National Defense Education Act Essay

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The National Defense Education Act of 1958 (NDEA) is federal legislation that was passed primarily to stimulate the advancement of education in the sciences, mathematics, and modern foreign languages during the Cold War era. While providing funding at all levels, the primary focus of the NDEA was on postsecondary education. The act provided institutions of higher education with funds for granting low-interest loans to students. The NDEA also gave federal support for improvement to elementary and secondary science, mathematics, and foreign language education.

In the aftermath of the launch of the Soviet Sputnik 1 satellite on October 4, 1957, the U.S. Congress declared the existence of an educational state of emergency requiring action by the federal government. The purpose of the act was to provide federal assistance to help develop those skills deemed essential to the national defense.

The federal system of the U.S. government does not allow for national control over curriculum, instruction, administration, or any other aspect of school policy. Thus, the federal role in education is largely limited to issues of funding. One key component of the NDEA was to enhance student loan funding at colleges and universities. Specifically, these funds were to be allocated preferentially to students who wished to teach in elementary or secondary schools and to students engaged in preparation in science, mathematics, engineering, or a modern foreign language.

Additional funding was given to strengthen science, mathematics, and modern foreign language instruction at the K–12 level, with funds to be made available to private as well as public schools.

Bibliography:

  1. Seaborg, G. T. (1998, October). Early federal role in higher education and research. Paper presented at the Federal Support for University Research Conference, Berkeley, CA. Available from http://ishi.lib.berkeley.edu/cshe/ ndea/index.html

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