The question was education - the answer was politics.
The question was education – the answer was politics as usual.

NPR – National Town Meeting – “How Can Education Be Improved?” – October 15, 1975 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

In 1975, Education was again the topic of hot discussion around Washington. The recent violence in Boston over School Busing, the proposed cuts in Education spending on the Federal level, the political frenzy around the textbook scandal in Virginia and the teachers strikes in Chicago; all were topics which became grounds for heated debate whenever they were discussed – and managed to drive a deeper divide in opinion over who got an education and how.

In this episode of the popular and long-running radio series, National Town Meeting, a debate (of sorts) was staged between Dean Clarence Manion and Governor Terry Sanford. Manion, considered to be the Father of Modern Conservatism, railed over the excesses of government intrusion in the educational system. He felt that, what the educational system in America had become in recent years, was godless and corrupt and felt no federal funding for education be given. He also felt the modern educational system was fraught with communist ideas. He went so far as to say the real problem with American education was that it was no longer American, but was becoming anti-American. He was a staunch supporter of School Prayer and teaching of the Ten Commandments.

Terry Sadford, who was at the time running for President in the 1976 election, was a committed Democrat who believed it was our constitutional right to have an education, and that it was incumbent upon government to do as much as possible to insure that every child in America was given a decent education. He added that, if we were to improve education, we needed to focus on the classroom. not on all the political smokescreens currently at the forefront. It was the teacher who needed the support, because it was the teacher who carried the spark of desire for learning – and if the teacher wasn’t supported, how was it possible to have even a passable education? Sanford went on to add that, what was needed was less regulation but more money and more freedom for teachers to teach.

Needless to say – it was the basis for a knock-down debate between two polar-opposites. Taking it all one step further, were questions from the audience, further proving the division within our society over the question of education, and how something as fundamental as the ability to read, write and think was rapidly turning into a political battlefield – even 40 years later.

Here is that episode of National Town Meeting, as broadcast by NPR on October 15, 1975.

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