Published July 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Striving for the Honor Roll On its national report card, our country's educational system is making passing grades, but it is not achieving honor roll status. This is the conclusion of a number of studies on the nation's schools, the most notable, perhaps, being the study issued recently by the National Commission on Excellence in Education after 18 months of study. That report points to some disturbing trends in education, including: --a drastic shortage of mathematics and science teachers in the nation's public schools; --minimal math and science requirements in most schools. In an estimated 70 percent of states, only one year of each is required to graduate; --the abandonment of educational basics, such as English, math, and science, for general, non-academic courses; --and, the failure of American students to keep pace with their counter-parts in other industrialized nations in educational skills and knowledge. “For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents,” the report notes. The sobering tone of the National Commission on Excellence in Education report emphasizes the importance of making a high-quality educational system one of our country's key priorities. Today's students will face a world in which the United States will be locked in increasingly keen competition with Japan, Germany, and other industrialized nations for a share of the world's market and the world's jobs. That competition will demand that our young people be well-equipped with education skills, particularly math and science, which are crucial to understanding and operating high-technology equipment, and with a good, basic knowledge of the world market and the techniques of our trading partners. If our students do not acquire the skills needed to meet the challenges of the future, and if we do not take steps to make sure our educational system can provide them with those skills, we risk not only our students’ futures, but also our country's future, as well. We already have the capability, the resources, and the teacher talent to put our country's education system on the honor roll. And I believe the recent attention that has been fixed on our educational system, and the concern expressed nationwide, should spur us to take the right steps to make sure our students receive the best possible skills and training.