Space career hopes dashed

14th January 2000 at 00:00
BY THE year 2000 American students were to have been well-prepared for a career in space, travelling regularly to other planets, and speaking a language universal to a world federation of nations.

But while television was expected to play a critical role in instruction, there was no mention of computers.

That, at least, was the way that Americans in 1960 saw schools of the future. They sealed their education prophecies in a copper-covered time capsule at the headquarters of the largest United States teachers' union. Forty years later staff members quietly dug it out during an unceremonious and little-publicised millennial excavation in the basement.

State governors gave their predictions to the National Education Associationat the height of the Cold War, just after the launch of Sputnik frightened Americans into believing that the Soviet Union was more scientifically advanced than the USA.

"I firmly believe that our educational system will resist all collectivist tendencies ... and will exist to serve a democracy and not an omnipotent national state," wrote Kentucky governor Albert Chandler.

The prognostications were generally positive, however, foreseeing high-quality universal education. Nebraska governor Ralph Brooks predicted that students would routinely visit other planets by an "anti-gravity machine or similar device" and speak a universal language "developed by, and for, a world federation of countries".

Jon Marcus in Boston


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