For the Record
The following are excerpts from President Reagan's Sept. 10 weekly radio address, which was devoted to the topic of education.
I'm happy to report that if the record of the past eight years is any indication, the prospects for [our children's] education are bright--brighter than they've been for more than two decades.
Test scores are up, reversing a calamitous drop in scores over the years between 1963 and 1980. Attendance is up and the number of kids who drop out of high school is down.
The recovery of our schools has been a genuine grassroots accomplishment, and it proves the solution to problems is not to throw money at them, but to come up with common-sense answers and start applying them. I'm proud that during our Administration George Bush and I have been there with a sympathetic ear and a helping hand. But we've only just begun. Far too many American students are graduating from school without the skills they will need to prosper and the knowledge they'll need to grow as adults. And no one knows this better than America's parents, who rose up at the beginning of the decade and said, "Our children are not getting the education they want, need, and deserve."
The education our children want is the ability to discover the answers to the basic questions we all have: Who am I? Where do I live? and What is the world around me like? Children yearn to learn and their capacity for it is one of the God-given wonders.
The education our children need is the ability to read, write, and reason as well as any student in any country in the world. They need it and the nation needs it, as well, if we're to prosper and grow.
The education our children deserve is the kind no American should be deprived of, for it's the basic instruction in what it means to be an American.
I believe that the education of all Americans must be rooted in the self-evident truths of Western Civilization. These are the truths that have been passed down like precious heirlooms from generation to generation since the generations began.
... That's why I've supported and continue to support all efforts to teach our children about our culture, to read great texts, and to learn their lessons. Bill Bennett, our Secretary of Education, has just reported on the state of elementary education in our country. That report, entitled "James Madison Elementary School," presents an outline for what every elementary school curriculum should include. It is suffused with the glory of Western civilization, and I salute it.
We owe our children no less than to instruct them in what Matthew Arnold called "the best that has been known and said." And yet, just as forcefully, I want to say that this curriculum is only a guideline for school districts to follow if they think it right. The final arbiter of what a child should learn is not the state, but the family and the community in which the child lives.
And so I support the right of all parents to choose the education they believe is the best for their children, in the form of magnet schools and state programs like Minnesota's which permits parents to choose which schools their children can attend. In addition, programs like Youth 2000, which teaches kids to rely on themselves and to say no to drugs, are vital in our efforts.