As this country weathers "1984" and the rhetoric and distractions of an election year, it is not too early to begin looking further ahead, toward the 200th anniversary of the framing of our Constitution and the formation of this Republic in the years 1787-1789. The interval before 1987 offers us time to reflect on and to better understand the special circumstances, values, and institutional context that have made possible what has been achieved in this land over two centuries.
We approach this anniversary as a nation that has begun to recognize it can no longer take for granted the assumption of a uniquely favored place on this earth that has shaped much of our history. As we emerge from that innocent premise, however, we are in danger of approaching our 200th with a serious underestimation of the crucial role of the Federal Government in much that has been accomplished since 1789--and thus of undervaluing the importance of sustaining its positive role in the public-private partnership on which national unity and a prosperous and humane future will depend. And sustaining an active partnership seems particularly pertinent in the year in which national energies have their best chance to rebuild one of the foundations of our society by rallying behind the renewal of American schools.
A rereading of The Federalist--written and published between October 1787 and August 1788 to support adoption of the new Constitution--emphasizes how different from many current pronouncements was the vision of the constructive role of the national government there projected, within a skillfilly balanced constitutional structure.
The remarkable group of delegates sent by the original thirteen states to the Constitutional Convention were men of diverse outlook and background who, in that steaming summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, devised what has remained, for all its difficulties, the most workable and durable written instrument of constitutional government the world has yet known. They were a practical, worldly assemblage, averaging in age in their early forties, mostly successful men of affairs--merchants, planters, lawyers, public officials who brought to their task an unusual combination of classical learning and first-hand political experience. They had known British rule, a variety of state governments, and alternate ways of organizing, electing, and operating political institutions. They believed in liberty but were mindful of the "turbulences and follies" of democracy, and they had few illusions about the nature of man or the aggressive competition of regional and private interests that a free society would have to balance if it was to combine liberty with union, order, and security.
The delegates undertook their duties with a strong sense of responsibility to devise institutions that would demonstrate the viability of free government for all time. Hamilton set forth this sense of mission in the opening paragraph of the first Federalist paper:
Drawing on guiding principles from Greece and Rome and the Judaeo-Christian tradition, views of human nature derived in fair measure from Calvin, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, their own perception (and Montesquieu's misreading) of British Parliamentary experience, and a somewhat uncritical embrace of major premises of the French Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers created a constitutional Republic based on popular sovereignty, with separation of powers, a strong executive, an independent judiciary, and the supremacy of the national government within a federal system. As Clinton Rossiter has written in his introduction to The Federalist Papers (he calls them "the most important work in political science that has ever been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States"):
It must be remembered that The Federalist papers were drafted and their principles formulated amidst intense political pressures, with the immediate object of getting New York and other important electorates to approve the new constitution, a fight that was won in key states by very narrow margins. Yet few philosophers or statesmen have as acutely analyzed the implications of constitutional choices, or the place of "factions" and how to balance "the multiplicity of interests" in a pluralistic society as did Madison in Federalist numbers 10 and 51 (crystallized in his memorable phrase, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition"); or as did Hamilton in writing on the necessity of executive authority and independent judicial review as instruments of free government in numbers 70 and 78.
Amidst the opportunities of a new continent and the selective transfer of ideas and peoples from northwestern Europe which has left a lasting imprint on North America, these principles of government found an exceptionally supportive setting. Leaving behind inherited feudal legacies and the framework of centralized monarchy, standing army, and established church, those who set the American patterns of settlement--the Dissenting sects, colonists distrustful of the intrusive fisc, farmers, artisans, and merchants--looked to small-scale self-government and the voluntarism exemplified by Franklin and later heralded by Tocqueville. The powerful presence of the small independent farmer and artisan-tradesman in this society throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, reflected in the grange and the populist movement, supported political alignments that were reinforced by a chronology of events inverse to the characteristic sequence abroad. Here, major transportation systems, substantial industrial development, and the beginnings of a national economy came into being before the emergence of felt needs for large-scale government.
But both before and after the end of the 19th century, the dynamics of economic growth, the rapid expansion of numbers and scale, and the consequences of urbanization created circumstances that increasingly evoked Hamilton's anticipated need for "executive energy" and a more active national government. Well in advance of the income tax, major expansion of the federal bureaucracy, or the intensive demands of war, the impact of the railroads on rural and small-town America, the growth of cities, and the fear of the emerging "trusts" brought dramatic changes in the role of the Federal Government.
The onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, with its alarming surge of business and bank failures and farm foreclosures, and the shattering effects of unemployment rising to 25 percent, led to a sharply expanded federal role. Both "The New Deal" and Democratic and Republican administrations that followed it undertook far-reaching programs to meet pressing needs of an urban, industrial society. These included a new range of efforts to assume tasks beyond the reach or practical role of private capital, to help maintain the balance among competing sections and sectors, and to represent the interests of the unemployed and of constituencies unable to advance themselves. Then came the massive military and industrial mobilization for World War II, which both stimulated economic and technical advance and became, as Madison had foreseen, "the mother of executive aggrandizement."
Emerging from Allied victory at the height of our comparative economic advantage, U.S. leadership and prosperity contributed powerfully to a world that realized extraordinary advances in the next few decades. At home the U. S. embarked on a series of national programs that materially reduced poverty and lifted levels of nutrition, health, education, environmental protection, real income, and general well-being for the great majority of Americans. During the remarkable 30 years from 1945 to 1975, this country absorbed a 50-percent increase in the labor force with impressive gains in productivity and without serious unemployment; and the whole Atlantic community, responding to the international financial and trading structure set in motion at Bretton Woods, experienced unprecedented gains in international trade, national income, educational opportunities, and average standards of living. Indeed, it is the rate of advance in these decades that created expectations--for both personal income and social welfare, here and abroad--that have strained current capacities.
In the immense contribution our structure of law and government has made to coping with successive crises and releasing creative energies in most phases of our national life, and in the unparalleled effectiveness of the combined private, local, and national energies in settling and developing a continent, building the world's foremost economy, and bringing 200 million people of disparate origin into a coherent working democracy, the national government has fulfilled The Federalist's grand design to a degree that the Founding Fathers could barely have envisaged. This reality must not be obscured by current policy problems or electoral ideologies. We can and must correct legislative excesses, administrative distortions, and budgetary derailment without retreating from gains, goals, and accepted private and public responsibilities that have for so long made the United States the hope of much of the world. For these tasks we have no better resource than to sustain the structure and functions of government propounded in The Federalist and the public-private partnership that has proved so productive over the years.
Few better examples of this fruitful union could be offered than the history and place of education in the making of the nation. Americans have rightly seen in education not only its own rewards and the foundation of a free society, as Jefferson emphasized, but--in the most practical terms--an essential avenue of access to opportunity and the means of integrating into a single society the diverse human talents that have come to these shores.
Private and local initiatives at various levels of education long preceded the first state law requiring public high schools--that of Massachusetts in 1827. Towns, counties, and states have carried the major responsibility for public education, though private, and later parochial, schools and independent colleges and universities, some dating from colonial times, have continued to play a highly significant part. The first national entry came even before the adoption of our Constitution. The Congress of the Confederation included in its greatest achievement, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to organize the new territories and future states of the upper Midwest, the provision that within each township, to be composed of 36 lots of 640 acres, one lot must be set aside for maintaining a public school. Since then something approaching 100 pieces of national legislation have been enacted for similar purposes.
At the very beginning of the Federal period, George Washington, in his first annual message, told the Congress that "there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of Science and Literature," and on more than one occasion he urged the establishment of a national university. John Quincy Adams, observing in his first message to Congress in 1825 that the object of government was "the improvement of the conditions of those who are parties to the social compact," listed as "among the first" duties of government--and "perhaps the very first"--the support of "public institutions and seminaries of learning."
The national government's participation in advancing education assumed far-reaching proportions when in 1862 President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, first introduced in the 1850s, which donated extensive public lands to the states for the establishment of colleges of agriculture and the mechanic arts. Under its provisions 69 land-grant colleges and universities have been endowed. In addition to their cumulative contributions to the exceptional productivity of American agriculture, they have become the keystone of higher education in most of the Midwest and Far West and much of the South and Southwest, and a substantial presence elsewhere. The Freedmen's Bureau legislation of 1865 and 1866 provided educational opportunities for blacks and aided in the establishment of Hampton Institute, Howard University, Fisk, and other black colleges. Another war brought to fruition the Vocational Education Act of 1917. Through this legislation--and its six subsequent renewals--federal funds have given categorical aid to public secondary schools under specific structural agreements.
Nor did a grateful nation feel it inappropriate for the Federal Government, immediately after World War II, to provide through the "G.I. Bill of Rights" the massive infusion of funds that gave a whole generation of young Americans new opportunities for higher education. Later, confronted by the Sputnik challenge, President Eisenhower asked the Congress to approve the 1958 National Defense Education Act (NDEA), under which federal funds were to strengthen the quality and expand the scope of instruction in high-school science and mathematics, as well as school, college, and university programs in foreign languages and area studies. In the decades since World War II, successive administrations of both parties--with Senator Robert Taft among the leaders in the late 1940s--have recognized the national interest, as well as the individual benefits, in broadly assisting access to higher education across income barriers, and in funding campus-based research and advanced graduate education as an investment in human capital essential to our future.
Thus, it is puzzling to hear it now said that there is no proper role for the national government in helping states and localities and the private sector address educational deficiencies which the recent National Commission characterized as so serious that, had they been imposed on us by an unfriendly power, "we might have viewed it as an act of war." A dozen recent books and reports, though uneven and incomplete, have provided fresh background, data, analyses, and ideas for anyone seriously interested in understanding problems that today beset public high schools--where more than 90 percent of the nation's secondary-school students (over 13 million) are enrolled--and the teachers in their classrooms. These problems have been examined and many thoughtful recommendations offered in such studies as A Nation At Risk by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, High School by Ernest L. Boyer, The Troubled Crusade: Amencan Education, 1945-80 by Diane Ravitch, A Place Called School by John I. Goodlad, Educating Americans for the 21st Century by the National Science Board's Commission, Action for Excellence: A Comprehensive Plan to Improve our Nation's Schools by the Education Commission of the States, and others.
These reports have done more than simply illuminate the deficiencies and needs that confront our schools. Their collective impact has broken the crust of inertia and indifference and created a wider awareness that offers more potential for constructive action than at any time in recent years. While state and local governments continue to carry 90 percent of elementary- and secondary-school costs, there exists a significant opportunity for federal initiative. If we cannot have a national response of Hamiltonian boldness and imagination, let us at least urge the Federal Government to assist or undertake the most important and workable of the recommendations of its own Commission. Or let it support such practical and immediate steps as to provide matching incentives for the best state, local, or private improvements, thereby recognizing and making widely known ideas and methods that work under current conditions; or to offer highly promising potential school teachers loans for their college or graduate education, loans that would be forgiven over a five- or ten-year period for successful service in public-school teaching; or to renew at post-Sputnik levels the NDEA programs that gave a real lift in the 1960s to math and science programs--and their teachers--and notably strengthened the depth and range of language and area studies in American colleges and universities.
Such programs as these need cost only a fraction of the five-fold increase in agricultural subsidies since 1980, or of any year's growth in one of the "entitlement programs" (under which nearly four-fifths of the expenditures are no longer related to income need), or of wastage or overruns in even minor Defense Department procurement. Obviously money alone will not solve the problems, nor will sprawling, ill-designed programs or rigid, intrusive bureaucracies. But local initiatives and promising leadership and ideas need some funding help to reverse a downtrend and to get good plans into operation--at a time when circumstances offer the best chance we are likely to get in the late decades of this century for public and private partners to tackle recognized deficiencies in the United States educational effort.
Because we believe that the problems of American secondary education are acute, that demographic projections heighten their import, and that, even apart from the inherent benefits of education, the demands of an increasingly competitive "high-tech" economy allow no alternative to equipping young people with literacy and other essential skills, the Foundation has extended its educational programs to direct more attention to the secondary-school field. At this moment, state legislatures, school boards, officials, and unions seem more open to exploring new ideas and methods, and teachers, who have long labored under difficult conditions, appear more receptive to genuine means of improvement and more ready to respond to a degree of public understanding that has been missing. Private funds cannot take the place of public resources in addressing national needs and opportunities, but there are some contributions an independent foundation can make--even though its own programs preclude direct grants to individual secondary schools.
Aided by the studies noted above, the Foundation has sought, first of all, to better understand the problems. Inasmuch as our past experience has been primarily with higher education, it seemed prudent for us to begin by assisting productive interactions between secondary schools and colleges and universities in their region. Following earlier grants to several universities for this purpose, and more recent discussions with state school officers, the Foundation appropriated $650,000 to the Council of Chief State School Officers for allocation on a competitive basis to encourage state systems or individual high schools "to initiate and carry out collaborative school/college/ university programs that are comprehensive, effective, and replicable." We would expect to provide additional assistance if these grants prove productive.
To lift the morale and enhance qualifications of individual teachers requires support more dosely tailored to distinctive needs and interests. Toward this end two grants were made in 1983. One of $500,000 will enable the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand to 50 the number of Summer Seminars for Secondary School Teachers it can offer in 1984. These seminars, held on college and university campuses, give intensive consideration to major works in history and literature. The other appropriation, of $400,000, will allow the Council for Basic Education to expand a fellowship program that recognizes outstanding high-school teachers in the humanities and gives them summer fellowships for serious, self-directed reading and study.
Other grants have responded to well-designed regional programs that might serve as models elsewhere (such as one at Berea College to help strengthen teaching in principal subjects of the arts and sciences in high schools in adjacent counties, or one at the University of North Carolina for similar purposes); to several programs designed to assist the improvement of writing in the schools; and to a program that will make more widely available for use in American high schools instructional materials in science and math developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley.
Demographic projections point relentlessly to the continued, troubling growth in numbers of ill-prepared minorities and to alarming drop-out rates among blacks and Hispanics in the school-age population. Whereas only a quarter of whites in the U.S. are today younger than 18, more than a third of all blacks and nearly half of all Hispanics fall under this age. By 1980 a dozen of the 20 largest urban school districts in the country already had more than 50-percent minority enrollments. Current high drop-out rates and educational failure foretell human stresses and social and economic costs that pose an acute challenge. A healthy, dynamic, competitive democracy cannot afford 25 million adults classified as functionally illiterate, or the under-preparation and under-performance of millions more. It is clearly in the national interest that these conditions be faced and reversed.
In response to one area of acute need, the Foundation and its predecessors have over many years appropriated substantial sums to assist predominantly black colleges that have played a major role in educational opportunity and upward mobility, and additional funds to assist minority access to higher education and graduate and professional schools. The Foundation plans to continue this support with funds in excess of $5 million in 1984.
With the hope of encouraging larger numbers of able young Hispanics to achieve distinction in the high-school years by making more visible the possibility of their then going on to college, the Foundation this year appropriated $2.1 million to enable the College Entrance Examination Board, working closely with five Hispanic organizations, to launch a program of National Hispanic Fellowships beginning in the academic year 1984-1985. This program will initially provide $1,000 toward tuition and $500 for personal expenses to each of 250 highly promising high-school graduates who enroll full-time in a B.A. program at a fully accredited college or university. The number of award winners will be increased to 350 in 1985-1986 and 500 in 1986-1987. To identify a larger flow of talent for colleges and universities--and other potential funders--an equal number of runners-up in the competition each year will be designated to receive $100 and an honorable mention. These are small sums to help illuminate a larger need. As has been well stated elsewhere, there remains a compelling case for special assistance as long as "the gaps in social, economic, educational, and cultural advantage between racial minorities and the white majority are still so wide that there is no racially neutral process of choice that will produce more than a handful of minority students in our competitive colleges and professional schools."
These efforts can do little more than point the way to where enlightened public policies and commitment are needed. If, as a wise philosopher long ago observed, a society should be judged by its schools, and more particularly by how it selects, trains, and rewards the teachers of its children, ours has a long way to go.
Within our more familiar field of higher education, in addition to a continuing large commitment to sustaining a minimum flow of outstanding talents into leading graduate schools in the humanities in anticipation of requirements of the 1990s, the Foundation embarked on programs to address two particular needs in 1983.
First is an effort to enlarge and strengthen our national capacity for advanced training and research in the fields of Russian/Soviet and East European studies. During years in which the U.S. has been pouring more and more resources into military responses to the build-up of Soviet power, or to hypercharged perceptions of its potential, it has been putting less and less into understanding the regime and the societies that make up the U.S.S.R. We do not begin to know what we should about the structure and instruments of Soviet government and the nature of their capacities and limitations; the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S.S.R.'s economy, demography, agriculture, systems of education and social discipline; the cross-pulls of the military and political, of production vs. consumption, of centralized party and administration vs. centrifugal regional, cultural, or ethnic allegiances; the alignments and tensions of personalities and cadres, of peoples and generations; or about the U.S.S.R.'s relations with and impact on its allies and neighbors.
Worse still, with the shrinkage of NDEA and other funding, we have let the small number of highly trained and experienced Russian/Soviet and East European experts approach retirement ages without providing even for their successors, much less putting in place a flow of broadened and deepened educational and research programs to generate the knowledge and qualified talent contemporary circumstances require. If as much as one one-hundredth of one percent of the currently recommended defense budget were annually reallocated toward scholarly training and research to understand the colossus toward which military capacities are primarily aimed, the U.S. could be better equipped to comprehend the realities, analyze the contingencies, and assess the options, procedures, and relationships that should guide the policies of America and its allies.
As a limited contribution to correcting this disturbing national deficiency, the Foundation this year appropriated approximately $4 million to strengthen a broad spectrum of Russian/Soviet and East European programs in this country. The largest amounts, totalling $3.3 million, went to six university centers--two on each coast and two in the Midwest--especially qualified to advance knowledge on a broad front in these fields. Recognizing, however, that important talents exist at many places, and that there is an acute need to bring certain disciplines (such as economics and demography) more actively into the field, the Foundation provided the Joint Committee on Soviet Studies of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies with a flexible $500,000 fund for fellowships and to encourage research in designated areas. A smaller grant will support research opportunities at the Summer Research Laboratory on Russia and Eastern Europe of the University of Illinois.
In a second major new program the Foundation has undertaken a series of grants to help leading colleges and universities search out and assist the development of what Alfred North Whitehead called "fresh combinations"--courses or programs that might help revitalize teaching and learning on a broader front in the difficult circumstances facing American higher education in the 1980s.
Recognizing that in many fields and institutions fresh organizing ideas and related programs are well under way (and attracting some of the ablest graduate students) and that there is no single way such efforts can best be advanced, we described our intent for both colleges and universities as follows:
For colleges, the primary focus will be on course offerings. Various programs directed toward these goals already exist on many campuses, but it seems timely to encourage and assist them further. We sense areas in the humanities and in some of the social sciences that are deeply discouraged, and we have wondered whether some of the decline in enrollments reflects not only student anxieties about jobs and careers but also a loss of coherence and imagination in what is offered and how it is taught.
For universities we are suggesting particular attention to their graduate departments and programs, which in certain fields may well be ready for review or reconceptualization. Much current analysis in both the social sciences and the humanities, for example, would benefit from a rediscovery of history. The disarray of the protest years and the excessive fragmentation, specialization, and compartmentalization of knowledge that followed the explosion of numbers in the 1960s and 1970s have had their price. We ask the question: Have various fields become constrained by academic structures and categories inherited in fair measure from the turn of the century and relentlessly subdivided ever since, with too few imaginative regroupings and too little sustained analysis of alternative possibilities? As a former Provost of MIT has long insisted, "Nature does not present its problems on departmental lines." Nor do man and society.
This report has concentrated almost entirely on the Foundation's programs in education, which remains its largest area of commitment. We have, however, continued to be active in four other general areas--arts and cultural organizations; conservation and the environment; medicine, public health, and population; and public affairs.
Brief descriptions of major grants given in 1983 in all these fields appear immediately after this report, followed by a complete record of all appropriations and payments made during the year. Once again, both appropriations and payments exceeded the five-percent payout requirement, and this year for the first time both edged over the $60 million mark.
In 1983 the Foundation realized net income of $65,240,139 after investment expenses and federal excise tax. It made appropriations during the year of $61,055,500 and paid out $60,285,750. The market or appraised value of the Foundation's net assets on December 31, 1983 was $1,112 million. The total amount appropriated for charitable purposes by The AndrewW. Mellon Foundation and its predecessors, the Avalon and Old Dominion Foundations, has now reached $795,787,050.
JOHN E. SAWYER
March 1, 1984