List of Issues
Affirmative Action Are racial preference systems a reasonable way to value diversity or a veiled attempt at reverse discrimination? Although affirmative action programs remain legal, a divided court and a divided nation keep the debate alive.

Civil Liberties in War What personal freedoms are Americans willing to sacrifice in the name of national security?

Death Penalty Is the death penalty an effective deterrent to crime or a violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment?

Free Speech The First Amendment guarantees free speech to all Americans. But in 1999, a New York Appeals Court upheld a City of New York rule that required members of the Ku Klux Klan to remove any head-coverings or masks when marching. Does the unmasking of the KKK interfere with their First Amendment freedoms? Can this precedent force other protesters to reveal their identities when protesting governmental action?

Gun Control After the Columbine school massacre, many legislators called for renewed efforts to limit the sale of handguns, particularly to minors. Cities such as Chicago and New Orleans went so far as to bring lawsuits aimed at recouping the costs of gun violence from the gun industry. The lawsuits question whether gun manufacturers and dealers, like the tobacco industry, can be held accountable for the criminal use of their products. Does the Second Amendment prohibit state regulation and control of firearms?

Juvenile Justice Young people are increasingly being tried as adults when they commit serious crimes and are serving hard time in adult prisons. Will treating children as adults deter crime and ensure safety? Or is locking children up for life cruel and unusual punishment? Supporters argue that youths who commit adult crimes must be treated as such. Critics of the law say that it jails a population that has the greatest capacity for rehabilitation and unfairly targets inner city minorities.

Web Censorship Freedom of speech has entered a new battleground: cyberspace. The very qualities that make the Internet an ideal communication tool also facilitate the exposure of children to potentially harmful material. Should access to "adult" material, such as pornography, be filtered or otherwise banned to prevent children from accessing it at schools, libraries and other public places, or is it protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech? The U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed filters to be placed on library computers, but left the door open to future legal challenges.

Zero Tolerance When Congress passed the Gun Free Schools Act in the early 1990s, they sought to crack down on kids with guns. In practice, the law provided schools with a tool to handle discipline problems, vandalism, assaults, drugs, sexual harassment, even cheating. School boards call it zero tolerance. Critics call it a deeply flawed policy. Administrators are enforcing zero tolerance policies that often result in school suspensions or expulsions for minor infractions. Do these policies unjustly punish first time offenders, or is that simply the price we must pay for safe schools?

The Drug War After more than thirty years and billions of dollars spent on fighting the war on drugs, the typical high school student says it is easier to buy pot than alcohol. From the crack epidemic in the 1980's to the latest designer drugs like ecstasy, the drug war has been fueled by concerns about the impact that these substances have on society. Drug warriors continue to call for harsher punishments and larger police forces. But, after all this time and money, the public increasingly doubts if the war can ever be won. Are drugs a problem of public safety or public health? Is there another way?

Energy and the Environment How can we become more energy efficient, protect the environment and combat climate change? For decades, alarms have been raised about U.S. dependence on foreign oil. And more recently, the emissions from carbon fuels have increased concerns about global warming. But efforts to bolster alternative or renewable energy sources have made scant progress. And the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted the failure of government regulators and industry to enforce safety measures, leading to an environmental disaster. What sorts of energy policies best serve the interests of Americans?

Religion in Schools From opening prayers at football games to lessons about creationism taught in the classroom, the presence of religion in public schools tests the limits of free expression and tolerance. Some feel that denying religious groups access to school facilities is unfair discrimination. Others believe that religion belongs only in private homes and places of worship. What role, if any, should religion play in the public education system?

Race and Education While many hail the profound importance of the desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, others openly question if the reality lives up to the promise. Busing orders have ended, integration plans put aside and most schools across the nation remain largely segregated by race. In an ironic shift, some racial justice activists are now advocating for the development of specially designated schools for African American boys and African American girls. What are the costs of continued segregation and where do we take the legacy left to us by the justices a half a century ago?

Women's Rights From the voting booth to the office cubicle; the ball field to the battlefield, the road to women’s equality has been a long and difficult one. And unfinished business remains.

Voting Rights It took 81 years for African Americans to gain a constitutional right to vote, 132 years for women and 183 years for those 18 to 20 years old.

United Nations Peacekeeping It is not a nation. It has no standing army. And, yet, the United Nations has more experience with war and peace than any nation on the planet.

Education Policy Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer providing opportunities for all regardless of class or race. However, studies continue to document that young people of color or from low-income families have fewer opportunities for a quality education and that the gap is growing at an alarming rate.

First Amendment Perhaps the most important rights central to a democracy are enumerated in the First Amendment: the right to free speech and expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government.

Freedom from Discrimination Since its beginnings, America has struggled with the principle of equality for all people.

Health Care President Franklin Roosevelt, in his 1944 State of the Union address, spoke eloquently of the need for an “Economic Bill of Rights,” including the “right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health” as one of the keys to ensuring Americans’ security and economic independence. But Roosevelt’s idea to overhaul the nation’s health care system went nowhere, as did the efforts of Presidents Harry Truman and Bill Clinton.

Immigration America is a nation of immigrants. As they arrived in waves to the new country, they shaped its identity, built its economy and embodied its ideals of freedom.

Legal Rights The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The due process clause, which places substantive restrictions on the unreasonable use of government power, is one of the oldest and best guarantees of liberty.

Rights of Juvenile Defendants Young people are increasingly being tried as adults when they commit serious crimes and are given severe sentences. Does treating young people as adults deter crime and ensure safety? Or is it cruel and unusual punishment to lock up a teenager for life?

Second Amendment “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of the Second Amendment has long been debated.

Social Security The crisis of Social Security has come to the forefront of public debate, but few elected officials dare touch the controversial topic as efforts to overhaul the massive, popular entitlement plan have failed repeatedly.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure Technological capabilities in the 21st century raise issues of privacy that the framers could not have imagined when they drafted the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

State and Local Government This issue pages discusses the 10th Amendment, which is about states' rights, and state and local governments.
Education Policy
Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer providing opportunities for all regardless of class or race. However, studies continue to document that young people of color or from low-income families have fewer opportunities for a quality education and that the gap is growing at an alarming rate. A system of standardized test scores was the focus of the controversial 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. But improving education in the U.S. cannot be achieved with one simple solution as experts have advocated a range of initiatives, including smaller classes, teacher accountability, school vouchers and better technology.

  • 1635
    First Public School Opens In Boston

  • 1639
    First Public Elementary School Opens

  • 1647
    Boston Establishes First Public School System

  • 1751
    First College Not Affiliated With A Church Opens

  • 1779
    Jefferson Proposes Funding Va. Public Schools

  • 1812
    N.Y. Creates First Schools Superintendent's Office

  • 1816
    Indiana's Constitution Calls For Free Public Schools

  • 1817
    First School For The Deaf Opens

  • 1818
    Court Recognizes Autonomy Of Private Schools

  • 1821
    First High School Opens In U.S.

  • 1826
    First High School For Girls Is Opened

  • 1827
    Massachusetts Establishes Public High Schools Statewide

  • 1829
    First School For The Blind Is Founded

  • 1836
    McGuffey Readers, First Modern Textbooks, Are Published

  • 1837
    First Women's College Established
    Horace Mann Creates Common Schools In Mass.

  • 1838
    Massachusetts Establishes Public Teachers' Colleges
    First Coed College Opens

  • 1848
    First Kindergarten Opens In U.S.
    First Municipally Funded High School For Girls Opens

  • 1852
    Mass. Passes Mandatory School Attendance Law

  • 1855
    Law Requires Integration Of Public Schools In Mass.

  • 1857
    National Teachers' Association Is Formed

  • 1860
    First English-Speaking Kindergarten Opens

  • 1861
    First Black Teachers' Organization Forms In Ohio

  • 1862
    Congress Grants Land To Each State For A University

  • 1867
    Federal Government Creates Office Of Education

  • 1868
    College For Newly Freed Slaves Opens
    First Vocational School Opens

  • 1870
    First Public High School For African Americans Established
    National Education Association Forms

  • 1873
    St. Louis Offers First Publicly Funded Kindergarten

  • 1874
    Local Property Taxes Can Be Used To Pay For Public Schools

  • 1892
    Committee Of Ten Develops First National Standards

  • 1894
    Harvard Introduces Elective Courses In College

  • 1895
    Committee On College Entrance Requirements Founded

  • 1897
    National Congress Of Mothers Is Formed
    Dewey Introduces Concept Of Progressive Education

  • 1902
    College Entrance Examination Board Established

  • 1904
    First College For Black Women Opens
    National Colored Teachers Association Is Created

  • 1906
    Standard For High School Credit Developed

  • 1909
    Vocational Education Movement Grows
    Reformer Ellwood Cubberley Advocates Tracking Students
    Education Reformers Open First Middle Schools

  • 1912
    First Montessori School In U.S. Opens

  • 1917
    Federal Law Passed To Aid Vocational Education

  • 1918
    Mississippi Is Last State To Require School Attendance
    NEA Commission Revises Teaching Standards

  • 1921
    NEA Endorses District-Wide Salary Structure

  • 1926
    SAT Is Developed

  • 1935
    Iowa Every-Pupil Tests Created For K-8

  • 1944
    GI Bill Gives Education Aid To WWII Veterans

  • 1946
    Congress Passes National School Lunch Act

  • 1947
    Educational Testing Service Created

  • 1950
    Dick And Jane Readers Feature Whole Language Theory
    Law Provides Federal Aid To Certain Districts

  • 1954
    High Court Strikes Down School Segregation

  • 1955
    'Why Johnny Can't Read' Urges Return To Phonics Method

  • 1958
    National Defense Education Act Targets Math, Science, Foreign Language

  • 1960
    Open School Movement Begins

  • 1962
    Economist Milton Friedman Introduces Idea Of Tuition Vouchers

  • 1963
    Congress Increases Funds For College Expansion

  • 1964
    Johnson Outlines 'Affirmative Action' Approach To Civil Rights
    Civil Rights Act Is Passed

  • 1965
    Law Expands Federal Role In Education To Aid Low-Income Students
    Congress Passes Higher Education Act
    Head Start Is Launched

  • 1967
    Free School Movement Begins

  • 1968
    Congress Passes Bilingual Education Act

  • 1969
    National Assessment Of Educational Progress Begins

  • 1970
    Practice Of Mainstreaming Students Introduced
    First Federally Funded Magnet Schools Open

  • 1971
    Calif. School Funding Based On Property Taxes Rejected
    Schools That Get Federal Funds Cannot Discriminate
    Court Permits Busing To End Segregation

  • 1972
    First Federal Grants Provide College Aid To Lower-Income Students
    Title IX Prohibits Sex Discrimination In Schools

  • 1973
    Rehabilitation Act Requires Schools To Be Handicap Accessible
    Education Is Not A Right Guaranteed In U.S. Constitution
    N.J. High Court Finds Inequity Violates State Constitution

  • 1974
    Congress Passes Equal Educational Opportunities Act
    Schools Required To Help Non-English-Speaking Students Overcome Language Barriers
    First Experiment With School Choice Begins

  • 1975
    U.S. Helps Pay Costs For Students With Disabilities

  • 1977
    Modern Home School Movement Begins

  • 1978
    University's Minority Quotas Struck Down
    Calif. Cuts Property Taxes, Changes School Funding

  • 1979
    W.Va. Court Say Education Is Basic Right

  • 1980
    Department Of Education Given Cabinet-Level Status

  • 1981
    Congress Gives New Aid For Disadvantaged, Disabled Children

  • 1982
    Reagan Calls For Abolishing Education Dept.
    Home Schooling Legal In Most States

  • 1983
    States Can Give Tax Credits For Education Expenses, Including Religious Schools
    'A Nation At Risk' Report Calls For Sweeping Education Changes
    University Of Chicago Project Creates 'Everyday Mathematics'

  • 1986
    Study Indicates Failure Of Merit Pay Systems

  • 1988
    'Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know' Is Published

  • 1989
    Nation's Governors Meet For First Education Summit

  • 1990
    Congress Expands Support For Students With Disabilities
    Colleges Receiving Federal Funds Must Publicize Crime Data

  • 1991
    Afrocentric Schools Reintroduced
    Minnesota Passes First Modern Charter School Law

  • 1992
    New York City Expands Public School Choice
    Nation's Largest Private School Management Firm Founded
    Baltimore District Is First To Try Private Management

  • 1993
    Minneapolis Hires Private Firm To Run All Its Schools

  • 1994
    Goals 2000 Seeks To Set National Standards

  • 1995
    Report Links Smaller Classes In Early Grades To Achievement

  • 1996
    Conn. Court Says Minority Students Denied Equal Education
    Controversy Points To Difficult In Creating National Standards
    Successes Of All-Girls School Touted

  • 1998
    Decision Allowing Tuition Vouchers For Religious Education Stands
    Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act Enacted

  • 1999
    Florida Is First To Pass Statewide Tuition Voucher Law
    PTA Initiative Tries To Boost Parental Involvement In Education

  • 2000
    Florida Ends Affirmative Action In Public Education
    Mich. And Calif. Voters Reject Tuition Vouchers

  • 2002
    Court Says Tuition Vouchers Can Be Used For Religious Schools
    No Child Left Behind Law Introduces Major Education Reforms

  • 2003
    Court Rules On School's Affirmative Action Policies

  • 2004
    Texas A&M University Abolishes 'Legacy' Admissions
    National Assessment Of Educational Progress Exams Include Charter Schools

  • 2010
    Obama Calls For Overhaul Of No Child Left Behind Overhaul
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