Ron Paul & the Dept. of Education

Ron Paul is in favor of doing away with the Federal Dept. of Education.  On his webpage, he says that education decisions should be made at the state, local and personal level;  that “parents should have the right to spend their money on the school or method of schooling they deem appropriate for their children.”

There was a NY Times article today that pointed out growing support for Mr. Paul among homeschooling families, in large part, it is stated, due to his stance on education.    In my opinion however, simply saying we’ll do away with the Dept. of Ed and turn things over to state & local governments (and the individual?  How you can do those three things simultaneously is unclear) would be a big bad mess.   Much as I wish I could wave my magic wand and create a different mindset toward learning and education in this country, I can’t.     And I can’t support Mr. Paul’s stance, because it is vague, incomplete and problematic.   It’s one of those things that sounds good in theory, but would be a disaster in practice.

Why?  Because what Mr. Paul is calling for is just another,  more radical, type of school ‘reform’.    As far as I can tell he is not in favor of rescinding compulsory schooling.   Is he?  Would doing away with the Federal Dept of Ed also mean doing away with compulsory schooling?   Something tells me the answer to that question would be “no”.   And if the answer is “no” then you are going to have all the same problems we have now, except on a State and Local level.   Someone explain to me how that would be cheaper or better.

How would the States handle it?  Would they all have the same general guidelines?  Not if you take Mr. Paul’s words literally.   If they were totally on their own, then each state could pass different compulsory education requirements.   Or would that be left up to local governments?

No more federal taxes for public schooling under Mr. Paul’s plan.  Great for me, since we use absolutely none of the services for which we are taxed.   Pretty good for private school attendees as well.    But wait a minute, if the States are required (sorry, decide on their own) to provide some sort of schooling then they will need to pay for it.   How do you suppose they would raise those revenues?  Some sort of tax, perhaps?  Which would then lead to better schools in rich states and communities, and lesser schools in poor states and communities.   Which is already a problem, but which would only increase, as I see it, under Mr. Paul’s plan.   Would homeschoolers be exempt from paying taxes imposed by the states for mandatory schooling?   I guess it would depend on the state.

There are a lot of other reasons why shutting down the Federal Dept of Ed in and of itself would be problematic; like putting thousands of people out of work.  Maybe tens of thousands.   As John Taylor Gatto pointed out in his book Weapons of Mass Instruction, the Dept of Ed is the largest jobs project in the country.   The Dept of Ed is so large that it has almost become an entity unto itself, and like “Hal” in 2001 a Space Odyssey, you can’t just shut it down.

Switching the power from Federal to State, juggling where the money comes from, yelling about inefficiency and waste when it comes to education are all arguments that may have merit but ultimately miss the point.    Forced ‘learning’, no matter where it originates, does not amount to education.    As a culture we are programming our kids to fail, because all they really learn in school is how to follow the rules and do mindless tasks that have no meaning and in which they have little or no interest.

Peter Thiel says we don’t need school reform but school re-imagination.    I think maybe we could drop the ‘school’ entirely and just re-imagine learning.  (Maybe a better way to put it would be to ‘remember how we learn’)  Kids are geniuses at learning until school beats it out of them.   What this country and the world really needs are self-educated kids who can think on their feet and who know where to go to find out about the things that interest them.    No amount of reform to the current system will achieve this.

Ron Paul’s revolution, at least when it comes to education, would be more like a re-arranging of a large mess into many smaller messes.  Do we really have time for all that?

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