Sputnik Spurs Passage of the National Defense Education Act

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December 8, 2021 - 2:35pm

Critical Commentary

Webpage from the US Senate "Historical Highlights 1941-1963" about how the launch of the Sputnik in 1957 led to massive investment in education, designed to counter "strong resistance to federal aid to education" in the Senate for decades. But why the framing as a defense act?

"On the day Sputnik first orbited the earth, the chief clerk of the Senate’s Education and Labor Committee, Stewart McClure, sent a memo to his chairman, Alabama Democrat Lister Hill, reminding him that during the last three Congresses the Senate had passed legislation for federal funding of education, but that all of those bills had died in the House. Perhaps if they called the education bill a defense bill they might get it enacted. Senator Hill—a former Democratic whip and a savvy legislative tactician—seized upon on the idea, which led to the National Defense Education Act." 

Cite as

United States Senate, "Sputnik Spurs Passage of the National Defense Education Act", contributed by Prerna Srigyan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 8 December 2021, accessed 17 May 2022. http://www.stsinfrastructures.org/content/sputnik-spurs-passage-national-defense-education-act