The Weekly Sam: Why the Federal Government Should Get Out of Education by Sam Blumenfeld

Most Americans want less government, smaller government and lower taxes. The only
way to accomplish this is by abolishing federal departments and bureaucracies. As far
back as the Reagan administration, Republicans promised to abolish the Department of
Education. They couldn’t do it then because they lacked a majority in Congress. But
whatever happened to the plan to abolish the Department of Education when Republicans
became the majority? Not only did they forget their promise, but in September 1996 they
passed the single largest increase in federal education funding: $3.5 billion. Who were
the Republicans trying to impress? The National Education Association?
The basic question is: Can good education be provided in the U.S. without the help or
intrusion of the federal government? The answer is clearly yes. In fact, there is ample
evidence indicating that the present decline in educational quality is a direct result of
federal funding which has been used by the educators to fund more and more expensive
educational malpractice.

A little historical background will help us understand why the federal role in education in
America is more of an aberration than a natural development. There is no mention of
education in the U.S. Constitution. However, in 1785 and 1787, while the United States
were still under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress passed the
Northwest Ordinance Acts which provided for the orderly settlement of the Northwest
Territory and encouraged the establishment of schools in the territory by stating:
“Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the
happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be encouraged.” The
new states were required to set aside the 16th section of each township to be used for
educational purposes. But there was no requirement that the schools be government
owned and operated.

Seventy-five years later, in 1862, Congress passed and President Lincoln signed the
Morrill Land Grant Act providing each loyal state with 30,000 acres of land for each
Senator and Representative, the land to be used for agricultural and mechanical schools
under a measure proposed by Senator Justin S. Morrill of Vermont. Five years later, in
1867, a federal Office of Education was established. Its purpose was:

“To collect such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the
several States and Territories, and to diffuse such information respecting the organization and
management of schools and school systems, and methods of teaching as shall aid the People of
the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems, and
otherwise promote the cause of education throughout the country.”

It should be noted that the National Education Association had been founded ten years
earlier in 1857 and that its members called for the establishment of a federal department
of education at the founding convention. And it is obvious that in that statement of
purpose was an expansionist view of the government’s future role in education.
After World War I, the NEA began a long range campaign to get federal aid for public
education. From 1867 to 1940–a period of 73 years–the Congress passed about 11 minor
pieces of legislation related to education. The fear of federal control of schools kept most
legislators from voting for federal aid to public education. But resistance was gradually
broken down by such acts as the National School Lunch Act of 1946, the School Milk
Program Act of 1954.

But it was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 passed during the
Johnson administration which opened the floodgates of the U.S. Treasury for the benefit
of the education establishment. From 1965 to 1983–18 years–there were 43 education
acts passed by the Congress, including the establishment in 1979 of a U.S. Department of
Education with cabinet status. In the year 1994 alone, there were about 180 educational
restructuring bills before Congress! The three most important bills enacted were the
Goals 2000 Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, and the Improving America’s
Schools Act, a reauthorization of the ESEA of 1965. All of this legislation was passed
with much Republican help. In short, the Congress launched an avalanche of bills which
virtually amounted to a cultural revolution.

It seemed as if all restraints had been removed on government expansion and intrusion
into education, and the Republican Congress did nothing to reverse the trend. That is
why the federal government has become a government of unlimited power.
We must return to the principle of limited government if we wish to reduce the cost of
government and its unwarranted intrusion in the education of our children. A limited
federal government does only those things that cannot be done by the states or the private
sector. The purpose of taxes is to pay for government not change society.
There is no doubt that the federal intrusion in education has harmed education and
produced the dumbing down effect. Test scores attest to this bizarre phenomenon. Since
1962, SAT verbal scores have declined despite billions of federal dollars pumped into
public education. In September 1993, the U.S. Department of Education revealed that
some 90 million adult Americans have grossly inadequate reading and writing skills,
despite compulsory school attendance. The more federal money Congress pumps into
education the worse it gets. Why? Because educational malpractice is very expensive,
and without federal funding we’d have much less of it.

The simple truth is that federal education programs cost the taxpayers billions of dollars,
and not one of these programs has actually improved education. Claims have been made
that Headstart is a successful program. But research indicates that whatever gains
children make in Headstart are lost by the third grade. Federal education grants subsidize

a liberal academic elite with its secular humanist,
socialist agenda, thus violating the Constitutional prohibition against establishing a state
religion: Humanism.

The Data Collection System of the National Center for Education Statistics threatens
family privacy and freedom. Children are not a “national resource” to be monitored and
controlled for use by the state or industry. They are individuals whose lives belong to
themselves, not to “the economy.”

The federal government has institutionalized educational malpractice by supporting
unsound educational theories and practices which have found their way into the public
schools via the federally funded National Diffusion Network. Federal aid to public
education simply reinforces a socialist, government owned and operated education system
which distorts market values and encourages monopoly union practices.
Meanwhile, the education establishment continues to grow and prosper. In 1982, the
average public school teacher’s salary was $19,274. In 1995 it was up to $37,643., and in
2008 it us up to $47,602. In 1982, per pupil expenditure was $2,726. In 1995-96 the
national average was up to $6,213, and in 2009 it was up to $9,963. In 1984, total
expenditure for public education was $134.5 billion. In 2002 it had risen to $420 billion.

In short, never has public education been more generously supported by the taxpayer and
never have our schools seen more violence, academic disarray, and parental
dissatisfaction than the present. What is even more shocking is that over four million
students must be drugged daily with Ritalin in order to be able to attend class.
Today, well-connected change agents like Mark Tucker are busy imposing on America
the new Human Resources Development System, exuberantly described by Tucker in an
18-page letter to Hillary Clinton when her husband was elected President. Tucker
described his system as “a seamless web of opportunities to develop one’s skills that
literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone–young and old,
poor and rich, worker and full-time student.”

And so, in place of academic excellence, we have Outcome Based Education, Whole
Language, Multiculturalism, Skinnerian Mastery Learning, National Teaching Standards
and Certification, School-Based Clinics, Attitude Assessments, Global Citizenship, and
Socialized Medicine for every student.

What is actually taking place is a cultural revolution engineered by behavioral
psychologists, humanist educators, and socialist change agents using a whole galaxy of
education programs to implement their agenda, financed by the federal government.
And much of this has taken place when Republicans were in control of Congress. And
that accounts for the extreme frustration of conservatives who vote Republican but get
liberal results. When will this change?

The takeover of the White House and the federal government by radical leftists has finally
awakened the American people to what has happened to this country since we started
allowing the federal government to exceed all limits placed on it by the Constitution. But
in order to succeed in restoring the principles of government held by our founding fathers,
we must return to limited government. This can only be done if the American people
realize the potential for tyranny inherent in a government education system.

The most important institution in a socialist state is a government owned and controlled
school system wherein children can be indoctrinated to accept a socialist way of life. And
the best way to prevent this from occurring is to return to the concept of educational
freedom in which the federal government has no role in education.
Local public schools can easily become private institutions governed by local trustees and
supported by tuition fees. This would greatly reduce the tax burden on home owners and
provide more than enough resources to pay for the tuitions of poor families. The costs of
education would decrease dramatically since education would once more become reality
based wherein the fundamental academic subjects would be taught without the added
costs of educational malpractice. Individual intelligence would be enhanced, while
collectivist group-think would be discarded.

Can this be done? Only if America’s conservative leaders demand that it should be done.
The home-school movement has already proven that parents can actually teach better
than our high-priced professionals, that children progress better academically when taught
at home, and that the cost of educating a child at home is less than $1,000 a year.
If Americans want to once more experience what it means to be free, they must burst out
of the high-priced straitjacket imposed on them by the socialist education tyrants. If they
want better education at lower cost, then the prescription for success is simple: get the
government out of education.

This article is from the Sam Blumenfeld Archives.