detp of edu

The Constitution and the U.S. Department of Education

 

Perhaps the reader remembers the now infamous Republican presidential debate in which Governor Rick Perry had an embarrassing moment of forgetfulness when asked to name three federal government departments he would eliminate?  Perry supporters were horrified. Even his opponents on the stage were embarrassed for him. Liberal members of the media, on the other hand, could hardly contain their glee as they replayed the embarrassing moment ad nauseam. Had Governor Perry been a better student of the Constitution he could have delivered the political equivalent of a homerun.  Instead he gave a halting, confused response that cost him any chance he might have had at winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Even a Constitutional neophyte watching the debate knew that the governor had missed a golden opportunity.  He could have easily turned the question around on his inquisitor. The response students of the Constitution wanted to hear Perry give was this:  “Just three? I can’t name three government departments I would keep. They all exceed the limits on the executive branch envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.”  This response would have made the critical point that the federal government had grown so far beyond the original intent of the framers that it would be unrecognizable to them.  It would have also made the point that the budget will not be brought under control until the extra-constitutional beltway bureaucracy is brought under control.

Given the chance to eliminate extra-constitutional government departments, a good place to start would be the U.S. Department of Education.  Why the Department of Education?  Three reasons: 1) It is unconstitutional, 2) It contributes nothing to the betterment of education at the local level, and 3) It coercively advances a political agenda that is at odds with a substantial segment of the American population.

As to the constitutionality of the Department of Education, Article 1, Section 8 does not even mention education as an enumerated power.  Consequently, a liberal Supreme Court had to stretch the commerce clause way out of shape to use it as the rationale for justifying the U.S. Department of Education. Misapplication of the commerce clause has been a favorite strategy of liberal Supreme Court justices for a long time.  The intentional abuse of this clause is one of the primary reasons the federal government is now an unmanageable behemoth exceeding the intent of the framers by orders of magnitude.

According to Charles Murray, author of the book, Real Education, “American education had been improving since World War II.  Then, when the federal government began to get involved, it got worse…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…the long, intrusive, expensive role of the federal government in K-12 education does not have any credible evidence for a positive effect on American education.”  If the U.S. Department of Education does not make a substantial positive difference in student performance—and it doesn’t—why continue to waste millions of taxpayer dollars every year funding it?

Perhaps the worst aspect of the Department of Education is that it has become a giant propaganda machine funded by taxpayer dollars to advance an agenda that runs counter to the values of many Americans as well as the intent of the framers.  The Department of Education is a huge entrenched bureaucracy controlled by the left. It uses the power of the purse to coercively indoctrinate administrators, teachers, and students in ways that encourage such aspects of the left’s agenda as homosexuality, revisionist history, multiculturalism, and socialism.  In the process, its programs emphasize self-esteem over self-discipline, victimhood over personal responsibility, compliance over individual liberty, and the entitlement mentality over the work ethic.  Even Ronald Reagan failed to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education when he could and should have.  Let’s hope the next president won’t make the same mistake. In fact, maybe the next president will eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Labor—the three Governor Perry should have named during that ill-fated debate.

 

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Jacob "Jake" Steele

Dr. Jacob Steele is a professor of Political Science and the author of numerous books and articles in this field.

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