Education belongs to the people, not Washington

April 12, 2015


I consider knowledge to be the soul of a republic, and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as of the latter. Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree of it at a cheap and easy rate.” John Jay – Founding Father, First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Lost in the media hysteria over whether an Indiana pizzeria would embrace a gay wedding with a variety of pies was news that should have been the national conversation but was instead ho-hummed into the background.

On April 1st, the verdicts came down in an Atlanta courtroom for the remaining defendants in what is widely regarded as the worst education cheating scandal in U.S. history.

What started with a 2008 Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation into inordinate test score improvements led to a 2011 state report which in turn saw a Grand Jury indict almost 3 dozen participants.

12 refused plea bargains and went to trial. 11 of them were found guilty of racketeering for their roles as co-conspirators.

The shock on their faces when Judge Jerry Baxter denied bail pending appeal stating: “They have made their bed and they’re going to have to lie in it and it starts today.” was priceless. Each and every one are now facing less than comfortable prison beds for many years to come.

But while there is no doubt it was their own greed and pride that put them in jail, there is also the mitigating circumstance of a federalized education system that promotes arbitrary test scores above real world education.

The last time I checked, 2 + 2 still equals 4 and the English alphabet still consists of 26 letters. No amount of laptops, smart boards or more federal funding will change those basic facts.

The generation that grew up with many of them getting their K – 8 education in one room school houses, saved the world from Hitler and went on to send men to the moon and return them safely to Earth.

Yet in the late 70’s a Democrat controlled Congress decided that the Federal government was more suited than local school boards to educate our children and in October, 1979 President Carter signed into law the establishment of the Department of Education as a cabinet level agency.

What started with a $14 billion dollar budget has ballooned into the $69 billion a year bureaucratic black hole of today that has so far burned through over $1.4 trillion tax dollars since its inception.

And what has the American taxpayer gotten for that gob of cash?

Regulations and mandates that force millions of children into a monolithic machine more concerned with itself than educating the minds it uses as fodder for enlarging its power.

The DOE’s stated mission is to: “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” by establishing federal funding policies, collecting data and overseeing research, identifying and focusing attention on major issues, and enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.

Missing from that bureaucratic morass is the act of actually teaching our children.

Mr. Jay’s language may be archaic in today’s emoticon world but considering the abysmal record of the federal government’s intrusion into our schools these past 46 years he was spot on.

It is long past time to stop promoting the wicked and start protecting the weak. Get the Feds out of education and we get back to the educated citizenry our Republic needs.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the Sunday, April 12th 2015 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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