Over the last few days the Fordham Institute's Mike Petrilli has been blogging about one of his favorite topics: "tight-loose" coupling of education power. Basically, the federal government should be "tight" on performance requirements and "loose" on how to meet them. I don't, though, want to get into that right now. Next week, Fordham will be releasing a proposal for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act that, Mike promises, will show how to be simultaneously tight and loose, and I'll have much to say then. But today I want to use a New Republic article by Education Sector's Kevin Carey, which Petrilli critiques in his tight-loose tipoff, to illustrate what those of us who'd like to actually apply the Constitution to federal education policy are up against: the assumption of craziness.
This paragraph from Carey' s piece -- which cites not one word from the Constitution, nor deals with so much as an ounce of the arguments against federal intervention -- pretty much captures the essence of his assault on constitutionalists:
[House Education Committee Chairman John] Kline is, by all accounts, not a crazy person when it comes to education. But he leads a committee whose members include North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx, who is noted for bizarre statements on the House floor and has publicly asserted that federal funding for education is unconstitutional. (Foxx chairs the subcommittee on higher education.) Other committee members include Tim Walberg of Michigan and Joe Heck of Nevada, both of whom support abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. The larger Republican caucus appears to have little interest in or knowledge of education—the word does not appear in the Republican “Pledge to America.” Caught between rationality and the House Republican caucus, Kline has offered virtually no details of his plan for NCLB, other than support for “innovation” at the state level. This is code for “letting states do whatever they want.”
You see, anyone who believes such things as federal funding for education is unconstitutional is simply crazy. End of story.
How convenient! Rather than dealing with the absence of education in Article I, Section 8, which lays out the federal government's specific powers, you just dismiss as nuts those who think the Feds should be bound by the document through which their powers come. And don't worry that the Federalist Papers dismiss the notions that the general welfare, necessary and proper, and taxation clauses actually give the Feds unlimited power -- only loons are against federal control. And ignore why the Framers of the Constitution first and foremost feared national concentration of power; that they knew people with access to such power would eventually use it for their own ends, not the vaunted "public good." Only a kook would think that could actually happen. Finally, ignore what has come of not listening to the crazy people, such as this:
And even this.
Obviously, you don't have to be a little touched to see that the case for getting Washington out of our schools is a powerful one. Unfortunately, some people would rather dismiss it as delusional than deal with it on its hugely important merits.