50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

The 11th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes Toward
the Public Schools

In his summation about the results of the 1979 poll, George Gallup identified what the public saw as the hallmarks of what he called “an ideal school”:

  • Teachers should be well-qualified and required to pass state board examinations before they are hired as well as at regular intervals thereafter.
  • Discipline should be strict.
  • The curriculum should emphasize the basics.
  • Students should be given more work to do in school and after school.
  • Better communication should be established with parents and the community through greater use of local media, school newsletters, and publications.
  • Courses or seminars should be organized for parents to help them help their children in school.
  • The ideal school would give much more attention to the selection of careers than is presently the case.
  • School should try to interest the majority of the residents of the school district in attending, at least once a year, a lecture, meeting, or social occasion held in the school building.

What was happening in American education?

1979 United States DOE seal Svg

(U.S. Department of Education)

September 1979: Texas Monthly publishes “Why Can’t Teachers Teach?,” which challenges the quality of teacher preparation programs in Texas.

Oct. 17, 1979: President Jimmy Carter signs law to create the U.S. Department of Education, ending a 150-year battle to give the department Cabinet status.

What else was happening in the United States?

March 28, 1979: The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania experiences a partial core meltdown, the largest such accident in U.S. nuclear power history.

1979 Camp David Hostage Crisis Loc 09803V

Camp David was the site of hostage crisis negotiations. (Library of Congress)

Nov. 4, 1979: Iranian radicals invade the U.S. embassy in Tehran, seizing 90 hostages and launching the Iran Hostage Crisis.

December 1979: The U.S. government bails out Chrysler Corporation so that it can avoid bankruptcy.

Share “1979”:


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?