50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

The 10th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes Toward
the Public Schools

“If school authorities were to take time to talk to a representative sample of people in their school districts to obtain their ideas as to what the schools might be doing that they are not now doing, they would likely find that the public's suggestions fall chiefly into seven categories:

  • More strict discipline. The public is bothered by the lack of respect shown to or demanded by teachers. They read about the chaos in classrooms. They complain that teachers let children do anything they wish, dress any way they want, pay no attention to school rules.
  • Better teachers. They are much more inclined to think of ‘good’ teachers as the teachers who take a personal interest in each student, who try to understand each student and his or her problems, who encourage students in the subjects taught so that they will achieve high grades, and, finally, who inspire students to set high goals in life for themselves.
  • Back to basics. Many people want greater emphasis placed upon what they often describe as the ‘fundamentals,’ meaning reading, writing and arithmetic.
  • More parental involvement. Many complain that teachers show a poor attitude in communicating with parents. They suggest more conferences between parents and teachers.
  • Higher scholastic standards. They say it is too easy to get good grades.
  • More education about health hazards (drugs, alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes).
  • More emphasis on careers for all students."

What was happening in American education?

1978: The reauthorization of Title I allows schools to operate schoolwide programs using Title I dollars if at least 75% of their students are living in poverty rather than limit the expenditure of those funds only on low-income students.

June 6, 1978: California voters defeat the Briggs Initiative, which was aimed at banning gays and lesbians from working in the state’s public schools.

Nov. 7, 1978: California voters pass Proposition 13, which dramatically reduces property taxes, which are a major source of funding for public schools. This was one of the first tax revolt initiatives in the United States.

What else was happening in the United States?

1978 Anita Bryant Ap 780901070

Singer Anita Bryant, in Boston, Mass., on Sept. 1, 1978, says the forced cancellation of her scheduled concert is another example of gay rights supporters denying her constitutional rights. (AP Photo)

April 25, 1978: St. Paul, Minn., repeals its gay rights ordinance, a follow-up to Anita Bryant’s successful antigay campaign in Dade County, Fla.

April-October 1978: Women become part of the regular U.S. Army.

June 26, 1978: In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court bans quota systems in college admission decisions, but says affirmative action can be used to deal with past discrimination.

Aug. 7, 1978: President Jimmy Carter declares a federal health emergency for Love Canal, a subdivision of Niagara Falls, after revelations that the community was built on a toxic waste dump.

Sept. 17, 1978: Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat sign the Camp David Accords aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

1978 Sadat Begin Loc 09792V

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Library of Congress/Warren K. Leffler)

Share “1978”:


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?