50 Years of American Voices


Alec M. Gallup

The 17th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Large majorities of the U.S. public would require both the private and church-related schools and the home schools to meet the same standards for accreditation and teacher certification as the nation's public schools must meet. Ninety percent of the public would require the same standards for private and church-related schools as for public schools, and 82% would favor the same requirements for home schools. It is interesting that nonpublic school parents are as much in favor of requiring the same standards for private and church-related schools and for home schools as are the general public and the parents of public school children.”

What was happening in American education?

1985 School Locker Thinkstock Photos 533226582 Ok

Credit: Thinkstock

Jan. 15, 1985: In New Jersey v. TLO, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that students do not have an expectation of privacy when in school, which means that school administrators are able to make “reasonable” searches of students’ property at school.

Jan. 29, 1985: AFT President Al Shanker, in a speech to the National Press Club, calls for creating a national exam for beginning teachers.

February 1985: William Bennett becomes U.S. Secretary of Education with the charge to either reorganize the department or abolish it. Bennett had been chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

1985: In Abbott v. Burke, the New Jersey Supreme Court rules that the inadequate educational opportunities provided to students in poor urban school districts violate the state constitution’s guarantee of a “thorough and efficient” education. Eventually, the state is ordered to improve the education system and provide additional funds to the so-called Abbott districts. The series of Abbott cases and the resulting legislative reforms become a model of school funding reform.

February 1985: Five students with different experiences endure Saturday morning detention in “The Breakfast Club.”

Spring 1985: AFT President Al Shanker, in a speech to a teachers’ convention in New York, says the quality of the nation’s public school teachers is declining.

June 4, 1985: In Wallace v. Jaffree, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a moment of silence “for meditation or voluntary prayer” is unconstitutional when it is being used to promote prayer.

1985: More than 9,000 of Mississippi’s 25,000 teachers stage a wildcat strike — a strike that does not have union authorization — which closes schools in 58 of the state’s 154 districts over several weeks.

What else was happening in the United States?

Jan. 20, 1985: President Ronald Reagan begins his second term in office.

1985: The Food and Drug Administration approves a blood test for AIDS, which is used to screen all blood donations in the United States.

1985 New Coke 2

Americans didn't think new was better when it came to Coke.

April 1985: Coca-Cola releases New Coke, which the public rejects, prompting the company to return the original recipe Coke within a few months.

July 13, 1985: The Live Aid famine relief concert goes on at multiple venues around the world and reaches a global audience of an estimated 1.9 billion people in 150 countries. The concert raises money to fight famine in Ethiopia.

Oct. 2, 1985: Actor Rock Hudson, one of the most prominent leading men of the 1950s and 1960s, dies of AIDS, which raises public awareness of the disease.

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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?