Encore post: Quote of the moment: Education’s rising tide of mediocrity


National Commission on Excellence in Education meeting with President Reagan

With Ben Franklin’s bust looking on, National Commission on Excellence in Education met with President Ronald Reagan, in the White House (image from Lawrence-Berkeley Laboratories and Glenn Seaborg)

[2015 update: Here’s something to ponder about wonders of technology in education: If the internet is so good, what happened to the history of the Excellence in Education Commission, and this now-missing photo, above?]

White House, Washington, DC, 1983—Photo courtesy of The White House; Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California - Berkeley

Secretary of Education Terrel Bell, President Ronald Reagan, David Gardner, White House, Washington, DC, 1983—Photo courtesy of The White House; Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California – Berkeley (Click photo to link to a list of resources on the commission) (Photo added January 16, 2015)

“Our nation is at risk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament. History is not kind to idlers.”

Those warnings, grim and intentionally provocative, were issued last week by the 18-member National Commission on Excellence in Education in a 36-page report called A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Headed by University of Utah President David P. Gardner, the NCEE was set up 20 months ago by Secretary of Education Terrel Bell to examine U.S. educational quality.

– Ellie McGrath, “To Stem ‘A Tide of Mediocrity,'” Time, May 9, 1983.

This is an encore post from 2007 — we probably need to repeat this more often.  Milton Goldberg, the executive director of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, and Commission Chairman David P. Gardner probably wrote that paragraph.  It should be engraved over the doors of the administration buildings of every school district in America, I think.

Alas, it’s still true.  It’s more true now, with the full-bore War on Education waged by people like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, aided, sometimes intentionally but sometimes not, by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and people like Michelle Rhee.

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