Opposing the Department of Education Doesn’t Mean Opposing Education

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Ron Paul seems to get attacked on his stance on education. At first glance it seems that getting rid of the department of education would be insane. Your first reaction is to think “oh, he doesn’t think people should be able to get an education,” but this judgement isn’t fair. Somehow it seems like we’ve gotten to a point where in order to support something people are required to support it on a massive scale and in an absolute fashion. For some of us we just don’t see our federal government handling our education better than the average state. For the most part we’re not opposed to public education and certainly not opposed to teacher’s unions. We don’t want to hack away and destroy education in America, as many Ron Paul haters seem to think. We simply want the states to handle it, as the Constitution suggests, and wish to give more power of choice back to the students, parents and teachers, with a carefully planned transitional period to ensure the new systems will run smoothly. While people may have legitimate disagreements with Ron Paul’s stance on education, the fearful, gut-reaction responses are not warranted.

I found it difficult to find a clear history of our education system and test results, but I have heard it argued that since the department of education was established, test scores have gone down and waste has gone up. The sites I found basically gave me this understanding: public education began on the small scale in America before the USA was even a country and grew steadily until most communities had some kind of public education system. In 1867 the original Department of Education was created, but it was mostly information based. It studied the school systems, and provided a knowledge-base for educators to reference and probably some other school support structures, but from what I gather, did not particularly regulate the system or make demands. The school systems continued consolidating until shortly after World War II, when there was a “significant expansion of Federal support for education” which seems to have continued through 1979 when the Department of Education was “recreated” and became basically what we know today.

Now get this: according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled.” It doubled for females.

Am I the only person who sees a connection between the rigid policies of our public education system and the teen suicide rate? It seems to me that you cannot have a discussion about education without factoring in teen suicide rates, because suicide is the best gauge we have to see how the system is working on an emotional level. This isn’t just because of the way kids are treated like cattle, or degraded by other students, teachers, or the system itself, or because they are never given a choice or a voice in their own future, but also because of the way they know the system is not preparing them for the real world, and because some of them have become wise to the fact that they are only being given the information the federal government wants them to have. For every teenager who commits suicide there are countless more who are miserable, fed up and pissed off at the system. We owe them something better.

If you have watched any of the It Gets Better campaign directed at the LGBT youth, it feels like a beacon in a sea of hopelessness. …”It get’s better” …but to me it feels more like something you say to a kid when you want them to stop complaining, when you know nobody is going to help them… But it’s not a false statement. It does get better… when they graduate high school and are finally allowed to make their own choices and go places where they are accepted. Why is the federal government doing little to nothing to make things better in our public schools in the meantime? The bureaucracy is a major part of why our kids are having such troubles and why so many are being left behind. The massive, one-size-fits-all rules makes kids feel like their specific situation is not represented or cared about and that the only way to make anything better is to succeed at a national campaign. The massive bureaucracy is so daunting that it makes parents, teachers, community activists, and most importantly the young people, feel as though they are helpless to change anything in their own education.

Now, giving all the power back to the states is not a perfect system. A couple would probably start teaching creationism. I don’t like creationism any more than anyone else, but it’s a small price to pay for allowing parents and students control over their own education and taking control back from a system that appears to be failing. Giving education back to the states would allow us the flexibility to try different ideas. The science of education is constantly evolving and the federal government is not keeping up. We could be trying all kinds of different ideas. Granted, some ideas would not be that great, but overall, it really seems that fewer kids would get left behind than in our current system, and we would have the opportunity to discover far superior, less painful and degrading ways of educating our youth.

You can disagree if you like. That’s fair if you want to argue that we already know all the best ways of conducting education and that the federal government is implementing them significantly better than the average state or local community could. It’s fair if you have arguments against Ron Paul’s desire to phase out the Department of Education or against the idea of allowing the states or the people more control, or if you say the tenth amendment was not well thought out and should be ignored. What’s not fair is to accuse us of being opposed to education or that we don’t want free and equal access to education, because that is very far from the truth.



http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/role.html A history of the Department of Education

http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=050fea9f-b064-4092-b1135c3a70de1fda American Foundation for Suicide Prevention stats page. (You may note that since the mid 1990’s, suicide rates have been on the decline, but I believe this is more because of public awareness and new medications than it is because of changes in how we treat our young people.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading Countries ranked by quality of education. USA actually isn’t doing too terribly, although I have read that we spend more per student than any other nation, so we’re not getting the greatest return on our investment.

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