Federal Aid: The Head of the Class

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Frank Keppel names four intellectual influences who contributed to the revolution in education during the past 15 years. "The first," he says, "is Robert Taft, who, I think, probably persuaded the American people that you could use federal tax money for primary and secondary schools without immediately ending in perdition. He himself proposed such bills; they never passed, but he got the thinking going. The second, not precisely like Mr. Taft, is Mr. Khrushchev, who scared the daylights out of us, scared us that the schools were not any good and that we had better compete. The third is Pope John, with the ecumenical movement, and the fourth is Lyndon Johnson. Can you think of a more unlikely batch?"

That unlikely batch, in fact, helped quiet fears that federal participation in education meant federal tyranny. "Words like 'regimentation' or 'control' are bugaboos of a controversy now past," says Yale's Kingman Brewster Jr. M.I.T. Chairman James Killian argues that federal support of new curriculum development has created "more diversity in our school systems, not less, more opportunities of choosing improved ways of teaching, not fewer."

The federal role, explains Frank Keppel, is "that of a junior partner in the firm in which the major stockholders are state, local and private educational agencies." In terms of money alone, he adds, the Government picks up only 13.6% of the nation's total school bill, hardly a controlling share.

Keppel sees the function of the Office of Education as that of a stimulator for improvement at the local school level, a leader in the search for the right goals in education. He contends that educators too often resist change; somehow, he says, they feel that "a voice for change is a voice against education." Partly for that reason, Keppel works hard to get businessmen, politicians, scientists and other thinkers involved in education's problems. "Education," he says, "is too important to be left solely to the educators."

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