The golden age of American public education is past, and I fear we’ll never again attain the level of overall scholarship we enjoyed in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Consider this: In 1939 America’s total production of airplanes—private, commercial, and military—was just 5,900. In the following five years we produced 267,482 planes, more than 53,000 per year. That’s just planes. Now consider that essentially the same ballooning of production occurred regarding land and sea vehicles and vessels in addition to munitions, guns, and other armaments. All the while we were shipping zillions of military personnel to the four corners of the globe and supplying them in force. Never in history have so many ordinary people done so many extraordinary things. That’s what freedom encourages and education permits.
Whence came all the chiefs and Indians who brought about this massive effort to save freedom? I suspect at least 70 percent and likely as much as 80 percent of these people were educated in our public schools. This is not to say that waging war is the best gauge of educational accomplishment, but I suspect that willingness and ability to preserve freedom is a very suitable yardstick for that purpose.