In Celebration of Constitution Day –Remember What It Doesn’t Say About Education
Thanks to Shane Vander Hart and American Principles Project for this great article, posted here: http://americanprinciplesproject.org/preserve-innocence/2012/in-celebration-of-constitution-day-remember-what-it-doesnt-say-about-education/
by Shane Vander Hart on September 17, 2012
Today we mark the day back in 1787 when our Constitution was presented to the several States for ratification. In celebration of that historic event let’s remember what’s not in there.
In Section 8 of the Constitution we see:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
What’s missing? Education, and yet since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 we’ve seen a growing creep of the Federal government into education culminating in the coercision by the U.S. Department of Education of the states to except the Common Core State Standards through the Race to the Top program and the No Child Left Behind waivers. The founding fathers saw no role for education and thus it was left out of the enumerated powers and given to the states via the 10th Amendment.
Thomas Jefferson was quite clear about this. In a letter written to Joseph Cabell on February 2, 1816 he cautioned even against a state role in education, let alone a federal role. He wrote:
…if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund, or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience. Try the principle one step further, and amend the bill so as to commit to the governor and council the management of all our farms, our mills, and merchants’ stores. No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. (emphasis mine)
But what about the General Welfare clause, can’t Congress be involved in education through it’s spending authority? That has been used for everything from education, growing federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency to health care reform. James Madison, the father of our Constitution would have been horrified to see that clause used in such a matter. He said during a debate on the ratification of the Constitution in 1792:
If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the “general welfare,” and are the sole and supreme judges of the “general welfare,” then they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the United States; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, everything from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police would be thrown under the power of Congress, for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the “general welfare.”
Madison knew that if the original intent of the General Welfare clause were even expanded then Congress would have an unchecked ability to intrude into areas designated by the Constitution to be under the control of state and local governments.
So Happy Constitution Day and remember the limits this document places upon our government.
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Two more great ways to celebrate Constitution Day: http://www.constitutionreader.com/reader.engz?doc=constitution