Remembering the First Secretary of Education


On March 30, Shirley Hufstedler, the nation’s first Secretary of Education, died at age 90. Before and after her public service as a member of President Carter’s cabinet, Hufstedler had a very distinguished career as an attorney and as a judge. Her many accomplishments are highlighted in the New York Times obituary, “Shirley Hufstedler, U.S. Judge and Cabinet’s First Education Secretary, Dies at 90,” written by Sam Roberts, and in an earlier profile in the New York Times Magazine, “The Judge Goes to Washington,” by Phyllis Theroux, which was published shortly after the Reagan administration assumed office (June 08, 1980: SM, 11).

Although she served just slightly more than a year as Secretary of State, Hufstedler wrote the following open letter to his successor in the Reagan administration, which I think is of considerable interest because it suggests both how much and how little things have changed over the…

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