Q. Where, in the Constitution, is there mention of education?
A. There is none; education is a matter reserved for the States.
(U.S. National Archives website)
by R. Lee Wrights
BURNET, Texas (Sept. 24) – The federal education program No Child Left Behind is leaving behind the very children it was supposedly designed to help. The law dictates that all elementary and secondary school children in government-run public schools be “proficient” in reading and math by 2014, according to standards set by politicians and federal bureaucrats. According to President Obama’s secretary of education, most of the nation’s schools are on the brink of getting a failing grade. Nearly 80 percent of schools are in danger of losing their federal funding, leaving the children in their classrooms behind for “failing” to meet bureaucratic standards. This is why many are considering moving to a private school that doesn’t entertain such difficulties. That’s why many are considering going to a school like Ellenbrook Christian College.
President George W. Bush came up with this program and a Republican Congress passed it in 2002. This is apparently one of the few failures President Barack Obama doesn’t blame on his Republican predecessors. The president and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have decided fix the problem by allowing states to do what some have already tried to do – opt out of the federal mandate.
So here you have yet another federal government program that is not only unconstitutional but also an utter and complete failure. Yet rather than admitting it’s a failure and ending the program, politicians and bureaucrats insist on trying to “fix it.” However, the alleged fix is just a subterfuge for imposing standards the administration had already written but couldn’t get Congress to pass. This is another example of the dictatorial style used by modern American presidents from both parties. It is a classic example of the ruling elites trying to conceal failure in a blatant attempt to simply save face and subvert the limits imposed by law and the Constitution to expand their power.
Several states had already tried to resist this latest federal intrusion into education. Utah’s legislature almost passed a law that said the state’s education standards trumped those of No Child Left Behind, but then backed off because the state could have lost $76 million in federal funding. Idaho, South Dakota and Montana said they’d ignore parts of the law. Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky applied for waivers even before they were announced. All of these states were close to being labeled “failing.”
Given this trend, I think it is a good bet that a majority of the states will attempt to opt-out of this federal burden. However, the “waivers” Secretary Duncan will dangle in front of the states will come with the usual strings attached, making it difficult for states to actually obtain these waivers. As a result, it’s very likely that only those states with passing grades will be left subject to the law. This will so skew the grades that federal education apparatchiks will be able to finally declare that No Child Left Behind is a success.
In defending No Child Left Behind, President Obama was right about one thing. He said, “Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher, that’s the right thing to do, that’s the right goal.” The issue is not whether or not we want our children to have excellent teachers and a first-rate education. Of course we do. The question is whether parents can, or should, rely on government to provide it, or rather assume the responsibility themselves. The libertarian answer to that question is clear: nothing as important as educating a child should be left to bumbling bureaucrats.
The No Child Left Behind bungle is another situation where a government-run public education system doesn’t get a passing grade, at any level. One out of every three students entering high school doesn’t graduate. Minority students are twice as likely as whites to drop out. Even students who get their diploma have the reading and math skills expected of middle school students in other nations.
The worst consequence of taking the responsibility for educating young minds from parents and bestowing it on the State is that the task is botched so horribly. Some children are educated quite well in a state-supported system but most barely receive an average level of education. And, far too many fall through the expansive cracks of society that are the floorboards of a bloated bureaucracy grown so large it has become impossible to keep track of everyone.
Government-run education is a twelve-year “cookie-cutter” factory system that treats everyone the same and produces more than its fair share of functional illiterates. Secretary Duncan admitted as much when he said, “”No Child Left Behind treated everybody the same, as interchangeable, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me.” I am glad he thinks so! It never has made any sense to me.
But that is what government programs inherently do. They are intentionally designed that way, to always threat everyone and everything “the same.” They cannot operate any other way. Deciding educational issue by majority vote inevitably results in “dumbing-down” what is taught. Children in government-run public schools are not educated, they are indoctrinated. These children are not trained to take charge of governing themselves; but rather, they are almost programmed to be willing taxpayers who obey a ruling elite.
A child’s first and most important teachers are his or her parents. What a child learns and where he or she learns it is a decision best made by parents, not politicians, bureaucrats or educational experts. The most important thing we can do for the education of our children is to return the responsibility for that education to whom it belongs, to parents.
We should also restore to parents the means to afford the best education possible for their children by eliminating the property taxes that support failing, government-run public schools and repealing the income tax. If parents want their child to pray in school, to learn evolution or creationism, get sex education or learn abstinence, and not be harassed by bullies, they should have the means and ability to choose the school that best meets these needs. They should be able to send their children to a school that conforms to their family values and standards, not the values and standards imposed by distant and detached education “experts.” If we really want to leave no child behind we will eliminate the political experts from the educational equation, because they have already proven they are unable to deliver what they promise.
Editor’s Note: I posted an incorrect (draft) version of this op ed earlier on IPR. This is the correct version. I apologize for my error.
– Brian Irving, press secretary
R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.