50 Years of American Voices


Alec M. Gallup and David L. Clark

The 19th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Secretary of Education William Bennett has made character education one of his primary emphases. The respondents were asked whether they thought courses on personal values and ethical behavior should be taught in the public schools or left to parents and the churches. Forty-three percent said that such courses should be taught in the schools, and another 13% volunteered that schools, parents, and churches should all be involved.”

What was happening in American education?

1987 NBPTS Logo

1987: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards begins, launching a movement to equip teachers with a credential that would attest to the quality of their work and knowledge of teaching.

1987: University of Virginia English professor E.D. Hirsch Jr. publishes Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, which spawns a widespread conversation about why and whether schools should teach a common culture vocabulary.

June 19, 1987: In Edwards v. Aguilllard, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates Louisiana's "Creationism Act," which requires the teaching of creationism whenever evolution is taught. The court said Louisiana’s action violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Sept. 8-Oct. 3, 1987: The Chicago Teachers Union ends its 19-day strike, the longest in the city’s history and the ninth strike in the Chicago Public Schools system in 18 years.

What else was happening in the United States?

Oct. 19, 1987: During Black Monday on Wall Street, stocks drop 22% in a single day.

1987 Bork Hearing Ap 8709150216 Use

Former President Gerald Ford, left, and Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., right, introduce Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Robert Bork on Sept. 15, 1987, as confirmation hearings began. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

Oct. 23, 1987: President Ronald Reagan’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee former Solicitor General Robert Bork is rejected 58-42 by the U.S. Senate, the first and only time a presidential nominee to the high court has been rejected.

1987: The Iran-Contra affair, which revolves around the sale of arms to Iran in violation of an arms embargo, consumes the Reagan administration.

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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?