Congress as the Administration program in the field of education. This is a temporary program and should not be considered as a permanent Federal responsibility.


The Programs of the National Science Foundation designed to foster science education were developed in cooperation with the scientific community under the guidance of the distinguished members of the National Science Board. They have come to be recognized by the educational and scientific communities as among the most significant contributions currently being made to the improvement of science education in the United States.

The Administration has recommended a five-fold increase in appropriations for the scientific education activities of the National Science Foundation. These increased appropriations will enable the Foundation, through its various programs, to assist in laying a firmer base for the education of our future scientists. More immediately, these programs will help supply additional highly competent scientists and engineers vitally needed by the country at this time.

I. Improvement of the subject-matter knowledge of science and mathematics teachers.

First, the Administration is recommending an increase in funds to support institutes sponsored by the Foundation for the supplementary training of science and mathematics teachers and a somewhat larger increase to support teacher fellowships. This will provide additional study opportunities to enable more science and mathematics teachers in our schools and colleges to improve their fundamental knowledge and through improved teaching techniques, stimulate the interest and imagination of more students in these important subjects.

2. Improvement of course content.

Second, the Administration is recommending an increase in funds to enable the Foundation to stimulate the improvement of the content of science courses at all levels of our educational system. The efforts of even the most dedicated and competent teachers will not be effective if the curricula and materials with which they work are out-of-date or poorly conceived.

3. Encouragement of science as a career.

Third, the Administration is proposing an expansion of the Foundation's programs for encouraging able students to consider science as a career. Good teaching and properly designed courses are important factors in this regard, but there are other ways in which interest in these fields may be awakened and nurtured. The Foundation has already developed a series of programs directly focused on the problem of interesting individual students in science careers, and these programs should be expanded.

4. Graduate fellowships.

Fourth, the Administration is recommending an increase in the Foundation's graduate fellowship program. The enlarged program will make it possible for additional competent students to obtain better training for productive and creative scientific effort.

5. Expansion of other programs.

The Administration is recommending that funds be provided to enable the Foundation to initiate several new programs which will provide fellowship support for secondary school science teachers (during the summer months), for graduate students who serve during the school year as teaching assistants, and for individuals who wish to obtain additional education so that they may become high school science and mathematics teachers.


The education programs of the National Science Foundation deal exclusively with science education and operate mainly through scientific societies and science departments of colleges and universities. There is, however, an emergency and temporary need for certain additional Federal programs to strengthen general education, and also for certain Federal programs to strengthen science education in our State and local school systems. The Administration is recommending legislation authorizing these additional programs in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare for a four-year period only.

1. Reducing the waste of talent.

High-quality professional personnel in science, engineering, teaching, languages, and other critical fields are necessary to our national security effort. Each year, nevertheless, many young people drop out of high school before graduation. Many able high school graduates do not go on to college. This represents a waste of needed talent. Much of this waste could be avoided if the aptitudes of these young people were identified and they were encouraged toward the fullest development of their abilities.

The Administration proposes, therefore, that the Congress authorize:

(a) Matching grants to the States to encourage improved State and local testing programs to identify the potential abilities of students at an early stage in their education.

(b) Matching grants to the States to encourage the strengthening of local counseling and guidance services, so that more able students will be encouraged to stay in high school, to put more effort into their academic work, and to prepare for higher education. The program also would provide for grants of funds to colleges and universities to permit them to establish training institutes to improve the qualifications of counseling and guidance personnel.

(c) A program of Federal scholarships for able high school graduates who lack adequate financial means to go to college. The Administration recommends approximately 10,000 new scholarships annually, reaching a total of 40,000 in the fourth year, to be closely coordinated with the testing and counseling programs. Scholarships should be allotted among the States on an equitable basis and awarded by State agencies on the basis of ability and need. Although it should not be compulsory for students to pursue a specific course of study in order to qualify, reasonable preference should be given to students with good preparation or high aptitude in science or mathematics.

2. Strengthening the teaching of science and mathematics.

National security requires that prompt action be taken to improve and expand the teaching of science and mathematics. Federal matching funds can help to stimulate the organization of programs to advance the teaching of these subjects in the public schools.

The Administration therefore recommends that the Congress authorize Federal grants to the States, on a matching basis, for this purpose. These funds would be used, in the discretion of the States and the local school systems, either to help employ additional qualified science and mathematics teachers, to help purchase laboratory equipment and other materials, to supplement salaries of qualified science and mathematics teachers, or for other related programs.

3. Increasing the supply of college teachers.

To help assure a more adequate supply of trained college teachers, so crucial in the development of tomorrow's leaders, the Administration recommends that the Congress authorize the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to provide:

(a) Graduate fellowships to encourage more students to prepare for college teaching careers. Fellows would be nominated by higher educational institutions.

(b) Federal grants, on a matching basis, to institutions of higher education to assist in expanding their graduate school capacity. Funds would be used, in the discretion of the institution itself, either for salaries or teaching materials.

4. Improving foreign language teaching.

Knowledge of foreign languages is particularly important today in the light of America's responsibilities of leadership in the free world. And yet the American people generally are deficient in foreign languages, particularly those of the emerging nations in Asia, Africa, and the Near East. It is important to our national security that such deficiencies be promptly overcome. The Administration therefore recommends that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare be authorized to provide a four-year program for:

(a) Support of special centers in colleges and universities to provide instruction in foreign languages which are important today but which are not now commonly taught in the United States.

(b) Support of institutes for those who are already teaching foreign languages in our schools and colleges. These institutes would give training to improve the quality and effectiveness of foreign language teaching.

5. Strengthening the Office of Education.

More information about our educational system on a national basis is essential to the progress of American education. The United States Office of Education is the principal source of such data.

Much of the information compiled by the Office of Education must originate with State educational agencies. The Administration therefore recommends that the Office of Education be authorized to make grants to State educational agencies for improving the collection of statistical data about the status and progress of education.

This emergency program stems from national need, and its fruits will bear directly on national security. The method of accomplishment is sound: the keystone is State, local, and private effort; the Federal role is to assist--not to control or supplant--those efforts.

The Administration urges prompt enactment of these recommendations in the essential interest of national security.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress on Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233942

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