1952: Boomerang

Teachers hold in their hands the malleable minds of the nation's children. But despite the immense importance of what they do—or should do—they are wretchedly overworked, underpaid, and disregarded. And a discouraging number of them are incompetents.


As W. Edwards Deming applied his methods of statistical sampling to the Japanese postwar census, 7,500 miles to the east, another population event, the baby boomer explosion, was about to fundamentally reshape the American landscape in the 1950s—and affect the quality of math and science education in the United States into the twenty-first century.

The baby boomer population surge began in 1946 and continued until 1964. By the end of that 18-year period, the population of the United States had grown by an astounding 50,500,000. In the fall of 1952, when the first of the boomers turned six, 2 million of them arrived on the doorsteps of America's public schools. In 1953, another 2 million arrived. This population tsunami continued uninterrupted until 1970. America's public school system wasn't prepared for this onslaught.

What It Means to Teach

There was an “education war” raging in America in the early 1950s. An education war that was described by David Klein as “best understood as a protracted struggle between content and pedagogy.”2 Simply put, there was a contentious debate about how to teach and what to teach. And America's baby boomer schoolkids were about to enter ...

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