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Bell Declares End of the 'Me Decade' in Education

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Washington--Citing "tentative, positive" evidence of a trend toward improvement in the nation's education system, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell praised the "increasing seriousness in schools and on campuses concerning the importance of getting as good an education as possible," in a speech prepared to commemorate the start of this year's American Education Week.

"American society seems to be moving from the 'me decade' of the 1970's to the 'us decade' of the 1980's," he said in the address scheduled to be delivered on Nov. 15 at the Education Department here.

The week is similarly celebrated each year in schools throughout the country with displays, performances by students, and speeches.

The Secretary predicted that the "us decade" would be one filled with "more discussion concerning traditional American ideals and values of hard work, thrift, honesty, and the increasing support for our institutions--family, community, church--as well as a respect for the law and our legal system."

The return to traditional values is manifested in "the healing of the [wounds caused by the] Vietnam War" and in the increased percentage of Americans who voted in the Nov. 2 elections, he said.

In education, he said, the most compelling evidence of a serious mood can be seen in the "groundswell [of support] to increase academic standards in the high schools and colleges by requiring more of the neglected general-education knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, science, and foreign languages."

Other signs of change the Secretary cited include:

"A growing realization--from the manufacturing of autos to computers and aircraft--of the need for a return to American excellence";

"A consensus on the importance of the high-technology industries associated with the computer and the need for computer literacy"; and

"Increasing examples of the private sector helping the schools introduce new programs and ideas in creative partnerships."

Mr. Bell cautioned that although the long decline in the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of college-bound students has "bottomed out largely due to the improvements in scores of minority students," such students will need help to increase their skills "even more dramatically in the years ahead."

He called for a "rededication" of educators' commitment to "improving American education for all of our people."

"Despite the controversy surrounding American education today--some of which I think is very healthy--I know that the education of our children and the training and retraining of our people remains the number one priority of all Americans," he said.

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