50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

4th annual Gallup Poll of Public Attitudes Toward Education

“The public thinks of education largely in a pragmatic way. But this heavy emphasis on material goals, at the expense of those concerned with intellectual and artistic development, should come as no shock. Americans are a practical people who believe firmly that education is the royal road to success in life.

“Is there a wide chasm between the educational programs followed in the public schools and the programs to which the public attaches great importance? Some will view these tabulations as evidence that there is. Yet we have already seen that the public does not regard curricular problems as particularly serious. In fact, curriculum ranked at the top in our tabulation of school strengths.”

What was happening in American education?

June 23, 1972: Congress passes Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in any education program receiving federal financial assistance.

1972: The Marland Report to Congress encourages schools to define giftedness broadly to go beyond academic and intellectual talent and include leadership ability, visual and performing arts, creative or productive thinking, and psychomotor ability. The report also says gifted and talented children are being deprived of an education commensurate with their needs and can suffer psychological damage as a result.

What else was happening in the United States?

March 22, 1972: Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. The ERA ultimately failed when it could not muster the support of the 38 states needed for ratification because of a conservative backlash against feminism.

1972 ERA vote Ap 7203230219 Use

After the Senate voted passed a constitutional amendment giving women equal rights, Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., left, met with supporters Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Mich., and Sen. Marlow Cook, R-Ky, and opponent Sen. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., second from the right, on March 23, 1972, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

June 17, 1972: Four men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices in Washington, D.C., launching the Watergate crisis that would engulf and ultimately end the Nixon presidency.

Nov. 7, 1972: President Richard Nixon is elected to his second term in office.

1972 Nixon Ehrlichman Ap 7201010480 Use

President Richard Nixon, right, discusses improving conditions at a California state park as John D. Ehrlichman, his domestic affairs adviser, listens in this 1972 photo. (AP Photo)

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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?