Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Education Programs: Unsuccessful

Nov 5, 2019 by

Lyndon Johnson’s programs and their legacy have proved to be a curse on taxpayers and low-income families.

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In 1964, most people would have been excited to receive a signed picture from the president. But a woman known to history as “Mrs. Marlow” did not want Lyndon Johnson’s autograph.

She wanted clothes for her family. And food. “All we want is a decent chance for our children,” Marlow wrote to Johnson. Marlow felt she deserved as much because Johnson made a much-publicized visit to her family earlier that year, using the Marlows as an example of an impoverished family that Johnson’s “Great Society” programs could help.

If money was the answer, she was in luck. Johnson was about to open the spigots of federal spending like never before in the areas of education, health care, and welfare, promising that Washington would improve schools and lift families out of poverty.

Today, decades and trillions of dollars later, parents like Mrs. Marlow are still waiting for results. Johnson’s programs and their legacy have proved to be a curse on taxpayers and low-income families.

Head Start, the federal pre-kindergarten program for low-income children launched under Johnson, has had no lasting learning gains for enrolled students. What’s more, a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found Head Start centers inflating enrollment numbers by doctoring student applications. Taxpayers have spent more than $240 billion on the initiative since its launch in 1965.

Washington has spent $2 trillion on K–12 schools since 1965, yet there has been no improvement in actual student learning for disadvantaged students compared with their peers. The achievement gap between children from low-income families and wealthier students was the equivalent of four years of learning decades ago and remains that size today. There has, however, been a notable increase in the bureaucracy. The number of administrators has increased 137 percent since the 1960s.

Today the federal government originates and services 90 percent of all student loans, spending $150 billion annually on loans and grants. Tuition at public four-year universities has increased 213 percent (after accounting for inflation) since 1987. Meanwhile, a slightly smaller proportion of students from families in the bottom quartile of the income distribution graduate from college today, the very students Johnson’s loan programs were supposed to help.

By any measurable indicator, the Great Society has been a bust for students.

To make matters worse, special-interest groups have captured many instructional materials and steered classrooms away from content-based teaching and toward subjective analyses of race and oppression. Schools are not helping students become productive citizens.

Want proof? The 2019 Annenberg Public Policy Center Civics Survey found that more than one in five respondents could not name any branch of the U.S. government. One-quarter could only name one branch, which means nearly half of adults cannot even begin to explain how our government operates.

Fortunately, not all is lost. A greater reliance on charter schools — public schools that operate independent of traditional school districts and base their curriculum on great works of literature — would certainly help. So would education savings accounts — K–12 private-learning options offered now in five states, which allow families to customize their child’s education experience according to the student’s needs. Another solution: Income Share Agreements, college-payment options under which businesses and universities help students cover postsecondary costs. These ISAs help students get a degree without making the Faustian bargain of a federal loan.

Source: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Education Programs: Unsuccessful | National Review

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1 Comment

  1. The education agenda of President Lyndon Johnson and all Presidents through Trump has been to “deliberately dumb down” our children, using our tax money to implement a destructive secular humanist/values destroying, non-academic curriculum necessary for global citizenship (UN AGENDA 2030) aka World Government. This agenda was spawned by the tax-exempt foundations, especially Carnegie in 1934 (read Conclusions and Recommendations for the Social Studies) which was followed up by by UN/UNESCO/OECD, etc. edicts. The goal was/is to create the perfect worker (Skinnerian trained robot/your child)) who will spin off profits for the global elite aka “limited learning for lifelong labor”, resulting in no freedom of choice for his/her future, or possibility of upward mobility. (Elite excepted, of course). President Trump and Ed Secretary DeVos have have approved this agenda through support for tax-funded school choice/charters, with no elected boards (taxation without representation). The label for this agenda is socialist/fascist polytechnical TRAINING, NOT academics. The noted British novelist C.S. Lewis, said “when training beats education civilization dies.” It is dying as I craft this response. Shame on National Review for publishing such a misleading article.