Historical Events

World War II and Its Impact on Education

Education stretches the mind and exposes students to topics that they may have never been exposed to before. This can help them discover skills they didn’t even know they had.

It also provides students with the opportunity to meet people who may lead to job opportunities in their field of study or beyond. Many companies offer job listing on their websites, which is a great way to find out about potential new jobs.

1. World War II

With over a billion people killed, World War II was one of the bloodiest and largest wars in history. It also resulted in the spread of communist ideas and a shift in global power away from Western Europe, toward the United States and the Soviet Union.

Millions of Americans served in the Armed Forces, and many more supported the war effort at home by joining rationing programs or buying Liberty bonds. In addition, the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (more commonly known as the GI Bill) increased college enrollment rates for young men.

The onset of war led to mass manpower mobilization, and millions of women entered industries that would have been closed to them without the war. However, these jobs were often temporary, and Kossoudji and Dresser find that high school-age cohorts exposed to manpower mobilization saw a decline in their educational attainment after the war.

2. The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a prolonged economic downturn that began in 1929. It resulted from a combination of factors including a stock market crash, bank runs and reforms of the banking system; a reduction in the money supply that led to reduced credit and investment; and a lack of demand.

In response to the crisis, the Roosevelt administration established a series of social and economic programs known as the New Deal. These included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which provided work for unemployed youth; the TVA, which built dams to control flooding and provide electricity to rural areas; and the NRA, which instituted codes to help revive industry.

Many teachers felt compelled to embrace this new philosophy, which challenged them to take an active role in reforming the social order. This heightened tensions between educators and their business allies.

3. The Cold War

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union began a global standoff for dominance with many negative impacts. The cultural antagonism and economic competition between the two countries led to political confrontations that almost caused a world war.

It also influenced domestic policy. As the Cold War rhetoric heightened fear, there was a regression in social reforms such as civil rights and women’s issues.

In the wake of Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958 which provided funding for loans to college students, science, mathematics, foreign language and area studies, and vocational-technical training. This was the first time that the US provided funding for such a comprehensive educational program. The Truman Doctrine also promised aid to nations threatened by communist insurgency and expansion.

4. The Civil Rights Movement

After the Civil War, African Americans struggled to achieve a measure of social and economic equality. They were relegated to low-wage jobs in factories, farms and domestic work. They were excluded from some occupations completely, including many jobs connected to the military and government.

They used peaceful protest and civil disobedience to draw attention to their plight. A number of religious groups, student organizations and labor unions joined Black activists in these efforts.

In the 1960s, Black demonstrations led to a wave of federal civil rights legislation. Supreme Court decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education and the Montgomery bus boycott, as well as federal legislative initiatives such as the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, accelerated progress toward constitutional equality.

5. The Vietnam War

One major legacy of America’s longest war was its impact on domestic politics. The war sparked protests, riots and violence across the country, and contributed to a decline in public trust in government. It also had an economic impact. Wartime spending kept corporate profits high and unemployment low, but it also drove up inflation rates and diverted resources from social programs established under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty initiatives.

Conference panelists, including former Nebraska Senators Chuck Hagel and Bob Kerrey, spoke about how the war changed military strategies and shook American confidence in leadership. A final panel of artists—poets, photographers and musicians—examined the cultural sights and sounds of the era. From Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s antiwar anthem Ohio to Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On, these artists captured the conflicting emotions of the era.

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