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Student Reactions to Sputnik

Sputnik, drawing by Ginger Carol Burrus, sixth grade, East Clinton School, Huntsville, Alabama, October 14, 1957 and

Essay about Sputnik by a girl, fifth-sixth grade, in a school on Wheeler Air Force Base, Oahu, Hawai'i Territory, October 1957

At the time of Sputnik’s launch, Congress was concerned about the state of science and math education in the United States. Columbia University anthropologist Rhoda B. Metraux studied attitudes of fifth- and sixth-grade students towards the Soviet satellite by asking them to write or make drawings about Sputnik. Several expressed excitement and optimism about Sputnik’s space-age potential.

Rhoda Bubendey Metraux Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Student Reactions to Sputnik Student Reactions to Sputnik Student Reactions to Sputnik

The National Defense Education Act

The Soviet Union’s successful 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, spurred Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. Perceiving an urgent need to train Americans in science, technology, languages, and other essential skills for Cold War defense, Congress committed the federal government to its most active role in education since the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. The NDEA fostered the development of new school curricula and supported student loans.