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In the midst of the US civil war, President Lincoln and the US Congress passed the Morrill Act and established public land-grant universities in this country. These institutions have become a cornerstone for supporting the education of ordinary citizens, and a very public commitment on the part of the federal government and the states to this vision.
Unfortunately, that vision is fading, as state support has fallen dramatically – shrinking by about a third in just the last decade. A new report by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Public Research Universities: Recommitting to Lincoln’s Vision — An Educational Compact for the 21st Century, details some of the crisis. At stake here, is the premise that we as a country commit to educating our citizens. For physicists, we risk some of the most important ways in which we help students learn physics and appreciate the role physics plays in driving the economy, providing innovation and discovery that impact our everyday lives, and solving difficult problems that confront us from many directions.
With the evolving political scene jostling the applecart of our understanding of the role of government in supporting education, we need to pay particular attention to how public colleges and universities will fare in the face of new ideologies. Protecting education and educational opportunities must become a task for all of us. I urge you to read the AAA&S report, and consider how APS can help you make the message known about the importance of supporting education to your state and federal elected representatives.
Disclaimer – The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.