Social Education 57(7), 1993, pp. 359-360
1993 National Council for the Social Studies

Social Challenges to America 2000

Donald C. Orlich
Attempting to provide a vision for the year 2000, President Bush and the nation's governors adopted six politically satisfying educational goals in 1991. These goals have been amply reviewed in the literature. This article addresses only the first: "All children in America will start school ready to learn." Brießy, the other &Mac222;ve goals are increased graduation rates, competence in core subjects, world-class status in science and mathematics, a literate citizenry, and drug- and violence-free schools. The schools of any society mirror that society. The wishes and beliefs of a society are subtly translated into our institutional values, curriculum, and instruction.
Seymour B. Sarason (1982) observed that public schools have many ambiguities that affect how teachers and children interact in the classroom. In short, educators and school programs are vulnerable to the external environment. Below are some conditions existing in the external environment that will influence Goal One. Using economic analyses and data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Victor R. Fuchs and Diane M. Reklis (1992) concluded that children in the United States today are worse off than those in previous generations in several aspects. Their findings, which contrast 1960 and 1990, show that Fuchs and Reklis then correlated the above data with government spending and household income figures. They found that all governmental expenditures for goods and services to children nearly tripled between 1960 and 1988. During the same period, that rate rose 6.81 times for adult goods and services. They also reported that poverty is more likely to occur in households with children and that the incidence of poverty rises sharply for households with three or more children. The number of households without children rose from 49 percent in 1960 to 62 percent in 1988; this group has substantially more income than households with children. Fuchs and Reklis suggest governmental fiscal policy options to help change income distribution.

In 1992, Tony Horwitz reported in the Wall Street Journal that 20 percent of the U.S. population possesses 47 percent of the nation's wealth, while the poorest 20 percent possess but 3.9 percent.

In a separate study using data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Aaron M. Pallas, Gary Natriello, and Edward L. McDill concluded that about 40 percent of all school-aged children are "educationally disadvantaged" (1989, 18). The five criteria that place a child in the disadvantaged category are (1) a poorly educated mother, (2) the household poverty income level, (3) racial/ethnic minority status, (4) a non-English background, and (5) a single-parent family.

What does this mélange of data have to do with educational reform? First, all interested citizens must recognize that the schools face a quadrilateral dilemma. The schools are but one component of a grand system linking the home, church, and government. These institutions reinforce one another's efforts to acculturate youth. The church provides moral, religious, ethical, and philosophical elements. The home provides support, nurturing, self-esteem, confidence, and caring. The school assumes the role of providing formal education and extending the core ideals of home and church. The government provides the legal and financial support. Unfortunately, it also helps cause a shift of more social burdens onto the school. The school has now evolved as the institution not only to educate but to address the social, welfare, and economic ills of our society.

America 2000's goal-"all children in America will start school ready to learn"-is not attainable this century. Short of a major economic revolution, federal and state fiscal policies discussed by Fuchs and Reklis preclude Goal One from happening. Yet, if primary support is to be in place, then a series of national and state policies must be revised so that the following conditions exist:

1. Extended day-care for children of parents who have incomes under the poverty level.

2. Breakfast and lunch at school for children who live in poverty.

3. Medical clinics to provide necessary child and adolescent health services.

4. Housing policies that create units for poor and single-parent families.

5. Expanded Chapter I educational services.

6. Class size of fourteen to seventeen students in elementary schools.

The above solutions recognize that the first four create a moral dilemma. To what extent will such societal interventions reinforce or subvert more responsible individual or group behaviors? Regardless of those consequences, the conclusion is clear: The schools have an even greater responsibility than ever to foster students' success.

Boyer, Ernest L. "The New Agenda for the Nation's Schools." In Education Reform: Making Sense of It All, edited by Samuel B. Bacharach. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1990.Davis, William E., and Edward J. McCaul. The Emerging Crisis: Current and Projected Status of Children in the United States. Orono: University of Maine, Institute for the Study of At-Risk Students, 1991.Fuchs, Victor R., and Diane M. Reklis. "America's Children: Economic Perspectives and Policy Options." Science 255 (3 January 1992): 41-46.Horwitz, Tony. "Working Class Culture Erodes Britain's Rank in a Uni&Mac222;ed Europe." Wall Street Journal, 11 February 1992.Marburger, Carl L. "Education Reform: The Neglected Dimension, Parent Involvement." In Education Reform: Making Sense of It All, edited by Samuel B. Bacharach. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1990.Pallas, Aaron M., Gary Natriello, and Edward L. McDill. "The Changing Nature of the Disadvantaged Population: Current Dimensions and Future Trends." Educational Researcher 18 (June/July 1989): 16-22.Sarason, Seymour B. The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change. 2d ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1982.U.S. Department of Education. America 2000: An Education Strategy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 1991.Additional Readings
Finn, Jeremy D., and Charles M. Achilles. "Answers and Questions about Class Size: A Statewide Experiment." American Educational Research Journal 27 (Fall 1990): 557-77.Word, Elizabeth, John Johnson, Helen Pate Bain, D. deWayne Fulton, Jayne Boyd Zaharias, Martha Nannette Lintz, Charles M. Achilles, John Folger, and Carolyn Breda. Student/Teacher Achievement Ration (STAR): Tennessee's K-3 Class-Size Study. Nashville: Tennessee State Department of Education, 1990.Donald C. Orlich is Professor of Education and Science Instruction at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington 99164-2136.