Key segments of the corporate sector, conservative interest groups, the National Governors Association (NGA), and the senior Bush administration drew both on the imagery of the age of information, and the problems inherent in a failing national school system to establish a major national policy initiative on education, referred to as America 2000. At its center was a well-focused emphasis on academics, the adoption of world class standards, and a call to accountability of students, teachers, and schools to produce results, with real-world consequences for failure (Pressley, 1998). President George W. H. Bush convened the Educational Summit of 1989, attended by the 50 governors.
The summit resulted in the formation of six National Educational Goals in 1990 (ultimately eight) and the creation of a National Educational Goals Panel charged with the mandate of issuing annual reports on the nation’s progress in meeting them. The goals included elements of the Great Society’s emphasis on preschool and parental education. Goal 3 focused on academic competency in the core subject areas. These new basics included English and civics, as well as science, mathematics, and foreign language study.
Panel members viewed these subjects as essential for gaining the skills and knowledge needed for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our Nation’s economy (Pressley, 1998). Mathematics and science, prominently featured, had their own goal statement in Goal 5.
Data analysis & interpretation
Notwithstanding the dual focus on economic development and citizenship, the stated objectives for Goal 6 placed a clear priority in the vocational realm. Citizenship was not highlighted per se, although it was assumed that greater economic and vocational opportunity would better enable individuals to participate in the fruits of U. S. democracy and civilization. The negative was also implicit. Those who do not attain the required level of education will suffer, economically, socially, politically, and culturally. These assumptions, which laid the basis for federal policy on adult literacy education in the 1990s, were more thoroughly articulated in the major reports of the era, to which we now turn.
In the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration commissioned the Hudson Institute to study factors that needed to be addressed to meet the emerging challenges of the workplace in light of the competitive and knowledge demands of a global and postindustrial economy. Workforce 2000 (Johnston & Packer, 1987) was not designed “to provide policy prescriptions” in an overly precise sense. Academic and popular studies of the postindustrial society were available, which the authors of the Hudson study liberally drew on. Workforce 2000 provided a particular niche in the postindustrial literature by linking anticipated trends to broad range economic and educational policy implications.