50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

The 12th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes Toward
the Public Schools

“In two earlier surveys in this annual series, respondents were asked whether they would like to have a child of theirs take up teaching in the public schools as a career. When the same question was repeated this year, in the spring of 1980, a significant change in the public's attitude was found. When the question was first asked in 1969, 75% of all respondents said they would like to have a child of theirs take up teaching. This figure dropped to 67% in the 1972 survey and has fallen to 48% in the present survey.

“Almost everyone will have his or her own reasons as to why a teaching career is less attractive today than it was years ago. But whatever the reasons, the education profession would seem to have a public relations problem on its hands.”

What was happening in American education?

1980 Shufstedler Portrait News Web

Shirley Hufstedler (Caltech Archives)

May 1980: Federal appeals court judge Shirley Hufstedler becomes the first U.S. Secretary of Education as the new U.S. Department of Education begins operations.

Oct. 10, 1980: President Jimmy Carter signs the Refugee Education Assistance Act, which provides funds to local school districts who are educating refugee children from Cuba, Haiti, and Indochina.

Nov. 17, 1980: In Stone v. Graham, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a Kentucky statute that requires schools to post a copy of the Ten Commandments on a wall in every public school classroom violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

What else was happening in the United States?

January 1980: Chrysler Corporation receives a $1.5-billion loan guarantee from the federal government, which enables it to avoid bankruptcy.

March 17, 1980: Congress passes the Refugee Act, which revised procedures for admitting refugees.

1980: The Mariel Boatlift, which brings about 125,000 Cubans to the United States, begins in April and continues through October.

1980 Mariel Boatlift Ap 800510177 Use

On May 10, 1980, a U.S. Marine helps a Cuban child off one of the refugee boats that have been pouring into Key West for weeks. (AP Photo/Fernando Yovera)

June 1, 1980: CNN (Cable News Network) begins operations.

Nov. 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan is elected president of the United States, beating incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Nov. 21, 1980: Millions of Americans find out “Who Shot J.R.?” during a long-awaited episode of the soap opera “Dallas.”

Dec. 8, 1980: John Lennon is murdered in New York City.

Share “1980”:


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?