Ron Paul was in Minnesota this past Saturday and will be in Minnesota on Feb. 7 to caucus. The presidential hopeful says he wants to return liberty to the citizens of the U.S. He wants to end entitlements and cut $1 trillion from federal spending. However, the 12-term Texas congressman’s exuberance for cutting all entitlements and $1 trillion from the federal budget will have disastrous effects on many areas of government and society, none more than the U.S. Department of Education.
Paul has argued for the end to the U.S. Department of Education for years. It is one of his many mantras he doles out to mainly white middle-class crowds. In Paul’s mind, the U.S. Department of Education is a violation of the U.S. Constitution — a superfluous department and one that should only exist at the state level. Unfortunately, Paul’s zeal to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education would push back large social and cultural efforts to give students in dire circumstances a real chance at education and class readjustment.
Paul’s argument to rid our country of the U.S. Department of Education seems to stem from two points: First, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t mandate the cabinet-level department, and second, it’s inefficient. Indeed, Paul is correct the U.S. Constitution doesn’t mandate the U.S. Department of Education; however, the U.S. Constitution also doesn’t say that it can’t be amended, expanded or tweaked. The Founders wisely knew the U. S. wasn’t a static country, so why should we have a static constitution? The U.S. Constitution is a living document and one that should change and evolve as our society changes and evolves.
The U.S. Department of Education is certainly not without its problems. However, to suggest that since there are inefficiencies, we should just get rid of the entire educational infrastructure is ludicrous, and it makes no sense. The Department of Education could be improved, of course, but one could say that about any federal, state or local governmental department. This is not a new argument, and it has become somewhat played out. Paul’s continual assault on a department whose overarching goal is to ensure proper, equal and equitable education for all citizens in the U.S. is typical of not just Libertarians but Republicans in general.
Libertarians like Paul enjoy rolling out the tired argument that more government means citizens are unable to exercise proper liberty, and superfluous federal departments that infringe on said freedom should be abolished, including the Department of Education. But who will ensure a standard of education is maintained? Who will ensure children in the lowest economic circumstances will receive education? Who will ensure deserving students receive federal aid to attend college?
In Paul’s U.S., those functions would be relegated to the states — some of the same states that enforced segregation, some of the same states that worked against educational reform and some of the same states that favor hunting over reading, writing and arithmetic. Those are the states Paul wants running the most important thing children can receive in their lives: an education. Education may not be a right expressly outlined in our country’s founding documents, but it is something needed in order to exercise the rights properly. Therefore, education must be a right and not just a right granted by a document created 225 years ago but also a human right and one necessary for the continuation of humanity.
There are problems. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act, which is administered by the Department. It’s a horrid program and one that has drawn the ire of many education activists, teachers and others. The program should be changed, but that’s, unfortunately, the prerogative of Congress. There are problems, and those problems need reform.
But reform doesn’t mean full-scale removal of a department integral to our nation’s infrastructure. Overall, states and local communities still maintain control over education, but the education of the public is too important to be left solely in the hands of states and local communities, many of which are woefully underfunded. There must be a common thread linking the dialogue about education with all educational communities, from the state level to the local level.
Education is under attack and, by extension, the future of our country and citizenry is under attack from Paul, libertarians and Republicans. This is a critical issue, and it will continue to be after the 2012 election. We shouldn’t let Paul and his libertarian zealots destroy something so vital to the propagation of American minds. Education seeks to inform the public and level the class issues that plague our country. Without an overarching department working to maintain a standard of education for all citizens, then our country will fall back into an era of disastrous and inadequate education.
Is reform needed? Absolutely. Could education be better in the U.S.? Of course. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise; however, the best tool we have to encourage and enforce reform and give American students a fighting chance in the 21st century is the U.S. Department of Education. We shouldn’t let anyone take away that chance from children. Let’s reform the department and make it better for the future, not take away a tool to help children garner success.