Stanton Peele: Sputnik and Charter Schools: Neither Has Moved American Education Off Center:
"American leaders have been concerned to improve education since the 1950s, when the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 prompted endless soul-searching about deficiencies in American scientific education. It is now hard to recall the political and social turmoil Sputnik spawned. James Rutherford, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, compared two seismic events that focused Americans on the country's unpreparedness in an overseas enemy -- Pearl Harbor and Sputnik: "
It's my belief the current arguments between child centered 21st century technology-based schools and the traditional school model go back not just to Sputnik, but to Dewey, and the education reformers of the early 20th century. This article does a good job though of tying the current reforms and arguments for reforms in schools and the issues after the launching of Sputnik.