50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

The 3rd annual Survey of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

"When citizens are asked to give their views on the biggest problems facing the public schools, they obviously think of negative factors. To give them a chance to tell what is 'right,' this question was asked in this year's study: In your own opinion, in what ways are your local public schools particularly good?

“The response most often given to this question is, ‘the teachers.’ The very high respect in which teachers are generally held throughout the nation is evidenced in many ways in this study. The curriculum (courses offered) comes in for the next highest praise, followed by facilities and extracurricular activities. Such a question provokes generalized comments; however, the answers do indicate a lack of information about the special merits of any school system.”

What was happening in American education?

April 20, 1971: In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the use of busing as a means of desegregating public schools.

1971: In a paper, Eric Hanushek introduces the concept of evaluating teacher effectiveness on the basis of student learning gains, an idea that eventually leads to value-added assessments of teaching quality.

June 28, 1971: In Lemon vs. Kurtzman, the U.S. Supreme Court decides states cannot use public money to support religious instruction in any schools.

1971 Supreme Court Ap 7101010606 Use

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1971: Seated from left are Associate Justices John W. Harlan and Hugo Black, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and Associate Justices William O. Douglas and William Brennan Jr. Standing from left are Associate Justices Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White and Harry A. Blackmun. (AP Photo)

Aug. 30, 1971: In Serrano v. Priest, the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s property-tax-based school finance system as unfair and unconstitutional. The court said such tax-based disparity led to inequalities in school expenditures and that the state’s efforts to provide an acceptable level of funding was inadequate to the task.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 1, 1971: Cigarette advertising on television is banned as a result of Congressional action and the last cigarette ad appears on television on this date.

January 1971: “All in the Family,” which featured working-class bigot Archie Bunker and his family, premieres on CBS. The series breaks ground because of its discussion about topics previously considered inappropriate for television, including racism, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, and many sexual issues.

March-July 1971: Congress passes the 26th amendment on March 23, 1971, to give 18-year-olds the right to vote. The states complete ratification of the amendment four months later, the shortest ratification period of any constitutional amendment.

June 1971: The New York Times and the Washington Post publish the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War.

1971 Pentagon Papers Ap 7107010121 Use

The New York Times resumed publication of its series based on the Pentagon Papers on July 1, 1971, after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the OK. (AP Photo/Jim Wells)

June 18, 1971: In a speech to Congress, President Richard M. Nixon declares drug abuse "public enemy number one."

Oct. 1, 1971: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., officially opens.

Share “1971”:


We welcome your conversation about the poll results and the other information we’ve assembled here. What did we forget? What do you remember about this year? How do you think the events of this year influenced the responses to our questions?