Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Argument Against Federal Involvement In Education

After reading the history of the Constitutional Convention and understanding the debates that took place between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists one thing becomes crystal clear, there were many compromises that had to be made in order to ratify the Constitution. It's important to illustrate one compromise, in particular, when discussing centralized federal power within the constitutional framework of federalism and that compromise is the Bill of Rights. The Federalists argued that creating a Bill of Rights would imply that the federal government would have more powers than what the Constitution granted. The Anti-Federalist argued that State Constitutions had Bill of Rights and that the federal government should be no exception. Ultimately, a Bill of Rights was agreed upon; however, it's important to note that even the Federalist, who were in favor of a strong centralized government, did not support the concept of implied federal powers. Their very argument against the Bill of Rights proved that.

"American federalism has two concepts: 1.) the national and state governments share power 2.) both levels of government receive power from the people" (A Quick Study of American Federalism [Video], 2012). Neither federal nor state governments are entirely subordinate to each other... at least that was the intention. Instead, they each posses their own specific powers and hold some overlapping powers. Today; however, this is simply not the case. The federal government has expanded its power using what it justifies as implied governmental powers. The two biggest culprits of this federal expansionism are arguably the commerce clause and article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution which gives Congress the power to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. The federal government has decided that the United State's general welfare is best served by their involvement in education. As a result of this new interpretation of the federal government's implied powers "in 1965, Pres. Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and secondary Education Act as a part of his War on Poverty initiative" (Lips & Marshall, 2007).

There are some major problems with the federal government getting involved in education, but this author believes that those issues were best illustrated by George F. Will in his article in The Washington Post:

"First, most new ideas are dubious, so the federalization of policy increases the probability of continentwide mistakes. Second, education is susceptible to pedagogic fads and social engineering fantasies -- schools of education incubate them -- so it is prone to producing continental regrets. Third, America always is more likely to have a few wise state governments than a wise federal government." (Will, 2007)
There have been decades worth of statistics proving that our education system is mediocre at best, but we spend billions of dollars per year and keep getting the same lack luster results. The federalization of the American education system is obviously not working as planned. However, the lack of results has not prevented the federal government from using coercive federalism to entice states to comply with a uniformed national standard in order to received funding for education, highways, etc. The ironic part is that citizen's of the states are getting enticed with their tax money that they have sent to the federal government.

The idea of how to standardize educational results is still being developed. It is uncertain what the correct and most beneficial or result oriented way to determine how successful a school or educational system is. This topic is still highly debate to this day. Some people support standardized testing and others believe that we must teach for the love of learning and not to pass a test. This author is in agreement with George F. Will in regards to the complicated nature of educational reform. It would seem that we are in the process of a national experiment that will either succeed or fail miserably on a national level. It would likely be wise to remove the federal involvement in the education system and allow state governments to educate as they see fit. This will result in some states finding the best way to provide education through experimentation. If states fail to produce adequate results, the failure will be contained on a state level. The states that succeed in their experiment will likely have their system copied by other states who want similar results.

This process increases American chances for success and puts the power back in the hands of the states, which is where it rightfully belongs. The federal government has no business micromanaging every aspect of the country and them doing so has been proven time and time again to detrimentally affect US interests. Everything the federal government gets its hands on becomes more complicated, wasteful and less effective. Even the Federalist disagreed with implied powers and it's time we address the real issue of our ever expanding federal government.

(2012). A Quick Study of American Federalism [Video]. Retrieved from
Lips, D., Feinberg, E., & Marshall, J. A. (2007, 03). Charting a course toward better education. USA Today, 135, 70-73. Retrieved from
Will, G. F. (2007, Dec 09). Getting past 'no child'. The Washington Post Retrieved from

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