It never ceases to amaze me how effortlessly federal “educators” blow off the Constitution. Amazing me today is none other than U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who in an address to the National Association of State Boards of Education offered the following cavalier dismissal of the Supreme Law of the Land:
I’d like to talk to you today about the federal role in education policy. It’s often noted that the Constitution doesn’t mention education, and that the provision of education has always been a state and local responsibility.
Yet, it is also true that American leaders have always considered education to be an important priority. They’ve always believed that a strong and innovative education system is the foundation of our democracy and an investment in our economic future.
This national commitment to education predates even the ratification of the Constitution. In the Northwest Ordinance governing the sale of land in the Northwest Territories, the fledgling government required townships to reserve money for the construction of schools.
In the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act to create land grant colleges and universities. Today, those institutions are some of the best teaching and research institutions in the world…
Here you see a textbook example of how you can brush off the Constitution in just a few easy steps! First, you acknowledge (actually, this part is optional) that authority over education is nowhere among the federal government’s specifically enumerated powers. Next, you shamelessly imply that all the founders really wanted power over education to be in the Constitution. After that, you always mention the Northwest Ordinance, even though it had nothing to do with the Constitution. Finally, you laud blatantly unconstitutional things other people have done and – voila! – the Constitution disappears!
Of course, making a factually or logically sustainable argument that you are not violating the Constitution when you obviously are is not the real goal here. This is just the standard political kabuki dance, a necessary bit of deference-payment to those few rubes who might still think that the Constitution serves some legitimate purpose.
That said, don’t you expect more from our secretary of education? After all, he has undertaken the incredibly noble job of teaching all of our children. Don’t you expect complete honesty from him, and maybe even some respect for the Constitution that he has taken an oath to uphold?
Of course you don’t. Neither do I – not one bit.