Was ever a government department so unloved?
President Carter signed the necessary legislation in October 1979, and the Department of Education (ED) came into being the following year. Almost immediately, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan promised to abolish it. Once in office, however, Reagan didn't have the necessary Congressional support to disestablish it.
Further promises were made by Republicans, as late as 1996, to kill the department, but President George W. Bush's “No Child Left Behind Act” was a stunning volte face that has assured the continuation of the department, possibly forever.
Several articles set out why ED should be abolished including Devvy Kidd's “Department of Education Must be Abolished” (http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=41802)and “Elimination Lost: What happened to abolishing the Department of Education?” by Veronique de Rugy & Marie Gryphon (http://www.cato.org/research/articles/gryphon-040211.html).
While I agree that ED should be abolished, there is only one reason in the above articles that I agree with, and that is that there is no Constitutional authority for the Federal government to have anything to do with education.
For me, that's enough.
I do not subscribe to Miss Kidd's argument that ED will churn out little communists, nor do I agree that John Dewey's influence on American education was anywhere near as sinister as she maintains. His theories weren't perfect, few theories are, and Dewey did much to engage more children in learning, and these positive effects are still felt today.
I don't agree with Miss Kidd's statement that the United States had the best education system in the world until the creation of ED, either.
The one thing that makes ranting on any subject safe is that whatever you say about the United States is true for at least ten million people. SOME of our schools are among the best in the world; SOME are among the worst. One thing you can be sure of is that there will be great debate over which is which.
Okay, suppose you don't believe that just because there is no Constitutional provision for Federal involvement in education is enough to abolish ED, perhaps you would go for the creeping politicalization of education.
Once the Federal politicians get involved in education, they will meddle with every aspect of it that they possibly can. Experiences of countries that have “national curricula,” like France and UK, have politicians changing what goes on in schools so much that each round of new policies stimulates a slew of resignations and early retirements.
They mess with education because it's a “hot button” with the electorate, and it's easy to show that they've changed things. It's easier to fiddle around with education than it is to do anything about the transportation system, pensions, or global warming.
Left to continue, ED will result in the same things happening here.
Supposedly ED was established to “create programs to generate funds for education and enforcement of privacy and civil rights.” These sound like the jobs of the Treasury and Justice Departments to me.
In her stimulating book, The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby attacks the dumbing down of expectations in America. Among other things, she suggests we all go away and have a good read and think about Ralph Waldo Emerson's “The American Scholar,” in which that sage of Concord envisaged a new, uniquely American breed of thinking and scholarship.
However, like most liberals, Miss Jacoby cannot resist the temptation to meddle in everyone's life and argues in favor of a national curriculum, and this is a very bad idea.
1. A national curriculum begins as a “base line” to set out common information that all school children should receive, no matter where they are, what their background is, or what their personal educational needs are.
2. Once having established the “base line” there is the accountant's desire to know whether all that Federal funding is working, so national tests are instituted.
3. Once the national tests are instituted, you can bet that Federal funding will go to the more successful schools.
4. The less successful schools then begin teaching so that basic minimum of prescribed knowledge is transferred at the expense of everything else.
At that point, the ED, the President, and every Congressman who ever picked up a pencil claims the success and proposes that this great experiment be repeated. Before you know it, things start to look like the most prescriptive days in France when at 10.15 a.m. on a Tuesday, every child in each year group was on the same textbook page across the country.
Like that prospect? Then support the continuation of the Department of Education.