A Study in Education
At the time the Constitution was written, education was not even considered a function of local government, let alone the federal government.
But the Federal Governments Department of Education’s shaky constitutionality goes way beyond that.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates the things over which Congress has the power to legislate. Not only does the list not include education, while there is no plausible rationale for squeezing education in under the commerce clause, We are sure the Supreme Court found a rationale, but it cannot have been plausible.
Article 1, Section 8.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
Philosophically speaking, the framers of America’s limited government had a broad allegiance to what some Catholics will call the principle of subsidiarity.
In the secular world, the principle of subsidiarity means that local government should do only those things that individuals cannot do for themselves, state government should do only those things that local governments cannot do, and the federal government should do only those things that the individual states cannot do. Education is something that individuals acting alone and cooperatively can do, let alone something local or state governments can do.
If you thinks us insane, look around… There are 10 private schools in Madison County, TN alone… The average college acceptance rate is 93% (view national acceptance rates) and the minority enrollment is about 11% of the student body; the student:teacher ratio is about 12:1. They do all of this with a lesser cost per student rate then public schools.
We should be explicit about our own animus in this regard. We don’t think the Department of Education is constitutionally legitimate, let alone appropriate. We would favor abolishing it even if, on a pragmatic level, it had improved American education.
We should be explicit about our own animus in this regard. We don’t think the Department of Education is constitutionally legitimate, let alone appropriate. We would favor abolishing it even if, on a pragmatic level, it had improved American education. But we are a small minority on that point apparently, so let’s move on.
First of all… How did we get here?
Well Charles Murray, a W.H. Brady Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, explains that the first major federal spending on education was triggered by the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik, in the fall of 1957, which created a perception that the United States had fallen behind the Soviet Union in science and technology. The legislation was specifically designed to encourage more students to go into math and science, and its motivation is indicated by its title: National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. It marked the beginning of large-scale involvement of the U.S. federal government in education.
Supporters pointed to federal legislative precedents, such as the Morrill Act in 1862, which granted land to the states that they could then sell to finance the establishment of colleges, and the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, which funded vocational agricultural education programs.
Defendents contended that they were not interfering with the fundamental principle that states and local communities were responsible for the conduct of American schooling and institutions of higher education. Opponents maintained, however, that categorical aid, such as was proposed by the NDEA, would shape educational policy and would place the federal government in charge. This was not, in their view, a constructive policy on the part of the federal government. Other critics, such as the National Education Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, objected to what they felt was the narrow focus of the NDEA on science and technology plus the act’s reliance on the National Science Foundation university-oriented community for direction as opposed to the broader approach of the education-oriented U.S. Department of Education. In spite of such criticisms, the act was passed by Congress and signed into law in September 1958 by Eisenhower.
But the left was not through, the NDEA was amended in 1964. The words “which have led to an insufficient proportion of our population educated in science, mathematics, and modern language and trained in technology” were deleted, as was the reference to giving preference in student loans to those preparing to teach and those with superior capacity in mathematics, science, engineering, or a modern foreign language. Aid was now available for equipment and materials to be used in the instruction of an expanded list of subjects: “science, mathematics, history, civics, geography, modern foreign language, English or reading in public elementary or secondary schools.” One new feature provided assistance for those who were teaching, or preparing to teach, “disadvantaged youth.”
The federal government was now ensnared in education and but its origins elsewherethey were in civil rights. You see the Supreme Court declared segregation of the schools unconstitutional in 1954, butnotwithstanding a few highly publicized episodes such as the integration of Central High School in Little Rock and James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippithe pace of change in the next decade was glacial.
Was it necessary for the federal government to act? Maybe.
Segregation of the schools had been declared unconstitutional, and it was apparent that constitutional rights were being violated on a massive scale in every state, but with President Johnson’s Great Society programs that began in the mid-1960s, it was inevitable that the federal government would attempt to reduce black-white disparities, and it did so in 1965 with the passage of two landmark bills the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act. The Department of Education didn’t come into being until 1980, but large-scale involvement of the federal government in education dates from 1965.
The cost has been astronomical. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was Title I, initially authorizing more than a billion dollars annually (equivalent to more than $7 billion today) to upgrade the schools attended by children from low-income families. The program has continued to grow ever since, disposing of about $19 billion in 2010 (No Child Left Behind has also been part of Title I).
Was all this worth it…. probably not…. there is no reputable evidence suggesting it did. Neither will we will not try to make the case that federal involvement caused the downturn. The effort that went into programs associated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the early years was not enough to have changed American education, and the more likely causes for the downturn are the spirit of the 1960sdo your own thingand the rise of progressive education to dominance over American public education. But this much can certainly be said: The overall data on the performance of American K-12 students give no reason to think that federal involvement, which took the form of the Department of Education after 1979, has been an engine of improvement.
Posted by The Jackson Press ~ January 4, 2017.
~ From Lynn Finney ~
This article makes one err. It is wholly contained in this sentence – We are sure the Supreme Court found a rationale, but it cannot have been plausible.
The err? As far as I know, there has never been a court challenge to the constitutionality of federal involvement in education that has reached the Supreme Court. The one case of which I am aware, the plaintiff was bought off and the case never proceeded.
This is one of things I’ve promoted for a long time – a class action challenge to the constitutionality of the federal involvement in education. In that regard, the Jackson Press piece lays some good groundwork, bearing in mind that some states, like Washington State, do incorporate, in the state constitution, provisions regarding education. This, however, is not a requirement of the Enabling Act of 1889.
~ COMMENTARY ~
Anyone who knows me knows that my disdain for what is called public education is a long held stand. It began when I was in 10th grade and the new (younger than most teachers) English teacher began his stint at the high school I was going to. It took me all of about one week in his class to know that he was certainly NOT the quality of the other teachers – he wanted to be our *friend* and his more than casual dress made sure his intent was seen by all. The rest of the teaching staff dressed in a professional manner and taught the same way. The other ‘students’ were our *friends* – the teachers were there to TEACH us the Basics in subjects we would need to get a job and use the rest of our lives. The next lesson I had in how *education* was being watered down (DUMBED DOWN) was when my two oldest daughters were in grade school and the district was moving from letter graded report cards to parent teacher conferences. I had saved several written papers the girls had brought home to take to the conferences . I met with the first teacher and listened to her go on and on about how wonderful it was to have my daughter in her class – etc etc etc . Then she asked if I had any questions and I placed the papers for that daughter on the desk and asked how she came to give a good grade on it as I could hardly read what was written. To which this young teacher replied they don’t grade on penmanship, they grade on *content*. I then asked her how in the heck they could know what the *content* was when you couldn’t read it due to the poor penmanship?? Her insane reply to me was, “Oh, Mrs. Juntti, you just don’t understand, you are just a parent”. To say I was a bit upset would be a gross understatement. I then went to the next room for the meeting with the teacher of my second daughter. To this very day I am still shaking my head as it went almost word for word as did the first meeting…. right down to the content/penmanship exchange and that statement that still screams in my head .. “Oh, Mrs. Juntti, you just don’t understand, you are just a parent”
Nancy PEE LOUSY illustrated that same mentality when she infamously stated that they couldn’t know what was in the bill until after they passed it. – or – Hillary’s, “At this point what difference does it make?”
With the major *education funding* issue here in Washington State I did a search for what is the definition of BASIC EDUCATION in Washington State. I have not found any source to list what Basic Education includes which means it can mean anything the teachers union and legislators want it to mean at the time without any regulation as to what it is we are funding and paying for.
It is no secret that I oppose the tax funding for anything outside the BASICS (Math, English, Civics, History, General Science). All the rest is what I call extra’s and should be privately funded – not included in the basic education funding package. That means all the sports and their related expenses – equipment, uniforms, transportation to and from games – stadiums – gymnasiums, coaches, locker rooms, etc. It would shock a lot of you if those expenses were itemized out separately so you could see how much those EXTRA’S are costing you and it should really tick you off if your child doesn’t play those games. Instead of adding CLASSROOM to teach the things we need in life we pay for buses and drivers, lawn maintenance, or gym floor maintenance. How long before we are told that watching a blob of paint dry is a lesson in patience and focus.
I have also believed that schools should be under LOCAL Authority – not the Federal level – not the State level – not even the County level – that LOCAL control would be at the DISTRICT level where the folks live and can more closely monitor what is being taught and control the $$$$ being charged via taxes. Each level this authority goes up adds many costs to pay those employees and the facilities for them, space, phones, utilities.
As long as we have no codified definition of what EDUCATION includes we could be paying for a lot more than those subjects we approve of our children being taught… or what they are NOT being taught (dumbing down indoctrination).
Demand your legislators provide a CLEAR definition of what constitutes EDUCATION before they fund one red cent for it. Return discipline and professionalism to the classrooms.
~ RESPONSE ~
Since we’re looking at the history of public education, here is an excerpt from my website (actually about the con-con) that discusses education in 1886. Excerpt follows:
Notice that even though the federal government has NO (zero!) constitutional authority to involve itself in education federal influence is not new. In fact, the growth of public education has been concurrent with the growth of the federal government. Let’s take a look at a book published in 1886 when the constitution was not quite 100 years old and respect for its guidelines had been obliterated during the Civil War. Zach Montgomery, a lawyer and elected office-holder, wrote Poison Drops in the Federal Senate The School Question From A Parental And Non-Sectarian Standpoint because he objected to mandatory public education. His facts showed that states which followed the “New England System” of requiring public education (anti-parental states in his opinion) produced more criminals, paupers and suicides than the parental states.
In addition, Montgomery accuses all the states (38 at that time) of indoctrinating students through a re-defining of certain words, teaching them the lie that the states are subordinate to a strong centralized federal government. The reason he supposes for such a twisting of historical facts being forcibly fed to the children is that control and corruption of education were necessary to facilitate a takeover of the federal government. I submit to you that the takeover has indeed occurred and the public education fraud continues today in order to support the facade that amazingly still keeps many people from realizing that we have lost in Montgomery’s words “constitutional liberty and the inestimable right of democratic self-government” — and the people no longer have any influence in the governing of the country.
“But they well understand that before striking this blow the minds of the people must be prepared to receive it. And what surer or safer preparation could possibly be made than is now being made, by indoctrinating the minds of the rising generation with the idea that ours is already a consolidated government; that the States of the Union have no sovereignty which is not subordinate to the will and pleasure of the Federal head, and that our Constitution is the mere creature of custom, and may therefore be legally altered or abolished by custom?
Such are a few of the pernicious and poisonous doctrines which ten millions of American children are today drinking in with the very definitions of the words they are compelled to study. And yet the man who dares to utter a word of warning of the approaching danger is stigmatized as an enemy to education and unfit to be mentioned as a candidate for the humblest office.”
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