After World War I, the nation welcomed the end of the war but faced a new challenge in education. Twenty-five percent of men drafted into the war were illiterate. Distressed by this sobering statistic, the National Education Association (NEA) partnered with the American Legion to find a solution and in so doing to find ways to gain public support for education.
The solution they hit upon was American Education Week (AEW), born at the NEA's Representative Assembly in 1921. The first AEW took place that year in early December but in following years has always occurred the week before Thanksgiving. The activities are arranged and organized by local school districts. Events take place inside schools and serve to recognize schools' staff, involve parents and reach out to the community about the value of education.
As the 20th century progressed, education would become the mostimportant tool for personal and national success. Recognition of this reality led to changes in policy and advocacy as the Great Depression, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement and globalization each brought new demands and needs. AEW changed with the times as well; each year's observance followed a theme, one chosen to address new challenges in education facing the country. Here we present a selection of promotional posters from the NEA Collection in Gelman Library's Special Collections Research Center.