Historically public schools and public school teachers have been obvious targets for attacks by conservative critics. However, during the post World War II red scare, the rapid emergence of anti-communist sentiment and super-patriotic zeal dramatically increased their vulnerability. In many respects the arch conservatism of the 1950s has obvious parallels with political trends in American education this century. As in the 1950s, contemporary pressures by well-organised and powerful conservative groups, 'think tanks', politicians, and economic interests have been particularly successful in influencing educational policy and practice on a wide range of issues. Attention to the educational context of the 1950s, therefore, reasonably offers contemporary educators important historical insights into the ways in which socio-political forces profoundly shape and dramatically influence educational policy and practice.